Where are the best hikes in Europe? Ten travel writers share their favorite treks.
Exploring nature and the countryside is one of the best ways to connect with a destination. For this article, I’ve teamed up with ten wanderers/fellow travel writers to show you some of the best hikes in Europe. Some are well-known, especially in the hiking world, while some may become new additions to your adventure list after reading.
Of course, 10 barely scratches the surface when it comes to the number of epic treks you can tackle in the European Union but, perhaps it’s enough to inspire you to get out and do some wandering of your own.
Korouoma Canyon – Finnish Lapland
Contributor: Katalin Waga from Our Life Our Travel
The Finnish area of Lapland offers numerous spectacular hikes, some of which are considered by many to be the best hikes in Europe. My favorite hike in Lapland leads to frozen waterfalls in the Korouoma Canyon near Posio. The best time of the year for this hike is between December and March when the temperature is below zero and the unique ice shapes are formed.
There are two popular hikes in the area: a moderate but short day hike, and a 30 km-long multi-day hike along the whole canyon for the more experienced trekkers. The short loop trail is 5 km long is suitable for families as well. It takes 3-4 hours to walk including photo stops (which you shouldn’t skip).
First, you will have a glimpse of the waterfalls from the top, then slowly descend to the 130 m deep canyon. This trail passes by 3 huge frozen waterfalls. You can approach and admire them from a closer distance.
During late winter and early spring, the canyon might have a huge amount of snow and/or water. Before you tackle Korouoma Canyon, make sure you have the proper equipment and footwear. Also, check to ensure that the trails are not closed due to avalanche risk.
5 Lakes Walk – Zermatt, Switzerland
Contributor: Rhonda Krause from Travel Yes Please
Switzerland is known for its incredible hiking trails but my favorite route is the Five Lakes Walk in Zermatt. What makes this hike so special are the breathtaking views of Matterhorn, a Swiss icon and jewel of the Alps. Throughout the hike, you can admire Matterhorn from several vantage points. The reflection, which can be seen in three of the five small mountain lakes along the route, is especially breathtaking.
The Five Lakes Trail is 9.3 km and can be hiked in roughly 2.5 hours to 4 hours. Realistically, you should plan for a half-day hike and take your time savoring the scenery. Relax and enjoy a picnic at one of the lakes or visit one of the mountain restaurants along the trail to indulge in a Swiss mountain experience.
One section of downhill switchbacks and an uphill climb near the end of the trail gives this hiking trail a medium difficulty rating. However, this hike is a relatively easy half-day adventure. The showcasing of some of the most beautiful scenery in Zermatt is what makes this route one of the best hikes in Europe.
Strazyska Valley Hike – Zakopane, Poland
Contributor: Karolina Klesta from Lazy Travel Blog
In Poland, just 2 to 3 hours from the historic city of Krakow is the small town of Zakopane, the gateway to the Tatra Mountains. The town, a frosty wonderland in winter, turns to green meadows filled with alpine flowers during warmer months. To arrive in Zakopane, take the train that departs Krakow’s main station every 15 minutes.
The 4-hour hiking trail begins from Krupowki in Zakopane and extends to the Strazyska Valley. An easy trail to follow, it can be hiked even in winter. The wintery route gives you the sensation of walking into the magical wardrobe leading to the frosty land of Narnia. It is complete with a big, frozen waterfall that appears to defy gravity.
Hiking the Strazyska Valley during warmer weather will guide you through green slopes and babbling rivers. Not far from the valley rises the majestic Giewont mountain. Veer off the easy path and climb up its rocky façade to get a glimpse if you need an extra challenge.
Mark the end of the trail by going to one of the small shelters along the valley for a bit of food and some drinks. You can also continue your walk through the Sciezka and Reglami path to see a bird’s eye view of Zakopane. If you make it to the Kalatowiki Valley, there is a lovely restaurant at the Mountain Hotel Kalatowki awaiting you.
dei Monzoni – Trentino, Italy
Contributor: Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across the World
Alta Via dei Monzoni, in the Dolomites of Trentino, is, by all means, one of the best hikes in Europe. It’s a 15 to 20 km hike depending on the trail you decide to follow and can take between 5 and 7 hours to complete.
The best starting point for this hike is the parking lot of Seggiovia Costabella in Passo San Pellegrino. Take the ski-lift to the beginning of the trail, located at around 2000 meters above sea level. From here, start your walk towards Rifugio Passo
Once you leave Rifugio Passo delle Selle, the trail becomes very narrow. Do not continue walking if you are afraid of heights or get vertigo. Should you decide to continue, you’ll go towards Austria’s WWI trenches. There, you will have a chance to visit the various sniper points and artillery tunnels.
