The Mer de Glace, in English meaning the ‘sea of ice’, has become a very popular tourist attraction in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. This valley glacier is over 7km long and 200m deep and is regarded as the largest glacier in France and the second largest in Europe. The Mer de Glace is constantly changing which in turn leads to the formation of new crevasses and seracs. This glacier ‘flows’ as a result of its own weight which varies with the accumulation of snow during the winter and the melting of ice during summer. The speed at which it moves is considerable. The lower section of the Mer de Glace moves around 90 metres every year. This equates to approximately 1 cm every hour.
The Mer de Glace is accessible via the Montenvers Railway which has operated since 1908. This quaint red train departs from Chamonix and brings you up to the Montenvers station situated at an altitude of 1,913m. The funicular railway journey provides stunning views of the Chamonix valley and only takes around 20 minutes. The cost for a return trip is 32.50 € for an adult and 27.60 € for a child. Alternatively, you can hike to the Montenvers station and enjoy the beautiful surrounding scenery as you go.
Once you reach Montenvers there is a cafe and restaurant which serve delicious traditional delicacies. A panoramic viewing platform also provides the perfect photo opportunity and a chance to admire famous Chamonix peaks including Les Drus (3,754m), Les Grands Jorasses (4,205m) and the Aiguille du Grepon (3,482m). An exhibition with local mountain crystals on display and an animal museum are also accessible for free.
The Ice Cave
A small cable car from the Montenvers train station provides access to the Mer de Glace. Once at the bottom of the cable car you can descend 480 stairs to reach the entrance of the ice cave which takes you into the heart of the glacier. Due to the glacier’s constant ‘flow’, the Ice Cave is re-sculpted each summer. This truly unique Chamonix experience is not to be missed.
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