Discover the hidden gems of the Aosta Valley

view of the mountain lake

Although the Aosta Valley is the smallest region in Italy it has many hidden gems and places to discover.

Here we show you 12 places that should be on your hit-list when you come to the Aosta Valley!

La Grotta di Ghiaccio – Matterhorn Ice Palace, Cervinia, Valtournenche

Ice palace - carved animals from ice

One of the most popular and well known Aosta Valley ski resorts is Breuil-Cervinia. As well as its fabulous winter slopes it offers all year round skiing thanks to the Plateau Rosa Glacier that connects Cervina with Zermatt on the Swiss side of the mountain.

The Matterhorn Ice Palace is located at the arrival station of the Klein Matterhorn ski lift (Zermatt, Switzerland) at 3883 metre altitude. It can be reached from the station along a 50-metre tunnel carved in the ice. The grotto (cave) is 15 metres underground and offers stunning light effects with background music that creates a magical atmosphere. It is open all year round following the opening times of the glacier. It is possible to organise private parties here, a great idea for a surprise birthday or for making a romantic marriage proposal!

Chamois – “Pearl of the Alps”, Valtournenche

Chamois cable car and the church in the village

Chamois is the only comune in Italy not accessible by public road. It is a charming little Alpine village overlooking the Matterhorn. You can only reach it by cable car from Antey down in the Valtournenche valley. Or on foot/mountain bike from the village of La Magdeleine along a lovely easy path suitable also for children. This path is also doable in the winter on cross country skis or ciaspole (snow shoes).

Chamois is a little place of tranquillity! It also has a lovely lake called Lod and a chairlift to take you up to there.

Lago Blu – Blanchard, Valtournenche

The lake Blue - where you see the in the water reflection the Cervino mountain

Lago Blu is a few minutes by car and about 20 minutes walk from Cervinia ski resort. The excursion is accessible to everyone, young and old, thanks to a well-marked path, with no exposed or particularly difficult sections. You can admire in the water the reflection of the majestic Matterhorn – Monte Cervino in Italian.

Mountain Lakes – Foliage in the autumn

the magnificent colours of autumn over the mountain lakes

“Lago Blu” is one of the easiest Aosta Valley lakes to access. A couple of our other favourites are Lago L’Arpy in the Morgex area, an easy hike suitable also for children. And for a more adventurous hike, Lacs Fenetre, just over the Swiss border from the Gran San Bernardo valley. There a many other beautiful lakes in the region that we will be taking you to in future articles.

Via Franciagena – a pilgrims journey from the Swiss border to Ivrea

beautiful mountain route of the via francigena with castles and mountain peaks

The Via Francigena is the historic pilgrims route from Canterbury in England all the way to the Eternal City. It passes through France into Switzerland and then into Italy via the Gran San Bernardo mountain pass. It travels along the length of the Aosta Valley before heading across the Po Valley and down to Rome. The 90km Aosta Valley section can be done in 5 days and takes you through a wonderful variety of scenery, from high mountain pastures, larch and oak forests and vine clad hillsides. The last stop in the Aosta Valley is Pont St. Martin before the path enters the Piemonte region.

Cascate – waterfalls

waterfalls and frozen waterfall for ice climbing

There are many beautiful waterfalls in the Aosta Valley but we would especially recommend a visit to the falls of Isollaz in Val d’Ayas and of Lilliaz, near Cogne.

The 50 meter high Isollaz falls can be reached in a 15-20 minutes walk on path number 3 from the village car park. The path is not suitable for pushchairs and is a bit steep. But from the top you have the added bonus of being able to look down on the impressive Verres Castle.

This beautiful Lilliaz falls are a 5 minutes drive from centre of Cogne and 10 minutes’ walk from Lilliaz village, along an easy path. You can leave your car in village car park. On the way to the falls there is also a Geological Park displaying the different types of rocks that exist in the area. Great fun to discover, study and climb on! The waterfall has three different levels with an overall height of 150 meters.

If you would like a longer hike, take the loop route that takes about 1h10 min. Starting from the same car park and follow the same route until you reach the waterfall. Then the path becomes a little bit more challenging and continues on route 13L that goes up steeply, sometimes with steps and reaches the little bridge at 1710 m.

