7 of Europe’s most beautiful trekking trails
Holidays in Europe are usually associated with comfortable hotels, entertainment and an extensive cultural program. And this time we decided to go off the beaten path and tell you what interesting Europe has in store for those who can’t sit in the city.
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Trekking tour through Europe – a great option that will provide both vivid impressions and delight the beauty of wild and not so wild nature, and at the same time allow you to relax. For this it is not necessary to be a sportsman, because trekking in Europe is available to almost any tourist. And our mini cheat sheet will help you to choose the best route:
1. Sentiero Azzurro (Azure Trail), Cinque Terre, Italy
Perhaps one of the easiest and most comfortable routes, which is suitable even for tourists with children: the whole way goes along the “civilized” coast, if you get tired (or if the children get tired), at any time you can take a train to return home.
The length of the route is 12 kilometers, the start is in the town of Riomaggiore, the finish is in Monterosso. The Azure Trail winds along the coastline, crossing towns and villages such as Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. There are some ups and downs along the way, but the path is very simple and it is manageable by anyone with a little training. The route is also good because you can stop in each of the towns along the way for as long as you want to explore more, or you can walk away from the main route and go up the slopes to be in silence.
You can hike Sentiero Azzurro any time of year, but we would recommend the fall or, at most, the spring – minimal tourists and not as hot as the summer.
Hint: the hardest part of the trail is at Monterosso, so it makes sense to save your strength for the “final throw” at the end of the trail. You can also split the hike into two stages and take a breather in Cornilla, which is right in the middle of the trail.
You can get to the starting point of the trip, Riomaggiore, from Milan, Bologna, Florence or other nearby Italian cities by train.
2. Grand Randonne (GR 20), Corsica, France
The crossing is more difficult than the previous one, even if only because of its length (180 km, 15 sections of 4-8 hours each).
It is best to go here either in June or in September. Firstly, the influx of trekkers is much lower than in July and August. True, there are fewer hotels at this time, too. Secondly – comfortable weather conditions, thanks to which even the beginners can feel themselves on a route quite confidently. But from October to May the weather conditions worsen. In winter it is snowy, and even in May on the passes the abundance of snow is not uncommon, which requires certain skills from travelers. In addition, not all passes are safe, so, going on a hike, it is desirable to have some experience.
The route begins in Calenzana, in the north of the island, 12 km from the town of Calvi, and in Conca (in the south). You can go all the way in either direction, but it is easier to do it from south to north. If you are not going to walk the whole route, there are numerous exits all along the trail, so that you can find the best length of the journey for you. Alternatively, like many European tourists, you can walk only halfway to Visavona, and from there continue your journey around the island by train.
To get to your destination (Calenzana) you will need to change flights, as there is no direct flight connection between Ukraine and Corsica. The most convenient way is to take a flight from Kiev to Nice or Marseille, and then take a ferry to Corsica. Learn more about ferry transportation from France here.
3. the Leygavegur route (Fimmvurduhuls Pass), Iceland
The entire round-trip crossing is 80 kilometers long. There are lodges along the entire route where travelers can rest (they are open from late June to mid-September). Well, for those who do not want to pass it all, there is a reduced version: to pass 20-25 miles through the pass Fimmvyurduhauls, go through Toorsmerk park and finish the way at the waterfall Skaugafoss. It will take you a day to do it all.
Note: although the trail is quite far from big cities, there are regular buses from Reykjavik to the start of the trail, Landmannalaugar Hut.
4. The Way of St. James/The Road of the French Kings, Spain
This road is very well equipped with everything travelers need, and there are regular rest houses along the way where you can stay overnight and have a snack. However, for unprepared beginners the route can be quite difficult. Therefore, many people do not pass the entire route to begin with, but “join” the stream of pilgrims on one of its sections or choose one of the shortened routes. The most popular is the Way of the French Kings/The French Way, which begins in Saint-Jean-Pierre-de-Pore, passes through the Pyrenees and leads to Galicia, Spain, with stops in Leon and Pamplona.
The best time to hike is spring and autumn, when the heat goes down and there are a lot less people on the route.
On a side note: if you are going to do this route not just as a tourist but for religious reasons, you need to get a Pilgrim Passport, which will allow you to pay less for lodging and food on the road. This can be done at the starting point of the route in a special office for pilgrims.
To get to the starting point – St. Jean Pied-de-Port – will have to go in stages: first from Kiev to Paris, and then you can take a train to Bayonne, and then to the place of departure (the whole journey takes about 7.5 hours).
5. Southwest Coast Trail (UK)
This is the best way to explore the Foggy Albion, as it offers some of Britain’s most beautiful scenery.
