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Walking Below and Beyond Mont Blanc: Switzerland, Italy and France

Program Number: 15870RJ
Start and End Dates:
6/11/2014 - 6/23/2014; 6/25/2014 - 7/7/2014; 8/27/2014 - 9/8/2014; 9/10/2014 - 9/22/2014; 9/24/2014 - 10/6/2014;
Duration: 12 nights
Location: Switzerland/Italy/France
Price starting at: $3,964.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Walking/Hiking Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 28; 11 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, 10 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian    

Experience the majesty of the Alps in three countries on this walking adventure. In Switzerland, Italy and France, find charming villages, grand castles and chalets and spectacular natural environments. From Swiss glaciers to Italy’s Grand Paradiso National Park to Mont Blanc, savor the beauty and fascinating human heritage held within these mighty mountains.




Highlights

• Walk through the Great St. Bernard Pass, an ancient Alpine that has been used since the Bronze Age and was used by Napoleon’s army.
• Absorb the beauty of Mont Blanc on walking excursions near Chamonix and from atop a neighboring mountain peak reached by cable car.
• Take a field trip to Aosta, the “Rome of the Alps,” founded by the Romans in 25 B.C. to serve primarily as a military camp.



Activity Particulars

Walking 4-8 miles per day over the course of 3-5 hours; trails and dirt roads are well-marked and generally gently undulating with some rocky sections and steep ascents and descents. Elevations of 12,700 feet. Sturdy walking/hiking shoes are required (ankle-high shoes are not required, but highly recommended)



Itinerary Summary

Arrival Geneva (Switzerland), coach to Villars-sur-Ollon, 3 nights; coach to Cogne (Italy), 4 nights; coach to Chamonix (France), 3 nights; coach to Geneva (Switzerland), 1 night, departure.



Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
1 night
Arrival Geneva (Switzerland)
Coach to Villars-sur-Ollon
3 nights

Villars-sur-Ollon in the heart of the Vaud Alps is a place of ample sunshine and fresh mountain air. During walking excursions local experts illuminate the deep human history of the region. Discover the town of Aigle and its castle and taste the Chablis wine that is made nearby. Explore the treacherous Great St. Bernard Pass and learn about the legendary dogs that were bred and trained at a hospice there.



Coach to Cogne (Italy)
4 nights

At the gateway to Gran Paradiso, Italy’s oldest and most pristine national park, the little town of Cogne reflects the inhabitants’ active efforts to preserve the natural wealth of the region. Discuss the natural beauty and history of the Aosta Valley, a semi-autonomous region of Italy bordered by France and Switzerland. Walk on four trails in Gran Paradiso to discover the Urtier River, old villages and the Roman settlement of Aosta.



Coach to Chamonix (France)
3 nights
Coach to Geneva (Switzerland)
1 night
Departure

A legendary name to mountaineers, skiers and outdoor explorers, Chamonix is situated among the most dramatic peaks of the French Alps and hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924. On the trails surrounding Chamonix, hear tales of the ominous Mont Blanc and learn about the unique culture of Savoy. At the Alpine Museum of Chamonix delve into mountaineering history from the first ascent of Mont Blanc in 1786 to today.




Accommodations
Villars-sur-Ollon: Hotel with spectacular views near the center of the village. Cogne: Chalet-style hotel with views of Gran Paradiso mountain. Chamonix: Cozy chalet-style hotel with great views. Geneva: Hotel near airport.
Meals and Lodgings
   Eurotel Victoria Villars
  Villars sur Ollon, Switzerland 3 nights
   Hotel Sant'orso
  Cogne, Italy 4 nights
   Hotel Gourmet et Italy
  Chamonix, France 3 nights
   Holiday Inn Geneva Airport
  Geneva, Switzerland 1 night
 Eurotel Victoria Villars
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Enjoy the pure mountain air during your stay at the charming Eurotel Victoria Villars. Located in Villars, and surrounded by beautiful alpine scenery, the hotel is within walking distance of the heart of this unspoiled country village.
  Contact info: Route des Layeux
Villars-sur-Ollon,  1884 Switzerland
phone: +41244953131
web: www.eurotel-victoria.ch
  Room amenities: Each room has a television, telephone, radio and mini bar.
  Facility amenities: The hotel offers a restaurant, bar and lounge, swimming pool, sauna and fitness room, and an Internet cafe directly below the hotel.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: N/A Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services if you would like assistance making hotel reservations for additional non-program nights. (800) 241-1404
  Check in time: 2:00 PM

