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Gran Paradiso Circuit - Italy

Background

"Intending visitors to the district should be warned that when the King of Italy is hunting around Cogne (the present King has not been there since 1885) they may find their movements impeded by fear of disturbing the game. This will seem however but a small hindrance when set against the great facilities which the royal hunting paths (passable for horses) afford to travellers on the less interesting portions of many of the ascents in this group." The Mountains of Cogne 1893

Highlights

  • Complete the Gran Paradiso circuit
  • Visit Roman outposts of Aosta
  • Walk along trails made for King Vittorio Emanuel II
  • Visit the Gran Paradiso base camp
  • See wild Ibex, Chamois, Marmot and more in one of Europe's rugged environments
  • Start and finish in Rome to extend your Italian stay

Overview

This extraordinary expedition is steeped in not only ancient Roman history and 18th century royalty but is also one of the most beautiful and wild treks in Western Europe. 

The Gran Paradiso sits in the Valle d'Aosta in northern Italy, only 45 minutes drive from Aosta itself. In 1856, King Vittorio Emanuele II unified several hunting grounds and declared the area a Royal Game Reserve. As such, the Gran Paradiso remains a rugged island of natural beauty, dominated by the only 4000m peak wholly in Italy, the Gran Paradiso.

The northern section of the park forms part of the famous Alte Via 2 which is the only part of the park that most treks take in. However the Gran Paradiso has so much more to offer than just these couple of days along the Alte Via.

Our expedition will take in the southern, western and northern sections of the Gran Paradiso, staying in the park for the entire time. Staying in the park allows us to explore the magical mountains and rugged and desolate valleys which verge on pristine wilderness. Only a stones throw from other famous European peaks, views of Monta Rosa, Matterhorn and Mont Blanc will be afforded at several passes along the way. Herds of Chamois and solitary Ibex can be seen everywhere along the route.

This is a wild part of Europe. Our accommodation will be a mix of small hotels and Rifugios, trying to avoid dorms as much as we can. Countering the ruggedness is the famous Italian hospitality and excellent food and wine. 

This expedition is perfect for those that wish to see another side of the Italian Alps, one that is remote, spectacular and steeped in history.

Note: For those interested in trekking to the summit of the Gran Paradiso, we can incorporate this into the trek on Day 8.

Routes

Day 1: Arrive in Rome and transfer to accommodation. Free time.

Day 2: Train to Milano and then transfer to Aosta.
Aosta is situated north of the Gran Paradiso National Park and is an ancient Roman city. First established in 25 BC, Aosta is girt by towers and a wall. This beautiful town was situated where the roads of Switzerland and France converged and was an extremely important trading post throught the millenia. It is a great place to wander around and get into the north Italian way of life. (B,D)

Day 3: Start trek Aosta to Cogne
Today we start our adventure with a walk from Aosta to Cogne at the base of the Gran Paradiso. This is a fairly easy introductory walk that will get guests started on their journey. In the afternoon we will arrive in the beautiful and quaint town of Cogne. Once a major stop for the King's hunting party, Cogne remains a tourist attraction that is satisfied by several 4 star hotels and excellent food. (B,L,D)

Day 4: Cogne to Alps Money then back to Cogne
Heading south from Cogne we head off for a day walk to Alps Money. For the first hour or so we will walk along the base of the Valnontey before turning left up the east flank of the valley. Views all the way are amazing of the Gran Paradiso massif. By lunch we reach Alps Money with vistas of several peaks forming an enormous amphitheatre at 2325m. The cascading Tribolazione glacier beneath the impressive chain of peaks from the Herbetet around to the Gran Paradiso and Roccia Viva are breathe taking. Lunch will be among several abandoned shepherd's huts. Back to Cogne for a much deserved meal. (B,L,D) 

Day 5: Cogne to Refugio Sella
Today we head off on our main journey down the Valnontey once again. The difference is we head west this time along part of the famous Alte Via 2. After passing through a wooded forest we break out into divine open plains that provide amazing views of the mountain area. The trail is the very trail King Vittorio Emanuel II used during his hunting expeditions. Along the way we will stop at a local cheese maker to taste his divine produce. By lunch we will have arrived at Refugio Sella, a typical mountain refuge used by climbers and trekkers alike. Nearby is another royal hunting lodge, scene of wild parties and now used by the park rangers.  Overnight at Refugio Sella. (B,L,D)