The trail runs from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset, and is 1,016 kilometers long in all. The trail runs entirely around the southwest coast of Britain, passing through the westernmost point of the island, and connecting the towns of Minehead and Poole. The route also crosses the county of Cornwall, where you can admire the colorful scenery. Most of the route follows the coast, with a few inland sections.
Travelers should keep in mind the main feature of the route – the bays . You will meet them one after another on the way, resulting in constant elevation differences – frequent ascents and descents may lead to knee pain (especially for unprepared tourists). So we advise to be equipped with painkillers just in case. And of course we have the notorious English weather: changeable, with frequent rains and strong winds. So a raincoat, warm clothes and a windproof jacket will be very useful.
To get to the starting point of the route – Minehead – from Ukraine, the most convenient flight from Kiev to Bristol and from there to Minehead from Bristol Temple Meads station (with change of bus in Taunton).
6. Mont Blanc Tour (Italy, Switzerland, France)
This hike is universal in that it passes through three countries at once: Italy, France and Switzerland. Only here will you have the opportunity to enjoy views of the highest mountain chain in Europe with glaciers, cliffs, green pastures and steppes.
The hike around Mont Blanc starts in Valle d’Aosta and on the way you will go down to Lake Combal, through high mountain pastures with stunning views, to Lake Checrouit and further, to the valley floor, to Dolonne and Courmayeur.
The best time to go to Mont Blanc is from June 15 to mid-September. Of course, you can do it earlier or later, but keep in mind that then almost all the mountain shelters may be closed, and do not forget about the unpredictability of the weather.
The traditional route begins and ends at Les Houches, its length is about 170 kilometers, and the passage takes 7-11 days. You will have to get to Les Houches by car, as the commune is quite far from major cities. The fastest option is to fly from Kiev to Geneva or Bern, and from there by car to the starting point.
7. The Tatras, Slovakia
The Tatras are a great choice for those who are still gaining experience in hiking tours. Here you can easily find a simple and scenic route that will make you feel like a real adventurer.
For example, in the High Tatras, go to the beautiful glacial lake Zelene Pleso, which is a three-hour walk from Tatranská Lomnica. The itinerary is very easy, but at the same time you will be able to enjoy the beautiful nature and walk through the forest to your heart’s content. And if you have enough energy, continue the route further, to the mountain Jagnácý Štít (2229 meters). Near the lake there is a camping site where you can rest and eat, which is especially convenient if you go into nature with children.
The Lesser Tatras are not worth ignoring either. Choose the Janoškovy Lazy trail, which is near the town of Těrchová. The trails are well-marked and well-organized, and the longest and most difficult hike will not take more than 3 hours. So feel free to go there with kids. We recommend that you take something to eat with you, because you will only be able to eat before the hike, at the foot, and in Terhov itself.
The easiest way to get to Tatranská Lomnica is by plane from Kiev to Košice and from there by car to your destination.
How to prepare for trekking?
In terms of difficulty, there is a wide variety of treks, and in some of the routes we offer (such as the Way of St. James or Cinque Terre) it is always possible to stay overnight or take transport. That said, even for the easiest option, good physical condition is not a bad thing – it will be easier to walk and you can enjoy the trekking itself. Therefore, study the complexity of the chosen route, assess your strength and listen to the advice of experienced travelers.
Your main task is to strengthen your legs and develop your endurance. Pay special attention to cardio-training. Consult with a trainer, which exercises for the legs are most effective for strengthening the muscles. Running, especially cross-country running, is excellent for developing endurance. This not only strengthens the muscles, but also develops an adaptation to uneven ground, reducing the chance of injury. Those who work out at the gym, we advise to pay attention also to the step-trainer. On a treadmill, alternate running and walking, varying the speed and angle of incline.
If you choose a more difficult program, it is also worth preparing your back and shoulders for carrying a backpack – carry a backpack when possible, gradually increasing its weight.
Before the trip we advise you to take care of your health: crepatica after active training, bruises from falling off the bike, untreated sore throat – not the best thing you can take on a trip.
Be sure to take care of your own first aid kit. If you usually take a minimum of medication, this time bring more plasters, tourniquets, ointment for injuries and other products that are used for bruises, abrasions and sprains.
Don’t forget to take out travel insurance – it’s a must if you choose an active vacation. Even if you accidentally slip and twisted his foot, there may be a need to consult a doctor abroad – it is possible that such a consultation will cost you more than a hundred euros. And having insurance is a guarantee that all the money you spent will be refunded when you return home.
Feet, feet: 8 walking routes of Europe
The core idea of medieval pilgrims that traveling is a rite of passage or a way to reset oneself spiritually is also shared by modern-day backpackers. We’ve compiled eight of Europe’s walking paths, on which you can not only wipe your shoes in dust, but also think high thoughts. After all, while travelers used to walk such roads solely for religious reasons, today they are also tempting tourist destinations that have not lost their mysticism and near-philosophical meaning. They abound in scenery and cultural artifacts along the way and fit perfectly with the concept of slow life.
