Are you preparing a trip to the Alps in Europe and thinking about hiking the Tour du Mount Blanc? Then this is your complete guide with everything you need to know. Prepare yourself for an incredible journey through 3 countries. Mountain life, incredible views and an epic hiking adventure is waiting.
This blog was written by Daniella from Philadelphia USA, a Traveltomtom guest writer. Below you can read all about her experiences hiking around Europe's highest mountain, including a day-by-day summary of what the Tour du Mont Blanc trekking is like, how difficult it is and some tips for you to make the most of this incredible adventure.
Where is it?
The Tour du Mont Blanc traverses the Alps around Mont Blanc through Italy, Switzerland and France. It is an incredible experience to be able to hike through all three countries and to cross borders on foot. Although the Italian, French, and Swiss alps all have incredible food and views, you can truly tell the differences when you’re in each country. It is a special experience to cross into each new place and experience the culture there.
How to start Planning
You first need to decide if you want to plan the whole trek on your own, or use a guide/company. Using a company is an easy way to take a lot of the stress out of the equation. If you’re an experienced trekker, you would likely find doing this on your own much easier.
I always read tons and tons of travel blogs before doing anything and love to hear real first-hand experiences from other people, but also always take everything with a grain of salt and remember that everyone is different.
Since we used a company to plan the actual travel for us, we only had to worry about packing and making sure we were prepared for the trekking around the Mont Blanc. This leads into why we chose to use a tour company for a self-guided trek.
Benefits of Hiring a Tour Company
There are so many benefits to hiring a tour company to plan this for you. We absolutely LOVED 'Mont Blanc Treks'. While it is true that we could have looked at the route and booked our own accommodation, there was SO MUCH MORE that was provided by Mont Blanc Treks.
Daily detailed maps provided
Each day, they provided DETAILED directions for how to walk that day. The directions were so specific and helpful that we couldn’t go wrong on our trek. Of course, there are other options apart from the directions we were given. We saw numerous people navigating via GPS, others who had printed their own maps, some who had read guide books, etc. BUT, we felt that our printed out day by day sheets were perfect, simple, and just took all of the guess work out of getting from one place to another.
Another huge advantage was that they transported our luggage for us. Each morning, we packed our day packs only with what was needed for that day, we packed everything else into our larger bags and left them at a drop off location. When we arrived at our new accommodation, our bags would be there. It was nice to not have to hike with our heavier packs each day and to have no worries about luggage transport.
Having a point of contact is also very helpful when you’re trekking. There were a few days we had concerns about the weather and we were able to text the people at Mont Blanc Treks to be reassured that the trails would be okay and that we were good to go.
It was comforting to be able to reach out to someone when we had questions or concerns and get a timely response. If we were trekking without a company, we would have had to figure out these things ourselves, or just hope for the best. They have worked and hiked in these areas for years and have so much experience to draw from, it is very helpful to have them as a point of contact.
To this same point, while I have already stated that we could have booked our own accommodation in these places, having a company do it was even better. They have trekked, visited and seen all of the places we were going to be staying in, and have firsthand experience with the local refugios and hotels. They know which ones are great, which ones have great food, etc.
It is nice to not have to worry about a thing and know that all the places you will be staying have been vetted by real people.
Guided or Self Guided?
It is important to note that when I am suggesting hiring a tour company that we still did a 'self guided' tour du Mont Blanc. This means that the tour company gave us ALL of the information we needed, but we hiked entirely on our own.
Tour companies also offer guided hikes of Mont Blanc, which means that you’d travel in a group and a guide would be with you during all of your hiking. The guide will lead you everywhere, make sure you get everywhere safely, and take care of you all along the way.
There are many benefits to traveling both ways, it just depends what type of traveler you are.
If you enjoy the group dynamic and want to be with a guide, than the guided option would be great for you!
If you’re a solo traveler I can also see this being an enjoyable option, you definitely bond with the group as time goes on and make some friends.
If you like to go at your own pace, explore at your leisure, and feel confident with maps and directions, then self-guided is the way to go.