Day 6: Refugio Sella to Eaux Rousses
We continue on our journey along the Alte Via 2, over Col Loson (the highest non-glaciated pass in the whole park) at 3300m about 2 hours from Refugio Sella. The climb itself is quite gentle, explained by the fact that is was once the trail that used by the King's hunting parties. From here we head down this enormous valley with giant cliffs towering above towards the beautiful Valsavarenche. Lunch will be had on route. The trail finishes with a walled in path over the bridge that crosses the Torrente Savara. Eaux Rousses is named after the red rock behind the hamlet that is stained by water trickling down from a spring containing iron. (B,L,D)

Day 7: Eaux Rousses to Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele via Rifugio Federico Chabod
While Pont is only just up the valley we will head back up the mountain towards the Gran Paradiso to get a taste of climbing life. From Eaux Rousses, we head down towards Pont and then up towards Rifugio Federico Chabod, a base for climbers taking on the Gran Paradiso summit. After a coffee or tea we will then traverse across the mountain towards Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele for lunch. There are great views from here of the surrounding mountains and an excellent lunch out on a verandah. We will overnight here in this wonderful Rifugio and soak up the mountain life. This is a dramatic day but a long one, so you will be feeling the mountain at dinner tonight.  (B,L,D)

Day 8: Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele to Pont
For those that are continuing the trek this is a relatively easy day. After breakfast we will head down into the valley and overnight in Pont. We will have a chance to explore the valley with shorts walks with great views of the Gran Paradiso. For those that wish to climb the Gran Paradiso's summit, this will be a much longer day.

We will head off at 2-3am for the summit. Crampons and Ice Axes are needed but we will be led by an experienced mountain guide. Our destination is the statue of Mother Mary at just over 4000m a.s.l. We will then head back down to Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele and then untimately Pont by around 4pm. (B,L,D)

Day 9: Pont to Ceresole Reale

Today we head out of the Valsavarenche via a beautiful trail towards Gran Collet at 2832m. Amazing views of the massif will be had along this trail. Then down into the sparse valley below, the Piano del Nivolet, where we will have lunch at Rifugio Savoia which was the original hunting house of King Vittorio Emanuele. After lunch we will trek over Col Nivollet and down to Ceresole Reale.(B,L,D)

Day 10: Ceresole Reale to Mua and back to Ceresole Reale
Back up into the mountains for a day hike. From Mua we head towards towering waterfalls through the a beautiful wooded area. We will have lunch along the way and reflect on the wonderful journey we have just undertaken. Overnight in Ceresole Reale.  (B,L,D)

Day 11: Ceresole Reale to Noasca
From Ceresole Reale we head back into the mountains for the final day. We will do a beautiful traverse from our home for the last 2 days to Noasca, a charming town full of history. This is an intriguing days hike in the Valle dell'Orco along 17th century paths and unique alpine villages. We will also have the opportunity to taste and purchase the local cheese specialty, toma. Overnight Noasca (B,L,D)

Day 12: Noasca to Turin
We will transfer from Noasca to Turin which will only take an hour or so. Turin's tree lined boulevards are reminiscent of Paris and its' cafe' culture is second to none. Turin is a beautiful town, steeped in history (it is the home of the modern Italian state) and a must see on any visit to Italy. (B)

Day 13: Turin to Rome
After breakfast we will take the mid day train to Rome and arrive there around 4pm. Arrive in Rome and transfer to hotel (B)


Day 14: Explore Rome
We will have a guided tour of Rome by an expert No Roads guide who will show you both the main and obscure sights. In the evening we will head off to an operatic performance in a small and ancient church before retiring for the evening. (B)


Day 15: Head home or stay on in Rome for a few more days.
 (B)

Inclusions

  • Led by qualified guide
  • All accommodation in towns and on the mountain
  • Transfers to and from Rome via high speed train
  • All meals as outlined in Itinerary
  • All transfers to and from the Gran Paradiso National Park
  • Park permits
  • Town tour of Rome
  • Welcome dinner and Celebration dinner

Exclusions

  • International airfares
  • Travel Insurance
  • Summit trek of Gran Paradiso

Maps