An overlooked tourist destination.

There's something special here that reminds you life isn't all about work and money.

The joke is that if you visit Samons (pronounced Sam-wah), you'll never be happy anywhere else. For a lot of people it's true, so be ready to fall hopelessly in love with the place.

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Tucked quietly away in the Haute Savoies Giffre Valley and a mere hours drive from Geneva, Samons has been somewhat overlooked since it's tourism heyday back in the 1800s, when wealthy alpine enthusiasts came to climb and hike mountain summits surrounding the village.

In the last few years Samons has again become a hot new destination for international visitors. Both a thriving farming community and a first class ski resort, this unpretentious yet utterly charming village has experienced a tourism revival since the construction of it's high-tech new tlcabine.

Between December and April each year skiers can directly access over 265km of stunning pistes within the Grand Massif, Frances fourth largest ski area.

Its an enchanting place where history and modernity overlap seamlessly.


Samons is renowned for offering a slice of the good life, which explains why so many visitors return year after year, eventually giving in and buying property of their own. Here, life meanders at a delightfully unhurried pace and there's no better place to start the day than at the Jasinia patisserie-chocolaterie.

Indulge in a thick hot chocolate and crusty pain au chocolat prepared by the owner Thierry Frossard, who has been recognised as the meilleur ouvrier de France for his work with chocolate. The window is full of his divine creations and gives new implications to the term lche-vitrine, which means window shopping but translates directly as window licking!


Samons Wednesday morning market is a local institution and has run every Wednesday for several hundred years, even through times of war and famine. Centred in the ancient grenette (an imposing covered market place) the market expands in the summer months and sprawls noisily throughout the narrow streets. Look up and you'll see the Samons quiet guardian, the Gros Tilleul; a towering lime tree planted in 1438 that has stood witness to almost 600 years of history in the village square.


Slip out of the bustling market crowds and into Europes largest alpine botanical garden for a stunning view across the medieval rooftops. An oasis of alpine plant life in the heart of Samons, the La Jasinia vertical gardens wind their way up a steep hillside directly over the village and have a charming story behind them: Marie-Louise Cognacq-Ja was a goat herd born in Samons, who left to take her chances in Paris. She married well and founded Paris famous La Samaritaine department store. In 1906, as a gift to her home village, she established the botanical gardens on the very same land as she once kept her goats. Now internationally renowned, the La Jasinia garden houses more than 5000 species of alpine plants from all over the world.


Take a ride up the Grand Massif Express gondola to 1600m to see Samons from above. A stunning 360-degree view of the imposing French Alps awaits, along with lunch at the local favourite restaurant Lou Cabons. A pretty chalet sitting in the middle of what, in the winter months, is Samons superb ski area for beginners, locally adored owners Cdric, Winnie and Christophe will serve you delicious local dishes with a modern twist and plenty of banter.


Samons is all about good living, which includes healthy outdoor adventure. The winter months are of course filled with skiing and snowboarding on an immense scale, but summertime means hiking, mountain biking, canyoning, rafting and rock climbing. With such stunning panoramas to enjoy, parapenting (paragliding) is a must-do. You can book all summer and winter activities through ZigZag Ski School, who'll guarantee you get an English-speaking ski instructor, guide or pilot to help you discover the local area from whichever angle tickles your fancy. Dont be afraid if you don't speak French; the locals are friendly, utterly unpretentious and find the recent tourism boom all a bit fascinating.


The shops have re-opened after their typically leisurely lunchtime closure and a tour of the local specialties is in order. Looking at the traditional dishes, it's easy to imagine how hard life was in the Alps for previous generations. Dried sausages called saucisson, cheeses and potatoes we're the standard fare, and speak of the necessity to store calorie-rich food supplies during long, hard winters. A visit to the Fruitire de Samons is a wonderful way to learn about local culinary tradition. The term fruitire relates to fruits of the land, which in this farming district means cheese and Samons, like the rest of the Haute Savoie, is renowned for it's reblochon. A small wheel of soft, unpasteurized cheese with a distinctive odour and orange skin, reblochon is melted over potatoes, onion and lardons (smoky bacon bits) as the fundamental ingredient for the famous alpine dish tartiflette. Adored throughout France, many consider reblochon to be the emblem of the Haute Savoie.


As the afternoon turns into the evening, music begins to emanate from the village square, drawing holidaymakers and locals alike together to celebrate the end of another summers day. Bars spill out into the square and the apros begin to flow as Samons les Ppites summer festival works it's magic. A programme of live music brings the village to life each evening in the summertime, creating a festival atmosphere that feels like one big outdoor party.

Arrive early to get a table at the Bar Aspen and you'll enjoy front row seats for les Ppites heure dapritif session from 6pm to 7.30pm (theres another after-dinner session from 10pm to 12pm in the main square). Try a local bire Criou or a refreshing glass of ros pamplemousse as the heat of the day dies down. The nice thing is that you're just as likely to be sharing the fun with a band of locals as with other tourists, because the summer is short but hot and everyones keen to get out and enjoy every last minute of it.

Those interested in viniculture can pop next door to see English speaking sommelier Martin at his charming wine shop Le Nez en lAir for a dgustation and a friendly chat. While Savoie wines are not highly regarded in France, there are a few well worth trying and Martin will lead you through the minefield.


With a few glasses under your belt it's time to stroll home and change before dinner. You might stay in one of Samons longstanding hotels such as La Renardire or Neige et Roc, but for a truly alpine experience, you can't go past chalet accommodation. There are more than 100 cosy chalets available for rental in and around Samons, offering a home away from home in quaint alpine style. For real luxury, indulge yourself at the stunning English-owned Ferme du Ciel, or rent a conveniently located apartment in the village itself.


Despite it's rustic farming culture, Samons locals (quirkily known as Septimontains) enjoy every aspect of the good life these days, including fine dining. Meandering through the medieval streets you might stumble across new restaurant Aux Bec a Fleu, where for 28 you'll enjoy three courses of spectacular French cuisine. Search further to find Mezzanine, tucked away in an alleyway. Filled with ancient timbers and mirrors, this classy restaurant offers a selection of local and foreign dishes in a seductive setting.


An after dinner nightcap, or digestif, is the traditional way to end the day here, and local concoctions are brewed from unassuming alpine flowers such as gnepi and gentiane or from autumn fruit such as poire. These strong alcohols are sipped at the end of a meal to aid digestion; helping to break down rich, fatty foods and leaving you with a warm satisfied glow.

Whether you're crunching through winter snow or enjoying a balmy summer evening, in Samons you'll savour an unmistakable taste of the good life. As you wander back to your accommodation amidst glowing shop windows and fairy lights strung through the medieval streets, you'll no doubt reflect on how wonderfully at home you feel in the village. You might stop to look dreamily into the window of a real estate office and you'll realise that you, too, have fallen in love with Samons.

Voulez-vous y aller?

Getting there:

Easy international accessibility is where Samons stands head and shoulders above more famous alpine destinations. Forget hours spent on windy mountain roads; Samons is just one hour's easy drive along the highway from Geneva international airport. Emirates flies into Geneva international airport via Dubai ( and we recommend renting a car at the airport for ultimate flexibility during your stay. For those travelling by train, the nearest station is Cluses. From Cluses station you can rent a car and it's just 20 minutes further to Samons itself. No public transport reaches Samons.

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Posted in Computer Post Date 07/12/2020






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