With so much focus on the dramatic, towering peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif, it’s easy to overlook the region’s culturally rich alpine villages. Nestled in lush valleys or standing boldly at the base of some of the world’s tallest mountains, these villages represent cultures old and new, and have been central to mountaineering, skiing, and tourism for centuries.
Our Classic Mont Blanc Adventure passes through these unique towns, giving you a chance to enjoy some of Europe’s finest mountain culture:
Few places in the world are more synonymous with adventure than Chamonix, France. Some of the most daring mountaineering feats, including the first summit of Mont Blanc, were launched from this town. It has also been the site of some of the most prestigious extreme sporting competitions, including the first winter Olympics in 1924.
The cable car lift to Aiguille du Midi is one of Chamonix’s main attractions – not only does it allow for extreme skiing, mountaineering, and incredible sightseeing, it’s also the world’s highest vertical ascent cable car, lifting from 3,395’ to 12,604’.
Verbier is known as a high-end resort town with some of the best backcountry and off-piste skiing in the world. It’s also got a reputation for some of the best nightlife in the Alps; don’t be surprised if you find yourself brushing elbows with royalty such as Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Swedish and Belgian Royal Families, and many others, as Verbier is a favorite vacation spot for European nobility.
The extreme sports scene has bred a bustling art and photography scene, mostly based on nature and ski/snowboard photography. Extreme skiing and snowboarding contests, mountain biking competitions, horse shows, and internationally acclaimed music festivals keep Verbier lively year-round.
Champex Lac, Switzerland
Champex Lac is the reclusive, laid-back little brother to the lively and extreme Verbier. The picturesque, traditional mountain village rests on the shore of Champex Lake, on a wide plateau surrounded by the Alps. The lake offers summer swimming, boating, and fishing, as well as ice skating in the winter. The nearby mountains are a hiker’s dream, with a small family-friendly ski resort open in the winter.
The town is located in the Valais Region of Switzerland, which is one of the biggest wine-producing regions in the country, so Champex prides itself on a large selection of some of the best local wine in Europe. Its Alpine Botanical gardens showcase the wealth of plant diversity that thrives in the Swiss Alps.
Champex is the place to go to kick back, relax, sip some delicious local wine, and enjoy a quiet respite from the surrounding extremes.
Old traditions run strong in this Italian Mountain town – many of the full-time residents still maintain a pastoral lifestyle, relying on herd animals. One of the town’s main events is the Deveteya de Cogne festival, which celebrates the harvest and the return of domesticated herd animals from their summer grazing in the mountains. Herds of cows, goats, ibex, horses, and donkeys are paraded through the streets, and locals sell their crafts and wares and demonstrate traditional skills such as sheep shearing.
Cogne has embraced modernity, as well, with numerous cozy mountain lodges and some of the best cross-country skiing in Italy.
Courmayeur stands proudly at the base of Mont Blanc, with the 15,781′ peak towering majestically over it. Nearby Roman ruins attest to the long history of this classic Italian resort town. The first school of Alpine Guides was started in Courmayeur, cementing its place in mountaineering history. With over 100 miles of ski runs accessible from its many lifts, the town is regarded as one of Europe’s best ski destinations. It also has plenty of hiking and stunning sights to keep visitors occupied year-round.
Directly across the soaring cliffs sits Chamonix, connected to Courmayeur by a series of cable cars, in one of the most epic cross-mountain rides in the world.