Boasting of more than 50 countries, there are plenty of options to pick from that integrate an amazing list of best hikes in Europe. Apart from the fascinating history, amazing culture food and wine, major cities, numerous mountain ranges in Europe with exhilarating cliffs, and multiple hiking trails, you could seriously expect the best hiking in Europe. These waymarked ways and trailheads make for an incredible experience trekking in Europe whether you’re a novice or an experienced trekker.
- Best Hikes in Europe
- Tour du Mont Blanc, Italy, Switzerland, and France
- GR20, Corsica, France
- Haute Route, Switzerland, and France
- Jungfrau, Switzerland
- Camino de Santiago, Spain
- Rota Vicentina, Portugal
- Cinque Terre National Park, Italy
- Il Sentiero Degli Dei, Amalfi Coast, Italy
- Alta Via 1, Italy
- Zillertal, Austria
- Slovenian Mountain Trail, Slovenia
- West Highland Way, Scotland
- Hardangervidda Transverse, Norway
- Kungsleden, Sweden
- Laugavegurinn, Iceland
- Iceland’s Hot Springs Route
Best Hikes in Europe
For a trekker, getting out there and off the beaten track, exploring the world at one’s own pace, getting to know the people and experiencing the differences in culture is what counts for an experience. And what better place to find all of it but in Europe? But, what are the best hikes in Europe? Backpacking on Europe routes has become a fairly common attraction for the youngsters and the oldies alike, each wanting to put in their own two pennies into the bucket list trend. Europe hiking has most of your travel inspirations covered owing to its vast territory of wilderness and breath-taking sights to explore.
When trekking in Europe, don’t restrict yourself to traversing the backpack Europe routes of only the mainland, but try and incorporate some variety from the traipsed backpacking Europe routes of the European islands etc. as well. Europe not only has the best of hiking areas of the world but also welcoming people. In order to help you choose from the numerous options Europe has to offer, we’ve listed below some of the most popular trails and best hikes in Europe.
Tour du Mont Blanc, Italy, Switzerland, and France
The Tour du Mount Blanc is the most popular of the hiking tours in Europe. This 170 km or 105 miles long hike is an anti-clockwise path of the Mont Blanc massif in the Alps- the highest mountain in Western Europe. This trek is tripped over the borders of France, Italy, and Switzerland in its climb of a total of 10,000 meters throughout its entire course, making it one of the best hikes in Europe. The main attraction is, of course, the Alpine scenery and the picturesque views whilst on the trails itself, needless to say making it the best hikes in Europe.
The entire trek takes between nine to twelve days to complete, and while isn’t very technical in nature, does demand a high level of fitness from its trekkers. While there are arrangements of habitations along the way that provide for the basic needs of accommodations, food etc. the popularity of the trek does make the availability of the same slightly tough, not to mention wild camping is illegal in France.
GR20, Corsica, France
Known as one of the toughest hiking tours of Europe, this trek takes you diagonally right from the north to the south, featuring the infamous Cirque de la Solitude. This trek isn’t for newbies or faint-hearted trekkers alike since the hike never lets up the entire way – with barely any flatness the trail is a continuous ascent and descent of rocky pathways all along the mountainous range of Corsica. The GR20 is around 170 km or 105 miles long and takes anywhere from twelve to twenty days to complete.
Despite the obvious beautiful scenes of the rugged and jagged mountain peaks, and trudging through forests and mountain lakes, trekkers are advised to undertake this hike only if they are experienced and fit enough. The best time to undertake this perilous hike is between June and October, though early snow should be anticipated.
Haute Route, Switzerland, and France
The Haute route starts out at the highest peak of Europe, Mont Blanc, moving through the Swiss and French Alps before reaching the final destination of Matterhorn. This 112 miles long trek will take around twelve to fourteen days, all the while gaining an elevation of 12,000 feet. This route can be encompassed by foot during the summers and is popular for skiing during the winters.
Being slightly less crowded than the Tour du Mont Blanc, getting accommodations are an easier feat, and though camping out is A-Okay in Switzerland, it’s illegal in France. An alternative to the entire hike is the ‘Walker’s Route’ which isn’t more than 300 meters of elevation and can be traipsed without the use of any technical equipment in almost any kind of weather.
