France, Italy & Switzerland
The Mont Blanc Circuit
Encompassing Europe’s highest point, the legendary Mont Blanc Circuit is one of the world’s great treks. This single itinerary combines a series of breathtaking Alpine panoramas with distinct cultural experiences in France, Italy, and Switzerland. On your journey between mountain inns, soaring rock spires and glittering glaciers frame a landscape of riotously colored wildflower meadows and classic Alpine villages. Take sky-high paths and ancient Roman roads to towns like Courmayeur. Lunch on cured meats and local cheeses at a neighborhood trattoria; stroll the sidewalks with a freshly made gelato. Imposing views of summits like Aiguille Verte and Aiguilles Rouges give way to the rustic chalets and flowering window boxes of Grand Col Ferret. Mountain reflections on the still waters of Lac Blanc are a celebrated sight. Toast the beauty around you with a refreshing beer and lemonade panaché; in Les Chapieux. Then ride La Flégère cable car into Chamonix Valley for a leisurely jaunt along the Arve River. In the clear mountain air, the Mont Blanc massif seems almost close enough to touch.
From our blog
|9 days, 8 nights||Trip Includes|
Solo surcharge + $0
2014 Single supplement + $450
Itinerary and Accommodations
Les Houches to Les Contamines-Montjoie; 7 miles (about 5 hours of walking), moderate to challenging, 700-ft. elevation gain, 2,500-ft. elevation loss
Your exploration of the legendary Mont Blanc Circuit begins in Chamonix, the mountaineering capital of the Alps. Following an early morning meeting, you transfer by bus to the nearby village of Les Houches for a cable car ascent to Bellevue (literally “beautiful view”), and the start of the hiking circuit.
Today’s hike offers exceptional views of the Aiguille (“needle”) de Bionnassay, with its dramatic glacier and soaring rock spires. The route also provides an excellent introduction to the unique flora of this region. Martagon lily, masterwort, and gentian are among the flowers that adorn the mountainsides, and are protected as an integral part of this incredible area. You traverse varied terrain, including narrow paths, rocky glacial debris, and a suspension bridge with breathtaking views of the Col de Tricot, perfectly shaped as a saddle. The trail then descends toward the small hamlet of Champel, nicely shaded by a coniferous forest.
Following lunch at a mountain cottage, you continue through tiny villages, boasting alpine architecture and lovely gardens overflowing with ripe vegetables. Your destination is the attractive village of Les Contamines-Montjoie, once home to chamois hunters, and today a popular mountaineering and ski resort.
You are welcomed at a cozy family-run hotel nestled in the Montjoie Valley. There is time to relax or have a dip in the pool before gathering again for a welcome drink and excellent dinner of local specialties served in your hotel’s dining room.
Hôtel La Chemenaz
Les Contamines-Montjoie, France
A traditional Alpine inn boasting comfortable, spacious rooms with balconies, stunning views of the Mont Blanc Massif, a heated outdoor swimming pool, sauna, and Jacuzzi.
Les Contamines-Montjoie to Les Chapieux; 9 miles (about 7 hours of walking), challenging, 4,000-ft. elevation gain, 3,050-ft. elevation loss
After an early breakfast, you transfer by minibus to the end of the valley and the start of what may be one of the most challenging hikes of the tour. The trail begins at the Baroque chapel of Nôtre Dame de la Gorge, a pilgrimage site at the foot of the Gorge du Bon Nant. From the church you walk along an old Roman road that climbs steadily through a beautiful conifer forest. Leaving the woods, you cross broad, level Alpine pasture, passing rustic chalets as you make your way to La Balme. You continue the ascent, pausing occasionally for a snack of tasty Alpine chocolate and views of the dramatic valley below.
By midday you reach the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (8,180 feet), where you stop to take in the breathtaking panorama. With the most difficult part of the day complete, you break for a trailside picnic before meandering down to the valley.
The day’s final destination is Les Chapieux, a summer village at the southern limit of the Mont Blanc massif. You can relax at a lively outdoor café with a refreshing panaché (beer and lemonade) or soothe your feet in the nearby glacial stream. In order to remain on the official Mont Blanc circuit, you spend the night in a simple classic Alpine refuge with limited facilities (no private baths or single accommodations). However, you are rewarded with some of the most beautiful views of the week, warm hospitality, and delicious cuisine.
