All refuges were not created equal. Make sure not to miss out on one of these exceptional refuges along the iconic Tour du Mont Blanc hiking trail.
Whilst it’s not possible to stay in all of these incredible refuges (some are too near or on alternative routes), with a little planning it’s easy to bag quite a few.
“Welcome to Refuge des Mottets,” (from €50pp half-board 2023) said a sign on the door of this former dairy farm where I was to spend the night. “We don’t have the phone.” What it did have, though, was a huge tavern-like dining area with a crackling wood-burner and a wonderful collection of dairy bric-a-brac hanging from the ceiling: pots, pans, flasks, vials, giant cowbells, chicken coops and even some old-fashioned underwear.Andrew Gilchrist – THE GUARDIAN
1. Refuge Lac Blanc
In probably the most stunning location on the entire Tour du Mont Blanc hiking trail, Refuge Lac Blanc has now flung over it’s doors once again to welcoming hikers after a fair few years of being closed. With Marion the new guardian, and a fresh website Refuge Lac Blanc has had a make over. All of it good.
With 38 dorm beds hikers can bed down for a night at an elevation of 2352m next to the fabled Lac Blanc. Whilst the lake is ridiculously busy during the day (easily accessible for day hikers traipsing over from La Flégère cable car), once the last lift departs from 16.30, this place is heavenly. Even more so at sunrise when the incredible views of Mont Blanc and the rest of the majestic peaks of Chamonix are silent and magical.
Demi pension is mandatory with hikers being treated to a 3 course hearty meal. Half board will cost €80 per person (2023). Under 8s are not permitted.
2. Cabane Combal
Cabane Combale in Italy’s Vallon de la Lée Blanche is a gorgeous A frame wooden cabin nestled in-between two lakes with the dragon like moraine spilling down behind it. It’s the alternative accommodation to Rifigio Elisabetta, 50 minutes prior on the trail.
Whilst it doesn’t have the majesty of being perched next to a glacier like Elisabetta, it does have the attraction of cosy dorms of between 1-6 beds (all with ensuite) and an intimate Italian atmosphere. If you’re after home comforts and fabulous Italian food, Cabane Combale is a winner.
3. Rifugio Bonatti
Rifugio Bonatti is hands down an exceptional refuge on the TMB trail. Run by a family, this refuge is in a class of it’s own when it comes to organisation, fabulous food and sheer cleanliness. This large refuge has private rooms or dorms and is the only refuge on the trail to that has a drying room! The refuge has a bar with very affordable vin carafes, the evening meal is 4-5 courses and the pique-nique (packed lunch) is outstanding featuring individual panettone (a famous Italian cake) and big blocks of artisan chocolat noir.
4. Refuge des Mottets
A recently converted dairy farm, Refuge Mottets has fast gained a reputation for being one the best refuges on the Tour du Mont Blanc trail. With incredible food, friendly staff, a resident donkey and even entertainment, Refuge Mottets has it all. With a perfect location at the base of the Col du Seigne, hikers staying at Les Mottets benefit from fresh legs up the steep climb to the Italian frontiere as well as a myriad of accommodation choices – Les Mottets offers private rooms with en-suite facilities, private rooms with a shared bathroom or bunk rooms. Book early for the private rooms!
Perfect refuge on the TMB
saffyb73 trip advisor aug 2020We arrived at 5pm having hiked from Notre dame de la gorge and were shown to our room for 4 people. 2 bunk beds, and just enough space. Shared showers were close, clean and hot. We had a couple of Mont Blanc beers which were the same price as the supermarket in Chamonix. Food was served at 7pm prompt. Bean soup, a cabbage dish, the tenderest beef I have ever had, cheese and creme brulee. Washed down with a litre of red wine for 10 euros. We couldn’t fault anything. Breakfast was at 7am and there was coffee, juice, cereals, bread and jams. Enough to set us off towards Courmayeur happy and content. Staff were very friendly and told us it has been owned by the same family for over 100 years. Resident donkey on site happily posed for some selfies.
5. Refuge Bellachat
With no shower, one solar panel and with only 24 beds, Refuge Bellachat might not appeal at first glance. However, the pros outweigh the cons. This refuge has arguably the best front seat view of Mont Blanc on the entire Tour du Mont Blanc tour. Refuge Bellachat’s terrace looks directly onto Western Europe’s highest mountain. The views from here are exceptional and are guaranteed to take your breath away. Polishing off a glass of vino watching the sun set on Mont Blanc or rising early to see the red glow of the sun caressing Monte Bianco from the Italian side is a quiet joy that will stay with you for a long time.