The funny thing about the posh pens that are named after Europe’s most famous peak, Mont Blanc, is that they are made by a German company, which has been putting the iconic snowcap marking on its prestigious writing implements since 1913. Why funny? Because although Europe’s highest peak at 4,810m is so mammoth it is shared by three countries: Switzerland, Italy and France, it does not stretch into Germany. Perhaps their piste envy drove them to manufacture one of the world’s most coveted writing implements instead, and bravo them for doing so.
Bravo also to anyone who decides to get to know this mammoth massif in person. Unless you are a keen skier and have been doing the chalet chic thing around Chamonix, many people don’t know much about the great mountain. Like the pen, they might also assume that it is also out of their reach, but the natural ‘Meisterstück’ is actually a lot more accessible than most people might think.
Climb or circumnavigate?
Climb or circumnavigate?
If you want to climb Mont Blanc then you are talking serious summit, or ascent. Because the great peak, otherwise known as Dame Blanche or White Lady is a tough gal to conquer. Indeed, for many people, it is the climb of a lifetime, and even though you don’t need months of training in alpine skills, a Mont Blanc ascent does require a serious level of fitness, some climbing experience and commitment. As it's covered in snow and ice all year round at certain elevations, you will need ice picks, crampons and a lot of courage to get to the top following either the Gouter Route, aka Voie Royale, or the more challenging Cosmiques Route, aka ‘La Traversée’. The usual – and traditional – accommodation on the ascent is mountain huts.
Circumnavigating Mont Blanc is the most popular way to take in this tripartite triumph of nature, however, following a long distance walking trail known to most people as the Tour de Mont Blanc, or quite simply the TMB. This is not Mont Blanc ‘light’, however, but a 170km route along paths that often date back centuries and which link the seven main valleys emanating from the main peak. It’s really rather fantastic, and there are equally fantastic Mont Blanc walking holidays where people in the know, including International Mountain Leaders who guide you, organise it all for you.
On the TMB you do not summit Mont Blanc, but take on the whole circuit, either at a high level over about six days, staying in lodges and mountain refuges or, the easier option is to spread it over two weeks and stay at hotels and inns. The best time to go on any of these trips is generally mid-June until mid-September in order to avoid snow and icy conditions. The highest point on the TMB is 2,537m, and you will definitely feel like you have taken on a major challenge rather than just skirting around the edges.
If you don’t have time to take on the whole thing, a popular option is to spend a week walking the highlights of the Tour de Mont Blanc, which is by no means a walk in the park either. You still have some serious cols and valleys to take on, as well getting those all important and omnipresent mountain views. Although these are usually organised small group holidays, you can also do the Tour de Mont Blanc as a self-guided walking holiday, staying in hotels and ‘auberges’ along the way, with your bags transported for you from one to the next.
Our France Holidays
Mont Blanc holiday, Tour du Mont Blanc
The best of the Tour du Mont Blanc
From £1749 to £1999 8 days inc UK flights
Mont Blanc Circuit trek, with hotel accommodation
Classic Tour, using small inns and guesthouses
From £3249 to £4049 15 days inc UK flights
Mont Blanc short break, guided tour
Trekking South Part of the Tour du Mont-Blanc in 4 days
From €595 4 days ex flights
Mont Blanc Circuit classic walking tour, 8 days
Hearty local cuisine from 3 countries & phenomenal views
From £2149 to £2349 8 days inc UK flights
Mont Blanc Circuit walking holiday
Probably the most dramatic walk in Europe
From £2299 to £2599 15 days inc UK flights
Tour du Mont Blanc self guided walking tour
The walking is challenging, but with amazing views
From £2419 to £2589 12 days inc UK flights
If you'd like to chat about France or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
01273 823 700
Call us tomorrow after 9amCalling from outside the UK
Mont Blanc highlights
Mont Blanc has plenty of postcard perfect places. The ones where, no matter how serious a walker you are, even you might be tempted to sneak a selfie. There are two celebrated towns touching the White Lady’s toes and they are Chamonix in France and Courmayeur in Italy. The former is the main hub for the great peak, and the place to stay if you want to do some centre based hiking around Mont Blanc taking in beauty spots such as Lac Blanc, Aiguillette des Houches and the Ferret Valley.
In Courmayeur you will see the local name of Monte Bianco everywhere but, with 14 peaks surrounding this stunning village, you will see plenty of other mountains, too. The Aiguille du Midi cable car links Courmayeur with Chamonix on the other side of Mont Blanc, which must be one of the most dramatic short cuts in the world.
There are some serious cols to discover, such as Grand Col Ferret, with views of the great mountain itself but also out across the Grandes Jorasses. This is seriously moving mountain terrain and one of the highest points on the TMB at 2,536m. Another is Col de la Forclaz at 1,527m which marks one end of the Bovine Route, an historic path that links the col with Champex in Switzerland, and one of the TMB’s super pretty spots to stop and rest your legs for a good day or so. Then last, but not least, you may conquer Col du Midi des Grands at 3,523m if you are taking on the ascent of Mont Blanc as it is one of the last cols before the final frontier.
One other way to enjoy the environs of Mont Blanc is to follow another superb hiking route called the Haute Route. This covers 100 high and mighty kilometres between Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, camping or staying in mountain huts along the way and walking up to a new peak almost every day. The iconic Matterhorn is your reward at the end of two weeks.
The biggest reward of Mont Blanc however, apart from its eye watering natural beauty, is the sound of silence.
The President of the eminent conservation organisation Mountain Wilderness, Frédi Meignan, puts it better than anyone:
“Silence has become such a rare commodity, because wherever we live today there is always noise. And here we are in one of the few territories where there is no noise at all. Not one noise. It is so quiet you can even here the silence. I believe that such a rare and beautiful territory deserves a minimum of respect, and respecting Mont Blanc is respecting its silence.”
Support the work of Mountain Wilderness by donating to their wonderful work to preserve its greatness and read our responsible tourism guide to Mont Blanc to see how you can keep the White Lady as lovely as she deserves.
More about France
For the best time to go to France, read more about all the different regions, festivals, temperature and je ne sais quoi…
We have packed a lot of beauties into our France travel guide, including what we rate and what we don't. We definitely rate a lot though.
There are so many stunning areas to go to in France and some more famous than others. It is also packed with hidden gems…
The French Alps are so big, it’s hard to know where to start. Let us show you the way. And there are many beautiful ways…
Like rebellious cousins to the goody two-shoes Alps, the French Pyrenees are all about the jagged peaks, the moody landscapes and the rugged terrain…
The Mercantour National Park is glorious mix of Alpes Maritimes and Alpes de Haute Provence. All just an hour north of Nice. Which is nice...
Rural idylls, walking trails, quaint historic market towns and spectacular marshlands, Poitou-Charentes is France without the fancy bits. Just the real and absolutely beautiful bits…
Provence holidays take you into a landscape immortalised in painting, literature and film. Medieval cities, olive groves, perched villages and superb food…
The Dordogne’s eponymous river is its pièce de résistance, winding through ancient bastide (fortified) towns and dramatic limestone gorges adorned with perched chateaux.
France is perfect en famille. With a great variety of holidays too from trekking with a donkey to white water rafting. Allez les enfants!...
We have lots of great France travel advice such as finding out more about camping with kids, trekking in the Alps and how to choose the right gite...
From holiday homes, to hunting and pollution in the mountains our responsible tourism tips are all you need to travel better in France…
Find all of our France guides in one place, for particular places in France such as Corsica, the Alps or Poitou-Charentes. Or a range of activities holidays too of course...