An unobstructed view of the icy landscape, a breathtaking discovery… The Mer de Glace is an absolute must-see while holidaying in Chamonix. Exploring this ice cave is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, whether you are used to admiring snowy mountains or not. Here is all the practical information you need to learn more about this natural city of ice and visit it during your stay.
HOW TO EXPLORE THE MER DE GLACE IN CHAMONIX?
As you might have gathered, if you come to Chamonix, you will need to leave your skis behind to go visit the glacier. Whether you are visiting as a family, as a couple, or you are a lone wolf of an explorer, you will discover the secrets of a place nature has kept hidden for centuries.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THIS ICE GIANT
Its name – which means “Sea of Ice” – derives from the natural shape of the glacier. It spreads out organically and, each year, expands by 90 to 130 metres (295 to 426 feet)! The Mer de Glace is an ice formation made up of the Tacul Glacier and the Leschaux Glacier. The locals used to be wary of its height and preferred not to inhabit it. The first men who climbed it, William Windham and Richard Pococke, left traces of their ascent there as early as 1741.
Since the beginning of the 1870s, scientific expeditions were carried out to study the glacier, which was still in its natural state. It wasn’t until the start of the 20th century that the area got its first inhabitants who built the Montenvers railway. The engineers and the workers drilled through the ice to make way for the train, a true miracle of technology at the time, which contributed to the fame the beautiful Mer de Glace acquired over the years. Ever since the cable car system was installed in 1988 and three museums were founded, the area has become a tourist attraction that draws over a million visitors each year. That’s enough to make anyone dizzy!
UP YOU CLIMB!
If you enjoy hiking or prefer to explore the inside of the cave, several paths were created to every visitor’s delight. But be warned, the network is huge, and you’ll have a hard time seeing it all within a single day. With a surface area of 40 km² (15.4 sq mi), 7 km (4.3 mi) long and 300 m (984 ft) thick, this glacier is known as the largest one in mainland France.
There exist multiple starting points from where you can explore the immensity of the Mer de Glace. Three main hikes will take you there, such as the crossing of Montenvers – Plan de l’Aiguille, as well as the way down to Chamonix through the Planards or the Village des Bois.
WHEN TO VISIT THE MER DE GLACE?
The glacier is only open during certain periods for safety reasons. The Mer de Glace does remain a dangerous glacier, with heavy snowfall and invisible cracks. If you wish to go there, the opening dates are as follows:
- Dates of access to the Mer de Glace vary depending on the season:
- Up to December 19, 2020
During this period, both the Ice Cave and the cable cars are closed.
- From December 19, 2020 to March 12, 2021
Daily departures every 30 minutes between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Last departure to visit the Ice Cave is at 2:00 p.m.
- From March 13, 2021 to April 30, 2021
Daily departures every 30 minutes between 10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Last departure to visit the Ice Cave is at 3:00 p.m.
These times only apply to weekdays, with a group departure every 20 to 30 minutes depending on turnout. Annual closure lasts from the 1st of October to the 4th of November. Visiting the whole ice cave takes 2 to 3 hours, but it can be as much as double that on busy days.
MER DE GLACE PRICES*:
- Adult: €35 for a Chamonix-Montenvers return ticket, the return cable car journey to the Mer de Glace and the visit of the ice cave.
- Children aged 5–14: €29.80 for a Chamonix-Montenvers return ticket, the return cable car journey to the Mer de Glace and the visit of the ice cave.
- Family package: €100.70€ for 2 adults 2 children, and the visit is free for the 3rd, 4th and 5th child.
- People with disabilities get 50% off, as do those accompanying them, in the form of a multipass return ticket.
The visit is free for children under 5.
*Rates may be changed without notice.
TIPS AND DURATION OF THE VISIT
Come and explore the inside of the Mer de Glace. Made into a true museum, the place traces back the journey of 19th century adventurers. But don’t let it take your breath away: you will need it to climb the 480 steps leading up to the cable car!
Once you get there, you can visit the museum, a building which dates back to the years 1795-98. Inside, you will see scenes reconstructing the visit of famous writers and explorers, such as Chateaubriand.
WHERE TO STAY AND TAKE A BREAK?
Whether you prefer to leave early to avoid the crowd or to take a quick, relaxing break after a long day’s walk, 4-star hotel Le Morgane is the place to be. A true modern gem amid the mountainous landscape, it offers multiple services for the most marvellous stay.
Conveniently located, the Morgane Hotel in Chamonix is not only very close to the Mer de Glace but it supplies all the equipment you may need. They also help you choose the best activities and provides amazing dinner experiences thanks to their “Comptoir des Alpes” restaurant.
The Morgane Hotel is also the ideal place to stay to enjoy the countless activities Chamonix has to offer: spring music festivals, summer sledding in the Mont Blanc, and many extreme leisure activities for those who love thrilling sensations.
Rise above the valley by climbing to the top of the Mer de Glace or explore its ice chambers. Create unforgettable memories with your friends or family, alone or as a couple!