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France Frequently Asked Questions

Mont Blanc, Massages, & More

Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

Wondering about where we’re going and what we’re doing?
Check out our frequently asked questions to learn everything you need to know before booking our Yoga, Hiking & Spa French Alps retreat.

Check our General FAQs for info on payments, policies and packing.

Still can’t find the answer to your question?

France Frequently Asked Questions

What’s included in the Yoga, Hiking & Spa French Alps retreat?

  • Private transfers to and from the Geneva airport and our Chalet (on both arrival and departure days).
  • 7 nights at Chalet Serena, with stunning views of Mont Blanc, a hot tub with a view, sauna and steam room.
  • All meals, starting with dinner on Saturday May 11, and ending with breakfast on Saturday May 18, except for one evening where we encourage guests to sample great local cuisine at one of the restaurants in Chamonix.
  • An afternoon snack and smoothie each day.
  • Led hikes with an experienced local guide and nature expert – 2 half day + 1 full day.
  • A full day out at a spa just over the border in Italy.
  • A trip up the Aiguille du Midi cable car, the highest cable car in Europe (3842m). People come from all over the world to do this, as it’s so close to Mont Blanc, and the views are absolutely stunning.
  • A special French wine tasting evening at the Chalet.
  • One full body massage at the Chalet.
  • Daily yoga classes and led meditation, at our Chalet and on the hiking trail. Outdoor yoga is weather dependent.
  • A driver on call to take guests for excursions into town or anywhere else in the valley.
  • Daily housekeeping service.
  • Free wifi.

What's not included?

  • International airfare.
  • One dinner.
  • Wine before dinner at the Chalet (there is no official “happy hour”, but there will be plenty of opportunity to buy your own for this if you so desire!).
  • Reiki sessions with Caitlin: highly recommended, at additional cost. ($30/30 minutes.)
  • Additional spa treatments, mountain bike hire, guided mountain bike excursions, paragliding, one-on-one sessions with a Nutritionist/Physio/Personal Trainer. All are available to book at additional cost.
  • Guide and Chalet staff gratuities.

Where exactly are we going in France?

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (usually shortened to Chamonix) is a resort area near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy. Chamonix is the oldest and biggest of the French winter-sports resort towns and was the site of the first Winter Olympics, held in 1924.

Sporty and très chic, it attracts skiers and hikers from all over. Kind of like Montana, but in France. And Mont Blanc – you’ve heard of it? – is the third most visited natural site in the world, not to mention the highest summit in the Alps.

Stunning surroundings, elegant and healthy cuisine, and a rich spa culture – just add yoga and we’ll call it a retreat.

What airport should I fly into?

Geneva. Yes, that’s in Switzerland. It’s about an hour from our French Chalet.

If you’re coming all the way to France and your schedule and budget allow, take advantage of it and plan some time in another part of the country. Paris is a high speed train ride away (note: please do not plan to fly into Paris!), and the south of France is even closer. Train travel is easy from Geneva. Or, consider a day exploring this Swiss city, to enjoy Lac Leman and pick up some chocolates.

What travel documents do I need?

U.S. citizens need a passport, with at least six months validity beyond your departure date. U.S. citizens may enter France for up to 90 days for tourist purposes without a visa.

What will the weather be like?

As previously mentioned, Chamonix is kind of like Montana, but in France. Chamonix Mont Blanc is the most beautiful Alpine region in Europe and as with all mountain regions, the weather is unpredictable. It can be extremely hot on sunny days and occasionally very cold even in summer, so it’s always a good idea to check the weather report right before you travel.

Click here for more info on average monthly weather in Chamonix.

Keep in mind that it is not unusual to experience all four seasons in one day in the mountains. Anything can happen at any time of the year (including snow). Our advice: PACK LOTS OF LAYERS! That way, you’ll enjoy being outdoors no matter what Mother Nature has up her sleeve during your stay.

Check chamonix-meteo.com for the 10 day forecast before departure.

Will we learn about French wine?

Mais oui! 

On the last evening of our retreat we will experience wine tasting “Dégustation”, the French way. A local wine connoisseur will bring a fine selection of European and local wines directly to the Chalet for us to sample, accompanied by an informal and light-hearted discussion. 

These wines are carefully chosen by the sommelier from a fabulous local wine shop called ‘ChaChaCha’ that was founded by the owners of the Château de Chassagne-Montrachet in Bourgogne. 

This special soirée sampling Grand Crus is a lovely way to end the week. The sommelier always manages to make the amateurs among us feel instantly at ease with thoughtful explanations of the wine and grapes, their subtleties and characteristics.

Tell me about the Italian spa.

