The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the world’s most iconic treks. Frequently referred to as the ‘TMB’ for short, the Tour du Mont Blanc circumnavigates the Mont Blanc massif and takes trekkers through France, Italy, and Switzerland over the course of 11 stages. Along the way you’ll experience stunning valleys, high-mountain passes, incredible cuisine, and some of the best hiking in the world.
This guide is designed to be the perfect planning companion for your own Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. We’ve included everything you need to know to have a spectacular trip in one place, so you can be sure you’ve thought of everything.
Read it through in a single go or jump to a specific section below, but rest assured knowing you’ve found the best resource on the internet for planning your Tour du Mont Blanc trek.
Let’s get started!
In this Tour du Mont Blanc Guide
- About the Tour du Mont Blanc
- Planning your perfect TMB
- Stage-by-stage Itinerary for the Tour du Mont Blanc
- Tour du Mont Blanc Accommodation
- Getting to and from the Tour du Mont Blanc
- Luggage storage and transfer on the TMB
- Weather on the TMB
- Food and drink on the TMB
- Maps & Guidebooks
- Budgeting and money
- What to pack for the TMB
- How to train for the Tour du Mont Blanc
About the Tour du Mont Blanc
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is a 170-km trek that circles the Mont Blanc massif. The route is traditionally walked in the anti-clockwise direction over 11-stages. The TMB starts and finishes in the French village of Les Houches, which sits adjacent to the popular mountain town of Chamonix. Along the way the trail passes through seven unique and beautiful valleys, where charming hamlets and regional delicacies abound. Between the valleys, the route traverses a rugged mountain landscape and stunning high alpine scenery.
The TMB is one of the most popular long-distance treks in Europe, with over 10,000 hikers per year embarking on their own walk around Mont Blanc. It is easy to understand why when considering the ease of access to the trek, plentiful accommodation options, and the fact that the route is achievable by most walker’s with decent fitness.
The closest major city to the TMB is Geneva, Switzerland, located just a few hours north by train or bus. The route passes through seven mountain valleys (Val d’Arve, Val d’Montjoie, Vallee des Glaciers, Val Veny, Italian Val Ferret, Swiss Val Ferret, and Vallee du Trient) and visits charming alpine hamlets as it winds its way around Mont Blanc.
Contrary to what many believe, the TMB does not go through the iconic French mountain town of Chamonix, instead taking a trail high-above this famed destination.
How long is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The short answer: it depends!
The Tour du Mont Blanc has many variations and route options as it makes its way around Mont Blanc. These variations include options to tackle challenging mountain passes (see the Fenetre d’Arpette), visit crystal clear mountain lakes (such as Lac Blanc), or to simply avoid some of the more challenging sections of the hike.
However, the traditional route of the TMB is approximately 170-kilometers long.
Of course, many trekkers will opt to take several of the alternate routes, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen. You’ll have the option to walk less or more depending on the weather, your preferences, and the conditions encountered on the trail.
How difficult is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
If you are reasonably fit and have some backpacking experience, you should be well-suited to the physical challenges of the TMB. It is a tough trek that involves long, steep ascents and descents on nearly every stage, but it isn’t too technically demanding. Remember, the Tour du Mont Blanc is a hike not a climb!
Trekkers should be prepared for long days hiking with plenty of elevation change, but frequent services along the route make it more approachable. Weather can add to the challenge, and hikers should be prepared to encounter rain and even snow at any time.
Many of the stages of the TMB are structured such that you’ll begin your hike from the valley floor, trek up and over a mountain pass, and then descend into the next valley to finish the day. This provides a nice rhythm to the Tour du Mont Blanc but can also make for some difficult days.
Make sure you have healthy knees, as the downhill sections can take their toll!
All that being said we truly believe that most walkers who invest a bit of time in training and preparation can complete the Tour du Mont Blanc with no problems and have a great time doing it! Our best advice is to be sure you are in good physical condition and also make sound decisions when you encounter bad weather or snow.
Planning Your Perfect Tour du Mont Blanc
Now that you have a bit of background on the TMB let’s get into the heart of what this guide is all about: helping you plan your perfect Tour du Mont Blanc!
There are lots of things to think about so we’ve organized this guide into several sections. First, we’ll start with some basics such as which direction you should hike in and what time of year will be best for you to tackle the TMB. Then we’ll dive into some more in-depth considerations such as designing your perfect itinerary and selecting your accommodation.
Let’s get started!
Which direction should I hike the TMB?
The TMB is traditionally hiked in an anti-clockwise direction beginning in the French town of Les Houches, adjacent to Chamonix. It is also possible to walk the route in a clockwise direction, and trekkers headed this way typically start in the Swiss town of Champex-Lac.
Below we’ve outlined some pros and cons of hiking in each direction.
Anti-clockwise (starting in Les Houches, France)
- Follows the classic route, good if you’re a sucker for tradition.
- Begins near Chamonix, which is easier to get to from the Geneva Airport than Champex.
- Rewards hikers with jaw-dropping views of Mont Blanc on the final stage.
- More people hike in this direction, so the trail could feel more crowded throughout the day.
Clockwise (starting in Champex, Switzerland)
- Fewer hikers walking in the same direction as you.
- The first few stages are a bit mellower, allowing you to get acclimated before tackling the tougher sections.
