Champex Lac is located in the North East sector of the Tour du Mont Blanc. If trekking in a clockwise direction from Chamonix you arrive here on the third night of your trek via the Bovine Route or the much tougher Fenêtre de l’Arpette.
The Bovine Route is the most popular trail followed by trekkers and takes an undulating path through the larch forest over-looking the Sion Valley and towards the famous ski resort of Verbier. There are a couple of mountain cafés en-route where you can stop for a drink or have a lunch and try the traditional Swiss mountain dish of Rösti. Normally served in a frying pan it is made with coarsely grated potatoes, cheese, onion and small bits of bacon known locally as lardons. Occasionally it is served with a fried egg on top and you will be grateful for the afternoon hike to walk it off!
Champex Lac is a stunning situation: a high-altitude Alpine lake surrounded by the mountains with hotels and houses dotted along its shore. It is at an altitude of 1500m and its eastern end over-looks the great Val Ferret leading to La Fouly and over the Grand col Ferret to Italy. You can hire a small boat or pedalo, try to catch trout and, if you are really brave, go for a swim in its icy waters. As trekkers, we only stay for one night, but others stay for much longer and many British and Swiss families are known to return year after year for their summer vacation. There is something very special about sitting on a terrace, overlooking the lake and watching the sun go down whilst listening to the crickets and birds.
Champex is a sleepy place and only has a couple of convenience stores selling basic ingredients for a picnic such as bread, fruit, cold meats and cheeses. There is no ATM and buses are infrequent. However, this is part of its charm and you can walk safely along the lake shores or sit and admire the view. There are a number of hotels – mostly in the two to three star category – with restaurants, gardens and WIFI. Although Champex is in Switzerland, and you would expect to use Swiss Francs, all shops and hotels are happy to take Euros. Most everyone speaks English, French and German, but it retains its unique Alpine ambiance.
About 1km away hidden in the forest is the small hamlet of Champex d’en Haut. It is on the Bovine Route of the Tour du Mont Blanc and has a smattering of summer houses and an Auberge where you can stay in dormitories overnight. The Auberge has a nice garden with a stream running through it and the small restaurant serves up lunch if you call them in advance. For those on a budget trek, this is a perfect place to bed down.
For those who are not hiking, there are plenty of other things to do, including rock climbing, Alpine climbing and parascending. There is also an open-air public swimming pool and some tennis courts. In addition, you can travel 20 kilometres to Martigny where there is a world-famous art gallery that has exhibitions that change from year to year. There is a sculpture park, an exhibition devoted to classic cars and, in recent years, they have had exhibitions from Matisse and Picasso. Martigny is easily accessible from Champex by car or public bus.