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Set in the French Alps, the Chamonix Valley is a picturesque mountain playground that’s welcoming all year round. Nestled at the foot of the towering Mont Blanc, the bustling commune is best known for its glittering snowy backdrops and booming winter sports scene thanks to its five major ski resorts. In spring and summer, lush green pastures and clean mountain air make it a go-to destination for outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing.
All Chamonix hostels have jaw-dropping views of the majestic peaks. Some even come with terrace hot tubs, where you can gaze at the starry night sky. Choose a cosy Chamonix hostel with a self-catering kitchen to rustle up your own meals, or a wood-panelled lodge with a sauna to ease weary limbs. For maximum fun, stay in a ski-to-door hostel with a wellness centre, five restaurants and a nightclub for all-night dancing.
The Chamonix Valley consists of 16 villages and hamlets, as well as the main ski resorts of Le Brévent, Le Tour/Balme, Les Houches and La Flégère. The slopes here suit complete newbies, seasoned pros and everyone else in between. The main town – the eponymous Chamonix – is traffic-free and compact enough to be explored on foot. It's a friendly and bustling place, with a blend of atmospheric Belle Epoque buildings, traditional alpine restaurants and busy après-ski bars.
Besides zipping down the slopes, there are plenty of other fun things to do in Chamonix. Take the gondola up to the Ice Cave and Glaciorium at Mer de Glace, which is the largest glacier in France. Also accessible from town is the cable car to Aiguille du Midi – a 3,842m peak in the Mont Blanc massif. Chamonix is filled with rustic restaurants serving up hearty dishes such as tartiflette (a traditional cheese and potato dish) and fondue, which are perfect for refuelling after an energetic day.
Geneva Airport is about an hour away by taxi or shuttle bus along the Autoroute Blanche (A40). If you're travelling by train, you can hop on the Mont Blanc Express from Saint-Gervais-les-Bains–Le Fayet station, which makes for a scenic ride. Chamonix’s bus network gets you around the entire valley for a few euros – or for free with a ski pass. There's also the complimentary 'Le Mulet' shuttle bus running every 10-15 minutes, which connects the town centre with the main ski areas and villages.