Trek the Alps along ancient trade routes from the mountains down to the Mediterranean Sea—a unique classic
The GR5 may have started out as a practical footpath over rocky terrain for soldiers and traders over the millennia, but there’s no doubt why it is considered one of the world’s premier hiking trails today. MTS is one of the few travel companies to offer this itinerary, and ours is the best value available! Beginning in the storied alpine heights of the Mont Blanc Massif, you’ll wind through remote valleys, cross sun-dappled meadows thick with wildflowers, and explore three pristine national parks of the French Alps where marmots, ibexes, and even wolves can be found. While these are strenuous hikes made for seasoned trekkers, there’s plenty of respite and reward! Comfortable, luxurious hotels throughout the trip are welcome after a long day of hiking. To boot, there’s a dazzling finish on the celebrated shores of the French Riviera, where the sparkling azure waters of the Mediterranean are an inviting finale to this epic trek. If you want to see the Alps in an entirely new light, then come out of the mountains and head down to the beach in this exquisite journey through some of France’s finest landscapes.
11 days strenuous hiking over varied terrain (max. elev. 9,566')
- Enjoy challenging alpine hiking along the famous GR5, from the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to the enticing, blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea with MTS—one of the few travel companies to trek along this ancient route!
- See the Alps in an entirely new light with fantastic views—the perfect quest for veterans of the Tour du Mont Blanc
- The best value for this itinerary available, with top guides and comfortable hotels in an area where MTS has specialized since 1970!
- Explore La Vanoise, Queyras, and Mercantour—the renowned national parks of the French Alps
Duration: 14 days Start Location: Geneva End Location: MentonDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : The Mont Blanc Foothills
Arrive at the airport in Geneva, Switzerland. You will be picked up promptly at 2:00 p.m. for a group transfer by private van to the small town of Combloux, a simple but charming alpine village. After arriving at the hotel, we’ll have a chance to stroll around the village, or else just drink in the exquisite mountain scenery while we recover from our flights. Later, we’ll meet our guides and the rest of the group for a welcome dinner and an orientation.
Day 2 : Beaufortin
Today is a warm-up hike to get us ready for the long and invigorating days ahead. We’ll begin with an ascent over the grassy slopes of Le Mont de Vorès (6,781'). From the wide open summit we’ll make a long traverse in the shadow of the Aiguille Croche (8,257') to reach the Col du Joly (6,525'). From here the views of the entire Mont Blanc Range are spectacular, and include the summit of the Mont Blanc massif itself (15,771'). In the afternoon we’ll hike down to the picturesque mountain town of Hauteluce (3,610'). Overnight in Arêches.
Day 3 : Pierra Menta
From our trailhead, which overlooks the bright blue lake of Roselend, our path winds along the ridge of Le Mont des Acrays (7,130') toward the base of the “Giant’s Tooth” peak of the Pierra Menta (8,902'). At the Col du Couvercle (7,680') we’ll enjoy panoramic views of the southern edge of the Mont Blanc range and the summits of the Vanoise. Later we’ll descend into the Tarentaise Valley, where the Isère River flows. The many stunning peaks of this area were host to the alpine events of the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics.
Day 4 : Vanoise National Park
We’ll spend the day in Vanoise National Park, France’s first, which was created in 1963 after an early mobilization of the country’s environmental movement. The park is home to ibexes and marmots as well as an abundance of brightly colored wildflowers. Pinnacles, sink-holes, and jagged peaks dot the landscape, and the area is famed for crimson-veined blocks of marble and the many fossils preserved in the limestone. We’ll make a long ascent from the Rosuel Door (5,050') to the Col de Plan Sèry (8,530'), where the meadows are carpeted with edelweiss. At the foot of the Bellecôte summit (11,388'), we’ll hike down to the valley of Champagny (5,120') and our lodging in the village of Pralognan.
Day 5 : La Vanoise Range
We start hiking over smooth, rolling hills until we reach the alpine farming area at le Ritord, where local farmers make the famous Beaufort cheese. Stepping off of the main trail we’ll head to the Col d’Aussois, the highest we’ll cross on this trip at 9,566 feet in elevation. The pass is wedged between the ridge of la Pointe de l’Echelle (11,227') and the southern tips of the Dômes de la Vanoise and the Dent Parrachée (12,129'). After crossing the col, we’ll begin our descent through fields frequented by grazing ibex to the lake of le Plan d’Amont (6,610').
