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Aosta Valley, Italy

Best Things to Do in Aosta Valley, Italy

Have you heard of Aosta Valley (Valle d’Aosta), Italy’s smallest region? Surrounded by Europe’s highest peaks and snuggled between France, Switzerland, and Piedmont (Italy), this Northern Italian region is brimming with historical, culinary, and natural treasures. This is the heart of the European Alps. Though a favorite alpine holiday destination among Italians, Aosta Valley is virtually unknown to the rest of the world. 

Valle d’Aosta is made up of a central valley, from which branch 13 side valleys. You could spend weeks exploring the many hamlets and trails of these glacial and river valleys. Some of these side valleys branch into Gran Paradiso National Park, while others extend in the direction of Switzerland. The noteworthy Val Veny and Val Ferret lie at the foot of Mont Blanc.


When to Visit Aosta Valley

Valle d’Aosta is a seasonal destination. Italians vacation here chiefly in summer (hiking and cycling season) and winter (skiing season). If you come off-season, it might seem lifeless. Many properties in the region are second homes, which means that outside of those peak seasons, many areas in the valley are empty.

We visited Aosta Valley in May. While traveling to Aosta Valley off-season has its advantages, it also feels rather dead. Many restaurants and businesses are closed. From a weather standpoint, spring is a tricky time to visit. The weather isn’t stable and there’s a good chance that many trails are still covered in snow. That being said, we still had a great time in Aosta Valley in May. We just know we want to come back in summer. 

We recently revisited Aosta Valley in early September whilst hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. The weather was quite good and the trails weren’t overly crowded.

 
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Aosta Valley, Italy - Top things to do

Aosta Valley Travel Guide Overview

  • Where to Stay in Aosta Valley
  • Aosta Valley Map
  • Best Things to do in Aosta Valley
  • How to Get to Aosta Valley
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Aosta Valley, Italy

Where to Stay in Aosta Valley

We recommend basing yourself in the town of Aosta, or the town of Courmayeur.


Stay in Aosta Town

Budget | Maison Du-Noyer is a clean and comfortable guesthouse located above Aosta (10-15 drive). It’s ideal for exploring the surrounding countryside.

Midrange | Relais Bondaz is a stylish family-run hotel in Aosta. The location is superb. And, the breakfast is excellent!

Luxury | Hotel Milleluci is a beautiful hotel in Aosta with panoramic views and spa facilities, including an outdoor pool, sauna, and Turkish bath. Breakfast is superb.

Look for accommodation in Aosta.


Stay in Courmayeur

Budget | Hotel Vallée Blanch is a charming, top-rated hotel in Courmayeur with unbeatable mountain views.

Midrange | Hotel Croux is advantageously located in the pedestrian zone of the Courmayeur town center, close to many shops and restaurants. Stay here for the location, clean private rooms (single, triple, family), and tasty breakfast.

Midrange | Hotel Walser Courmayeur is a simple family-run hotel with a great restaurant, close to the center of town. You can book double/twin, triple, and quadruple rooms. The food is excellent.

Midrange | Villa Novecento Romantic Hotel is a boutique hotel in Courmayeur, walking distance to the town center (8 minute walk). Guests love the spacious rooms, the ambience, the helpful staff, and the meals (breakfast and dinner). 

Luxury Hotel Auberge De La Maison is the best hotel in Courmayeur. Rooms are decorated in a refined-rustic style. Views are phenomenal. And, you can enjoy top-rated Valdostana cuisine in a wood-paneled dining room, warmed by a large fireplace. Located in the Entrèves neighborhood, this Courmayeur hotel is also only 300 meters from the Sky Way Mont Blanc cable car. Guests have access to a heated outdoor pool, sauna, Turkish bath, and solarium.

Luxury | Gran Baita Hotel & Wellness Resort is a welcoming hotel with an on-site restaurant, bar, and wellness area (heated indoor-outdoor swimming pool, sauna, hot tub). Rooms are rustic, yet elegant. The hotel is a 10-minute walk to the pedestrian zone of Courmayeur. Half board available.

