A quick guide to the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi and the Télécabine Panoramique Mont Blanc for some of the most epic views in Europe.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (usually referred to as Chamonix), is a picturesque ski resort in the French Alps of Haute-Savoie in south eastern France. Found at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix is located in a valley sandwiched between the Mont Blanc massif and the Aiguilles Rouges, a truly breathtaking area. Home to the first Winter Olympics in 1924, the region is a skiers paradise during the winter months. And come summer, it becomes a mecca for hikers and climbers. But you don’t have to be a hardcore hiker to enjoy the magnificent scenery around Chamonix!
A series of cable cars make the area accessible to all. From Chamonix you can take the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi up to the Upper Station. From where you can take the separate Télécabine Panoramique Mont Blanc (Panoramic Mont-Blanc) across to the Monte Bianco station on Pointe Helbronner, Italy. Two of the most scenic journeys in this part of the world.
Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi
Finding the cable car station
No map is really required to find the cable car station. From anywhere in Chamonix, you can see the cables leading from the station to the pointy peak of Aiguille du Midi. But should you need to programme your map to find the cable car station, search for ‘Compagnie du Mont Blanc’ which is found at 100 Place de l’Aiguille du Midi.
You can buy tickets for the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi in advance online or at the cable car station. There are various packages available. Check HERE for current pricing and package options.
Make sure you arrive nice and early to avoid potentially horrendous queues. Arriving before opening time, I was able to purchase my return ticket and get on the first car of the day. The ticket included:
- Return cable-car rides
- Vertical area
- History area
- The Step into the Void
- Hypoxia level
- Mont Blanc area
- The Pipe
The Panoramic Mont-Blanc/Vallée Blanche Cable Car is not included on the standard Aiguille du Midi pass or the Mont Blanc multi-pass so you need to buy tickets separately. During peak season it can be best to book in advance which can be done at any of the lift pass offices. Or you can purchase once up at the Aiguille du Midi upper station, subject to availability. Which is what I chose to do.
The journey up to Aiguille du Midi
The journey up to the Aiguille du Midi is a 2-part cable car ride. The first section climbs up to the Plan de l’Aiguille (2317m) taking around 10 minutes. From here you disembark. For some, it’s the start point for some stunning hikes around Mont Blanc massif. But for those heading up to Aiguille du Midi Upper Station, jump on the next cable car for the second leg of the journey.
It’s from the second cable car that the views become increasingly beautiful. From the Plan de l’Aiguille, the second leg carries you up to the Aiguille du Midi (3842m), with views across upper parts of the Mont-Blanc massif. After arriving at Aiguille du Midi Upper Station, I was blown away by the views. After exiting the cable car, one of the first things you see is the footbridge connecting the two main structures. Crossing over it you reach the central pillar with its various viewpoints and walkways. Straight away I was mesmerised by the views of the peaks beyond as the light glistened on the slowly melting icicles hanging from the walkway.
My first priority was the Télécabine Panoramique Mont Blanc (Panoramic Mont-Blanc). Immediately after exiting the cable car I went to the ticket office and purchased the tickets. The ticket office is found just after you cross the bridge to your left. Very close to this cable car is the ‘Sortie Vallée Blanche’ ice tunnel. This is the exit point down to the Vallée Blanche below. It’s a nice place to kill a few minutes whilst waiting for the cable car. During the early morning hours, the beautiful golden morning light shimmered off the snowy ridges below which was really picturesque.
Télécabine Panoramique Mont Blanc (Panoramic Mont-Blanc)
This amazing cable car section connects the Aiguille du Midi Upper Station to the Pointe Helbronner peak (3466m) of Italy. And it was what I was most looking forward to. Doing it straight way meant minimal queue times and after only a few minutes, I was underway.
The 5km journey takes 25-30 minutes. There are regular short pauses as people get on/off the cable-car on either side. This allows plenty of time for photo’s and/or to sit back and enjoy the ride. It really was spectacular passing firstly over the Vallée Blanche to the Gros Rognon station (not a passenger station). And from there, across the massive ‘unsupported’ section over the crevasses and seracs of the Glacier du Géant.
You could see the mountaineers with their colourful tents below, taking on the mighty Mont Blanc massif. They looked so tiny, almost ant-like surrounded by all the snow. The stunning vistas were breathtaking and before I knew it, I was at Pointe Helbronner in Italy.
