2 Best Sights in Courmayeur/Monte Bianco, Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta

Monte Bianco

Fodor's choice

Monte Bianco's attraction is not so much its shape, which is much less distinctive than that of the Matterhorn, as its expanse and the awesome vistas from the top. You can reach the summit via a cable car that ascends from Entrèves, just below the Mont Blanc Tunnel. In summer, if so inclined, you can then switch cable cars and descend into Chamonix, in France. In winter you can ski parts of the route off-piste. The Funivia Entrèves whisks you up first to the Pavillon du Mont Fréty in just four minutes—a starting point for many beautiful hikes—and then in six minutes to the spectacular viewing platform at Punta Helbronner (more than 11,000 feet), which is also the border post with France.

The next stage up (in summer only) is on the Télépherique de l'Aiguille du Midi, as you pass into French territory. The trip is particularly impressive; you dangle over a huge glacial snowfield (more than 2,000 feet below) and make your way slowly to the viewing station above Chamonix. It's one of the most dramatic rides in Europe. From this point you're looking down into France, and if you change cable cars at the Aiguille du Midi station, you can make your way down into Chamonix itself.

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SS26, Courmayeur, Aosta Valley, 11013, Italy
0450-532275-in Chamonix
sights Details
Rate Includes: €23 round-trip to Pavillon du Mont Fréty, €55 round-trip to Punta Helbronner, €34 round-trip to Aiguille du Midi, €37 round-trip to Chamonix, Closed Nov., May, and depending on weather conditions and demand

Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso

Cogne, 52 km (32 miles) southeast of Courmayeur, is the gateway to this huge park, which was once the domain of King Vittorio Emanuele II (1820–78). Bequeathed to the nation after World War I, it is one of Europe's most rugged and unspoiled wilderness areas, with wildlife and many plant species protected by law. The park is one of the few places in Europe where you can see the ibex (a mountain goat with horns up to 3 feet long) and the chamois (a small antelope). The park, which is 703 square km (271 square miles), is open free of charge throughout the year; there's an information office in Cogne. Try to visit in May, when spring flowers are in bloom and most of the meadows are clear of snow.