Jungfrau is magnetic to hikers, owing to the numerous day hike options available within this region. Hiking in Europe, particularly if you’re ‘Europe mountain mapping’ means always making way for proper planning and taking the constant weather changes into consideration. But, Jungfrau is exempt from most of these situations since it offers trekking routes for every possible climatic condition. Depending on the trails you choose, the distance and time taken to complete them could vary. Challenging hikes are available while scaling the alpine passes. Wilderswil, Murren, Wengen, Grindelwald are all popular base camps for the many trekking routes available.
Camino de Santiago, Spain
More of a pilgrimage trail than a professional trek, this route is popularly also known as The Way of St James. The total distance of this trek is approximately 800 km or 500 miles and takes around thirty days to complete. The pilgrimage – a myriad of footpaths and not just a single trail - which heads west from St Jean Pied de Port, crosses the Pyrenees via the famous place for bull-runs – Pamplona, and the city of Leon, is then destined for the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela which is believed to be the burial place of St James.
The pathways are well maintained with clear demarcations and many arrangements for accommodations in the form of hostels along the way, leaving only the length of the trail is the actual task at hand. June to September is the peak season, and this trail sees the most number of pilgrims traipsing the pathways during this time period.
Rota Vicentina, Portugal
The Rota Vicentina is around 450 meters or 280 miles in distance and comprises of the Historical Way and the Fisherman’s Trail, along with a few more shorter circular trails as well. The entirety of it can be encompassed in approximately sixteen to twenty days. The Historic Way takes you past hidden landscapes and tiny rural towns and villages of the south-west. The Fisherman’s Trail, on the other hand, traverses the wild Atlantic coastline.
Cinque Terre National Park, Italy
The Cinque Terre National Park varies in distance and time taken as per the trail opted for. The Blue Trail is around 7.5 miles while the High Path is around 22 miles. The best times to visit are from mid-March to mid-October.
The Blue Trail, Cinque Terre, Italy
The Cinque Terre’s Sentiero Azzuro or the Blue Trail makes for possibly one the best small hikes in Europe with only 11 km or 7 miles to cover which takes barely two days – a nice way to spend a weekend. Despite the shortness of the route, the trail through Cinque Terre takes you through the most beautiful of towns of Italy with the food that could tickle your taste buds. Technically comprising of four pathways that run along the Cinque Terre cost, it’s easy to see it all in a hike of straight six hours, but would that let you ‘see it all’? Owing to the flash floods some time back, some parts of the trail could be inaccessible, therefore, it’s always good to check out the status of the section you’re looking to embark on prior to setting out.
Il Sentiero Degli Dei, Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Amalfi Coast which is located in the south of Italy is famous for the Il Sentiero Degli Dei which means ‘The Path of the Gods’ owing to the height of the path and the scenic views you get to experience along the way. The walk from Praiano to Nocelle is mostly downward sloping all the while providing you with the most beautiful view of the Amalfi Coast. You’ll come across the prettiest of towns available, most of which are linked by multiple hiking trails known only to the locals.
One of the towns which you should experience is the Ravello which is one of the highest points along the coastline and is famous for music festivals and the views it beholds of the sea. The town of Amalfi still boasts of its maritime historical past and is also famous for limoncello liquor and lemon desserts – definitely a feast waiting for you!
Alta Via 1, Italy
The Alta Via 1 is a 120 km or 75 miles long trekking route which will take you around ten days, is a north-south trail which connects the two towns namely Dobbiaco and Belluno. It has received the name of the ‘Greatest Hits’ owing to the ruggedness of the trail which takes you through the World War I battlefields, pristine alpine lakes, 10,000-foot peaks and the formidable limestone cliffs. Its major attraction of the Dolomites with their outstanding geological formations has made the area a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another adventurous option is the cable routes which let you take in the tunnels and the hillsides from within your cable car. The best time to visit is between the months of July and early September.
Austria, one of the most beautiful places in Europe which is popular for picturesque hiking tours in Europe and the best day hikes in Europe. Among the mountains in Europe, Austria offers several numbers of scenic towns, and traveling among these is made so easy by train. One famous town that crops up as amongst the most beautiful of these towns is the Zillertal which is also the reason for the name – the Zillertal Alps which is the mountain range that surrounds it.
Zillertalbahn is easy to reach if you board any of the multiple trains available from international as well as local cities of the likes of Vienna, Milan, Munich etc. The Zillertal Alps have trails that stretch to around 1,400 km, with sections that can be traversed and explored by trekkers of different skill levels. One of the major challenges to try out is the hike to Hippach, which is at an elevation of almost 2000 meters. This trek will not only take you past the soulful views of the mountain ranges in Europe, but you’ll also experience the traditional living of mountain huts and Austrian mountain dwellers.