 Hotel Sant'orso
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: The Hotel Sant'orso is an elegant hotel located in the village of Cogne. With a panoramic view of the area including the Gran Paradiso Mountain, this hotel is a wonderful place to stay.
  Contact info: Via Bourgeois, 2
Cogne (AO),  11012 Italy
phone: +390016574821
web: www.valledaostapass.com
  Room amenities: Each room has a television, telephone, safe and hair dryer.
  Facility amenities: The hotel offers a panoramic restaurant, reading room with fireplace, living room, bar, cinema, gym with sauna, panoramic balcony and garden with deck chairs.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Gourmet et Italy
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: The Hotel Gourmet et Italy is a charming hotel located just steps from the heart of town and at the foot of Mont Blanc. Run by the same family for over a century, the hotel offers a cozy, mellow atmosphere amidst its dramatic surroundings.
  Contact info: 96 Rue Du Lyret
Chamonix,  74401 France
phone: +33 450530138
web: www.hotelgourmets-chamonix.com
  Room amenities: Each room has a television, telephone, mini bar, free wireless Internet access and a hair dryer.
  Facility amenities: The hotel offers a dining room, bar, sauna, outdoor pool and free wireless Internet access in the rooms.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Holiday Inn Geneva Airport
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: The Holiday Inn Geneva Airport is a comfortable and convenient stay. It provides easy access to and from the airport, and to downtown Geneva.
  Contact info: 16 Route de Pre-Bois
Geneve/Meyrin,  CH-1215 Switzerland
phone: +41 22 939 39 39
web: www.expressgeneva.com
  Room amenities: The hotel offers a television, mini bar, air conditioning, radio, Internet access and a hair dryer.
  Facility amenities: The hotel offers two restaurants, a breakfast room, and a casino and disco within walking distance of the hotel.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: N/A Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services if you would like assistance making hotel reservations for additional non-program nights. (800) 241-1404
  Check out time: 12:00 PM


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Geneva Airport: Meet your group by 11:00 AM for the group transfer to Villars-sur-Ollon (approx. 1.5 hours). (Hotel check-in is at 2:00 PM.) You will be staying at Eurotel Victoria Villars that night.
  End of Program:
Geneva, Switzerland. After breakfast on the last day. (Hotel check-out is at 11:00 AM.) You will be staying at Holiday Inn Geneva Airport the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: Local transportation (train) available to the first site.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Villars sur Ollon
  Nearest airport:  Geneva
  Transportation to site: When you arrive at the airport, follow the Rail Signs. It is a 5-minute walk from the airport arrival area to the rail terminal. Take the rail to Aigle. Via Aigle (change from the train to the local bus) Geneva: Depart 10:36 AM Aigle: Arrive 12:15 PM (change to local bus in front of station) Depart: 12:20 PM Villars: Arrive 12:55 PM The same schedule also works at 11:36 AM, 2:36 PM, 3:36 PM, 4:36PM, 5:36 PM and 7:36 PM. The cost is approximately CHF 37 for 2nd class and CHF 65 for 1st class. From the bus station, it is an 8-minute walk to the hotel.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Geneva
  Nearest city or town:  Geneva
  Nearest airport:  Geneva
  Transportation from site: The Holiday Inn Geneva Airport has a hotel shuttle service which runs between the airport and hotel every 20 minutes from 5:50 AM to 11:30 PM.
Elevation Note: Day 11: Aiguille de Midi, 12,700 feet. However, the average elevation is 5800 feet.

Equipment Requirements: Sturdy walking/hiking shoes are required (ankle-high shoes are not required, but highly recommended). Please see the "Walking Boots" note for additional information on proper footgear.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: In Transit
(Wednesday, August 27)
   
 In Transit: Depart US/Canada for international overnight flight to Geneva, Switzerland.