Dinner may feature free-range chicken prepared with herbs and roasted potatoes, accompanied by a locally produced vintage.
Auberge-Refuge de la Nova
A lively family-run inn with basic accommodations (no private baths or single rooms), located at the southern limit of the Massif du Mont Blanc. Please call our office for more details or if you are a solo traveler.
Les Chapieux to Courmayeur; 9.5 miles (about 5½-6 hours of walking), moderate to challenging, 2,485-ft. elevation gain, 2,900-ft. elevation loss
Today you say au revoir to France and buongiorno as you enter the Aosta region of Italy, tracing the footsteps of countless Roman legionnaires. The hike begins at La Ville des Glaciers after a short transfer, and climbs eastward. After 2½ hours, you reach the Col de la Seigne (8,300 feet). This “hill” with a broad, flat landscape, represents a saddle of transfluence between the ancient glaciers that extended along the Aosta and Savoy slopes. Following a descent along an easy, winding trail, you reach the Elisabetta Refuge, a spectacularly situated stone chalet beneath the Aiguille of Combal. Lunch is in an area dominated by some of the most impressive summits of the Alps. The valley enjoys a certain regional autonomy, and French is spoken by its friendly population.
You continue on foot to La Visaille, at the base of the spectacular Glacier of Miage, whose snowcapped domes you saw for the first time two days ago. A short transfer brings you to the resort town of Courmayeur, Italy’s elegant counterpart to Chamonix, and your home for the next two nights. After settling into your comfortable in-town hotel, you reunite for a dinner of Italian mountain specialties at a nearby local restaurant.
A three-star, family-run country-house hotel in an ideal location in the center of town. The inn offers 25 unique rooms with splendid views. Jacuzzi, sauna, and massages are available.
Free day in Courmayeur with optional walk
Today is a rest day, and you have the opportunity to explore the charming Italian resort of Courmayeur. You may choose to peruse the local shops for souvenirs of the Mont Blanc hiking circuit, sit at a sidewalk terrace to taste a delicious gelato, or simply relax in the hotel’s sauna or Jacuzzi. If you prefer to walk, your guides offer a hike in the surrounding area (the mileage and level of difficulty will vary depending upon the group’s interests) with a stop for an independent lunch.
This evening, you are free to dine on your own at one of the town’s many fine pizzerias or trattorias.
A three-star, family-run country-house hotel in an ideal location in the center of town. The inn offers 25 unique rooms with splendid views. Jacuzzi, sauna, and massages are available.
Courmayeur to Champex; 7.5 miles (about 5½ hours of walking), moderate to challenging, 2,453-ft. elevation gain, 2,745-ft. elevation loss, highest elevation: 8,321 ft.
Following a hearty buffet breakfast, a 20-minute drive takes you to Arnouva and the start of today’s hike. Exploration of the Val Ferret continues along a winding footpath with a view of the Pré de Bar, the imposing granite peaks of Mont Dolent (12,543 feet), and the Grandes Jorasses. Along the way, the Rifugio Elena is a perfect rest stop for a steaming cup of rich hot chocolate. The climb continues through meadows that are home to Alpine wildlife—ranging from the talkative marmot to the agile chamois, which may be seen frolicking on the glacier after you cross the Grand Col Ferret (8,321 feet). This pass, in use for several centuries, serves as the Italian-Swiss border between Val D’Aosta and the canton of Valais. The descent brings you along a trail with a profusion of wildflowers and the sound of Swiss cowbells echoing across the hillside. This is truly Heidi country; its tidy chalets with geraniums spilling from the window boxes greet you as you enter the sleepy village of Ferret.
A final minivan transfer delivers you to Champex, a tranquil Swiss summer resort on a lake with the same name. Upon arrival at your comfortable family-run hotel, there is time to relax, swim, or take advantage of the Jacuzzi before dinner on site.
Hôtel du Glacier
A three-star family-run hotel, with Jacuzzi and sauna, ideally situated on Lake Champex.