- You’ll meet different people at each stop along the way.
- You’ll pass a large wave of people walking in the opposite direction each day, which can get tight on narrow trails.
- Champex (your starting point) has fewer amenities and is less conveniently connected by public transport than Les Houches. If you want to start in Les Houches and hike clockwise, be warned that the first day involves a doozy of a climb, which could be a major shock to the system.
All things considered, you will be sure to have a great time on the TMB regardless of which direction you choose to hike in. Think through your options and make the best decision for yourself!
When should I hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The hiking season for the TMB generally lasts from late June through mid-September. July and August are the busiest months, and accommodation (with the exception of camping) must be booked in advance. There’s a chance you could get away without advance bookings in June and September, but we still wouldn’t recommend it.
Early in the season, you are likely to encounter snow on the trail. Depending on the snow levels, there could be sections that will be impassible and you may need to reroute. Otherwise, expect cool evenings, bright sunny days, and less crowded trails. Keep in mind that most mountain refuges don’t open until late June.
Hikers could still encounter some snow along the trail, but chances of significant snow will diminish as the month wears on. Expect beautiful warm days and abundant wildflowers. This is a popular month to hike.
Another busy month on the trail, hikers can expect snow-free paths and warm, sunny weather. The end of August brings the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc trail race. While the race is very cool, due to crowds and logistics, we recommend you try to avoid hiking during the UTMB.
Expect shorter days and increasingly chilly weather. This is a beautiful time to be on the trail and less crowded, although some accommodation providers may be closed for the season.
The bottom line: The best (and safest) time to hike the TMB is from late-June through early September. You’ll need to make advance bookings if you plan to hike during this time frame.
Designing your TMB Itinerary
Now that you have a sense of which direction you’ll plan to hike in as well as which month you’ll embark of your trip it’s time to start thinking about your specific itinerary!
As we’ve mentioned, the Tour du Mont Blanc in traditionally hiked over the course of 11 days, which will be a great pace for many hikers. However, there are certainly those who will want to tackle the trail in fewer days or savor their time in the Alps and extend their hike over the course of two weeks or more!
Whatever you choose be sure to consider your personal abilities, how much time you’ll have, and what you want your typical days on the TMB to look like. Given the amount of accommodation options on the TMB your itinerary possibilities are nearly endless!
Checkout our general guidelines below as well as our stage-by-stage itinerary for the traditional 11-day Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary to get some ideas of your own.
Here are our general guidelines for thinking about how many days to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc in:
- 8-10 days: Fast pace (8 – 10 hours of hiking each day)
- 10-11 days: Average pace (without a rest day) (6-8 hours of hiking each day)
- 11-12 days: Average pace (with a rest day) (6 – 8 hours of hiking each day)
- 12-14 days: Leisurely pace (6 – 7 hours of hiking each day)
Shortcuts, detours, and rest days on the TMB
One of the great things about trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc is the ability to alter your route based on the conditions encountered. Bad weather, injuries, fatigue, burnout, limited time… there are countless reasons why you may need to use alternative means of transportation to get from one point of the TMB to another.
Fortunately, the trail rarely strays too far from civilization, meaning you have tons of options along the way for when you need them. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common detours and shortcuts used on the TMB, as well as a few great resources for problem-solving your unique situation.
Bellvue Cable Car: This option allows you to eliminate the lion’s share of the climb out of Les Houches on the traditional (anti-clockwise) first stage of the trek. Once you get to the top, follow the signs a short way to rejoin the main trail.
La Maison Vielle Cable Car (and chairlift): If you’d like to avoid the knee-wrenching descent into Courmayeur (Stage 4), you can take a chairlift from La Maison Vieille down to Plan Chécrouit, where there’s a cable car that terminates in the town of Dolonne, across the river from Courmayeur. If needed, you can take a bus from Dolonne to Courmayeur, otherwise it’s just a short walk.
La Flegere Cable Car: This gondola departs directly next to Refuge la Flegere and ends in the village of Les Praz. From there, it’s possible to take a bus or taxi back to Chamonix. This is a good option if you need to cut out the final day of the TMB, or if you want to hike in reverse and avoid the long, long climb out of Les Houches. You could also take the cable car down into Les Praz for more accommodation and services at this stage, and then take it back up the next morning to continue your trek.
La Chapelle to Notre Dame de la Gorge Navette: This free shuttle bus, or “navette,” runs from La Chapelle (a short walk from the trail on the outskirts of Les Contamines) to Notre Dame de la Gorge (at the beginning of Stage 2). This means you can pick it up at the end of Stage 1 to cut out the last hour or so of walking before reaching Les Contamines, and you can also take it from Les Contamines to Notre Dame de la Gorge on the next day to get a bit of a head start (30-60 minutes, depending on where you stay in Les Contamines).
Les Chapieux to Refuge des Mottets Navette: This shuttle allows you to avoid about 2 hours of road walking at the beginning of Stage 3. It only costs a few euros to ride, and you can pick it up at the tourist information office in Les Chapieux. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance (do so the previous day, at the tourist office), as the shuttle fills up quickly in the mornings!
Savda Bus-In and around Courmayeur: This is the bus network you’ll use if you need to take any alternative transportation in Val Ferret or Val Veny (the two valleys in the surrounding area). You can take a bus from La Visaille to Courmayeur to cut out the final hour of walking on Stage 4.
