Last Modified: 30 Jul 2014
Mont Blanc Hotel Trek
Trip code: AZXH
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2015
Spreading over the borders of France, Italy and Switzerland, Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps. Following the Mont Blanc Circuit, trek over mountain passes, through alpine meadows, past intensely blue glaciers, into woodlands and to charming towns and villages. But this is no Sunday stroll. The legs will certainly be challenged on this trek through this European wonderland but the reward is some of the most breathtaking scenery, picturesque landscapes and sublime mountain views on the planet. And to top it off, after a long day trekking, get to cosy up in charming hotels to rest weary feet.
Table of Contents
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Walking, Take a Hike
Days 1-2 Chamonix
Bonjour! Welcome to France.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1.
The following day we warm up with a walk to Les Praz from where we take the teleferique to La Flegere (1,900 m). The trail today is named the 'Grand Balcon' and is on the opposite side of the valley from Mont Blanc, affording excellent views of the whole massif lying to our south. Initially we contour and then climb to reach the high point of the day, Lac Blanc (2,353 m). The trail descends from the lake then contours high above the valley before dropping steeply to the Col Montets (1,461 m). There will be a very short section of ladders/steep steps with handrails on the descent.
We then return by bus to Chamonix for the night.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Col Forclaz
We travel back to the Col Montets to begin our ascent to the Aiguillette de Posettes (2,201 m). We then descend to the Col des Posettes and then ascend a little again to the Col de Balme (2,191 m) where we walk across the border from France to Switzerland. We should have excellent views all morning of the Aiguille d'Argentiere and the Aiguille du Tour and its glacier.
After lunch we descend to the small hamlet of Trient (1,296 m) with good views of the Trient Glacier. We then ascent from Trient to our hotel on the Col Forclaz (1,526 m).
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 4 Champex
Today we leave the Col Forclaz, from where we can look directly down into the Rhone Valley and the Swiss town of Martigny, and follow the 'Bovine route' (2,049 m) through high alpine pastures to the charming town of Champex (1,468 m), set beside a picturesque alpine lake.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5 La Fouly
Now on the east side of the main Mont Blanc massif, we walk south, descending through woods to the Val Ferret, and on to Issert (1,055 m) and other small, pretty, alpine farming villages. This is quite a good day for flower-spotting, including orchids. We then continue up the valley to La Fouly (1,593 m). This is at the foot of Mt Dolent, whose summit is at the meeting point of France, Switzerland and Italy.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 6-7 La Palud
Still following the same valley and the river, 'La Drance', we climb to the 'Grand Col Ferret' (2,536 m), the highest pass of the tour. We are now in Italy, and the mountain views from the Col are stunning, with Grandes Jorasses dominating the scene. We walk down the valley to Arp Nouva (1,770 m) and then travel by bus to our hotel near La Palud, near Courmayeur.
The following day is free. The town of Courmayeur has picturesque older sections which are worth a visit, especially for those with an interest in photography. There is also a teleferique from Entreves to Point Helbronner (3,461 m) and on across the glacier to Aiguille du Midi (and in fact back down to Chamonix). This is a great optional excursion as it gives you close up views of all the big peaks. We spend this night again at our hotel near La Palud, near Courmayeur.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 8 Entreves
From the hotel we cross the river and climb to a mid-level, contouring path, which we follow around the mountain. We then climb steeply to Mont de la Saxe (2,346 m). The views are excellent, especially of Mont Blanc, the towering rocky peak 'Grandes Jorasses' and the glaciers, which crowd the northern flank of the Val Ferret. Look for reflections of the mountains in small ponds along the ridge.
We then make a longish, sometimes steep descent from Mont de la Saxe, via an old mule track, to Entreves.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 9 Les Chapieux
We travel by bus to La Vissaille (1,660 m) and then climb gently along the Val Veny beneath the massive Glacier de Miage, and past Lac Combal. The gradient then becomes steeper as we follow the old Roman road and head for today's pass; the 'Col de la Seigne' (2,516 m) which marks our re-entry into France. A fairly steep descent brings us through La Ville des Glaciers (1,789 m) and finally, after quite a long walking day, to Les Chapieux (1,553 m), a small hamlet inhabited only during the summer months.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 10-11 St Gervais
We have now reached the southwest corner of the circuit, and turn north to climb once again. First we ascend to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2,478 m), then contour across to the Col du Bonhomme (2,328 m) and then descend again on a Roman road into the Val Montjoie and the town of Les Contamines (1,175 m). Our hotel is located in the scenic spa town of St Gervais, approximately 10 minutes further down the valley.
