I have often considered taking a family summer holiday in Les Gets but for the last few years have been swayed to book a villa in Portugal or Corfu instead. This summer I had the opportunity to take my 13 year old daughter away for a short break and so it didn’t take much time to decide on taking her to the French Alps for some ‘alpine adventure’.
The first thing to consider was the weather. Of course this is a little hit of miss in the mountains but I had been to the Alps on a golfing trip some summers before and remembered that it was hot and sunny most of the time. This most recent trip was no different with a little light drizzle on one afternoon but 3 days of blazing sunshine for the rest of the trip. Sun screen and sun glasses are two definite essentials for the summer in the Alps suitcase!
The second thing to consider was where to stay; and thirdly, what activities to do whilst there.
We chose Les Gets in the French Alps. It’s a charming, traditional village with real alpine charm and being only one hour’s drive from Geneva international airport meant it was an easy journey. The resort really comes alive in July and August and is a mecca for both road and mountain bikers. There is also a decent golf course, wonderful hiking trails and some of the best via ferrata this side of the Dolomites. Once we had decided on Les Gets we then set about looking for a suitable ‘family friendly’ hotel. In the end it was a simple decision to book a room at the two star Hotel Christiania. This is a fantastic British owned, managed and staffed hotel that is centrally located and also situated right at the foot of the ‘home’ bike trails. The main lift accessing the Chavannes mountain is literally less than 50 metres from the front door – its location could hardly be bettered.
Apart from having absolutely loads of fun activities to try a family summer holiday in Les Gets has the added bonus of being incredibly good value when compared to a villa holiday in the Med. Our family room which could comfortably sleep four (a double bedroom connecting to a separate bunk room and bathroom) worked out at a little over £100 per night! With cheap flights and reasonably priced car hire (essential to explore the area) our basic holiday cost (travel from Gatwick and 4 nights half board) came to under £800 for the two of us.
Day One – Getting to Les Gets
We got up at a very civilised hour, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at home in London and then drove to Gatwick airport to catch a lunchtime flight to Geneva. A little over 4 hours later we were sitting in the lounge of the Hotel Christiana enjoying a cup of tea and chatting to John, the owner. Later that afternoon we strolled through the village centre to the Air Aqua Mountain Adventure (2AMA) office to sort out our activities for the next few days. There are various places through which to book a guide but we found the 2AMA staff to be very helpful and accommodating.
Day Two – Via Ferrata
We drove to Samoens (about 30 minutes away) to meet our via ferrata guide. For those that don’t know via ferrata (iron way) is proper rock climbing made easy. Wearing a harness and a hard hat you simply clip onto the safety line and then follow the route of metal rungs that are fixed to the rock face. Although the harness will stop you falling hundreds of feet to your death you still don’t want to have to rely on it – even harnessed to the safety line you will fall 6 to 10 feet and get a few nasty bruises on the way. The Samoens via ferrata is 800 metres in lateral length and 400 metres vertical offering a real mix of thrills including a suspended rope bridge, vertical ladder, steep rock climbs and horizontal cliff traverses. I don’t have the best head for heights but as long as I didn’t look down was OK. The only snag was that the Samoens via ferrata route is basically a loop that takes you up, and then back down again. The down element had its moments!
In the afternoon we drove back to Les Gets and took out our mountain bikes and put them on the gondola to the top of the Mont Chery. As complete beginners to off road riding we elected for a relatively simple horizontal ride along the ridge to Mont Caly, a journey of about 4km. Here we found a delightful mountain restaurant and ate a very hearty plate of local charcuterie before descending on the tarmac road back down to Les Gets (approx 8km).
Day Three – Canyoning
We drove back to Samoens to meet our 2AMA guide and then drove on to the Canyon Balme near Cluses. There we met up with a French man and his 14 year old son. We hiked up along the trail following the side of the gorge for about 400 vertical metres. Wearing thick wetsuits on a hot day in July this climb was fairly arduous so it was a cooling relief to finally jump into the ice cold water of the mountain stream. There were two abseils (20 metres and 35 metres) down waterfalls and then a series of chutes that had been carved into the rock by rushing water over the millenia. These were a bit like a toboggan run and could be taken feet or head first. It was a fantastic day enjoyed by adults and children equally. I would thoroughly recommend. Here is a You tube clip of the gorge descent taken by another party.
Day Four – A rest day
This was a drizzly day so we got up late, enjoyed a leisurely pizza lunch in Les Gets and then read our books back at the hotel.
Day Five – more via ferrata and return to the UK
In the morning we drove to St Jean de Sixt (20 minutes away) to tackle the toughest via ferrata in the region. In all there are 6 grades of via ferrata which range from Grade 1: ‘tame – yup this is easy’ to Grade 6: ‘yikes – I don’t like this at all!’. The via ferrata Rocher de la Chaux has two routes, one which is a grade 5 ‘difficile’ and the other which is a grade 6. From the bottom of the cliff I took one look at the latter and backed out. My daughter, who unlike me has a very good head for heights, couldn’t wait to get going. Here is some You Tube video from the less difficult route.
After her amazing ascent we then drove back to Geneva and caught a late afternoon flight back to Gatwick Airport.
For such a great value holiday we both had an amazing time. If you are looking to take a family summer holiday in Les Gets then I would wholeheartedly recommend you do. Please do give me a call – I would be delighted to help you get it booked up. T: +44 (0)20 7801 1080.