The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) trail circumnavigates Western Europe’s highest mountain, the mighty Mont Blanc, up craggy passes, over pastoral saddles and through surreal valleys of France, Italy and Switzerland. It offers fantastic hiking that is both scenic and challenging while providing the allure of great vino, a hot meal and a comfortable bed in a charming village at the end of the trail every evening. The route winds through famous mountain villages such as Chamonix and Courmayeur as well as smaller villages that will leave you contemplating dairy farming as a plausible profession.
There are countless hiking options of varying lengths and difficulty as well as many options to leverage buses and lifts to navigate the hike around the massif. And both directions of traveling the loop offer their benefits and challenges. You can plan on about 10 days of actual hiking give or take your speed of walking, and it is worth considering an option that includes 1-3 “rest” days to check out some of the bigger villages and side trails along the way. Some travelers carry their own gear, but there are plenty of guide and transport companies that will transport bags so you only need to hike with a day bag. And with plenty of refuges, some of the best potable water supplies and villages along the way, day packs can be light. Most stay in hotels, auberges or refuges so carrying a tent or even a sleeping bag is not required. Guided trips are available and may be the way to go for those less experienced with walking and hiking, but we found the navigation and hiking pretty straightforward and enjoyed the flexibility of a self-guided version where we walked at our own pace but met up with a group often on the trail as well as at the end of the day.
The surreal scenery makes this hike one of the best that we have ever done, but that is not the only reason why this hike is consistently rated one of the best in the world. Here are some more reasons to love it:
- Hiking thru three stunning countries with different cultures, food and languages- France, Italy, Switzerland.
- Trekking 132 miles on well marked trails with about 32K of vertical (up and down) not only gives one a sense of accomplishment, but burns a lot of calories on the gorgeous trails and allows for guilt-free enjoyment of the wonderful food and wine every night.
- Days are filled with surreal natural beauty.
- The only sound you are likely to hear are the bucolic chimes of cow bells or the rush of running mountain water.
- Gorgeous wildflower strewn fields abound in alpine back country.
- No need to worry about grizzly bears. The only wildlife you should see on the trail are more benign- ibex, marmots, hawks
- A hot shower and comfortable bed awaits every night in charming hotels and villages.
- Eating is taken seriously in Europe. (France takes two hour lunches and many places are closed from 12-3 pm.) In the Alps, regardless of where you are whether at the top of a col or in a valley where there appears to be nothing for miles, refuges are plentiful on the TMB offering wonderful food, drinks and shelter.
- Plenty of vino, cheese and great food every night.
There are so many ways to do this hike- on your own, guided or self-guided. We used Sherpa Expeditions, and they were fantastic. Sherpa offers a self-guided model that involves transporting your luggage every day but one. We also started the trek with 8 other people and stayed in the same hotels every night making for a social but flexible trek. So for those that want to hike at different speeds, this is a great option.
The TMB is definitely one of the best hikes in the world and one of our best experiences this year between the stunning views, fresh, clean mountain air, fabulous food and wine, charming villages in three of our favorite countries! We loved it so much we will likely repeat this trek sometime in the future. Stay tuned for more details on the TMB.