MONTE ROSA CIRCUIT
Monte Rosa Circuit via Zermatt
11 Days $3900 ex Alagna
10 Nights Hotel Stay
Mostly on foot
Guest and Luggage Transfers included
High Heart Rate Holiday
Watch This Space
There was a time when the Alps spanning France, Italy and Switzerland, were uninhabited other than by wolves and bears and in the imagination of those that lived in the lowlands, dragons and demons.
But population and political pressures forced small populations further and deeper into the mountains until they become the abode of what we now refer to as the Walser people, the original inhabitants of these magnificent mountains.
Our journey uses ancient trade trails through this once forbidden landscape, over high 3000-meter passes, around glaciers and past some of the world’s most iconic mountains on the planet, including the unmistakable Matterhorn.
“The base of this mountain gives birth to the 4 rivers which flow in four different directions through the whole of Europe. And no mountain has its base at so great a height as this, which lifts itself above almost all the clouds”.
Leonardo da Vinci 1500 Century
While some believe that the name “Rosa” or pink in Italian was used for Monte Rosa because the last rays of sun on her summits and glaciers reflected a pink hue, others believe that the name ‘rosa’ comes from an age-old dialect word rouese or roises meaning ‘glacier’.
Set deep in the European Alps, the Monte Rosa massif is the highest mountain massif in Western Europe, with more 4000-meter peaks than Mont Blanc. Straddling the Swiss Italian border, Monte Rosa is not one single summit but a series of enormous peaks not only separating one country from another but separating valleys, forming a collage of distinct cultures and cuisines found in few other places in Europe.
Circumnavigating this massif is more than just a simple walk or hike. It is a journey of discovery into Swiss and Italian cultures, of rich history and diverse ecosystems, and of course a gastronomic journey. This is a trek to be savoured and not rushed.
While many come to summit a 4000-meter peak (and you can have a chance to do this after the trek), the hike around the Monte Rosa massif gives you a taste of what those mountaineers face as they head up toward the upper reaches of this range. We will flirt with glaciers as we pass from one country to the next via the Thodulpass and walk along valley bases, through meadows and summer farms and over passes tucked beneath glaciated mountains, before heading back down into an entirely new and unique valley.
The trail itself known as the TMR is a nine-day challenge with some difficult ascents and descents. We will walk approximately 160 km with a vertical ascent of approximately 13000 meters.
Each day we will spend 6-9 hours out in nature, hiking from one valley to the next, stopping for lunch possibly in a high altitude meadow or possibly at a small Refugio tucked away high in the mountains. Our nights will be spent either in a full-service mountain hut or a small family-run traditional hotel, usually found in the villages in the valleys.
Throughout the trip, we will enjoy traditional Swiss and Italian meals in local restaurants located in the mountain villages or in the fully serviced remote mountain huts that we will reach at the end of each stage.
This expedition starts and ends in Alagna, Italy which is well serviced with transport from Milan.
In Alagna at the end of our trip, there is a possibility for a 2-day mountaineering excursion. We will climb to the “Capanna Margherita”, the highest mountain hut (Rifugio) in Europe at an altitude of 4,555 metres above sea level.
We will meet you at Milan Malpensa International Airport. From there we will transfer you to Alagna Valsesi a journey of approximately 1h 45 minutes. Alagna is a wonderful secluded village set at the base of the Monte Rosa massif. The centre of town itself is pedestrian where we can pick up last-minute snacks for our journey the following days. Our accommodation is the idyllic Hotel Montagna di Luce. Here we will receive our briefing from our guide and dine on local cuisine in the evening. (D)
Our hike will start today, walking from Alagna to the Walser Village of Macugnaga. We will walk approximately 8 hours across a well-developed military trail built after World War 1, reaching “Colle del Turlo” (Turlo Col) at an altitude of 2,738 m. The trail was used by the Germanic Population called Walser in the thirteenth century during their colonization of the Alps. Breathtaking views of the Monterosa massif, waterfalls and alpine forests will be experienced during the trek.
