The Tour du Mont Blanc is a well known, multi-day hike through the Alps. On this iconic trek you hike through France, Switzerland and Italy. It covers a distance of approximately 170 km and gains more than 10,000 meters of altitude. You get to see mountain peaks, wildflowers, meadows and breathtaking scenery in every direction.
The Tour du Mont Blanc (aka TMB) was on my bucket list, and I am glad that I finally did it. It was a physically challenging hike for me, but so rewarding at the end to know that I completed it.
There is no need to worry about food and lodging – we had plenty of that good stuff! With French, Swiss, and Italian restaurants throughout, we never stayed hungry for long! We hiked at the beginning of July and it was the summer of the European heat wave, so we had hot and dry hiking the whole time.
The name Mont Blanc translates into literally meaning “White Mountain” due to glaciers covering over 100km of the region. It’s no Mount Everest, but be prepared for any kind of weather, long days of hiking. Most importantly, be prepared for the most magnificent views you will ever experience! Check out my blog post about preparing for your trek of Tour du Mont Blanc here.
TIP: For any travel overseas with a significant time change, arrive a few days prior so that your body gets through the jet lag phase before you start any hike.
Tour du Mont Blanc with G Adventures
I went through G Adventures on my Tour du Mont Blanc and it was a wonderful experience. I don’t regret taking this trip!! It is a company that offers travelers the opportunity to experience a world outside of their own. These are affordable, small-group tours, safaris, and expeditions that can take you nearly anywhere in the world. Want to travel but don’t know where to start? Start by checking out G Adventures and get your travel on, babe!
Transfer from Geneva & Nightly Bag Transfer
We arranged a transfer to Chamoix from our hotel in Geneva with Chamonix All Year. For our travels to Chamonix, it worked out best to have a private car and on our return to the airport in Geneva we had a shared transfer. They send you a text the night prior with driver information and it all went seamlessly!
Since I have numerous allergies (celiac, dairy, egg, plus many more), I was a bit worried about having enough to eat during the trek. Food was provided as part of the tour, but I didn’t want to risk having nothing I could eat. I have traveled enough to know that no matter how many times you tell someone about your allergies, be prepared to fend for yourself. With that in mind, I arranged a bag transfer through G Adventures each night of the trek except Day 6 (which is inaccessible by vehicles). I packed hiking meals, oatmeal, snacks, etc.
The bag transfer also helped me carry all the Type 1 diabetes supplies (plus extras) that I would need. I will do a post dedicated to doing Tour du Mont Blanc with Type 1 diabetes later so stay tuned.
A great resource for preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc is “The Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete Two-way Trekking Guide” by Kev Reynolds. I got this book a few months ago and have been reading it every chance I get.
Tour du Mont Blanc – What we Ate
As I mentioned above, I bought packaged food, snacks and bars for this trip because of my abundance of allergies. However, with the G Adventures Tour du Mont Blanc trek, breakfast and dinner are included at every refuge. I sent ahead my food restrictions and some locations accommodated them and others didn’t…so I am very glad that I brought my own food as a back-up plan. The meals provided were not typical hiking foods but instead traditional French, Italian and Swiss food and often cooked by professional chefs. The group ate well on this trek!
Breakfast that was provided at the refuges was typical breakfast fare…bread, jam, cereal, yogurt, fruit and of course COFFEE. Dinner at the refuges was a multi-course meal made with fresh ingredients. I often had a bit different meal than the others and I have to say theirs looked so much tastier but such is life. Often I got a hearty minestrone and lentil soup plus polenta when in Italy. I recreated the split pea lentil soup recipe in another blog post here. Many of the dinners are served family style so you can take as much or little as you want.
Lunch and any snacks during the trek were arranged on your own at your own expense. You could buy lunch at a refuge along the way (with recommendations for good ones from Rob our guide), buy a packed lunch from the refuge the night prior, or even buy food at a grocery store at some locations. I stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables at the grocery store in Chamonix and also mid-trek in Courmayeur.
