Top Ten Walking and Trekking Holidays in Europe
The mountains of Europe rival any in the world for sheer variety and scenic grandeur, from the great systems of the Alps, Pyrenees and Carpathians, to the many smaller sub-ranges and mountainous islands. Our itineraries have been researched to maximize interest and scenery; from high and rugged peaks to the living landscapes of the lower hills, campsites to hotels, and picnics to traditional local food. Europe is a wonderful walking destination for all tastes, in all seasons.
Here are our top ten walking and trekking holidays in Europe.
The week is split between Chamonix and the mountain huts of the Mont Blanc Massif, spending a number of days practising skills and techniques on snow and ice before taking on Mont Blanc itself. After training on the Mer de Glace (the massif's largest glacier) there is a three-day expedition, overnighting in mountain refuges as the guide puts you through your paces in preparation for the summit attempt ahead. A rewarding lower peak will usually be climbed on this expedition which is not only designed to teach skills but to help aid acclimatisation. The climb of Mont Blanc (4810m) is attempted by either the Gouter or Cosmiques route depending on departure date: both are physically hard but hugely rewarding. However, as with any Alpine ascent, the prevailing weather conditions may force a change in the intended itinerary or route. Although experience of ice-axe and crampon techniques is an advantage, it is not essential for this climb as training is given.
• No. of days: 8 • Trip Code: TWM • 2008 Departures: June to September
Part of France but distinctly different, influenced by Italy but not Italian, the Corsicans have a language, culture, cuisine and way of life all of their own. This holiday is based in Bocognano (650m), a village in the midst of magnificent scenery. It is served by the delightful mountain railway which connects Ajaccio with Corte and provides us with easy access to a good range of walking routes from the Mediterranean to the central highlands. The mountains rise from the western coast of pink granite to an impressive range of peaks running down the spine of the island. The distance from the highest peak to the sandy beaches is less than 40km; a compact area providing superb mountain walks through forests, valleys and traditional villages.
• No. of days: 8 • Trip Code: TEB • 2008 Departures: June to September
The Pyrenees provide some of the finest and wildest scenery in Europe, and the 'Haute Route Pyrenees' is the fabulous hut-to-hut trek which explores the most challenging sections. Our varied and sometimes remote route travels west to east; we begin with three days trekking through the Aigues Tortes National Park, a region of glacial lakes and easy summits. The route gets tougher as we head over the little-used Mulleres pass to our base camp for the ascent of Pico Aneto (3404m). This is a strenuous but non-technical climb that requires crampons and ice-axe (available for hire locally). The first and last nights of the trek are based in a comfortable hotel, but during the week we stay in mountain refuges to maximize our time in the best scenery the Pyrenees has to offer.
• No. of days: 8 • Trip Code: TWC • 2008 Departures: July and August
In the centre of the mountainous province of Alicante lies the Sierra de Aitana, the most dramatic massif on the Spanish Mediterranean. Although close to the Costa Blanca, this area has remained a secret from all but a few discerning visitors. The stunning rocky peaks and steep valleys, which sweep down to the Mediterranean coast, benefit from a privileged warm climate 300 days of the year - making it an ideal location for off-peak walking. We follow traditional footpaths and mule tracks, mostly along ridge lines, giving us spectacular panoramic vistas. After each day's rewarding walk, we descend into beautiful valleys with springs, castles and fantastic limestone amphitheatres. We spend the week in three family-run pensions, each offering a characterful accommodation with their unique style. Our local guides are part of a foundation to ensure tourism is carried out responsibly throughout the region.
• No. of days: 8 • Trip Code: TSA • Departures: April to June and October 2008 to February 2009
The Picos de Europa is Spain's third highest mountain range, lower only than the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada. It is a spectacular range of limestone peaks, ridges and deep valleys. The high ground is a 'moonscape' of dramatic rocky terrain almost devoid of vegetation, while the lower valleys (locally known as 'Green Spain') are full of beautiful wildflowers in spring. Its terrain, tranquillity and inaccessibility make the Picos a walker's favourite. Bears, wolves and boars all still survive here, chamois are often spotted, and due to a total hunting ban are not shy and allow us to approach well within camera range. Fire salamanders, golden eagles and griffon vultures are all often seen, along with many other species. We walk from our small family-run hotel into the heart of this beautiful range, Europe's largest National Park, returning each night for one of the many home-cooked specialities on offer. The scenery, walking, hotel, food, climate and wildlife make this a great week's walking.
