The iconic Tour du Mont Blanc Trek (TMB) is not only one of the most popular hikes in Europe but one of the best treks in the world!
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The 170km (119 miles), 8000m+ (256,247 ft) elevation gain around the Mount Blanc Massif, the highest peak (4810 m) (15,781 ft) in Western Europe, is epic.
You’ll hike the classic route that takes you through the alps in France, Italy and Switzerland.
The TMB is one of the best long-distance hikes in the world and is at the top of many hikers’ bucket list and for good reason. It’s a beautiful hut-to-hut hike where you’ll have a warm bed and a hearty meal waiting for you every night.
Although you don’t go to the actual Mont Blanc Massif itself (that involves mountaineering), it’s still tough and not for beginner hikers.
It will challenge you both physically and mentally, but with a little bit of planning, you can choose how much of a challenge you want.
3 Ways You Can Hike Around the Mont Blanc Massif
1. Guided Trek
This is a good option if you want to leave the route-finding to a skilled guide and also want local knowledge. Our French guides will identify wild flowers, point out things you’d never spot on your own.
A guided tour is also a good option if you enjoy the camaraderie of meeting fellow hikers. We arrange guided tours on request if you already have a small group.
Find out more about the difference between guided and self-guided tours.
2. Self-Guided Trek
There are also self-guided trek of the Tour du Mont Blanc, in which a tour operator consults with you and makes all the arrangements best suited to your needs and wants. This is one of my favourite ways of doing treks.
You can avoid the mistakes that we did by planning it all ourselves – see below. After booking this tour on my own, I now almost always choose self-guided hikes when hiking in an area that I’m unfamilar with.
Because I’m such a big fan, we offer self-guided 6, 7 or 10-day tours. You choose whether you want to stay in huts or private rooms. And we offer luggage transfers if you want to hike with only your day pack.
Self-guided hiking tours are a good option if you want the flexibility of hiking at your own pace and starting when you want to. They’re also a good option if you want to spend quality time with the person(s) you’re hiking with.
Well-marked trails, and a busy route make it unlikely that you’ll get lost. But still, we recommend having GPS tracks so that you’re aware of the optional routes.
We provide an in-person briefing in Chamonix, so that you get your last-minute questions answered and the most up-to-date trail conditions.
Plus, we share our favourite locations, GPS and instructions with shortcuts and alternative routes when available. Butt you still get to figure out a few things on your own.
For example, you choose whether to hike the easier path or more difficult like the ladder sections, which are optional.
I personally love this stuff. But I don’t love researching and booking accommodations in advance and trying to figure out everything on my own from scratch. It’s very time-consuming. I’d rather rely on experts but then have the flexibility of hiking by myself.
Related Reading: The Haute Route: Hiking Tour
3. Hiking It On Your Own
Another alternative is to plan it on your own. It’s the most time-consuming but also the cheapest option, especially if you’re camping. Below you’ll find how to plan your own trek if you’re staying in mountain huts.
Check out our Mont Blanc Hiking Art:
Resources for Planning Your Own Hike
If you choose the do-it-yourself option, I recommend that you plan it using a combination of this site: http://www.autourdumontblanc.com/en/, and the TMB: Complete Two-Way Trekking Guide Book by Cicerone Guides. And of course a good map and GPS tracks.
Check out this video of the Tour du Mont Blanc:
You’re also able to book the huts directly through their site via email. This is, however very time-consuming, and the accommodations often take several days to respond – if they respond at all. Some of them are so busy that it can take them a while to get back to you. On the flip side, it’s the second cheapest option.
The cheapest option for doing the TMB is camping. However, as I didn’t camp, I, unfortunately, can’t offer any advice on that.
Where Does the Tour du Mont Blanc Start and End?
We start our 6 and 7-day tours in the charming village of Les Houches and our 10-day tours start in Chamonix.
All tours end in the Chamonix valley regardless of the length.
TMB Insider Tip: If you start in Les Houches ensure you buy everything you need in Chamonix first. It’s a very small village where only very basic supplies are available. I forgot my iPhone cable and had to go back to Chamonix to get a new one
Choose the Direction you will Trek
The classic Tour du Mont Blanc route is done counter-clockwise. The advantage of doing it this way is that you’ll keep running into the same people. If you want to hike with others, it’s easy enough to meet up.
