10 Extreme Experiences in the Chamonix Valley You Can’t Miss
Ten epic ways to get the most out of a summer vacation in the Alps.
Chamonix is the world’s capital of extreme sports. It is the birthplace of mountaineering. And it is full of crazy, adventuresome people who are drawn to its vibrant and eclectic culture from around the globe.
If you’re planning a summertime trip to the Alps, don’t miss these 10 things to do in the Chamonix Valley.
1. Take the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car to Stunning Heights
Ascend this world-famous cable car to the highest museum on earth at 12,605 feet. According to the official Chamonix Tourism website, the Aiguille du Midi receives almost half a million visitors every year – and for good reason.
The Aiguille du Midi Station is also one of Chamonix’s popular starting points for multiple mountaineering routes, including those shooting for the summit of Mont Blanc (more info below).
2. Rent a Bike and Cycle Chamonix
The stunning backdrop, challenging grades, and world-class accommodations make the Alps one of the most popular places for road biking in the world. Chamonix in particular caters to cyclists with limitless rental and gear shops, not to mention its draw for the Tour de France every year. One of the most popular and accessible routes for road biking is the Col des Montets route, a half-day excursion from Chamonix central.
If you’re looking for something a little more rugged, mountain biking in Chamonix is a must-do for adventure seekers. Most cable cars and ski lifts accommodate bikes, making it all the more easy to pick up a map and hit the trail.
3. Visit the Mer de Glace
Translated as “Sea of Ice,” the Mer de Glace is the largest and longest glacier in France and just a quick daytrip out of Chamonix using the Montenvers Train. From the train station, visitors can walk across the glacier, through an ice grotto, and even follow a trail all the way back to the valley floor. This is another popular place to practice mountaineering skills and climb all the way up to the cozy mountain house of Plan de l’Aiguille.
4. Go paragliding
There isn’t quite a more thrilling way to see Chamonix than by flight. On a clear summer day you’ll see dozens of paragliders coasting along the valley walls above you.
Visit the Tourism Center for more information on paragliding. Or, if you’re brave and experienced enough, see what it’s like to paraglide off of the top of Mont Blanc.
5. Try Ice Climbing, Rock Climbing, or Classic Mountaineering
Because of its convenient accessibility, guide options, and limitless routes, Chamonix is the perfect place for climbers of all experience levels to explore the mountains. Both beginners and avid alpine mountaineers will find high-altitude routes suited just for them.
If you’re interested in rock climbing, check out the Aiguilles Rouges range to the north of the valley (like the Aiguille du Crochues route). For a more intense ice climb or to enjoy a classic mountaineering experience, visit the south side of the valley on the Mont Blanc Massif (like the Aiguille du Midi-Plan route).
6. Trek the Tour du Mont Blanc
If you have the time, completing the Tour du Mont Blanc is the ultimate way to experience trekking in the Alps while seeing the evolution of culture and scenery through France, Italy, and Switzerland.
Eat and drink your way through 3 countries, 100+ miles, and 33,000+ vertical feet over the course of 6-12 days. The wilderness alpine environment and cozy mountain villages create the perfect balance between an exhilarating outdoor adventure and a safe, enjoyable experience.
7. Enjoy Classic Savoyard Cuisine
This list wouldn’t be complete without a nod towards Chamonix’s famous gastronomical charms. Savoyard food is rich in potatoes and cheese, the staples for some of their most popular dishes of fondue, tartiflette, and of course, French onion soup. Pair with a glass (or liter) of Savoie wine for a truly deluxe experience.
8. Hike to Lac Blanc
If you’re looking for a short hike to fill you time on a rest day between an adrenaline-fueled schedule, Lac Blanc can provide a relaxing and scenic break. At an elevation above 7,000 feet, this high-altitude lake sits in a picture-perfect position below skyscraping mountains and across from Mont Blanc for panoramic views of the entire valley. You won’t want to forget your camera on this trip.
9. Try a White Water Sport like Canyoning, Rafting, or Riverboarding
Jump, slide, and rope your way down waterfalls and through alpine pools on an epic canyoning trip like nothing you’ve seen before. Or try white water rafting in a mountainside Alps environment – glacial cold water included.
If neither of those get your heart racing, kick it up a notch and don a wetsuit, flippers, and a helmet for the ultimate white water extreme sport: Riverboarding (known as hydrospeed in Europe). Having difficulty picturing this? Click here.
10. Climb Mont Blanc
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc bears the name of Western Europe’s tallest mountain for a reason. While not officially one of the Seven Summits, reaching the top of this peak is a noteworthy and challenging effort.
The Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix is the oldest, largest, and one of the most reputable guide companies in the world – let alone France. Trust them for your summit attempt and you’ll be in good hands.
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.