The Alps are world renowned for their alpine vistas, steep mountain passes and delicious cheese and wine. A hiker's dream! With plenty of options for routes, we have a hard time choosing, particularly when the classic Tour du Mont Blanc and Haute Route are already top sellers in our remit. Whether this is your big trip of the year, or you are wanting a trek that fits into a longer, European itinerary, we have plenty to offer. Now covering locations in Switzerland, France and Italy, our alpine adventures are second to none.
How to get to Chamonix
For travellers based in the UK or the US, it is best to fly to Geneva International Airport (GVA). Lots of airlines fly to Geneva from all of the major UK airports, and many of the larger US international airports as well.
We will collect you from Geneva airport and transfer you to your hotel in Chamonix. Airport transfers are included in the cost of your trip on arrival and departure days only. If you decide to arrive in the Alps early or stay on a little longer after your trip, please call us to arrange a private transfer. The drive to Chamonix takes roughly one and a half hours. Please be aware that we may ask you to wait at the airport for up to 90 mins if there are other Kandoo Adventures guests arriving shortly after you.
When you arrive in Geneva, please look out for our driver in the arrivals area, they will be holding a large "KANDOO ADVENTURES" sign.
If you are changing airlines or re-checking your luggage at an airport on route, please ensure you leave a minimum of 3 hours between flights. This will account for any delays on arrival, travel time across airports (this can take longer than you think) and time taken to re-check baggage.
Trekking in the Alps
The Alpine mountains are a huge mountain range, stretching across seven countries and covering almost 298,128 km². They peak at Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe. Sitting at 4809m, it's no giant in comparison to it's Himalayan siblings, however don't underestimate this beast. Mont Blanc's reputation as a baggable peak, should be taken with a strong pinch of salt, as it requires knowledge and experience of alpine environments to reach the summit without posing a significant challenge. This isn't to say it's impossible, however with climate change reducing glaciers at an alarming rate, being able to summit Mont Blanc safely is quickly becoming a challenge even for those with the skills to make it accessible. Many find the safer, slightly easier Gran Paradiso peak to be just as rewarding an experience. Here we have outlined some of our peaks and trekking routes in the Alps:
CLASSIC TOUR DU MONT BLANC | The historic Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the most spectacular walks of the world. Trekking around the “top of Western Europe” means discovering an incomparable universe of high mountains and glaciers. You will discover the French, Italian and Swiss slopes, from Chamonix to the Courmayeur valley, and from the Fenêtre d’Arpette to the wild Val Ferret. The path winds between mountain pastures, glaciers and peaks, crosses high mountain passes, lush valleys and highway-sized glaciers.
GRAN PARADISO | An incredible adventure trekking and glacier walking in stunning scenery with an easy climb to conquer the highest peak in Italy. This is one of the region’s most straight forward 4000m summits and a perfect introduction to alpine mountaineering. The beautiful Gran Paradiso National Park is a breath taking location where you may catch a glimpse of alpine ibex, golden eagles or bearded vultures.
CLIMB MONT BLANC |
Every year the summit of Mont Blanc becomes the ultimate objective for mountaineers from all over the world. Standing on the summit of this iconic peak is a massive achievement. This climb is not to be underestimated and we recommend you have prior experience of alpine climbing and a very high level of fitness before booking.
'Best Of' and 'LITE' options
A slight alteration to our classic trips to provide a little more comfort or give you flexibility in your arrival and departures. Our 'Best Of' trips offer hotel accommodation in exchange for mountain refuges to give your tired legs a good rest in a proper bed after a long, steep day climbing the alpine passes. If you prefer a little more privacy and relaxation at the end of the day then it is worth looking at the 'Best Of' options. Alternatively our 'Trek Only' options offer just the trek, omitting the airport transfers and hotel accommodation prior to and after the trek. These are perfect for if you want to fit your trip into a longer itinerary or would prefer to reduce costs by opting for cheaper alternatives at the start and end of your trip.
BEST OF HAUTE ROUTE |
Discover Alpine Switzerland in all its magnificent glory, from the morning calls of resident marmots to crystal clear glacial rivers and the jagged, rocky peaks of the Alpine summits. Embark on an awe-inspiring trek from Chamonix to Zermatt, passing enormous rock faces and alpine meadows, culminating the trip in the shadow of the iconic Matterhorn at 4478m, which flaunts its remarkable geometry: an almost perfect pyramid.
