On the Top and On the Foot of the Monte Bianco in One Day

Thanks to our jobs, this year me and my husband spent the summer in Valle d’Aosta, a small but wonderful region in the north of Italy.

The months passed by, but we never had time to get on the top of the Monte Bianco as there always were a lot of alternatives: a walk in the woods in the National Park of the Gran Paradiso, some breathtaking views on magnificent lakes and countless other outdoors activities like rafting, horseback riding and, obviously, hiking!

We are about to come home, in Lombardy, still in the north of Italy but without all the mountains, the amazing views and the constant feeling to be on a never-ending holiday, so we decided to use one of our last days here to explore the top of the Monte Bianco and the surrounding places.

What to do?

In the Monte Bianco area there’s A LOT to do!
Here you can discover many of the most beautiful villages of the region (Morgex, Pre St. Didier, La Thuile, Courmayeur…), and also many of the most rewarding hiking trails (Lac du Miage, Lac d’Arpy, Rutor’s Waterfalls) or ski slopes.
This area also houses some of the most exciting rafting itinerary in Italy, a great Adventure Park, a 3466m Cable Car that takes you on top of the highest European mountain and a Thermal Complex with amazing views on the surrounding landscapes.

The SkyWay Monte Bianco

First opened to the public in the 1948, it went under a major renewal between 2012 and 2015, when all the actual complex on the Monte Bianco became operative.

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The first level, the Pavillon du Mont Fréty, is at the “little” height of 2173m, with an alpine botanical garden, a kid playground, a restaurant and a bar plus two panoramic terraces with of course amazing views.

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There’s a reason if the second level, Punta Helbronner, is called “the Eight Wonder in the World”: you can admire a 360° panorama on the glacier and the peaks of the Monte Bianco at the extraordinary height of 3466m, learn something about mineralogy in the Crystal Room, be astounded by the magnificence of the landscape in the Mont Blanc Room, relax yourself in the Café with glass walls or take the tunnel to reach the underlying Rifugio Torino for a rewarding meal.
From the Rifugio Torino start the paths on the glacier, for which are required adequate equipment and skills: when you are there the glacier seems a soft sheet of snow, but after the first steps it reveals his truly, icy and slippery nature (and from the Rifugio you can also see the not so distant end of the glacier with its endless jump in void).

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The ascent takes nearly 15 minutes (for both steps) and the cabins have room for 75-80 people: try to get yourself a spot near the window (no matter which side, the cabins are revolving!) for some great views and pictures, and if the crowd is too much, you can always wait for the next departure in about 15 minutes.

Remember that on the top the temperature is really cold and the sun is burning, so be prepared!

We spent there the warmest hours of the day, between 11:00 and 15:00.
First we explored Punta Helbronner with all the panoramic terraces and rooms, then we enjoy a delicious meal at the Rifugio Torino.
TIP! in this way we avoid the crowd first on the terraces and then at the Rifugio, since at lunch time most of the people headed direct to the café and the Rifugio and only then to the panoramic spots.

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The Rifugio kitchen is truly recommended, we had the Polenta Valdostana with Carbonada, a typical chopped meat with gravy, the Valpellinentze, a dense soup with bread, cabbage and cheese, and a big slice of  blueberry pie, really mouthwatering.

After that, we went down to the Pavillon du Mont Fréty where we sunbathed a bit on the belvedere and we took a lot of picture of the colorful autumn landscapes of the Alps (for more images, take a look also at my Instagram feed and my Facebook page!).

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It’s better a clear sky or a not-so-cloudy one?

I don’t have a straight answer to this question, because talking with people here that have enjoyed both views, a clear sky is perfect to spot every peak near or far (Mount Rosa and Mount Cervino included!) and to admire the vastness of the panorama, but a sky with few clouds (below you, of course!) allows greats views on the peaks submerged by the clouds and their changing shapes. I think it’s all about your tastes!
Personally, I am happy with my choice of a limpid day for the temperature and the endless views, keeping the cloudy day for a second visit.

The Thermal Baths of Pre Saint Didier

Open since the late 1800, also the Thermal Baths went under a recent renewal and reopened in the 2005, with the actual two main buildings and the great garden with the pools, for over 40 SPA activities and a wide choice of high level massages or beauty treatments.

Everything here is shaped for your comfort, wellness and relax, and once inside the feeling is to have left the real world and to be entered a new dimension.

