Chamonix is located at the base of Mont Blanc, which is the highest peak of the Alps. While year-round its famous slopes are a top tourist ski destination, during the summer there’s another reason to visit this quaint (albeit pricey) town – the Mer de Glace! France’s biggest glacier is accessible to the public via train (Montenvers) and then cable car and then about 400 stairs. On the way down toward the entrance to the ice cave you can see the signs indicating where the ice level had been over the years. Impressive (and a bit scary) to see how much it has shifted and melted!
Why to go: Outside of ski season, it’s unique! How many glaciers can you visit from the INSIDE?!
When to go: Skiers flock to this town throughout the year but June might just be the “best” time of year to visit for a variety of reasons. The slopes at higher elevations are still open AND you can access areas which are closed as other times of the year. The panoramic Mont Blanc viewing platform is open – and highly recommended for a visit! The view from there (especially on a clear day) is breathtaking!! Another prime tourist destination is the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), which is an ice cave within the glacier.
How to go: If you’re planning to visit the sites, it’s important to verify that what you want to visit is actually open that day. Access varies depending on the weather so it’s worth it to check online before heading out. The site I always use is the following, which gives up-to-date information on what is open: http://www.compagniedumontblanc.co.uk/en/lifts-chamonix
Another useful site for planning ahead is: https://www.chamonet.com/lifts/dates
What to see/do: Within the Mer de Glace area, there are a few attractions. The ice cave, itself (pictured), is the biggest reason to visit. This is the grotto that you can enter to see ice sculptures lit in various colors and a gallery of crystals collected from Mont Blanc. Back at the Montenvers station, you can explore the Glacorium which is a museum dedicated to glaciers – facts, figures, formation and what the disappearance indicates for planet Earth, etc.
What to eat and/or drink: Before or after your visit up the Montenvers to the Mer de Glace, there are plenty of quaint restaurant options in the town of Chamonix. However, for a more unique dining experience, enjoy a snack or drink at the café or restaurant at the Montenvers station where you can sit and relax while admiring the incredible views.