The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the great treks of the European Alps, guiding hikers on a 170.0km circuit through three spectacular countries around the Mont Blanc massif. The gorgeous, well-travelled trail grants unparalleled views of staggering mountain faces and hanging glaciers. Relatively fit parties should be able to complete the trek in eleven days (including a rest day), working through the breathtaking views at a moderate pace of approximately 15.0km each day with 1,000m elevation gain. Expect five to seven hours of hiking each day.
THE BASICS OF TOUR DU MONT BLANC
If you’re planning to do the Tour du Mont Blanc it’s important to know the basics. This tour passes through France, Italy and Switzerland – so you’ll need your passport and potentially visa(s) to complete the trek depending on your country of origin. English is widely spoken throughout the route, as is French and Italian. Most banks and credit cards are accepted (make sure to let your bank know you will be traveling to avoid having your card declined by fraud suspicion), but it’s also useful to have cash, especially for the mountain refuges. France and Italy both use the Euro, but be aware that Switzerland maintains its own currency, the Swiss franc.
We love the Tour du Mont Blanc simply because the days are so wonderful. Prepare to wake up in one of the many campsites, mountain huts (more commonly known as refugio) or hotels along the route and begin your morning with an incline – a steady hike up past the tree line. Continue along the excellently marked trail, take the rolling hills in stride, stop frequently to ogle at the views and definitely take a much-deserved respite on a scenic patio for lunch or a snack. Finish off the journey by descending down again to your next town, finding a comfortable spot to rest up for the next day.
BEST TIME TO HIKE TOUR DU MONT BLANC
The best time to hike Tour du Mont Blanc (or TMB as it’s called by trekkers)depends on the weather and when the lodging you’re planning to stay in is open. As a rule of thumb, check when all the refugios along the way open for the season while still in the planning stage.
In low snow years, you can do this trek starting in early to mid-June, however in years with heavy snowfall it may be better to wait until late June. July and August are the busiest times of the year, with many lodging options full most nights. One of our favourite times to visit is September and early October, when the weather isn’t as hot and the crowds not as large. Just make sure to check out when the accommodation is closed for the season.
TOUR DU MONT BLANC ACCOMMODATION
Tour du Mont Blanc accommodation options is a common theme among TMB hikers. Firstly, you’re offered a vast variety of places to sleep. If you want to hike on the cheap you can camp, or you can opt to stay in the many refugios or hotels. A refugio is essentially a mountain hostel, with relatively basic interiors but typically fantastic food! Note that some have private rooms but many just offer shared dormitory-style accommodation. If you want a private room be sure to book in advance!
Along with the variety of accommodation options, there are also many ways to arrange the tour. Many opt to do the planning themselves – booking their own hotels and carrying all their clothes with them – but it’s also nice to have a little help. We have done both, and in peak season (July and August) it may be better to have someone arrange the accommodation bookings for you, as well as the luggage transfers. Making reservations is not without challenges, however, as it commits you to a route and doesn’t account for health issues or delays, such as muscle strains or blisters.
Outside of peak season we typically make reservations day-to-day. This allows us to listen to our bodies and plan each day based on how we feel.
MONT BLANC FOOD
Something else TMBers are quick to mention is the Mont Blanc food. No need to even pack a lunch here! Make sure to stop at any one of the numerous refugios along the way for an espresso and a croissant – or maybe even a gourmet meal and a glass of wine! It is hard to overstate how wonderful it is to be sitting outside on a sunny summer day with a cold beer, a freshly baked margarita pizza and staggering views of sheer cliffs and pointed peaks. It is one of the real treats of the trek.
Most refugios offer the option of half-board or full-board. If you opt for the latter, in many cases all three meals will be provided for you. And one of the biggest culinary benefits of walking through three different countries is that your meals will each reflect the unique cultural and regional gastronomy. We always love staying at the high Italian refugios and getting good red wine and hearty, delicious pasta. After this we come down to Switzerland and a steaming pot of delicious fondue.
TOUR DU MONT BLANC ROUTE INFORMATION
The TMB is incredibly well marked and there are loads of trail options for each day. In low season you can plan your day as you walk, showing up in towns to see if there is space for the evening. We love doing this as it gives a sense of adventure and lets us go at our own pace.
Along the way, we recommend using a physical map and a smartphone GPS (GaiaGPS.com) as the best way to plan your route. It should be noted as well that at points along the TMB, you have the option of using gondolas to save a taxing ascent (or in some cases save your knees on the downhill). You heard us right! You’ll have the option to take a gondola or a chairlift right several times throughout the trek to save those tired legs!
