Secrets of the TMB
Looking for some little-known facts about the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB)? Let us fill you in on some of our favourite places to visit and things to see! Scroll down to learn about our TMB secrets.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the most popular treks in Europe. And for good reason! The route passes through idyllic mountain villages, lush alpine forests, and bright, fragrant meadows. It passes by cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, and huge granite towers. It crosses wild mountain passes, and milky glacial rivers. What’s more, the TMB route passes lots of mountain refuges, so you can try a variety of local dishes. The TMB really is a feast for all the senses!
You probably know a few facts about the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB), but before we reveal our top TMB secrets, here are some things you need to know before trekking the TMB :
Well-Known TMB Facts
- The TMB is a multi-day, “hut-to-hut” trek in the Alps
- The classic TMB route goes in an anticlockwise direction around Mont Blanc
- It passes through three countries (France, Italy, and Switzerland)
- The classic route is around 170 kilometres long, with 10,000 metres of climbing
- It usually takes 10 days to trek the TMB classic route
- There are many TMB “variants”, which make the route harder or easier
- The TMB is considered a “difficult” trek
- The trails cross high mountain passes, and they can be rocky
- The highest point of the TMB is at 2,665 m
- The hardest stage is the climb up to Fenêtre d’Arpette, which is a TMB variant
Little-Known TMB Secrets
We’ve asked our clients and guides to share their top TMB secrets.
These little-known gems add an extra dimension to the Tour du Mont Blanc!
1. Cheese Dairy
Visit the dairy farm at Alpage de la Ville des Glaciers, Day 2 on the TMB.
Nestled on the side of the TMB trail, this farm welcomes visitors and sells its own Beaufort cheese.
Beaufort is a tangy, hard cheese, and is a Savoyard delicacy! Inside the rustic farm building are huge wheels of Beaufort, and curious dairy equipment. You can meet the cows, who graze happily in the surrounding pastures.
This is a must visit for any cheese-lover, and anyone interested in traditional methods of alpine farming. It’s a little-known TMB secret because it’s not mentioned in many guidebooks. Most of it’s visitors are Savoyards in search of top-notch Beaufort. Why not join them?
2. Lac du Miage
Slightly off the trail on Day 3 of the TMB. Make sure to ask your guide to take you there. If you’re doing a self-guided TMB, get in touch if you cannot find it on a map.
Dip your toes into the milky-blue waters of Lac du Miage. You are allowed to swim in this lake, and it is always quiet.
Along the trail, you’ll pass lots of beautiful lakes. Lac Blanc is stunning, but because it’s easily accessed by a cablecar, it can get very busy. Likewise, Lac Champex is very special, but it is in the centre of the town. Lac du Miage is our personal favourite because it’s quiet and right in the mountains. It’s a TMB secret because it’s slightly off the trail, so most trekkers pass by without even spotting it.
3. Mountain Museum
Poke your head into the Casermetta, a mountain museum on Day 3 of the TMB.
This beautifully restored building started life as an Italian outpost. Sitting just below the Franco-Italian border, the Casermetta is perfectly positioned to look down into France. During the 1930s, the building was taken over by an Italian detachment, who launched a secret attack on France.
At the end of the Second World War, the Casermetta was renovated and slowly became what it is today : a peaceful meeting place for mountain-lovers.
The staff at the Casermetta run free workshops, and they welcome passers-by to pop in. The staff are knowledgable and passionate, and they can explain all sorts of things to you. If you have an unanswered question about glaciers, geology, alpine culture or nature, bring it here! The Casermetta also make their own renewable energy, which we think is pretty cool!
4. Sunset Valley
After arriving at Refuge Bonatti (Day 5 of the TMB), trek about 1km more up the hillside, with 200 metres of ascent. Ask your guide to show you the way, or contact us directly!
Up here, behind the refuge, there is a hidden valley that is rarely even visited by other TMB trekkers. A few farm buildings are scattered here and there, and there’s a tiny chapel perched on a rock. The valley is quite narrow, so the sound travels strangely!
The TMB route can be busy, especially during August, but this valley remains quiet all through the summer. It’s a perfect, little-known place to watch the sunset.
Black Vanilla Orchid
5. Black Vanilla Orchid
Watch out for their deep red flowers on Day 6 of the TMB, as you pass over the Grand Col Ferret.
The Black Vanilla Orchid grows in alpine meadows and around mountain passes. As the name suggests, the Black Vanilla Orchid has a deliciously vanilla-like fragrance, so much so that they’re cultivated to make vanilla-scented perfumes and lotions. However, please do not pick these flowers in the wild, as they are protected.
These flowers are a TMB secret, because you can easily pass one by without noticing its distinctive scent. They’re not strong smelling, so make sure you get up close and breath them in. They’re also quite rare, so keep your eyes peeled!
6. Hidden WW2 Bunker
On Day 7 of the TMB, see if you can spot the WW2 bunker.
This was built just before the Second World War, when tensions were starting to rise in Europe. The bunker is well-disguised as a Swiss chalet, just below the Col du Forclaz and next to the Franco-Swiss border. Make sure to look closely at the big rock beneath the chalet… But we won’t spoilt the surprise!
You can visit the bunker for free, and it’s an interesting reminder of the important part the Alps played in the war. Inside, you can find more information.
7. Botanical Garden
In the afternoon of Day 7, you will have some free time in Champex. The garden is just on the edge of town, and is very easy to get to.
The Botanical Garden at Champex has a huge selection of alpine flowers, and it is a very special place to relax. The staff are friendly and knowledgable. If you still have a question about alpine flowers, bring it here!
The Botanical Garden at Champex is cheap to enter, and is a great place to relax. If you’re interested in botany, or if you just enjoy being around beautiful plants, this is a must. It’s a little-known TMB secret because most trekkers take this time to relax by the Champex lake and eat ice cream. But what they don’t realise is… you have the time to do both!
8. Ibex Family
Around the cliffs ahead of you as you come down from Col du Balme on Day 8 of the TMB.
Ibex are quite common in the Alps these days, but to the untrained eye, they can be difficult to spot. In the past few years, we’ve noticed a family of ibex living.
It’s not often that you see a group of ibex like this. Most TMB trekkers do not notice these ibex because they are well-hidden by the grey rocks behind them, and the yellowish grass. By day 8, most TMB trekkers are also too tired, so these ibex go unnoticed.