We will arrive in Macugnaga in the late afternoon. There will be enough time, thanks to the long European summer days, to explore the village and then finally relax. Distance traveled is 20km. (B,L,D)
Today we will experience the steepest ascent of the trip. The culminating point of this hike is “Monte Moro” 2,868 m (The Black Mountain) where we can admire the Golden Statue of the Virgin Mary and in the background the east face of Monte Rosa. We will walk through the original Walser population trail, going around Mattmark dam, the biggest natural dam in Europe, admiring a number of little waterfalls coming down from the visible glacier. The Swiss side of the Monte Moro is nothing short of magical. Our hike will end in the Swiss village of Saas-Fee “the Pearl of the Alps”, a popular tourist destination both in winter and summer (you can actually ski all year round on the glacier). We will have time to explore the village and purchase food for tomorrow’s snacks and lunches. Then some free time. Today we will walk for approximately 9 hours over a distance of 20km. (B,L,D)
Today we will hike through the Saas Valley over an exposed but safe trail. The valley is surrounded by glaciers. However, we are able to move from one valley to the next along a high balcony path known as the Hohenweg (highway). This has to be one of the most pleasant sections of the TMR. We will be surrounded by alpine flowers and vegetation and hopefully meet some of the local wildlife. The imposing glacier with its perpetual snow will be above us. The impressive “Bietschorn” shaped as a Pyramid, will rise in front of us, becoming a companion along the trail. Interesting local magical tales of dragons and demons are linked to this remote alpine area giving the region a mysterious touch. After approximately 7 hours walk (or 16 km) we will finally arrive in the village of Grachen (Switzerland), having some time to explore the village. (B,L,D)
The two days walk from Grachen to Zermatt is considered by many as the most beautiful trail in all the Alps. It is hard to disagree with unsurpassed views of the Matterhorn, Weisshorn, the Zinal Rothorn and the Obergabelhorn to name a few. However, today we will experience one of the hardest altitude hikes in all of Europe. Our efforts will be rewarded by the views of the imposing Weisshorn and its impressive neighbours.
From Grachen, we will rapidly gain height, on this steep old goat trail, reaching the most remarkable lookout point of the section, the statue of Saint Bernard, the patron saint of mountaineers and the inhabitants of the Alps. The next part of the trail brings us through fallen rocks, pastures, paths and safe passages through exposed cliff faces. We will have dinner and spend the night in the recently refurbished “EuropaHutte” Hut.
Today the walk will approximately 6.5 hours or 14 km. (B,L,D)
We will start our walk after a tasty Swiss breakfast. The highlight of today will be going over the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world, which traverses the Grabengufer. The bridge is 494m long and 85m high (at its highest point). The trek will then continue in the direction of Tasch and finally to the Swiss village of Zermatt. The walk today is approximately 6 hours or 16km. We will arrive in Zermatt in the afternoon having some free time to visit the charming village after checking into the hotel. (B,L,D)
Today we will catch a few different cable cars from Zermatt up to the Theoudul Glacier (which has all year round glacier skiing). We will hike through the glacier, wearing crampons and watching out for crevasses. We will most likely be overtaken by skiers and snowboarders, enjoying the amazing opportunity of summer skiing. After approximately 6 hours of walking on a sea of ice, we will reach our destination the “Theoudul Pass”, which defines the border between Switzerland and Italy. We will have dinner and spend the night at the “Rifugio Teodulo” (Theoudul Hut) at an altitude of 3317 m. This is an incredible place to spend the night with incredible views all around including close up views of the Matterhorn. 11 km will be traveled today. (B,L,D)
Theoudul Pass was once a much-needed trail over the Alps from Italy into Switzerland Traders, smugglers, immigrants and armies have all used this trail for centuries. In fact Roman artifacts have been recovered on this trail. We will cross a desert of stones with small mountain lakes. After a short climb towards the “Cime Bianche” (White Peaks), a long terrace valley follows, in a landscape of peat lands. At the entrance of the Val d’Ayas, we enter into an alpine forest.
We will be welcomed on the plateau of the Maison-Blanche by the scintillating of small dark blue mountain lakes. Stones, fallen rocks and some lichen are typical for this alpine zone.
The trail curves through a terraced valley that is almost endless, going through isolated little traditional Walser huts. We will come across the mountain villages of Fiery (I) and St Jacques (I) where locals speak Italian as well as German and French. Our hike today will end at Resy (Italy) where we will have dinner and spend the night at the “Rifugio Ferraro” (Ferraro Hut). Our walk today is approximately 6.5 Hours or 14km. (B,L,D)
After a healthy and delicious breakfast at the “Rifugio”, we will start our walk heading to the “Colle di Bottaforca – 2672 m”. From there we will come down through the Gressoney Valley which is part of the Valle d’Aosta Region. Traditional homes and pastures make this area feel untouched as it is part of the Walserweg or Walser Way. Incredible views of the Monte Rosa massif will be viewed along the trail.
Today our walk will be quite relaxing (approximately 4.5 hours or 12 km), which will allow us to reach our destination, the village of Gressoney (I) early in the afternoon giving us plenty of time to enjoy some free time. We will spend the night in a traditional family-owned hut. (B,L,D)
Our last hike of the tour and one of the longest of the entire trip. We will walk through steep cliffs and green pastures with isolated Walser Sheppard huts. It will be uphill until we reach the “Colle dell’Olen – 2881m”. The descent to the Otro valley will be long but not difficult with beautiful views and plenty of opportunities to see local wildlife. Behind us all the way down to Alagna the “Sasso del Diavolo” (The Devil Rock) will be upon us. Local tales give this area a mystical atmosphere.