Day 6 : La Vallée Etroite
Across from the Maurienne Valley we’ll follow the Grande Randonnée 5 (or GR5) trail into the Vallée Etroite, where the slopes are covered with forests of larch pines. Starting at the small ski resort of Val Fréjus (5,350') we’ll begin a pleasant ascent toward the open col of Vallée Etroite (7,985'), until we reach the foot of Mount Thabor. The area still retains a strong Italian heritage, as this region has changed hands many times over the years. From our vantage point in this narrow valley we’ll have excellent views of the summits of the Vanoise region. Our descent takes us along wild streams and through alpine meadows to the huts of the Vallée Etroite (5,790'). From here we continue our hike down to our van, then take a short transfer to Montgenevre where we'll spend the night.
Day 7 : Queyras National Park
Today we’ll hike into Queyras National Park, an area with a huge diversity of flora and an abundance of unique rock formations. Our hike begins in the hamlet of Chalets des Ayes (5,626'), and then continues up a forested stream. We’ll reach a summer farming region just beneath the Col des Ayes (8,126'). In the afternoon, we'll make our way up to the Hamlet of Clapey and enjoy breathtaking views of the valley below, and then down to the village of Brunissard (5,741'). We'll end the day with a transfer to Saint-Veran, one of the highest villages in Europe (6,677'). Legend has it that the village is named after a 6th-century saint who drove a dragon away from the region
Day 8 : Queyras – Saint Paul
Our hike begins at the Chapelle de Clausis (7,677') and continues on to the hut at La Blanche (8,198') and a quiet mountain lake. The short climb to Col Blanchet (9,504') allows us to set foot into Italian territory as we make our way around the Tête des Toillies (10,416'). We return to France via the wide and scenic Col Longet (8,704'). The descent from here is long and gentle, passing through alpine meadows, oases of wildflowers, and gorgeous river valleys. Transfer to the lovely town of Barcelonnette.
Day 9 : Rest Day
After a restful morning, we leave the hotel at 10:00 a.m., and transfer for a 3-hour drive to Saint-Martin de Vésubie. On our way, we’ll enjoy the view from the Col de la Bonette, the highest driving pass in Europe. We’ll stop for lunch in the town of Saint Etienne de Tinée, and arrive in the afternoon for free time to explore the charming village of Saint-Martin de Vésubie.
Day 10 : Mercantour National Park
Today we head into the heavily wooded area known as Mercantour National Park, a region with a diverse ecosystem and many geologic interests. The park is home to ermine, ibex, and eagles. And though it is rare to see any of the wolves that returned here in the 1990's in search of new territories, we’ll certainly catch a glimpse of the many chamois goats that leap precariously from one rock ledge to the next. Starting from the stone barns at Vacherie du Boréon (5,413'), in the welcoming shade of a larch forest, we'll head towards Trecolpas Lake and then continue to the Pas de Ladres (8,031')—our pass for today. Our descent will take us to the Madone de Fenestre (6,260'), nestled at the end of the valley.
Day 11 : Mercantour National Park
Hike from the valley of Gordolasque to the Cime du Diable (8,809'), via the Pas du Trem (8,156'). The trail then follows the winding ridge line between the Roya and Vésubie Valleys, eventually emerging at La Pointe des Trois Commune (6,824'), and finally leads us to Baisse de Tueis (6,197').
Day 12 : Down to Sospel
Coming back to where we stopped yesterday, we follow the GR5 down to Sospel (1,148'), passing more remnants of the Great War en route. Along the ridge between the Roya and Bavera Valleys, we have the chance to pass through different stages of vegetation and enjoy the fragrance of the Mediterranean as we reach Sospel (1,148'), a charming medieval town with a baroque cathedral and a newly restored town square.
Day 13 : Down to the Mediterranean
Our final hiking day begins with a hike to the Grand Mont (4,524'), to enjoy one last panoramic view of the mountains. Then it’s down to the Mediterranean village of Castellar (1,280'), perched on the side of a steep slope overlooking the sea. We’ll hike to our last night’s hotel in Menton, where we can end our trek by dipping our toes in the azure waters. Of all the Côte d'Azur resorts, Menton is the warmest and most Italian, only a few miles from the border.
