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Day 6: Explore the Alps

Chamonix’s location on the border with Italy and Switzerland gives a perfect opportunity to explore three countries.

With Italy just half an hour away in one direction, and Switzerland half an hour in the other, you can have day trips to either – plus of course there are lots of wonderful places in France to visit. Here’s a few of our favourite days out. You can also ask the tourist office for recomendations – they are very helpful.

Courmayeur (Italy)

Particularly good if the weather is bad in Chamonix as there is often very different weather on the other side. You can check conditions in Courmayeur on the webcams at www.chamonet.com

The elegant Italian town has a beautiful old centre with wonderful shops and an abundance of brilliant Italian restaurants both on and off the pistes. Though it’s so close to Chamonix, the mountains divided them until the tunnel opened in 1972, and it’s got real Italian character. The Skyway lift – their equivalent to the Midi – is beautiful and stylish with great food – dogs and under twos allowed, also.

For a luxurious day out, combine it with a trip to the spa at Pré-Saint-Didier (see Spa section), just a little further on. Return toll through the tunnel is expensive but there is a big reduction with the MBU pass. or Chamonix tourist office organises a weekly coach trip. Check www.atmb.com for tunnel news.

Annecy (France)

Annecy in the evening
Annecy in the evening

Known as the “Venice of the Alps”, Annecy is a wonderful old granite city with a network of canals running through it. The setting is sublime, on a lake ringed with mountains. Go boating on the lake to enjoy the views, or just stroll around the romantic streets of the old town, taking in the atmosphere of a modern, living city that’s carefully preserved its stunning
architectural heritage. The 12th century Palais de l’Isle, on the river, is one of France’s most unique and beautiful monuments.

Yvoire (Switzerland)

“Exploring Yvoire is like stepping back six centuries. No two houses are alike, but all look freshly minted for a fairy-story film set… At the end of every alley shimmers Lake Geneva.” (The Independent, 2008)
Winter is a lovely time to explore tiny, medieval Yvoire without the crowds of summer. Wander the beautiful streets, lunch on fresh fish and watch the gorgeous steamers on the lake…. www.yvoiretourism.com

The Swiss Riviera (Vevey, Montreux, Chateau Chillon etc)

The Swiss Riviera has been admired for centuries for its architecture and stunning setting on the mountain-ringed lake. A great place to spend a day shopping, lunching, cruising on the lake’s lovely steamers or just taking in the ambience. Vevey is perhaps my favourite, a beautiful lakeside town that for all its obvious wealth has a great deal of charm and is a lovely place for lunch and a stroll.  The luxurious lakeside city of Montreux is fun too. Try and make it out to the unforgettable Château de Chillon, one of Europe’s most wonderful views.

Seven days in Chamonix for non-skiers:

Day 1: Getting your bearings
Day 2: Savoyarde Gastronomy
Day 3: Snow Safari
Day 4: Spa day and fabulousness
Day 5: Slow track to culture
Day 6: Explore the Alps
Day 7: Mont Blanc