Look for accommodation in Courmayeur.

Tour du Mont Blanc Hike

Aosta Valley Map

Click the dots to explore specific destinations
Towns
Gran Paradiso National Park
  • Valle di Cogne
  • Valle di Rhêmes
  • Valsavarenche
Tunnels & Passes
  • Tunnel du Mont-Blanc
  • Tunnel Du Grand Saint Bernard
  • Great St Bernard Pass
  • Little Saint Bernard Pass
Val Veny high trail, Aosta Valley, Italy

Best Things to do in Valle d'Aosta

Our favorite experiences
Mont Blanc massif, Courmayeur, Aosta Valley

Hike in Courmayeur

The Italian Alps frame Valle d’Aosta in epic fashion. As you journey deeper into the valley to Courmayeur, the snow-capped mountain views become increasingly more dramatic. Courmayeur is an alpine town at the foot of the towering Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) massif. It’s also one of the most sensational hiking destinations in Europe.

For a short day hike, head to Ermitage (1467 m), the trailhead to La Suche (1810 m). To reach Ermitage from the center of town, drive up Strada Grand Ru in the direction of Villair Inferiore and Plan Gorret. From Ermitage, it’s a 50-minute ascent to the La Suche, a mountain hut situated on a high plateau. From the plateau, you’ll have staggering views of Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, and the many peaks that mark the French border.

Many more hikes begin in Val Veny and Val Ferret, two valleys that extend in opposite directions from Courmayeur. You can visit the local tourist office in town (Address: Piazzale Monte Bianco, 15 11013 Courmayeur) for maps and trail recommendations.

Learn More: Epic Things to Do in Courmayeur, Italy

 
Sarre Castle Interior, Aosta Valley, Italy
Sarre Castle

Tour the Aosta Valley Castles

A string of castles decorates the central valley of Aosta, adding a level of enchantment to this corner of Italy. Simply driving through the valley affords you terrific views of the many hilltop castles. However, one of the best things to do in Aosta Valley is to visit one, or several of these eye-catching buildings. Fénis castle, Sarre Castle, Bard Fortress, Savoy Castle, and Sarriod de La Tour Castle (Saint-Pierre) are all open to the public. To see the caste interiors, you must join a guided tour. At this time, tours are only conducted in Italian.

 
Roaming Ibex in Val-di-Rhêmes, Gran Paradiso National Park, Aosta Valley
Gran Paradiso National Park, Aosta Valley

Explore Gran Paradiso National Park

Gran Paradiso National Park (Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso) is a protected area located in both Aosta Valley and Piedmont. From the Aosta Valley side, you can access the park from Valle di Cogne, Valsavarenche, and Valle di Rhêmes. This is a helpful map to visualize how these valleys extend into the Gran Paradiso.

The history of Italy’s first national park is tied to the protection of the ibex. In the mid-19th century, the ibex population was rapidly dwindling. Luckily, King Vittorio Emanuele II declared the alpine region a royal hunting reserve, thus safeguarding the population from extinction. By 1922, the hunting reserve was donated to the Italian State, for the creation of Gran Paradiso National Park. Today, the park’s ibex population continues to flourish. While you’re out exploring the park’s valleys, keep your eyes out for herds of ibex.

There are many ways to experience Gran Paradiso National Park. In summer and early fall, you can embark on rewarding day hikes as well as multi-day hut-to-hut tours. Check out Cicerone’s Guide to Walking and Trekking in Gran Paradiso. In winter, you can go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Climbing and cycling opportunities abound as well.

 
Col de Bard Hike, La Salle, Aosta Valley, Italy
Col de Bard

La Salle

La Salle is a village between Courmayeur and Aosta. The base of the village sits at 891 meters, while the top (Planaval) is located at a lofty 1762 meters. We recommend zigzagging your way up the village for sunset views of Monte Bianco and the surrounding mountains. You’ll pass the tower of Castello di Chatelard on your way up. In summer, there’s a restaurant at Planaval, the top of the village, that you can visit. It’s also the trailhead to a bunch of hikes.

