Tucked within two valleys, the Val Ferret and Val Veny on the southeastern side of Mont Blanc in the Aosta Valley of Italy lies the lovely alpine town of Courmayeur. Known for its divine scenery and proximity to three iconic long-distance hikes, Courmayeur is the perfect place to base your stay for exploring its stunning alpine scenery.
Courmayeur is actually a series of small hamlets peppered throughout the valley with a historic central village within the heart. Linked by both a tunnel and (for the more stunning view) a cable car to its counterpart, Chamonix, on the other side of Mont Blanc in France, Courmayeur offers a great mountain holiday any time of year.
Before the opening of the 11.6 kilometer-long tunnel in 1965, Courmayeur was relatively small and isolated. Today Courmayeur is known as one of the best ski resort towns in the Alps as well as a wonderful base for hiking, biking and exploring the divine beauty of the Italian Alps.
When dreaming about an idyllic European town, Courmayeur is just what comes to mind. Courmayeur is a charming town awash in history, quaintness and ethereal beauty. It’s pedestrian-friendly walking streets are filled with lovely shops and boutiques, and a multitude of open-air cafes and restaurants that dazzle any foodie. Her lovely stone villas and glorious architecture all set against the sensational backdrop of the Italian Alps make Courmayeur the perfect place to base your stay for the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) or for those who want to refuel and relax in a lovely intimate Italian town.
Courmayeur is located 98 kilometers southeast of Geneva and roughly 21 kilometers southeast of Chamonix. It is best to fly into Geneva and either take a bus, train or rent a car from the airport to Courmayeur. We rented a car for our entire trip because we needed flexibility. Depending on what you plan to do it is not necessary to rent a car as there are a lot of ways to get around whether it be a public bus, train or even gondola.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the delightful Villa Novecento Romantic, a boutique hotel located in the center of Courmayeur right off the Viale Mont Bianco, one of the main streets leading into the heart of town. It is walking distance to the lovely Piazza Abbe Henry and the Via Roma, Courmayeur’s main shopping, restaurant, and pedestrian area.
The heart and soul of Courmayeur starts on Viale Mont Bianco and leads into the main pedestrian walking street on Via Roma. Here you will find tons of fantastic restaurants, cafes, and shops to keep you busy. It is also wonderful for people-watching over a glass of Italian wine or a cup of cappuccino in the morning. I was impressed by the level of high-end boutiques and ski shops as well as all the family-owned meat and cheese shops.
The Parrocchia di San Pantaleone is a lovely church at the start of Via Roma that has medieval origins and was completely rebuilt in 1722. It is a popular place for Italian weddings. We lucked out and saw a newly-wed bride and groom walk out to a shower of rice and the Romanesque bell furiously ringing with joy.
There are plenty of places in Courmayeur to soak in the breathtaking views. The Alps are literally in your face everywhere you step and sit (such as at this public park right on the edge of Via Roma).
It is also lovely on the outskirts of the center of town near the hamlet of La Saxe where there are tons of beautiful old stone villas and hotels.
What to Do
Most people come to Courmayeur to take advantage of the mountains. In the winter, Courmayeur is one of the top ski areas in the Alps and in the warmer months, it is the perfect place to hike either part of the Tour de Mont Blanc or other trails.
Take a Hike or Two
We did two half-day hikes, one to the Val Ferret and the other to the Val Veny, the two valleys that border the town. Both hikes are part of the Tour de Mont Blanc and are absolutely stunning.
Hike in Val Ferret
Getting there: Hop on the bus from the Municipio in Courmayeur in the direction of Val La Ferret and get off twenty minutes later at the stop for the Rifugio Bonatti. Once there, follow the trailhead to Rifugio Bonatti (about twenty minutes) and continue on to the glorious Rifugio Beretone and through the hamlet of La Saxe into Courmayeur. The hike takes about four hours at a good pace allowing for a few stops along the way to snap photos of the incredible, mouth-watering scenery.
Hike in Val Veny
Take the local bus from the Municipio in Courmayeur in the direction of Val Veny to the last stop at La Visaille (approximately 20 minutes). Follow the path in the direction of Rifugio Elisabetta (roughly two hours) where you can either grab lunch or enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the stunning glaciers and glacial valley. Return back to La Visaille the same way you came and take the bus back to Courmayeur.
Take the Skyway Mont Bianco to the top of the Alps
A highlight of any visit to Courmayeur is to take the Skyway Monte Bianco, the cable car to the Punta Helbronner at 3466 m (11,371 feet). You can get off and enjoy the incredible 360-degree panoramic view of the Alps, enjoy lunch and of course take tons of photos. If you like, you can even continue on to Chamonix. (The skyway links to the Vallée Blanche Aerial Tramway going to the Aiguille du Midi, which connects to the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi, the cable car from Chamonix). For more information visit www.montebianco.com.
Plan your trip
To help plan your trip, check out Reserve Your Tour de Mont Blanc, a website in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish that helps you plan your entire tour and reserve available hotels, inns, B&Bs and mountain refuges along the way. It is amazing!
Courmayeur’s Tourist information can be found at www.lovecourmayeur.com
This article is also available on GPS My City. Check it out here.
In the coming weeks, I will write a few more detailed posts on both hikes to Val Ferret and Val Veny as well as give you a bird’s eye view on top of the world at Punta Helbronner. Stay tuned.
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