Self Guided Hikes
Tour du Mont Blanc Budget Friendly
Hotels, Refuges and Gites
$1,490 USD per person
During this 10 stage hike around one of the most iconic Massifs in the world, you will experience Tour du Mount Blanc and the three countries it lies on in an amazing 170km Journey. With over 10,000 meters of ascent and decent, you will find yourself hiking to each of your accommodations accomplished and hungry for more. For this budget friendly trek, we have 7 nights of shared dormitories in the lively mountain huts, gites and inns sprinkled through France, Italy, and Switzerland. With the energetic and communal atmosphere, they are perfect for meeting other world travelers and sharing your stories. You can always request a private room as well (everything is customized for you). In Chamonix and Courmayeur, we have included three star hotels (Hotel de l'Arve and Hotel Bouton D'Or), however we also work with four and five star properties as well. A few customization options are listed below:
- If you would like to reduce the hiking difficulty, we can easily adapt the itinerary to 11 or 12 stages.
- Furthermore, rest days can be added in Chamonix and Courmayeur where there are a plethora of activities, cuisine, and lively atmosphere to indulge in.
- You can add in transport from Geneva Airport. We can either organize a shared transfer ($45 per person) or a private transfer ($275)
- Baggage transfer to/from your accommodations is not included in this quotation, but is available for all of your stages.
Adjusting the hike to your budget and preferences
Trek 107 miles (170 km) around the largest mountain in Europe with an altitude gain and loss of over 6.2 miles (10 km), which is more than the height of Everest.
Along the trek, it is not uncommon to spot several species of wildlife native to the Alps. Of note are the chamois (a goat-antelope type species), and the marmot (looks a bit like a beaver).
You will visit tiny hamlets hidden deep in the mountains, experience awe inspiring views and challenge yourself along the storied and picturesque Alps.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a long distance trekking trail passing through France, Switzerland and Italy. The complete circuit is approximately 107 miles and has an altitude gain and loss of 6.2 miles (10 km), which is more than the height of Everest. The trail can be completed by marathon runners, however, it is comfortably hiked in 10 or 11 stages (for the very fit, 7 or 8 days will provide a decent challenge).
Transfer and overnight in Chamonix
After arriving at Geneva Airport, you will be transferred to your boutique hotel in Chamonix. Enjoy the onsite spa and pool during the day. Get plenty of rest, because tomorrow your journey begins. Overnight at Le Morgane or similar 4 star hotel.
Chamonix to Les Houches (12.9 km/8 mi - 5 hours)
Climb on the gondola to ride from Chamonix Valley to the top of Le Bréventat 8,284 feet(2,525 meters). On your very first day, weather permitting you will have a clear view of Mont Blanc. After savoring the view, you will make your way downhill to Les Houches(3,300 feet / 1,007 meters). At 3 hours, today’s hike is short in order to ease your body into the physical demands of mountain hiking. (B,D) Overnight at Hotel du Bois or similar 3-star hotel.
Les Houches to Refuge Nant Borrant (22 km / 13.75 mi - 7 hours)
Multiple transport options are available to make this trek easier. It’s about 2.5 hours to Col de Voza (Col = saddle), which sits at 1,653 meters. You can take one of two cable-cars to a point above the Col (either Prarion or Bellevue) and walk down. From the Col, it is then roughly 2 hours to get to Tresse, where a bus is available to take you into Les Contamines. Contiuing past Tresse, you will hike through more hamlets before reaching the river, which you will follow all the way into Les Contamines. From Les Contamines, it will take approximately 50 minutes to reach Notre Dame le Gorge. Stop to admire the baroque church and the old roman bridge, before starting a steep ascent to Refuge Nant Borrant, which you should reach within another 45 minutes.(B, D) Overnight at Refuge Nant Borrant.
