The French department of Haute-Savoie and its towering Graian Alps range, which includes the infamous Mont Blanc, have attracted generations of American skiers. But when the snowfields have been replaced by flower-strewn meadows, the high Alps remain a wonderful destination with enchanting small hotels — some of which have been owned by the same families for more than a century — and an increasing number of fine restaurants. Chamonix lies 50 miles southeast of Geneva; like many French resorts, the town experienced a 1970s building boom that left it sprinkled with high-rise apartments. But, happily, it retains an affable charm with pedestrian lanes lined by cafés and a variety of interesting shops.
Much of the charm of hotels in Haute-Savoie comes from their distinctive Alpine wooden architecture. Cozy interiors with woodburning fires, paneled walls and plank floors are augmented by reliably delicious regional cuisine.