Chamonix swimming pool (NB Chamonix indoor pool only open for summer 2021. Outdoor pool currently closed)
On a hot afternoon there’s not much I like better than to get down to the pool. There’s something amazing about swimming in the sunshine whilst looking up at the snow. The views are truly spectacular, and it’s big enough to never feel overcrowded. Between dips, you can relax either on the sunbathing terraces by the pool or on the grass by the lake, where there is a small café.
As well as the 50m main pool, there are indoor and outdoor waterslides, indoor and outdoor children’s pools with fountains and jacuzzi areas, a smaller indoor pool and a baby pool.
You can walk from the chalet in about 15-20 minutes on a level, pleasant, wooded path by the river, or catch the bus. Opening times and prices here.
NB Men need to wear bathing trunks as they won’t let you in with board shorts. Speedo or James Bond style are equally accepted. If you’ve forgotten, you can buy them at the pool or rent them if you dare.
Swimming is also available at many of the spas which often have pools that you can use if you’ve booked a treatment there.
Lac Passy (30 mins drive), is locally known as as Mont-Blanc Plage (Mont-Blanc Beach), where a flotilla of mini-ferries can be driven around the lake. The lake also has barbecue areas, a sloping beach and mini-golf. They often have evening markets at summer weekends, and there’s always a good atmosphere – it’s a popular local family spot. Details here.
Combloux, around 40 minutes away, has really interesting project that has just opened. The first ecological lake pool open to swimmers in France, it has clear, pure, chemical-free water, with a running stream and fountain. Near the village center, surrounded by alpine pastures and wooden chalets, the lake is lined by a wooden deck and green lawn sloping down to the sandy shores. There is a limit of 700 visitors a day to preserve the clarity of the water. Details and more photos on their site
These lower lakes are much the nicest places to swim, as the high mountain lakes are generally a bit on the chilly side, and swimming is not encouraged for environmental reasons, though the bold may want to paddle on a hot day. Lac Cheserys is one of the better known spots – it’s an amazing setting
The truly hardcore can go for a Lac Blanc swim but I think a few minutes is really the maximum for this – I’ve never got further than dipping my toes in. I did once see some very proud Swiss in there with their flag for an impressive amount of time when it was still partially iced over.
The river Arve in Chamonix is highly dangerous – fast-flowing, deep and cold. But there is a separate, smaller stream that runs though the idyllic paddling place of the Paradis des Praz, a short walk from the chalet. There are also rope swings here, log bridges, pony rides and a small cafe – it’s a lovely shady spot, idea for smaller children to play.
For a bit more activity, there are plenty of companies offering white water rafting, canyoning and hydrospeeding in Chamonix.