Day 2: Arrivals
(Thursday, August 28)

Note: Approximate transfer time: 1.5 hours. Approximate walking time: 1 hour.



   
 Arrive To: Meet your group by 11:00 AM for the group transfer to Villars sur Ollon (4100 feet). Check-in at the hotel and, if time permits, take a walk through the village. Welcome reception before dinner.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Eurotel Victoria Villars
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 3: Villars - "The Wine Route"
(Friday, August 29)

Note: Approximate transfer time: 1 hour. Approximate walking time: 3 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Take the train from Villars to Bevieux, then walk through terraced vineyards and woods to Ollon. Short transfer by public train to Aigle (1300 feet), the medieval capital of the wine-growing Chablais area.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Field trip to the Castle of Aigle. This castle displays the cultural aspect of the wine production. Enjoy a wine tasting here, and learn about the castle during a field lecture. Enjoy some free time before taking the public bus back to Villars.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Eurotel Victoria Villars
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Bretaye Lake / Alpine Farm
(Saturday, August 30)

Note: Approximate transfer time: 1 hour. Approximate walking time: 3.5 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Begin the morning with local transportation to Bretaye (6000 feet), the starting point of today's walking field trip. The trail leads across alpine meadows with the stunning Swiss Alps at every turn. Continue through the villages of Ensex and Conche and end at the lake of Bretaye. Hear a field lecture on Bretaye Lake.
 Lunch: Picnic on the trail.
 Afternoon: This afternoon visit an alpine farm. Meet the farmer and learn the details of alpine farming during a field lecture. Transfer on the rack railway down to Villars.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Eurotel Victoria Villars
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: St. Bernard Pass / Transfer to Cogne
(Sunday, August 31)

Note: Approximate transfer time: 3.5 hours. Approximate walking time: 2 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Following breakfast, transfer by private coach down to the Rhone Valley and up to the incredible St. Bernard Pass (8100 feet), an ancient Roman transalpine route and more recently the path of Napoleon's army into Italy in 1800. En-route there is an excursion to the St. Bernard Museum, the first hospice founded as early as 1049 and appropriately named after Saint Bernard. This name later became famous for the St. Bernard dogs, loyal companions to the monks and mainly used as rescue and watchdogs. Learn about the "History of the Great St. Bernard Pass and the St. Bernard Dogs" during a field lecture.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue on the winding road down to the French speaking Valle d’Aosta in Italy and on to Cogne (5000 feet), the main gateway to the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso, founded in 1920. Upon arrival, attend an orientation and stroll through the town. Have a welcome drink at the hotel before dinner.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel Sant'orso
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Lillaz Waterfall / Urtier River / Gimillan
(Monday, September 1)

Note: Approximate transfer time: 30 minutes. Approximate walking time: 3.5 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer by local transportation to the village of Lillaz (5304 feet) and the Lillaz waterfall. The walking field trip begins here, continues along the Urtier River and ends in Cogne. Beautiful views of the mountain peaks and glaciers continue to the three waterfalls (total height 492 feet) on the torrent Urtier River.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: Local transportation to the old village of Gimillan (5900 feet), built on a natural terrace. From there, walk across alpine meadows and take in the panoramic views of the majestic mountains of the Gran Paradiso National Park. Learn about Gimillan and the national park during a field lecture. Take a brief stop for coffee before we return to Cogne by minibus. Prior to dinner, watch a video on traditional mining in the Cogne valley.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Following dinner, there will be a liqueur tasting (made from local herbs).
   
Accommodations: Hotel Sant'orso
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Aosta
(Tuesday, September 2)

Note: Approximate transfer time: 1 hour. Approximate walking time: 2 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer by private coach to the attractive mountain town of Aosta (1900 feet), founded by the Romans in 25 BC - primarily a military camp, and called the “Rome of the Alps.” The setting of this town is pure enchantment, surrounded by mountains. The Roman layout of the streets of Aosta, with its narrow cobbled streets and overhanging upper stories, give the town a very alpine flair. Hear a lecture called "Aosta and Cogne – Past and Present."
 Lunch: Explore local fare on your own in Aosta.
 Afternoon: Enjoy some free time (2 hours) before returning by private coach to Cogne.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel Sant'orso
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8: Valnontey Valley / Alpe Vermiana / Baking Bread
(Wednesday, September 3)