Spa Pre St Didier, just over the border in Italy, has got to be one of the best spas in Europe, if not the world. It’s innumerable steam rooms, saunas, hammams, treatment rooms, relaxation rooms, Jacuzzis, thermal baths, flotation pools, whirlpools, waterfalls, meditation rooms, sensorial tubs, music therapy tubs, Kniepp hydrotherapies, Vichy showers, footbaths (the list goes on and on) come together to create a multifaceted haven of wellness, with something for everyone to enjoy, a jewel in the heart of the Aosta valley. 

The outdoor thermal baths are surrounded by snow in winter and a beautiful green valley in summer. Relax and rejuvenate while taking in the incomparable views of the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif. Thanks to the presence of iron in the warm water that gushes from the heart of the mountains, these thermal baths leave your skin feeling soft and facilitate blood circulation as well as muscle relaxation. The pools at Terme di Pre St Didier boast a wide variety of regenerating hydro massages: waterfalls to relax the muscles, floor and wall hydro massages to tone the back and bum, and hydro-jets to stimulate microcirculation.

On this retreat we will spend a whole day pampering ourselves at Spa Pre St Didier, meeting at the spa canteen in our bathrobes for a healthy light lunch, and heading home around 5 pm. We often stop in an Italian café for some delicious Italian coffee before making our way back to the Chalet through the Mont Blanc tunnel.

Included at the Spa: A tailor-made massage where you can choose between facial, back, neck, legs or feet. 

Panoramic helicopter ride or La Mer de Glace?

Decisions, decisions. You will have to make a tough choice between a panoramic helicopter ride and a visit to the “Sea of Ice”, the largest glacier en France.

Here’s some info to help you choose.

Helicopter Tour

What a spectacular way to see the Alps! On our retreat the unforgettable sightseeing helicopter flights around the Mont Blanc mountain range is always optional, and always incredible! You won’t regret joining us for this once in a lifetime adventure.

On our tour of the Mont Blanc massive we summit the highest mountain in Europe and see the routes alpinists take to reach the top of Mont Blanc at 4810m. From here we have incredible views of the Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit, Dôme du Goûter and the Aiguille du Midi. Check out the Italian side of Mont Blanc as we fly along the French-Italian border past the Aiguille Vert towards the Grandes Jorasses, which occupy a special place in the history of Alpinism. Before returning back to earth we see breath-taking views of La Vallée Blanche (the White Valley) – the world’s most famous off-piste ski route, and La Mer de Glace (the Sea of Ice) – the largest glacier in France at 7km long.

Discover the majesty of the Mont Blanc massif with us, in safety, as you fly over beautiful glaciers and hover beside snow-capped mountains, taking in the French, Italian and Swiss Alps as far as the eye can see.

La Mer de Glace 

As an alternative option to the helicopter flight, a group of us will depart from Chamonix on the Montenvers rack and pinion train, as it slowly climbs around the side of the mountain up to the foot of the Mer de Glace glacier at 1913m. 

The Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) is the largest glacier in France at 7km long and 200m deep and it is a beautiful spectacle. A small cable car allows visitors to descend from the train station on to the glacier where they can enter a man-made ice cave cut into the living glacier. This ‘Grotte de Glace’ is home to some wonderful ice sculptures. The grotto itself is re-sculpted every summer, as the glacier moves around 70m every year.

While you’re here visit the Gallery of Crystals that features a collection of the finest crystal specimens found in the Mont Blanc massif.

Note: there are around 450 steps from the arrival of the gondola lift to the entrance of the cave. So if you fancy sitting it out and just taking in the spectacular views, you can enjoy refreshments at the glacier bar. 

Who are our guides?

Our Chamonix go-to girl is Eleanor Clarkson, founder of Bluerise Retreats and UK native who fell in love with Chamonix and has been living there since 2002. Eleanor loves sharing the inspiring experience of being in what she thinks is the most beautiful place on earth.

Margaret Burns Vap from Big Sky Yoga Retreats will be your US trip leader and yoga teacher. She also leads international yoga retreats in Costa Rica, Italy and Patagonia.

Caitlin Kelly from Big Sky Yoga Retreats will teach yoga and offer Reiki sessions.

Where are we staying?

Our retreat hOMe for the week is the stunning Chalet Serena in the Chamonix valley.

Why aren’t there more single rooms? I’m not sure I want to share.

Most rooms at the Chalet are luxurious doubles, for two people. Many women are concerned about sharing, and end up enjoying the experience as much as the rest of the retreat. You already have so much in common with the other people signing up to share this adventure, you might be surprised how quickly you feel at home together. We will put you in touch with your roommate, should you opt for one, so you can connect prior to the retreat. If you crave a little time to yourself, there are plenty of cozy spots around the Chalet and its grounds to savor some solo moments.

What does a typical day look like?

