Extensive region of natural beauty and huge choices
The Pays du Mont Blanc region is located in the upper valley of the Arve, at the foot of the French side of Mont Blanc. The region stretches from the Chamonix valley to beyond Megève, taking in well-known towns and villages such as Combloux, Les Contamines-Montjoie, Passy, Les Houches, Demi-Quartier, Praz-sur-Arly. The spa town of Saint Gervais Les Bains, a mere 70km from Geneva, is at the heart of the region, itself directly connected by gondola to the pistes of Megève. From low-lying pastures to busy towns, to renowned ski and mountaineering centres, this region offers a wide range of year-round activities in one of the most picturesque regions of the French Alps. Skiers enjoy access to over 500 km of accessible ski areas including Chamonix, the entire Evasion Mont Blanc and the Espace Diamant. It’s also a hikers paradise…between the lakes and mountains covering 8,000km of sign posted footpaths through picturesque mountain villages, the three largest lakes of the French Alps, the Tour du Mont Blanc and the National Vanoise Park.
A guide to Pays du Mont Blanc
The Pays du Mont Blanc region in Haute-Savoie is formed by nature, between the foothills of Mont Blanc and down to the Arve river valley flowing down from the Chamonix valley, it is bordered by the Italian and Swiss frontiers. Essentially a triangle between Chamonix, Megève and Sallanches, the landscape contrasts with the rugged terrain of the Chamonix valley, and is characterised more by rolling hills, forests and pastures. Centuries of shared history and culture with the Swiss Valais and Aosta have left a rich heritage to this corner of Haute-Savoie. Spectacular views are everywhere throughout the year, from snow-capped Mont Blanc to the granite face of the Fiz range and the multiple peaks of the Aravis. The commune has a population of over 45,000, an altitude range of more than 4,300 metres, it includes towns and villages such as Saint-Gervais, Sallanches, Cordon, Passy, Combloux, Praz-sur-Arly and Les Contamines.
Pays du Mont Blanc ski area
There is a huge choice, on the doorstep or further afield, for every skier and conditions throughout the year. Accessible from Saint Gervais or Megève is the extensive Megève-Evasion Mont-Blanc ski area with 445 km of slopes and the 107 lifts it is the fourth largest in France. For even more variety, the Mont-Blanc Unlimited ski pass covers Chamonix, Les Houches, Megève-Evasion Mont-Blanc, Courmayeur (Italy) and Verbier and the 4 Vallées. Or further along the Arly valley over 6 villages to Flumet the Espace Diamant has 192km of pistes.
Après ski in Pays du Mont Blanc
Apres ski in this region will depend entirely where you ski. You can be sure that there is something for everyone. In Saint Gervais the Oboose Cafe by the base of the gondola is well frequented and convenient. Later in the evening, Le Nulles Part Ailleurs Bar is popular while the trendy Pur Bar does excellent cocktails. The local disco is Le Duplex.
Eating out in Pays du Mont Blanc
For on-mountain lunches, depending where you ski, please see our sections on Megève, Chamonix and Verbier. In Megève/Saint-Gervais, 59 mountain restaurants and ski huts offer table service ro large sun decks; rustic and cozy mountain huts with fireplaces serve typical meals from the region.
When it comes to dining out, Saint Gervais alone has around 50 restaurants to choose from with everything from simple creperies to gourmet establishments. Refreshingly authentic and good value, the majority offer traditional French and Savoyard cuisine.
Summer in Pays du Mont Blanc
The region hosts events throughout the year, from jazz, contemporary and classical music concerts to ultra-marathons, art exhibitions and many sporting events. Since you are in France, a vineyard is never far away – some fine Savoie wines are produced in the Arve valley and stocked in the top restaurants of Megève, Courchevel and Saint Martin de Belleville. 7 grape varieties are specific to the area, there are 3 appellations and 20 vintages. A vineyard tour and tastings are highly recommended.
The Alpine pastures, villages, traditional Alpine lifestyles and the escarpments of the highest summit in Europe are a veritable hikers’ paradise with 8,000km of marked trails, for 2-3 hours or 2-3 days. There are so many refuges in this huge area, over 50, they even have their own association. You will need a guidebook, such as “52 Promenades en famille ” (52 walks for families), sold in every Tourist Office of the region; ” Tour du Pays du Mont-Blanc ” and its 14 ” Petites Randonnées ” (short walks) are available in all bookstores. The biggest draw of all is the Tour du Mont-Blanc, a circular hiking route from France into Italy and Switzerland over 170kms and 10,000 metres of altitude difference taking 7-10 days.
Naturally, mountain biking is huge in this region. Trails start in every town and village in the area with hundreds of choices on the open mountain, through the forests, in the gorges and along the rivers, for every level of experience and ambition. Or try the sunset rides, lunch and lake trips, or multi-day adventures in this majestic landscape.
Praz-sur-Arly is well known for its hot air balloon flights. Rock climbing is at Rochefort with 3 lakes nearby to swim in, or picnic. The Baroque trail links 10 remarkable churches, chapels and oratories via the pedestrian path which covers 20km from Combloux to Les Contamines. Climbing, via ferrata, adventure courses, white water rafting, Paragliding & Free-flight activities, horse-riding, fishing and golf are among the dozens of summer activities in the Pays de Mont Blanc.
• Other Destinations in the French Alps •
Chamonix, Megève, Sainte Foy, La Rosière, Morzine, Les Gets, Courchevel, Méribel, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val d’Isère