You’ll have to continue walking to Ponta de Recoleta, from where the trail eventually leads back down to Fango. Alternatively, follow a different route to Colifon, where the Italian trenches were located, and from there back to to the ski-lift and Passo San Pellegrino.
It’s not a strenuous hike, except for the bits where the trail is very narrow. The trail is well marked and easy to follow so you can walk independently, but a local guide will be able to give insights on the history of the trenches and on the surrounding landscape. It’s a fantastic hike for people who love nature, mountains and have a passion for all things historical.
Schnapp’s Fountain Hike – Sasbachwalden, Germany
Contributor: Alyssa Watson from Where You’re Going
Deep in the heart of Germany’s mystical Black Forest is a town called Sasbachwalden. This quintessential German town, complete with its half-timbered houses, sits nestled within the region well-known for its wine and schnapps production. One of the best ways to experience the dense forest views, lush valleys, vineyards, and schnapps fields is to take a self-guided hike and schnapps tour!
This hike, one of the most unique I’ve ever experienced, made us feel like a real-life Hansel and Gretel as we made our way through the forest and past waterfalls and small bridges.
First, head to the visitor center in the town of Sasbachwalden. This is where you’ll find maps of the different routes you can take and most of the trail heads start from the parking lot. The route I took was a 4.5-mile loop and starts off through the lush black forest. This hike took me about 2.5 hours, but we went slow and took our time. Depending on your fitness level, this is a fairly easy to moderate hike. All the paths are paved, but you do come across a few steeper hills.
As you gain a little more altitude you begin to pass by all the schnapps farms in the area. Many of the farmers leave samples of their schnapps or wine at the end of their property for you to sample. Bottles are left in chilled running water called schnappsbrunnens or, schnapps fountains. There’s usually a little picnic table or a bench to sit, sip and enjoy the views of the valley. Bring a few euros with you as it’s an honor system to sample the drinks, about one euro per shot.
Pennine Way – United Kingdom
Contributor: Liona from Travels With Ted
Undoubtedly one of the best
The most intrepid walkers tackle the Pennine Way in two weeks straight. Others may prefer a series of day hikes to enjoy a more leisurely pace. We chose somewhere in between, usually walking between 10 and 20 miles per day and completing the trail in 3 weeks. It made our journey more difficult, but we chose to camp at each stop. However, most legs end in towns with a variety of accommodation options available.
It’s a medium difficulty hike for most of the way with some fairly steep up and down sections. If you’re completing the Pennine Way in one go, the good news is that you do get a few “rest” days of gentle hikes along river valleys. The bad news is that the most difficult sections bookend the route. So, whether you choose to go South to North or North to South the first few days are tough.
For me, completing a long-distance hike is an achievement of which I will always be proud. Hiking the Pennine Way also gave me the opportunity to experience the diverse landscapes of the Northern half of England. There were some really difficult days. However, it was worth it for views like the one across High Cup Nick in Cumbria and for every one of the trig points we reached.
Plitvice Lakes National Park – Croatia
Contributor: Sarah Puckett from Organized Adventurer
In a lush forest in central Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park beckons visitors with the aquamarine lakes for which it is named. Creating beautiful cascades as they descend, the park contains sixteen lakes that are grouped into upper and lower regions. The waterfalls, delicate and elegant, flow in a brilliant turquoise hue.
All of the trails in the park are fairly easy. In fact, you can walk the entire network of 18.3 km in a single day hike lasting 6-8 hours. For a slightly shorter hike, plus the fun of a boat and train ride (included in the entrance fee), you can see both the upper and lower lakes on an 8 km loop taking about 4-6 hours. Shorter options are also available if you have less time or endurance.
While most travelers to Croatia flock to the coastline, Plitvice Lakes National Park further inland is not to be missed! Visiting provides an opportunity to spend time in rural Croatia, seeing a different aspect of the country away from the parties and yachts. Of course, the real draw is the scenery filled with the most vibrant blues and greens.
Meteora Monasteries – Greece
Contributor: Helena Mašková from Just for One Summer
Meteora is without a doubt one of the most stunning places in Greece. It brings together a striking landscape of impressive rock towers with centuries-old monasteries balancing precariously on the top. Wandering among the sandstone giants in the footsteps of the first monks and hermits is the best way to explore this unusual place to its full potential.
There are plenty of trails crisscrossing the area that Kalambaka and Kastraki with monasteries, old hermit caves, and amazing viewpoints. You can easily spend 2 – 3 days hiking through the forested valleys while returning back to Kalambaka for the night. The trails are mostly of moderate difficulty with some steep climbs and very little signposting. Considering this, don’t forget to grab a hiking map in one of the tourist shops in Kalambaka.