Each day will be different, with a blend of meditation, yoga, hiking, spa, and unique excursions. We will start every day with an early morning yoga practice, and some days we will have a second practice later in the day. The days will be full of activity, but there will be a nice flow to everything to avoid feeling rushed. We’ll sit down for dinner together at the end of the day to enjoy each other’s company, the amazing food and wine, and the relaxed experience of a French meal.

What is the Aiguille du Midi? And how do you pronounce that?

Just say it. Make sure you practice!

The Aiguille du Midi is a 3842m peak in the Mont Blanc Massif of the French Alps. This is the highest point in Europe accessible by cable car, and the closest you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without hiking or climbing. This extremely popular tourist attraction boasts panoramic views of the French, Italian and Swiss Alps that are breathtaking.

The name Aiguille du Midi translates to ‘needle of midday’; this may be because the mountain lies to the South East of Chamonix and the sun appears over the peak at noon when seen from the local church.

Even in summer, temperatures on the open-air viewing platforms can reach -10°C, and you will need both warm clothing and sunscreen to protect you from the elevated UV exposure at high altitudes.

Included:

‘Step into the Void’ (optional)

What is claimed to be the highest tourist attraction in Europe has recently been constructed on the summit of the Aiguille du Midi. A skywalk called ‘Step into the Void’, that is a glass room with a glass floor, is situated off the uppermost terrace. Stepping into the glass cube allows the visitor a unique experience enhanced by a 1000m drop directly beneath their feet. Look around and admire the highest peaks in Western Europe, including Mont Blanc itself, and view the Bossons glacier from a dramatic perspective. Not for the faint of heart! 

What will the hikes be like?

We’ll experience 3 guided hikes through the stunning French Alps. 

Our gentle half day hikes last 2 – 3 hours, with plenty of rest time to take in the incredible views. Our qualified and experienced walking guide and nature expert carefully chooses trails to suit the abilities of our clients. She makes sure no-one is left behind, while imparting knowledge on the local wildlife and beautiful fauna. 

On the full day hike we leave the chalet at 10am and set off to explore some of Chamonix’s best hiking trails. Around midday we make ourselves comfortable in an idyllic setting for a high mountain yoga session followed by a healthy packed lunch with impressive views. When rested, we continue our inspirational journey through the spectacular Mont Blanc mountain range before returning to the Chalet to enjoy a fresh healthy smoothie and to relax in the hot tub, sauna and steam room.

All hikes are optional. Please make sure you do some cardio training starting 3-4 months before the retreat, for optimal enjoyment of hiking at altitude.

What’s the yoga like?

We often get asked what kind of yoga, how many times a day, what if I haven’t practiced in awhile – all valid questions. You will be fine. We offer straight up vinyasa flow, with a twist of restorative. We accommodate all levels of yoginis, but highly recommend some pre-retreat yoga experience, even if you start a practice with the retreat in mind. Some days will have one yoga practice, some will have two. We promise to get in as much yoga as we can, and balance it with our other activities. Most mornings will begin with yoga (after coffee, but before breakfast!) to start the day off right, on the yoga mat.

What if I come by myself?

The majority of our retreaters come by themselves. Although you may come alone, you will leave the retreat with new, lifelong friends. We have many women who meet on retreat come back on others together.

What’s the average age on your retreats?

We have a wide age range on all our retreats, from women in their 20s all the up to 60s and 70s. Each retreat will vary.

Do I have to participate in everything on the schedule?

You do not need to participate in everything; you can pace yourself to find the perfect amount of activity for you. We support you in doing as much or as little as is right for you, depending on how you are feeling. However: remember this is an active vacation, and we are giving you as much as we can of what you signed up for! (Personally, we wouldn’t want to miss a thing.) The schedule gives you a sense of the flow of each day. It’s always subject to change, depending upon the needs of the group, weather, etc.

What if I’ve never been to France?

Embrace the opportunity to experience a new place! And remember: there are many things that are not like in the US. Some of it will push your comfort zone, most of it will expand your worldview. We don’t travel to have things be just like at home. We encourage you to do your “homework” – that’s part of the fun. Read about the history, the culture, the most recommended places to see and things to do. Learn a few French phrases. We will share lots of resources with you as well.

Recommended reads:

Away & Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel

Lessons from the road: what travel taught me about love

Destination Earth: A New Philosophy of Travel by a World-Traveler 

Women Are Becoming More Adventurous Travelers – and Doing It Alone

Bon Appétit’s Highly Subjective but Very Smart Guide to Traveling

How can I connect with other women on my retreat?

We set up a private Facebook group for everyone on this retreat. Yes, that means you have to be on Facebook. Trust us, it’s worth it just for this. It’s a great way to discuss travel plans, share links to articles, and for us to keep you updated on all trip info. And it’s much easier and faster than email.

Upcoming Retreats

Check out our calendar to see when your desired retreats are running—and reserve your spot. Retreats typically sell out, often several months in advance. So, stake your claim now!