Growing up, I always thought of vacationing in the Alps as something only wealthy people could do. As I got older, I realized that’s not true at all. Though skiing can get quite pricey, spending a summer in the Alps doesn’t have to be. During our trip, we had the opportunity to chat with a man who was on the tourism board. He told us that on the most lucrative summer nights, only a couple thousand people book a stay in Flaine. On busy winter nights, on the other hand, upwards of 20,000 people flock to the ski resorts. I just could not help but be baffled at the thought of so many people missing out on all of the beauty hiding under the snow. Flaine is not a touristic summer destination, making it the perfect place for a relaxing vacation and some fun day trips into larger neighboring cities. Nestled near the Italian and Swiss border, halfway between Cluses and Chamonix, Flaine will steal your heart. Here is a complete guide with all my best recommendations to guarantee you an unforgettable stay!
- Where to Stay?
- Where to Eat?
- Hiking Trails
- Les Grandes Platières
- Day trips
Where to Stay?
The answer is simple: Les Terrasses d’Eos. This hotel is by far my favorite place I’ve ever stayed! The apartments are beautiful and comfortable with all the necessary amenities. Les Terrasses d’Eos is owned by the Pierre et Vacances group and offers one and two-bedroom apartments. Each bedroom comes with its own bathroom, and each apartment is equipped with a full kitchen, dining room table, and living room with a fireplace. Despite being on the back side of the hotel, we still had a great view, and I personally enjoyed the privacy. However, the deciding factor for us was the heated pool and its magnificent view. The Terrasses are situated at a higher elevation, overlooking the entire valley of Flaine and its spruce tree forests. The view and price are unbeatable at around150 euros per person for a one-week stay in early July!
Where to Eat?
Our very first night, we enjoyed dinner at La Table d’Hélios, the restaurant at the Terrasses d’Hélios, Eos’s twin hotel only a short walk away. I highly recommend the ham and winter veggie stew or potée savoyarde, a flavorful local dish that will be sure to warm your soul on those crisp mountain evenings. The next day, we asked the hotel receptionist for good local-color restaurants, and she recommended l’Alpage de l’Airon but warned us to make a reservation as it stays booked. And boy was she right! If I could eat at the same restaurant every day, it would be this one. I know I am using a lot of superlatives, but this trip truly was amazing. I loved everything about the Alpage. The trail to get there, the view, the food, the water pouring straight of the source, and the cute cows grazing the pastures all around. It was straight out of a dream. We hadn’t seen any advertisement for the Alpage but made sure to call ahead as instructed. The road to the restaurant is steep and rough without a 4X4. My mom drives a small Citroen C3 and could only carry two passengers on the way up. There is a trail that takes you to the restaurant, but I was not enthused about walking it back in the cold dark night, so half of us would walk the trail on the way to dinner, and we would all drive down in the car. But believe me when I tell you the food was worth every pothole! If you are a cheese lover like me, I highly suggest trying out the tartiflette and fondue.
If you are wanting to bring a piece of Flaine home with you, consider purchasing some fresh cheese from the Alpage’s dairy production or walk around the nocturnal farmers’ market at the Carroz d’Arrache. You will find tons of local artisans selling cheese, honey, jelly, sausages, crafts and so much more… One of our favorite was the Chèvrerie de la Pierre à Laya, a goat farm selling local and goat-cheese derived products. The chèvrerie also offers educational visits of its barns for children and adults alike. Needless to say we stocked up on all the mountain yumminess before heading home.
Lac de Flaine
From the hotel:
Moderate to strenuous
8.4 km/ 5.2 miles
346 m/ 1135 ft incline
From the Tourism Office:
2.4 km/ 1.5 miles
1 1/2 hour
187m/ 613 ft incline
We started this hike from the hotel, but it can also be started at the tourism office where parking is available. I suggest doing this hike in the morning to avoid the afternoon shadow on the lake. From the Tourism Office, head down to the Aup de Véran cable car departure through the buildings. At marker 55, at the bottom of the cable car, follow the river on the right toward Lac de Flaine (itinéraire difficile). This trail is a little more difficult, but the views are worth it! You will follow the river through the woods with the help of chains (that may be useful following precipitations) and see a small waterfall. At marker 57, follow Flaine through the torrent. This will take you through the woods and down into a prairie. The descent to the lake through the woods can be a bit of a challenge at times, but the views were gorgeous. You will walk along a creek through the prairie. We were not able to access the banks of the lake as they are located on private property, but you can bypass the lake on the left. Once you arrive on the opposite shore, take the path parallel to the prairie back where you came from. The ascension is a bit abrupt and not shaded, so bring plenty of water with you.