Champex to Col de la Forclaz; 9 miles (about 5 hours of walking), challenging, 2,100-ft. elevation gain, 1,715-ft. elevation loss
Today’s hike begins right from the doorstep of your hotel in the picturesque town of Champex. A coniferous trail winds north across Alpine pastures, providing great views of the town of Martigny and the Rhône Valley and its vineyards. You also catch your first glimpse of the highest summits in the Swiss region of Bernese Oberland. After a picnic lunch in this unparalleled setting, you walk to a charming old farm nearby for a cup of coffee or refreshment on their rustic terrace.
Reenergized, you start your afternoon hike to the Col de la Forclaz, pronounced forcl by the locals and meaning “fork” in Old French, as it is one of the three entrances to the Chamonix Valley, and the only one on the Swiss side. The trail ascends above the tree line and, on a clear day, you see the famous Swiss ski resort of Verbier in the distance. Farther along the trail, you might stop for a moment and watch black Hérens cows fight for the title of “Queen”— this consists of two of these strong, bull-looking females pushing each other until the weakest steps backwards. You arrive on foot at the day’s final destination, a simple, family-run inn located at the top of the pass. You toast the day’s accomplishment with a glass of Fendant, the fine local wine for which the area is famous, before a simple and comforting dinner.
Hôtel du Col de la Forclaz
A simple Alpine hotel that serves typical Valais cuisine (not all rooms have private baths).
Trient to Argentière; 8.5 miles (about 4 hours of walking with cable car descent or 6 hours of walking without cable car descent), moderate, 2,860-ft. elevation gain, 915-ft. elevation loss with cable car descent or 3,080-ft. elevation loss without cable car descent
Today starts with a short transfer as you leave Switzerland. The trail rises gradually from the secluded valley of Trient in Switzerland, where the imposing village church seems to be the only beacon in this entirely green, lush environment. You pass through a tranquil spruce forest with many switchbacks before arriving to the Col de Balme in France. This pass offers tremendous views over the whole of the Chamonix valley, flanked by the Aiguille Verte and Aiguilles Rouges (the “green” and “red” needles, or peaks) surrounding Mont Blanc. The latter is named after the distinctive reddish color of the granite in the morning sun. Upon descending to the village of Tour, you have the option of using a cable car or you may continue walking on the slopes of the Balme ski area.
Your home tonight is in the village of Argentière—literally “silver” in French, as it was once the site of a silver mine. After settling into your simple hotel, located in the town’s center, you walk to a dinner of Savoyard specialties at a charming restaurant next door.
Hôtel de la Couronne
A simple, old-fashioned hotel nestled in the heart of the authentic mountain village of Argentière.
Col des Montets to the Cheserys lakes to Chamonix; 7 miles (about 5 hours of walking), moderate to challenging, 2,296-ft. elevation gain, 885-ft. elevation loss, not including a cable car descent
Following a few miles’ taxi ride, you set off on the final stage of the circuit, and it’s one of the most beautiful, with the stunning Chéserys lakes being the highlight. Most people seek the famed reflection of the mountains in these secret lakes’ still waters, which often remain frozen until the end of June. By August, though, most of these lakes are free from ice and snow, and the views of the Mont Blanc massif from this vantage point are breathtaking.
Over lunch, you work together to identify the various peaks that have been part of your journey this past week. Afterwards, you descend along a rocky trail for two hours to La Flégère cable car for a panoramic ride into the valley. It is a leisurely walk along the glacially fed Arve River to Chamonix, where an inviting, heated swimming pool awaits your arrival at an elegant four-star hotel. Reuniting for a farewell feast at your hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, you can indulge to your heart’s content after completing almost 60 miles of walking.
Hôtel Le Morgane
This elegant and environmentally friendly four-star hotel offers mountain views; a spa complete with swimming pool, steam room, sauna, and treatment facilities; and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Departure from Chamonix
After a plentiful buffet breakfast, you are free to continue your exploration of Chamonix, or depart for your next destination.
Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.
