Sometimes travel is about sticking to the main roads, but bold explorers know the excitement that comes from hiking off the beaten path and discovering that breath-taking lookout, experiencing the landscape on your own two feet, and rambling through unspoiled rural beauty. From trekking the ‘Path of the Gods’ to following one of the world’s oldest pilgrim routes and beyond, a walking tour can be the best way to experience first-hand the beauty, history, and fresh air of your journey, not just the destination. Here are our picks for the best hiking trails in Europe.
Spain: The Pilgrimage of St James
One of the world’s oldest pilgrim routes, and one of Europe’s most popular hiking trails, the Camino de Santiago takes travelers through northern Spain to Santiago, culminating in the historic Galician capital of Santiago de Compostela. With the shrine of the apostle Saint James as the reward at the end of the path, this walk was among the most important of the Middle Ages. Follow in the footsteps of history, and along the way, treat yourself to views of medieval churches and one of the oldest monasteries in Spain, ancient oak forests, and rolling hills, and don’t miss the famous local cuisine.
Getting you there: Camino de Santiago Trek
Switzerland: The Waterfalls and Wildflowers of the Swiss Alps
For some of the most iconic views in the world, look no further than the ‘chocolate-box alps’ of the Bernese Oberland range. Spot the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau, and Matterhorn peaks while enjoying classic Swiss landscapes, including lush green meadows filled with wildflowers and glacier-topped mountains. Start in the Kandertal Valley, exploring the world-famous Blausee Lake and continue to the Gemmi Pass, a major transalpine route first used by the Celts. Don’t miss Oeschinensee, the most beautiful Alpine lake in Switzerland. With cobalt blue water and surrounded by the peaks of the Doldenhorn, this lake is fed by many tiny waterfalls trickling from the Fruden glacier above. From towering cliffs to hidden valleys, this area is a paradise for walkers.
Italy: The Wines and Villages of Chianti
Dreaming of the rolling hills of Tuscany, with its cypress-lined avenues, famous grapes, and delicious Chianti wines? Absorb the culture and the Tuscan sun while walking the olive groves and vineyards of Greve, Montefioralle, Radda, Siena, and Florence. Taste the local wines while learning from expert winemakers at famous vineyards and the Tuscan Wine School. From Renaissance cities to medieval market towns, from the lush greens of the vines to the blue skies above, the Chianti region is the perfect place for a leisurely walk filled with history and deliciousness.
Getting you there: Chianti Walking & Wine
France, Italy & Switzerland: The Circuit of Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe, is the centerpiece of one of the finest walking routes in the Alps. The Circuit takes you through a series of paths through the seven valleys around the mountain, offering gorgeous views of the snow-tipped mountains, alpine meadows, and stunning scenery of this legendary range. Take the summit trails for views across the Chamonix Valley, tiptoe across the Passerelle de Bionassay, a suspension bridge that spans the white-water tumbling from the Bionnassay Glacier high above and continue through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy for a well-deserved gelato.
Getting you there: Mont Blanc Highlights
Italy: The Path of the Gods
One of the world’s finest day walks, the Sentiero degli Dei offers panoramic views of undulating green hills, tiny villages, and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. The trail starts in Bomerano, a quiet Italian village, and traces the rock faces of the Amalfi Coast to Positano, an almost vertical town that clings to the cliffs of a sheltered bay. With evocative views come insights into local history and culture, with ruins of ancient stone shelters carved into the limestone to explore along the way. When you reach Positano, explore the colorful boutiques and buildings that make this cliff-side village so picturesque, and don’t miss trying the local smoked mozzarella cheese.
Getting you there: Walking the Amalfi Coast