The long answer is: You should almost always fly to Geneva.
The main problem with flying to Chambéry is that the runway runs North to South in a very deep valley and is at the end of a lake (the lac du bourget). As you may know, valleys can “trap” cloud. If you have ever skied on a nice sunny day and taken a look down at the “sea of clouds” in the valley below you will know what I mean. As you may also know, areas around lakes can get misty, the so called “smoke on the water” effect. So if you combine the steep mountains, low cloud and mist, you will understand why the runway is often shut at Chambéry airport in the winter (the real reason will need to be explained by a pilot as it has something to do with a visual approach and lack of equipment at Chambéry).
The second biggest problem with Chambéry is that it is tiny. There are 2 luggage carousels and what often seems like only 2 people to put luggage on them. Therefore, if 2 aircraft arrive within a short space of time then you could end up waiting an age for your luggage (this happens all day on Saturdays).
Another issue is that if you are heading towards the majority of big ski resorts from Chambéry (Three Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy…) then the road from Chambéry to Albertville can be a nightmare on Saturdays, with huge delays caused by traffic jams.
It is not all bad. If you fly to Chambéry on any other day than a Saturday and the weather is fine and your flight is on time, then you will be on the slopes in record time. However, if you are planning to fly on a Saturday, or you play by the law of averages, then you are best off flying to Geneva as the often advertised 45 minute reduction in journey time is unlikely to happen.
Chamonix is one of the original climbing and skiing destinations of Europe and home to its highest peak, Mont Blanc. The natural beauty of the Chamonix valley has been mesmerizing travellers for centuries and it is still one of the most visited destinations in France.
The first tourists apparently arrived in Chamonix in 1741 and they were two Englishmen, William Windham and Richard Pocock. They documented their journey and their discovery of La Mer de Glace glacier in a publication which influenced many others to endure the long journey to the ‘Sea of Ice’.
The new visitors brought with them their appetite to conquer the mountains but it wasn’t until 1786 that the top of Mont Blanc was summited by two locals, Dr Paccard and Jacques Balmat.
In 1770 the first tourist hotel, the Hotel d’Angleterre was opened and Chamonix has never looked back since.
After our introduction you probably won’t be surprised to hear this: There is a lot to do in Chamonix.
If you are not afraid of heights then take the Aiguille du Midi cable car to the viewing platforms at 3842 metres. You will feel like you could touch the peak of Mont Blanc and you will see groups of brave mountaineers attempting to conquer one of the stunning peaks around or ski the famous Vallée Blanche. You can even go over to the Italian side of the Alps and travel over the glacier on the Helbronner lift. This is our personal favourite and it is worth every extra penny to get this view!
If you prefer trains to cable cars then take the Montenvers rack railway to the famous Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) glacier. You can go down to the glacier and into the ice grotto that shows you the history of the glacier along with some great ice sculptures. You do have to climb over 300 steps though in each direction. On the opposite side of the valley from Mont Blanc is the Brévent cable car. You get the best view of Europe’s highest mountain from here.
In the winter there is lots to do for non-skiers as well in Chamonix, which makes it an ideal destination for families and people who want to enjoy the snowy vistas. You can take the cable cars or the Montenvers railway up into the mountains of Chamonix and enjoy a leisurely lunch on the top. You also have a choice of some excellent spas in Chamonix if you are after something relaxing.
If you want a real bird`s eye view of the mountains then why not try a helicopter ride around Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks.
There is also a leisure centre in Chamonix with a swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms, ice rink, indoor climbing and other facilities.
You can find a bowling alley in Chamonix, which also has pool tables and air hockey tables. Chamonix`s cinema also shows some films in English with subtitles.
If you like a bit of gambling then why not try the Casino in Chamonix`s centre? You can enjoy some blackjack or roulette but of course you have to be over 18.
The other great activity you can do is of course Shopping. Chamonix has many great shops. You can find anything from luxury boutiques to mountain hard-ware shops.
Chamonix also attracts many extreme sport enthusiasts. This is the perfect place to try your fist tandem parapente flight, learn to traverse a glacier, climb the highest peak in Europe, go canyoning, white-water rafting or try any other crazy adventure under the sun.
It is easy to enjoy the Savoyard gastronomy in Chamonix`s delightful restaurants. In the winter there is nothing better than a hearty meal of cheese-based dishes. Try a raclette, a fondue or a tartiflette – it should satisfy the biggest appetites!
A raclette, as you can see on the picture is a big block of cheese put under the grill and you get to scrape off the top melted layer. You then eat this cheesy goodness with boiled potatoes, charcuterie and drink some Savoie white wine with it. We recommend a cold glass of Apremont wine!
A tartiflette is a dish made with layers of potatoes, bacon and onions topped with a famous local cheese called Reblochon and grilled to perfection.
A cheese fondue needs no introduction, however a Savoyard Fondue uses local cheeses, like Beaufort and also Comté and Gruyere.
If you want to go for a day trip from Chamonix then try the beautiful town of Annecy, which is only an hour away. Your other option is the medieval town of Yvoire on the shore of Lake Geneva or Courmayeur through the Mont Blanc tunnel.
To get to Chamonix your best option is to fly to Geneva airport. From Geneva airport to Chamonix many companies operate shuttle services if you are after the cheapest option. If you are after a bit more flexibility or there are a few people in your group then ask for private transfer quotes to Chamonix from local companies.
Distance of Transfer from Geneva Airport to Chamonix: 104 km
Geneva Airport to Chamonix Transfer Time: App. 1 hr 10 mins
Distance of Transfer from Chambery Airport to Chamonix: 145km
Chambery Airport to Chamonix Transfer Time: 1hr 30mins approx
Distance of Transfer from Grenoble Airport to Chamonix: 225km
Grenoble Airport to Chamonix Transfer Time: 2hrs 30mins approx
Distance of Transfer from Lyon Airport to Chamonix: 220km
Lyon Airport to Chamonix Transfer Time: 2hrs 10mins approx
Have you got any insider tips for people visiting Chamonix? Tell us about your favourite ski runs, restaurants, activities!