The following day is a well-earned rest day. There are many options to fill your day, including taking the cog railway to the Nid d'Aigle, a popular start point for climbing Mont Blanc. Another options is browsing around the local market of Les Contamines, or there are plenty of long or short optional walks in the area. Alternatively, just relax around the pleasant town of St Gervais or treat yourself to a rejuvenating spa.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 12 Les Houches
From St Gervais we have a 10 minute transfer to rejoin the route before ascending to the Chalets de Miage (1,560 m). From here we take a trail that climbs very steeply to the Col de Tricot (2,119 m) before descending very close to the snout of the Glacier de Bionnassay. Along the way we can expect good views of the north of the Mont Blanc massif. Eventually we make another ascent to reach the Col de Voza (1,652 m) where we re-enter the Chamonix Valley and then descend to the village of Les Houches (993 m).
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 13-15 Chamonix
Today we cross to the north side of the Chamonix Valley and climb through pine forest to reach the high point of the day at Brevent (2,525 m). This is a long walking day but will probably afford the best views of the French side of Mont Blanc that we shall have on the whole trek. We then descend to Plan Praz and take the cable car to Chamonix (1,061 m) for a well-earned drink.
The next day is a free day in and around Chamonix. There are several good walks around Chamonix and also spectacular optional excursions by teleferique or mountain railway. Other optional activities include tandem paragliding, canyoning and mountain biking.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Hotel (2 nts)
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Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
At times local life here will be familiar to that of back home, and at times very different. Services are available most of the time, English may not be the native language, and there may be some cultural differences.
Be prepared for some serious physical activity. The majority of activities included on this trip will be challenging. The fitter you are, the more you'll enjoy your holiday.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France. The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat as they are often referred to. Check with your bank in advance concerning the suitability of your account / card overseas and any international fees that will be applied. ATMs are available at Ajaccio and Corte but it is best to bring some Euros in cash with you
When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it is stolen. Keep this in a safe place.
Credit cards are not always accepted in stores and restaurants. While travelling we recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services. Change can be difficult to obtain so throughout the day, try to gain as many small denominations as you can.
You might be advised to take some of your money as travellers' cheques from a major financial institute. Travellers' cheques have security advantages, however please be aware that the exchange rates may not be favourable and that it is becoming more and more difficult to change travellers' cheques in most countries. Be particularly aware that after hours money exchanges and hotel receptions carry high commissions- sometimes up to 20%.
For money safety we recommend that you carry your cash and credit cards in a secure money belt or pouch concealed under your clothes.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you're happy with the services provided, a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - leave the loose change. More up-market restaurants we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill.
Local guides: We suggest EUR1-2 per person per day for local guides.
Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, Exodus.
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Hotel (12 nts), Guesthouse (2 nts)
Throughout the trek we use long-established family run 2 or 3-star hotels, except for 2 nights where we use local auberges. One of the hotels has a jacuzzi and sauna for guests whilst another a spa which is available at a discounted rate. Most of the hotels have stunning locations often with panoramic vistas over the mountains and culturally represent the countries and environment they are in. These hotels are a vital source of income to the local community. All are clean and well run and set up with the needs of the trekker in mind.
Please be aware that room sizes (twin, double or triple rooms) and facilities will vary from hotel to hotel and sometimes from room to room within one hotel. On 9 of the nights facilities are en suite whilst the others have the possibility, depending on availability and group size, shared bathroom and toilet facilities 'on the landing'. Couples will always have their own room but we cannot say whether this will be twin or double. Single clients must be prepared to share with one or occasionally two other members of the same sex. We are unable to accept bookings for single rooms due to the small size of the hotels used and the fact that we are usually staying only one night in each hotel. The auberge does not provide soap and you may wish to bring a towel, as those provided by European hotels are sometimes small.
