Nestled at the base of Mont Blanc, you would be forgiven for dismissing Courmayeur as a destination for winter pursuits alone. However, this stylish Alpine town has far more to offer than snowy pistes over the winter season: in Courmayeur, attractions abound for the off-season visitor. Among those in the know, it has grown in popularity as a place for a delightful mountainside break during the summer months, when it enjoys crisp bright days and the perfect climate for outdoor pursuits. Chief among the many attractions that are bound to pique your interest is the Alpine Botanical Garden Saussurea, perched high on a ridge to the south of the mountain with spectacular views over the Doire Baltée river basin.
An Unlikely Alpine Gem
It may be hard to believe for a town that is best known for being buried in several feet of snow, but during the summer months the garden is one of the most popular Courmayeur attractions, drawing in all manner of hikers and nature enthusiasts. Named after the famous Alpine explorer Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, the gardens were initially conceived of as a tourist attraction, until they gained traction in more scientific circles for their rare and varied flora. For the green-fingered visitor, it is a treasure trove of fascinating specimens – but fear not if you can’t tell your Arnica Montana from your Paeonia Officinalis – the colourful rockery garden is just as attractive to the untrained eye!
How to Get There
One of the main reasons for Saussurea’s popularity among the many Courmayeur attractions on offer is that it allows for proximity to nature while remaining easy to access from the centre of town. At 2175m above sea level, it is the highest botanical garden in Europe, yet you can be there in just six minutes with the help of the Skyway Monte Bianco – a spectacular ride that continues all the way up the mountain to Pointe Helbronner. If you’re feeling adventurous, there is also a 2.5km trail up to the garden, or for the best of both worlds, you might consider a one-way ticket up in order to enjoy the less taxing downhill portion of the hike on your way back into town.
Timing is Everything
Unlike the lengthy snowy season, there is a slightly smaller window for planning a summer trip to Courmayeur if you want to catch the garden in full bloom. However, unlike the uncertainty of a winter holiday with the potential for inclement weather, things move at a far more predictable pace in the Alpine Garden. At the beginning of July, the plants begin flowering, by the end of the month they are in full bloom and three months later they are once again buried in four feet of snow. For this reason, the gardens themselves are only open between June and September, giving you ample time to accommodate a luxurious Alpine break and really make the most of all the Courmayeur attractions on offer.
Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct, the number one provider of shared and private airport transfers all over Europe and northern Africa. If you’re planning a winter break to go skiing and explore the excellent Courmayeur attractions, Lukas and his colleagues can make sure that you and your luggage get to and from the airport of your choice swiftly and safely.