Tour du Mont Blanc: How to Effortlessly Plan Your Epic Trek For 2023

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The 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 France, Italy and Switzerland. 

The TMB is one of the best long-distance treks in the world and is at the top of many hikers’ bucket list.

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 point out things along the way 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 group. 

hiking and trekking tours in Europe, U.S. and Canada

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 the self-guided and sometimes the guided option.

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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 you either carry your luggage or arrange to have it transferred.

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.

The TMB route is well-signed and 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 spectacular locations, GPS  and instructions with shortcuts when available. Butt you still get to figure out a few things on your own. For example, you choose whether to hike the easier or more difficult but more scenic path.

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 this video of the Tour du Mont Blanc:

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:, and the TMB: Complete Two-Way Trekking Guide Book by Cicerone Guides.  And of course a good map and GPS tracks.

The site shows you the availability of the refuges (mountain huts) and how long it takes to hike to the other hut.

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.

you'll get gorgeous lakes and amazing views of Mont Blanc on your Tour du Mont Blanc self guided hiking tour


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 Chamonix regardless of the length.

TMB Insider Tip:  If you do decide to start in Les Houches ensure you buy everything you need in Chamonix first. We walked from Chamonix to Les Houches and had to take the bus back to Chamonix again to buy an iPhone cable. It’s a very small alpine village where only very basic supplies are available.

Choose the Direction you will Trek 

The classic route is to do it counter-clockwise which is how we did it. The advantage of doing it this way is that you will keep running into the same people. If you want to hike with others, it’s easy enough to meet up.

We did a combination of hiking on our own and with other people, we met on the trail, including a fellow Canadian!

You can spend as much, or as little time with other people as you choose. It’s really up to you!

You can see a map of the tour here from Wikipedia.

How Long Does it Take to Hike the Tour du Mont Blanc? 

hiking trail on 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 for the self-guided tours, and see whether the 6, 7 or 10-day tour is the best choice for you.

On our tours, the 6 and 7-day tours are the easiest (although still not easy). You’ll take public transporation – buses and lifts, skipping the less scenic parts. Our 10-day tour is the most challenging with more hiking and fewer transfers.

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 in which you hike less each day.

This is a good way to ease into long-distance hiking. The 6 and 7-day tours are also good options if you don’t hike regularly and are in OK but not great 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, even if you’re in excellent shape, you could still choose a shorter tour, then opt to hike some sections instead of taking the transfer. That way, you’ll make it harder.

Many hikers choose to take a rest day in the charming Italian village of Courmayeur, which is approximately halfway through the tour.

You can use these guidelines, even if you’re planning on doing it on your own.

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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) in responding to you.

We called a few and found some didn’t speak English or German, the only two languages we speak.

TMB Booking Process

signs for hikers on the Tour du Mont Blanc

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

you'll pass Sommets et glacier dans le massif on y our Tour du Mont Blanc self guided tour

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. Sometimes we physically go to the huts to confirm a booking, because they don’t respond.

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. We stayed in one in Switzerland after a 13 1/2 day of trekking that wasn’t exactly disgusting, but not exactly clean either. And the staff was unwelcoming. Neither helped my tired mode.

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 bloggers 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.

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male hikers on the TMB
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a unique trek of approximately 170km around Mont Blanc that can be completed between 6 -10 days passing through Italy, Switzerland and France.

Related Reading: Summer in Chamonix: The 16 Best Things to Do

Other Things to Keep in Mind:

On some days of the TMB, you will have the option of an easier or more challenging route. These days see how you’re feeling. For example, if you’re really sore or tired, you can choose an easier option. If you’re raring to go, then choose the more challenging route that day.

If you’re exhausted, or your legs are burning, don’t be afraid to choose the easier route. It’s important to challenge yourself on multi-day hikes but without overdoing it. That can easily wreck the rest of your hike.

Weather on the TMB

mountain hut seen on the tour du Mont blanc

It’s also critical to consider the weather on each day of hiking. We had one day that I wanted to take the longer route 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 likely wouldn’t have the spectacular views that you were searching for on a more challenging route.

When you’re hiking in the mountains the weather can change quickly. All the mountain huts will have the weather posted. If not you can ask.

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.


 The TMB is well-marked. You’ll mainly be hiking through mountain passes and meadows of wildflowers and lush green valleys. It’s absolutely stunning. 

If you choose the 10-day trek, that often means going up two separate cols/mountain passes.  It’s good to keep in mind that you will likely be much slower later on in the day. So don’t count on your usual hiking speed.

