3 Summer days in the alpine Samoëns, France
“We are the future of tourism in the Alps” proclaims Nicolas, the charismatic Director of Tourism for Samoëns, as we tuck into a slice of the region’s famous Reblochon cheese. He has a glint in his eye and is clearly a natural salesman, but having just experienced the intoxicating charm of this little corner of France over the last few days, I am compelled to believe him.
Samoëns is not your typical Alpine. This was clear from the second I arrived into the quiet chocolate-box town, having already been treated to panoramic views of Mt Blanc and co. on the stunning one-hour drive from Geneva Airport.
I was greeted by a tranquil scene of traditional chalets, pedestrianised streets and just a gentle hum of life with locals exchanging smiles as they went about their enviably relaxed existence.
Although a quarter of Samoëns’ ever-increasing tourist population visits in summer – a statistic almost unmatched across the Alps – there is an overwhelming village-like feel to the place; a quietness defiantly resisting its growing international attention.
After checking into the homely, family-run Neige et Roc, I reluctantly dragged myself away from my balcony’s spectacular mountain views to meet Paula who was to be our guide throughout our stay.
Paula gave us a brief insight into the town’s fascinating – as part of the region of Savoy, Samoëns only actually joined France – before dropping us off at our first activity.
Aside from its quaint, peaceful culture, Samoëns differs from its Alpine rivals in that it is so much more than a ski resort. Summer tourists have over 600 activities to choose from and for us, biking was first up.
A mindful hike into the forest
The next morning after a delightful continental breakfast I returned to my room to watch the sun creep over the imposing Aouille de Criou, a 2,023m stony peak which dominates Samoëns’ north-eastern skyline. The temperature quickly began to climb and the heatwave that had been sweeping across Europe began to make itself known.
As such the shaded sections of our sensory walk that morning provided welcome relief. Under the guidance of a local yoga instructor we hiked up the forested side of one of the nearby mountains and through a series of mindfulness exercises, were encouraged to take in our surroundings.
With the snow-capped Mt Blanc and Grand Massif mountain range gleaming on the horizon. I didn’t need much persuasion. Birdsong and cowbells filled the air as we took the winding woodland trails back down towards Samoëns.
Samoëns Botanical Gardens
We spent the afternoon exploring the beautiful botanical gardens.
The Samoëns Botanical Gardens were created and its expansive grounds – over seven football pitches worth – feature over 2,500 species of international wild plants.
Ironically, to me at least, the region’s heavy annual snowfall actually facilitates the growth of warm-climate plants by acting as a protective layer from the frost and insulating the soil. Consequently, as I strolled up the steep meandering path, I was surrounded by rainbows of colour, with exotic plants from China, the Mediterranean and everywhere in between lining the three kilometres of walkways.
As we reached the top, a little short of breath, we were rewarded with sweeping views of Samoëns below and its magnificent nearby peaks.