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Tour du Mont Blanc, France, Italy, Switzerland

The Tour du Mont Blanc is recognised as one of the iconic walks of the Alps. It takes you through three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. The route can be done within 11 days, but giving yourself 14 days will allow more time for sightseeing and relaxing. The route length is around 170km. Due to its fame, the route can be extremely crowded during the summer months, particularly July and August. If you wish to get away from the crowds, you can try doing the Tour du Mont Blanc in September, but be aware that some of the mountain huts (refuges) may be closed at this time.

Tour du Mont Blanc, France, Italy, Switzerland

Over 10,000 people tackle various portions of this route every year, which means you will need to book huts well in advance. It is a good idea to bring your own lightweight sleeping bag - a silk sleeping sheet may suffice for most - as well as your passport, cash, and good hiking boots and gaiters. Although camping is officially forbidden, it is often possible to discreetly camp in locations that are away from the main trail. You can also enquire at refuges about camping there.

Les Houches village is the start of the Tour du Mont Blanc. There is a tourist office in the village. Accommodation possibilities here include: Bellevue Camping, Gite Michel Fagot, Les Melezes hotel and Beau Site hotel. You can get to Les Houches by either train or bus.

Tour du Mont Blanc, France, Italy, Switzerland

Day 1 involves a 5.5 hour, 16 km trek, with a 900 m ascent, and 700 m descent. You can opt to take the Teleferique Bellevue cable car to save time, or head out on a sealed road.

Accommodations around here include: Refuge du Fioux, Auberge de Bionnassay, Gite d'Etape Le Champel. In les Contamines Montjoie, you can sleep at: Hotel Grizzli, CAF Refuge or a camping ground.

On day 2, you will hike for around 7 hours, a distance of 19km, with a 1300m ascent and 930m descent. Accommodation possibilities include: Camping le Pontet, Refuge de Nant Borant, Refuge de la Blame as well as two free camping grounds.

On this route you will pass lovely alpine lakes (Lacs Jovet) and ascent Col du Bonhomme (2329m) and Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2483m). Accommodations here include: Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, Auberge de la Nova and two camping sites.

Day 3 takes you from Les Chapieux to Rifugio Elisabetta, and takes 4.5 hours, 14km, and requires a 1000m ascent and 400m descent. You can find sleeping quarters at Refuge des Mottets. After crossing Col de la Seigne (2516m) and passing a flat valley floor of gravel and stone, you can sleep at Rifugio Elisabetta or camp here.

On Day 4, you will hike from Refugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur, a distance of 5 hours, 16km, with a 490 ascent and 1400m descent. There are grand views of Mont Blanc as well as towering pinnacles. A chairlift on this route will allow you to shave some time off your trek, if you wish. You may sleep at Rifugio Maison Vielle or camp. Further on, at Courmayeur, you may sleep at Monte Bianco La Sorgente camping ground, Hotel Venezia or Hotel Funivia.

On day 5 you will travel from Courmayeur to Rifugio Bonatti, a trek of 6.5 hours, 14km, with an arduous1600m ascent and 680m descent. Rifugio Bertone offers accommodations along this route. After scaling Mont de la Saxe, Tete de la Trance (2584m) and Pas entre Deux Sauts (2524m), you can rest at Rifugio Bonatti.

On day 6, you will travel from Rifugio Bonatti to la Fouly, which requires 6 hours, 20km, and a 880m ascent and 1420m descent. You will pass Rifugio Elena on your way. After a steep climb over Grand Col Ferret (2537m), you reach La Fouly. There are two hotel options here: Hotel Edelweiss and Hotel des Glaciers. A busline, St. Bernard Express, travels between Ferret, la Fouly and Orseres.

On day 7, you will trek from la Fouly to Champex, with a duration of 4.5 hours over a 15km trail (430m ascent, 575m descent). As this section may not be that interesting, some travellers opt for a bus.

In Champex, accommodation possibilities include: Camping Rocailles, Chalet Bon Abri, Gite en Plein Air and Chalet du Club Alpin Suisse.

On day 8, you will walk from Champex to Trient. This is a challenging path over rough terrain. It takes 6.5 hours (15km, 1185m ascent, 1385m descent). After passing Relais d'Arpette and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m), you can sleep at either Le Peuty camping ground or Refuge du Peuty. In Trient, you can stay at: Relais du Mont-Blanc, Cafe Moret or La Gardienne.

On day 9, you will trek from Trient to Tre le Champ, a distance of 13 km (5 hours, 960m ascent, 830m descent). Sleeping options around here include Refuge du Col de Balme, Gite d'Alpage de Charamillon and Chalet Alpin du Tour. You may take a cable car along this route to save time.

At Tre le Champ, you can stay at Gite La Boerne. Alternatively, head to Argentiere for more accommodation options: Camping at Glacier d'Argentiere, or beds at Le Belvedere or Hotel des Randonneurs.

On day 10, you will travel from Tre le Champ to la Flegere. Along the way, you will pass Refuge de la Flegere as well as a convenient cable car. At les Praz, you can camp at the le Mer de Glace, or stay at the Auberge Gite La Bagna.

Finally, on day 11 you will walk from la Flegere to Les Houches. Along the way, you can scale le Brevent (2525m). You can also use the cable car here, and stay at Refuge de Bellachat.

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