Should I Get Travel Insurance?

hiking trail on the Tour du Mont Blanc

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.

I had a friend hiking in the Dolomites who required a helicopter rescue because she tore ligaments in her knee which required surgery to repair.

Sometimes injuries aren’t life-threatening but if you tear ligaments, slip 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. If you’ve ever hiked for that long in the pouring rain,  you know that’s not much fun. 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.

Also worth noting is that our start to finish time includes a short lunch stop and breaks in between. We walked every kilometre and didn’t take any public transportation. I’ll take ten days when I hike it again.

tour du mont blanc, tour du mont blanc hike

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

Hiking Times on the TMB

hiker on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Eating with Dietary Issues at the TMB Mountain Huts

I have a gluten allergy and told all of the refuges before we left.  Despite that, two of them were unaware of my allergy. My guess is that they were either busy and forgot.

It’s also possible that the language barrier played a part. In the huts, someone will usually speak some English (of varying levels), but keep in mind that the main languages are French, Italian, and German depending on where you are.

One place made up for it quite well. While another one served me a salad. Safe to say that it didn’t exactly hit the spot after hiking for hours. 

Having said that, we have creative ways to get around this for clients so that people with food allergies are still able to do the TMB hike. You’ll also want to bring plenty of hiking snacks that you can eat. 

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.

Related Reading: Via Dinarica: Best of the South Hiking Tour in Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania


To Reserve or Not to Reserve Refuges in Advance?

Elisabetta mountain hut on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Mountain hut on the TMB

As we planned our trek ourselves, we reserved all of our mountain huts along the TMB in advance.  We wanted to enjoy our holiday and not be on our phone each day to call ahead to see if there was space.  We didn’t want just to show up and find out there was no space left.

The disadvantage of this is that it allowed us no flexibility.  The advantage was that we never had to worry about finding a place to sleep. And – in theory, each place knew in advance about my gluten allergy.

As it turned out, all of the rifugios we stayed at, did have space. However in the following years, the TMB has gotten busier and the refugios are often full, especially Rifugio Elisabetta and Rifugio Bonatti.

We sometimes have difficulty finding space as early as January for July dates. I highly recommend booking your tour or accommodations in advance.

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 with other hikers who have the same idea.


What’s the Accommmodation 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 avoid 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, 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 will 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 accommodation in 3-star hotels, except for one night when only a 2-star accommodation is available. 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 and it’s a great way to experience local culture and mix with locals. It’s truly an authentic experience.

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Pamper Yourself at the Beginning and End of Your Trek

view of Mont Blanc from view from Boutique Hôtel Le Morgane in Chamonix
View of Mont Blanc from view from Boutique Hôtel Le Morgane in Chamonix

We stayed at the Hôtel Les Aiglons, Resort & Spa the night before our trek and at Boutique Hôtel Le Morgane on the last day of our trek. Both are four-star eco-hotels 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. 

So How Did Planning our Own TMB Trek Planning Work Out?

a hiker on one of the two highest points of the Tour du Mont Blanc

Overall it worked out OK for us.  We did it in 8 days. If you want to do the full route I’d recommend 10 days.   We did have several long days, which were manageable, but our 13 1/2 hour day was way too long.

I was THIS CLOSE to calling a taxi for the last 3km but sustained. In truth, my partner at the time wisely prevented me.  It would have been nice to have had an extra day or two. That would have significantly reduced the hours we hiked on some of the very long days.

I liked all the refuges we stayed in, with one exception.

Having said that, it left a LOT of room for improvement and I’ve done parts of the TMB trail several times again. Combining my experience and a a local partner in Chamonix we’re able to provide you with the most up-to-date with the most recent trail conditions, accommodation conditions. 

The Closest Airport to Chamonix

The closest airport is Genevan Airport. You’ll find great deals on  Skyscanner.

Getting from Geneva to Chamonix

Chamonix is the starting point for the 10-day Tour du Mont Blanc Self-Guided Trek
Chamonix is usually the start and endpoint for the tour.

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.


female hiker on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Related Reading: 10 Best Things to Do in Geneva, Switzerland, When You Only Have a Day

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 races 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 with races being held.

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 the end of 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.

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?

 How to plan your TMB
TMB how to plan for this amazing trek
hiking the TMB in France, Italy and Switzerland
Tour du Mont Blanc Self Guided Hiking Tour

Related Reading: Alta Via 1 Hiking Tour (Self-Guided)

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