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 Le Moulin, with stunning views of the Alps, a hot tub and sauna.
  • All meals, starting with dinner on Saturday October 5, and ending with breakfast on Saturday October 12, except for one evening on your own (for dinner), when we encourage guests to sample local cuisine at one of the restaurants in Chamonix. Wine is included with dinners at our chalet.
  • 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 at a spa in Chamonix.
  • 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.
  • Daily housekeeping service.
  • Free wifi.
  • Tons of pre-retreat assistance with travel planning, including suggestions for travel in the area on your own. *Please note that much of this is provided via our private Facebook group, see last question below.

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!). We also will not be offering any alcoholic beverages during the day.
  • Additional spa treatments on spa day, and massages at the Chalet beyond the one that is included.
  • 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, 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.

When should I arrive and depart?

We highly suggest arriving the day before the retreat starts if your schedule allows, as a day to get over jet lag really helps. It means a Thursday overnight flight (October 3, 2024), arriving in Geneva Friday morning (October 4, 2024). Friday night is on your own, and we can pick you up on Saturday October 5 from any hotel in Chamonix (but not Geneva) and bring you to the Chalet. You would also have an airport pick up on arrival, from the Geneva airport to Chamonix.
All that said, if you arrive in Geneva on the Saturday that the retreat starts, that works as well. That day is dedicated to arrivals, and we won’t officially start much until happy hour/dinner time.
The retreat ends Saturday October 12 after brunch. As most flights to the US depart in the morning, everyone usually stays in Chamonix that night and flies out Sunday morning from Geneva. Once again, your airport shuttle is included from a Chamonix hotel to Geneva. If you have to leave early on Saturday to fly back to the US, your airport shuttle will be from our Chalet.

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.

Proof of Covid vaccination is not required to enter the European Union. As that is always subject to change, we suggest bringing your vaccination record with your passport.

Should I get travel insurance?

OUI. A retreat is an investment in your well-being—but it’s also a financial investment. No one books a retreat with the intention of cancelling, but unexpected life events do occur. If we could make it mandatory, we would. It’s a lot of $ to lose if something happens – and something always seems to happen. That’s travel, and that’s life. We cannot offer refunds or credits of any kind, given the small boutique scope of our business. *TRAVEL INSURANCE WORKS* if you have to cancel!

We HIGHLY RECOMMEND purchasing your own travel/trip cancellation insurance so your trip fees will be covered in case you have to cancel your retreat. Trip insurance should also be purchased to cover medical expenses, in the event you have an accident while on the retreat. 

True story: one of our international retreaters missed two days of the trip due to bad weather that forced airline cancelations. Through her travel insurance, she was able to get reimbursed for not only the missed days, but her travel expenses as well!

Another true story, from our 2022 France retreat: one retreater tested positive for Covid the day before the retreat started; she was already in Europe. She got everything covered, including a week in a hotel in Switzerland.

You can usually add insurance to your airfare when booking flights. While we don’t have a specific recommendation for the retreat portion, you should start by checking with your credit card company. There are lots of options out there. Check out this continuously updated FORBES article, Best Travel Insurance Companies.

Another option to explore is AIG Travel Guard.

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 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. 

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 spa.

In between hiking days, we’ll spend a day relaxing at Chamonix’s new QC Terme Spa. It’s innumerable steam rooms, saunas, hammams, treatment rooms, relaxation rooms, Jacuzzis, thermal baths, flotation pools, whirlpools, waterfalls, meditation and nap 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. 

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 Mont Blanc massif.

*Spa treatments are not included, and must be booked in advance (at additional cost).

Tell me about the Panoramic helicopter ride, I'm a little nervous.

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.

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 yoga retreats in Argentina, Montana and Sicily.

Caitlin Kelly from Big Sky Yoga Retreats will co-lead the retreat and teach yoga. She does the same on our Montana and Sicily retreats.

Where are we staying?

Our retreat hOMe for the week is the stunning Chalet Le Moulin, in the Chamonix valley. Pictures can be found in the webpage gallery.

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.


‘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. A great place to strike a yoga pose for a picture!

What will the hikes be like?

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

There will be 2 half-day hikes, with plenty of rest time to take in the incredible views. On our full-day hike, we’ll enjoy a packed picnic lunch. 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. 

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. Chamonix is located at 3400 feet, and we’ll gain some altitude on all the hikes. (For comparison, Bozeman is at 5500 feet, Big Sky 7500 feet.)

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, which can get stuck in spam, deleted, and forgotten. Bonus: it’s really fun to post retreat pics!

And no, it’s not a requirement and we can’t make you get on Facebook. We know some people are strongly anti-FB (we’ve gotten more than one earful). The FB group is intended to help, not challenge your social media values. While we promise we’ll get you all the info you need for your retreat via email…we can’t promise you won’t miss out on the fun of the group. #yourcall

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!