Nestled in the winter wonderland region of Chamonix, France, on the northern slopes of Mont Blanc, Mer de Glace is one of the hidden gems of French alpine heritage. Magical by its nature and by name (translates as “Sea of Ice” in English), the valley glacier is a climbers’ haven and an ideal setting for adventurous skiers and hikers. The glacier is not only the largest in France, but it is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Chamonix Valley. What makes Mer de Glace truly remarkable is the mind-boggling panoramic vistas of the Mont Blanc and its rugged alpine terrain. Here is our comprehensive guide to Mer De Glace.
Things to do
Once at Mer de Glace, not only will you find yourself near the largest glacier in France, surrounded by epic alpine scenery, but you’ll also have lots more to discover, so why not get started?
The Ice Cave
Mer de Glace is not only about panoramic vistas of Mont Blanc, but also the gems that are hidden under the glacier, like this ice cave. The man-made ice grotto is cut into the glacier and needs to be dug constantly, as the glacier moves every year. Access inside is done with the help of a small cable car from the train station, and then via 430 steps. Inside the cave, you’ll find ice sculptures, caves, and the Gallery of Crystals, a collection of the most uncommon crystal specimens found in the Mont Blanc massif.
The Glaciorium dates back to the year 2012 and has since been open every summer, from early June to late September. It takes its name after the science of glaciology, which integrates geophysics, geology, geomorphology, climatology, biology, ecology, and many others. At the Glaciorium, visitors will discover a glaciology exhibition that offers an educational and interactive approach to glaciers and their history. This fascinating immersion into climate and environment goes even further, exploring how glaciers will change moving forward, how they keep a memory of the planet and life on Earth, as well as their indispensable role to the planet’s very existence.
What to eat
If you’re planning a day trip to Mer de Glace, there’s no need to pack lunch too. The dining options up there are plenty, and they come with spectacular views and some of the most exquisite French specialties.
The station at Montenvers
If you’re taking the funicular railway from Chamonix up to the Aiguilles de Chamonix, you’ll find a café and a restaurant once you reach the top. It can be the perfect place for a first stop to admire the vistas. The station sits on a rocky ridge and overlooks Mer de Glace. So, take a seat, and enjoy your morning coffee while taking in the sights of the stunning glacier.
Restaurant Le Panoramique Mer de Glace
Ever since it has reopened its gates in 2016, Le Panoramique Mer de Glace is the perfect place to have lunch. Its interiors blend authentic French atmosphere and a modern vibe perfectly. The restaurant specializes in French cuisine that’s slow-cooked and served in a traditional style. Some of the must-try items on the menu include the Savoyarde pork hotpot, but also desserts like Mer de Glace8 with homemade raspberry liqueur and meringue, or the Mont Blanc chestnut cream with meringue.
Restaurant Grand Hotel du Montenvers
Restaurant Grand Hotel du Montenvers is all about fine dining, quality cuisine, and unbeatable terrace views. Start with a free visit to the hotel museum, and then stop at the restaurant to enjoy lunch with a view. Savor the flavors of Mont Blanc regional cuisine that includes Savoyard fondues, cheese and charcuterie platter, or Tartiflette with bacon and green salad. The dessert list includes mouth-watering options like Liquor of fir-infused Crème brulée, Blueberry tart, or Pear and Chocolate Crumble, served with vanilla ice cream.
Check the calendar
Before planning a trip to explore Mer de Glace, make sure you check the calendar to see if the main attractions are open and can be visited. While the place itself is worth the trip, it would be a shame not to be able to make the most of it.
Remember, you’re going to a high altitude, so the temperatures up there might be different even compared to the starting point in Chamonix, so make sure you pack an extra jacket, just in case.
How to get there
The Red Train
For over a century now, the traditional red train remains the favorite means of transportation to Mer de Glace, and one of the best ways to explore and experience the extraordinary sights of Chamonix Valley. The train departs every 30 minutes from Chamonix and takes its travelers on a 20-minute journey through forests and tunnels.
A more adventurous alternative
Hikers, climbers, skiers, and adventurous mountaineers can also access Montenvers in the winter either by cable car from the Aiguille du Midi or by skiing or rappelling from the Grands Montets.
How to book tickets
Depending on the transportation option you might choose, the prices to get to Mer de Glace may differ. You can opt for a gondola ride, a train ticket that includes free access to the cable car and tours, family passes, and many more.
For the full offer, with rates and options, check out the official website.
Mer de Glace information
Mer de Glace
Address: Northern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif
Official website: Mer de Glace
Department of tourism: France
Chamonix, Aiguille du Midi & Mer de Glace Full-Day Trip
Duration: 9 hour
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