Choosing a Route
There are endless amounts of options when you’re hiking the Tour Du Mont Blanc. The full circuit usually takes 12 days, typically with one rest day built in, for 10 total days of trekking. We did a shorter trek, but still got to see most of the circuit. The hike we did was 6 nights with 7 days trekking, starting in Courmayeur, Italy and ending in Chamonix, France. When we booked the tour, we weren’t sure 12 full days would be for us.
Knowing what we know now, next time we’d definitely go for the full circuit. We weren’t tired of hiking or visiting new places every day AT ALL!
Our experiences on our Tour du Mont Blanc Trekking
Here is a little bit about what our tour du Mont Blanc looked like with some pictures to highlight each day. This should give you a good idea of what to expect on this hiking route, and how incredibly beautiful it is.
Day 1: Courmayeur to Lavachey - 19KM
This was the most amazing way to start the trek. We dressed in layers and started walking, less than 15 minutes later we were ripping off layers as we trekked uphill. As you head up, there is an incredible view looking back down over the town.
Eventually, it opens up into a scene out of a movie. High snowcapped peaks all around and trails through fields of brilliant wildflowers. We also encountered the first of many groups of cows.
We noticed throughout the trek that you usually hear the cows before you see them, as they all wear giant cowbells around their necks.
It’s a sight to behold when you see them walking towards you and all around up on the mountains.
We had a picnic on some large rocks mid-hike and couldn’t have been happier with our choice of location to stop. Eventually, we reached Refuge Bertoni which is seemingly a famous spot on this trek.
We stopped to spend some time and have a drink in the sunshine with tons of other trekkers, then we made our way down to our accommodation in Lavachey.
We were thrilled when we arrived, it was right by the most beautiful river down in a valley. There are two hotels here, and they had a sprawling lawn area where you could relax at picnic tables or in lawn chairs and just enjoy a drink or treat in the sunshine after the hike.
The dinners each night are one of the most fun parts of the tour, as you don’t know what to expect. On this night, we had chicken and creamy polenta and we LOVED it
One of our favorites of the whole trip! The place felt so homey and welcoming and we really loved the vibe.
Day 2: Lavachey to La Fouly - 20KM
You will start by walking down a road for a decent while. Eventually, you begin to head upwards into the hills and further into the mountains.
Once you leave the road, it is an UPHILL journey for quite a few hours today.
Every time you stop to look behind you, the views of where you just came from are more and more amazing. We made a quick pit stop at Refugio Elena, and then it’s basically a hike straight up into Switzerland.
Luckily, uphill is our thing, so we moved pretty quickly on this part of the trek. I will say we were SWEATING when we reached the top.
The 360 degree views from up here were one of the best and most rewarding of the whole trek! It’s amazing how you can practically tell that you’re in Switzerland when you cross over, and it sounds cliche, but you really do feel like you just walked into “The Sound of Music”.
On the Swiss side of the mountain, there are wildflowers and greenery everywhere you look. After a few hours of a gradual descent, we made it to La Peule and sat down to have some lunch. We brought a packed lunch from our previous hotel, but we grabbed some drinks here and sat in the sun at a picnic table with some other hikers.
As luck would have it, we met another hiker from Philadelphia! It’s such a small world out there! We also noticed that people LOVE to stop for ice cream while trekking. People have giant multi-scoop ice creams at all of the refugios along the way! After that nice break and an easier walk through some really charming Swiss villages, we made it into La Fouly.
Our accommodation was gorgeous and surrounded by mountains. We spent quite a bit of time walking around and checking out the surrounding river, campsite, and village, even though we had hiked all day.
They had a HUGE patio for sitting and sipping drinks and snacking on ice cream and coffee. Dinner was in the coziest room and we really enjoyed our overnight here.
Day 3: La Fouly to Champex Lac - 15KM
Today was the “easiest” day of hiking on the trail. We were a bit nervous when we woke up because the weather was calling for rain, but we got very lucky and just spent most of the morning hiking through some damp fog.
Day 3 starts with a lot of hiking through the woods, which worked out nicely with the weather.
You are within the trees for quite a while and the hike doesn’t ascend too much.
We popped out of the woods at a little hut called “La Kabana” that was serving what looked like GREAT food! Many people were making the stop, but we carried on.
