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Aosta Valley: Mediterranean Lifestyle and Alpine Giants


            

The Valley of Aosta is enframed by some of the Alps' most famous mountains and mountain ranges: Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, Matterhorn and Gran Paradiso. Rising from almost sea level to heights of more than 4.000m, they create a spectacular panorama for every outdoor activity - and will offer you every challenge you desire.

But Aosta means more than just mountains: a mixture between Alpian and Mediterreanean lifestyle and cooking, warm temperatures and beautiful mountain villages.

All this is easily accessed from Italy, Switzerland and France and well worth a prolonged weekend trip. Especially in low seasons all the valley's beauty can be enjoyed to its full extent, no matter if you want to relax, do some hiking or want to climb the highest peaks of the Alps.

General Information
Weather
Maps
 
Travel Information
How to get there
Travelling in the area
Accommodation
Activities
Hiking
Alpinism
 
Specials
Things you shouldn't miss...
Things you shouldn't do...
 

General Information
- Italian Tourist Web Guide for Aosta Valley from itwg
- Courmayeur.net

Weather
- Yahoo! Weather for Aosta
- Intellicast Forecast for Aosta
- Weather Forecast for Eastern and Western Alps by alpinismus.de (German)
- Regional Forecast Aosta Valley with mountain weather from bergwelt.de (German)

Maps
For the Valley you should get maps from Kompass Karten (1:50.000, #85, 86, 87) or from the Istituto Geografico Centrale IGC (1:25.000, #101-102 and 107-109). To get an overview, you can use the following maps.
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Area Map from National Geographic
- Regional Map of the Valley from itwg
- Map (1:50.000) (180k) of the tour to the Becca di Viou
- Map (1:50.000) (180k) of the tour to Lago di Goletta
- Map (1:50.000) (145k) of the Mont Blanc area

Travel Information

How to get there
The Aosta Valley is accessed the easiest via the Gran San Bernardo Tunnel (two way approx. 25 EURO) or the Montblanc Tunnel. If you are coming from farther east, you can take the highway from Torino to Aosta. In summertime, when the Col of the Gran San Bernardo is not closed, it is a scenic and **free** alternative to the Tunnel. Aosta of course is also served by public transport, e.g. by trains from Torino, Switzerland and France as well as by busses.

Travelling in the area
Car drivers will like the valley's infrastructure pretty much. You can choose between the Tunnel towards Mont Blanc, or more precise, to Courmayeur (5 EURO oneway), or the mostly scenic road through the valley. Those who don't have a car will have to rely on busses, which operate regularly and serve every important area in the valley and in neighbouring valleys, too.

Accommodation
It can't be stressed enough: don't stay in the big tourist areas! Especially Courmayeur in general is a big industrial complex designed for mass tourism and skiing. If you want to stay in the Courmayeur area, cross the river and try the right side :-) The Hotel La Palud is a nice exception from the general impression of that area. If you are travelling to Gran Paradiso National Park, try the Rhemes Valley, especially in the area of Rhemes-Notre Dame you will find nice hotels for reasonable prizes (e.g. 90 EURO for a two bed room incl. breakfast and three course dinner for two!). But most recommendable is the Hotel des Alpes in Saint Rhemy, just at the foot of the Col de Gran St. Bernard. You can't miss it when you come from the tunnel and drive to the upper part of the village.

Activities
The Valley of Aosta is one of the best areas in the Alps to explore the mountains. No matter if you simply want to do some hiking through the valley or if you want to reach for highest peaks in the Alps: Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso and even Monte Rosa are easily reached from the valley in an hour's drive. Nowhere in the Alps you are surrounded by so many magnificient mountain ranges. So don't forget to bring your outdoor clothing, a couple of maps and a compass - it is definitely worth it!

Hiking
I did two hikes in the area at different degrees of difficulty and can reassure you: the scenery is just awesome. Most of all the National Park and the Mont Blanc massif, displaying snow covered peaks of more than 4.000m, glaciers and mostly intact nature are worth a visit. The official trails are all well marked and shouldn't offer any bigger obstacles to a walker who has the endurance to ascend 500 to 1.400m of altitude on the average. The gear you have to bring is consequently lightweight: good leather hiking boots, stuff to keep you warm and rain proof jacket and pants, maybe some sunbloc and sunglasses if you reach snow covered areas. Of course, never forget maps of at least 1:50.000 scale, a compass and optionally an altimeter. Still, you will be hiking in the mountains so you should assess your own abilities and your gear critically and leave a note with your hotel on your destination and your planned return.
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Tour: Becca di Viou - two kilometres above Aosta
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Tour: Lago di Goletta - touching the glaciers

Alpinism
Naturally, the Aosta Valley is a very good starting point for any mountaineering activity. Gran Paradiso and its neighbouring peaks as well as parts of the Mont Blanc massif are accessed from Aosta Valley and neighbouring valleys. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time and skills to do some more ambitious mountaineering in that area, but for the adventurous hiker at least a visit at Punta Helbronner is a nice excursion. If you go there in summertime, book a guide in Courmayeur in advance and you will have the chance cross the Glacier de Geant to go to the Aiguille du Midi or even to Chamonix (F) for reasonable prizes. But also the visit to Punta Helbronner itself is spectacular: at 3.400m you will be amongst some of the most famous mountain groups of the Alps: Mont Blanc, Grand Jorasses and Dente del Geant. The 25 EURO to go there are well worth it.
- Photo of Punta Helbronner, Photo of Aiguille du Midi
- Mont Blanc webcam from montblanc.com
- Regular Routes to Mont Blanc by Tuan

Specials

...things you shouldn't miss!
Definitely the Pizza in the Pizzeria in Etroubles on your way to Aosta from Gran St. Bernard. Also a must is Aosta itself and the Salamis, the Speck and the smoked Ham of the area. Apart from this, don't miss Gran Paradiso National Park and the hundreds of hikes offered there!

...things you shouldn't do!
To say it again: stay away from mass tourism. This doesn't only mean to avoid Courmayeur, but also Cogne & Pont (Gran Paradiso National Park) during peak season. These areas will be overcrowded by hikers and mountaineers, who want to gain an "easy" 4.000m peak. As the valley is on the south side of the Alps, travelling there is still ok until the middle of October, if you do not intend to ascend above 3.500m without the necessary experience and gear. Early spring should be nice, too, but keep in mind that there will still be loads of snow in the mountains.

last revision: Monday, August 11, 2003 copyright www.therucksack.net