• No. of days: 8 • Trip Code: TSQ • Departures: March 2008 through to March 2009
At just under four and a half thousand metres in height, the Matterhorn is probably the world's most instantly recognisable mountain. This challenging circuit around the Matterhorn has been described as one of the most beautiful treks in the world. The trek certainly has it all; alpine meadows, larch forests, rugged cols, high balcony paths, glacier crossings and views of all sides of the Matterhorn, as well as 25 other peaks of more than 4000 metres. The trip follows ancient trade routes through six valleys and three distinctly different cultures. We pass through the Germanic High Valais, the French-speaking central Valais and the Italian Val D'Aosta, to forgotten meadows and grazing areas where life seems little changed over the centuries.
• No. of days: 10 • Trip Code: TWW • 2008 Departures: July and August
Our traditional Swiss hotel in Wilderswil, on the outskirts of Interlaken, is an ideal location from which to explore this fantastic area. The village is situated at the confluence of the two valleys of Lauterbrunnen and Grindlewald, above which stand the majestic mountains of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Using the excellent local transport system, which includes chair lift access to and from the start and finish of many of the walks, we'll explore the area. We visit spectacular locations such as Kleine Scheidegg below the awesome north face of the Eiger, and the alpine village of Murren, the highest in all Switzerland. The area is blessed with scenic walks and viewpoints, glaciated peaks, lush green valleys, mountain lakes and beautiful Swiss villages, and is simply a must for all walkers.
• No. of days: 8 • Trip Code: TWQ • 2008 Departures: July to September
Little known outside Slovenia, the Julian Alps are the unsung mountains of Europe. A small but growing band of enthusiasts is learning about the wonders of trekking in this spectacular range. Our first and last nights are spent in the pretty lakeside town of Bled, but the trek begins at Bohinj, a stunning glacial lake in the heart of the Triglav National Park. As we follow the mountain trails through and above the tree-line, we are amongst steep-sided limestone peaks and spires, the tallest of which we aim to climb. The optional ascent of Triglav involves some easy (but exposed) scrambling, with cables for protection (harnesses and helmets are provided). The rest of the trekking is strenuous, but non-technical. This trip is hut-to-hut, but we will only need to carry our personal gear, as the mountain huts are fully catered.
• No. of days: 8 • Trip Code: TVJ • 2008 Departures: July to September
The scenery in Central Europe changes rapidly from expansive plains and dramatic cityscapes to dense forests and jagged peaks. There is a great diversity of people, culture and architecture throughout. The High Tatras, part of the Carpathian Range, are a group of rugged granite mountains forming the border between Poland and Slovakia. There is a sophisticated network of footpaths in a well-managed national park where we enjoy three full daywalks. Depending on the date of travel, we start in either Prague or Krakow and travel east or west during the week. The longest journey from Prague to the Tatras (or vice versa) is done by overnight train, using first-class sleeper compartments.
• No. of days: 8 • Trip Code: TVP • 2008 Departures: June to September
The contrasting landscape of dramatic mountains, clear water and sandy coves make Lake Garda a wonderful place to visit. Close to the lake the atmosphere is Mediterranean, with a mild climate supporting palms and lemon groves alongside the olives and vines. Away from the shore craggy mountains rise rapidly and the citrus groves give way to forest and alpine meadows. With such dramatic views, on a clear day we can see the distant northern Dolomites and the Po valley to the south. The multitude of lakeside villages have historically been linked by boat rather than road, which we use to explore the area along with a combination of buses and cable car. All walking is taken at a leisurely pace so we can enjoy wonderful mountain scenery of Stelvio National Park, along with plenty of time to savour a glass of Bardolino wine.
• No. of days: 8 • Trip Code: TDG • 2008 Departures: May to October