The circuit of Mont Blanc is one of the finest walking routes in the Alps. It is in reality a series of paths linking the seven valleys that surround the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mont Blanc. It normally takes a fortnight to complete the whole circuit, but for those with less time this one-week Headwater tour takes in the most outstanding sections with beautiful mountain highlights each day. Throughout this walking holiday we are based in the delightful chalet with dramatic views of Mont Blanc, and use a mix of private bus and local trains and buses to travel out each day to re-join the next stage of our walk covering beautiful sections of the famous circuit. At the end of each day we return home for afternoon tea, or for those who wish, a dip in the chalet’s bubbling Jacuzzi.
This itinerary includes 5 days hill walking with transport to and from start/end points of walks. The maximum altitude is 2350m, with an average of 1525m. Some of the days are quite long, sometimes involving an ascent of 900/950m (3000/3120ft) followed by a similar descent. This will mean steadily walking uphill for 2 to 4 hours and then the same down again. The paths are rocky and steep in sections but generally well maintained. Due to the quality of the trails, the general 'civilisation' of the area and the relative shortness of the trek, we rate it as an Activity level 3, Moderate. That said for those new to hill walking or not walking fit the trekking may feel quite tough.
Walking hours stated are given as approximates only and include lunch and photo stops and will vary depending on the pace of your group. However, in general, days average about six to seven hours and up to nine miles in distance. The trek should be within the capabilities of anyone good health and is reasonably fit. We will be walking mountain paths throughout however and this trip is not advised for severe vertigo sufferers.
Spring and Autumn departures: Late spring and early autumn is a great time to visit Chamonix and walk in the mountains. The air is clear, the views are stunning and paths are quiet and tranquil. Chamonix itself is still open for business but the bustle of the high season is replaced by a more laid back vibe. Although the itinerary will be similar and we will continue to walk spectacular sections of the TMB, we will need to alter some of the days. This will be due to the cable car not running, (pre the 15th of June and post 17th September) or (especially in spring time) to snow on the paths or due to river crossings not being possible. Cafes on the mountain may well be closed for some departures too. We try to make sure that any alterations stay within the grading and overall theme of the trip but some days may be a little longer and a little harder. We will always make sure that all walks still show off the best this area has to offer. The lift schedule can occasionally change which means they may actually be running for the spring/autumn on the last/first departures. If this is the case the may be lift costs that are payable locally.
The itinerary for all departures may also be altered or modified from time to time depending on the weather, the conditions of the route, the abilities and/or wishes of the group, or other local factors. The leader will discuss these changes with you if and when they occur.
Due to the popularity of this tour, on some weeks we may use more than one chalet. If we do, the groups will be completely separate (although will share the airport bus transfer). Please note we may adjust your itinerary order to ensure the groups are following different walks each day.
Your holiday begins at your comfortable alpine chalet. Those making their own way to the chalet should aim to arrive early afternoon for introductions. There is plenty of time to walk into Chamonix in the afternoon before a pre-dinner briefing from the walking leader.
Our first walk of the week is on the slopes of the Col du Balme from where we will have stunning views back to Mont Blanc as well as into Switzerland. From the small hamlet of Montroc (1380m – 4400ft) we have a short warm-up walk before the trail turns uphill on a steady zigzag path. As the trees thin out, the views get ever better and by late morning we reach Aiguilette des Possettes (2200m – 7220 ft). This is a stunning peak from where we are rewarded with a superb panoramic view over the Chamonix Valley, the Aiguille Rouge national park and around to Switzerland. The path continues down to the Col du Possettes and then on a steady trail becoming ever more winding and finally down to La Tour. (1450m – 4750ft).
6 hours walking. 820m - 2700ft up, 730m – 2400ft down
Today we have a spectacular walk from (1370m – 4450ft) up to the Bel Lachat refuge on the classic TMB and GR5 routes. Crossing the beautiful Carlaveyron Natural Reserve, we summit the Aiguillette des Houches (2285m – 7500ft) for one of the finest views in the Alps - looking directly across the Chamonix Valley to the Mont Blanc summit. Passing through alpine meadows we descend by a different route to La Flatière (1370m – 4500ft).
7 hours walking. 900m – 2950ft up, 930m – 3050ft down
Approximately a 35-minute transfer from our chalet brings us to the les Contamines valley which is where we start our walk back towards the Chamonix Valley. The day starts on a valley path that narrows and steepens as we climb up towards the Passerelle de Bionnassay, a dramatic suspension bridge spanning a white-water stream that tumbles from the Bionnassay glacier a few 100 meters higher up. The route then brings us round to the Col de Voza (1653m – 5360ft) with an expansive view up the Chamonix Valley. During the afternoon we trek down to the valley floor although there is a cable car option (payable locally) for those with tired legs.
7 hours walking, 11km – 7 miles, 560m –1840ft up, 610m – 2000ft down
Today is a free day for optional walks or sightseeing. Your leader will be able to advise you of possible walking routes or you may choose to visit the bustling alpine resort town of Chamonix, which has numerous shops, bars, restaurants and cafés. There are several cablecar excursions you can make from Chamonix, of which the most spectacular is the ascent to the Aiguille du Midi (3842m - 12600ft), offering fantastic views of Mont Blanc and surrounding peaks. It should also be possible to take the mountain train up to Montenvers for close up views of the glacier, Mer de Glace or if you are feeling adventurous you could enjoy a tandem Paragliding flight.
We drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy for a chance to soak up some Italian atmosphere! From Arp Nouva (1770m – 5805ft) we climb up and along to the Bonatti refuge. At just over (2000m – 6560ft), the view from here is one of the finest on the tour. Mont Blanc itself, the towering rocky peak of Grandes Jorasses and the glaciers that crowd the northern flank of Val Ferret are there to be admired. Following a dramatic traversing path we contour high above the valley before descending towards the valley floor. Time allowing, we head off to Courmayeur, the perfect spot for a well-deserved Italian ice-cream.
7 hours walking. 450m – 1500ft up, 550m – 1804ft down
From Argentiere (1250m – 4100ft) we start our day following the petit Balcon Sud before changing tack and climbing to the Grand Balcon Sud that contours the Chamonix valley to Plan Praz (2000m – 6560ft) from where we descend by cable car back to Chamonix. The Grand Balcon Sud is a stunning must do walk in the valley and looks over to Mont Blanc and the Mont Blanc massif. The views of snowy peaks, soaring cliffs, fractured glaciers and lush green forests ensures this trek is not just a highlight in the valley but the whole of the Alps.
(Due to maintenance on the Flegere cablecar this walk has been amended from our previously advertised walk to Lac Blanc. This trek is a little longer than the original and is equally beautiful).
7 hours walking. 800m – 1690ft up, 100m – 330ft down
Spring and Autumn departures - The Plan Praz cablecar is open for trips starting between 15th June and 7th Sep. Outside of this time the cablecar is due to be closed and its cost is no longer included in the price of the holiday. If the timetable changes, and the lift is open, then the cable cost will be paid locally. Approx 20 euro. Alternatively we will follow a Spring and Autumn itinerary which is the same as above but instead of walking from Flegere to Plan Praz we will walk off the mountain from Flegere via the charming Chalet Floria where we will have time for a cup of tea. Due to the added decent this is a little harder that the summer itinerary but the views are equally stunning.
8 hours walking. 740 m – 2430ft up, 950m – 3120ft down - Distance covered: 12 km / 7.5 miles
Following breakfast we say our goodbyes.
Our aim is to provide holidays that are unbeatable for choice and flexibility. We've listed our most popular travel options below, however you aren't limited to these - we can tailor-make virtually any holiday to suit.
Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus an overall rating and comments about their holiday.
Any feedback collected is posted to our website, so that people can make an informed decision based on past experiences before heading off on holiday. We don’t edit the reviews, the only thing we do is proofread them and alter any typos, where necessary, to ensure they are easy to read for everyone. All reviews will be published (except in certain extreme circumstances), and a member of the Headwater team will respond to any constructive criticisms/comments under the reviews, at their discretion. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.
Holiday enjoyed due to good group of people, fantastic weather and wonderful scenery. Guide generally good but needs to check with those at the back more often to see there are no problems over challenging walks.
Descriptions in the brochure not accurate, particularly distance/time of day 1 - concerns raised with Exodus staff
Expected walking to be similar to last holiday (in Portugal) with same grading but it was much more challenging.
Thank you for your feedback. Some of the walks have been adapted following your feedback and we have reviewed all our 'boot' levels. As a 2 boot + walk this is amongst our more challenging walks.
We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday with some reservations all directed towards the hotel. We chose this holiday mainly for the mountains but also because the hotel was advertised as a luxury 4 star hotel. Whilst some of the facilities were as expected, e.g. the spa, the service and food in the restaurant were unacceptable such that we made a serious complaint after the third night. Headwater speedily resolved this to our satisfaction but it meant that we were apart from the main group in the evening. This was a disappointment to us because they became friends during the week. Serious consideration needs to be given to this hotel in our opinion.
The walking was wonderful but a bit tougher than we expected. The guide, Carey, was superb, knowledgable, friendly, made all 15 in the group enjoy their holiday and made delicious picnics! She is a great asset.
Overall, a memorable trip.
Following your feedback the hotel has made some improvements ready for summer 2014 and has employed a new chef. We're delighted you liked the walking - albeit tougher than expected - and have changed some of the walks a little for 2014 to avoid some of the steeper balcony paths and make more use of the cable cars.
Chamonix is a good choice for a walking base but perhaps not in June when so many of the mountain cafes are closed. This is also true of some lifts. The walks were certainly not easy - very strenuous for my age group. Doing 700 meters twice in a week is demanding by any standards. The town is noisy at night. The hotel we stayed at was excellent in many ways but airless and with no airconditioning. You really need this. Exodus' admin was poor which created a lot of the first day arrival experience at the hotel. The guide on the other hand was excellent
Thank you for your comments. Your feedback is very important to us and following your comments some changes have been made for the 2014 season. Regarding the walks and grading: We have adapted our walks to endeavour to enjoy the best of the valley whilst making the most of the cable cars and less steep balcony paths. It is not effortless though, and not all hills can be avoided, so we will be careful to match the pace of the group to the terrain. We are never rushed and plenty of time is allowed to walk the paths and enjoy the scenery.
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This 7 night guided walking holiday includes:
All breakfasts, 5 picnic lunches, 6 home cooked dinners
Afternoon tea and cake on walking days
All transport and listed activities
Tour leader throughout
Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
How to book:
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This holiday is operated by our sister company, Exodus
5 days centre-based walking; 1 free day
Travel by minibus, local train and cable car
Altitude maximum 2352m, average 1525m
Group normally 4 to 14, plus UK leader
7 nights in comfortable chalet, all rooms with private bathrooms
Due to the tailor-made nature of our holidays, we need a little more information in order for us to check availability for Mont Blanc Highlights. Simply complete the form below (fields marked * are mandatory) and a member of our sales team will contact you (when it's most convenient for you) to provide availability information, travel options and an accurate price. Of course there's no obligation, but if you do wish to proceed with a booking they will be on-hand to assist you throughout the process.
Alternatively, you can call our sales team on 1-800-267-3347 to discuss your requirements in more detail.