The Tour du Mont Blanc is among the most legendary hikes in the Alps. The trail itself begins and ends in Chamonix and takes a broad loop around the stately Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. The route passes through the most majestic mountain passes of France, Italy, and Switzerland, with the glaciated giants of the Mont Blanc Massif hanging high above.
Cozy accommodations await you in the remote villages below after days of truly epic hiking. Highlights of the tour include visiting the mountaineering hubs of Chamonix and Courmayeur, sweeping views of the entire Mont Blanc Massif including the awe-inspiring Grand Jorasses, and the accomplishment of completing one of the most iconic hikes in Europe.
The region’s nature is spread across multiple unique biomes, with pastoral farmland in the valleys flowing seamlessly into the dense larch forests on the lower slopes and finally climbing into the high alpine zone above the treeline. The trail itself is a fairly strenuous one, with long ascents and descents over some of the highest passes in Europe, occasional scrambling through rocky fields, and more bucolic sections through mountain meadows, also known as alps. Many of the days afford the opportunity to stop at high mountain huts for a homemade lunch, while other lunches will be spent picnicking with the company of cows and the peaks above.
Culturally, the Tour du Mont Blanc is split into three sections defined by the three countries the tour passes through. Moving from Italian coffee in the morning to a hearty Käseschnitte for lunch in Switzerland is a divine experience. The section through France is spent primarily in the villages surrounding Chamonix, where you will get to experience the beating heart of mountaineering culture. In Italy, the village of Courmayeur is a quieter mirror of Chamonix, with a hearty helping of Italian cooking to close out the day. The Swiss section of the tour is by far the most remote, with the Swiss Villages of Champex and Trient being little more than a small collection of chalet-style buildings and more reserved tourist accommodations.
Historically the Tour du Mont Blanc is set in the birthplace of Alpinism, with the Swiss town Zermatt having the only other legitimate claim. In these valleys, English expatriates and luminaries traveled to experience the might of the high mountains throughout the 1800s. The original approach to climbing these staggering peaks is best considered as: through any means necessary. The most comedic of these more extravagant attempts is the attempted ascent of the Dent du Geant which involved a team of porters dragging a cannon to a high pass to fire a grappling hook at the unapproachable summit. The attempt was a resounding failure. Over the decades the ethos surrounding climbing changed, as visiting mountaineers learned to respect the sanctity and nature of this unique region, leading to Alpinism itself, the current climbing ethic.
TMB Note: Due to the astounding popularity of the Tour du Mont Blanc, it is recommended to book this route far in advance to increase your chances of getting the best accommodations and closest adherence to the original route. For those that wish to travel a similar trek without the crowds, we recommend our Hiker’s Haute Route, which follows the last handful of days of the TMB in reverse before traveling deep into Switzerland to reach its climax beneath the Matterhorn itself.