The Tour du Mont-Blanc (TMB) is one of the most famous long-distance hikes of Europe. It is a hike that takes you around the famous Mont-Blanc and it takes around 7 to 12 days to finish this hike, depending on your preference. The TMB is a hike that takes you through three countries: France, Italy, and Switzerland. You can start wherever you want but most people start in Les Houches in France.
In this blog the following will be discussed:
Emergency contact numbers:
- 112: General European emergency contact number
- 118: Vallee d’Aoste
- 144: Valais
The Mont-Blanc is called Monte Bianco in Italian, which is the highest mountain of the Alps, around 4800 meters high. During the Tour du Mont-Blanc you will have many beautiful views over this mountain and you will hike around this mountain.
What to know before you start the hike
There are many things you need to know before you start hiking the Tour du Mont-Blanc. It is a long-distance hike which means it takes multiple days to finish the hike. The hike is in a loop so you will end where you started. There are many signs and indications, so you can easily find your way and won’t get lost.
Below I will discuss the following topics that you need to know before you start the hike:
In total you can do the Tour du Mont-Blanc in 7 to 12 days, if you want to take it slow, I suggest you do it in 10 to 12 days. It is possible to combine parts and do it in less days, but you need to know that this is hard. Some people do it in more days and others in less. It depends on what you prefer, we did it in 8 days which was good, but the days were long.
Tip: make sure you have a map or downloaded the map offline because you will not always have connection with your cell phone. It’s amazing to have some peace and enjoy the views.
In terms of accommodation there are two options. You can sleep in the refugees/hotels, or you can pitch your own tent. Wild camping is not allowed everywhere although in case of emergency there are spots where it’s possible.
The wild camping/bivouac rules are different for every country:
- France: wild camping is not allowed unless there is a sign that it’s allowed. Near a refugee you can camp if you get permission of the guardian. Bivouac is allowed in some places, but this means you set up the tent for one night between sunset and sunrise. Make sure it’s not in protected areas and leave no trace behind. Depending on which area in France it is between different hours. Most of the time it is authorized between 7 pm and 9 am. There are signs if you can’t camp, and you will also find bivouac zones where you can camp for free and where there are good camping spots.
- Italy: it’s not allowed to do bivouac under 2500 meters. You can set up the tent for one night if it’s above 2500 meters but make sure you don’t leave a trace behind.
- Switzerland: bivouac is in principle possible above the forest line but forbidden in wildlife or nature protection areas.
For this hike you will pass many sleeping places, if you don’t want to camp, where you can spend the night but make sure you book them in front during the high season. You can also, like I said before, bring the tent. It gives you more freedom and there are many camping spots available along the hike.
Tip: make sure you book your accommodations in front during high season.
Make sure you don’t wear too much weight. The maximum weight of your backpack should be ideally 1/5 or maximum 1/4 of your body weight, of course less is better and easier. Wearing too much weight can damage your body so make sure you pack as light as possible.
We had a little bit too much weight with us. Timothy was carrying 16 kg and I was carrying 14 kg.
Best time to hike the TMB
The best time to hike the TMB is in June or September. In June it can happen that there is still some snow on the track but it’s small pieces and normally not too dangerous. You can take small crampons with you if you like but it’s not necessary. If there is much snow, it’s better to bring crampons and an ice axe. July and August are also perfect to hike the TMB but there will be way more people.
Tip: avoid doing this hike in July and August because it’s high season and it will be too crowded. The best time to hike the Tour du Mont-Blanc is in June or September.
Always calculate extra days in case the weather is too bad and it’s not possible to hike. So, make sure to calculate two or three extra days to your hike as a buffer.
Where to start
I recommend you start the hike in Les Houches in France. Les Houches is close to Chamonix in France, and you can easily take the train from Chamonix to Les Houches.
If you go by car, then you can park your car at Camping Bellevue and spend the night on the camping with your tent. You will pay every day to park your car there, it’s 5 euros per night. If you didn’t bring a tent, then you can book an accommodation in Les Houches.
Tip: start the hike at Les Houches and hike the trail counter clockwise, in the direction of le Pontet.
Tip: bring enough cash because in some places you can’t pay with your card. Besides that, buying food and drinks in the refugees adds up, so make sure you have enough money with you.
What if you can’t finish?
The Tour du Mont-Blanc is a well-known long-distance hike. You will pass by many villages, and you can choose from lots of accommodations. You can always decide to stop and take the public transport back to where you want to go.
Make sure you have the emergency number in your cell phone if something bad were to happen. They will always rescue you by helicopter so don’t forget to check your insurance before you start the hike.
What to expect of the Tour du Mont-Blanc
The Tour du Mont-Blanc is a moderate hike, and you need to know that it’s challenging if you want to finish in fewer days. It’s also hiking in the mountains so be prepared that there is much ascending and descending.
If you’re not a fast hiker, the best thing you can do is wake up early to start the hike and do the hike in 12 days. Many people do the hike in 10 to 12 days. If you are the opposite and you are used to hiking in the mountains, then you can easily do the hike in 7 or 8 days.
Fauna and flora
It’s a well-known hike and we heard it can get really crowded during July and August. When it’s crowded you will see less wildlife. I recommend doing the hike in June or September to avoid the crowd.
Normally you will see lots of animals and plants during the hike. Some of the animals you might spot:
- Mountain goats
- Alpine Ibex
- Red deer
- Wild boars
What not to forget to bring on the hike
Some things are easy to forget. That’s why below you’ll find a list of essential things that you should not forget to bring on this hike. Things you should bring:
- Purification tablets for water and electrolytes
- First aid kit and emergency blanket
- Knee or other brace, for your (future) injuries
- Tape to prevent blisters
- Wilderness wash
- Toilet paper
- Vaseline or hydrating cream
- Shoelaces in case they break (doubles as rope to hang your laundry)
- Broth cubes or powder
- Head torch (fully charged)
- Clothes that dry quickly in the sun (leggings for during the evening)
- Cloths or tea towels
- Ear plugs and sleeping mask
- Sun protection (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses)
- Power bank
Tip: every day you should hike with at least 2 liters of water, and you should fill another 50 cl bottle with water and electrolytes. Bring enough snacks and dehydrated food.
Our experience hiking the Tour du Mont-Blanc
You can choose to hike the whole trail or just a part of it. Some just do day hikes to have some nice views. I recommend you hike the whole trail because it’s impressive. It’s possible for everybody that loves hiking. You need to be prepared for a lot of ascending and descending. Take your time if you are not used to hike too long in the mountains, just calculate some extra days.
Tip: always start your hike early in the morning at 5, 6 or 7 am. You will see a lot more wildlife, and as a bonus it’s not too hot.
For us this is a moderate to hard long-distance hike. It was difficult sometimes because we wanted to finish in 8 days which made it harder. If we would do it again we would do it in 9 or 10 days so we can relax some more. If you want a more difficult hike where you are deep in nature and have the feeling you’re away from the world, then I recommend you hike the GR20 in Corsica. This is the perfect hike to clear your mind. Read more about this hike in the blog GR20: most difficult long-distance hike in Europe.
Tip: always put your hiking shoes in the tent because foxes love them. The best thing you can do is put everything in your tent (if you have the space).
You will meet a lot of new people and have a special connection with those people. We hope you have the best time hiking the Tour du Mont-Blanc. If you want to hike the TMB in 8 days, read the blog Tour du Mont-Blanc in 8 days.