Tour du Mont Blanc Elevation
The elevation of the Tour du Mont Blanc ranges between 1,000 m (3,281 ft) and 2,665 m (8,743 ft), which is high enough to provide a good challenge and some amazing scenery, but not high enough that most people have to worry about acclimatization or altitude sickness. Both the Col des Fours in France and the Fenêtre d’Arpette in Switzerland are the official highest points on the trail. Total elevation gain – 705m
Total Gain: 705m
Tour du Mont Blanc Map
The typical TMB starts in Chamonix and works counter-clockwise. Instead of starting in Chamonix, we take a bus to Les Houches and both begin and end the trek here, as it’s a gentler ascent. This also saves the views across the valley of the Aguille Verte and Mont Black to the finale of the hike. It also avoids the knee crunching descent down the Les Houches, which has stopped many hikers on Day 1 with blisters and knee pain.
Our favourite route, which combines refugios and hotels, starts from Les Houches to Les Contamines for the night, then onto Refuge Les Mottet, stopping at Refuge de Bonhomme for lunch. Then proceed to Refugio Elisabetta – a wonderful stop for the night, even if it’s a short day. Usually we make sure to pick up some cake at Rifugio Elisabetta en route to Courmayeur for a rest day. We definitely recommend for you to spend an entire day in Courmayeur, roughly halfway through the trek, as it gives you time to do laundry, relax, and soak in some Italian culture (and maybe a relaxing bath!). Also, did we mention eat?!
Continue over a few more passes to Refuge Walter-Bonatti then head into Switzerland to La Fouly. Be warned: prices in Switzerland are incredibly expensive! Nights in Switzerland will be spent in Champex and Trient, so prepare to have your wallet emptied! Don’t worry – you will be rewarded upon entering France over the famous Col De Balme by a fantastic refugio with delicious snacks and coffee. Some people finish the trek down at Argentière. For us though, one of the highlights is getting up high above Chamonix and looking back at the Mont Blanc Massif and then finishing back in Les Houches.
MONT BLANC TOURS
Tour du Mont Blanc in Guesthouses
This magical 7-day self-guided Tour du Mont Blanc hike follows the world-renowned tour route, but as a shortened version that takes in the highlights of the TMB, and uses local transport to shorten the valley bottom walking sections. If you only have a week, this is the best Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary.
Tour du Mont Blanc Highlights in Hotels
Follow the classic Tour du Mont Blanc circuit route for 7 days and spend each night in a hotel with a private room, shower, and other luxuries to make your tour as comfortable as possible. Luggage transfers are also an option.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT TOUR DU MONT BLANC
Tour du Mont Blanc Difficulty
The Tour du Mont Blanc is rated as moderate to strenuous. Hikers should be prepared to walk up to 8 hours per day with over 1,000 m of elevation change. If you are concerned about the level of difficulty, consider booking a tour that includes luggage transfers to lighten your load.
What to pack for the Tour du Mont Blanc
Packing for the Tour du Mont Blanc trek is similar to any trekking tour. It is important to wear sturdy hiking boots that have been well broken in, and hiking socks with a light cushion are also recommended. Avoid cotton clothing and plan to wear layers that can adapt to the changing weather conditions. Layers that can keep you warm and dry are important to pack. You should also be able to carry water and snacks, and be sure to bring a flashlight and a first aid kit. Don’t forget a sleeping bag or travel sheet if you’re staying in the refuges. Read more about Required Gear for a great trek.
When to book accommodations on Tour du Mont Blanc
If you are trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc during the peak season of July and August, it is recommended that reserve accommodations in advance, as this route is very popular and the local hotels and refuges are often fully booked. Book as early as possible to increase your chances of booking the locations and dates that you want. Many trekkers begin booking in January or February. One tip is to book your room in Les Chapieux first, since this is the smallest town with the fewest available rooms. Booking a tour that includes accommodations can save you the hassle of figuring out these details yourself.
If you are planning your trek for the off-peak season, you can wait longer to make your reservations, or even make reservations as you are on the trek.
How long does the Tour du Mont Blanc Take
The Tour du Mont Blanc typically takes 7-10 days depending on how far you choose to walk each day. If you would like to plan rest days along the route or have time to explore the area further, take this into account as you plan your trip.
Leaving luggage at the hotel when hiking Mont Blanc
Carrying the extra weight of all your luggage can increase the difficulty of the Tour du Mont Blanc, and if you are planning to do this it might be wise to plan for slightly shorter hiking days. If you book a tour that includes luggage transfer, then you can leave your luggage at the hotel or refuge and find your belongings waiting for you at your next stop at the end of the day.
What can you do after the trek?
After Les Houches, head back to Chamonix and spend a few days enjoying one of the world’s greatest mountain towns. There are great local hikes, a trip up the Aiguille du Midi and a ride to the Mer de Glace.
The Tour duMont Blanc is rightfully considered one of the best trekking experiences on Earth. For optimal enjoyment, plan your trek outside of the peak summer season to avoid the crowds. The incredible scenery and rich cultural experiences you’ll have in the Alps guarantee that your TMB trek is one that you won’t soon forget!