Switzerland is known for the beautiful views afforded by its mountainous peaks, but the one that offers the best view of Geneva and its surrounding areas is technically in France. Mont Salève towers over the picturesque city and remains unspoiled by excessive tourism or unnecessary construction. Once you’re at the top, you can entertain yourself with several fun activities, some more adventurous than others, all the while being surrounded by one of the most gorgeous panoramas in Europe.
How to get there
If you’re travelling from Geneva, you can go by public transport and then take a cable car all the way to the top of Mont Salève, taking in the stunning, ever-shrinking view along the way.
Hop on the no. 12 tram (heading towards Moilesulaz) at Pont-d’Arve and stop at Rive before jumping on the bus no. 8 (heading towards Veyrier Douane) and get off at the final stop. From here, just follow the signs to the ‘Téléphérique du Salève’. We stopped off at a charming little shop and had a lovely conversation with the French lady who runs it, who’ll be only too happy to give you directions along with selling you fresh fruit for sustenance.
The cable car (Téléphérique du Salève) is free with your Geneva Pass. As you’re technically crossing into another country, It’s important to remember your passport; there’s very little chance of any border control, but you never know!
So, now you’ve reached the top let’s check out the seven activities that you can enjoy once you’re at the top.
So, we’re going to start with the most exciting activity: paragliding! What could be more exhilarating than soaring through the air, Icarus-like, tilting your wings to head in any direction you want the wind to take you?
The best part is that you don’t need a permit, as the mountain is situated in France and there are both Swiss and French clubs who will take you and the necessary equipment up to the top by van. For any beginners that want to buddy up, grab a 20-minute tandem jump with a Swiss paragliding club instructor for CHF 180.
Just don’t get too close to the sun…
Keeping your feet (almost) on the ground but still whizzing along at top speed, this high-octane hobby lends itself particularly well to the labyrinthian terrain that weaves itself through the mountainside forests.
Pros will have brought their own mountain bikes under 500 dollars but if you want to hire one for the day, there are plenty of shops in town with prices starting from around CHF 20 per day. Check out 5 Cycling routes on Mont Salève for tips and advice on the best way to tackle this beast!
Taking the pace down a notch or three, we noticed a Pétanque pitch in the gardens; perfect for unwinding after the long trip to the top. Cocktails poured from a thermos are an (optional) necessity.
Geneva boasts some seriously impressive cafés, many of which will be happy to pack you up a lunch to-go that you can enjoy whilst basking in the glorious sunshine that (we hope) will be soaking the mountainside.
We suggest packing a healthy takeaway basket from somewhere like Ou Bien Encore along with a bottle of red wine; spread out on a blanket and enjoy.
* Of course, if you’d rather grab a plate of freshly prepared food, L’Observatoire will serve up frosty beers and steaming hot burgers for those in need of a carb-heavy blowout.
If you fancy giving your legs a proper work out, you can scale this 1097-metre altitude cliff by foot. There are beginner, intermediate and expert hiking paths and routes that will lead you over and around the mountain; just be sure to check the weather report on the day that you set off to avoid running into any unfortunate scrapes. Other than that, it’s the perfect place to learn how to start hiking.
What could be more fun than traversing the more vertiginous areas of Mont Salève by hand and foot? As with mountain biking, if you’re serious about it then you will have brought your own gear but if you just fancy having a go at Spidermanning up the cliff face then you can rent equipment in Geneva or nearby French towns. Again, be sure to check the weather as a slippery climb is no fun at all.
This is obviously more of a seasonal sport, but when the snow caps this gigantic mountain then it’s time to strap on a pair of skis and start the long and exciting journey along…whichever path you decide to take!
For more information on how to enjoy this fantastic destination, check out www.myswitzerland.com.
Tips and advice
The Téléphérique du Salève runs every 15 minutes daily from April to October, 9:30a.m. to 7:00p.m. It’s only closed when there is particularly bad weather, so if it’s stormy it’s best to check on +33 (0) 4 50 39 86 86.
It’s free with your Geneva Pass or €8 per adult (€5.80 discount for student, OAPs etc. and €4.50 for children one way), with a return ticket 33% (approx.) cheaper than two one-way tickets. You can pay in CHF or Euros but change will only be in Euros.
David Harfield is the director of PepperStorm Media and writes about his three passions: food, booze and travel.
Photographs by Olivier Miche courtesy of Geneve Tourisme