In winter it is cut off by snow, but in Spring becomes a favourite destination for ski tourers. In the summer it is an essential stop over on the Tour du Mont Blanc offering a unique atmosphere owing to its remote feel.
Les Chapieux has a couple of small shops, a helpful visitors’ centre (located in a log cabin) and two auberges where you can stay. An auberge translates as an inn and offers simple accommodation and a restaurant. Both auberges in Les Chapieux offer a similar standard of accommodation and meals.
The Auberge de la Nova is our favourite and has welcomed hikers, explorers and locals for over 120 years. It has gone through a number of changes – notably as a refuge for French resistance fighters in the Second World War – but maintains the unique feel of a mountain inn. Since 2010 it has been run by Muriel and Erick Sanchez and throughout the summer it has a great atmosphere and is full of like-minded trekkers. There is a garden with alpine flowers which is the perfect place to relax after a long day of hiking.
The restaurant is simple, but the dinner is one of the highlights on the Tour du Mont Blanc offering a local stew with dumplings and dessert made with local blueberries or myrtilles. And if you are feeling up to it, you can try a home-made génépi – a traditional, sweet herbal liqueur made from local wormwood. They also offer simple vegetarian options.
The Auberge has 15 bedrooms and four larger dormitories. None of the rooms have ensuite facilities, but you can use the bathrooms with hot showers located along the corridor. Duvets and pillows are provided, but you may prefer to bring a sheet sleeping bag as the bedding tends to get changed every two to three days.
Although you can buy a small amount of supplies in the shop, the Auberge can make you a picnic for your day ahead. Most of the staff speak some English, though less so than in other night-stops. One feature, however, is that there is no mobile phone reception and no access to WIFI. The only night on the trek where you can be truly digital free!