The first time I heard about Tour du Mont Blanc I was so impressed by the possibility of walking through three different countries in only one week. So when I had the opportunity to do this adventure I was thrilled and packed everything right away.
For those who do not know, Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe west of the Caucasus. It is the most popular long walk in Europe and a highly desirable adventure for everyone who loves hiking.
The first pedestrian tour around Tour du Mont Blanc took place in 1767 when Horace-Bénédict de Saussure and friends set out from Chamonix.
The Tour du Mont Blanc crosses three countries – France, Italy and Switzerland – in seven days. During the walking, we were surrounded by exquisite mountain scenery and landscapes.
Day 1: Arrival in Chamonix
We got to this charming town in the middle of the French Alps after a 3-hour drive from Lyon. The town is very well known for all the outdoor activities that you can do from there, either in winter or in the summer.
The views of the mountains and the enormous glaciers from the town are amazing.
We decided to enjoy a little bit of the town before we started the Tour du Mont Blanc. We did a little shopping in the supermarket for a picnic the following day: typical nuts, sandwich bread and cheese, and chocolate.
With our walk starting the following day, we excitedly went to the tourist office to ask for the weather forecast and a train timetable.
Tip of the day: Check with the reception for the Carte d’Hôte Pass. This pass has many advantages such as free travel on buses and trains for internal journeys in Tour du Mont Blanc, including between Servoz and Vallorcine. It also gives you concession rates for admission to public sports and arts facilities. The pass is given to you free of charge by your accommodation host on your arrival.
Day 2: Walking from Les Houches
On the second day in Tour du Mont Blanc, we skip a part of the walk taking the train to Les Contamines.
We walked from Les Houches to Les Contamines on the lowest path as the weather was not very good.
The mountains view during the walking were incredible. They were combined with the sound of the cow bells all the way, which was great!
Tip of the day – Please note that the at the small train stations you have to signal the driver for them to stop as if it was the bus. It’s important to know the day of the week you’ll be there to avoid long waiting times. There are fewer services on Saturday and Sunday.
Day 3: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux
We had joined some Americans and three people from Switzerland on the third day. If you are a nature lover you might enjoy, picking blueberries and raspberries and eating them as you go. We did! This day the maximum altitude was 2,483m and the views were worth the effort to get up there.
This day was especially nice, as we got to Les Chapieux. The owner of the Gite where we stayed shared a lot of his knowledge with us and the other customers. We all had a nice big dinner together (well deserved after a long day’s walk).
Tip of the day: If you like a good meal, please, try the Raclette or the Fondue! This is a must if you enjoy cheese. You should also try the Genepi a liquor from the Mont Blanc area.
Day 4: From Les Chapieux to Courmayeur
It was a long day of walking, so the Hotel owner drove us up to Ville the Glaciers. As it was low season there was no local bus running so the owner gave us a lift. This saved us 5 km of walking, so about 1 hour walk along the road. He also showed us the local cheese factory. Huge cheeses were lying there, yummy and smelly!
This was one of my favourite days, as we got to see the Marmottes (groundhog). They are all over the place once you reach the highest point of Col de la Seigne, where you feel you can nearly touch the Mont Blanc. You will enter Italy that day too.
Tip of the day: Indulge yourself with a handmade ice-cream in Courmayeur, after all, you really deserve a treat. Remember that the way down into Courmayeur is very steep so take it easy and do some zig-zag to protects your knees.
Day 5: Courmayeur to Champex-Lac
Every day during the Tour du Mont Blanc Mountain we walked with different people and saw some of our old friends from previous days here and there. On the fifth day, we walked with a group of Canadians. They were well equipped with skiing gear.
We realized that Italy is not as well marked as France was, but always follow the yellow TMB signs and you will be fine. Remember that you are going through 3 very different countries in just a few days, so do not be shocked, just relax and enjoy their uniqueness.
Fog blocked our view in the early hours of the day, but we still enjoyed the walk. The highest point of the day is 2,537 (Grand Col Ferret) so reaching it is quite an achievement.
At the end of the day, we walked into Switzerland! Champex-Lac is a beautiful very charming village with a stunning lake.
Tip of the day: You can make use of bus transport to Arpnuva and then from la Fouly to Champex to help you on this part of the Mont Blanc tour.
Day 6: From Champex-Lac to Trient
Another day of fog on our Tour du Mont Blanc. Luckily, the signposts are good along the way and we had the name of the places where we were going to or passing by.
This day felt a little bit longer, probably because we took the bus for part of it. Therefore it was not only walking but also waiting and getting transportation. The previous day we had just walked and walked.
Again like any other day, the views on arrival made it all worth it. We did not have the best weather, but we tried to make the most out of the trip.
Tip of the day: Be prepare for the amazing views and make sure you print those mountains and valleys in your mind forever.
Day 7: From Trient to Argentiere and bus to Chamonix
The sad goodbye, the last walking day on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Just when we were starting to feel that we were getting used to the routine of going to bed early, waking up with the sun and walking our legs off, it was time to say bye-bye.
Although they say this is one of the most beautiful days of the trip in Mont Blanc, we could not see anything. There was low fog and a bit of rain that blocked out views.
We were happy that we chose walking without carrying our bags in the bad weather. There was a fair amount of wind and it was not fun watching people carrying those heavy bags. People were a little jealous when we passed them by.
Some extra tips for your adventure:
- Get prepared before you go, this is a tough walk through Tour du Mont Blanc. So the more prepared you will be the better you will enjoy it.
- Get the proper gear, good walking shoes/boots and think about bringing waterproof ones. These are high mountains that you will be walking. Wear them as much as you can before you go. Bring your walking poles if you are comfortable walking with them.
- Ask all the questions you may have before you go. Make a plan of what you are going to walk the evening before of every walk.
- Bring enough food and water. Although there are some places to stop, they can occasionally be closed so be responsible and have enough for the day. You do not want to feel anxious because you are hungry or rush to the next stop.
- Talk to the people, wonderful people walking this tour from all over that world. And please, if you think you know something and see someone a bit lost, share knowledge. The other person will appreciate it.
- Keep safe, please stay on the marked path.
- If the weather is not nice, stick to the low altitude path. Check your notes and the sign Tour du Mont Blanc posts.
If you like to read more about France, click here.
By Silvia Montesdeoca
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Originally published on 14th May 2018