This bus can also be used to reach campgrounds that are not located directly on the TMB route. Additionally, you can use the Savda bus to get to either La Fouly or Champex (although you will need to transfer in Orsières and take a Post Bus the remainder of the journey).
Post bus to La Fouly or Champex: If you are not able to walk between Courmayeur and La Fouly or from La Fouly to Champex, you can use the Swiss Post Bus to get from town to town. Service is relatively frequent and easy to navigate.
SBB Train from Champex to Trient: It’s relatively easy and straightforward to take the Swiss SBB train from Champex to Trient, effectively cutting out all of Stage 8. You need to utilize the local bus in Champex and may need to transfer a few times on the way, but Swiss trains really do live up to their reputation for being timely and efficient.
Keep in mind that there are many more transportation options along the TMB!
We’ve simply listed a few of the most common and straightforward ones. If you need to find a specific detour, we recommend using Rome2Rio or Google Maps as a starting point. Post Bus and SBB also have excellent apps that can be used to plan trips and buy tickets.
NOTE: Many of the buses and cable cars only run during the peak months of the hiking season (July and August). Make sure that you check the websites and timetables before planning to use any of the options listed above.
Stage-by-stage Itinerary for the Tour du Mont Blanc
We recommend most hikers take between 10-12 days to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc, depending on their hiking ability, pace preferences, and weather conditions. The classic itinerary described below takes 11 days to complete and will be the best option for the majority of hikers.
Below, we’ve given you a brief overview of each of the classic eleven stages, as hiked in the anti-clockwise direction. While your specific itinerary may look different, it’s still helpful to look over these stage descriptions to get an idea of what you can expect on the trail.
Be sure to check out our interactive map and elevation profile for the route to get a comprehensive understanding of all of your options!
Stage 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines
Distance & Elevation: 17 km // +1,112 m, -902 m
Estimated hiking time: 5 – 6 hours
Where to stay: Chalet-Hôtel La Chemenaz
This stage is a perfect introduction to the TMB. It’s not too technical or demanding, yet it still gives walkers a decent challenge. You’ll start by climbing fairly steeply up out of Les Houches and past a ski area before topping out at Col de Voza.
From the Col, you’ll descend along dirt then paved roads while enjoying incredible views of the surrounding glaciers and aiguilles. Continue along the road through some very quaint hamlets, before veering off onto a trail (pay attention-this is easy to miss). You’ll end this stage by walking along a mellow riverside path all the way to Les Contamines.
Stage 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux
Distance & Elevation: 19 km // +1,440 m, -1,024 m
Estimated hiking time: 7 – 8 hours
Where to stay: Auberge de la Nova
Start this stage by passing by the Baroque chapel of Notre Dame de la Gorge. From there, you’ll follow an old Roman road steadily uphill before getting a break when the trail levels out and passes through open meadowland. After that, prepare for another steep climb, much of it on stony steps and scree, up first to the saddle of Col du Bonhomme, and then even higher to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. Here you’ll find the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, which makes a great spot to enjoy a break and small meal.
Early in the season, it’s common to encounter snow on this section. Upon reaching the summit of Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, begin your descent towards Les Chapieux. The trail on the way down begins as a steep footpath, eases to join a jeep road for a bit, and then finishes with steep zigzags through a pasture above Les Chapieux.
Stage 3: Les Chapieux to Rifugio Elisabetta
Distance & Elevation: 14 km // +1,079 m, -480 m
Estimated hiking time: 5 – 6 hours
Where to stay: Rifugio Elisabetta
Choose to begin this stage with either a couple of miles of road walking, or by short-cutting it on a bus to Refuge des Mottets. From the refuge, you’ll begin a relatively short and easy climb to the Col de la Seigne.
Reaching the Col is special for a few reasons. First it marks the first of three international borders that you’ll cross on your trek. Standing at the top of the Col, you can look back towards France while also gazing ahead into Italy. Additionally, the wide-open views here are downright marvelous. From Col de la Seigne, enjoy a mellow descent to Rifugio Elisabetta.
Stage 4: Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur
Distance & Elevation: 16 km // +603 m, -1,536 m
Estimated hiking time: 5 – 6 hours
Where to stay: Maison La Saxe
As indicated by the elevation statistics, this stage is dominated by a very long and steep descent into Courmayeur. Before beginning that section, however, you’ll cross through the expansive Vallon de la Lee Blanche, where Lac Combal reflects the magnificent surrounding peaks. From there, you’ll climb for awhile on an undulating path to reach Col Checrouit, where the path begins its long downhill trajectory.
After passing a few ski areas (options to take the cable car down may be available), you’ll complete numerous switchbacks through the woods until you reach the quaint town of Dolonne. Walk through the town of Dolonne and cross the river to enter Courmayeur. Enjoy a wide arrange of excellent food and luxurious accommodation in Courmayeur. This is also a great place to take a rest day.
Stage 5: Courmayeur to Rifugio Bonatti
Distance & Elevation: 12 km // +1,225 m, -415 m
Estimated hiking time: 5 hours
Where to stay: Rifugio Bonatti
The views along this stage are some of the most spectacular of the entire walk, but you have to earn them with a very steep climb at the outset. You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of watching Courmayeur grow ever smaller down below you as you zigzag your way up the hillside to Rifugio Bertone. From the Rifugio, you’ll enjoy an undulating, mellow walk with unparalleled views of Col de la Seigne, Aiguille Noire, Mont Blanc and the Grandes Jorasses.