Refuge Nant Borrant to Refuge les Mottets (15 km / 9.5 mi - 7 hours)
A beautiful, yet difficult stage, today you will be heading over Col du Bonhomme and Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. After reaching the 2nd Col, there are two options, one which goes directly to Refuge de Mottets through Col des Fours (time savings of 1 hr), and one which continues down to Les Chapieux. If there is bad weather, or snow on the passes, it is recommended to take the lower route to Les Chapieux. Please note that you are now entering a more wild section of the TMB - there will be no ATMs until you reach Courmayeur. Still, there are quite a few shelters along the way. (B,D) Overnight at Refuge des Mottets in four person dormitory.
Refuge les Mottets to Courmayeur (23.6 km / 14.7 mi - 8.5 hours)
Since you bypassed Les Chapieux the day before, you have a fairly easy 3 hour day in front of you passing over Col de la Seigne (height gain of 3,280 feet / 1,000 meters and height loss of 846 feet / 258 meters). If you have time constraints or wish to avoid staying in a communal dorm, you can combine this stage with the next one and overnight in Courmayeur. (B,D) Overnight at Rifugio Elisabetta.
Courmayeur to Rifugio Bonatti (11.8 km / 7.3 mi - 4.5 hours)
It keeps getting better—today’s views of the Monte Bianco from the Italian side might be the best of the tour (height gain of 2,821 feet / 860 meters and height loss of 2,290 feet / 698 meters). After an initial climb out of Courmayeur which gains most of your elevation for the day, the main route follows an easy route along Mont de la Saxe with views of Mont Blanc and ice of the Val Ferret. For the more hearty walkers, two higher elevation alternatives exist, however the main route will take you about 5 hours to complete.Your day ends at Rifugio Bonatti, possibly the nicest and most well-equipped refuge on the tour. (B,D) Overnight in private en suite at Rifugio Bonatti (spaces limited, inquire early to reserve spot).
Rifugio Bonatti to Ferret (16 km / 10 mi - 5.5 hours)
Do you hear those cow bells? That's the sound of Switzerland. The high point of today's hike is the Grand Col Ferret (8,356 feet / 2,537 meters) and is a taxing climb that separates Italy from Switzerland (height gain of 2,936 feet / 895 meters and height loss of 4,625 feet / 1,410 meters). The TMB in Switzerland may lack some of the big mountain appeal of Italy and France, but it more than makes up for it with the idyllic landscape and quaint hamlets of the Val Ferret (the name of the valley where the TMB snakes through Switzerland). (B,D) Overnight at Hotel Col du Fenetre
Ferret to Champex den Haut (18.9 km / 11.8 mi - 5.5 hours)
After your long hike up Col Ferret, you are rewarded with perhaps the easiest stage of the TMB (height gain of 1,394 feet / 420 meters and height loss of 1,852 feet / 565 meters). Today's hike is through a valley dotted with farms and pastoral life. It's a throwback to a different time. Take your time here and let a slower way of life fill your day. (B,D) Overnight at Hotel Splendide.
Champex den Haut to Trient (14 km / 8.75 mi - 5 hours)
Hikers have two options to reach Col de Forclaz and later Trient. The main route goes over “Alp Bovine”, and Collet Portalo, the highest point of the stage at 2,048 meters above sea level. Although perhaps not as spectacular as the alternative high route, it still impresses with views of the Martigny Valley miles below. The path snakes its way across fields, meadows and forests and provides a good amount of elevation change and challenge. The long climb to Alp Bovine can seem to take an eternity. Be prepared for two hours of uphill. Carrying an altimeter can help you know how close you are to the top of the trek at Collet Portalo. The alternate route goes through Fenetre d'Arpette, and is a true high route. (B, D) Overnight at Hotel La Grande Ourse
Trient to Argentière (16.1 km / 10 mi - 6 hours)
Ah Cherie, you have made it back to France (height gain of 3,507 feet / 1,069 meters and height loss of 3,864 feet / 1,178 meters). The trip from Trient to Argentièreis not particularly difficult and you catch the first glimpse of the rounded peak of Mont Blanc since you left Italy. In France, you return to the Vallée de l'Arve, which appears at the foot of the Monarch of the Alps (Mont Blanc). Today's hike should take between 6 and 7 hours. (B,D) Overnight at Hotel Corroune or equivalent.
