Italy | Highlights of Italy: Courmayeur, Cogne, Champoluc

A Showcase of Three of Our Favorite Regions in Italy

Italy flag
  • Hikers trekking through Italy
  • Italian peaks
  • Jagged peaks with snow
  • Waterfall
  • High alpine lake
  • Cogne, Italy
  • Courmayeur, Italy
  • Singletrack trail in Italy

Trip Highlights:

  • Experience true Italian authenticity in three Italian regions surrounded by elegant scenery.
  • After a full day of exploring, rest in superior 4-star hotels known for their hospitality and ambiance.
  • Dine on haute cuisine in elegant surroundings to regional, farm-to-table specialties in cozy surroundings.

The Highlights of Italy Trek was designed to showcase three of our favorite villages in the Val d’Aosta region of Italy, as well as provide exceptional hiking with a broad range of physical challenge. For those who prefer to unpack and stay unpacked for a few days at a time, this trek is for you.

We begin our trek in the beautiful, historic alpine resort town of Courmayeur, ideally perched at the headwaters of the Dora Baltea river which carves its way through the Val d’Aosta and ultimately down to the Mediterranean. Courmayeur is located in Northwest Italy, bordering France and Switzerland, and sits directly beneath the imposing south face of Mont Blanc, arguably the most impressive aspect of this peak.

Our next trekking adventure takes us to Cogne, one of the most beautiful villages in the Aosta Valley, located in the heart of the Gran Paradiso National Park – Italy’s oldest national park. There are 130 waterfalls inside the park and it is home to the Paradisia botanical garden with more than 1000 mountain-dwelling species including Ibex, wild goat, marmots, and royal eagles. Cogne is surrounded by four valleys and proudly showcases the vast Meadows of Sant’Orso, recognized as a “Wonder of Italy.”

Our final destination is the charming village of Champoluc, where summer visitors experience countless hiking trails around the Monte Rosa massif while enjoying magical views of the surrounding glaciers and peaks. During the 12th century, the Walser people emigrated from the lower reaches of the Swiss Valais to settle the high mountains that surrounded them and traces of their existence are still evident in the upper Val d’Ayas where Champoluc sits.

Throughout the tour we have chosen to stay in superior 4-star hotels known for their hospitality and ambiance. Similarly, food ranges from haute cuisine in elegant surroundings to regional, farm-to-table specialties in cozy, authentic surroundings.

Trip Itinerary

Independently transfer to Courmayeur. Overnight in a well-appointed four-star hotel not far from the pedestrian zone.

Setting out with Courmayeur’s main tram to Plan Checrouit, we ascend to a magnificent ridge directly opposite some of the most spectacular scenery in all of the Alps. We spend the morning fascinated by the South Face of Mont Blanc (its most impressive side). After a well-timed espresso stop, we descend into the Val Veny, a verdant glacier scoured valley below the French border. Wander gentle WW1 roads to La Visaille for our quick shuttle home. A panoramic start to say the least!

Distance: 6 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1200/2000 ft.

The balcony path above the Val Ferret is the perfect complement to yesterday’s outing in Val Veny. In fact, it is a near mirror image. Still staring up at the South Face of Mont Blanc we now get a full view of its most famous facet – The Brenva. As the legendary Tom Patey once put it, “Any fool can monkey around on rock overhangs, but it takes craft and cunning to beat the Brenva”! Sure enough this Himalayan-scale wall of ice was the setting for many of mountaineering’s most significant developments over the course of generations.

Distance: 7 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1800/2100 ft.

Cogne is approximately a 1-hour drive, first down the main valley and then climbing up to the edge of the Grand Paradiso National Park. The park was established by King Victor Emmanuel in the early 19th century to protect its legendary Ibex herd (from poachers – he wanted to hunt them himself!). The Ibex are Italy’s most majestic wild animal and are now ever present after having been culled to a herd of only 60 at the time of the park’s initiation. We have the option to enjoy a lovely circumnavigation on floor of the beautiful Valnontey or a quick ascent to a nearby sub summit for those in need of more challenging terrain.

One of the most celebrated hikes in the Cogne area, excellent views and ever-changing terrain all culminating in the wonderful cascading waterfall “Cascade de Lillaz”. The Lago di Loie is a crystal clear emerald green lake set against the backdrop of Mont Blanc now receding into the distance. Begin in the tiny hamlet of Lillaz just up valley from Cogne. Marmots and Ibex abound in this lovely amphitheater. Continue on to the upper ridge to complete a circumnavigation of the valley or enjoy shorter options back to your start point.

Distance: 8 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 2100/3100 ft.

This out and back trail goes into the National Park and features the possibility of wildlife viewing, as well as views of the Grand Paradiso mountain. Start wandering along the floor of the Valnontey beside the river or enjoy a jump start by vehicle to the hamlet of Valnontey. An excellent, very broad path, takes us into the Lauson Valley below the Petit and Grand Lauson. The gentle trail is a wonderful feat of engineering. Enjoy a fabulous hut lunch at the Rifugio Vittorio Sella – you may even have Ibex trying to steal your food!

Distance: 6 to 10 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 3300 ft.

Begin with a scenic 1.5 hour transfer to Champoluc. Spend the a afternoon hiking above the village. There are several hike options to choose from, including an easy-going loop hike to the Cappella Sarteur. Harder options such as the Mezzalama hut are also available. Champoluc has risen from its humble history to become a startlingly beautiful and elegant Aostan mountain village below the magnificent flanks of the Breithorn and Lyskamm.

Today we experience an excellent loop out of the village of St. Jacques, the highest in the valley. A remarkably charismatic hamlet, St. Jacques is not to be missed! We spend the day under the broad flanks of the Breithorn (the peak that towers above Zermatt, Switzerland on the opposite side of the ridge). The Lago Blu is a charming byproduct of glacial advances of the early 19th century when the ice was exceptionally active. It now even boasts gentle white sand beaches.

Distance: 8 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 2700 ft.

After a quick transfer with the Crest cable car, we spend our last day on an epic climb to the Col Pinter. An absolute highlight will be the views all the way back to Monte Bianco! The Lago Pinter is a wonderful lunch spot near the pass to Gressoney. With the addition of a new cable car stage to Ostafa, this outing can be as strenuous or gentle as you wish.

Distance: 9 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 3300 ft.


Highlights of Italy: Courmayeur, Cogne, Champoluc | Italy

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