Your trip starts on arrival at your hotel in Modane. Easily reached by road and rail, Modane is also well placed on the trail for an easier start to the hike. There are supermarkets to stock up on supplies before an evening meal in a local restaurants.
Hotel in Modane (breakfast)
Red 2 (grade) 5.5km with 890m ascent, 0m descent
Find your mountain legs with a sustained climb out of the valley and into the mountains proper. The day is short so you have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the walking. Most of the ascent is in trees; however, your hard work is rewarded by the views which open up as you ascend. Once at the top, there is a real mountain feel and a fantastic taste of what’s to come!
Mountain hut (breakfast and dinner)
Red 3 (grade) 12km with 750m ascent, 350m descent
A climb through trees leads to a traverse across open hillsides, and the best distant views so far. Having sighted the day’s destination across the valley, the second half of the day involves a circuit high above two lakes to reach the hut. Enjoy the views from the Refuge de Plan Sec at the end of the day, perched high on the hillside.
Mountain hut (dinner and breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 16.5km with 690m ascent, 700m descent
A day of gentle ups and downs, and long traverses across the hillsides. Today’s stage makes significant progress around the National Park with views ahead, behind, above, below and out across the valley. The second half of the day sees rougher country, until the final combe with the Refuge at the far side.
Mountain hut (dinner and breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 13.5km with 800m ascent, 740m descent
Another day of stupendous views, possibly better than the previous stage. Rough and rocky terrain gives way to grassier combes and glacial valleys. The day’s destination can be seen for much of the first half, but the route takes a long loop around the head of the Doron gorge.
Mountain hut (dinner and breakfast) - payable locally
Red 3 (grade) 18km with 695m ascent, 795m descent
A day of two halves. Firstly, the route completes the foray into the mountains around the Doron gorge, with fantastic views back to the previous stages. After Crête de la Turra, we rejoin the l’Arc valley and continue East on a high-level traverse across the hillside. Another day of good tracks and paths, and ever-changing vistas.
Mountain hut (dinner and breakfast)
Blue 2 (grade) 16km with 270m ascent, 740m descent
This stage gives a change of scene, as the route quickly drops to the River Arc for the first time since Modane. There follows an easy stroll along the valley bottom to the accompaniment of birdsong, waterfalls and just the occasional traffic. A day to encounter a bit more of the Alpine civilization than on the previous stages, and possibly some mid-walk refreshments in the charming village of Bessans.
Hotel in Bonneval-sur-Arc (breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 14km with 1030m ascent, 1000m descent
An up and down day, going from the valley of the Arc, over the highest paved col in the Alps (Col de l'Iseran) down into the valley of the Isère: a change of valley and a change of character. The climb up is steep in places, but the descent is mostly well-graded. Enjoy the variety, and a night in the largest town to be visited by the Tour of the Vanoise, famous ski resort Val d'Isere.
Hotel in Val d'Isère (breakfast)
Black 3 (grade) 20km with 1300m ascent, 640m descent
A day of stark contrasts. This stage starts with the modern architecture of the ski centres of Val d’Isère, Tignes and Val Claret, and finishes in the wild beauty of the Vallon de la Leisse where the refuge’s buildings are the only ones within sight. Along the way are two places from which it is possible to see the Mont Blanc massif.
Mountain Hut (breakfast and dinner)
Red 3 (grade) 18km with 460m ascent, 1480m descent
A day spent going from wild mountain scenery to a traditional small town typical of the Vanoise. The mountain views around the Col de la Vanoise are superb, and the long descent passes quickly. Arrive at the genteel village of Pralognan which has all that's required without the modern architecture of the previous stage. We love Pralognan!
Hotel in Pralognan-la-Vanoise (breakfast)
Blue 3 (grade) 13.5km with 1070m ascent, 0m descent
A relatively relaxed day today despite the height gain as most of the day is spent on good tracks and paths. The route traverses pretty countryside before climbing steadily up-valley and into the mountains with Pointe de l’Echelle in view ahead. The route feels wilder as you continue to climb to your home for the night; the futuristic refuge of Péclet-Polset.
Mountain hut (dinner and breakfast)
Black 3 (grade) 16km with 520m ascent, 1800m descent
This stage traverses the Col de Chavière, the last and highest col on the Tour of the Vanoise, and also the highest col crossed by any of the GR routes. And a grand setting it is. Once beyond, it is downhill almost all the way to Modane. Enjoy this final stage.
