Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the most classic hiking trips in the world and it has earned that veneration. The tour was originally created by linking a series of high alpine huts and lodges that were, and still are, used to access the precarious climb to Mont Blanc’s summit. In recent years however, the enigmatic mountain’s draw has led to a boom of fine dining and four star hotels in the villages that surround the mountain. Mont Blanc is now a world class destination and a fine addition to any adventurer’s bucket list.
Mont Blanc. Not enough words can be written about the mysterious mountain. In the past it has served as a muse for romantic poets and painters such as Percy Shelley. It represented the most impossible goal for the first brave mountaineers and guides. Today the mountain remains just as impenetrable and mysterious seeming, with its rigid rock spires rising thousands of feet into the sky and its precarious and massive glaciers hanging over the valleys below. The Mont Blanc region is appropriately one of the most classic destinations in Europe which has inspired multiple generations of adventurers.
One of the unique charms of the Tour du Mont Blanc is that it passes through Italy, France, and Switzerland in it’s circumnavigation of the massive Mont Blanc. You will hike over mountain passes, and in doing so you move between countries and cultures. It is one of the great joys to start your morning with a pain au chocolat and cafe au lait then end the day with a bottle of Italian wine and a large plate of antipasti.
The Aiguille du Midi is one of the engineering masterpieces of the 20th century. This precarious looking lift rises thousands of feet up from the Chamonix center, up to a subsidiary peak of Mont Blanc. The lift passes over impressive glaciers and the viewing platform at the summit provides a direct look towards the snow packed summit of the Mont Blanc.
Champex is a lakeside village in Switzerland that is central to the more pastoral side of the Mont Blanc. The sleepy village is a largely forgotten ski area built around the shores of a high alpine lake. The simple Hotel Belvedere is perched on the edge of the town with stunning views of the far off mountain, the Grand Combine. The Belvedere exemplifies the charm of simple mountain living, with a beautiful wooden interior, a breakfast of local foods, and home cooked dinners prepared by the Hotel owner Monsieur Favre himself. A stay in Champex feels like a trip back to a simpler time, when the imposing Alps were still a great mystery.
Of the many reasons to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc, the village of Chamonix remains the most central. The traditional start and end destination of the epic trek, Chamonix is not only a village worth seeing but also one worth returning to. Chamonix is a place that is critical to mountaineering history, with the Mont Blanc massif looming above the town it is easy to feel the same inspiration to explore the mountains that so captivated the French and English mountaineers of the 19th Century. In addition the village is a bustling and vibrant tourist hub, with limitless shopping and eating options and live music filling the air into evening.