Day 1 – Chamonix
Home to the first ever Winter Olympics, Chamonix-Mount-Blanc was the first (and last!) stop on my trek. Renowned as a ski town, Chamonix sits at the base of Mont Blanc waiting for tourists and locals alike to take advantage of its amazing views and lifts to take you to join in the adventure.
We arrived in Chamonix from Geneva in the late afternoon, got settled in our hotel. We then went to meet our G Adventures CEO Rob (aka guide aka Chief Experience Officer) and the rest of the group that we would be traveling with. Our group was made up of people from all over the world and it was great to get to know them all over the duration of the hike.
Rob gave us an overview of the trek, what to expect and we could tell right away that he knew everything about doing this hike and we were in good hands. Each day of the hike, Rob would give us details about the route we were taking, how long we would be hiking for, how difficult the trail would be, plus details about bathroom stops and food along the trail.
Chamonix has a lot of outdoor supply and food stores to stock up on anything you need last minute.
Located at the very center of Chamonix, Hotel Gustavia is where we spent our first and last night. Mixed with modern interior vibes as the exterior has a classic, vintage appeal, this hotel sticks to its roots while also giving us Millennials something to ‘Gram about 😉 Situated between shopping villages and ski lifts, it is in the ideal area for skiers to stay at in the ski season and hikers to stay during trekking season!
Day 2 – Chamonix to Les Contamines-Montjoie
- 24km, 8.5 hours of hiking
After breakfast at Hotel Gustavia, we took a bus to Les Houches, where we took a cable car ride to Bellevue. The views from the cable car were phenomenal with views of the Chamonix Valley and the Mont Blanc Range.
This first day of hiking was very long and challenging. There were about seven ascents and descents. Just when you think you are done you aren’t but I would say by the end of the day I had adjusted and mentally was ready to take on the coming days ahead.
The trail is busy the first day as everyone starts at the same place and ends in the same place. All the rest of the days other hikers are more dispersed on the trails.
From the first day of hiking I knew that I needed to find a backpacking France travel guide, so I could plan more hikes in this beautiful country.
Refuge Nant Borrant
Unlike any other “hut” or literal lodge I have ever been in, the Refuge Nant Borrant was an amazing and surprising experience! If you are doing this hike, then you probably are the kind of person who wouldn’t mind a more rustic stay. When you think of a “hostel” this is the textbook definition, but it was one of the nicer places I have been to. Even if you don’t stay here and only grab a bite to eat or to take a breather during your hike, you have to stop by. Being here with the views that come along with it, it was definitely worth the crazy long day of hiking!
Day 3 – Les Contamines-Montjoie to Les Chapieux
- 18 km, 7 hours of hiking
This day of hiking starts out with a hard climb up for the first 4 hours but the path is very clear and there is a lot to see. I thought this climb was much easier than the first day and the steep climb made the views epic all the way up. Hiking is always way more fun when there are amazing views to be seen. My knee hurt so bad at the beginning of the day but once I got going it wasn’t too bad. It was a hot day so I drank lots and lots of water. PS. You won’t have cell service most of this day.
Auberge de la Nova
If you are looking for some peace and quiet, Auberge de la Nova is a place of tranquility. This refuge was a great way to decompress from the last few days of hiking. It is located in the village of Les Chapieux, near the Italian border, and has been established since 1856 to accommodate those who take on this tour! It was a great, intimate place to rest, grab a bite to eat, and prepare for the remainder of the trek.
Day 4 – Les Chapieux to Courmayeur
- 23 km, 5 hours of hiking
We started out this day on a bus to get to the start of the trail. This was the easiest day so far of the Tour du Mont Blanc. There was very mild ascent and descent (compared to the prior days) but by the end my feet hurt from all the walking so far in this hike. You see Mont Blanc this day and you will find that it is very windy at the top (but I was so sweaty that I didn’t really care). PS. cell service was very spotty this day, too.