Slovenian Mountain Trail, Slovenia
While Slovenia isn’t usually the country that pops up as a common hiking site in Europe but the Slovenian Mountain Trail might just change your opinion. The Slovenian Mountain Trail is known to be the oldest trekking route in Europe. The trail involves a trip of the Slovenian peaks like the Kamnik Alps, Julian Alps, Karavanke and the highest of them all, Mount Triglav taking you through a distance of about 500 km or 370 miles. Some other highlights of the trail are the Škocjan Caves and two museums.
West Highland Way, Scotland
Scotland is known to be one of the most beautiful places in Europe, and the West Highland Way is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Scottish countryside. This 152 km or 96 miles long hike starts out in Milngavie which is located close to Glasgow and heads up towards the town of Fort William which is located near Ben Davis, isn’t technically a hard trek and trekkers with a decent to a moderate level of experience and fitness can easily scale it in around five to eight days, making it for one of the best short hiking places in Europe.
The months of May, June, September and early October make for the best time to undertake this hike. The middle months of July and August see an infestation of the midgets which can be quite a menace and find accommodation is a problem. While wild camping is legal in Scotland, there are plenty of hostels and inns available along the trail if you aren’t allured to spending the night outdoors. The Rannoch Moor, Devil’s Staircase, Ben Navis and Conic Hill are some of the major highlights of this hike. Come the year of 2010, the West Highland Way received co-designation status as part of International Appalachian Trail.
Hardangervidda Transverse, Norway
If you want to experience the most remote and wildest areas of Europe then this is the hiking tour of Europe for you. The Norwegian national park is the source of the name of this trekking route, and getting to this point in itself comprises of adventure. As mentioned, being wild and a remote location population is sparse, and you’ll barely notice a soul along the way except at probably your accommodation.
The Hardangervidda Transverse comprises of wild hiking taking hikers anywhere between one to two weeks to complete and therefore, recommended only for experienced and fit trekkers. There are a few multi-day routes too which are a part of the best small hikes in Europe also available for those who don’t want to go the whole way.
Kungsleden or ‘The King’s Trail’ is a hiking route of 440 km or 270 miles in Northern Sweden that takes you through the remote and wild Swedish Lapland, a world heritage site, the Vindelfjallen Natural Reserve and four national parks. The best time to visit is between the months of June and September, the ideal time to avoid bugs. If you would like to embark on the trail during the winter months, the same can be done on skis. The northern section is known for its beauty but one can also experience varied terrains of the mountains and the Arctic Tundra. Note that Arctic weather is very unpredictable.
The Laugavegurinn with its short trail of 55 km or 34 miles can be easily covered in about five days, is home to amazing views and kaleidoscopic landscapes. The trail incorporates canyons, mountains, ice caves, volcanic deserts, and hot springs into its course, which makes it one of the most popular trekking routes in Europe also owing to an easy accessibility and easily scalable terrain.
Iceland’s Hot Springs Route
Iceland’s Hot Springs Route of 33 miles takes you past the mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes and of course hot springs. The trail starts off at Landmannalaugar and heads towards Thorsmork located in the south of Iceland. Parts of the trail are perpetually snow covered, no matter what the time of the year. Some parts of the trail even require you to wade past shallow water bodies. A scanty number of six huts along the trail is what serves for accommodation purposes and prior reservations are always recommended to assure you of getting a place to stay. In the nature reserves, dispersed camping is strongly prohibited.
Whether the idea of hiking in Europe is a rite of passage for you, an exploratory expedition or simply a holiday hike, the choice of where you put that red pin in the Europe mountain map is really up to you, and with all that terrain waiting to tread, there need not be just one option. There’s always the tough choice of deciding which of these spectacular backpacking Europe routes you’re going to be deciding on. From looped trails, thundering heights, battles between the best long and best short hikes in Europe, the choice is entirely up to you!
Getting away from the hustle bustle of the mundane city life and jumping head first into the wilderness to jumpstart your lungs with bursts of fresh air, trekking in Europe couldn’t get any better.So, map out the routes that call out the most to you, pack up your hiking gear and get a-walking! Don’t miss out on taking your camera along with you while exploring the best hikes in Europe, because we know, you’re going to want to capture those breathtaking sights that you encounter along the trails.