Argentière to Planpraz ( 14.2 km 8.8 mi - 6 hours)
We've saved one of the most interesting treks with perhaps the most splendid views for last. The main route uses a number of ladder and chain systems to ascend to Tête aux Vents. If you have vertigo or are jittery with heights, there is an alternative route via Col des Montets that avoids the ladder section. After reaching Tête aux Vents, the route levels off and it is a more subdued downward sloping walk to Refuge La Flégère(4 hours). The refuge is a nice spot to sit and take lunch and gather your strength for the final push to Le Brévent, where you started your hike. Le Brévent (8,287 feet / 2,526 meters) has long been considered the best view point of Mont Blanc and is where many people stood to witness the historic first climb of the mountain. The final ascent to Le Brévent includes two ladders near the top, so for those who wish to avoid these or simply would like to avoid the final push, an option exists to take the cable car down at Planpraz and avoid some 1,700 feet (518 meters) of elevation gain. The total time to Le Brévent should take around 8 hours. Congrats! You've done it. Take the lift down to Chamonix from Le Brévent and enjoy your evening at Le Morgane (B).
After a leisurely breakfast, you have the day open until your flight to enjoy the town. Alternatively, why not have a spa day? You've earned it. Ciao! Au revoir!
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Pygmy Miles Total
You earn 1 Pygmy Mile for each $1 you spend with us.
You earn 10 Pygmy Miles for every mile that you hike. Get fit and get rewarded.
Ascend More Feet Than Everest
The complete circuit is approximately 107 miles (170 km) and has an altitude gain and loss of over 6.2 miles (10 km), which is more than the height of Everest. If you make it all the way to the end, Pygmy Elephant will reward you with a 25% bonus.
Benefit Local Communities
A 25% bonus is given for supporting the economies of small hamlets, villages and locally owned refugios that may otherwise be missed if not for making the trek.
Total Pygmy Miles
Hotel de l'Arve
Located in the middle of Chamonix, Hotel de l'Arve lies among its shops and cuisine. This lovely three-star hotel has 37 rooms, a wellness area and a flower garden with a view of Mont Blanc. Hotel de l'Arve will be the base for your first and last night.
Gite Michel Fagot
Located in the middle of Les Houches village, the Gite Michel Fagot offers a charming stay.
Refuge Nant Borrant
Situated 45 minutes from Notre Dame de la Gorge, on the Tour of Mont Blanc lies Refuge Nant Borrant. A cozy stay combined with a hearty meal will get you on the right track for the nest day.
Once a dairy farm, the main lodge is decorated with old cheese-making tools and one of the dormitories is even a converted cow barn. A very unique stay and a tradition mountaineers paradise.
Hotel Bouton D' Or
A family run three star hotel, Bouton D'Or is located close to downtown. A favorite among hikers, the hospitality is second to none. A great place for a rest day, if you are inclined.
Located at 6,640 feet (2, 025 meters) above sea level, this high mountain hut is a shining example of what a modern refuge should do. It features both dormitories and private rooms. The food is grand and so are the views. Not everyone speaks English, but enough of the staff does to make it comfortable.
Gite Bron Abri
Gite Bron Abri is a freindly hut right outside of town. The owner or somebody from the staff is always there if you need any help or information about the area. You can play table tennis or petanque and there are several board games as well. It accommodate up to 59 people in summer and 52 in winter.
Hotel du Col de Fenetre
Small typical Swiss mountain inn, located in the wonderful Val Ferret stage of the tour of Mont Blanc. The small hamlet of Ferret is located In the middle of nature, ideal for those who love silence and serenity.