The buildings contain some saunas, pools, the steam bath, the Kneipp circuit, the relaxation rooms with different themes and comfort (amazing the waterbeds in the Air Relaxation Room!) and the treatments rooms, plus the restaurant and the buffet; the garden houses the main hot pool, the whirlpools, the panoramic saunas (try the Roses’ Sauna!) and my favorite, the pool with music and chromatic therapy.

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The facility has all the comfort you need: in the price is included a towel, a bathrobe and a pair of flip-flops, near the pools there are warm coat hangers, the buffet is supreme with all kind of local healthy products (the apple yogurt was outstanding), the staff is super helpful, there’s a lot of treatments available for every need (and wallet!) and the changing rooms are provided with all sort of bath products from the milk and mint shampoo in the showers to the body lotion or air conditioner near the hair driers.

We spent there 5 hours starting at 16:00, and we chose the end of the day both to enjoy the cold of the evening compared to the warmth of the pools and the saunas and to avoid the crowd that a public holiday can bring.
I understand that if you have a long trip back home this solution is not that viable, but if you are planning to spend in this area at least two days, program the entrance at the SPA late in the afternoon, best in a week day: probably you’ll be able to enjoy many of the treatments all by yourself.

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A last tip for a budget trip

Well, unfortunately both the SkyWay (48€ A/R) and the Thermal Baths (from 42€ to 52€) are not cheap.
But if you, like us, want to draw a line on these experiences from your bucket-list, you can buy the combined ticket for both the attraction for “only” 78€, saving from 12€ in a week-day evening to 22€ in a weekend day.

About The Wandering Mind

Italian vet, 32, happily married, 3 cats, enthusiastic traveler!

17 Comments

  1. Wow this region looks spectacular! I have visited Italy once but not to this region. I could easily see myself sitting in one of those pools

    • The Wandering Mind

      Valle d’Aosta is not somewhere you go if you are visiting Italy for the first time, but if you love mountains, landscapes, nature and trekking is one of the best place you should see once in life!

  2. Wow, this looks gorgeous! I love your pictures! I spent a few months living in Rome but unfortunately didn’t make it to the North of Italy. I should definitely travel back soon to see more of Italy.

    • The Wandering Mind

      You visited the best city in Italy, I think. I’m deeply in love with Rome, as soon as I can, I will write a post on two different itineraries in Rome, and I will be glad if you’ll want to have a look at it!

  3. Those thermal baths look absolutely divine. They remind me of hot springs I used to visit in California – there is nothing like being in a hot spring when it is snowing or chilly outside!

    • The Wandering Mind

      You are so right! We chose to go in the late afternoon just to enjoy the most the different temperatures! Too bad it wasn’t snowing 🙂

  4. Fantastic pictures! Here in Switzerland you find many of such amazing places. Pure beauty of nature. Great post, thank you for sharing!

    • The Wandering Mind

      I only visited Switzerland once (Geneva) but I’ll surely come back: it has a lot of cities that are worth a visit and the landscape, especially near the Alps , is amazing!

  5. Wow! The view from the top of Monte Bianco looks absolutely breathtaking! I just love mountains. And the Thermal Baths sound like a nice and relaxing end to an exciting day 🙂

    • The Wandering Mind

      It surely was! The views were amazing and relaxing in a hot pool after that day was really rewarding 🙂

  6. Incredible photos!! I think that I would prefer to see the mountains in all of their glory and not covered by clouds, but I can see why both views are perfect. We’re heading to Northern Italy in a few weeks and I’m very excited – it’ll be our first time visiting!

    • The Wandering Mind

      Wow! Where will you stay? What’s your itinerary? If you need some suggestion, just ask 🙂
      Thank you for coming by!

  7. What a lovely mountain! We just spent time in the mountains in Austria. I love snowy mountains. Also, what a lovely way to spend a couple months off work. Italy is an amazing country. I will have to add this to my ever growing list.

    • The Wandering Mind

      I think all the Alps offer breathtaking views on the mountains and on the valley too. I am more a sun&beach kind of person, but living and working here in Valle d’Aosta was surely a great opportunity to know, discover and fall in love with this beautiful part of Italy

  8. I love mountains. You have amazing photos. Would love to visit these thermal paths in mountains.

  9. Brown Gal Trekker

    Italy has some of the best mountainscapes. I spent a few weeks in the Dolomites and your photos are reminiscent of that experience. The food is excellent even in the rifugios!

    • The Wandering Mind

      The Dolomites have amazing views and great trekking routes: I only visit Val Gardena but I fall in love with those mountains!

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