The Via Podensis, or Podensis Way, is one of the French versions of the Way of St. James. The route begins in Le Puy: there, in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Puy, pilgrims receive a blessing for the journey every morning. The route starts on the high plateau of the Massif Central, goes down sharply into the Lot Valley with a scattering of fabulous villages, through the rivers Tarn and Adur breaks into the hilly expanse of Gascony, and finally finishes in the Basque village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
In addition to large-scale landscapes, on the way you will see, for example, the Romanesque “needle” – the chapel of Saint-Michel d’Aegil, which was built in the X century on a sharp 85-meter stone, Conq, a timeless open village with 300 inhabitants or the mighty ancient bridge Valantre .
Munchner Jakobsweg (Munich Way)
Germany 178 km
This route through southern Germany is also part of the Camino and offers ever-changing mountain scenery, rivers of excellent Bavarian beer ready to quench the thirst of any traveler, and stunning church architecture.
Highlights of the Munich Road, for example, include the towns of Lechbruck am See and Marktoberdorf . The latter is obscenely close to Neuschweinstein Castle, which would be a big mistake to miss. In addition, the church of St. Martin in Marktoberdorf is worthy of respect – it is more than 800 years old. The route ends in Kempten: there is a cool archaeological park and a Roman museum there.
St Cuthbert’s Way
The St Cuthbert’s Way is an excellent pilgrimage for beginners. It does not require any special physical preparation: it can be done in 4-6 days. In addition, there are hostels, hotels and cafes along the way, and they even offer services to take your luggage to the final point of the route.
The path links Melrose Abbey, where St Cuthbert began his religious life in 650, with Holy Island off the Northumberland coast, where he was buried. On the way you’ll cross the Scottish/English border and walk through the mighty Cheviot Hills. At the halfway point is the highest point of the route, Wideopen Hill, a hill with a distinctive name and spectacular views.
Les Chemis Du Mont-Saint-Michel
The route from Normandy’s capital of Rouen to the legendary Mont-Saint-Michel mountain leads through contrasting landscapes, cool forests to cozy medieval towns.
Important cultural sites along the way include the basilica of Saint-Gervais and the imposing castle of Robert the Devil. The last stop is Avranches. Here it is worth stopping by the Scriptorial Museum and gazing at the manuscripts illustrated by the monks of Mont Saint-Michel. To avoid getting lost, follow these maps.
Via di Francesco (The Way of St. Francis)
The Way of St. Francis in Italy is an ancient road from Florence to Rome and a steep walking trail inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order. The itinerary begins in Greccio (Lazio) and winds through the peaceful countryside past important cultural and historical sites such as La Verna, Assisi and the Rieti Valley.
The path of St. Francis is not at all easy and is recommended only to experienced hikers. Of course, you don’t have to walk the entire distance – you can choose a section you like. A few options are detailed here.
Germany 240 km
Via Coloniensis is another option for the German part of the Camino de Santiago. The scenic route from Cologne to Trier passes right in front of the magnificent Augustusburg Palace south of Cologne. This majestic castle is considered an iconic example of Rococo architecture and has been awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO. The road goes through the spa town Bad Münsterreifel, the wooden medieval Blankenheim, and Prüm, where you will find the Basilica of St. Salvator, an abbey founded by the Benedictine order, which dates back to the 8th century. Continue through the village of Waxweiler and the mystical woods and fields of Eifel National Park to Trier, where a collection of Roman monuments has been preserved.
Croagh Patrick is a 764-meter mountain near the town of Westport in western Ireland whose history is apparently connected with St. Patrick. He converted the Irish to Christianity in the fifth century and supposedly fasted on this hill for 40 days. The rugged trail to the chapel at the top of the mountain tests your enthusiasm, but rewards you with first-class views of the ocean, islands and rocky shores. Traditionally, about 25,000 pilgrims, led by the local archbishop, climb the mountain barefoot on the last Sunday in July – put it on your calendar if you’re thinking of joining.
England, France, Switzerland, Italy over 1,000 km
The Via Francigena trail offers an epic journey from Canterbury, UK, through France and Switzerland to Rome. In the Middle Ages, this arduous trek was taken by those wishing to worship the Holy See.
Champagne, the Alps, Tuscany – on the way there is a concentration of landscapes pleasing to the eye. Don’t let the insane distances scare you – everything has long been set up and thought about, so that any traveler(s) will pass the route or part of it without any problems. This site has all the maps and detailed recommendations for each country.