If you prefer to hike more on your own, then choose to hike it in a clockwise direction, the opposite of how most hikers do it.
You can see a map of the tour here from Wikipedia.
How Long Does it Take to Hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?
Don’t start by saying that you will do the trek in so and so many days. Take a look at the itineraries, distances and m in elevation gain for the self-guided tours, and see whether the 6, 7 or 10-day tour is the best choice for you.
Our 6 and 7-day tours are the easiest (although still not easy). You’ll take public transportation – buses and lifts, skipping the less scenic parts. Our 10-day tour is the most challenging with more hiking and fewer transfers.
We also offer the option of taking a rest day in Courmayeur, which is approximately halfway through the tour.
For a truly epic experience, do our half-day guided glacier tour from Courmayeur, which will take you above the clouds and much closer to Mont Blanc than you get on the trail.
How Difficult is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
That really depends on your fitness and experience level.
If You’re Relatively New to Hiking
If you’re new to hiking and the TMB is your first long-distance hike, it’s a good idea to start with a 6 or 7-day tour because you hike less each day.
The 6 and 7-day tours are a good way to ease into long-distance hiking if you don’t hike regularly but are still in OK shape. Note you need to be active. If you’re not already active, then you’ll find the TMB too difficult.
If You’re a More Experienced Hiker
If you’re in good shape, hike regularly and love a challenge, then the 10-day tour is an excellent choice for you.
Of course, you may be limited by vacation time. In that case, you could still choose a shorter tour, then opt to hike some sections instead of taking the transfer. Or ask us for additional route options at the in-person briefing that we offer. That way, you’ll make it harder.
You can use these guidelines, even if you’re planning on doing it on your own.
Check out this Video of the TMB Tour:
What I Didn’t Like About Booking Through the TMB Site:
Missing Info About the TMB
The disadvantage to the aforementioned TMB site though is that it doesn’t provide the elevation gain, nor the distance. It’s also only possible to book some refuges by phone. And the ones you book by email can be slow (if they bother) responding to you. Some also don’t take reservations until spring. Plus, not all the huts are listed on the site.
TMB Booking Process
Also, each booking is dependent on the other. I.e. you want to have your reservation secured for Days 1,2, 3 before you book for Day 4. That way you ensure that you don’t have too short a day or too long.
Furthermore, after we confirmed our booking, we were contacted a few days later by two refuges to tell us they were full. As a result, we had to start our bookings from scratch. This happened twice.
It took me hours and hours to plan our TMB adventure, then replan, then re-plan our route again. It’s doable but very time-consuming. It took us approximately 12 hours to book and plan everything. And it was incredibly frustrating.
An Alternative Solution to Organizing Your Epic Trek
That’s why if you’re short on time, I highly recommend doing a self-guided or guided tour of the Tour du Mont Blanc. You let someone else make all the time-consuming bookings for you. Note: even for us, the bookings are time-consuming.
After planning the TMB on my own the first time doing this once, I wouldn’t do it again. That’s why I started offering tours – to help make it easier for fellow TMB hikers who want to hike without all the hassle. You can see the other hiking tours we offer here.
The Disadvantage of Not Knowing Which Mountain Huts to Book
Lastly, some of the mountain huts/refuges are nice, some less so. We stayed in a four-bedroom at one, which was nice, but the dorm room was awful! The beds were both inches off the floor and from each other. Keeping in mind that you may be sleeping next to a stranger!
There are other refuges not known for their cleanliness or friendliness.
Why I Can’t Tell You Which Huts Not to Stay In
I know you’re curious, and you want the names of the refugios to avoid. However, I’m not able to share this information for two reasons.
1) I’m eager to avoid a lawsuit, which has happened to other publishers who’ve said less than complimentary things about hotels (not specifically for this tour).
That’s another advantage of doing a self-guided or guided tour. We have insider knowledge of which accommodations offer something special – and which ones to avoid!
2) It’s a courtesy to our clients who book their TMB Self-Guided Tour through us and are paying for our expertise.
