Tour du Mont Blanc is an incredible 100+ mile trek around the Mont Blanc massif that takes you through France, Italy, and Switzerland. The walk can be fast-packed in a few days or enjoyed and savored over two weeks. However you choose to walk the TMB, you’ll need to consider where you’ll sleep at night. Wild camping is illegal in most parts of TMB, but still possible if you stay out of sight. There are also campgrounds, and hotel owners may let you sleep outside of their accommodation.
The type of accommodation varies by location. The bigger towns will have many options including some nice hotels. The smaller towns and hamlets can sometimes be limited to mountain huts or dortoirs. Usually, I prefer to stay in the cheapest accommodation imaginable, which is probably why I love backpacking so much…it’s free! For this trek, Julia and I both wanted it to feel a little more like a vacation, so we skipped on a lot of the dorm style sleeping options and got a private room whenever available. Here is a list of my top four.
1.) Chambres du Soleil in Les Chapieux
This bed & breakfast located in Les Chapieux was by far my favorite accommodation on the TMB. It’s owned by an older couple who take great pride in providing a first class experience. Anne-Marie and François made us feel right at home from the moment we stepped through the front door.
When you first descend into the hamlet of Les Cheapieux, you’ll see Auberge de la Nova. We stayed here and had a beer before finding out that only the dorm accommodation was still available for the night. We took a peek and decided we weren’t in the mood to be sleeping shoulder to shoulder with strangers. This feeling became even stronger when we found out a large number of young kids were booked in the same room!
Chambres du Soleil is right next door to Auberge de la Nova. The history of the Chambres is very interesting: “The Hotel du Soleil was founded in 1856 by the Pugin family in Les Chapieux. For over 150 years, Hotel du Soleil has been a rallying point for mountain farmers, soldiers, hunters, peddlers, dam workers and hikers. Its activity ceased at the death of its last owner, René Pugin.” Anne-Marie and François have since renovated the location into something spectacular. The rooms are beautifully done with eye pleasing woodwork and all the comforts of home. On many backpacking trips it’s not uncommon to go a week without a shower, on this trip, I was more than happy to trade the back-country lifestyle for something a little more comfortable.
To talk about Chambres du Soleil and not mention breakfast and dinner, would be to neglect the best part of this B&B. We shared a meal with couples from Austria, the UK, and Denmark. Anne-Marie and François put together an exquisite series of dishes that showcased the very best of French cuisine. This B&B was one of the more expensive we stayed at on the TMB, but it was far and away the best and worth every penny.
2.) The Gai Soleil Chalet Hotel (L’hôtel Gai Soleil) in Les Contamines
Gai Soleil is a beautiful B&B located of the main street in Les Contamines behind the church. When we arrived in Les Contamines on our first day, we were greeting by large crowd in the center of town cheering on the finishers of a trail race. We hiked among the runners on our way in to town, so it was a memorable experience to finish in the same place as they did. We hadn’t booked ahead for a reservation, so we stopped by the tourist office to see if they had a list of places to stay. The lady working was kind enough to call around and book us at Gai Soleil. We couldn’t have been more happy with the location and accommodation. Being up off the main road, it was much more quiet, and the views were simply stunning. The host is a very old lady who only speaks French. She is the type of person you instantly feel at home with, and my only regret is that we couldn’t have stayed here longer. Gai Soleil is the perfect place to stay after a the first day of walking from Les Houches.
The garden surrounding Gai Soleil is just a beautiful as the building itself, with abundant flowers and table tennis.
3.) Le Cabanon Hotel Splendide in Chapex Lac
We arrived in Champex Lac after walking through days of mud and rain. Just as we stumbled in to town, the first rays of sunlight were starting to breakthrough what had been a never ending sky of gray and darkness. The streaks of sunlight were short lived, but the beauty of this little town still shown through. We didn’t have a reservation when we arrived, so like usual, we stopped at the tourist office and picked up a list of accommodations. After calling a few hotels with no luck from the lobby of a local bakery, I found a place with a room for two. We walked down the street and were pleasantly surprised when we saw where we’d be staying. The hotel was on the upper floor of a building that houses a restaurant below. Our room was very comfortable and newly renovated. The beds could use a new mattress, but that’s just being picky. The bathroom here was the nicest of any of the places we stayed on the TMB, with an enormous sink to wash our clothes, a bathtub, and a large shower. One of the nicest parts of the room we received, is the view looking out on to Champex Lac, which was not bad for a last second booking. The breakfast here is hosted in the restaurant. It’s hard to think of a better way to start the day than how things played out here…hot coffee, delicious bread, and a morning window view of a foggy mountain lake.
4.) Hotel Edelweiss in Courmayeur
Courmayeur is the first Italian town you’ll enter after crossing over Col de la Seigne. Our initial plan was to stay at Rifugio Elisibetta for this day of walking, but they were fully booked for the night. The walk down to Lac Combal was rather pleasant, but just as we stopped to take pictures, the skies opened up. The walk to Courmayeur was wet but pleasant, and after walking through the city center upon our arrival, we found Hotel Edelweiss. Hotel Edelweiss is in a great location just of the main street and very close to restaurants, markets, and shops. The room was very comfortable and had a great patio area to take in the building storm.
The second floor of this hotel is where you’ll find the restaurant for breakfast. Of all the breakfasts on the TMB, I think I ate the most here. After combining two stages in one the previous day, my body was really craving the calories, and the buffet style Italian breakfast was everything I could have hoped for. The lobby of this hotel is very comfortable as well, with a full bar, a library, board games, and an assortment of comfortable couches.