If you’ve spent a good amount of time exploring all the awesome things to do in Chamonix but have been curious about what’s on the other side of the mountain, consider a day trip to Courmayeur.
Where is Courmayeur?
Literally just on the other side of Mont Blanc from Chamonix, France is the town of Courmayeur, Italy. Courmayeur is an adorable little Alpine town just as adorable as Chamonix but Italian. So… pizza, pasta, passeggiata.
Why visit Courmayeur?
Even though it’s so close to Chamonix, Courmayeur provides an entirely different experience. Like Chamonix the scenery is beautiful, the food is delicious, and the town is unbelievably charming. However, instead of Alpine classics, the food in Courmayeur is classic Italian (and so, so good). The language here is Italian instead of French and the scenery is completely different.
You would think being just a short trip from Chamonix that the two towns would be quite similar, but such is not the case. Given the terrain, the two towns weren’t always a quick drive apart. Therefore, the two cultures developed independently of one another.
The quick trip to Courmayeur will reward you with the feeling of being countries apart. It really is worth experiencing both sides of Mont Blanc—Western Europe’s tallest mountain.
What to do in Courmayeur
There’s not an incredible amount of things to do in Courmayeur, which makes it a great day trip in the summer. During the winter Courmayeur, like Chamonix, is a popular skiing and resort destination and there’s probably more than enough to keep you busy, if that’s your thing.
Rather, here’s how you can spend a day (or two) in Courmayeur in the summer:
Skyway Monte Bianco
If you’ve been hanging out in Chamonix, you’re already familiar with the Aiguille du Midi, the cable car to the top of Aiguille du Midi peak. Over on the Italian side of the mountain range you’ve got the Skyway Monte Bianco, the cable car up to Point Helbronner at an altitude of 11,371 feet (3,466 m).
Like Aiguille du Midi, the Skyway Monte Bianco takes you up high into the Mont Blanc massif where you can:
- explore the Crystal Hall, showcasing crystals from the nearby mountains
- experience Sky Vertigo where you can get the feeling of being suspended over the sky
- have lunch at the Bistrot Panoramic
- and, of course, enjoy 360° views from their circular terrace
For everything you need to know about Skyway Monte Bianco, check out their informative website.
The Duke of Abruzzi Alpine Museum
Like the Alpine Museum in Chamonix, Courmayeur’s Museo Alpino Duca Abruzzi covers the Alpine and mountaineering history of the area, the development of Alpine tourism, and historical artifacts. Only this one focuses on Courmayeur.
If you haven’t had your fill of hiking in Chamonix yet, Courmayeur and its surrounding areas offer incredible day hiking opportunities as well. The scenery and terrain on this side of Mont Blanc (called Monte Bianco on the Italian side) is different from the best hikes in Chamonix but no less stunning.
The best day hike from Courmayeur
My favorite day hike from Courmayeur is through the Val Veny to Rifugio Elisabetta.
To start this hike, you’ll want to take the shuttle from the main Courmayeur bus station to La Visaille. The summer bus schedule hasn’t been released yet for me to show you, but what I did was go to the Courmayeur bus ticket office and ask for tickets to hike Val Veny. It was as simple as that and only cost a few euros. To check for updates, refer to the savda.it website.
The start of the hike is just past the bus stop at Chalet del Miage which runs a bar and restaurant. This is a good place to fill up on drinks and food for the hike if you haven’t done so already.
Follow the road over the river then follow the signs towards Lago Combal. You’ll hike up, up, up, and along icy Alpine rivers and rocky mountainsides, through pine forests, fuchsia flowers, and what looks like the American southwest to the Val Veny. This valley of the Mont Blanc massif is believed to be one of the most beautiful valleys in the Aosta Valley, the smallest of Italy’s 20 regions and famous for its natural beauty.
The path from here to Rifugio Elisabetta is super straightforward with little room for error. It’s almost sidewalk-like in its ease.
When you reach Lago Combal you can either go left straight on towards Rifugio Elisabetta, or take the very cool detour on the right towards Cabane du Combal (which I recommend doing).
Lago del Miage
Head past the cabin (you’ll come back to it) and follow the signs to Lago del Miage. This beautiful detour takes you to the massive Miage glacier you can check out up-close (but not too close—follow the posted signage for the love of God) and it’s turquoise heart-shaped glacial lake, Lago del Miage.
Honestly though, if you visit in the summer, the glacier will be hella volatile. You can hear chunks of it breaking off constantly in the summer heat. It’s extremely dangerous and there’s no lack of signage to warn you. Don’t be the idiots who climb on top of the glacier for photos.
Double back all the way to Lago Combal and continue on towards Rifugio Elisabetta. Along this route you’ll see glaciers and waterfalls, sweeping valleys, snow-capped mountains and Alpine wildflowers a-plenty.
The hike up to Rifugio Elisabetta is a strenuous but rewarding one. The views from their patio are incredible and even better with a beer in hand. They also have snacks, full meals, and strong Italian coffee.
Afterwards, head back the way you came and stop at Cabane du Combal for lunch, restrooms, and coffee if you didn’t do so at Elisabetta.
From there, head back to where you started and catch the same bus back to Courmayeur.
Length: 8.5 miles (13.8 km)
Time: 8 hours, including stops at Rigfugio Elisabetta for beer and Cabane du Combal for lunch
Difficulty: Pretty easy, but the uphill climb to Elisabetta is a doozy.
Yes, laundry. If you’re reading this because you’re currently hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc and you’re trying to figure out what to do with your rest day in Courmayeur, start with laundry.
There are two coin-operated laundromats in Courmayeur:
Lavanderia La Candida di Sogna Massimiliano
Lavanderia La Candida is just a 2-minute walk from the main bus station and center of Courmayeur. There are only a couple of washers and dryers so get there early as I can guarantee you’re not the only one with this idea.