Related Reading: Summer in Chamonix: The 16 Best Things to Do
Highlights of the TMB
Col de Voza: Panoramic views of the Chamonix valley.
- Col de Tricot: Mountain pass offering stunning vistas, known for its challenging zigzag path.
Les Contamines: A charming French village that is a popular stopping point.
Col du Bonhomme: One of the first high mountain passes.
Croix du Bonhomme: Another mountain pass offering panoramic views.
- Col de la Seigne: A high mountain pass at 2,516 meters, marking the border between France and Italy, with panoramic views of the Mont Blanc Massif.
Rifugio Elisabetta: Mountain refuge in Italy, known for its stunning vistas.
Courmayeur: Italian alpine town perfect for a rest day, known for its cuisine and mountain culture.
Grand Col Ferret: The pass that crosses from the Italian Alps to the Swiss Alps offering some of the best views of the Grandes Jorasses.
Champex-Lac: Known as the “Swiss Lake,” a tranquil stopping point in Switzerland.
Bovine Route or Fenêtre d’Arpette: Two alternative routes between Champex and Col de la Forclaz; the former is easier, and the latter offers stunning views but is more challenging.
Col de la Forclaz: Another mountain pass and common place for rest.
Col de Balme: The pass back into France from Switzerland, with amazing views of Mont Blanc.
La Flégère and Lac Blanc: Offers one of the closest views of the Mont Blanc massif, which is sometimes reflected in Lac Blanc
On some days of the TMB, you will have the choice of an easier or more challenging route. On these days you choose based on how you’re feeling.
If you’re exhausted or your legs are burning, the best option is to choose the easier route. It’s important to challenge yourself on multi-day hikes without overdoing it. That can easily wreck the rest of your hike.
It’s also critical to consider the weather. We had one day that I wanted to do the difficult but incredible Fenêtre d’Arpette (2665m), a splendid pass that’s one of the highlights of the trip.
Unfortunately, the heavy rain made it inadvisable, so we did the easier Bovines Route instead. It’s important to consider safety. Besides, if it’s raining heavily, you won’t be able to see anything.
When you’re hiking in the mountains, it can quickly go from good weather to stormy.
I recommend getting an earlier start and taking a shorter lunch break on days when the forecast is calling for a thunderstorm in the afternoon.
When you hike in June, even late June and in September you’ll be hiking in snow in some places, so you should be comfortable with that.
This past summer was very hot, but then there was also snow at the end of August. You really need to be prepared to hike in all types of weather conditions.
The TMB is well-marked. You’ll mainly be hiking through mountain passes and alpine meadows of wildflowers and lush green valleys. It’s an absolutely beautiful hike.
If you choose the 10-day trek, that often means going up two separate cols/mountain passes in a day. You’ll likely be much slower later on in the day. So don’t count on your usual hiking speed.
There are also two sections that involve ladders. Fortunately, both of these can be avoided with an alternative route.
Should I Get Travel Insurance?
YES! I hope you won’t need it, but mountain rescues are expensive – a minimum of €5000. And they can easily be much more expensive depending on your location and the complexity of the rescue.
I also recommend purchasing Travel and Trip Cancellation Insurance. You usually book your trip and accommodations months in advance, and while each accommodation has its own refund policy most of them aren’t very flexible.
I recommend HeyMondo(get a 5% discount for being a Monkeys and Mountains reader.) because it includes mountain rescue and repatriation insurance which isn’t covered by many other insurance policies. Check out our article on adventure travel insurance for further information.
Also, unlike many insurance policies, it also covers pandemics so if you become ill or unable to travel due to COVID, they’ll cover you. Check out their site for the specific details to see what’s included and what’s not.
Sometimes injuries aren’t life-threatening but if you tear a ligament, fall and break your ankle, you won’t be able to hike down on your own. It’s better to purchase travel insurance (being sure that it includes mountain rescue, and hope that you don’t need it.
How to Pack for the Tour du Mont Blanc
I’ve written a comprehensive post on this indicating every essential item while eliminating those that you don’t need. Check out our TMB Packing List!
Our 8-Day Trekking Schedule
This is NOT a recommendation but is what we did. I’m providing it as many of you have asked for our route. We had some long days, including a 13 1/2 hour one. Again, I wouldn’t recommend what we did.