For an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Aosta Valley, you can hike to the ridge Col de Bard (2178 m) from Challacin in La Salle. This 2-hour hike (one-way) is best tackled in summer and early fall. We hiked here in May, and it was difficult to follow the trail due to snowfall and fallen trees. Crampons were a necessity. The trail follows a gravel road for 10 minutes before sharply veering right on a forest path. You’ll follow the forest trail for about 15 minutes to the peaceful Arpelles hamlet. From here, continue straight and follow signs to planta monumentale and the yellow circle with 2.

 
Praetorian Gate Roman Ruins, Aosta Town, Aosta Valley
Praetorian Gate, Aosta Town

See Roman ruins in the town of Aosta

Aosta town is the capital of Aosta Valley and the region’s largest city. In 25 BC, the Romans occupied the region and founded Augusta Praetoria, which is modern-day Aosta. Because of its proximity to the Great and Little Saint Bernard Passes, Aosta has always been a very strategic intersection in the Western Alps. Evidence of the Roman colony can still be seen throughout the historical center.

Notable sites include the Roman Bridge, Augustan Arch, the Praetorian Gates, the Forum Cryptoporticus, the Roman Theater, and the city walls. While there’s no fee to see the gates, walls, and arch, there’s an entrance fee to visit the Roman Theater and Forum Cryptoporticus.

 
Rifugio Gian Federico Benevolo Hike in Val-di-Rhêmes, Gran Paradiso National Park
Hike to Rifugio Gian Federico Benevolo, Gran Paradiso National Park

Val di Rhêmes

Val di Rhêmes is a valley that extends into Gran Paradiso National Park from the central Aosta Valley. As we drove deeper into the valley to Rhêmes-Notre-Dame, we saw grazing chamois and Ibex. The end of the road brings you to Thumel, where you can park and continue on foot. We recommend hiking the mostly flat and easy path to Rifugio Gian Federico Benevolo. You’ll see dozens of marmots – which look like joyful balls of fur – playing and chasing each other across the open meadows.

Note: This hike is best undertaken in summer and early fall. We hiked in mid-May and weren’t able to get all the way to the Rifugio, because of the snow. With snowshoes, it may have been possible.

 
Fontina DOP and Regional Specialties, La Bottegaccia, Aosta, Aosta Valley

Eat Fontina Cheese

Fontina is a mountain cheese made from the milk of Valdostana cows. Aosta Valley is the only region officially authorized to produce Fontina since it has DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status. To make Fontina, cheesemakers must use just-milked raw milk that hasn’t been treated in any way. The whole cheese-making process is conducted by hand and adheres to centuries-old traditions.

To sample Fontina and other regional specialties, head to La Bottegaccia in Aosta town. The shop is located on Via Sant’Anselmo near the Augustan Arch. Here, you can order cheese and charcuterie boards along with local wine. In addition to Fontina, ask for lardo di Arnad (another DOP food), motzetta, and prosciutto crudo di Saint-Marcel (if you consume meat). You can also buy Aosta Valley wines, meats, and cheeses at the supermarket Gros Cidac, located at Via Paravera, 4 in Aosta town. We highly recommend Fontina d’Alpeggio DOP. 

 
Saint Pierre Castle, Aosta Valley, Italy

How to get to Aosta Valley

Aosta Valley is located in the north-west corner of Italy. You can approach the valley from France, Switzerland, or the Italian region of Piedmont. The closest airports are in Turin, Milan, and Geneva.


From France: Chamonix to Courmayeur

There is an 11.6 km tunnel that connects the French town of Chamonix-Mont Blanc to Courmayeur in Aosta Valley. You can get to Aosta from Chamonix by bus, or car. If you drive the Tunnel du Mont-Blanc, you will pay over 40 EUR. You can calculate the cost of the crossing here. If you opt for a bus, you’ll pay 15 EUR per person. Bus connections between Chamonix and Courmayeur are operated by SAVDA. Book your ticket in advance.