It’s an incredible experience to look back and see Col de la Seigne far in the distance, knowing you’ve traversed such an expanse in just a few days with your own two feet. The beautiful views continue to abound all the way until you reach Rifugio Bonatti, an atmospheric and memorable place to spend the night.
Stage 6: Rifugio Bonatti to La Fouly
Distance & Elevation: 19 km // +1,032 m, -1,456 m
Estimated hiking time: 6 – 7 hours
Where to stay: Hotel Edelweiss
This stage rewards hikers with another border crossing and more tremendous views. The walk begins with a relatively flat path that crosses a lovely hillside. Eventually, you’ll descend into Val Ferret (the Ferret Valley) before beginning a steep climb past Rifugio Elena and up further until you finally reach the Grand Col Ferret.
At the top of the pass, you’ll enjoy your first views of Switzerland as well as phenomenal views of majestic peaks in every direction. It’s all downhill from there, much of which is pretty manageable, save for a few steep sections. There’s a rather uninspiring stretch of road walking at the very end of the day, but the charming town of La Fouly makes it all worth it.
Stage 7: La Fouly to Champex
Distance & Elevation: 15 km // +729 m, -860 m
Estimated hiking time: 4 – 5 hours
Where to stay: Au Vieux Champex
All of the guidebooks will tell you that this is the easiest day of the TMB (which is technically true), but don’t expect this stage to be completely effortless. Sometimes the “easiest” days can end up feeling really tough if we go into them with too cavalier a mindset. The first two thirds of this stage are quite mellow indeed; you’ll wind your way gently downhill through a quintessential Swiss valley filled with small farms and picturesque hamlets.
A substantial climb to Champex waits for you at the end of the stage, however. Even though it really is much less strenuous than the ascents of previous stages, it can be a shock to the body at the end of the day. Fortunately, the trail stays in the shade of the trees for much of the way up, and you’ll also get to experience the many wooden sculptures that are interspersed throughout the woods.
Stage 8: Champex to Col de la Forclaz
Distance & Elevation: 14 km // +1,125 m, -1,066 m
Estimated hiking time: 4 – 5 hours
Where to stay: Hotel de la Forclaz
On stage 8, the main TMB route follows an undulating path up to the Alp Bovine and then descends to Col de la Forclaz, but there are quite a few options to consider here.
The Fenetre d’Arpette route is a popular variant for those seeking challenge and adventure. With either route, you’ll also have a few options to choose from when it comes to your stopping point.
For a shorter day, you can stop at Hotel de la Forclaz or you can continue on further to either Le Puety or Trient. There isn’t a clear “best” choice for what to do on stage 8, but it is important to think about what is best for you in terms of challenge, distance, and accommodation.
Stage 9: Col de la Forclaz to Tre-le-Champ
Distance & Elevation: 14 km // +1,112 m, -1,229 m
Estimated hiking time: 5 – 6 hours
Where to stay: Auberge la Boerne
This stage isn’t without physical demands, gaining and losing quite a bit of elevation in a relatively short distance. While most of the climb maintains a grade that isn’t crazy steep, the descent is another story. Even if you don’t love the arduous nature of stage 9, you’ll almost certainly be smitten by the scenery.
Not only does summiting Col de Balme mean you’ll celebrate your third and final border crossing (back into France), but you’ll also get incredible views of Mont Blanc, back in sight for the first time in several days. Seeing Mont Blanc again and being back on French soil will likely remind you that your trek is nearing its end. Make sure to savor the final two stages of this incredible experience!
Stage 10: Tre-le-Champ to La Flegere
Distance & Elevation: 7 km // +892 m, -446 m
Estimated hiking time: 4 hours
Where to stay: Refuge de la Flegere
Allow yourself to sleep in on this stage, as you’ll have just a short walk ahead of you. Better yet, get to Refuge la Flegere early and enjoy a walk to the nearby Lac Blanc and a meal or beverage at the refuge. The final two days of the TMB follow the Grand Balcon Sud, a balcony trail with unrivaled views of Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks. In other words, you’re in for a real treat.
Instead of being famous for this fact, however, stage 10 is perhaps better known as the “ladder stage,” and I’m betting you can guess why. To reach the high point, you’ll need to climb a series of ladders, catwalks, and platforms that go on for longer than you might expect. If you don’t have experience with this kind of thing and you also have a fear of heights, we recommend taking the Col des Montets variante.
This route takes about the same amount of time and still has great views. If you choose to conquer the ladders, make sure you do so in good weather conditions, use caution and common sense, and you’ll be just fine. Heck, you might even find the ladders to be pretty fun! Upon reaching Refuge la Flegere, join in the festive revelry of your fellow hikers marking their final night on the trail.