If you’re looking for recommendations check out our self-guided and guided Tour du Mont Blanc treks. You’ll get an idea for a much better itinerary.
Our start to finish time includes a short lunch stop and breaks. We walked every kilometre and didn’t take any public transportation. Unless you’re trail running, take ten days if you want to do the full circuit.
- Day 1: Chamonix to Refuge Fioux. Start to finish time: 3.5 hours, 14 km
- Day 2: Refuge Fioux to Refuge Nant Borrant: Start to finish time: 9.5 hours, 25 km
- Day 3: Refuge Nant Borrant to Refuge Mottets: Start to finish time: 9.9 hours, 22 km, 1300 m elevation
- Day 4: Refuge Mottets to Refuge Mont Blanco: Start to finish time: 9.8 hours, 17 km, 740 m elevation
- Day 5: Refuge Mont Blanc to Rifugio Bonatti: Start to finish time: 7.1 hours, 21 km, 800 m elevation
- Day 6: Rifugio Bonatti to La Fouly: Start to finish time: 6.5 hours, 18 km, 600 m elevation
- Day 7: La Fouly to Trent: Start to finish time: 13.5 hours, 35 km, 800 m elevation
- Day 8: Trient to Chamonix: Start to finish time: 10 hours, 25 km, 900 m elevation
Eating with Dietary Issues at the TMB Mountain Huts
Most mountain huts will offer a choice of two meals, a regular one and a vegetarian one.
If you have have other dietary requirements, such as being vegan or celiac as I am, there arecreative ways to get around this, by suggesting alternatives that are easy for the accommodations to accommodate. You’ll also want to bring plenty of hiking snacks to supplement the food being offered. We have a lot of clients with food allergies who are still able to do the TMB hike.
Breakfast on the TMB
A typical breakfast is toast with some butter or jam. None of the refuges had gluten-free bread. Instead, I requested a piece of fruit.
The breakfasts in the rifugios are very light so if you like to eat a big breakfast I recommend bringing some energy bars with you.
Lunch on the TMB
We ordered lunches to go the night before from each hut. Despite being informed ahead of time, lunch was usually sandwiches which I couldn’t eat. Three or four apples were substituted for the sandwiches. Again, bring your own hiking snacks if you have dietary issues. Otherwise, you’ll be fine.
To Reserve or Not to Reserve Refuges in Advance?
I highly recommend booking your tour or accommodations in advance because the TMB has become so busy.
In 2023, many mountain huts were already full in January. And by mid-February, we had to stop selling some tours because key accommodations were full.
TMB Insider tip: If you don’t have reservations for a mountain hut, then try to get an early start and arrive early. That way, you may get a spot before it does come full. But given how full the accommodations are, you should be prepared to camp if you don’t have a reservation.
What Are the Accommodations Like?
The mountain huts/refugios are a luxury in the mountain but VERY simple by normal accommodation standards.
Dormitory accommodations vary anywhere from 4 to 40+ beds. I’d recommend avoiding anything with more than 20 beds wherever possible. (We don’t book these for our clients as we don’t think it provides a good experience).
Some refugios offer double private rooms. These will also be very simple, and you’ll still share a bathroom as the refugios usually have two bathrooms, one for women and one for men.
When you stay in a refugio, you’ll need to bring a sleeping bag liner. They’ll provide blankets and a pillow, so don’t worry about being warm enough.
A mid-option is booking private double accommodation. With this option, you’ll get a mix of sleeping in refugios and simple guest houses where you’ll have your own bathroom some nights.
If you’re looking for luxury, then you’ll want to book the 6-day luxury tour, which includes nice accommodations than staying in mountain huts. On this tour, you’ll have your own private bathroom every night except for one.
While the refugios aren’t luxurious, they’re often in a gorgeous setting. It’s also a great way to experience local culture and mix with other hikers from around the world. It’s truly an authentic experience.
Pamper Yourself at the Beginning and End of Your Trek
We stayed at Boutique Hôtel Le Morgane on the last day of our trek. It’s a four-star eco-hotel in Chamonix, complete with a spa!
