Val Veny, Courmayeur, Italy

A Taste of the Tour de Mont Blanc: Hike in Val Vény, Courmayeur

After an incredible first hike along our taste of the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) into Courmayeur’s Val Ferret, we were thrilled to be doing our second hike in her neighbor, Val Vény. Val Vény is a pastoral valley of the Mont Blanc massif, that like Val Ferret lies southwest of Courmayeur. Val Vény was formed by two glaciers, the Miage Glacier and the Brenva Glacier which literally cut off the valley like an island by two massive moraine walls of the glaciers on each side. Val Vény is quite a magnificent place to hike.

After a filling breakfast of local cheese, cotta ham and fruit, we headed out to grab the local bus in the direction of Val Vény. This time we rode in the opposite direction of Val Ferret and followed the bus through yet another winding path inching us through the lush wide valley. About twenty minutes later, we reached the end of the line and got off at a tiny hamlet called La Visaille.

From La Visaille, we crossed a bridge and began our hike down a wide path sliced within a valley to the Rifugio Elisabetta, another stop along the TMB. It was another postcard-perfect day and I couldn’t have felt more alive. There is something about hiking and being surrounded by mountains that always makes my heart sing.

Val Veny, Courmayeur, Italy

Arriving at the start of the hike in La Visaille

Val Veny, Courmayeur, Italy

The start of the hike is breathtaking and gives you an idea of the treasure that awaits.

Val Veny, Courmayeur, Italy

Approaching Lac Combol

Val Veny, Courmayeur Italy

Val Veny, Courmayeur, Italy

My dad and son

Val Veny, Courmayeur, Italy

Me and Max

Val Veny, Courmayeur, Italy

A rifugio along the TMB

Val Veny, Courmayeur, Italy

Adventure Travel Europe Italy TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking
Val Ferret Courmayeur Italy

A Taste of the Tour de Mont Blanc: A Hike in Val Ferret, Courmayeur

Our first hike along our taste of the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) was in the Val Ferret, one of two breathtaking valleys that cut through Courmayeur, Italy on the southeastern side of Mont Blanc. Known as one of the most stunning hikes in the area, especially if blessed with good weather, hiking in Val Ferret would set the tone of what would be a stunning eight full days of hiking around the TMB and leave me longing to go back.

We rose early to one of many mouth-watering, gorgeous mornings in the Alps. The sky was cloudless and eggshell blue and the view of the towering, snow-capped jagged Graian Alps pierced through the sky like lightning. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast of fresh Italian parma ham, local cheese, homemade bread, and sweets before lacing up our hiking boots and heading out.

Courmayeur, Italy

View right outside my hotel window in Courmayeur, Italy

Although we had rented a car for the week, our hotel recommended taking the bus to the start of our hike since parking is difficult on busy weekends in the summer. With our backpacks ready to go and a picnic lunch of fresh Italian baguette, local cotta ham, tomatoes, and Piave cheese, we set off. We caught the bus at the city hall (Municipio) stop located a few short blocks from our hotel in the direction of Val Ferret.

As we left Courmayeur, it was obvious that the rest of the fully packed bus was also heading to the Val Ferret for a hike. The thirty-minute ride was filled with fellow trekkers from all around the world, sharing stories of their routes and experience on the TMB. It was fun to chat and compare notes, and I especially was excited to meet fellow women older than me partaking in the tour self-guided. Everyone was filled with smiles and laughter. Obviously, their souls were happy and fulfilled from the fresh mountain air and stunning views afforded along the TMB. It made me even more excited to start our day and do our first hike.

The bus drove through a winding valley road and we got off at the stop marked Rifugio Bonatti where we would access the trail.

The air was fresh and pure, and as soon as I was off the bus and on the trail, I felt alive with excitement and anticipation for our day. I was in my element, and all I could think of was the famous John Muir quote: “The mountains are calling and I must go”.

 hike to Val Ferret Courmayeur Italy

Heading off into Val Ferret

 hike to Val Ferret Courmayeur Italy

Sensational views like this are common on a lovely day in Val Ferret

Adventure Travel Europe Italy TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking
Hiking in Val Ferret, Courmayeur Italy

Two Days in Courmayeur

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.

Why Go

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, Italy

View right outside my hotel window in Courmayeur, Italy

Courmayeur, Italy

View from our hotel down Viale Mont Bianco one of the main streets into town.

Getting there

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.

Exploring Courmayeur

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.

Courmayeur, Italy

Via Roma is filled with life and a wonderful place to eat, shop and watch the world go 

Courmayeur, Italy

The beautiful historic building for hiking guides also hosts a museum.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).

Courmayeur Italy

A lovely park in Courmayeur with a stunning view

Dinner at Lo Scoiattolo, a wine bar, restaurant, and hotel, was fabulous! 

Courmayeur Italy

There are plenty of bakeries and cheese and fresh meat shops to buy food for a picnic lunch

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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. 

Hiking in Val Ferret, Courmayeur Italy

Hiking in Val Ferret, Courmayeur Italy

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. 

Hiking Val Veny in Courmayer

Hiking Val Veny in 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.

Punta Helbronner Courmayeur

Skyway to the top of Punta Helbronner

Astounding views of Courmayeur valley

Astounding views of Courmayeur valley

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

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.