We got to walk through some Swiss villages today that looked right out of a storybook.
Part of this day also takes you through a trail full of wooden sculptures which keeps you entertained as you come upon each one in the woods.
Eventually, you finally ascend out of the woods and see signs for the Lake. Champex Lac is way more beautiful in person that you could ever imagine. The water is clear and reflects the surrounding hills and the area is so charming, we were so happy to be here.
We arrived early as it was the shortest day of hiking; we’d hoped to be able to lay out by, or even swim in, the lake, but the weather was not on our side and it was a bit chilly. We spent the day traversing all the way around the lake, enjoying some drinks lakeside, and eating our small picnic from the grocery store (because Switzerland is EXPENSIVE).
Our accommodation thankfully had an incredible dinner and we really loved hanging around this charming lake for a day.
Day 4: Champex Lac to Trient - 18KM
Day 4 started out walking past some majestic horses. After we passed a few small Swiss homes, we headed back up into the mountains.
Today also involved a few small water crossings, luckily, we didn’t have any trouble. Today was also one of the weirdest and coolest parts of the trek.
We were hiking through a really thick fog, you could barely see right in front of you, and we started to hear the signature cow bells through the fog. We knew cows had to be nearby, but we couldn’t quite tell how near.
Suddenly some enormous cows came walking towards us, materialized through the fog on the path.
They seemed massive coming down the trail and, to be honest, it was a bit intimidating. But it was really neat as well to see them up close like that and seemingly coming out of nowhere.
We reached what was supposed to be one of the most incredible viewpoints of the trek, but it was COMPLETELY fog covered. Since we couldn’t see a thing, we figured it was finally time to sit down and join in the fun and have some pie in the sky.
We stopped at “Bovine”, had some delicious pie, and then carried on since there was nothing for us to see.
As we continued on to Trient, the fog lifted and opened up into incredible views once again. Trient is down in a valley and is known for its iconic pink church.
Once we saw the church down below we knew we were close and got very excited! We arrived to our accommodation and nobody was there yet to check us in. We sat in the sunshine for a while and then walked over to the only other Hotel in town to have a coffee.
Eventually, we checked into our own place and got settled. Our place served dinner family style, all at once, with long rows of tables in their dining room. It was nice to sit and chat with other travelers about how their treks had been going and what they had coming up.
It also had a gazebo-like bar attached where you could hang out and have drinks before or after dinner, it was beautiful and it felt like you were staying at a fancy ski resort. We really enjoyed having a drink here before our last walk of the night. The pink church is beautiful to see at night as well, as it is lit up over the valley.
Day 5: Trient to Argentiere - 13KM
Day 5 has a super fun start as you get a glimpse of a the Trient glacier right at the beginning.
Glaciers will always be fascinating to me, we had to stop every couple minutes to look back at it on our way up. The ascent today felt a bit long, but eventually you reach the top and it opens up into a beautiful and pretty flat path with amazing views everywhere you turn.
We were also getting really excited to cross over into France!
We made a stop at our last Swiss refugio for a drink before crossing the border.
There were actually quite a number of snow-covered peaks to view today and we even found a little bit of snow on the ground.
It felt hard to leave the mountains and descend down into Argentiere because the views were some of the best of the whole hike. We could have spent hours up there just checking out the views and wandering around. It’s funny looking at the “stats” for this day, the hike was less kilometers than some other days on the trek, however, it felt very long.
We arrived in Argentiere, passing by a beautiful cemetery and into the town. We were now in the Savoie region of France and for dinner had a traditional cheesy pasta bake. It was truly delicious and sooooo cheesy.
We had a stunning view of the glacier on the mountainside out of our window.
It was a view of a lifetime to see the sun setting over the glacier, it looked like a painting.
Day 6: Argentiere to Chamonix - 14KM
Our final day of trekking into Chamonix started off with sunrise over the glacier from our window. We got to trekking early because we wanted to be able to spend some time in the town of Chamonix when we arrived.
Today, we had arguably the best surprise of our whole trek!
As we were hiking alone past some small ponds we saw two Chamois playing, which are a type of goat in the region. They were stunning to see running together around the pond with the backdrop of the mountains behind them.
We held our breath and tried to take some pictures and videos before they went on their way.
Following that encounter, we made our way to Lac Blanc which is also an incredible sight to see. The water is unreal and there is a refugio here as well, so you can get a treat or drink and take a break from your hike.
Eventually, as we continued walking we started to catch glimpses of a town way down below in the distance, and we knew we were nearing the end of our trek.
As we got closer to the cable car to make our final descent into Chamonix, we noticed para-gliders all over the place. It was surreal to watch them run off of the side of the mountain and just sail over the valley with the mountains surrounding us all.
When you reach the cable car, there is a small bar up at the top overlooking the mountains, the town, and the valley. Of course, we had to have a celebratory drink before riding the cable car down into the town.
We made it down with plenty of time to explore Chamonix, which is a great town that is lively and touristy. It was so beautiful and fun, we likely could have spent another day there. Overall, the hike was an incredible experience and we were so proud and happy when we finished it.
Best time to do the Mont Blanc trekking
We did the trek at the end of June and we couldn’t have been luckier with the weather. Of course, we had a tiny bit of rain and fog but overall we had incredibly beautiful sunny days with great visibility. The main season for this trek would likely be around the end of April to September, with the summer months being the best, although possibly also the most crowded. We didn’t find the trails to be overly crowded and we traveled during peak summer.
It’s important to note that at any time of year, you can have adverse weather in the mountains. Fog, snow, rain, sleet, hail, etc. can come and go in the blink of an eye. Although you can likely anticipate pretty good weather during those months, it is always important to be prepared for anything.
If you are choosing to hike with a guided group, you may have a slightly more limited date range of when you choose to trek. You should check the tour guide websites for the days in which the guided treks begin and end. With the self-guided option, we were able to choose our own start and end date.
Cost of Hiking the Mont Blanc circuit
I am going to separate this into two sections: cost up front, and cost during trekking.
Up Front Cost
Again, we used Mont Blanc Treks and found them to provide incredible service. To give you an idea of cost for the shorter circuit that we did, they currently charge $1,800 USD per person for self-guided, and 1890 British pounds per person for guided. This cost includes accommodation for every night of the trek, dinner and breakfast every day of the trek, luggage transfer, and written guides with support for every day.
For the self-guided full circuit tour, they charge around $2,300 USD per person, and for fully guided full circuit they charge $3,500 USD per person. Again, that also includes all lodging, breakfast and dinners, luggage transfer, etc.
This is all paid before you begin your trek. The money was due a few months prior to the trek, but if you plan early enough, you could pay it in installments or all at once. As long as they have all of the money by the due date, you can really make a payment plan for yourself and pay in any increments you are comfortable with. This makes it really easy to finance it out over the course of a year if you’re the kind of person who likes doing things that way.
Other up-front costs would include getting from the airport to the starting town of your trek, and getting from the end of your trek back to the airport or onwards to your next destination.
If you were to book without using a company your costs would likely be lower. You’d just have to book your rifugios each evening and decide if you want full or half board. You save money by carrying your own bags and by taking out the middle man booking service.
Costs During the Trek
The great thing about the trek is that most of the things you’re doing are already completely paid for. You’re responsible for your dinner the night you arrive and the night you depart. You’re also responsible for lunch every day, but the hotels you stay at typically offer a bagged lunch for around 15 euros, and it is very sufficient for lunch. It usually includes a large sandwich, fruit, some kind of granola or bar, chocolate, and a drink. We didn’t buy the bagged lunch every day, but instead opted to eat at the refugios or bought things in the town the night before to eat on the hike. You are responsible for the cost of any drinks you have, as well as any snacks and treats you may have at the refugios along the way. In the end, this doesn’t add up to be too extreme. So, the “during the trek” costs are much lower, practically like an all-inclusive.
What to pack
When packing for the trek, it is important to remember the changing weather, and to look up the weather during the time of your trek. If you book the hike with a luggage transfer, it is really great because you can check the weather each night, see what you need for each day, and pack your day bag accordingly.
