The 170-kilometer Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the most popular long-distance treks in Europe—and for good reason. The stunning hiking trail completes a loop around the glaciated Mont Blanc massif, passing through Italy, France, and Switzerland on the way.
Each year, thousands of travelers flock to the area from around the world, either to day hike parts of the route, or to complete multi-day journeys. The most common way to complete the route is counter-clockwise, and many hikers begin at the “official” start point in Les Houches, France. To hike the entire route, most people take about a week, with faster hikers sometimes completing the route in as few as five days.
Here are four reasons to put the Tour du Mont Blanc on your radar for your next adventure vacation.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is dotted with huts, or refuges, which are small bed-and-breakfasts tucked away in the mountains. These picturesque spots serve hot meals, pour local beer and wine, and offer warm beds and showers after a long day of hiking. Each refuge prepares dinner and breakfasts for hikers, and they serve lunch and drinks during the day for hikers who are just passing through. With so many huts along the route, it’s possible to carry just a few snacks in your pack, and stop for leisurely, hot meals along the way. Most are situated in gorgeous locations, too, so your meal or cold beer is served with a side of scenery.
Spotting wildlife along the trek is one of the most exciting aspects of this long-distance hike. Among the most iconic creatures are the alpine ibex, which sport striking, curved horns. You might spot ibex perched high on rocky cliffs, often above the snow line. Deer and chamois are also common. Marmots are easily spotted on snow fields at higher elevations, and in grassy meadows lower down. These adorable animals often whistle to each other or romp around playfully. Hares, foxes, boars, martens, and more are also present, as are a wide variety of birds. Keep your eyes peeled, and try hiking early in the morning when the trail is quieter if you’re hoping to spot wildlife.
The Tour du Mont Blanc wends through three distinct areas: small towns, countryside, and alpine. It’s possible to pass through all three in one day, as you move through valleys and high passes. The towns are thoroughly charming and complete with restaurants and shops for refueling or souvenir shopping. Grocery stores, cheese shops, charcuterie stores, and cafes are usually present, so it’s easy to stay fueled. The rural areas outside the towns are filled with holiday homes, ski resorts, and farms, while the mountains are windswept and desolate, with high passes that hold snow year round and plenty of glacier-covered mountain peaks.
Because the tour passes through three countries, it’s possible to try a wide array of regional specialties. While the huts aren’t always the best source of haute cuisine, a handful do excel at cooking. And the towns are also great dining destinations; it’s possible to spend hours hiking in the mountains, and then visit a highly regarded restaurant—perhaps even one with a Michelin star. Towns like Chamonix, Les Contamines, Courmayeur, and Trient offer great restaurants with regional dishes, plus local beer and wine. There’s also the DIY option: stop at a cheese shop, bakery, and deli along the way to build your own backcountry meal of local goods.