Taking the Mont-Blanc Express …

Since there are lots of photos to share,  I decided to write about this trip in two parts … (or maybe three?)  Well … so that I can also share  more information lah … just in case some of you are thinking of coming over and visit this place … in the near future. 🙂

With all the festivity stuff and the hubby training and taking part in races, we have not been out on a winter excursion.  The last time was when we took my niece on the Goldenpass Panoramic train when she came to visit in December. Of course the plan was to do some raquettes as we had done for the past 2 winters. And in fact … my hope was … to try and do some skiing this year! That’s right … skiing … hehehe… After all, what is the point of living in a country famous for its snow-capped mountains and many ski resorts when I do not try the sport at all, no?

But the hubby felt that skiing (downhill) would be a bit too dangerous … since we are no longer in our teens (spoil sport!!) … so he suggested ski de fond (cross-country) instead. Its safer but needs more strength. However, since my right wrist has not fully heal … we have to put on hold our plan to try ski de fond … at least for now. And even for raquettes … climbing up steep slopes is off limit for now, so that I will not hurt the wrist. Haizzz … cannot wait for this wrist to heal fully lah! Especially when it seemed like the winter is not as cold as it should be. Just hope the wrist will heal before all the snow on the mountains melt away!!!

So on Sunday, we did the next best thing … we went on a day trip, instead … to neighbouring France. We decided to re-visit a popular ski resort town called Chamonix. And then … since we were there … I managed to persuade the hubby to take the extra train ride up the mountain to visit Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice). It cost 25 Euro per person to go there … but he kindly agreed … after I told him it would be nice to share on the blog!! (hmmm … now I know what reason to give if I want to go visit somewhere! … hikhikhikkk … 🙂) The last time we were there was several years ago … and it was in winter too. So, it was kind of nostalgic to go back there, recently.

To go there from Lausanne, we first had to take the normal Swiss commuter train to a town called Martigny where we then changed to the Mont-Blanc Express train. The Mont Blanc is to France what the Matterhorn is to Switzerland. They are the famous mountain landmark for each country. And the way to get to Mont Blanc from Switzerland is via the Mont-Blanc Express train which connects the two countries from Martigny in Switzerland to Chamonix in France.

Of course we did not intend to go up the Mont Blanc … you have to be an expert climber to scale it … but only to the little resort town of Chamonix at the base of Mont Blanc. Halfway through from Martigny to Chamonix, we had to change to another Mont-Blanc Express train at the frontier town in France called Vallorcine. So … altogether we had to take 3 trains to reach Chamonix. The total time taken? About 2hrs 40mins. But if you then decide to visit Mer de Glace as well … then it will take another 30mins by a special train to go up to Le Montenvers, from where you could view Mer de Glace.

Now what is Mer de Glace? As the name implies, it is a “sea of ice” … or in simple English, glacier lah! Mer de Glace is the largest glacier in France … about 7km long and 200m thick … (and the most famous, I think).  While it was really impressive to view Mer de Glace ... the trip via the Mont-Blanc Express itself was just as impressive!

And so … before I share more about the Mer de Glace ... let’s enjoy the view from the Mont-Blanc Express first, shall we? By the way, no reservation is needed for the Mont-Blanc Express train and one can use any of the Swiss travel ticket to travel up to the French border town of Vallorcine. From there, another ticket must be bought (in Euro) for the French half of the train journey. However, to facilitate travelling, ticket can be purchased on board the train. So no worry lah! But … since there was no conductor on board the train when we took it from Vallorcine to Chamonix … we basically had a free ride for that part of the journey because there was no one we could buy the ticket from! And coming back … it is advisable to buy the tickets from the ticket counter instead of the ticket dispensing machine … because it is soooo much cheaper! Don’t ask me why …. but that was what we found out!

And like most touristic trains, there is a commentary in English, French and German on board the Mont-Blanc Express. So … it can be an informative ride … but only if you care to listen … instead of busying yourself snapping away at the landscape with your camera, like we did!! hikhikhikkk … 🙂

If you like to check out their website, click here.

First stop … Martigny, in the Canton of Valais.

You can take the connections to go to several tourist spots from here.

The beautiful mountain view from the railway station in Martigny.

And then, on board the Mont-Blanc Express to get to Chamonix.

The Mont-Blanc Express, as it looked … exterior and interior.

Passing through an area where the Trient Gorge is located (not far from Martigny). You can see the suspension bridge across the gorge. Hopefully we will come back again to this area in spring to visit this gorge.

Leaving behind the valley and train station at Martigny as the train climbed higher and higher up the mountain slope.

Nice view along the way (still on the Swiss side) as the Mont-Blanc Express made its way towards France.

Passing through the small village of Finhaut just before before we hit the Swiss-French border. My interest on this village was sparked partly because an Asian woman sitting next to us got off here … and also because I found its site interesting, high above the mountain … and facing the Mont Blanc. Upon reading the town website, I learned that the town is known for its dinosaur tracks and for having the world’s steepest 2 cabin funicular, among others! Impressive for such a small little village, no?