14 Breakfasts, 10 Lunches, 12 Dinners
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
Breakfast: Will usually consist of coffee, tea, cereal, yoghurt, fresh fruit, bread, and conserves.
Lunch: Picnic style lunches will normally include bread, cold meat, cheese, sometimes boiled eggs or tinned fish, fresh salad vegetables and fresh fruit.
Evening meal: Whether in camp or in a nearby restaurant will consist of, a first course of soup, salad or charcuterie, a main course of meat with one or two vegetables or rice or pasta and a dessert course. Beer, wine, bottled water, coffee, tea or other drinks are not included in the price of evening meals taken in restaurants. Coffee and tea are included with the evening meal when we eat in camp and beer and wine are also available for purchase at a modest cost. Please be aware that, as this is a camping trek, cooking facilities are necessarily limited.
Restaurant meals are usually arranged as a 'menu' for the whole group and as they are based on special negotiations made by us represent better value than eating independently.
We do make an effort to cater for vegetarian diets but you should not expect the variety of food that you may have at home. In Europe most hotels and restaurants are not geared up to provide separate vegetarian menus, especially smaller establishments in the mountains. Vegetarians will usually find that there is little difficulty, as long as they are prepared to be reasonably flexible.
There will be a local leader and drivers and local guides where needed. We provide a qualified International Mountain Leader to escort the group on each walking day. Our walking leaders are true mountain professionals as well as being skilled group leaders. This not only helps to assure safety on the mountain but also that your leader has experience and knowledge in wider mountain environment such as flora and fauna, geology, weather and local customs. Our support leaders will transfer your main luggage from hotel to hotel each time you move on. Please note that your baggage is not carried to your room.
228 Rue Doctor Paccard
Phone: +33 4 50 53 08 85
Joining point instructions
Chamonix is easy to reach by train, however timetables and fares are only published 3 months before departure.
If flying into Geneva it is very easy to book a shared minibus transfer with a local company and you should do this at least a week before your departure date. A shared transfer (with others who have booked with them also) can be as little as €25 one way if booked in advance with our a company such as Mountain Drop Offs. Book on their website - www.mountaindropoffs.com and quote the following promotional code EXO13.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) please follow the instructions under the "Joining point instructions" in order to find our driver. Should you have any problems locating your driver, please call the number for our transfer company which can be found below. Should you continue to experience any difficulties, please call the emergency number for our local operations team which is available on the 'Emergency Contact' section of these trip notes.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
228 Rue Doctor Paccard
Phone: +33 4 50 53 08 85
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
EUROPEAN COUNTRIES ON THIS TRIP (EXCLUDING RUSSIA, UKRAINE, TURKEY):
Australia: No - Not required
Belgium: No - Not required
Canada: No - Not required
Germany: No - Not required
Ireland: No - Not required
Netherlands: No - Not required
New Zealand: No - Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: No - Not required
UK: No - Not required
USA: No - Not required
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
This Trek is based on the 'supported camping concept', with a vehicle doing all the hard work of transporting luggage, equipment and supplies.
- Walking boots with good ankle support and a strong sole
- A good quality waterproof/windproof jacket and waterproof trousers
- Hat and gloves (even for August)
- A warm 2/3 season fleece jacket
- Day pack with 30-40 litres capacity
- Sun cream
- Sun hat
- Sun glasses
- 2 litre water bottle
- Walking poles - Optional
All luggage is transported between the hotels by a support vehicle (but not to your room). Please note that we must limit you to one item of luggage, weighing a maximum of 15kg per person to be carried in the support vehicle. . Excess baggage can be left in the hotel store in Chamonix. You should pack your belongings in a sturdy kitbag or holdall; suitcases should not be used, as they cannot be packed easily in our support vehicle.
- Swimming costume
At all times of year that we run this trip we can expect to be cycling in just shorts and a t-shirt. The temperature is naturally dependant on the altitude, so on some of the higher cols it can get fairly chilly. Unfortunately rain cannot be ruled out but the showers tend to be fairly short. Snow is even a possibility up on the Tourmalet. It is best that you come prepared for all eventualities.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.