Stage 11: La Flegere to Les Houches
Distance & Elevation: 17 km // +969 m, -1,821 m
Estimated hiking time: 6 – 7 hours
Where to stay: Hotel Le Morgane (Chamonix)
The final stage of the TMB is a big one in every way. Even though it’s dominated by downhill walking, the physical demands shouldn’t be overlooked. Start the walk on a very mellow uphill grade, before beginning a steeper climb past a ski area until reaching Col du Brevent. Take in the scenery (and catch your breath) here, but keep in mind that the best is yet to come. Climb further on more rugged terrain until you reach the almost-summit of Le Brevent (you can take a 5-minute detour to get to the actual top if you’d like).
At this point, get ready to be completely overwhelmed by the views. From Le Brevent you’ll have an unobstructed and totally breathtaking vantage point from which to take in the entire Mont Blanc range. Take time to study every intricate glacier and craggy spire before finally tearing yourself away to make your way down towards Les Houches.
Fortunately, you’ll continue to enjoy the scenery for awhile as you descend on a very long and very steep path. As you near Les Houches, the trail enters the woods where it passes a zoo and the large Christ Roi statue. Finally, the path spits you out onto the road and perhaps the least scenic part of Les Houches. Keep walking to reach the more charming part of town, then stop and toast to your remarkable accomplishment!
Tour du Mont Blanc Accommodation
There are accommodation options along the TMB to suit every budget and travel style. While not all of these options are available at every stage of the route, you can certainly customize your itinerary to fit your needs.
It’s nearly inevitable that you’ll need to stay in a mountain refuge on at least one stage of your trek. Be prepared for basic, communal facilities, but don’t fear! These special places often yield the most memorable stays of the entire trip.
We’ve provided a brief explanation of each of the options below:
Hotels on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Typically small and independently owned, the hotels along the TMB serve up a dose of luxury to the weary hiker. Unless otherwise noted by the hotel, expect all of the usual amenities (hot shower, private bathroom, breakfast offered, linens and towels provided, etc). Hotels typically cost upwards of €60 per person. For an additional fee, many hotels offer half-pension (AKA half-board or demi-pension) which includes dinner and breakfast. A few hotels along the route have dortoirs in addition to private rooms. Dortoirs are dormitories that offer a good budget option.
Refuges on the Tour du Mont Blanc
We consider a stay in a mountain hut to be a highlight of any TMB trek. Set in stunning and remote locations, the ambiance at the refuges (or rifugios in Italian) can’t be beat. Half-pension gets you a bed in a dorm (linens not provided), a delicious communal dinner, and a basic breakfast. Some refuges also offer private rooms (with shared bathrooms). Expect to pay around €45 per person for half-board in a dorm.
Gites d’Etape and Auberges
These are simple guest houses offering basic, dorm-style accommodation. Half-pension (dinner and breakfast) is typically included in the price. There are shared bathroom facilities with hot showers. Bed linens are usually provided. These are a good option for those who want to stick to a smaller budget, but don’t want to carry camping gear. Expect to pay around €50 per person for half-pension.
Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Although they are the cheapest accommodation option along the TMB, the campgrounds on the route are quite luxurious. All provide sinks and toilets, and many offer hot showers and even WiFi! Expect to pay around €12 per person to camp. Note: you cannot camp on every stage of the TMB.
Do I need to book my accommodation in advance for the TMB?
This is a question that creates stress and anxiety for many hikers as they are planning for their TMB adventure. The short answer is that you should try to book your accommodation as early as possible, but the longer answer is a bit more nuanced.
We’ve broken it down for you here, so you can plan with more confidence and less worry.
- Mountain refuges are the most important to book ahead of time. Many of these huts are quite small, so they fill up quickly. Many refuges accept reservations year-round, typically allowing you to book up to 12 months in advance. Some, however, do not respond to reservation requests during the winter months (September-March, typically). You should still try to email or call the refuge to reserve your spot as soon as you know your itinerary, even if it’s prior to March.
- Gites, auberges, and guesthouses should be your next priority when it comes to advance bookings. This is especially true in the smaller villages where accommodation options are limited, and/or if you have specific preferences for your lodging (ex; private room, linens provided, etc). As soon as you’ve made your travel plans, reach out to the gite/guesthouse (or book online). For peak summer months, it’s optimal to have these bookings made by the end of March.
- For larger hotels, you have a bit more wiggle room when it comes to making reservations. You should definitely still try to do it as early as possible, but they have more rooms and are often located in places with greater availability of lodging options.
You do not need to make advance reservations for any of the campgrounds on the TMB. In fact, we recommend that you don’t. This will allow you to maximize the freedom and flexibility that camping provides, and it will make it much less complicated to check in at the campgrounds.
Booking your accommodation for the Tour du Mont Blanc
When it comes to booking your TMB accommodation, there’s good news and bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. There’s no single, streamlined booking platform for all of the refuges and/or accommodation providers along the route. In fact, the way you book will vary greatly from place to place.
Many refuges, hotels, and gites have their own websites with easy online booking platforms. Some require that you send an email or complete a contact form on their website. There are still a few refuges and gites that may require you to book over the phone, but that is becoming increasingly rare.
The good news?
The Autour du Mont Blanc website has a comprehensive list of TMB accommodation with links to booking websites and phone numbers for a majority of the refuges, gites, and hotels along the route. This website makes it very quick and easy to find and book most of your accommodation.
You can always send your request in English. If the accommodation provider doesn’t speak English, they will often use Google Translate to send the reply. For those booking by phone, make sure to ask at the beginning of the call if English is okay. If not, send your request via email.