Pointe Helbronner – Italy
Known as the ‘Eagles Nest’, the Skyway Monte Bianco station on Pointe Helbronner sits at 3466m. Once in Pointe Helbronner, you’re free to enjoy the amazing views from the Italian sides impressive station. There’s a series of terraces to explore, offering views as far as the eye can see. These vistas are stunning, looking over the Aosta Valley and the Piedmont region. From here, you can travel down to La Palud of the Aosta Valley, Italy, via the Skyway Monte Blanco cable car.
Visiting Pointe Helbronner offers a completely different view of Aiguille du Midi. It also gives you the opportunity to view the upper station of Aiguille du Midi cable car from afar. It’s an amazing feat of engineering. Like many, I was left wondering ‘how did they build it?’ But you don’t have to ponder that thought for long, as the ‘history area’ at Aiguille du Midi explains all.
Ordinarily, I would have stayed here longer. But with an impending flight from Geneva that afternoon, I didn’t want to push my luck. Plus, there was still lots I wanted to see back on the French side. After soaking up the last of the Pointe Helbronner views, I joined the queue for the Panoramic Mont-Blanc Cable Car back to Aiguille du Midi. For the record, this cable car is known as the Vallée Blanche Cable Car (Funivia dei Ghiacciai) from the Italian side.
After a short wait, I was in the cable car for one of the most spectacular rides I’ve ever been on. Floating over glaciers, watching massive peaks pass by on a clear summers day, was worth every penny. And it does cost a few! The 30 minute journey flew by and before I knew it, I was back at the Gros Rognon station, for the final section of the journey over the Vallée Blanche to Aiguille du Midi.
Aiguille du Midi
The recently constructed ‘Le Tube’ (the Pipe), a 32m long steel gallery finished only a month or so prior to my visit, connects the walkways. This means you can now do a complete circuit around the central pillar. At every turn you’re greeted with views that just get better and better.
But for me, the views from atop the highest viewing area (Terrasses Panoramiques 9), unsurprisingly offered the most wowing vistas. A cool lift takes you 42m to the uppermost terrace at 3842m. From here there’s breathtaking panoramic views of various peaks, glaciers and valleys. And none are more impressive than unparalleled views of the mighty ‘White Mountain’, the magnificent Mont Blanc.
From this level there’s also the ‘Step into the Void’, a reinforced glass box suspended over thousand meters of emptiness beneath your feet. More of a kids attraction, I was glad this wasn’t on my ‘to-do’ list as the queues were lengthy. As anticipated, the kids weren’t queuing for the history area on the lower levels! But I thought it was an interesting way to finish visit here. After learning about the construction of the cable-car I was back in the short queue to get back to Chamonix. For those who were wondering, all went to plan and I was back with plenty of time for my transfer to Geneva Airport with Chamonix Valley Transfers.
Although both touristy and expensive, the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi Cable Car is well worth it in my opinion. Suitable for almost everyone it’s both informative and wowing at the same time. The Panoramic Mont-Blanc/Vallée Blanche Cable Car over the Vallée Blanche and Glacier du Géant was a highlight and a must if you’re going up to Aiguille du Midi. For me, this was a lovely break from my day hikes around the Mont Blanc massif.
Things to consider
- Get there early. In peak season queues can be hours long for the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi.
- Check operating hours. See HERE for hours of operation as they vary throughout the year.
- Consider booking in advance. If you’re willing to risk the highly unpredictable weather, you can book online in advance to avoid the queues.
- Check the weather. No matter if you’re wanting to do one or all the cable cars, these are not cheap attractions. And in my opinion, going up on a day with poor visibility would be pointless and ultimately a very unsatisfactory experience.
- The Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du MidiIt is open all year round. This is except for the annual maintenance period in November (usually 2-4 weeks) and during extremely bad weather conditions.
- Don’t miss the Panoramic Mont-Blanc/Vallée Blanche Cable Car. For me, this was the highlight and well worth paying the extra for. But be aware this only operates from late May to September and only in good weather.
- Take your passport. If you’re planning on taking the Panoramic Mont-Blanc/Vallée Blanche Cable Car, its best to take your passport.
- Allow plenty of time. Once up at Aiguille du Midi there’s loads to see and do. So give yourself several hours, especially if you wanting to to take the Panoramic Mont-Blanc cable car and/or do things like the ‘Step into the Void’.
- Be prepared. Even on a nice sunny day it gets cold up there! Make sure to take warm clothes, a nice lightweight down jacket is ideal. Other recommendations would be a beanie, sunglasses and reef-friendly sunscreen, which is the best for the environment.
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