BEST OF TOUR DU MONT BLANC |
The iconic Tour du Mont Blanc is world-famous for good reason. Circuiting the rooftop of Europe allows you to uncover an incomparable land of high mountains and glistening glaciers, with mighty Mont Blanc dominating the scene at 4807m. Staying in comfortable hotel accommodation, embark on this once in a lifetime adventure.
BEST OF HAUTE ROUTE - LITE |
Embark on an awe-inspiring trek from Chamonix to Zermatt, passing enormous rock faces and alpine meadows, culminating the trip in the shadow of the iconic Matterhorn at 4478m, which flaunts its remarkable geometry: an almost perfect pyramid. Have the flexibility to incorporate this trek into a longer adventure or save some pennies by booking your own accommodation prior to and after the trek.
BEST OF TOUR DU MONT BLANC - LITE |
This route shares the trek with the Classic Tour du Mont Blanc, but provides greater flexibility and reduced costs by excluding all the little extras you may not need. Perfect for those wanting to complete the trek as part of a bigger European trip.
CLASSIC TOUR DU MONT BLANC - LITE |
This route shares the trek with the Best of the Tour du Mont Blanc, but provides greater flexibility and reduced costs by excluding all the little extras you may not need. Perfect for those wanting to complete the trek as part of a bigger European trip.
When to trek
You can find detailed advice on when to trek in our Alps Travel Guide.
This a brief summary. Weather should be the first thing you think about when you decide when to trek. The Alps generally have pleasant temperatures in summer as the elevation of the mountains cools the heat from the valleys as it rises. In the autumn and winter, the temperatures can be very, very low particularly at night. In spring, the snowmelt can cause the rivers to swell, and there is a greater likelihood of rockfall due to rocks become unstable on the peaks. This means that, as a general rule, the best weather for trekking in the Alps is summer.
Training for your trek in the Alps
The trekking in the Alps fairly consistently involves steep ascents up to mountain passes, then steep descents down the other side. Poles are an essential for anyone who struggles with knee or hip pain. Our trekking routes don't require any technical equipment and are doable by anyone with trekking experience and a good mindset, however we would stress the importance of a training plan that involves ascent. Often the alpine passes will involve ascents of 1000m+ and you may be doing this over consecutive days which can create a tough challenge so you will need to be really fit when you arrive. We recommend getting out into your local mountains or hills and doing some long walks of 5-6 hours at the weekends to prepare. During the week having a solid exercise plan to build up your general fitness will really help with your enjoyment of the trip.
If you are embarking on one of our peak climbs then some experience of using technical equipment; ice axe and crampons, is highly recommended prior to the trip. For UK guests, mountain centres in the Cairngorms or Lake District offer winter skills courses that are the perfect introduction to winter climbing. If there aren't any of these centres near to you then some climbing walls in London, Glasgow and Manchester have indoor ice walls where you can hone in your skills.
Accommodation and food in the Alps
Our hotels in the Alps are all to a high standard. They are clean and comfortable and are chosen because of their great locations, often in quieter parts of town, to help you get a good nights' sleep. All will offer a continental breakfast and some have delightful perks such as a rooftop spa looking out onto the alpine peaks.
The mountain refuges we use are authentic huts with catering facilities and shared mixed-sex dormitory rooms of anywhere between 4-16 beds: blankets, pillows and mattresses are provided but you will need to bring a sleeping bag liner. Please only bring very basic toiletries as sometimes there is no running water available at the huts. On arrival at the huts, you will be expected to take off your boots and use the indoor shoes that the refuge provides (these are often crocs).
Classic alpine cuisine usually consists of a meal involving meats (often dried such as salami), cheese and potatoes alongside some vegetables. Bread will often be provided as a supplement to your meal; nothing beats a classic fresh, French baguette. For your evening meals in Chamonix there is a wide range of local restaurants for you to sample - try a Tartiflette or Raclette dish to really get stuck into the alpine way of eating. If you have a dietary requirement or are a vegetarian then just let us know when you book so that we can plan a suitable menu.
