The Aosta Valley (Valle d’ Aosta) is situated in the north-west of Italy, in between France and Switzerland, and is Italy’s smallest region. But don’t be fooled, it may be small, but it makes up for its size with unforgettably giant mountains. In fact, the Aosta Valley is home to the highest (and most famous) peaks in the Alps – the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso and the mighty king himself Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe measuring a whopping 4,810m in height.
The region is made up almost entirely of mountains, all in all, there are about 25 mountains in total. Therefore, the Aosta Valley is a hot-spot for mountaineers, climbers, hikers, skiers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. In recent years, many via ferrata routes have been created and it has become an incredibly popular adventure activity in the region.
Not only is the Aosta Valley exploding with outstanding natural beauty, but the region is also packed with interesting and historic architecture, such as Savoia Castle, Fénis Castle, Bard Fortress, and many churches, Roman monuments and museums. Throughout the year, the valley is also host to many colourful festivals, carnivals and wildlife events, such as Verrés Carnival (which celebrates the ‘Story of the Lady of the Castle’ with costume parades), Pont-Saint-Martin Carnival (a historical Roman carnival with chariot races), Arnad Verillá Festival (a food and wine festival) and Valle d’Aosta Festival (which celebrates the region’s citizens).
Climbing in the Aosta Valley
During the winter, Aosta Valley is a haven for mountaineering, but in the summer months it’s all about rock climbing. It boasts craggy rocks, dramatic views and carved rock faces, and has hundreds and hundreds of classic climbing, modern sport and free climbing routes. There are also many bouldering areas across the region. With so many routes to choose from, ranging from beginner to absolute pro, you’ll find plenty of routes suited to your skill level – and ones to challenge you.
WOW factor: 2/3
La Gruviera is a legendary wall near the town of Arnad and is said to be one of the first climbing routes to be anchored in the Aosta Valley. Even to this day, it’s still a popular choice for many climbers visiting the area because it offers around 34 rugged routes of quality, compact and well-worked rock. Many of the climbs are technical but there are some routes which are ideal for beginners (with supervision) too. The difficulty of the routes on the La Gruviera wall range from 5b to 7b+.
Hiking in the Aosta Valley
With such an impressive mountainous landscape, it’s not difficult to fall in love with hiking in the Aosta Valley. There is no shortage of exciting trails and the views they offer are simply sublime. You’ll want to push yourself to hike to the highest viewpoint or peak that you can manage because once you reach the top, you’ll have a job to keep your jaw off the ground. Not only do you feel like a tiny ant standing on top of the world, the 360-degree views of the surrounding snow-kissed peaks are so spectacular they’ll have the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.
WOW factor: 3/3
One of the most famous peaks in the Aosta Valley, and in the world, is the Matterhorn. This mighty pyramid-shaped beauty stands tall at 4,478m in height and is one of those bucket list dreams for most mountaineers and alpinists out there. But let’s bring it back a notch. Many of us hikers won’t just casually scale the Matterhorn on our trip to the Aosta Valley, but, will want to admire and soak in the breath-taking views from the surrounds tracks and trails.
The best place for views of the Italian side of the Matterhorn is the Valtournanche Valley. The hiking trails here are marked out pretty well and you can spend anything from one-day to a few days hiking in the area, to catch a glimpse of the remarkable Matterhorn. The hikes within this valley cut through thick forests, rocky paths and mountainous routes, and they can range from moderate to demanding when it comes to difficulty. However, your efforts are rewarding with unsurpassed scenery which makes every step worth it.
Top photography spots – Lago del Miage & Lago Blu
When it comes to gorgeous scenery, the Aosta Valley pretty much has it all. Snow-capped peaks, vast icy glaciers, thick forests, picturesque lakes and stunning waterfalls – the list really does go on. Whether you’re a budding photographer or just love to take cracking photos for keep’s sake, the Aosta Valley has the beauty to make works of art of even the most amateur photographer’s photos. Just point, click and let the landscape do the work.
Lago del Miage is a small but charming glacial lake which is located on the southern edge of Miage Glacier, near Courmayeur, and measuring a length of around six miles it is Italy’s longest glacier. Aguille Blanche, Noire de Peteury and Dames Anglaises are just some of the peaks you’ll see scattered in the background when stood overlooking the lake. To walk from Courmayeur to the lake is an easy and very pleasant walk which would even be suitable for those with families. The walk takes around 3 hours and starts at an elevation of 1,230m in Courmayeur to 2,051m at the lake.
Lago Blu is another alluring lake in the region and is set in a stunning green valley a short distance away from Giomen. As you’d probably guess, Lago Blu translates to ‘Blue Lake’ in English. The lake is called ‘Blue Lake’ because of the intense vibrancy of its turquoise-blue waters, which get their colouring from a type of mineral that sits at the bottom and is so crystal clear that the Matterhorn which towers above it is always reflected in the water. Lago Blu is situated about half an hour away from the centre of Breuil Cervinia.
Get here: Turin-Caselle airport, Milan-Malpensa airport
Eat this: Carbonada – stewed meat with wine, onions and spices
Stay here: Aosta town
Drink this: Genépi – a traditional herb liqueur
Spot this: Roe deer