Lac de Véret
5 km/ 3.1 mile
280 m/ 918 ft incline
We started this hike from the hotel by taking a trail that took us along D106 and up to a beautiful waterfall following the cable car route. We were curious and decided to keep heading up toward the Lac deVéret. The lake is situated at an altitude of exactly 2000m and is home to thousands of wriggling tadpoles. This is a similar itinerary to what we took, but theLac de Véret seems to be a new, artificial lake and doesn’t show up on Google Maps.
Col de Pierre Carrée
2.6 km/ 1.6 mile
105 m/ 344 ft incline
This was by far the easiest hike we did all week. The Col de PierreCarrée is located just a few meters up the road. We took this route when we hiked. The ski slopes of Flaine served as a backdrop for summer wildflowers and made for a stunning view.
Les Grandes Platières
The Grandes Platières is the only cable car operating in Flaine during the summer. Rates are 12 euros for children 5-15 years old and 16 euros for adults 15 and older. But believe me when I say it is a small price to pay for the breathtaking 360o views that await you at the top. The cable car ride lasts approximately 15 minutes and takes you up to 2500m/ 8200 ft altitude. When you first step off the cable car, you will notice a giant #flaine sign, a restaurant called Le Désert Blanc, but perhaps most strange of all, bloody ice. The ice at the top of Grandes Platières is tinted red by iron oxide. Head to my Instagram story highlights for more footage of the summit.
I was in complete awe at the beauty of these mountains. Everywhere I looked I saw wildflowers of every color, snowy mountain peaks, and majestic birds in flight. I was also surprised by the amount of bugs present at such a high altitude, but curiosity finally got the best of me, and I took off through the rocks to reach a viewpoint of the valley on the right side of the mountain. This seemingly aimless walk turned out to be my favorite hike of all times. I trekked alone for almost an hour before reaching the Col de la Portette. It turns out that, as it often is the case in life, it was more about the journey than it was the destination. Though the plunging views of the Assy Plateau were worth it, I was not expecting to be met with such beauty on my way there. As you hike the Désert de Platé, do not step on ice. The water erosion of the rocks has turned the soil into a maze of deep crevasses, called lapiaz, that are sometimes hidden under thin layers of ice. Bring snacks, hiking shoes, and sunscreen to make the best of your day up on the Grandes Platières.
Located about an hour from Flaine, Lac Vert (Green Lake) is a gorgeous emerald blue lake located in Passy. Its shallow water level and the presence of algae give it its beautiful turquoise color. Flaine essentially being a cul-de-sac, there is only one way out. The D106 and D6 will take you over 1200m/ 4000 ft down to Magland where you will get on the D1205 before exiting onto A40 and beginning another ascension 1300m/ 4250 ft up to the Green Lake. The road up to the lake is winding and steep, but the views at the end are unbelievable.
We visited on a Thursday around lunch time, and the place was already packed. I highly recommend avoiding weekends and getting there early for the best experience. There are two ways to get to the lake: by hiking or driving. We chose the hike which offers incredible views of the nearby Mont Blanc, Europe’s tallest mountain. Once you arrive at the lake, make sure to walk the 30-45 minute loop to admire this jewel of nature from every possible angle. From the parking lot entrance, you will see amazing reflections of the rock wall from which a major rockfall created the lake in the 15th century. From the opposite side of the lake, you will have the most incredible view with the Mont Blanc as a backdrop. This lake offers jaw-dropping views whichever way you look at it!
Chamonix – Mt Blanc
Chamonix is a quaint mountain town at the Italian border, a popular destination for its Savoy charm and proximity to Alpine attractions like the Mont Blanc and Aiguille du Midi. We headed to Chamonix after leaving the Green Lake mid afternoon. Our first stop was the Chamonix Amusement Park to go mountain sledding. We then had an early dinner outdoors right across from the train station, but my favorite view was from the Michel Passard Statue near the pedestrian shopping center. The white water rushing under the bridge below us gave off a surprisingly icy breeze that felt amazing on that warm summer day.
If you would like to shoot this view of Chamonix, I suggest getting there earlier in the day to avoid the shadows on the river. I knew I would love strolling through the city, but I was so surprised at all the alpine beauty visible from the valley. We saw a waterfall cascading down the mountain, a glacier, and when we looked close, we even saw the needle of the Aiguille du Midi.
You cannot spend a week in the French Alps without making a stop in Annecy, only an hour drive from the hotel. The Annecy Lake is a very popular tourist destination for its milky turquoise waters and medieval architecture. You can walk the streets of the vieille ville (old town) or rent a paddle boat and enjoy the day on the water. As mentioned in my Alsace guide, we made the mistake to visit on the Monday preceding France’s Independence Day. The city was packed, and it took us nearly an hour to find a parking spot. It was a nightmare. Do yourself a favor; choose a weekday and avoid the 14th of July.
Here is my top 5 of the best views in Annecy, often nicknamed the Venice of the Alps:
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