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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Bates

Day trip to the summit of Aiguille du Midi

A trip to see Mont Blanc in the French Alps, the highest mountain in Western Europe at 4810m is one of the must do’s in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, but how can you do this in a day? Well, it is simple and you don’t have to hike. It’s just one cable car journey away. Here is my guide on how to spend the perfect day seeing the ‘White Mountain’ and how to do the cable cars with no hassle.

Aiguille du Midi
A view of Aiguille du Midi from Chamonix

Chamonix


This mountain resort is located in the heart of the French Alps and is easily accessible by road and train and the nearest airport is Geneva (the French side of the airport, not the Swiss side). Chamonix is a splendid resort with plenty of accommodation for skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer, as well as shops, lakes, restaurants and bars. It is worth spending a few days here if planning to do some hikes or take some train rides up and down the other mountains nearby.

Aiguille du Midi and the journey to the summit.


Everyone has heard of Mt Blanc but not Aiguille du Midi and can’t understand why we are mentioning this other mountain. One of the most common questions I get asked is if there is a cable car going up Mont Blanc and the simple answer is no. If visitors want to go up Mt Blanc, you will have to be a very experienced mountaineer with all the gear and possibly a permit. The nearest visitors are going to get if they take the cable car from Chamonix and go to the summit (3,842m) and take in the views from there.


For the cable car here are some tips which will help visitors have a more enjoyable time as it does get busy during the peak season.


  • Get there early (we mean, really early, if possible, around sunrise is a good time to go) and buy your tickets (or even better, book them online). The queues after breakfast for the rest of the day are just simply crazy and will add on a lot of time to the day.

  • With the way the queuing system works in Chamonix, after buying the tickets, expect to wait up to twenty minutes before boarding the cable car (if boarding one of the first ones in the morning or during quiet periods otherwise the wait is a lot longer).

  • Whilst on the car, remember to take your backpacks or other bags off your back and put them on the floor. This frees up space for other people to get onto the car.

  • Take a jacket or a jumper even in the summer months. You will be above the clouds (if any) and it does get quite cold up there. Also be careful and check your breathing due to the altitude. If feeling light-headed, take a rest and don’t panic. 

  • Also on the health side, take suntan lotion as the sun rays are pretty strong up here, even in the winter months.


Now the cable car journey is done in two parts. The first part is a pleasant journey to Plan de l’Aiguille (2,317m). Here there is a restaurant/bar which has a fantastic outdoor terrace where visitors can have a drink or a meal and take in the surrounding mountains above. Also from here there are a couple of hiking trails, the main one being the trail back to the cable car station in Chamonix where in the summer months there are lots of beautiful flowers to be seen and the smell of the alpine air whilst walking through the trees are a highlight.


The second cable car from Plan de l’Aiguille to Aiguille du Midi is one of the best in the world we have come across. Without any support pillars, the cable car passes the Les Pelerins glacier before arriving on the northern face of the Aiguille du Midi. The cable car journey also holds the record as the highest vertical ascent from 1035m to 3842m (and didn’t we know it, when the cable car rocks when going underneath a pillar, the food in our stomachs kinda went up through our bodies but lucky no vomit came out).

Aiguille du Midi - the summit


Once leaving the cable car, there is a footbridge which connects the station to the main building. From here there are several things to do and see.


There is the highest cable car journey in the world to do (for an extra fee) which connects France and Italy. Whilst doing this, visitors will get a fantastic panoramic view of Mt Blanc and the surrounding mountain summits of the French Alps. The journey is 5km long (3.2 miles) and finishes in Point Helbronner, however once there, there is another cable car to take visitors to Courmayeur, Italy where a different view of Mt Blanc can be taken in. 


Most visitors will hit up the viewing platforms dotted around the building and all will have amazing views of Mt Blanc. However the other mountain peaks are equally impressive and give the area a more dramatic feel. The best time to see this is either sunrise or sunset. Having to admit, we were very lucky to catch the views during sunrise and whilst watching it, there were feelings of joy and a slight tear in the eyes. There was no word to describe this moment.


A new feature to the building (but in peak season can have a bit of a waiting time to do this) is the Step into the Void where a panoramic viewing platform in a sheltered area with wide windows can be experienced. This will give visitors the chance to see the surrounding mountains even in bad weather. 


There is also a cafeteria, snack bar and a restaurant in the building (the latter being one of the highest restaurants in the world) plus a souvenir shop which sells postcards and stamps. If doing this, make sure to write them out up here and send it from the letterbox so the receiver gets a special postmark when delivered. Whilst wondering about, make sure to visit and see the museum displays which have many mountaineering memorabilia (and as the museum is located at 3,777m, this is the highest museum in the world).


Hiking Plan de l’Aiguille to Chamonix 


As mentioned above, the second trip to these mountains didn’t involve any hikes. Our  first visit here was previously back in 2009 and took in the hike from Plan de l’Aiguille to the cable car station in Chamonix. Which looks like a simple, easy, quick hike down the mountain, it actually took Olga and I about ninety minutes to two hours to complete. The terrain wasn’t hard but there were a few rocks lying about here, there and everywhere. What was more time consuming was checking out the views and taking every opportunity to get amazing captures with the camera. Here is how the hike turned out in photos and if visitors have the time (and are able to), then do allow time to do this fantastic hike. It’s good for all ages and a good bonding experience with children and to teach them nature as there were some birds, butterflies and other interesting creatures around. A great learning experience.

