I have recently discovered my passion for hiking. Not-so-shortly after walking el Camino de Santiago in 2011, I reunited with one of the friends I made on that 33 days walk to do another shorter – albeit much harder – hike, that is the Tour du Mont Blanc. Before traveling, I decided to be more prepared for this trip than I was for all my previous trips. So I did my research, acquired the right gear for once in my life, and even planned on training (I never did have the time to actually train). Luxurious. That is the word that struck me on a forbes article about the hike.
The most LUXURIOUS hiking trip: the TOUR DU MONT BLANC!
That word immediately raised some flags and question marks. So I did some more research about the places to stay and how much it would cost. Mind you, we had already planned that we will be camping most of the days, but we knew we will need the occasional night in a hostel with a real roof on our heads for whatever reason, be it bad weather or just to have a lazy evening without setting camp and an even lazier morning without collecting/drying them.
On a website that seemed to last be updated a few years ago, it had an average of 30 euros per night for bed and breakfasts in the mountains. That seemed like a lot to me! I immediately started comparing it to the Camino de Santiago, and the albergues (hostels) prices there, ranging from 7 euros to totally free (donation houses for pilgrims).
I know, the comparison isn’t that much fair, comparing a regular hiking route to one that is associated with church and a religious pilgrimage. But let me explain my point of view.
What does the word luxury mean to you?
When I think of something as luxurious, I think comfortable, I think fancy, I think beautiful and breathtaking, and also I think affordable. Well, the Camino de Santiago did offer all of these. Definitely beautiful, breathtaking, not so fancy but it is a 5 weeks hike, you can’t really be fancy using just a couple of socks and underwear for 5 weeks. But it was also affordable, it was affordable to be as fancy as you can, you can sleep in a hostel every night. You can eat in bars a long the way 3 meals a day without going bankrupt. You can stop for as many coffee/beer/wine breaks as you want without worrying that this money should have went into my food spending. It was really affordable. I wonder what luxurious mean to other people?
On the other hand, on the Tour du Mont Blanc, for the first day of our hike, we had to walk over 4 hours and cross 4 different marked bars to find one open bar to have lunch. And it was just by chance that it was opened. The only man working there said, he’s just here to do some maintenance work on a nice sunny Saturday. What’s luxurious about not finding a place to eat and rest for a bit?
Also, what is luxurious about (when finding some other places along the way in the following days) spending over 3 euros on a cup of small black coffee that is not even made properly? (I’m looking at you, refugio on Col. de Balme).
And to top it off, what is luxurious about sleeping in an 18 bed dorm, divided on 3 stories of 6 beds, all stuck together. We had the third story, which meant my knee hits the ceiling all the time. To get on and off the bed you’d have to dive in head first then turn around the arms of a clock. We’re lucky that it was just me and my friend on that third story, because if we had one more person having to turn around, it would have been pretty awkward. Now, I don’t mind sleeping in these places generally. BUT, this was for 50 euros!! FIFTY EUROS for this bed, and a COLD SHOWER??!! Refugio Elisabetta, you’re a beautiful place, very old with an amazing view, world war left overs and everything, but fifty for that bed and a cold shower was a bit too much! Sadly, it was raining that night, and it was time to get a shower anyway, so we had to take it.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I loved every moment, cheap or expensive, on the Tour du Mont Blanc hike. I am just surprised that it is dubbed as the most luxurious hiking trip. It is definitely one of the most expensive ones, but I am not sure about luxurious.
What do you think? What makes a trip or a hike luxurious? And what is the most luxurious trip you’ve been on?