La Grande Ourse
La Grande Ourse has both private rooms with shared bathrooms and small dormitories of up to 8 people. The rooms have been refurbished and provide a comfortable night’s sleep. Dining is together in the communal dining area.
Gite La Boerne
The inn is located in a mountain cottage dating back to the eighteenth century. With fantastic hospitality and great cuisine, this mountain hut represents what mountaineering and community is all about.
Pygmy Elephant will customize your trip to meet your fitness, budget and accommodation desires. However, as a frame of reference, the pricing of our base itinerary is listed below:
Approximately $1,490 USD per person based on double occupancy
Included in the base itinerary:
- 11 nights accommodation: three nights at 3-star hotels, five nights at gites and small inns, and three nights at mountain huts.
- Personalized Handbook with your customized itinerary. Customers often mention how much they appreciate this handbook as part of their trek.
- Customer service: smoothing out the headaches 24/7
- 11 breakfasts, 8 dinners
- Public Transport and Lift Explanation Booklet
- Personalized Travel App with complete itinerary
- Premium GAIA GPS App and GPX File
- Cicerone Guidebook
- Two IGN Maps 3630 OT and 3531 ET
Optional Add ons
- Shared airport transfers to Chamonix from Geneva Airport and back
- Baggage Transfers
- Private airport pick-ups and drop-offs
- Daily Guide: first day or round for over Bonhomme Pass early in the season
- Travel Insurance
- Rest days in Chamonix, Courmayeur, Champex or anywhere in between
- Extensions to Switzerland
- Lunches and dinners in Chamonix and Courmayeur
- Cable car, public transport and taxi fees (although we can pre-order taxis and include in the price of your tour).
After initial consultation, we will adjust the itinerary to your experience, preferences and time constraints. We can customize your tour in any of the following ways:
- In Chamonix and Courmayeur, we also have 4-star and 5-star partners.
- We can upgrade dormitory rooms to private rooms in many locations.
- We can include more nights in hotels.
- We can shorten or lengthen the number of hiking days. For example, if you are quite fit and experienced hikers, or if you are pressed for time, we can reduce the number of hike days. Depending on how we set up your itinerary, it's also possible to take some public transport to shorten some of the days.
- We can add in rest days. Some people prefer to have a day at the beginning of their tour to get over jet lag. It's also possible to schedule rest days in Courmayeur or Champex—both are great places to relax and recover.
The trek is only possible in the summer months, when the trail has mostly shed winter conditions. In late June, the Tour du Mont Blanc shows off its color with wild flowers, but there can be snow and ice on the passes. Heavy travel periods are between the middle of July and the end of August. September can be a great time for the TMB, when the temperature is a bit cooler and there are fewer hikers on the road.
Self guided does not mean you are alone. We help you coordinate and plan your trip beforehand. Once you are on your way, we provide 24 hour customer service in case there are any issues with your bookings.
Level : Medium
Level : Medium
Level : High
- According to the La Chamoniarde, a society dedicated to the prevention and rescue of mountain activities in France, the Tour Du Mont Blanc "... is adapted to any well-trained hiker used to hiking on mountain trails and familiar with carrying a backpack. This well-maintained and well-marked route can be tricky if hiked before the end of June/ early July, when mountain passes may still be covered in snow (light crampons, trekking poles, and ice axe may come in handy)". If you have little previous trekking experience, a group tour or privately guided tour is suggested. When the passes are free of snow, no technical mountaineering equipment is necessary. Still, you should be able to use a compass and a map. As such, the tour is rated as medium for technical ability.
- Mental Strength is rated at medium because one must keep good spirits to complete the trip without transfers. Furthermore, the communal nature of the mountain huts can be loved... or hated. It depends on the mind frame of the traveler.
- Lastly, physical conditioning is rated at high if no transfers are taken. Using public transport, ski lifts and private transport, the physical conditioning can be reduced significantly. We can provide a thorough explanation of transport options on the route.