Note: Approximate transfer time: 15 minutes. Approximate walking time: 3.5 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning there will be a short transfer by local transportation to the hamlet of Valnontey, where your walking field trip begins. Start on a gentle one-way trail along the Valnontey River, through forests of coniferous and larch trees to the Alpe Vermiana (5800 feet). Experience fabulous views as you walk closer to the permanently snow-covered Gran Paradiso Mountains. Today's field lectures include "Alpine Garden in Valnontey" and "Liqueurs Made of Local Herbs."
 Lunch: Picnic lunch above Valnontey.
 Afternoon: Spend the afternoon baking bread, a local tradition in the Valnontey Valley.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel Sant'orso
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Courmayeur / Transfer to Chamonix
(Thursday, September 4)

Note: Approximate transfer time: 2 hours. Approximate walking time: 1.5 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Private coach transfer to Chamonix with an excursion stop and walk in Courmayeur, a striking and fashionable resort located at the foot of Mont Blanc. Continue through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Chamonix (3500 feet).
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: After check-in, rejoin the group for a walking field trip of Chamonix. Today's field lecture covers the past and present of Chamonix, and Michel Paccard, first climber of Mont Blanc (15,800 feet) in 1786.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel Gourmet et Italy
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Chamonix - Petit Balcon Sud
(Friday, September 5)

Note: Approximate walking time: 3.5 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: The day begins with a walk from the hotel on the north side of Chamonix going slightly uphill above the town (4000 feet). The well-kept Petit Balcon Sud trail leads through forested and open areas and offers the most spectacular views of the north face of Mont Blanc and of course many other white mountain peaks. Learn about the Chamonix Valley and Mont Blanc during a field lecture.
 Lunch: Picnic on the trail.
 Afternoon: Descend on the same trail back to Chamonix.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel Gourmet et Italy
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Aiguille de Midi
(Saturday, September 6)

Note: Approximate transfer time: short train ride and cable car. Approximate walking time: 1 hour.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Today ride the cable car up Mont Blanc, enjoying the marvelous views as it first climbs to Plan de l’Aiguille (7600 feet) and then to Aiguille de Midi (12,700 feet). The panorama on a clear day is simply one of the best in the Alps, with views of mountains as far as the eye can see. If the sky is clear, you may even get a glimpse of the Matterhorn! This is a wonder that attracts people from all over the world. Hear a field lecture on the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc. Walk from the middle station Plan de l'Aiguille (7600 feet) to the Lac Bleu Lake. Return to Chamonix by cable car.
 Lunch: Explore local fare on your own.
 Afternoon: Enjoy free time this afternoon.
 Dinner: Special farewell drink and dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel Gourmet et Italy
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 12: Transfer to Geneva
(Sunday, September 7)

Note: Approximate transfer time: 1.5 hours. Approximate walking time: 2 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer by private coach to an airport hotel in Geneva, Switzerland. Spend the remainder of the day exploring Geneva during free time. You may want to see the large fountain Jet d'eau, the European headquarters of the United Nations, Palais des Nations, or Saint Peter's Cathedral. There are also many museums and gardens to see in Geneva.
 Lunch: Explore local fare on your own.
 Afternoon: Enjoy free time this afternoon.
 Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.
   
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Geneva Airport
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 13: Departures
(Monday, September 8)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Independent shuttle transfers to the Geneva, Switzerland airport.
   
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
 
  Cogne Grand Paradiso Spa
Visit the Grand Paradiso National Park, where you can enjoy beautiful surroundings and an outdoor hot tub. Make sure to bring your bathing suit.
  Chamonix The Alpine Museum
The Alpine Museum, located in the Chamonix Palace, recalls the history and development of Chamonix from its first tourist visitors who came to see the glaciers, to the construction of the cable cars and the rise of winter sports. See a great collection of prints, photographs, maps, rock crystals and other ancient objects. Please note that this museum is closed on the weekends. For additional information, visit www.chamonix.com
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

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