There are so many refuges along the path, which ones do I choose? How do I choose? How do I reserve them? What is half-pension? If you are asking yourself these questions look no further, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges.
I planned and reserved my Tour du Mont Blanc trek independently, meaning I did not go through a tour company or use a built-for-you self-guided itinerary. This way, I experienced sifting through the internet and guidebooks to sort out my route, finding which refuges aligned with my route, and navigating all of the different booking processes for each one. In this post, I will share the exact strategy I used to secure all of my preferred Tour du Mont Blanc refuges.
I will also share my review for each. I can assure you that I saw the good, the bad, and the unique on the trail. We slept in boutique hotels, dorms, a yurt, and even a closet; we used squat toilets, had 60-second cold showers, and drinks with flies in them. We also had hot showers, private bathrooms, and amazing dinners. Let me steer you in the right direction.
Related Post: Tour du Mont Blanc 10-Day Itinerary
Don’t forget your sleeping liner for the Refuges! You have to bring your own!
Types of Accommodation on the TMB
There are a few types of accommodation available on the Tour du Mont Blanc hike. It’s helpful to understand the differences between them as you begin booking your stays.
The TMB path goes through several small towns and a couple of larger towns. In these locations, you can find many independently owned hotels. You can expect all of the traditional hotel amenities and some of them even offer half-pension.
We stayed in two hotels. It felt luxurious to end a long day of hiking in the Alps at a hotel with hot showers and comfortable beds. I recommend staying in a hotel in Champex-Lac and Courmayeur. We used booking.com to book the two hotels we stayed in.
Auberges, Refuges, & Rifugios
A refuge, rifugio, auberge, or ‘mountain hut’, is a basic overnight accommodation. They are a huge part of hiking the TMB.
Auberge is the French word for inn or hostel, or a house providing food and lodging for travelers. You’ll see Auberges in France and Switzerland. Some people might say they are different than the refuges but I honestly did not see a difference. Some were better…some were worse…they all offered the same.
Rifugio is Italian for Refuge and you’ll only see that in Italy. Refuge is both French (reh-few-hey) and English (ref-uge) and is the most commonly used term for the mountain huts and TMB accommodation.
The quality of the mountain huts varies immensely. Some have lovely private rooms, private bathrooms, are newer, clean, and offer amazing food. Contrarily, some offer dormitories only, outhouses, food that will make you sick, and no showers.
Don’t let this deter you – most of the refuges are absolutely delightful. They also enrich your trip because you meet and share dinner with so many others who are hiking the TMB alongside you. In my opinion, the refuges are a very special part of the experience.
Besides, in many areas, refuges, or mountain huts, are your only accommodation option. So you just need to know which ones to avoid : )
Camping is an option and a lot of people do it. If you choose to camp your pack will be heavier with your supplies and food. Some of the refuges have designated camping areas, and allow campers to purchase half-pension. If you can manage to eat dinner and breakfast at refuges most nights this will significantly reduce your pack weight.
Technically you are not allowed to camp in Italy, but there are some secret ways around it (don’t look at me for that). If you are a by-the-book person, you could just stay in the rifugios in Italy and camp in France and Switzerland.
Tour du Mont Blanc Refuge Booking
The first thing to know is that there is not one standard booking process for the refuges. They vary greatly. The most straightforward way is to book through the official Tour du Mont Blanc website. They provide an interactive map so you can see all of the refuges along the path. Then, you can search for availability on your date and book directly through the website.
The catch? Not all of the refuges are on here, and almost no hotels or other types of accommodation.
Some refuges offer their own online booking system, some require booking by email, and some by phone. Booking by email requires patience because you won’t always get a timely response. This is definitely true if you try booking TOO early because many of the refuges close for winter (which apparently also means they don’t check their email).
Most of the refuges require a deposit, or at least a credit card to put on file. This means that you will be sharing your credit card info over email..several times. If you know a smarter way to do this let me know, but I just hoped for the best and all was good.
NOTE: If the refuges are not on the official TMB website, you can find other resources that disclose them all including guidebooks and blogs.
Short answer, YES! We booked all of our accommodations 6-8 months ahead of time. We hiked the TMB August 13th-21st; this is a popular time to hike the trail. Everything we read said that if you wanted to stay at your top choice refuges (and not alter your route) you had to book as soon as possible.
On the other hand, we definitely met a few people on the trail who booked as late as the day before (and got super lucky). Most of these folks had camping supplies though, so they had a backup plan. If you want to go with the flow and take the trail day by day, it’s certainly not impossible. Just be prepared to always hike further in search of available accommodations, or have a tent. Personally, the security of having a place to stay (and it be somewhere we WANTED to stay) was a big stress relief.