The refuges provide hearty, traditional and generous meals. Drinks are not included with dinner, so please make sure you have some Euros and Swiss Francs with you. Refuges do not normally accept card payments.
Packed lunches will be produced by your guide and include local meats and cheeses, crusty bread and fresh seasonal vegetables. The lunch items will be shared between all of the group for carrying each day. Remember to bring your favourite snacks (cereal or energy bars, dried fruits, chocolate) with you to keep you going through the day.
The currency in France and Italy is the Euro (EUR) and in Switzerland the Swiss Franc (CHF). For the latest exchange rates please see www.xe.com
Euros are accepted in Switzerland although the exchange rate will not be very good. However, if you are only likely to be buying the odd drink or snack while you are in Switzerland, this would probably be easier that exchanging money into Francs. Foreign money can be exchanged at the Global Exchange in Geneva airport on arrival or you can bring money already exchanged with you, as both these are open currencies. We would recommend the latter as it is no longer possible to exchange foreign currency notes in banks in France, so you may find it difficult to exchange your money after leaving the airport. The only places that exchange foreign banknotes are bureau-de-change which can be found in large cities. You will, however, be able to withdraw money from ATMs in Chamonix on Day 1 of your trip.
The simplest way to pay for things in the Alps is to use an international credit card or debit card. Visa and Mastercard are accepted everywhere alongside standard travel cards such as Monzo and Revolut. You may wish to have some Euros to hand, to pay for smaller items or souvenirs in case the trader does not accept cards. Credit and debit cards are also not accepted at the mountain refuges so you will need to carry enough cash for snacks, drinks and any personal expenses.
The average cost of a meal for 2 in Chamonix is around €50 ($55). Its not a cheap place to eat out, however it makes up for this by offering free public transport all around the town. If you are wanting to buy some souvenirs to take home then these generally cost anywhere between €5 ($6) for small items to €500 ($550) for larger more bespoke gifts. Don't forget you will also need to budget for drinks whilst in the refuges too. Therefore, our recommended guidance for spending budget in the Alps would be roughly €220 on top of any tips, to give you ample souvenir spending money.
Tipping customs vary all over the world and can be very confusing when travelling to a new country. There is not a strong culture for tipping in France, but that said, anything you wish to give your guide in appreciation of his services will be welcome. You may wish to buy him a drink in the refuge or hotel.
Tips are not a substitute for good wages: our guides are all well paid and well looked after. Tipping is completely voluntary, and at your discretion. If you are unsure of how much to tip a general guide of €10 per person per trip should suffice. On the other hand, if you receive bad service or have not been treated well, you would not be expected to tip at all.
Other things to do in the Alps
Besides trekking, the Alps has plenty more adventurous outdoor activities to offer.
The town of Chamonix at the base of Mont Blanc is legendary. An adventure seekers paradise. People from every corner of the globe flock here to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, trekking and rock climbing. Whether you want to do some gentle walking or climb vertical ice walls, Chamonix has it all. Take the train up to the Mer de Glace, visit the ice cave or go ice climbing on the glacier itself. Or head even higher and hop on a gondola up to the Aiguille du Midi, where you will have panoramic views of the Mont Blanc massif. If you would prefer a more relaxed approach after your active trek, then a visit to one of the regions traditional vineyards to sample some of the local wines might be a good option. Alternatively, take a trip to Lac Annecy for a swim and wander around the old town, stopping in at a quaint French café for some lunch.
A ski resort in the winter, Zermatt is another alpine mecca for outdoor lovers, with skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing and mountain biking all big players in the town. White water rafting is also found in the Rhone Valley that leads up to Zermatt, with big, bouncy rivers kept topped up by glacial melt. Some of the ski lifts continue running during the summer months and it is well worth taking a trip up one of the gondola's to catch a birds eye view of the glacier below. Or take the train up to the Gornegrat, a must-see whilst in Zermatt, this peak has the best view of the Matterhorn standing proud beside it. Again, if you would prefer something a little slower paced, then the Rhone Valley is home to a series of thermal baths that are perfect rejuvenation for tired legs. Similarly, the farmer's market is Visp (40 min drive) is an authentic experience where you could pick up some souvenirs from your travels.