We will arrive in Alagna late afternoon. Our trek is now complete and we will go for dinner together to celebrate the conclusion of our amazing journey.
Our walk today will take approximately 9 hours or 16km. (B,L,D)
For the travellers that did not book our post-extension mountaineering trip to the “Capanna Margherita”, today is time to say “arrivederci”….. till next time.
Your transfer will leave in the morning for Milano International Airport. (B)
- 6 nights in 3 stars Hotel – Breakfast included – (Twin or triple rooms)
- Professional Italian, English speaking Guide
- All meals as outlined in Itinerary
- 4 nights in Mountain Huts (dormitory style)
- Transfer of luggage between hotels when possible
- Crampon use on Theoudul Pass
- Return Transfer from Milano Malpensa International Airport
- International airfares
- Travel Insurance
- Cable cars tickets (when and if required)
Your Guides and Safety
Our lead guides are fully trained, registered and licenced IFMGA members who work for us regularly. All mountain lovers, they have skied, climbed and hiked many of the routes around the area and spend their days off exploring the region.
The guide will ensure that your trip is truly inspiring, a huge amount of fun, and safe. All guides are trained in Mountain Safety First Aid.
This trip is for those who love the mountains and their scenery.
It is also for those who want to see another side of Europe away from the big cities.
It is for those that love history and culture.
For those who like to push themselves a little bit, who love nature and being in nature.
It is for those who also love meeting people with similar interests from all over the world.
Wanderlust or the Art of Hiking the European Way
Have you been lucky enough to trek in Europe before? If yes, you are probably hooked and know exactly what I’m talking about. However, if you have never been trekking in Europe be assured, a new passion will be born!
Europe has a strong hiking culture. With its mountain Refugios offering delicious food along the way, passing through picturesque villages lining the path, stopping for some souvenirs, a coffee, gelati, or cake, there simply is no other place quite like Europe when it comes to hiking.
Trekking in Europe is trekking in style! Once you have tasted it, it is hard to go back and you will want to do it again and again!
Food and Culture
Boungiorno and Grüezi in one trek.
The Monte Rosa Circuit with its trails leading through Italy into Switzerland gives you a chance to taste not only the cuisines of each nation but also the unique cuisine of the Walser.
And while we will of course experience each nation’s own culture, because we are going deep into the mountains we will also pass through ancient Walser settlements with their distinct homes and pastures. This is a side of Europe so many simply don’t get to see.
We get asked a lot of questions about the Monte Rosa Circuit. The following are certainly the most common however if you have another question please let us know or the answer may be found in our Trip Notes section.
How hard is the Monte Rosa Circuit?
Hmmm, this is a great question and possibly the hardest to answer. We classify this as a High Heart Rate trek, which means you will have sections that will certainly get your heart moving. On top of this, there are sections that are quite rocky and being good on your feet is essential. There are no sections that are like Silvester Stallones “Cliffhanger”. Some nights we stay in small boutique hotels and others in Refugios so our night’s sleep varies from town to town. You will need to make sure you are as fit as possible as there are also sections you will need to carry your own pack. And of course, there is the classic comparison to other trips, which also has its problems but here goes. The trip is more difficult than the Tour du Mont Blanc but on par with the Gran Paradiso.
Do I have to carry my own pack all the way?
The answer is “yes” and “no”. In some sections, we will be able to have your bag transported to the next night’s rest, however, on some occasions, this simply is not possible as there is no road access or we will be crossing from Italy into Switzerland and there is no easy road to get across to the next night’s accommodation. As such we encourage trekkers to pack as light as possible, with a 12 kg pack being ample for this trek.
What are the Refugios like on the TMR?
Europe has a network of Huts and Refugios offering board and lodging to hikers along the trails. While we will be using local family-run hotels, we will also be utilising these Refugios as we will be high in the mountains and there are simply no other options. These Refugios are usually very basic but very clean. Rooms are dorm-style, though in some places we will try and get private or smaller rooms. Facilities are communal such as toilets and showers and meals are served in one large dining room. They have a great vibe and they are great places to meet other fellow hikers from around the world.
These mountains are my home, they always have been. I can show you where, as a child, I would toboggan to school in winter. And I will show you all the trails I took during the summer. I love this trip because it gives me a chance to show you the place where the Walser are from, where my ancestors are from. It gives me an excuse to walk the trails into Switzerland and to revisit places I rarely go these days. I am sure you will love the Monte Rosa circuit too.
Sergio – Guide