After staying in refuges, it was pure bliss. We sat on our huge patio, enjoying the amazing views of Mont Blanc, as we rested our blistered, aching feet. Trust me, on the final day; you’ll likely be tired, so it’s worth a bit of a splurge!
Pre and post-tour accommodation isn’t included, so check out our guide to the best accommodations in Chamonix to find out where to stay.
End Your TMB With a Once-in-a-Lifetime Mont Blanc Glacier Walk or Chamonix Via Ferrata
For a truly memorable end, embark on an extraordinary high-mountain adventure that takes you high above the Tour du Mont Blanc to explore the mesmerizing Mont Blanc glaciers, which takes you above the clouds on our private guided glacier tour.
Or, do our guided Chamonix Via Ferrata tour, which combines hiking and rock climbing for an adrenaline-packed adventure. It’s totally safe, and your guide will help you along the route.
The Closest Airport to Chamonix
The closest airport is Genevan Airport. You’ll find great deals on Skyscanner.
Getting from Geneva to Chamonix
The easiest way to get to Chamonix, the start of the TMB is with a shared shuttle which takes ~90 minutes and needs to be booked in advance. Do a Google search for “transfer from Geneva to Chamonix,” and you’ll see lots of different options.
Or take this private transfer from Geneva Airport which starts from €29.97.
Read our guide: Getting from Geneva to Chamonix for more information.
I also recommend spending a day in Geneva if your schedule permits.
Tour du Mont Blanc FAQs
Is the Tour du Mont Blanc Worth It?
Absolutely! I enjoyed most of it. I don’t believe anyone who says they enjoyed every second of the TMB. There are some tough parts!
Even better, it left me a lasting gift that is still giving. The gift of personal strength, both on and off the mountain. Little did I know that it would start an obsession with long-distance hiking. I now do at least one long-distance hike each year. Check out How a Hiking Trip Can Change Your Life.
Is the Tour du Mont Blanc crowded?
It’s getting busier every year. The busiest times tend to be the first week in July and the last week in August when the TMB ultra are held. Having said that, while it’s a bit crowded at the start of each day with hikers leaving at around the same time, it starts to thin out pretty quickly as everyone hikes at a different pace. I recommend booking as early as possible so that you can start on your preferred date. Avoid doing it the last week in August as it’s very crowded then.
How technical is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
It’s not a technical hike, but it is physically demanding. You’ll be hiking on a mixture of paths and rugged terrain, but no technical skills are required. Having said that, avoid doing it in June if you’re not comfortable hiking in snow.
How many miles/km is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
It’s 106 miles or 170km.
Is it possible to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc in June?
Yes, it’s possible from mid-June, but I think late June is a safer bet since the amount of snow varies each year. Having said that, some years the high passes aren’t possible at the end of June either due to too much snow. If you don’t want to hike in snow, then book mid-July-mid-August.
When’s the best time to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?
It’s possible to do it from mid-June to mid-September but I think the best time is July and August because you’ll likely be able to do all the high passes – which isn’t always possible due to too much snow earlier in the season. Plus, all the transfers are running, which makes it cheaper than having to book private transfers if you’re doing the 6 or 7-day tour.
When is the TMB Ultramarathon?
There are a series of 7 races usually held from ~ Aug 22nd to 28th (depending on the year). Hikers should avoid going during this time as it’s very busy.
What are the best tips for doing the Tour du Mont Blanc?
I think the two big factors to consider are 1) What type of accommodations do you want? Luxury, private double or dormitory? and 2) How challenging do you want to make it? Then, design your trip around these factors as outlined in this article.
What should I bring on the Tour du Mont Blanc?
See our packing list, which also includes my favourite small luxury item that I bring on every trek.
Will I get altitude sickness?
The highest point on the TMB is the Fenêtre d’Arpette (2,665 meters (8,743 feet). Anything below 3,000 meters is usually too low to cause altitude sickness for most hikers.
The TMB is not a high altitude trail so doesn’t pose the challenges that some other famous treks do.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the best treks in the world and is one of the most memorable trips you can do. Will this be the year that you check it off your bucket list?
Related Reading: Alta Via 1 Hiking Tour (Self-Guided)