Getting to and from the Tour du Mont Blanc
The TMB is relatively easy to get to given its close proximity to Geneva, Switzerland. Flight connections from the rest of Europe, the US, and other international destinations are frequent. Travel by train to Geneva is also straightforward, if not a bit more time consuming than air travel. We recommend booking you flights as soon as you are able, as fares during the peak summer season can be quite high.
Getting to Chamonix/Les Houches from Geneva
The vast majority of walkers will get to the start of the Tour du Mont Blanc by first flying into the Geneva Airport (GVA). There are frequent flights to Geneva from the rest of Europe as well as a good number of flights from the U.S.
Once you’ve landed in Geneva, you’ll have several options for getting to Chamonix/Les Houches:
- BlaBlaBus (formerly OuiBus) – We found this to be the cheapest option and would highly recommend BlaBlaBus. The service departs directly from the Geneva Airport and will take you to the Chamonix Sud bus station, in the heart of Chamonix. Expect the journey to take about two hours.
- AlpyBus – AlpyBus runs a door to door transfer service from the Geneva Airport to hotels in the Chamonix Valley. It is more costly than BlaBlaBus, but also more convenient since they’ll drop you directly at your hotel (or campground!).
- Mountain Drop-offs – Similar to AlpyBus, Mountain Drop-offs runs a door to door transfer service for walkers arriving in Geneva. Very highly rated.
All of the options above will also be able to transport you back to the Geneva Airport at the end of the TMB. Many also offer discounts for booking a return ticket.
Getting to Champex from Geneva (for clockwise TMB hikers)
If you plan on walking the Tour du Mont Blanc in the clockwise direction, you’ll be starting in the Swiss town of Champex. You’ll likely begin your travel by first flying into the Geneva Airport (GVA). Once you’ve landed in Geneva, you’ll need to connect via train and local bus to reach Champex.
Unlike Chamonix, you have few options other than public transportation to reach Champex. However, Swiss trains are renowned for being on time and generally pleasant. Here are the instructions for reaching Champex from the Geneva Airport:
- Step One – Train to Martigny: Upon exiting the airport in Geneva you’ll need to catch a train to the Swiss town of Martigny. Most of these trains will be signed in the direction of Brig, so be sure to inquire that the train you are boarding stops in Martigny. The journey should take around 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- Step Two – Train to Sembrancher: From Martigny you’ll take a 15-minute train ride to the town of Sembrancher.
- Step Three – Train to Orsières: From Sembrancher, you’ll catch another train to the town of Orsieres. This is a short, 10-minute ride from Sembrancher.
- Step Four – Local bus to Champex: Unfortunately, Champex is not on a train line so you’ll have to complete the final leg of your journey via the local bus. From outside the Orsieres train station, you’ll need to catch bus #271 to Champex. The ride takes approximately 30 minutes and will drop you conveniently in the center of Champex.
The Swiss train provider, SBB, has an excellent website to help you plan your journey. We also recommend downloading the SBB app to your phone, which is very helpful for viewing timetables while traveling. Rome2Rio is also an excellent resource for mapping out your specific trip.
Luggage storage and transfer on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Many walkers will be traveling with more luggage than they might want to carry for the entire TMB. Storing extra luggage or having it transferred to your next stop is a great way to avoid carrying excess weight on your trek, while still allowing you to have everything you need for the remainder of your trip. This is especially true if you plan on traveling elsewhere on your holiday.
Luggage Storage on the TMB
Unfortunately, there are no luggage storage facilities at the train station in Chamonix.
Insider tip: Walkers can store their extra luggage at the Auberge du Manoir, which charges just €10 per day (free if you stay there before and after your hike).
Other hotels and accommodation may store your baggage if you have a reservation before and after you walk, but you’ll want to confirm this ahead of time.
Luggage Transfer on the TMB
If you’re concerned about the difficulty of the TMB and have room in your budget, using a luggage transfer service can be an excellent way to reduce your effort on the trail and make your trek more enjoyable. Both of the companies we’ve recommended below come highly rated and allow you to customize services to your itinerary and preferences.
Each morning of your trek, you’ll simply leave your bag in the designated storage location to be picked up by 8:00am. Your luggage carrier will deliver your bags to the next stop on your itinerary by 6:00pm each evening.
Keep in mind that they will not be able to deliver your luggage to any of the mountain refuges that are inaccessible by road (including Rifugio Bonatti and Rifugio Elisabetta). Additionally, they will not drop your luggage at private residences or AirBnBs.
- Besson Taxi Mont Blanc: This carrier typically charges between €150-€300 for transfers, depending on how many days you use their services and how many people are in your group. They charge per bag and have a strict policy that bags may not exceed 15kg. This company also can provide shuttle services between stops on the TMB, if needed.
- Mont Blanc Bags: Mont Blanc Bags specializes entirely in luggage transfer on the TMB, meaning they are organized and have the capacity to service over 160 locations. Prices start at €199.00 for one bag and up to 15 days. Bags may not exceed 18kg. Unfortunately, they only provide services to those hiking in the traditional anticlockwise direction, and not those who choose to trek in the clockwise direction.
Tour du Mont Blanc Weather
Mountain weather is always volatile, and what you’ll experience on the Tour du Mont Blanc is no different. Conditions can change very rapidly in the Alps, meaning that you can find yourself in the middle of a whiteout blizzard or on an exposed ridge during a thunderstorm without much warning.
