Have you got eyes for Mont Blanc? This magnificent beast of a mountain is the highest in Europe and straddles France, Italy and Switzerland, offering a range of stunning approaches for adventurous travellers.
Several pretty towns lay in its shadow, including Courmayeur in Italy, and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and Chamonix in France – the latter hosting the first ever Olympic Winter Games.
From here you can take a number of routes including the famous Tour du Mont Blanc, a 170km circuit that makes for one of the most spectacular tours in Europe. You’ll tick off all three of Mont Blanc’s countries along the way.
If you think you’re up to the challenge, start your planning with a quick summary of the key points to know below.
When’s the best time to go?
Ultimately it depends on your preferences and availability. Most people choose to visit the region between June and September when the weather conditions are more reliably pleasant throughout Europe.
July and August are considered peak season, bringing with them the largest crowds and hottest weather – which could combine to slow you down. You’ll also need to move sharply on base accommodation as the popular towns tend to fill up quickly.
Climbing Mont Blanc in the winter months isn’t advisable due to adverse weather conditions, including freezing temperatures on exposed routes. Powerful storms aren’t uncommon in other seasons, however – so it pays to be prepared for anything.
Safety and planning considerations
Touring Mont Blanc isn’t for the faint hearted, especially if you’re attempting to scale the summit or complete one of the larger routes around its lower regions. Its sheer size, technicality and the number of variables mean that travelling as part of a group is a good way to share the load and reduce risk.
You have several routes to choose from for hiking. If you opt for the Tour Du Mont Blanc, which avoids the dangers of the 4,810 metre ascent, the trail typically takes between eight and twelve days in total. You’ll camp or stop at refuges along the way, which provide hot food and other comforts.
If you’re planning the route yourself rather than as a group, it’s wise to map things out in detail. Research factors such as the length of stages, highlights and challenges along the way and what to pack. Thorough planning will help you make the most of your experience.
How to get around the region
As the Mont Blanc region welcomes a diverse range of visitors, there are several ways to travel to and through it depending on your plans and preferences.
Nearby airports include Geneva in Switzerland, Turin in Italy and Lyon in France, with transfers available to the popular resorts. You can then explore the region on foot or with assistance from regular trains, bus and shuttle services. Car rental, meanwhile, offers freedom and scenic drives.
Cable cars are available for reaching higher points at speed and admiring the views – though be prepared to spend some time adjusting to the difference in altitude. And if you plan to ski on your trip, you’ll be well serviced by ski and gondola lifts.
Has Mont Blanc made it into your travel plans for next year? Whether you intend to push yourself on a gruelling trek or relax and admire the views from a valley, you’re sure to come away with lifelong memories.