What if I want to go on this trip in the next couple of months but don’t want to go with the flow or camp? Am I out of luck? Not necessarily! Some tour du month blanc refuges may be still have openings (especially in the dorms) and people cancel frequently. It is DEFINITELY worth continually checking the TMB site and emailing other refuges.
Note: There are also several legs where you can hop on a bus, so if you really can’t find accommodation you can bus to the next town or stage.
My Exact Strategy to Successfully Booking all of My Preferred Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges
Before booking, we of course plotted our ideal route/number of days on the trail and identified the refuges that aligned with our route and our personal sleeping standards. Basically, after we identified the refuges that worked best with our route, I read a lot of reviews to see if I needed to make any amendments.
I created an itinerary document to keep track of this and all of the following information including confirmations, deposits, whether they accept credit cards, etc.
Next, I researched the booking process of each of the refuges on my list. I also researched which refuges were most likely to book up first. This depends on the refuges popularity, quality, and location.
On some stages there may only be a couple of options for overnight stays – you’ll want to prioritize booking these places first. For example, Auberge de la Nova is one of two refuges at the end of stage 2. If you don’t book accommodation early you may have to hike significantly further than you planned, or camp. Refuge Bonnati is another one that books up really quickly due its charm and stunning location.
Next, I started booking our accommodations. Since I started so early, I did start with day 1. This is because I figured if one of my choices was unavailable, I wouldn’t have to adjust my entire route, only the most recent leg. It also makes sense to start with the places that book up first (like auberge de la nova).
I booked almost all of our accommodations in January (7 months before our hike) with the exception of a couple refuges that took a while to get back to me. This made me nervous but I believe that they took the reservations in the order they received them. And since I emailed so early, even though I didn’t get a response for several weeks, I was able to secure a room. To ensure you your reservation request is accept4ed in the order it was received, include all of the necessary information in your email. This is usually:
- Your full name
- Number of people the reservation is for
- Type of room you want (private, shared bathroom, dorm, etc)
- Check-in and check-out dates (double check these!!)
- If you would like to add half board, a picnic lunch, or bed only
- Any dietary restrictions (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free)
Tour du Mont Blanc Refuge Cost
The cost of the tour du mont blanc refuges varies quite a bit. The majority range from 52 to 80 euros per person (this included dinner and breakfast). Others cost up to 120 euros per person. You will find the most expensive accommodations are in Switzerland so if you are doing this trip on a budget, try and hike through Switzerland as fast as possible.
The hotels that we stayed in on the path ranged from $177 – $250 per night, however, this was not per person so it wasn’t that bad. You can certainly find more budget-friendly hotels, and more expensive.
Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges Etiquette
Here are a few quick etiquette rules that were floating around in my head on our trip.
- You cannot wear your hiking boots in the refuges – make sure to change into your indoor shoes before checking-in
- Do not turn your light on in the dorms in the middle of the night
- Do not spread the contents of your pack all over the floor of the dormitory
- If you know that you snore, try and book a private room and spare others
- If there is a line for the shower, shower quickly
- Be friendly to the staff!
- If you are watching a movie in the dorms use headphones
- Double check that you are not taking someone else’s shoes or poles when you leave the next morning (this happens)
Tips to Enjoy Your Stay in the Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges
- Bring ear plugs
- Bring your own sleeping bag liner – they are required. You can rent these at some but… no thanks. I brought this one and LOVED it. It was super soft, oversized so I could get entirely inside, and has built-in bug repellent
- Bring headphones and pre-download movies you can watch
- Tevas! You have to bring a pair of indoor-only shoes for the refuges and my Tevas were the best decision I ever made. They are super light and waterproof so they can get damp in the shower area, they are super comfortable, and you can wear socks with them. I could not rave about these enough – ha!
- Keep your pack organized. Use packing cubes and put things back in the same place – this will save you so much time and keep you from rummaging around while people are trying to sleep.
- Don’t always expect a hot shower (or even a shower), let it be a nice surprise
- Understand that most of the Tour du Mont Blanc refuges are remote. The only way to access some is by foot or mule and they get their supplies delivered by helicopter. Do not expect to be able to stock up, have service, or run errands around the refuges.
- Let friends or family know ahead of time that you likely will not be able to contact them for a few days here and there due to limited wifi and cell reception
Best Refuges on TMB
- Refuge Le Peuty – book on TMB website
- Cabane du Combal – book via email
- Rifugio Walter Bonnati – book via website form/email
Final Note on Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges
The refuges on the TMB are such a big part of the experience. It might take some work coordinating your trip but I promise it is 100% worth it. Just remember, book early and you’ll be fine 🙂 I recommend joining this TMB Facebook group – you’ll see lots of reviews, photos, and videos for different refuges and hear about any important updates.