However, for the most part the weather during the hiking season is ridiculously lovely. Expect warm, sunny days, cool evenings, and not too much rain. You should also need to be prepared for very hot temperatures, very cold temperatures, rain, and storms (and you could even see all of these in the same day!) Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm or without the right gear is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions:
- The Meteoblue App is arguably the best resource for predicting the weather. It allows you to see the forecast for specific peaks or coordinates, plus it has excellent radar displays and wind predictions. Check it every time you have cell service. Chamonix-meteo also gives detailed and (mostly) accurate forecasts for the Mont Blanc region.
- If you’re ever unsure about whether you should hike in the current conditions, it can be helpful to ask the warden at the nearest mountain refuge. When in doubt, it’s usually better to air on the side of caution and give the mountains the respect they deserve. You can almost always find a detour or shortcut to get back on track the following day.
- Start hiking early in the day! Not only will you enjoy gorgeous sunrises, get to your refuge or campground before the crowds, and avoid the worst of the heat, but you’ll also greatly reduce your risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms.
Food & Drink on the TMB
One of the many wonderful things about the Tour du Mont Blanc is that you don’t need to worry about carrying (and eating) eleven days’ worth of underwhelming freeze-dried backpacker meals. Due to the fact that the trail passes through many towns and villages, you will be able to resupply every few days.
For budget travelers, it is possible to self-cater and keep your food and drink costs quite reasonable. You’ll need to bring your own camp stove and cooking equipment if you plan on fixing most of your own meals along the TMB. You can purchase baguettes, good local cheese and charcuterie, fresh fruit, and delicious pastries for very reasonable prices.
Most of the shops along the route have convenient foods like instant noodles and canned soups, as well as dried fruits, nuts, energy bars, and other snacks so you should have no problem putting together quick and delicious meals and snacks along the route. Some hikers choose to use some backpacker meals and supplement with foods they purchase along the way.
Additionally (for those with slightly deeper pockets), nearly all of the hotels, gites, and refuges offer the option of purchasing meals. You can just show up for lunch or a snack, but you’ll need to order ahead of time for dinner. Most refuges and many hotels and gites offer the option of half-board (demi pension), which includes dinner and breakfast.
Dinners at the mountain refuges are typically indulgent, multi-course affairs. Expect a soup or salad as a starter, a hearty pasta dish as the main, and either a cheese course or dessert to finish. Breakfast is much simpler, typically consisting of a selection of breads, cold cereals, juice, and coffee or tea.
Whichever way you approach your food and drink strategy, we think you’ll find that trekking in the Alps is every bit as much a culinary delight as a natural one!
The restaurants and accommodation providers along the TMB are generally quite willing to provide a vegetarian option. Those who are vegan, gluten-free, or have a specialized diet will have a harder time finding suitable meals. While certain places will be able to accommodate your needs, that will be the exception and not the norm. Make sure to inform all of your lodging providers of your dietary needs in advance, as they will be much more likely to accommodate you. That being said, we’d recommend bringing along plenty of your own food as a back up.
All of the hotels, gites, and campgrounds provide potable water (eau potable). You will pass through many villages with public drinking fountains, but make sure to plan ahead and carry 1-2 liters of water each day. Due to the presence of agricultural activity near large swaths of the trail, we do not recommend drinking any water from natural streams without filtering it first.
If you need to purchase fuel for a camp stove, your best bet is to get this in Chamonix or Les Houches. Both towns have outdoor retailers that sell a few different kinds of fuel, and will be able to accommodate most standard stove types. It is unlikely that you’ll be able to find it at most of the stops you’ll pass through along the TMB, so plan on getting enough fuel to last your entire trek.
Maps & Guidebooks for the Tour du Mont Blanc
Carrying a good map is essential on the Tour du Mont Blanc. While the trail is generally well-marked and easy to follow, there are countless trail junctions, detours, and confusing sections that require some form of navigation.
When we hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc we did not rely on traditional, paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred utilizing GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where we were in relation to it. Cell phone service is very limited along the TMB, so it is critical to have a good offline mapping app such as Gaia GPS to ensure you’ll be able to view the map at any point along the route.
With all this considered, we still recommend carrying a paper map. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you.
We recommend bringing the IGN 3630 OT Chamonix and IGN 3531 ET St-Gervais with you, as they provide a detailed view of the TMB route. A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.
As for guidebooks, you’ll have several excellent options to choose from. The first, and the one we recommend, is Kev Reynolds excellent Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete two-way trekking guide published by the renowned guidebook company, Cicerone.
Another good option is the Trailblazer Guides Tour du Mont Blanc guidebook. Trail Blazer guides are known for their excellent maps and exhaustive list of accommodation options.
Budgeting & Money on the Tour du Mont Blanc
At first glance, the Tour du Mont Blanc might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating.
The beautiful thing about the TMB, however, is that it’s pretty much up to you how expensive you want to make it. There are hikers who choose to spend more to take guided tours, stay in private rooms at upscale hotels and huts, and buy all of their meals at restaurants along the way. Others take the extremely frugal route, camping as much as possible, cooking their own meals, and minimizing expenses wherever they can.