Hotel in Modane (breakfast)
Relax over breakfast and maybe visit the l'Entree Monumentale - a monument with a life-sized steam train recording the history of the first tunnel through the Alps. Depart for the airport or your further travels.
Make the trip shorter
Our normal 11-stage hike can be made quicker, for strong walkers, taking 9 or 10 stages. This must involve at least one longer stage. This is achieved by merging the first two or final two stages into a single long day, in or out of Modane. (It's hard to recommend 8 stages or fewer for a full Vanoise circuit due to the length of the days and spacing of accommodation.) Another way to shorten your trek is to skip the first stage by taking a taxi from Modane to Refuge de l'Orgere. Please let us know and we'll discuss options that might suit.
Make the trip longer
Please ask us about adding nights at intermediate huts, for a 12- or 13-stage trip. Generally we would suggest rest days instead of extra stages but a mix is possible.
Walk half the route
For shorter trips, with the remainder left for another holiday, we recommend the Northern section over 4 or 5 days, starting in Val d'Isere and walking via Pralognan to Modane. The Southern section of the trail is then 7 days from Modane to Val d'Isere. Please ask us for more details.
As standard, we don't include a rest day. However, if you would like to add one in, we recommend Val d'Isere which is a larger resort about half-way round (and a great hotel). Alternatively for 2 rest days, we can break the trip at Bonneval-sur-Arc and at Pralognan-la-Vanoise, both pretty alpine villages. Please ask us for details.
Hike with a guide
Hike with confidence in the company of our fully qualified International Mountain Leaders (IMLs), with the navigation, accommodation and arrangements taken care of. If your group would like a guide for your trip, please get in touch for more details.
September trips start at Pralognan
Due to the season-end of the Refuge Peclet-Polset, which is the last hut in a circuit from Modane, a September start from Modane start would not reach it in time. Thus our September trips start and finish in Pralognan, from where the Peclet-Polset is the first night on trail. We'll advise when you book. Your trip starts with Stage 10, then Stage 11 to Modane, and then Stage 1 onwards back to Pralognan.
Tour of the Vanoise (Self-guided)
1 August to 17 September 2021
1 rest day
2 rest days
All stops except huts
|Please ask us|
Our classic mix of accommodation aims to give the best of both worlds; rustic huts in the mountains and friendly and comfy hotels in the towns. As standard our classic trip includes 7 nights in huts, and the remaining 5 nights in 2* and 3* hotels.
Our classic 11-stage trip stays in 7 huts. Whilst private rooms are not available at any of the huts along the route, at 2 huts (Refuge de L'Arpont and Refuge Plan du Lac) we always try to book you in their smaller rooms of 4-6 people.
We can't avoid dormitories entirely on the Vanoise tour, given the key huts on the trail and the lack of private rooms in all. We're glad to advise on what we can do. On 1 or 2 nights, it may be possible to avoid huts by travelling off the route. For most clients we suggest staying in all 7 huts if possible, as they contribute to the overall Alpine experience and are the natural stopping points along the route. They also offer a wonderful communal spirit, and are situated in the best locations.
Due to the hut-to-hut nature of the trail and the limited number of hotels in the towns and villages, a comfier schedule is hard to achieve. For a touch of luxury, however, we offer the option to upgrade your hotel in Val d'Isere. Please ask for details.
Our trip is already quite 'hutty' meaning we do not have a dedicated hutty option for the Vanoise. It might be possible in the towns and villages to swap hotels for auberges or to book a more basic hotel. Please ask us if you'd like to explore the more basic accommodation options.
The single supplement covers the higher cost of single rooms at the hotels (4 on our normal trip). The huts do not offer single rooms, or dorms for single occupancy.
Our approach to the Tour of the Vanoise
Our routecards stick to the generally accepted Tour of the Vanoise route. We walk every step of the way without the need to take buses or taxi transfers, except where you wish to skip a section. We don't include a rest day as standard, but we can add 1 or 2 rest days in. Your choice will depend on how many days you wish to hike in succession. Please do just ask us about the various options.
The Tour of the Vanoise is a popular trail in Summer. The trail also combines sections of the GR5 and GR55 long distance trails. The result is solid trails for the most part. The terrain on the higher sections of the trail is sometimes steep and rocky such as the rocky ascent to the Col de Chaviere on the final stage. This is complemented by the more relaxing sections of contouring hillside paths and tracks with some rockier sections to keep you entertained.
