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Tour du Mont Blanc: The complete travel guide to Europe’s popular long-distance walk

Tour du Mont Blanc: The complete travel guide to Europe’s popular long-distance walk

‘Top Ten Hikes of the World’ lists always feature the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). And rightly so; it loops 170km around Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe (4,810m), traversing not one but three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. Vistas around the Tour du Mont Blanc are superlative and, with a lung-busting 10,251 meters of ascent, they will, quite literally, take your breath away.

The route

Mont Blanc is surrounded by seven valleys radiating from its core. The TMB links them all via high mountain passes. Chunk the trail down into 11 sections and it starts to form the energetic backbone of a superb two-week holiday. You can start and end anywhere and walk in either direction. The French resort of Chamonix is a logical start/finish point and most people walk the trail in an anti-clockwise direction. The main trail is well sign-posted and is not technically difficult (but avoid ‘variant’ options involving chains and crampons). The TMB does not summit Mont Blanc itself, however: that is an entirely different mountaineering adventure.

How long does it take?

11 days

There is a rare breed of ultra trail endurance runners who complete the TMB non-stop in a phenomenal sub-20-hour annual event. These are world-class athletes with lungs and legs that defy science. Lesser mortals, ie competent, fit walkers, take nine to 11 days to complete the whole circuit.

One week

The Mont Blanc road tunnel slices through the mighty mountain, offering hikers an easy option to split the TMB over two holidays using local coach services to and from Chamonix and Courmayeur (eg year one trek Chamonix to Courmayeur, the following summer complete your circumnavigation from Courmayeur to Chamonix).

The Chamonix Valley towards Mont Blanc

(Margaret Batty)

A few days

If you don’t want to commit to the whole TMB, base yourself in Chamonix and tick off a few sections of the route, using local transport each day.

11-day itinerary

Sample daily itineraries: +/-18km distance/1,000m ascent/6-8 hours walking

Day 1: Chamonix Les Houches (Bellevue cable car) to Les Contamines, France

Day 2: Les Contamines, via Col de la Croix Bonhomme (2,476m), to Les Chapieux

Day 3: Les Chapieux (valley bus), via Col de la Seigne (2,516m), to Refugio Elisabetta, Italy

Day 4: Elisabetta to (Dolonne cable car) Courmayeur, Italy

Day 5: Courmayeur to Lavachey, Switzerland


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