Regardless of your budget and travel style, it’s important to get an idea of what to expect in terms of expenses so you can plan accordingly and avoid any stressful situations when it comes to money.
Additionally, you might find that an experience like the TMB is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel.
In this section, we’ve broken down the typical costs for things like transportation, accommodation, and food. Obviously, prices will vary from place to place, but this should give you a good starting point.
- Average Hut Price: €54 (per person)
- Average Campsite Price: €12 (per person)
- Hotel in Chamonix for before and after the hike: €85 (per night)
- Hotel in Courmayeur for rest day: €132 (per night)
- Bus from Geneva to Chamonix: €43 (round trip)
- Bus from Chamonix to Les Houches: €3 (each way)
- Shuttle Bus from Les Chapieux to Refuge Des Mottets: €3
- Average one-way cable car ticket: €20
- Food & Drink
- Beer: €6
- Bottle of Wine: €10
- Baguette: €2
- Breakfast/Lunch Mountain Hut: €15
- Dinner at Mountain Hut: €25
- Coffee/Tea: €3
- Sandwich: €10
- Stove Fuel: €7
- Laundry: €4 for wash and dry
- Maps: €40
Cash or Credit?
While an increasing number of accommodation providers, shops, and other services are beginning to accept credit cards, cash is still the primary payment method used along the TMB. It is important to carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses for several days, as ATMs are infrequent along the trail.
Below we’ve provided a list of stops along the TMB that have ATMs:
- Les Houches
- Les Contamines
- La Fouly
*These stops require a short detour from the main TMB route.
Currency on the TMB
The TMB crosses the borders of three different countries, meaning that you’ll need to switch from using Euros in France to Swiss Francs in Switzerland then back to Euros upon entering Italy. While most places in Switzerland will accept Euros, you’ll be better off using Francs if you can.
What to pack for the Tour du Mont Blanc
Making smart choices about what to pack (and what to leave behind) is a vital part of setting yourself up for a successful and enjoyable Tour du Mont Blanc experience. It’s simple- the heavier your pack, the harder your effort. However, with a little thoughtful planning, you can keep your pack weight manageable while still ensuring you have everything you need to be comfortable on the trail and while relaxing at the refuges, campgrounds, and villages along the way.
Our best advice for packing for the Tour du Mont Blanc is to adopt the mantra less is more. Here’s a few tips for ensuring you pack weight is manageable:
- You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. You’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
- Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need. This is especially true for those camping along the route.
- Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.
A few of our must-brings for the Tour du Mont Blanc are outlined below:
- Trekking poles: You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads
- A good backpack: Backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters. Those staying in refuges will find that 30-40L is perfect
- Down jacket: We’ve found this to be a perfect piece of gear for the Tour du Mont Blanc. It can be quite chilly in the Alps in the early morning and evenings, but a heavy fleece or bulky jacket can really sabotage a lightweight pack.
- Ear plugs: A must for sleeping in mountain refuges!
- Good base layers: A good base layer is an essential part of any complete TMB gear list. We always bring a high-quality merino wool base layer and recommend all TMB hikers do the same.
How to train for the Tour du Mont Blanc
With just a bit of advance work and preparation, you can make sure you’re physically ready to have your best experience on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Because of its relatively low elevation and minimal technicality, the TMB is a pretty approachable long-distance trek for the casual hiker. That being said, it’s still a serious physical challenge that will push your body to new limits.
You will enjoy your trip infinitely more if you train ahead of time. This is even more true if you plan on camping (and carrying the heavier backpack that goes with it).
Here is a rough outline of a training plan to get you in shape for the TMB:
- Six Months Before Your Trip: Build the Base
Obviously, everyone will approach the TMB with varying levels of fitness, past injuries, and overall health needs. You’ll know your individual situation best, but you should generally focus on building your aerobic endurance in the months leading up to your trip. Start to incorporate longer bouts of walking or running into your regular fitness routine.
- Three Months Before Your Trip: Go Uphill
Ideally, at this point in your training you should increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. If possible, try to hit the trails once a week and select hikes that would take two hours or longer with at least 1,500 feet of elevation gain.
- Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack
In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible. Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.
- One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run
If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods. If you aren’t planning on camping along the TMB you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking. This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to hiking for consecutive days in a row.
Follow our outline above and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter!
If you’ve read our Guide above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience on the Tour du Mont Blanc. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the TMB to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip and don’t hesitate to comment with your questions below!
- Tour du Mont Blanc Packing List – Be sure you’ve got everything you need!
- Tour du Mont Blanc Logistics – Don’t forget the small details!
- How to Navigate on the TMB – Turn your smartphone into a GPS!
- How to find all of your campgrounds on the TMB – Know where you are and where you’re going!
- TMB Trip Report – Know what to expect!
- 10 Essentials for the Tour du Mont Blanc- The quick and dirty basics
- Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc – The essential resource!
- Tour du Mont Blanc Photo Galley – Find some inspiration!
- Tour du Mont Blanc Shop – Pick up a souvenir, art print, or T-shirt!
- How to hike the TMB for (nearly) free – save BIG on your TMB costs!
- How Much It Cost Us to Hike the TMB
- Tour du Mont Blanc Map
- How to Train for the Tour du Mont Blanc
- Tour du Mont Blanc Accommodation and Refuge Guide