Colmar and Chamonix trip report

Jan 28th, 2018, 08:33 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2013
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Colmar and Chamonix trip report

Last summer I was staying in Zurich d I did a day trip to Colmar and a long weekend, 4 day trip to Chamonix. Here's an account:

Pictures for Chamonix:
Pictures for Colmar:

I spent 4 complete days in Chamonix. Absolutely worth it, a little different from the Swiss Alps, but not any less exciting. I did small hikes in the mountains around Chamonix. Here's an account.

My favorite experiences in and around Chamonix:
  1. The Aigulle Du Midi, no doubts, especially the gondola ride across the glaciers to the Italian side, via the Hellbronner Express.
  2. The Col De Balme area, fabulous views of the Mont Blanc
  3. The convenient and varied hiking in the area: the hike to Lac Du Brevent, Lac Blanc
  4. The prices! Especially after Switzerland.
Food recommendations:
  1. Quiche for breakfast at different cafes, I had them at 3 different cafes, all were excellent.
  2. Panier 4 Seasons
  3. Le Bartavel
Other general comments and tips:
  1. Get the Chamonix Card, it's absolutely worth it.
  2. Hiking is great, get a booklet and look for hikes in the area, hikes in the interior parts of the valley are great as well, while the popular ones are a little crowded.
  3. Try to stay at Lac Blanc for a great view of the sunrise and sunset(which I did not get unfortunately), although getting a booking is not easy.
  4. Go early to the Aigulle Du Midi, clouds usually build up after noon.
I reached Chamonix on a Friday evening. Started day 1 with breakfast at one of the cafes on the main street(unfortunately I don't recall the name), the quiche and chocolate was great. The plan for the day was to hike around the Lac Blanc. I took the cable car upto La Flegere and walked up to the lake. The hike was around 2 hours, a slightly steep one, but not difficult at all. The views of the Mont Blanc were great all the way. I was absolutely unprepared for the grand panoramic views I was going to see. The sharp pointed peaks took me to the age of Lord of the Rings. Lac Blanc turned out to be a very crowded place(not so much actually, nut it wasn't exactly quiet). The reflections of the Mont Blanc massifs into the lake were really good when the water used would become stable for a few moments occasionally. Had lunch at the cabin there, an omelette, soup and a dessert. Meanwhile the weather had become very stormy, clouds gathered above the Mont Blanc. I decided to take the route to the Index lift. This one tuned out to be one of my favorite hikes, mainly because of stormy weather, which made the Mont Blanc look even more imposing and surreal. Reached the Index in about 1.5-2 hours. Came down all the way and took a bus back to the town. Dinner was at Panier 4 Seasons. I had an appetizer of pureed peas, goat cheese ravioli in a fondue sauce, a brick pastry with vegetables, local cheese with berries. One of my best meals in Chamonix. The clouds cleared off later and colors over the Mont Blanc were beautiful at sunset.

The second day had wonderful sunny weather. So I decided to go up the Aigulle Du Midi. When you reach the top you know the slogan "the "real" top of the world" is justified. The views of the peaks, glaciers, the huge slopes, the mountain adventurers was staggering. As soon as I reached the top, I took a ticket for the Hellbronner Express, the gondola ride to the Italian side of the Mont Blanc. This turned out be an amazing experience. The pictures speak for itself. The views of the glaciers are wonderful as you pass over them. I would rate this ride as one of my top experiences in all of Europe so far. I had a polenta with mushrooms and a dessert at the Italian side (infact that is how I realized I was on the Italian side). While returning back, huge clouds passed by the gondolas, making the ride very eventful. You could see the snow trekkers being engulfed with those huge, fast moving clouds. Back at the Aigulle Du Midi, snow had started. And massive thunder, pretty scary actually, but I really enjoyed all of it. After a while, the clouds disappeared, and the views became supremely good, with the lingering clouds and soft sunlight. Finally, I descended down to Chamonix and decided to go to the Montenvers Glacier with the cog wheel train. The glacier itself wasn't too exciting, I had seen much bigger glaciers in Switzerland by then, but you get really close to some of the sharp pointed peaks in the range. Again, a very Lord of the Rings place. As soon as I reached, we saw some really heavy rain, with very fast moving clouds and stormy weather. These storms only elevate the feel of the place. Soon after the storm passed by, we were blessed with the sight of a beautiful 180 degrees double rainbow. Impressive. Returned to Chamonix by the last train. Dinner was at Brasserie Restaurant, I had a melted cheese with vegetables, followed by a gelato.

It was time to move a little, the previous day had been spent going up and down on lifts and trains. I took a bus to the Le Argentiere, went up the first cable and walked up to the glacier, the walk was about an hour each way. The glacier was a great sight, massive and stunning, and very blue(a little muddy though). From there, I took a bus to Le Tour. I took the cable car and chair lift up to Les Autannes. The views of the Mont Blanc from here, all through the day were great. The hiking was mostly easy to moderate. I took the path to Col De Balme, had a lunch of cheese and omelette, followed by a brilliant walk/climb to Les Posttes. The views were outstanding from the peak. Finally I took the path back to Charmillion and descended back to Le Tour and came back by bus to Chamonix. A brilliant day, great views, good hiking and good weather, although it become a little stormy by the end. Dinner was atLa Caleche, I got a french onion soup, crozets with mushroom and a meringue based dessert, all of it was good.