If visitors do decide to hike down from Plan de l’Aiguille after your trip to the summit, the ticket visitors need will be to buy the is the “Special Hiker” or “Spécial randonneur.” This discount ticket will get you from Chamonix to the top of Aiguille du Midi, then halfway back down to the Plan de l’Aiguille without having to pay the full round-trip price. 

Afterthoughts


After spending a whole morning (around 4-5 hours) at the summit of Aiguille du Midi, this would be the ideal amount of time to do all the queuing, the journey, the sightseeing, the shopping and having some food and drink. The cable car maybe one of the most expensive in the Alps but you do get your money’s worth here. This is a once in a lifetime experience, totally blown away with the breathtaking views and came back with memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Accessibility: Aiguille du Midi is accessible for visitors with disabilities. Visitors can ride the cable cars all the way up to the top and access most of the viewing platforms. However the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car ride to Pointe Helbronner is not wheelchair accessible.


Children: Children under 3 are strictly forbidden from the Aiguille du Midi. Children ages 4 and 5 are allowed but not recommended.


Webcam: Wanna see live webcam action from the summit - click here.


Tickets: Online tickets for the cable car can be found here as well as official information for the trip to the summit.


How to get to & where it is located: Chamonix lies in the French Alps but it isn't that tricky to get too. The nearest airport is Geneva (yes, it is in Switzerland but the airport also has an exit in France as the airport lies on the border). It takes about 1 hour 30 minutes by car to drive to Chamonix. There are also airport transfers. The next nearest large airport is Lyon. 

By train is a bit slower but Chamonix does have trains (most of the time with a connection further on) which will take visitors towards Lyon, Paris, London and Geneva. It takes about six to seven hours for Paris, three hours for Geneva and up to twelve hours for London. 

By car is far the easiest if already in the region as the autoroute to the west is not too far from Chamonix, so a drive into the French Alps is pretty quick (We did this a few times and we can really vouch for this). There is also a road from Martigny in Switzerland (a town thirty minutes drive south of the eastern end of Lake Geneva). It is a slow road which takes drivers through the mountains but it is a very scenic route which we highly recommend driving. To the south of Chamonix is the famous Mont Blanc road tunnel which goes underneath Mont Blanc. It is a toll road but this road takes vehicles the quickest way from Central France into Northern Italy (heading towards Milan). 


Accommodation: There are a lot of accommodation options and a lot of websites which can do some great deals. Our first point of call is always Booking.com and can offer a range of hostels, hotels, campsites, apartments, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts. After that I always have a look through AirBnb for great deals on apartments and other lodgings especially when traveling as a family. 


Currency: France uses the Euro currency which is also widely used in most European countries. Currency can be exchanged at the airports and train stations (for a huge fee) so we would recommend either going to a currency exchange place downtown, to a bank (if they have good rates) or if you got a good bank account with fantastic exchange rates, then use an ATM machine (may incur a small fee but we always do this option as we got good bank accounts). 


Language: It’s France, so it would be French. However at major tourist sites, a lot of staff do speak English (it is not like the old days where French people refuse to speak English, that has changed you will find the locals here love to practise their English as well as visitors trying to learn French).


Watch out for: to be frank, we don't think there is any crime in this area. Watch out for the usual stuff like pickpockets or silly drivers who don't know how to drive on mountain roads nearby but at the moment, we found Chamonix and the surrounding mountains to be one of the safest parts of France. Just don't get caught out by missing the last cable car back down to the town or getting injured whilst skiing. 


Flying into this area? Then we would recommend using Skyscanner to find flights as that is my first point of call. Then if necessary use the airlines directly to find a good deal. We sometimes use Momondo as well to compare prices before booking.


Travel insurance: This is essential to anywhere you go in the world. We always carry travel insurance. Having travel insurance will cover you from theft, illness and those annoying cancellations which can happen on the road. 


Need a visa for France? Always check if you need a visa when coming to France, especially for those who come from outside Europe.


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Please note that while I was not working with any companies in the Chamonix area, my review and experiences written about in this post are 100% genuine. I value my readers too much to lie to you. My blog would be nothing without you and your continued support! There maybe some links above which are affiliate and are at no additional cost to you. If my readers use them, I earn a commission to buy their products and remember, I only mentioned products and companies I use. The income from this keeps this website going. Thank you. 

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1 Comment


Two Small Potatoes
Two Small Potatoes
Apr 27

Beautiful photos! Man, we camped in Chamonix with friends when we lived in Switzerland. I was SO excited about going up to the Midi summit, but I didn't realize in advance that they have age restrictions. Our friends had a toddler under age 3 at the time so we couldn't go up. We hiked Planpraz instead, which was nice. Definitely not the spectacular views of the Midi though.


Carrie @ Two Small Potatoes

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