Europe's best hiking routes
If you're already dreaming of escaping to a place higher than your balcony, then these 10 suggestions for hiking trails in Europe might be able to inspire you to clean your hiking boots and prepare them for when the time is right.
El Caminito Del Rey, Spain
Located in the south of Spain, this path goes through the beautiful area of the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes and will certainly make you breathe harder. While the route is only 8km (5 miles) and won’t be a challenge for most people, its setting might not favor those with weak hearts. Imagine a 700m deep naturally sculpted canyon and many glass bridges to walk over it. But not to worry, due to its popularity of being one of the world’s most dangerous paths, it was closed for a few years for restoration and now you can still get the adrenaline rush but without fearing for your safety.
This hike has such phenomenal scenery that it should be on the bucket list of every hiker around the world. It certainly requires some effort to complete it (27km/16.5 miles are no joke) but it will reward you with beautiful views of the lakes and mountains around. The highlight is the Trolltunga rock in the end, which juts into space 700m above Ringedalsvatnet lake. To get your picture taken on the rock it's best to go there early in the morning to beat the crowds, which can result in queues of up to an hour!
Musala Peak, Bulgaria
Eastern Europe is truly a hidden gem and that includes mountains as well. While Romania, Greece and Croatia offer a lot of hiking opportunities, it is in Bulgaria where the highest peak of the Balkans is situated. Musala is part of the Rila mountain and it stretches 2925m into the sky, offering stunning views of the surroundings. Don't be discouraged by its height - there's a lift from the ski resort Borovets which will take you to 2369m. The hike to the summit then takes 3-4 hours. Throughout your journey you will go around a few glacier lakes and 3 different huts, at which you can buy amazing mountain tea for a boost.
Lac Blanc, France
This popular walk, one of the highlights of the Tour du Mont Blanc, attracts people from all over the world and is a must-see when visiting the Chamonix area. Unlike some of the other hikes we have suggested, this one is not too difficult and doesn’t require you to have any specific experience. You shouldn’t forget your camera because the views are simply stunning – high mountains with snow and a lake reflecting everything around it, including the Mont Blanc massif. Head there early to avoid the crowds and enjoy the pristine nature by yourself.
Switzerland is truly a mountain paradise and Lauterbrunnen makes no exception. This little town is located in a valley, but still surrounded by the Alps, which contributes for stunning views and lots of different trails waiting to be explored. The Romantic trail is an easy short walk and suitable for all levels; the Panorama trail leads to the best places to take that dream photo of the Swiss nature; and the famous walk to Murren will just leave you speechless. Of course there are so many other hikes – you just have to pick one based on your preferences.
High Tatras, Slovakia
If you want to experience something different from the Alps, then the High Tatras are your new bucket list entry. Stretched across both Slovakia and Poland, these mountains offer beautiful views and thousands of hiking possibilities, without being overcrowded with tourists like the Alps can be. Our favorite suggestions are Kriván, one of the most popular hikes in the area; Vel’ká Svišt’ovka and Zelene Pleso, a hike featuring the pristine Green Lake; and the hike to Rysy, the highest peak in Poland, for which you will start in Slovakia, but cross the border into Poland shortly before the summit.
Fairy Pools, Scotland
Scotland’s nature includes so much more than the Loch Ness Lake and hiking is definitely one of the highlights there. The walk to the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye is rather short and will not use all of your energy. Instead you will be able to focus on the beautiful scenery and let yourself be captivated by the blue water. There are many waterfalls to be seen throughout the walk, so take your time (and your camera).
If you’re feeling rather adventurous (and the weather is good enough), there are many opportunities to swim around or even jump from 10 meters into the water. Keep in mind that the water rarely gets warm, so being careful and maybe wearing a wetsuit will make your experience much more enjoyable.
If Austria is on your itinerary, then definitely don’t miss the Zillertal region. It is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle in big cities and its wide variety of activities will satisfy your wanderlust. There are hiking trails, mountain biking paths, cable cars, outdoor swimming pools, climbing tracks – something for everyone.
In particular, there are more than 300 hiking trails in this region, so you will definitely find something to your taste and experience. Once you’ve had your workout for the day, try one of the many restaurants in the area, serving authentic and delicious Austrian food.
Cinque Terre National Park, Italy
If you still haven’t decided whether to spend your holiday in the mountains or by the sea, then this trail is the perfect answer to your dilemma. The national park itself includes more than 120km (74.5 miles) worth of hiking and trekking paths, but the Blue Trail is certainly our favorite since it covers the best in just a 1 day hike. It connects 5 different coastal towns and provides you with the best views of both the towns and the seaside. If you feel like unwinding during the 10km (6.2 mile) walk, you have plenty of opportunities to have a refreshing swim in the sea.
Remember that beautiful opening scene from the classic film The Sound of Music, where Maria sings in the hills of Austria? Well that was in fact filmed in Germany’s only alpine national park. Berchtesgaden National Park offers something for everyone – from small kids to experienced hikers. Its variety of flora and fauna is also fascinating and will keep everyone interested. What’s more, there are also boat tours, mountain biking paths and open-air swimming pools to ensure you have the ultimate wanderlust experience.
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