1. Hike along the “Southern Balcony Trail” on the Tour du Mont Blanc
The great “Southern Balcony Trail” along the Tour du Mont Blanc has fantastic views of the Mont Blanc, the Aiguille Verte and the Aiguille du Tour. The hiking is moderate and you can take a cable car up to the trail.
2. Take the Cable Car to the Aiguille du Midi
For an unforgettable view of the high peaks and the glaciers on the Mont Blanc, take the cable car to the Aiguille du Midi! On top of this granite spire you will be able to gaze down almost 9,000 feet to Chamonix and across a glacial plateau. Be sure to pick a sunny day and don’t forget your sunglasses! For information about tickets visit the Compagnie du Mont Blanc.
3. Visit Mont Envers and the Mer de Glace
The Mont Envers is on the reserve side of the Chamonix needles. You can either make the 3-hour hike up or take the old cog railroad line. When you are up there gaze out on the Mer de Glace (“Sea of Ice” in French) and look for signs showing where the glacier was in the 1860s – you’ll be amazed by how much it has melted.
4. A day trip to the Emosson Dam
The Emosson Dam in Switzerland is a stone’s throw across the border from France. The hiking above the dam is excellent and you can even find some dinosaur tracks! The dam can be reached by train and bus. Check with the Tourism Office to make sure construction on the dam has finished.
5. Eat a Fondue
You can’t leave the area without trying a fondue! Try Le Carnotzet in Argentière or one of many restaurants in Chamonix proper. Other cheese specialties include “croûtes aux fromages” (bread with melted cheese) and “tartiflette” (a potato and cheese dish made with local roblechon cheese).
6. Try Paragliding!
See the area from the air! Rides over the Chamonix valley start at 85€ for a 20 minutes flight.
7. Go Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is an important activity in the area. You can join guides for a half or full day course or hire a private guide for a full day. You can also try a mountaineering course with hiking on a glacier.
8. Visit a Summer “Alpage”
In the summer cowherds take the dairy cows up into alpine pastures. The result is special cheeses that can only be made a few months per year. Ask in the Chamonix tourist office for the best areas. You’ll probably need to hike 2 or 3 hours to reach one of the alpages. My favorite alpage is Emaney above Les Marécottes in Switzerland. You can take the Mont Blanc Express train from Chamonix to Les Marécottes and then hike up to the summer pasture.
9. Sleep in a Mountain Hut
Spend a night above tree line in a mountain hut! There are several huts within a 3 to 5 hour hike from the trail heads and a few huts that can be reached in only about an hour’s walk if you take a cable car. Overnights with dinner and breakfast cost about $70 per person. Accommodation is in dormitory style housing. Try the Châlet du Lac Blanc or the Pierre à Bérard refuge. Enquire at the Chamonix Tourism Office for availability and for help booking an overnight. Don’t forget a map!
10. Make Cheese
While most of the tourism around Chamonix is centered around mountain sports, it is possible to experience the some traditional crafts such as cheese making. You might have to travel a bit further afield or inquire if there is an alpage where you can be a guest for a day. For a sure bet head to the Fruitière de Mieussy, about a 50 minute drive from Chamonix.