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Cable car against mountain backdrop

On holiday in Chamonix? Four excursion ideas for you

Travel / No Comment / July 19, 2017

In summer, Chamonix is a very popular destination for walkers. It’s also a good base for exploring the surrounding area. Here are four day-trips by public transport that my family and I enjoyed – and one that I suggest is no longer worth your while.


I’m fond of saying that the view of the mountain is better than the view from it. So here’s the exception: seeing other mountains at altitude from the top of the one you’re currently on takes some beating. This was my experience on the first day of our stay, when we took a cable car up Le Brévent, which offers a fantastic view of the Mont Blanc range.

Mont Blanc massif under clear blue skies with red paraglider beneath

A paraglider in the skies over Chamonix enjoying crystal-clear views of the Mont-Blanc massif.

Jagged mountains with valley beneath

Looking north-east along the Chamonix Valley from Brévent

View across mountains under blue skies towards distant valley

Looking north-west from Brévent into the lower Arve valley

Brévent web page

L’Aiguille du Midi

Like an eagle’s nest next to Mont Blanc, this is reached by two cable cars. The second isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Cable car at bottom of descent from iconic mountain L'Aiguille du Midi

A cable car nears the second-leg base station of the Téléphérique de L’Aiguille du Midi after a long and truly vertiginous descent.

Under clear skies, the 360° views are fantastic. The air was also noticeably thinner.

Aiguille du Midi web page

Martigny by train

Martigny is a town situated at the crook of a 90° bend in the River Rhône. There isn’t too much to see there, but the journey by train is very enjoyable. Our hotel provided us with the Chamonix Valley Carte d’hôte (guest card), which gave us free train and bus travel as far east as Vallorcine. The onward return journey aboard the Mont Blanc Express, costs €36 to travel about 25km, including a vertiginous rack-and-pinion final descent into the Rhône Valley.

Road beneath avalanche shelter in deep wooded gorge

A road hugs the side of the Trient gorge, Switzerland

Roads, a railway line and a wide river form s-curves in a valley

Roads, a railway line and the river curve around the Rhône Valley near Vernayaz, Switzerland

Mont Blanc Express website (only provided in French)

Vertic’Alp d’Emosson

This is a three-stage ascent to a dam in the mountains, right on the Franco-Swiss border. It would be the ideal location for an action sequence in a spy movie. The first was a funicular railway that made a near-vertical 700-metre ascent:

Carriage on very steep funicular railway

Carriages pass on the funicular railway –
the steepest in the world – that’s the first stage of Verticalp d’Emosson.

The second was a mile-long train journey:

Miniature train with red carriages on the side of a mountain

The miniature railway that snakes around a mountain to the base of the Barrage d’Emosson.

The third was quirkier still:

Little red carriage on funicular railway

‘Le Minifunic’, the third stage of the climb to the Barrage d’Emosson, high above the Vallée du Trient, on the Franco-Swiss border.

From the top, the views were stunning:

Mountain valley beneath broken cloud

Looking across the Vallée du Trient towards Mont Blanc.

High dam built into mountain

The 180-metre high Barrage d’Emosson, right up in the mountains on the border between France and Switzerland.

At €40 for an adult to get up and down the mountain, it wasn’t cheap but we very much enjoyed it as the final treat in our week-long stay.

Vertic’Alp d Emosson website

Mer de Glace

And so to the trip I don’t recommend if you’re expecting a stunning view of a huge glacier. The sea of ice is now barely a sorry trickle as viewed from the station at Montenvers. The Glacier de Bossons, clearly visible from Chamonix, is more impressive.

Tail of glacier in steep rocky valley

The much-shrunken Mer de Glace, from Montenvers

The journey is worth taking only if a walk in the Alps is your plan or if you have the Mont Blanc MultiPass. We used this to  visit Brevent and L’Aiguille du Midi, as well as the Mer de Glace. Although expensive, it was much better value for money than paying individually for each attraction.

Mer de Glace web page


I hope you find my suggestions useful. In my next post, I’ll tell you about where we stayed. If you’ve visited any of these attractions, or you’d like to share your own suggestions, please do so in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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