This is the one I used and the machines were efficient and everything went smoothly. It’s a hole in a wall, but it works. No complaints.
If you’re staying on the southern end of Courmayeur you may want to check out Lava Più, though it’s only a 15-minute walk from the main bus station.
I don’t have any personal experience with this one but from the pictures it appears to have more machines and a place to fold your stuff.
Shop and eat
This is Italy after all. One of the best things to do in Courmayeur is to simply enjoy the passeggiata, the nightly leisurely stroll through town. Courmayeur’s main streets offer tons of shopping of all kinds and great restaurants to enjoy. Grab a gelato and people-watch from the central square before sitting down to a fabulous meal.
Where to eat in Courmayeur
If you’re only taking a day trip to Courmayeur, you have to make your Italian food choices wisely. There are two places I can recommend to eat in Courmayeur:
Pizzeria La Remisa
Don’t let its location outside the Courmayeur bus station fool you—this place serves delicious and absolutely enormous pizzas.
The service is great though almost zero English is spoken. The pizzas are great and they are often the only place open when all the other eateries in Courmayeur are closed. (If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know what I’m talking about.)
Ristorante Ancien Casino
For a more traditional, sit-down meal you could do a lot worse than Ristorante Ancien Casino. This small restaurant is right in the middle of town with indoor and outdoor seating that’s perfect on a day trip to Courmayeur in the summer.
The food, the wine, the service, the people- and puppy-watching, all fantastic!
How to get to Courmayeur from Chamonix
There are two ways to get from Chamonix to Courmayeur and back (that don’t involve hiking or climbing because even that is possible). To go over the mountain or under the mountain? ‘Tis a real Fellowship of the Ring quandary, isn’t it?
Over the mountain
If you’ll be heading up the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, remember that in the summer you can also take the cable car from the top of Aiguille du Midi over to Pointe Helbronner on the Italian peak. From there, you can take the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car back down into Courmayeur. And yes, this is actually a thing people do; I’m not just making this up.
However, I don’t have any personal experience with this so I’m not sure how it works in terms of passport control or purchasing a one-way ticket down on the Italian side. If this is something you’re interested in, ask the kind folks at the Chamonix tourist office–they usually have all the answers.
But at a total cost of 119 euros (134 USD) this is the more expensive (but more scenic) route. Also, you’ll be limited to what you can bring with you in terms of a bags/stuff. Plus, keep in mind the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car from Aiguille du Midi to Pointe Helbronner is entirely weather dependent.
It’s also not the quickest way to get there and would only be best if you were planning an overnight in Courmayeur. (Which you should, Courmayeur is beautiful at night!)
Bus from Chamonix to Courmayeur
The easiest and most popular way to get to Courmayeur from Chamonix is by going under the mountain. (in true Frodo fashion)
Buses from Chamonix to Courmayeur run a few times a day and cost between 6 and 14 euros, depending on the operator. The trip only takes about 45 minutes each way.
However, note that the tunnel under the mountain is a two-lane road with passport control on the Italian side. The day I made this journey, there was some kind of holdup and the quick journey under the mountain ended up taking three hours start to finish. I gathered that this was not at all ordinary, but know that traffic jams can happen under these conditions.
Again, a day trip to Courmayeur is entirely possible, but it would totally be worth spending a night.
You can get a bus from Chamonix to Courmayeur on:
- Flixbus – I’ve used Flixbus all around these parts and they’re great. Super cheap, no-frills, no (major) issues. To read more about my experience with Flixbus, check out my post on my 2 days in Turin. Cost: €6
- Savda – The Italian bus operator also makes trips to Chamonix and back. Click that link to download a current timetable. Cost: €15
- Check with the tourist office in Chamonix as to their current bus routes. They can even sell you the tickets right there.
Where to stay in Courmayeur
A day trip to Courmayeur is possible and perfect, but I highly recommend staying at least one night in Courmayeur. The city really wakes up around late afternoon and the town is beautiful at night. If you decide to stay, here are two recommendations on where to stay in Courmayeur.
My top hotel recommendation for Courmayeur is Hotel Crampon, by a long shot. This place and its staff are truly wonderful and I can’t say enough good things about it.
The quality rooms have modern amenities and fixtures with scenic balconies, private bathrooms, cable TV, and comfortable beds. The hotel itself is in the perfect location—just a couple minutes’ walk from the bus station, tourist office, grocery store, and laundromat.
The staff is some of the nicest and most helpful staff I’ve encountered on my trips and they went out of their way to help me one day.
But maybe my favorite part of Hotel Crampon is the breakfast. They offer a large buffet-style breakfast with fresh fruit, eggs, and meat, homemade pastries and jams, local honey, and delicious made-to-order coffee.
On another visit to Courmayeur I stayed at Hotel Cristallo. This place is… fine. I was spoiled by my stay at Hotel Crampon but Hotel Cristallo is perfectly acceptable. The staff is friendly and the breakfast is alright.
However, I’m guessing because I booked my hotel at the last minute (on the same day) and it was one of the only rooms I could find in Courmayeur, they put me in what had to be the attic. If it smells like an attic, looks like an attic, and is covered in a layer of dust like an attic, it must be an attic right?
I feel bad talking negatively about this place because it really is fine. It’s a charming mountain chalet not that far off from the main center with a great staff. Maybe just ask for a room not on the top floor? That being said, staying there has made for some of the funniest travel memories.
I hope I’ve been able to help with your day trip to Courmayeur from Chamonix. Have a great time and enjoy the beauty of Courmayeur!
What time of year will you be taking a day trip to Courmayeur?
Let me know below!
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