Like it? Why not PIN for Later!

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.

Adventure Travel Europe Italy TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking
Hike to Lac Blanc in Chamonix

A Taste of the Tour de Mont Blanc

Known as one of the greatest multi-day treks in the world, the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) is a circular tour of 105 miles/170 kilometers around the mighty Mont Blanc massif traversing three countries – Italy, Switzerland and France, over the course of 10-12 days. Passing through some of the most divine high alpine scenery on earth, the TMB is one of the most stunning multi-day treks of all and is a dream for many avid trekkers.

Ever since my dad and I did the lesser-known Tour de Vanoise back in 2012 (located in Savoie, the eastern Rhône-Alpes region of France), I had dreamed of doing the popular TMB.  My father too had wanted to complete some of the TMB after scaling Mount Blanc in 1998. Thankfully, the opportunity finally arrived this summer and better yet, it would be not with two generations of trekkers but three.

On July 4th, my father, 14-year-old son and I left for a ten-day intergenerational hiking trip to Mont Blanc, devising our own Tour de Mont Blanc to fit our needs. Armed with maps, internet resources, and guide books, we set off and had a magnificent time. I learned a lot along the way about what works and what can be improved with planning your own Tour de Mont Blanc. Here is what I discovered and my thoughts on planning your own Taste of Mont Blanc.

Tour de Mont Blanc

My dad, me and my son on our own Tour de Mont Blanc.

Why Go

At 15,771 feet (4807 m), the mighty snow-capped Mount Blanc soars 12,000 feet (3700 m) over Chamonix, dominating the region and controlling the weather in all the surrounding valleys. As the masterpiece of the Mont Blanc massif, an area measuring 29 miles (46 km) long graced with numerous peaks and aiguilles, jaw-dropping sheer rock walls, ridges and tumbling glaciers, the TMB is known as one of the most stunning multi-day treks in the world.

What makes Mont Blanc even more unique is her incredible location at the crossroads of three European countries – France, Italy and Switzerland – giving the trekker a unique cultural experience as well as extraordinary views. Two distinct towns converge below Mont Blanc: Courmayeur (Italy), and Chamonix (France). Given its high elevation, with 11 summits measuring over 13,123 (4000 m), most of the surrounding area is snow and ice-covered with glaciers pouring down the steep mountain-sides creating a magical, breathtaking scenery that delights the eyes and fills the soul.

If you have one long-distance trek to do on your bucket list, then the TMB is the one for you.

Tour de Mont Blanc Val Veny, Italy

With stunning views like this on the hike through Val Veny in Italy, the TMB will never disappoint.

Adventure Travel Europe France Italy Switzerland TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking
Hiking in Aosta Valley, Italy

The Power of Intergenerational Travel: Me, My Dad and Son Hike Around Mont Blanc

It was yet another beautiful day hiking in the Alps. The sky was a robin’s egg blue dotted with powderpuff clouds. A gentle breeze kissed my face and the stunning scenery of the Alps made me continually want to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t all just a dream. It was our third day of hiking during a ten day intergenerational hiking trip around Mont Blanc. So far our trip could not have been more surreal.

As my dad and son climbed up the steep path leading us higher and higher above the dazzling aquamarine Moulin Dam far below, all I could think about was the reward for our efforts. A view of the legendary Lac Mort, a high alpine ice-covered lake at 2843 meters (9327 feet) above the Aosta Valley on her perch in the Italian Alps. But then, after two hours of hiking and only twenty minutes to go to our destination, the wind began to change. We could see a series of rain-laden clouds off in the distance over the Aosta Valley. I checked the radar and knew we would be fine however my dad grew nervous. He had been caught in a ravaging thunderstorm atop a mountain before and swore he’d never do it again. He wanted to turn back.

Hike in Aosta Valley to Lac Long

My son and dad on the long hike up from the glorious Moulin Dam to Lac Long

We had just reached the first of two alpine lakes, Lac Long, and it was stunning. It would only take another twenty minutes to reach Lac Mort but my dad said we couldn’t go. An argument brewed because I hate to not complete a hike especially when I knew we could make it before the rain. But I had to respect my dad’s decision despite my displeasure and disappointment. Upset, we turned around and headed back without ever seeing the prize.

Me and my son Max at Lac Long in Aosta, Italy

We were painfully close to the prize destination

I didn’t talk for the next hour of the hike down to the car and purposely held back on my pace letting my dad and son go ahead. Yet it was at that moment when I fully realized the true beauty and power of intergenerational travel.

From a distance, I observed and listened to my dad and teenage son talk about life, the world, their hopes and dreams. Slowly my disappointment and anger eased and instead a deep sense of gratitude grew. For this is what it is all about and why it is so incredibly meaningful to travel as family. This unburdened time together in the middle of nowhere. Sharing our common love of nature and mountains, creating bonds that somehow are often harder to create at home. It is magical and priceless.

 

My Dad and son talking away

Me and Max

The trip ended up being all I had hoped for and more. It gave me precious time to reconnect with my teenage son, spend more time with my dad and realize what an incredible gift all of these priceless memories are. I look forward to sharing my stories in the upcoming months and reliving the beauty of not only the Alps but of spending sacred time with family. Stay tuned.

Europe Family Travel France Italy Switzerland TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION