Europe’s greatest hiking trails

17/01/2019 15:47

Written by Bradt Travel Guides

The Laugavegur Trail, Iceland

Laugavegur Trail, Iceland Nicram Sabod, ShutterstockThe Laugavegur Trail is a rite of passage of Icelanders © Nicram Sabod, Shutterstock

The highland trek between Landmannalaugar and Thórsmörk is one that every Icelander walks at least once in their lifetime. Crossing such primitive terrain is truly invigorating, and the overall experience is also exhilarating. The fact that this is a busy and well-trodden route doesn’t make it any less beautiful. The marked trail is 56km long and fluctuates a good 1,000m in altitude. Warm (and dry!) mountain huts are situated all along the way.

Sentiero Azzurro, Italy

Cinque Terre Footpath Italy Liguria by ELEPHOTOS ShutterstockThe Sentiero Azzurro links the five villages of the Cinque Terre © ELEPHOTOS, Shutterstock

The loveliest way to explore the Cinque Terre is on foot, and the five villages are linked by the Sentiero Azzurro, the Blue Footpath. It’s 14km long and takes anywhere between 21/2 and 5 hours to walk. The hills are dotted with Aleppo pines and the coastal scrub, macchia. Higher up there are chestnut trees, cork, myrtle broom and arboreal heather.

Rota Vicentina, Portugal

Rota Vincentina Alentejo Portugal by Hans Slegers DreamstimeThe Rota Vicentina offers one of Europe's most visually-striking coastal walks © Hans Slegers, Dreamstime   

Alentejo’s Rota Vicentina is one of Europe’s most spectacular coastal paths, running along deserted beaches, craggy cliff tops and riverbanks, through meadows bursting with wild flowers, cork oak and pine forests and herb-scented maquis, and cutting through a string of magical little villages along the way. Almost all of the route lies within the Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Nature Reserve, a 200km-long chunk of protected shoreline.

The Pilgrims’ Trail, Sweden

Pilgrims Trail Dalsland Sweden Henrik Trygg West Sweden Tourist BoardThe Pilgrim's Trail spans over 100km © Henrik Trygg, West Sweden Tourist Board

Spanning over 100km of tremendously varied terrain, the Pilgrims’ Trail stretches from Vänersborg in the south of Dalsland to Åmål in the north. The name stems from the time when the path was walked by pilgrims on their way to holy Nidaros (present-day Trondheim) in Norway, which was northern Europe’s most important pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Between Vänersborg and Upperud the trail is suitable for everyone as it follows quiet country roads and footpaths, passing several medieval churches along the way. North of Upperud it traverses more challenging landscapes, characterised by steep gradients and ravines, as well as areas of pristine wilderness. It’s an ideal way to get close to nature – there are several places to break the journey overnight and public transport options, too. Upperud 9:9, for example, offers a special three-night Pilgrims’ Trail package, including accommodation, transport and food. 

Lovren to Vojak, Croatia

Ucka, Istria © PhotonetThose who reach the highest point of Ucka are rewarded with spectacular views © Ucka, Photonet

A long but rewarding hike, beginning just above sea level in the small town of Lovran, and climbing to the highest point of Učka, known as Vojak or sometimes Vrh Učka. Almost 1,400m of ascent on clearly marked trails, mostly through forest and sometimes open meadows, are rewarded by spectacular views from the summit, over the Adriatic and the islands of the Kvarner Gulf, and far across the undulating hills of the Istrian interior.

The Müllerthal Trail, Luxembourg

Mullerthal Trail Luxembourg by © Office of National TourismLuxembourg's 'Little Switzerland' boasts some challenging walks © Office of National Tourism 

Those looking for a serious workout while in Luxembourg's Little Switzerland may want to attempt this trail. It is divided into three separate looping routes, which look on a map as if they are holding hands at the points where they join up. You can tackle them individually, or for a real challenge do all three and the three ‘extra’ add-on options, a round trip of 150km. That will take you past almost everything there is to see in this region.

Slattanesgotan trail, Faroe Islands

Gasadalur Faroe Islands by Nick Fox ShutterstockThe tiny settlement of Gásadalur, where the trail begins © Nick Fox, Shutterstock 

This trail on Vagar leads from Gásadalur east along the north coast past the now-uninhabited village of Víkar to the island’s northern tip, Slættanes, opposite Vestmanna on Streymoy. Literally ‘the Slattanes road’, it passes through an area of outstanding natural beauty (the pasture on the floodplain around Vikar, for example, is exceptionally rich) and offers solitude in plenty; indeed, this isolated route was once the only way to reach these two remote settlements.

Alpe-Adria Trail, Austria, Slovenia, Italy

The Alpe-Adria trail in Nockberge National Park, Austria by Franz Gerdl, Kaernten WerbungThe Alpe-Adria trail covers three countries © Franz Gerdl, Kaernten Werbung 

Stretching for 750km through the mountains of Carinthia, Slovenia and northern Italy, the Alpe-Adria Trail is one of the most exciting and breathtaking hikes in the world. Starting at the foot of Austria’s highest peak, the Grossglockner, it meanders through spectacular mountain scenery, past pristine alpine lakes, wildlife-rich national parks and plunging gorges.

Via Dinarica

The Via Dinarica trail by Adnan BubaloThe Via Dinarica is far more than your average hiking trail © Adnan Bubalo 

The Via Dinarica is more than just a hiking trail – it is a journey to forgotten times where the customs of old-world Europe thrive. Encompassing seven countries across the Balkans, it is a rustic and raw symbiosis of the cultural and natural heritage of the Dinaric Alps, where traditional architecture, lifestyle and gastronomy are matched by some of the most breathtaking landscapes on the continent. Split in to three trails that wind through 1930km of pristine wilderness, it remains untouched by mass tourism – go now, while this is the case!

Want to don your hiking boots? Find out more:

Alentejo the Bradt Guide Bradt guide to the Alpe-Adria Trail by Rudolf Abraham Croatia the Bradt Guide  Faroe Islands the Bradt Guide Liguria Bradt Travel Guide 3 

Bradt guide to Iceland by Andrew Evans Luxembourg the Bradt Guide by Tim Skelton West Sweden the Bradt Guide by James Proctor Bradt guide to the Via Dinarica, White Trail in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Tim Clancy 

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