My favorite hike in Meteora starts from the old town of Kalambaka passing through the forest under The Monastery of Holy Trinity before climbing all the way up to the main road. From here, it’s just a short walk to Great Meteoron Monastery, one of the oldest and most impressive of the monasteries still in operation. For an alternative way back to Kalambaka, head towards the rarely visited Ypapanti Monastery and Agios Dimitrios ruins. Even if less impressive, this area is as beautiful as the main monastery complex. Not to mention, hiking through the quiet, peaceful countryside offers a more relaxing walk.
1st leg of Saint-James’ Way from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
Contributor: Jenny from Tales From The Lens
Walking the Camino de Santiago (also known as St-James’ Way) is an adventure that more than 300,000 people take each year. The Pilgrims, as they are called, have the choice among a few routes across Europe all leading to the same destination: the city of Santiago de Compostella in the region of Galicia, Spain. It is well-known among hiking enthusiasts as one of the best hikes in Europe.
“The French Way” departing from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port at the feet of the Pyrenees on the French side of the Basque country is the most popular path. The first day to Roncesvalles along the “route Napoleon” is world-famous for its difficulty. This route takes walkers across the Pyrenees from 200 meters above sea level to 1450 m. It’s also difficult due to its fast-changing and perilous weather that can bring freezing temperatures, even in summer.
What makes this hike one of the best within the region is the incredible scenery over the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees and the Basque valley. On a sunny and clear day, you can even see the coast of the Atlantic Ocean over 60 km away.
The first leg of the French Way is 25 km long and should take an average walker a bit more than 7 hours to complete. It isn’t technically challenging but the steady climb can be quite exhausting. This is especially true if you carry a backpack with all your gear for the full 35-day walk to Santiago. However, if you wish to do this hike as a day trip with no heavy backpack, 6.5 hours should be enough to complete the first leg. Once in Roncesvalles, buses from Pamplona will drive you back to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in less than 30 min!
Mylopotas Beach to Klima – Island of Ios, Greece
Contributor: Cristina Puscas from LooknWalk Greece
For our fifth wedding anniversary, we decided to head to the island of Ios in Greece. The weather at the end of May is gorgeous, allowing for plenty of outdoor activities. Our tour guide suggested a hike from Mylopotas Beach to Klima Beach on the last day of our stay. Of course, we didn’t hesitate! Although we chose to hike this trail with a guide, you can easily do it on your own.
This stunning, seaside hike to Klima leaves from the end of Mylopotas Beach. You can get here by bus from the Port or Chora stop. According to my Fitbit (fitness tracker) data, the trek to Klima took almost 2 hours. However, this included a couple of photo and coffee breaks. The return hike to Mylopotas only took 1.5 hr.
Depending on your fitness level, the trail should be considered easy to medium difficulty. Be sure to wear proper hiking boots to protect your feet and ankles through the rocky and uneven areas of the path. Those who are not accustomed to hiking may need trekking poles. Don’t forget water, a sun hat or bandana, and sunscreen as well. These are a must with much of the walk being in direct sunlight.
During the hike from Mylopotas to Klima, you will have the sea to your right. The views are magnificent! From time to time, pause on the path to feel the breeze and watch the ferries traveling between the islands. Occasionally, a small beach shows up on the shore. Listen carefully for the chime of goat bells in the air. Our guide surprised us with a picnic on the empty Klima beach: local cheese, olives, bread, tomato, and of course, coffee. It was the perfect end to our Greece vacation.
Don’t make one of the best hikes in Europe one of your worst mistakes.
Before setting out on any hike, it’s important to be prepared. The last thing you want to do is ruin your experience by underestimating the challenge. It’s important to keep in mind that difficulty ratings change from person to person regardless of how they are officially (or unofficially) marked. What is easy for one may be difficult for another depending on fitness level, age, experience, etc.
Before you begin a new trail, be sure to research important factors such as incline and nature of the path. Is it steep, rocky, or narrow? These characteristics may enhance the difficulty of the hike. How long should it take? Length of time is generally based on a reasonable fitness level. Don’t overestimate your abilities. If you know you’re not in good shape, a 1.5 hr hike may actually take you 2.5 hrs. Be sure you are up to the task, take plenty of water, and pack snacks for when you need to refuel. Always wear proper hiking boots, dress accordingly, and don’t be afraid to take trekking poles for extra support.
Now, go make one of the best hikes in Europe one of your best travel experiences yet!