There are some small sections of steep, loose ground requiring care and also short sections of exposed ground with chains to hold. These should not present a problem to most mountain walkers and there are no via ferrata or climbing sections. In early or late Summer, there is a good chance of snow patches lying on the higher paths which will require care, but the lower paths are likely to be snow-free. We provide as much information as we can in our Season Update each July.
Is it for me?
The Tour of the Vanoise is a wonderful trail and often cited as one of the best multi-day hiking trails in the Alps. It provides outstanding views throughout and is less busy than the neighbouring trails of the Tour du Mont Blanc to the North and the Tour de l'Oisans (Ecrins) to the South. The trail is a mix of challenging days on rough mountain paths and easier days on solid tracks and valley paths. The route also includes a great mix of accommodation with 7 characterful mountain huts giving a remote mountain feel to the trail and 5 comfy hotels in the towns allowing for rest and relaxation.
This route suits those with good overall fitness and experience of multi-day hikes in the mountains. You will also need the ability to walk for up to 8 hours per day over rocky ground. If you are very fit and active day-to-day, then the Vanoise can also be suitable for those relatively new to multi-day trekking, although previous mountain walking experience is still necessary. The main challenge of the Vanoise, aside from the daily distance, is the amount of ascent and descent with just over 7,000m of ascent over 11-stages.
The route is generally well signposted and waymarked, aiding navigation, although a map and compass is needed for navigation in case of bad weather such as low cloud. This is particularly important on the higher rockier sections such the Col de Chavière on Stage 11. It is important that at least 1 person in each group can navigate with a map and compass. We provide you with our routecards, providing detailed descriptions of each days’ walk, along with the topographical maps for the full route.
A level of self-sufficiency on the Vanoise is necessary as transfer bags (an optional extra) cannot be delivered to the huts. On hut nights you’ll need to carry everything you need for that days’ walk and the day after. But with plenty of huts and chalets along the way, delicious food is easy to come by. (Our routecards point out refreshment stops).
The route passes through a number of key mountain towns and villages: Val d'Isare, Tignes and Pralognan-la-Vanoise. These three are well-known as ski resorts and come with good hotels and shopping.
We grade the Tour of the Vanoise as a Black 3. This trail is first and foremost a walk and there are no glacier crossings, via ferrata or rock climbing. There are however a few sections of steep and rocky ground which require steady foot placement and, at times, an ability to cope with narrow and exposed paths. In a few sections the path is a little exposed and chains are provided to aid progress, such as sections approaching Pont de la Neige on Stage 7. There are also a number of sections such as the Col de Chavière on Stage 11 where the route becomes rocky and crosses a number of scree slopes requiring steady foot placement.
Our September trips start and finish in Pralognan due to the earlier closure of the Peclet-Polset hut which is the last one in a circuit from Modane. Pralognan is the charming ski village at the end of the valley from Moutiers, a 3-hour coach ride from Geneva Airport.
Travel to and from the trip is not included in the holiday price, and we leave you to arrange your transfers individually. We do however take care to give the most useful notes possible about all travel options. We supply these both on booking in your Trip Notes, and in your info pack which we send out prior to your trip. We also offer personalised tips based on our extensive travels across Europe; please ask us for advice and we'll be happy to help!
- Bespoke accommodation itinerary - tailored to suit your preferences
- Breakfast on every morning
- Dinner at the huts (7 nights on our normal trip)
- Detailed Routecards TVA1-11 of the Exploratory system, printed on waterproof paper
- The 2 French topographical maps (1:25,000)
- Expert advice and local information
- A comprehensive Season Update following our pre-season recce
- Full support during your trip from the Alpine Exploratory team (9am until 9pm in the Alps)
- Travel to and from Modane
- Local transport during the trip
- Travel insurance
- Lunches, snacks, drinks and evening meals in the towns (5 nights on our normal trip)
- Baggage transfer (available as an extra)
Baggage transferLet us move your bags along the route for you. We offer a baggage transfer service on the Tour of the Vanoise as an extra, to all stops except the huts. This means from Modane to Bonneval-sur-Arc, to Val d'Isere, to Pralognan and back to Modane, 4 drops in all. On hut nights your bag will simply be transferred to your next hotel. Instead you might like to leave luggage in Modane whilst you hike; please ask us to coordinate this.
Booking form for the Tour of the Vanoise
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Tour of the Vanoise enquiry form
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