If you like climbing, you can try during the winter period ice climbing on the frozen Lilliaz waterfall.

Pre Saint Didier Spa & Ponte Orrido – The Panoramic Walkway, Courmayeur 

the view of the thermal spa and the old roman bridge in Pre St. didier

You can have a lovely day out in the pretty village of Pre Saint Didier, not far from Courmayeur. You can walk up from the village to Ponte Orrido, a spectacular metal bridge sticking out of the cliff at a height of 160m and looking out over the valley below. The walk up to the bridge takes about 45 minutes and is quite steep. Alternatively you can drive up and leave the car in the free car park near the adventure park. The view of Monte Bianco and the rest of the upper valley is tremendous but Ponte Orrido is perhaps not recommended if you are afraid of heights.

Back down in the village, the luxury QC Terme – Thermal Spa is a marvelous place to relax and be pampered. Both day tickets and evening tickets are available. Children are not allowed in the Spa under the age of 15 so get your other half to take them to the nearby Monte Bianco Adventure Park.

A visit to QC Terme is a real indulgence for body and soul. And for the eyes too. Having a hydro massage or sitting in the lovely wooden outdoor sauna while admiring the mountain peaks is a once in a lifetime experience. Even if you are not a keen “spa person” you will love this place.

SkyWay – Monte Bianco, Courmayeur

the skyway views

Skyway Monte Bianco is a new high-tech, revolving cable car linking Courmayeur with Pointe Helbronner on the southern side of the Monte Bianco massif. The cabins rotate a full 360 degrees along the route, giving a full view of the surrounding peaks, including the 4 “giants” of the Western Alps: Monte Bianco, Monte Rosa, il Cervino and Gran Paradiso. The ride takes about 10 minutes and climbs about 2,200m.

After arriving at the top Punta Helbronner station and having admired the magnificent view from the terrace, take the pedestrian tunnel up to the famous Rifugio Torino with its traditional bar and restaurant. If you book in advance you can even sleep there. There are other restaurants, bars, a play area, botanical gardens and a museum at the intermediate Mont Frety station.

On a clear day, a trip on Sky-Way is an unforgettable experience!

Sanctuary of  Notre-Dame de Guerson, The Light of Faith, “Our Lady the Healer” – Courmayeur

Notre Dame Church in the beautiful mountain setting and inside

This church is located in Courmayeur on the road to Val Veny. The original sanctuary was built in 1792. In 1816 it was demolished by the Brenva glacier. Only the statue of the Madonna remained intact, something that was considered ‘miraculous’. The sanctuary was rebuilt in 1867 and consecrated the following year. The miracle of the survival of the Madonna made this a destination for pilgrims, especially mountain climbers. This holy place also was much loved and regularly visited by Pope John Paul II.

The Gran Paradiso National Park

animals and fauna is in the Gran Paradiso National Park

Gran Paradiso is the oldest National Park in Italy, established in 1922. The Parks promise is “Never-ending emotions”, which is entirely appropriate. The 70,000 hectares of pristine mountain wilderness offers plenty to see and do for the whole family all year around. Hiking, waterfalls, botanical gardens, mountain lakes. Native fauna and flora. Please see our dedicated articles about this wonderful alpine treasure.

Mont Avic Natural Park

mountain lake in the Mont Avic Natianal Park

Another attraction not to be missed for nature lovers is the Mont Avic Natural Park, bordering the Gran Paradiso National Park. To reach the park exit the A5 motorway either at either Verres or Pont-Saint-Martin. If you exit Verres, you need to follow the road to Champdepraz. From Point-Saint-Martin, you will need to follow the signs to Champorcher.

There are several hiking, trekking and snow-shoeing possibilities here for the whole family. If you have a chance and you are in the area during the summer, try out Canyoning on the torrente Chalamy. It is an amazing experience! The beginners route takes a couple of hours, jumping off cliffs in the deep water and using rocks as natural slides. For the braver ones the route carries on and gives you higher jumps and an even higher adrenalin experience! Children can do it from 10 years of age.

 

More information on Gran Paradiso National Park.

 

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