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Châtel - a perfect Alpine village

If there were such a thing as a contest to find the most perfect Alpine village, this title could easily be won by Châtel, which lies in the Abondance valley in the French Alps. The village is so close to the border with Switzerland that there has been a merging of the two cultures for many years, and this, together with nature, has produced a fascinating and unique place.

A tradition of respect

There is a long standing tradition of respect in Châtel. There is respect for tradition itself, with architecture, crafts and foodstuffs all reflecting this. There is respect for nature, with traditional farming methods employed and even power cables being buried underground to preserve the beauty of the environment. There is also a tradition of respect for people. The villagers are known for their warm hearted and open minded approach to life, and for the welcome given to visitors and new arrivals.

Châtel's churches and chapels

Châtel has a lovely old church, the Church of St Laurent, whose long history includes its beginnings as a tiny wooden chapel in the fifteenth century. There is an abundance of smaller religious buildings with many chapels and oratories also to be found. One of these chapels, the Chapel of Essert, is dedicated to the victims of a terrible landslide.

Chalets of Châtel

The houses of Châtel are unique to the area. There is so much to learn about them that it is well worth spending some time studying these spruce constructed chalets, especially if you are considering buying one. They represent generations of knowledge of the area, the environment and the needs of the people who live here, and are really splendid and beautiful works of art! Some of the distinctive features include the trade mark three balconies (each with different traditional functions and intricate carvings), the protected walkways formed by the overhanging eaves, the split level interiors to accommodate the rear of the houses being built into the mountainside for protection against the elements and the south facing aspects to maximise warmth and light during harsh winters.

Shops and facilities

Châtel offers everything you could need. It isn't a big city but it does have excellent facilities, and these include medical services, a great range of shops, libraries, a post office, banks, beauty parlours, hairdressers, newsagents, tobacconists, wine caves, launderettes and many more! In terms of leisure facilities there is almost an embarrassment of great restaurants (with everything from snack bars and pizzerias to gourmet dining) and also some lively bars where you can enjoy great company and a glass or two of something refreshing when the sun goes down!

Sports for all seasons

There is so much to do and see in Châtel that you could be forgiven for forgetting that it is in the provision of sporting activities that the village really excels. In winter you not only have access to some of the best and most extensive skiing in Europe, but you can also enjoy snow parks and ice skating, paragliding and snowshoe walking. On top of this, there are opportunities to try something really special. Horse lovers can try the exhilarating Ski Joring (where you ski while towed by a horse!), or the terrifying sounding sport of "under ice diving". Honestly. According to the sport's aficionados this is an incredible experience which can be undertaken in complete safety when in the company of experienced and qualified instructors. These are, of course, on hand in Châtel to ensure your safety, so what's stopping you? Hmm... strictly for white knuckle enthusiasts I think!

Châtel in summer

In summer, the scenery is different, with the dark green forest offering relief from the brilliance of the sun, and the mountain pastures clad in lush summer greens and dotted with the mahogany-coloured Abondance cows, their bells tinkling as they lazily graze. The sports for this season include climbing, canyoning, white water rafting, horse-riding, mountain biking and anything else that a lovely mountain valley can suggest to you. One thing is for sure... summer or winter you will never be bored in Châtel!

How to get there

It is a simple matter to get a flight from the UK to Geneva airport, which is some 75 kilometres from the village. Companies offering flights include British Airways, flybe, Aer Lingus, Jet2 and easyJet, so there is a flight to suit all pockets! Rail travel is another possibility, with the Eurostar "ski special" travelling from London to Bourg St Maurice and Moutiers, from where you can take a local train to nearby Thonon Les Bains. If you are driving, the A6 from Paris to Lyon will get you heading in the right direction.

Property prices and availability in and around Châtel

Châtel is in a delightful region of France, and the popularity of Alpine property is a long established fact. Therefore Châtel is unlikely to offer the cheapest property in France, although in comparison with some of the swanky large ski resorts it can prove to constitute a real bargain. There are no large, high rise buildings in the village, as this would spoil the traditional and beautiful environment, and the wonderful wooden chalets really do provide perfect Alpine living.

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WHERE IS Châtel?

Châtel is located in the east of France, in the Alps close to the Swiss border. It lies in the north-east of the Haute-Savoie department.

Châtel Property Map


Rhône-Alpes Guide

Rhône-Alpes Property Map


Haute-Savoie Guide

  Haute-Savoie Map

Population: 1,190

Access: By air: The nearest airport is Geneva. By rail: Take the Eurostar "ski special" train to Moutiers or Bourg St Maurice, and a local train on to Thonon les Bains. By road: The A6 auto route runs from Paris to Lyon.

Economy: The economy includes mountain tourism (summer and winter) and also farming and wood carving.

Interesting fact: The village is renowned for the amazing carved balconies which are unique to the area.


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