From France: Haute-Tarantaise to Thuile

Little Saint Bernard Pass is a mountain pass connecting the valley of Thuile (Aosta Valley) with Haute-Tarantaise (France). France. The pass is usually open from June to end of October.


From Switzerland: Bourg-Saint-Pierre to Aosta Town

The Great San Bernard Tunnel links Aosta Valley with Switzerland. There is a toll to use the Tunnel del Gran San Bernardo, starting at 26.90 EUR (car) for a one-way crossing.

In summer, you can drive the San Bernard Pass, Colle del Gran San Bernardo. 


From Piedmont, Italy: Turin to Aosta Valley

Turin connects directly with the A5 motorway, which runs through Aosta Valley. The city of Turin is 55 km to Pont-Saint Martin, the so-called “Eastern Gate” of the valley.

 
Tour du Mont Blanc, Aosta Valley, Italy
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  • Iconic Hike and Viewpoint in the Faroe Islands 🇫🇴 

The Kallur Lighthouse (also called the Kalsoy Lighthouse) stands on the northernmost promontory of Kalsoy Island. It’s a small structure set amid untamed landscapes, both majestic and austere.

On a fair-weather day, the out-and-back hike from Trøllanes village to Kallur Lighthouse is short and straightforward. It only takes 35-45 minutes one-way. 

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  • Must-Do Hike in the Faroe Islands 🇫🇴

Saksun and Tjørnuvík are two picturesque villages in the north of Streymoy Island. These remote settlements are connected by an old village path. 

The Saksun to Tjørnuvík village path trail begins with bird’s-eye views of the Pollurin tidal lagoon, a circular body of water almost entirely enclosed by cliff walls. 

It continues through high valleys, completely untouched save for the occasional cairn. The trail ends with a dramatic descent into Tjørnuvík village.

This 13 km out-and-back hike takes 5:30 hours. 

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  • Secret Hike in the Faroe Islands 🇫🇴 

The Árnafjørður – Toftaskarð – Katlarnir circuit trail is an adventurous hike on Borðoy Island in the Faroe Islands. Starting in the village of Árnafjørður, the trail leads northeast to Svartidalur valley and then climbs up steep crags to Toftaskarð pass.

The trail continues west and eventually drops down a steep mountainside via Uppi á Gjógv pass. Next, the trail heads to Katlarnir, the historic gathering place for the ancient Thing of the Northern Isles. From here, the trail continues southwest and loops back down to Árnafjørður. 

Infrequent waymarking along the ascent makes this a more challenging route. Research this trail thoroughly before setting off and download the GPX files from whatson.fo.

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  • Ásmundarstakkur is a 109 meter-high sea stack along the northwest coast of Suðuroy, the southernmost Island in the Faroe Islands. 

A short trail leads from Heiðavegur road in Sandvík to the Ásmundarstakkur viewpoint. 

This walk is one of the highlights of visiting Suðuroy.

More details on the blog.

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  • Klakkur (413 meters) is a small mountain which rises to the northwest of Klaksvík on Borðoy Island in the Faroe Islands.

Easy to get to (with or without a car), Klakkur is a must-do viewpoint hike overlooking Kunoy Island and Kalsoy Island.

You can start the hike directly in Klaksvík, or drive up to the water tanks car park, or even further up to the Hálsur saddle car park.

This short and sweet hike takes 1-2 hours out-and-back, depending on where you start.

Trail Guide on the Blog. 

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  • Viðareiði, Viðoy Island 🇫🇴 

Viðareiði is the northernmost village in the Faroe Islands. The main reason to venture up here is to hike Villingardalsfjall. 

There’s very little tourist infrastructure on Viðoy Island. So, we recommend basing yourself in Klaksvík on the island of Borðoy, when exploring the Northern Isles.

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