We’ve been getting great feedback from our Traveling Titas network. We knew when we put up this blog that many of our readers would also want to share their travel experiences. True enough, we have our first contributor. Thank you Mylene Gonzaga for your entry on Mer de Glace. Keep it coming.

Mylene is a frequent traveler to Europe and has visited the Alps for two consecutive years with her family. 

Posted by Mylene Gonzaga

Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) is one of the longest glaciers in the Alps, extending for 3.5 miles (5.6 km) on the northern side of Mont Blanc near Chamonix, in the French Alps. It is one of best known tourist attractions in the area of Chamonix since it is easily accessible by the cog-wheel train ride from the Montenvers train station which is very near the Chamonix Mont Blanc Railway Station.

map-of-the-train-ride-to-mer-de-glace

Our trip started after hopping on board the famous little red train which climbed up 1,000 meters in 20 minutes. It really is a lovely ride for all ages with lush landscape and snowcapped mountains as our view. Time will stand still, and you’ll enjoy this vintage method of transport. Admittedly, despite the gorgeous view, breathing in the fresh, clean, crisp mountain air plus the sound and motion of the train, lulled me into a short catnap somewhere along the way. I promise it wasn’t out of boredom. My entire being was more likely just adjusting to the pollution-free alpine air and decided a short slumber was in order.

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The red cog wheel train

At the end of our journey we were greeted with an imposing panorama of a frozen sea that is Mer de Glace.

in-late-may-much-of-the-ice-has-already-melted
Early June when the snow starts to melt

Like all glaciers, the Mer de Glace was shaped by the combination of two phenomena: accumulation of snow and dissipation due to melting in the summer. Specifically, the convergence of two other nearby glaciers, Géant and Leschaux glaciers below Mont Blanc “donated” the snow part and thus formed Mer de Glace over the years.

After we have recovered from being in a deep state of awe (in my then 9yr old daughter’s case that would be 5 minutes flat), someone from our party wondered out loud….”WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO HERE?” No fear! Our very capable tour guide Neil had two more other activities up his sleeves (well, three if you count hanging out in the nearby cafe)

THE GLACIORIUM

To fully appreciate Mer De Glace, do visit the Glaciorium. It is an exhibit center dedicated to glaciology or the study of glaciers. Interactive and educational, adults and children will get to understand the history of glaciers and the effects of climate change on these wonders.

inside-the-glaciorium
The Galciorium

THE ICE CAVE

Now for an exhilarating adventure…..The Ice Cave. There are two options how to get there. One is by cable car….

cable-car-ride-down-to-the-ice-cave
Option 1 Cable Car

…the other is to walk around a footpath for 20-30 minutes. Either way, there is a good amount of walking involved. Even if you choose the cable car route, there is still about 400 hundred or so steps to get to the entrance of the cave and the same amount going back up. You need to be at least of average fitness to manage this, plus excellent walking shoes.

The tour of the “Grotte de Glace” (Ice Cave) takes visitors into the very heart of the glacier. The bonus about this visit is that you get to see the glacier up close without needing to be a mountaineer.

entering-the-grotte-de-glace-ice-cave
Grotte de Glace
inside-the-ice-cave
Inside the Ice Cave

The man-made ice grotto is cut into the actual glacier. As the glacier moves every 70 meters every year, new tunnels have to be drilled every summer.

For those who would rather not engage in all that walking, you may opt to just sit back, relax and take in the view of Mer de Glace from a café near the viewing deck while sipping a cup of hot cocoa to take out the chill.

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Cafe View Deck
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Grand Hotel du Montenvers

For the mountaineers or tourists who would like to stay a night or two, there is a hotel with a restaurant in the area. However it is closed during winter.

Make a trip to Mer de Glace while there is still something to see. As it is, Mer de Glace is shrinking. Its area has decreased by 23 percent in the last 80 years due to environmental change. The glacier was once easily visible from Chamonix but has been shrinking backwards, and is now barely visible from below.

Getting there

The nearest airport to Chamonix is Geneva Cointrin International, 88 kilometres (55 miles) in distance.

Join a day tour from Geneva (www.keytours.ch/en). Bus leaves at 8:30am from the Geneva Bus Station. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to Chamonix with one bathroom stop along the way. Tour includes lunch in the village, tickets to the cable car ride up Aiguille du Midi and tickets for the cog-wheel train to Mer de Glace, the Ice Cave, and the Glaciorium.

From Interlaken.  Take the Swiss Train. It is a 4 hour trip with 4 train changes until you reach Chamonix. From the stop at Vallorcine (prior to Chamonix) the train service is known as the Mont Blanc Express. (www.sbb.ch/en)

Photo credits chamonix.com

family
Spring fling, still cold at 4F