-You should have:
- Rain gear (poncho, raincoat, etc)
- Good hiking sneakers or boots
- A hat
- A few pairs of a shorts
- A pair of pants
- Long and short sleeve shirts
- One thermal shirt (I wore a merino wool long sleeve)
- One warmer shirt or sweatshirt
- I brought a puffer jacket and only wore it twice, but it’s easily packable
- Socks (I got Merino wool socks from Bombas, and they’re awesome)
- Slides or comfy shoes for after your day of hiking (boots are not allowed to be worn in most accommodations)
- Clothing for relaxing after hiking
- Quick dry towel
- Any toiletries you might need
- Maps/directions/or whatever else you may need to navigate and get around the hike
- Adapters and plugs for charging things at your hotel
- Cash for drinks/snacks/and lunch
You can also find a Nepal packinglist on Traveltomtom which is similar to this. A complete packing guide for what to bring when trekking in the mountains.
How difficult is the trek?
This is a hard one to answer, as so many people’s athletic abilities, ages, fitness levels, etc. are so different. However, I think I can say with confidence that if you are a reasonably fit person, know you can walk for up to 8 hours daily, and don’t mind taking your time to get where you’re going, you could complete this trek.
We are HIGHLY active people, so the trek and hiking did not feel incredibly challenging, and most days we continued to walk a few miles around the town we were in. Some of the ascents felt tiring and longer than others, and sometimes the downhill bothered our knees a bit. Overall, we had no issues with the difficulty of the trek. Trekking the trail can be truly humbling. We were moving quick since we only had to carry day packs, but we were passed often by people of all ages carrying all of their gear, trail runners, etc. There are so many types of people of all ages out on the trails that it really gives you confidence that you can do it and that anyone can do it, with a reasonable amount of effort and maybe training beforehand.
If you hike with a guide or tour company, they also give you a lot of information up front about how long each day should be and the changes in elevation, which helps you to prepare. If you know you’re a slower hiker, you can get up and leave earlier in the morning. The great thing about the summer months is that you also have a lot of daylight, so if the trek takes you a while, that is okay. Our company also gave us a lot of information about how to get from place to place in case of terrible weather or any emergencies. Unfortunately, we met someone along the way who had an ankle twist on the first day, so each day her group hiked to their next town and she took alternative transportation. She wasn’t thrilled about it, but at least the option was there when she needed it.
What is the food like?
Food is one of the most fun parts about this trek. Although Italy, Switzerland, and France are all in the Alps and have many similarities, it is noticeable when you are in each country by what food is offered. The dinners that you’re offered each night are truly all very good and filling. There is usually a protein, a carb, and some kind of veggie or salad. Most of the places along our route served a sit-down dinner on your own. One of the spots was a family style dinner where you ate all at once with the other hikers. If you are vegetarian, I would definitely ask about this an advance or be prepared to have some extra snacks of your own. We are not vegetarian and we eat almost anything, so I can’t honestly say I paid much attention. But from what we ate, I imagine being vegetarian could be slightly challenging.
It is noticeable, as I mentioned earlier, that people along the trek LOVE their treats. You will have the opportunity to stop for giant ice cream sundaes, pie, and many other treats throughout your journey. We laugh now that we had stopped for a few more sweets along the way, it seemed like the very European thing to do.
We felt between breakfast, dinner, and the lunches provided, that we had more than enough to eat. However, it can never hurt to throw a couple protein bars in your bag before a hike like this, or to save leftover snacks and things to keep with you during trekking.
Courmayeur & Chamonix
Courmayeur and Chamonix are the towns where you may want to actually spend more than an evening, and may want to have a few things planned.
I can tell you that both are worth spending a day in. Courmayeur is often used as a rest day when doing the full trek, which is a great way to spend some time there. Reservations for dinner in both towns would be highly beneficial as they fill up quickly and both can be reached easily by bus and car. They are both towns with quite a lot to do, they many have bars, restaurants, shops, and cafes. We very much enjoyed our time in each of these towns and can see why people would visit even if they are not doing the trek.
If you have any questions or want more specifics about this trek or anything we did along this trip please feel free and welcomed to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at @planformedani on instagram.
Enjoy your hiking adventure in the Alps!