Being the perfect place to enjoy the scenic views of Mont Blanc while also being the perfect authentic Italian town that provided us with that genuine Italian food we really have been doing this whole trek for. The hotel itself was inspired by the Art Nouveau movement in its architecture and the essense of Hotel Cristallo shows off its rich Italian culture.
Day 5 – Rest Day in Courmayeur
The rest day in Courmayeur was very much needed! I went to a market and got some fresh fruit and vegetables for the rest of the hike. We had some really good coffee at Cafè Relais de l’Ange and they had soymilk! There is also Wi-Fi throughout the town, so that is a bonus.
Pré Saint Didier Thermal Bath
On our rest day, we chose to do an optional activity with G Adventures. In fast, the whole group did. The thermal bath, Pré Saint Didier, was just what we needed to recharge our batteries and rest our tired feet. The natural hot springs of Pre-Saint-Didier, located in the the peaceful Aosta Valley in Northern Italy, flow out from the mountain at a temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius year round.
A special thank you to Brendan Williams for joining me on this trek and taking photos.
My Tour du Mont Blanc Vlog
Watch below or on YouTube directly for better quality.
Day 6 – Courmayeur to Val Ferret
- 16 km, 8 hours of hiking
The day off helped and I started this day of hiking rested and refreshed. Since we were a fast hiking group (according to our G Adventures guide, Rob), we took a different route which added an extra 500m on to our trek. The climb up from Courmayeur is steep but you are rewarded with a stunning view. This day you get to see the Mont Blanc Mastiff and let me tell you it’s stunning!!!!
Our accommodations at Rifugio Bonatti were stellar. When we got to the top, we realized this place has the most incredible view looking over the Italian Val Ferret. Pictures cannot do it justice! The little hut, built with stone and wood, was adorable placed next to these mountains. You might not want to leave!
Day 7 – Val Ferret to La Fouly
- 20 km, 6 hours of hiking
We had a very steep hour and a half climb up to Grand Col Ferrett on this day. Plus it was VERY hot, making the hike even more challenging. This was one of the most difficult sections of the hike because it is very steep and you are tired from the day before.
Auberge des Glaciers Fouly
Between the lush greenery and picturesque views of the glaciers, this little Swiss abode, Auberge des Glaciers Fouly, was warm and friendly! I felt right at home with the place being designed specially for outdoor lovers and those hiking this trail with its log cabin-esque exterior and fun, cabin-like rooms.
Day 8 – La Fouly To Trient
- 16 km, 5 hours of hiking
This day of hiking starts out pretty easy, but it gets very steep about mid-hike. It is very scenic hike through open fields that are filled with wildflowers and cows. As we started our steep ascent for the day we came through dense forest. The day was long, but bearable because you know you are almost done hiking.
La Grande Ourse
On our second to last hiking day, we stayed at La Grande Ourse, located at the foot of two (!!!) glaciers. Originally built as a hotel and house for Youth Movement Switzerland camps, it has since transformed into The Great Bear where it serves hikers like me on their final leg of their trips. Even if you’re not doing a hike, it is extremely family-friendly and caters to anyone.
Day 9 – Trient To Chamonix
- 16 km, 5 hours of hiking
The final day of hiking was just as tough as the first day. It was a steep and long! My this point in the hike every muscle I had was hurting and my feet were so tire. However, I was determined it give it everything left in me. Once again, since all hikers are funneling to the same point at the end of the trail, it was quite busy. A few of us managed to power up to the Col de Balme in half the expected time.
Getting back into Chamonix gave me such a feeling of accomplishment. To be honest, this hike was more difficult than I was expecting. Maybe not so much with the terrain, but it was mentally challenging. Each day I was battling how blood sugar and checking my blood a lot to make sure I didn’t go too low and pass out. The heat didn’t make it any easier and certainly contributed to the challenge of doing this trek in the heat of summer.
In all, I would say this was one of the best trips I have ever been on and I can’t wait to do more adventures like this. G Adventures has many options for small group trips all over the world…so where to next?!?
Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.
Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.