A native of the world-renowned alpine resort of Chamonix, Claire hails from a family of mountain guides and photographers. She traveled extensively in her youth throughout Africa and returned to France where she received a Masters degree in Geography and Geomorphology. She is a certified guide who has been leading people throughout the Alps for more than twelve years. An avid hiker and skier, Claire‘s enthusiasm for her spectacular corner of the globe is apparent to all who travel with her on the Mont Blanc Circuit.
Corinne has been a certified hiking guide in the Chamonix valley since 1994, fulfilling her career goal of working with people outdoors. Living abroad as a child and traveling throughout her life, she also led hiking tours in the Middle East. Originally trained as a graphic designer, she applies her creativity to the Swiss folk art of silhouette paper cutting, and also enjoys exploring the Alps with her family.
Bernadette moved to Chamonix from Paris at 19, and turned her passion for the mountains into a lifelong career as a hiking guide, first earning her guiding certificate, then expanding into Nordic walking and snowshoe tours. She is delighted to introduce guests to the beautiful Chamonix valley, Mont Blanc, and its surrounding ranges, and when not guiding spends time with her husband and two daughters.
Sébastien, born and raised in Chamonix, has been walking, climbing, and skiing in its surrounding mountains since a young age. He is a both a licensed mountain guide through the Guide Compagnie of Chamonix and a ski instructor at Chamonix ski school. He is eager to introduce guests to his region and share his extensive knowledge and passion about both its natural wonders and cultural attractions.
L. Stein, Ontario, Canada, July 2013It was the trip off a lifetime!!! The hiking was hard and challenging, but that's what I had hoped for. The terrain and geography was spectacular. The guides were truly fantastic, full of information and took superb care of us.
J. Gardner, Texas, September 2012
For a challenging hike and the world's most beautiful mountain scenery, the Tour Du Mont Blanc will test your skills and dazzle your eyes. I have done 21 CW trips and there is nothing like this one. It ain't easy, but it's a wow!
M. Johnson, Colorado, September 2012
Mont Blanc was the ultimate challenge with two guides Claire and Corinne who encouraged all of us and really made this a unique, fun experience. It is different from other CW trips and should remain the challenge that it is.
J. McIntyre, Kansas, July 2012
Loved it! Great experience!
W. Young, Alberta, July 2012
This is a very enjoyable tour. The itinerary is more gentle than those of similar tours offered by other companies. We have two superior local guides for our group of nine. There is a free day in Courmayeur for rest, sight-seeing, or more hiking. These are the reasons why I chose CW for the Tour du Mont-Blanc, and I certainly feel that I have made a very good choice.
T. Young, California, July 2012
Claire and Corinne were fabulous. They are the best guides I have ever traveled with, and I can't say enough superlative things about them!
J. Harris, New Jersey, August 2011
Fantastic trip―terrific food, excellent guides, challenging but physically and mentally relaxing. The pace was excellent―no hikers left behind. Food & wine were very satisfying after the trail walks. Excellent guidance by Claire & Sébastien.
D. Heidrich, Ohio, August 2011
The Mont Blanc circuit was quite challenging for me as a new hiker, but well worth the effort. The scenery was spectacular. Our guides were very knowledgeable, helpful, and supportive―it was great to let them do all the worrying/planning so I could simply enjoy.
L & S Kelly, Maryland, July 2011
The CW Guides were exceptional. Their knowledge of the area, their love of nature and hiking, their warm and caring personalities are what enhanced the beauty of the mountains and our CW experience on the Mont Blanc circuit.
B. Lee, Colorado, August 2011
Phenomenal hiking and scenery shared by guides with solid skills and personal warmth.
J. Lewis, Florida, July 2011
Breathtaking scenery, delicious food, knowledgeable guides, and wonderful memories.
J. Gardner, Texas, August 2011
Challenging hikes rewarded by amazing scenery.
W. Yeh, California, July 2011
This is the best CW trip we have taken. The hikes were challenging. The scenery is out of this world. The guides were awesome. The group was a lot of fun.
S. Landis, California, July 2012
Loved the visit to the Beaufort cheese farm, and all the mountain refuges.
M. & S. Johnson, Arizona, July 2012
A hard-working, but spectacular tour with wonderful guides.