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KE's Complete Guide to Trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc

One of the most iconic routes on the planet. The Tour du Mont Blanc trek is the perfect introduction to experiencing the Alps, taking... Read more
KE's Complete Guide to Trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc

One of the most iconic routes on the planet. The Tour du Mont Blanc trek is the perfect introduction to experiencing the Alps, taking you on an incredible journey through the heart of Europe’s most awe-inspiring range of mountains. 

Expect superlative scenery and an unforgettable adventure. Because we think it's something every walker should experience once, we've put together a guide to walking it, from when to go to which route you should try. When it comes to the TMB, it's always best to book in early. There's usually high demand for the mountain huts and chalets along the way. There's limited space, so the trails won't be busier, but you just might miss out on being on them!

 

 

What is the Tour Du Mont Blanc?

It covers a distance of roughly 170km, although this can be much less or much more, depending on how you want to do it. Made up of trails originally formed by shepherds’ paths through the valleys, it became known as an official tour as far back as the 18th century, when adventurer Horace Benedict de Saussure was looking for a route up the mighty Mont Blanc itself. Since then, it’s been the ideal first foray into the Alpine range for walkers, climbers and mountaineers alike, and a world-famous journey to tick off many a bucket list. Of course, it's famous for a reason - this is one of the most beautiful ways to experience some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. 

 

 

Where is the Tour Du Mont Blanc?

As it circumnavigates Mont Blanc, the Tour du Mont Blanc trek weaves its way handily through FranceItaly and Switzerland, offering you a taste of each country as you pass through – figuratively and literally, as you’ll have the chance to sample local delicacies, from flaky croissants in France to gooey raclette in Switzerland, along the way. You’ll start and finish the route in Chamonix, the bustling mountain town which serves as the adventure capital of the Alps, and is easily accessible from Geneva. Typically, you’ll head anti-clockwise, crossing first into Italy then Switzerland, for the best views of Mont Blanc along the way.

 

 

When is the best time of year to do it?

The Tour du Mont Blanc trek is best completed in the summer months, from July to September. It’s possible to complete it from June onwards, but we think it’s best to wait and not risk meeting sections not yet free of the winter’s snowfall. Not only will the trails be at their best for walking, the mountain huts will be open for business and you’ll be able to enjoy summer in the Alps; expect lush valleys with tumbling streams, high pastures full of wildflowers and balmy evenings watching the sun go down over the mountains.

 

 

What is the Tour du Mont Blanc like?

Put simply, absolutely beautiful. The trail weaves its way up mountains, across high passes and into deep valleys. There’s a fair amount of elevation change, but this just means you’re served up some of the most rewarding views you could feast your eyes on. The trails are well defined, meaning you won’t have much trouble underfoot, and whilst you reach some impressive heights, none of them are lofty enough to have to worry about altitude sickness. There are some sections where you’ll have to do a little bit of climbing, but there are sturdy ladders fixed in place which make these extremely manageable, and you won’t need an ice axe or crampons anywhere along the way.

It’s also worth mentioning here that there are different ways to take the tour on, which will effect what your route is like. We’ve covered the classic route, but there’s also a high elevation version. You’ll take higher paths and cross some spectacular mountain passes, heading up to the heights of 2665m. The Tour du Mont Blanc trails are much the same, and both versions are completed within 10 days, but the elevation covered is more challenging and there’ll be a few nights where you’ll need to carry your overnight items – with the payoff being you won’t need to return to the valley for food or shelter. If you’ve only got a week, it’s also possible to do a ‘best of’ version, which combines some of the finest sections into a shorter adventure. As it’s linked by transfers, it’s a wee bit easier for those looking for a less intense week of walking. Also if group travel isn't your thing, KE has a couple of self-guided options: the classic experience completing the route with 9 days trekking during an 11 day holiday or and an option that's a little bit easier, still with 9 days total trekking but with rest days in Courmayeur, Champex and Argentiere taking 14 days in total. 

 

 

How fit do you need to be? 

This isn’t the most challenging route in the world, and you don’t need any prior trekking experience, but you’ll definitely want to feel fit and confident to get the most out of your holiday – whichever way you do it, you can expect some long days and some long ascents and descents. For the best of and classic routes, you can achieve this easily with regular walking on weekends – just get some miles in your legs and you’ll be grand. Plus, the challenge is all part of the adventure! If you like the sound of the high-altitude version, you might want to go that extra mile upward and make sure you take on as much ascent and descent before you go.

 

 

What kit should you take?

You don’t need anything specialist for trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc, but here are a few essentials we think you shouldn’t go without

  • Waterproof coat and trousers. The weather should generally be fair, but if you do get caught out you’ll want to stay dry until you reach the next hut.
  • Dependable boots. We recommend a pair you’re confident will be comfy for every kilometre you walk.
  • Walking poles, especially if you usually walk with them.
  • A comfy backpack. 30l should be enough normally, but we recommend a 40l pack if you’re taking on the high-altitude route with a few overnight items required.
  • A pack of cards. Great for passing the downtime in the huts and bonding with fellow travellers.

 

 

What's the acommodation like?

 

This is one of the joys of trekking the Tour. Whether it’s a charming family-run guesthouses or Chamonix based hotel, you can expect to meet wonderful people in a glorious setting. If you choose the high-level version, you’ll also get to experience the unique pleasure of staying in an alpine mountain hut. Trekking hut-to-hut is something every walker should experience – you can’t beat rounding the corner of a crag to find your home for the night perched on top of a mountain. Inside, the food is delicious and home-cooked, the dorms are cosy and the atmosphere is unforgettable. Just remember to bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper – you could have a noisy neighbour.

 

 

How do you trek the Tour du Mont Blanc

The key question is: guided or self-guided? Going with a guided group is an experience in itself. You have a local, passionate leader to help show you the way and find you all the best views and cafes, and you’ll be part of a group of fellow travellers – there’s nothing like a bit of camaraderie to overcome a challenge. If you like the idea of everything being booked for you, but with the addition of being able to choose how fast or slow you want to go, then self-guided is the one for you. If you choose KE for your self-guided adventure, you can choose either the classic experience and complete the route with 9 days trekking during an 11 day holiday or take it a bit easier, still with 9 days total trekking but with rest days in Courmayeur, Champex and Argentiere taking 14 days in total.

 

 

Highlights

There are too many to list here, but a couple of our favourites: the first time you see the iconic shape of Mont Blanc, walking the heights of le Grand Balcon, gazing across the still reflective pool of Lac Blanc….and spotting adorable marmots on the trail.

 

 

KE Staff Highlights 

“Experiencing 3 different countries in 1 trek, each with a surprisingly different feel about them. Every day you get a different perspective of the stunning mountains in the Mont Blanc range.” Tim Nicholl, Operations Manager, The Classic Tour du Mont Blanc

“I went in Spring, so there was still a lot of snow in some places but the meadows were golden, purple, pink, red, blue etc. I loved these meadows and the beautiful, snow-covered mountains in the background ... Just stunning!” Dace Ekerte, Customer Sales and Support, The Best of the Tour du Mont Blanc

“I really enjoyed seeing Mont Blanc from different angles and different countries - especially from the Bonatti Hut in the evening, sitting on the terrace with a hot chocolate watching the sun go down.” Chloë Johnson, Product Manager, The Ultimate Tour du Mont Blanc

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