The last Swiss railway station before the Mont-Blanc Express crossed the Swiss-French border.

And then another stop at Vallorcine, France … in order to change to the next Mont-Blanc Express train that will take us all the way to Chamonix.

Quite a nice area … Vallorcine. Unfortunately, this train station closed at 5.30pm. We were caught stranded coming back because our train was delayed due to some power problem (which caused the train to stop several times en route) … causing us to miss the connecting train and so we had to wait for the next train which was an hour later!

Since there was no café near the station either, passengers were advised by the station mistress to take the same train … back to the next station which is still open at Argentière … instead of waiting outside in the cold. Since the train was still having problem with its power supply … by the time we arrived at Argentière which is 3 stops away … there was only enough time to catch the next train back to Vallorcine!! Hmmm … what is a trip without some adventure, right? 🙂

Not far from the train station in Vallorcine there is a cable car station where skiers took to go up to …

… the mountain top that you see above the train station. Can’t helped but wonder whether there was plenty of snow up there?

It’s this direction … to Chamonix and Mont Blanc.

Here are more photos of the scenic landscape as we made our way across mountains, tunnels and valleys towards Chamonix. Unfortunately as the day was very sunny, it was tough to get good pictures from the train without the reflections on the window getting in the way … but the hubby and I tried!

You may click on the panoramas to enlarge them.

As for photos of Chamonix and Mer de Glace 

… errr … those will be akan datang! coming soon! hehehe … must rest my wrist now lah … 🙂

Other entry related to the Mont-Blanc Express:

Other entries related to Alpine trains:

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8 thoughts on “Taking the Mont-Blanc Express …

  1. Hello Shierlly,

    I am pretty sure that there must be another way to get to Zermatt from Chamonix as these are two very famous resorts in Switzerland and France, respectively. Unfortunately, I really have no idea of what they are. For sure, it will be a much longer route as taking the Mont Blanc Express is the most direct route of travelling between these two resort villages.

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  2. Hi..
    I’m glad I visit your bloq. So I have a better understanding about Mont Blanc express especially in Winter.
    I will in Chamonix this end Dec 2015, and till now still worry about whether Mont Blanc express Vallorcine to Martigny will operates in Winter time and will there’s a chance of clear weather to enjoy the view.
    I wonder if there’s a heavy snow and the train will not operated , what alternative transportation I should take to go to Zermatt ftom Chamonix?
    Do you have idea about this?
    Thanks

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  3. Hello Ana,

    You are welcome and I am glad that you have found my entry useful. From what I could recall it was about 8 euros … but I have checked on their website to ascertain this … and a full price single fare Chamonix Mont-Blanc to Vallorcine is 8 euros and 60 centimes: SNCF Homepage
    CTZan

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  4. Hallo ctzan,

    I too had some difficulty finding details on getting from martigny to chamonix until I read this blog. Thank you very much for sharing them! Can you recall how much the moint blanc express trip back from chamonix to vallorcine costs? Would like to know.

    Many Thanks, Ana

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  5. Hello Phil,
    Many thanks for your kind comment. You ought to be able to travel on both trains in a day (but only one way) if you set out early enough.
    Otherwise you may stop and spend the night in the cantons of Vaud or Valais, or even in France.
    The Swiss railways’ website should prove useful for time schedules (link provided under ‘ON SWITZERLAND’ on the left hand column of my blog).
    I hope this is of help, otherwise feel free to contact me again.
    Have a great time travelling along these highly scenic routes (you may be interested in our entry on the Goldenpass: https://ctzan.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/taking-the-goldenpass-panoramic-train/).
    Ctzan’s hubby

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  6. Thank you for the information & pictures! I am planning a spring trip that includes taking the Goldenpass (Interlaken to Montreux) & the Mont Blanc (to Chamonix). I was having some difficulty finding good info on the Mont Blanc Express until I came across your pages!
    Thanks again & Bien Viajes!
    -Phil

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  7. Hi Millie,

    Thank you for your kind comment. Sorry for answering with a slight delay: I have just come back from Malta.
    Place de la Gare (which means ‘railway station square’ in French) is the area you will see immediately after stepping out of the railway station on the right. So yes it is very near the railway station! The URL below should give you a better idea of the surroundings.

    Enjoy your stay in Europe and in particular the beautiful alpine railway journeys!

    Google map

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  8. Hi ctzan

    I accidentally came across this website and saw all the lovely pics you took! wow! I do have a question to ask and that is do you know if the train station in Chamonix where the Mont Blanc Express stops is near Place de la Gare as this is where we pick up our car. We will be travelling with all our luggage so just hope that the train station is not too far away. This is our first trip to Chamonix and both my husband and I can’t wait to see the beautiful alpine mtns of Mont Blanc. Oh by the way, we are coming from Zermatt so we’ll have to change at Martigny for the Mont Blanc EXpress. It was good to see and read about it as it gives us a window view to our journey.

    Happy Travelling,
    Millie

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