Situated near the massive peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges and Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix is one of the oldest ski resorts in France and is known as the “gateway to the European Cascades”. The north side of the summit of Mont Blanc, and therefore the summit itself are part of the village of Chamonix. Chamonix commune is well known among skiers and mountain enthusiasts. It is very near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy. The River Arve which originates from the northern side of the Mont Blanc massif in the Alps flows through Chamonix. It receives water from the many glaciers of Chamonix valley, mainly the Mer de Glace.
We checked in to Hotel Alpina for a night which is right in the center of Chamonix. Even though it was a poorly maintained hotel their restaurant at the top floor was really nice with a wonderful view of the snow caped mountains from the balcony.
While in Chamonix, the absolute must see attractions are visiting Mont-Blanc and Aiguille du Midi peaks and Mer de Glace or Sea of Ice Glacier (the largest glacier in France). The nostalgic red cog railway to Montenvers will take you to the top of the Aiguille du Midi mountain peak (at 3842 meters) for an unforgettable view of the Alps. The railway station is hardly ten minutes away from the city center. A small cable car allows visitors to descend from the train station onto the Mer de Glace glacier where they can enter a manmade ice grotto. The ice grotto is cut into the living glacier
The gallery of Crystals features a collection of the finest crystal specimens in the Mont Blanc massif.
The Museum of Alpine Fauna has an interesting display of many of the local birds and animals that you can expect to see in the area like chamois, ibex, marmots, foxes, pheasants, grouse etc.
Hotel du Montenvers, built in 1880 is an integral part of Chamonix. It was renovated in 2003 but still retains its rustic charm. The restaurant serves a variety of traditional dishes.
The mountain was the scene of two fatal air crashes… In 1950 Air India Flight 245 (Bombay-Istanbul-Geneva-London) with 48 passengers, including crew, crashed into Mont Blanc as the pilot miscalculated the descent killing all the passengers.
In January 1966 another Air India flight Boeing 707, named Kanchenjunga crashed into Mont Blanc. After leaving Bombay, it had made two scheduled stops at Delhi and Beirut and was en route to another stop at Geneva when flown into Mont Blanc killing 106 passengers and 11crew. One of the passengers was Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha the chairman of Indian Atomic Energy Commission.