Day 14 : Departure
Transfer to the Nice airport for departure on homeward-bound flights, arriving at the airport by 9:30 a.m. International flights should not be scheduled to depart before noon.
DATES: Best time to go: June, August - September Departures: Jun 22, 2014 - Jul 5, 2014
Hotel Prince de Galles
Located immediately outside Monaco, the Best Western Prince de Galles is a hotel rich in history.
Since 1865, this former barracks for the carabiniere of the princes of Monaco has welcomed lovers of the French Riviera. Located a mere stone's throw from the Palais Carnolès, the former summer residence of Prince Antonio I of Monaco, this charming hotel is managed by the Laurenti family, who provides their guests with the warmest of welcomes. Here, service goes hand in hand with availability, quality and the highest of standards.
Hotel les Mottets
Hotel le Grand Becle Grand Bec, France
Mountain resort for skiing, rambling and Alpine sports, open in the winter and the summer.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Laurent Langoisseur hails from Normandy, France, having grown up in Argentan (a small village that became famous in August 1944, “tournai sur dives”). At the age of 12, Laurent read La Grande Crevasse by Roger Frison-Roche, and became fascinated by the guiding and climbing descriptions of the Chamonix-Mont Blanc area. At 16, Laurent visited the area and was hooked. At 19, Laurent joined the French alpine troops, and after a year of service, moved to Chamonix. In 1991, he obtained his European Mountain Leader certification, and in 1995 he was awarded the coveted patch of the Compagnie des Guides. An avid sports enthusiast and inexhaustible hiker, Laurent has hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc close to 100 times. He is also an accomplished mountaineer, having summited Mont Blanc three times, as well as several other mountains over 13,000-feet. When he is not hiking and climbing, Laurent can be found running long distances for fun. Laurent recently completed a 48-mile race in 6 hours; and has also finished 48 miles in 9 hours with 10,000’ of ascent/descent. Laurent has been guiding for MTS since 1995, and is a senior guide on our Tour du Mont Blanc, Mont Blanc Express, Mont Blanc to Matterhorn (Haute Route), GR5, Gran Paradiso, and French Riviera trips, as well as any other trip we can get him on! His knowledge of the culture, history, plants, birds, and the name of every single peak and glacier along the trail is a wonderful complement to his guiding skills. When he isn’t guiding for us, he teaches First Aid and Mountain Rescue to mountain and hiking guides; and during the winter, he’s a ski patrol monitor in the mountains above Chamonix.
Stéphane is a true man of the mountains, with a Savoyard father and Swiss mother. He grew up in Chamonix, then left the valley to follow his first love, architecture. But the call of the wild proved too strong: numerous travels in North Africa, Siberia, and the Himalaya opened a new door to him—the profession of hiking guide. Nowadays Stéphane lives in a chalet in Chamonix from where he escapes frequently to travel the mountain areas of the world. “Steph” has now been a member of the Compagnie des Guides for many years, with over 100 trips to the Alps under his belt.
A native of Chamonix, Florence is a descendant from two of the area’s oldest families. After growing up in the Chamonix Valley, “Flo” spent several years in the south of France, and then traveled abroad to South America and Asia. She returned to her ancestral home, where the mountains now form an integral part of her life. She has led nearly 50 trips to the Alps, not counting how many times she has done this trip for her own fun! In addition to being an accomplished hiking guide, Flo is a skier and climber. As a member of the Compagnie des Guides, she follows in the footsteps of her forefathers.
Beatrice is a native of Chamonix, France, and has been guiding professionally in the Alps since 1989. She comes from a family of mountain climbers. Her grandfather was also a professional mountain guide. Aside from being an expert hiking guide, Beatrice is also an avid climber and accomplished skier, and is a ski instructor during the winter months. She loves the mountains, and will share her enthusiasm and her great experience with you during your trip.
Native from Chamonix, Fabienne comes from a family of mountaineers and farmers. Her grandfather was a recognized mountain guide. A former cross-country ski champion, she raced in several Europa Cups, and has been coaching the Chamonix cross-country Ski Club for the last 20 years. Very involved in the city life, she has a passion for the history of the valley and the surrounding mountains. A guide since 1993, she is also keen in botany and proud to share her love and knowledge of the Mont-Blanc massif.