Finally, the last day. Woke up early, headed up the Brevent lift to the last stop and hiked down to the Lac Du Brevent. The site was a beautiful one, you can see the blue lake from a distance contrasting with the brown and green drier high altitude landscape. At a point I also saw a couple of Ibex. All this while, the views of the Mont Blanc were super, the range very closeby. I wish I could come here for sunset, but the lifts close so soon. The hike wasn't too easy, it was very rocky and a little steep on several stretches. Lunch was at Le Bartavel, I got a pizza followed by a good gelato at one of the local shops. So it was time to go back, having enjoyed four great days in and around Chamonix.
ashwinb is offline  
Jan 28th, 2018, 08:34 AM
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A day trip to Colmar was very short, I know I haven't given the area enough justice.
I’ve wanted to visit Colmar since a very long time. Pictures of the half timbered houses and the canals always invited me. I went to Colmar on a day trip from Zurich.

Highlights and tips:
  1. Colmar is small, but beautiful. Crowds peak around mid-day, so early morning and evening is great.
  2. The village of Riquewihr is wonderful, however, quite crowded at mid-day. Walk on the trails above the village.
  3. Most restaurants close around 2 PM, so make sure you have your lunch before that.
  4. Consider staying in and around Colmar and taking trains/car to neighboring villages. I found the villages very beautiful as I passed across them, so you need to take your time while traveling across them. Unfortunately the train/bus service isn’t very efficient to travel around.
  5. The bus/train schedules are tricky, and not available on google maps. So you would need to plan well. This was a cultural shock for me, after being in Switzerland for a while.
  6. Operating the ticket machines is not easy, and it takes time to get a ticket from the window, so have the SNCF app ready.

I took a train from Zurich early in the morning, changed at Basel and reached Colmar. I had a good breakfast at a cafe outside the old town. The old town was dramatically different from the newer parts of the town. Wonderfully painted and maintained. It was quite early in the morning, maybe 8.30, so things were very quiet and peaceful. No tour groups and harsh sunlight and heat. Spent at least a couple of hours walking around, the high point being the Little Venice area. Headed out to Riquewihr by bus. The village of Riquewihr was wonderful. The houses on the main street are wonderful. But so are the side alleys where you won’t find any people at all. However, mid-day was a busy time, the town would feel more pristine in the evenings. I took one of the paths above the village, through the grape plantations and walked for a while. The views across the villages, the plantations were amazing. I wish I could have walked for longer, but I had a bus to take to get me back to Colmar(the next bus was 3 hours later).

Colmar felt very chaotic by time I came back. I began looking for a lunch place, but most places were closing for the afternoon! Finally I managed to find an Italian take-out place, the lentil salad and lasagna were actually very good. I found Colmar too busy for me to roam around, so I decided to go to Chateau Konigsburg. I took a train Selestat, and then a bus to the castle. But then I had only 45 minutes to roam around the castle because of the timings of the last bus. Still, worth it. The castle has good views of the surrounding plains, since it’s perched high up. But I wish I could have found a place which had a view of the castle itself.

Back in Colmar, things had calmed down, I took a walk across the old town again, and got myself some dinner at a “Tarte Flambee” place. I had a tart with several vegetarian toppings, it was quite well made. Soon, it was time for my train back to Zurich. I left with a desire to come back on a more relaxed holiday, perhaps in the Fall.
ashwinb is offline  
Jan 28th, 2018, 10:07 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Thanks for the info. I visited Colmar as a day trip from Strasbourg. I found it a better base than Colmar as there was more to do if when it rained.

Last edited by thursdaysd; Jan 28th, 2018 at 10:07 AM. Reason: Typo
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 28th, 2018, 12:25 PM
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Lovely photos. The morning light in colourful Colmar is so enchanting.
We visited mid day and experienced the crowds, but it was still really nice.
I liked that you walked up to the vineyards and overlooked Riquewihr, that is such a gorgeous outlook. We did a half day tour from Strasbourg and that obviously limits what you can do, but it did get us to the villages more easily than the bus.

Those mountain photos are just stunning, too.
Adelaidean is offline  
Feb 8th, 2018, 09:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,366
Great trip report. I was dabbling with the idea of combing a trip to Alsace with Valle d'Aosta and Chamonix and ran across your report. Very helpful. Your pictures are absolutely stunning! Enjoyed reading your blog. Happy travels.
mnag is offline  
Feb 11th, 2018, 12:54 PM
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Thanks a lot!
mnag, I wanted to visit the Valle D'Aosta, maybe sometime later.
thursdaysd, Strasbourg would have been good.
Adelaidean, certainly, mornings are the best time to cisit Colmar, or rather any of the other villages.
ashwinb is offline  
Dec 7th, 2018, 10:40 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Thanks for posting this report, ashwinb! I especially appreciated your description of the various weather events and their effect on what you were seeing -- I felt like I was seeing a bit of the world through your eyes!
kja is offline  
Dec 8th, 2018, 02:05 AM
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"grape plantations" wonderful

I'd not think of combining valle d'aosta with this, but maybe the Jura would work well
bilboburgler is offline  
Dec 8th, 2018, 03:48 PM
Join Date: Jan 2015
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bilboburgler, ashwin did a 3 month Zurich work placement and did weekend trips,

Switzerland: 11 weekends in the summer, across the entire country

so his itinerary a bit different to the usual.
Adelaidean is offline  
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