9 Best European Walking Holidays
The keen walkers among us love exploring new places and cultures. Hiking is all about heading somewhere different, which is why European walking holidays are surging in popularity today.
If you fancy travelling somewhere fresh and exciting, or even just combining a relaxing holiday with your favourite hobby, read through our top picks for the best walking holidays abroad in 2017.
Tour du Mont Blanc (France)
This always ranks highly as a European walking holiday. About 110 miles in length and weaving through the stunning scenery of France, Italy and Switzerland, the Tour du Mont Blanc trail lets you see, taste and experience three iconic cultures in just 11 days (unless you’re faster than us or want to take your time).
On this alpine trek — which circles the Mont Blanc Massif — you’ll experience an ascent/descent of about 10,000m overall. But if this sounds doable to you, it’s definitely worth it. Not only do you pass by glaciers, waterfalls and forests, but you can also call at quaint villages including Chamonix and Courmayeur where we ensure you’ll enjoy amazing wine and food!
Slightly longer than the Tour du Mont Blanc at 270 miles, the Kungsleden (or King’s Trail) runs through one of Europe’s biggest protected areas and has plenty to offer. Don’t worry, most hikers only usually do a section of it anyway.
The most northerly part of the Kungsleden is in Lapland, where the trail leads south to Kebnekaise — Sweden’s tallest mountain. Depending on where you start and end on this trail, you can see an Arctic landscape of tundra and glaciers. Plus, you get to stay in a cosy mountain cabin, which really adds to the atmosphere! We recommend you go in either June or July where you’ll get to see the spellbinding midnight sun phenomenon.
Slovenian Mountain Trail
This rugged trek is a fantastic European walking holiday and features all of Slovenia’s alpine ranges (Julian, Kamnik and Karavanke). Taking you on a 310-mile journey through tiny villages, jagged peaks, deep valleys, and sprawling plains; you eventually reach the pretty village of Ankaran on the Adriatic Sea coast. The Slovenian Mountain Trail takes hikers from the cool climate of the nation’s highest mountain, Triglav, to the warm, temperate Mediterranean weather of the coastal vineyards.
El Camino (Spain)
If you want a taste of history to go with your European walking holiday, try El Camino in Spain. You can start your hike in various spots, although many walkers find The French Way the most scenic. On this route, you begin in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (five miles from the Spanish border) and cross the Pyrenees into the countryside. Then again, you could try The English Way and start off at coastal city, A Coruña, instead.
El Camino was a Roman trade and Christian pilgrimage route, before becoming Spain’s most famous and well-walked hiking trail. Although centred on adventurous hikes today, the trail has retained some of its religious and cultural significance, since you’ll end at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela — where the remains of Saint James are supposedly buried.
If you fancy a challenge, then this is one of the best European walking holidays you could choose. The GR20 trail crosses the French island of Corsica diagonally and runs for approximately 111 miles across a rugged mountain track splintered by gorges and pine forests. Despite being one of the continent’s toughest walking trails, you can actually do it in just 15 days with no climbing equipment!
As long as you have good fitness levels, we’d urge you to try the GR20 hike. You can see glacial lakes, such as Lac de Melo and Lac de Capitello, alongside roaming wildlife, snowy peaks and the sea coast during your trip. Split into two parts: the steeper and rockier northern trail (from Calenzana to Vizzavona) is thought to be the most beautiful, but the southern section (Vizzavona to Conca) is generally a lot easier and you get to enjoy the pretty meadows of the Coscione plateau.
Hiking Norway’s mighty Hardangervidda plateau is no easy feat. Taking between 7-12 days to complete, this walking trail is the ideal option if you want a spectacular route punctured with plenty of peaceful moments and solitude.
The other good thing about the Hardangervidda walk is the variety; you can pretty much take whichever route you like, from easy strolls to mountainous hikes. Hardangervidda National Park is a naturally stunning place to visit, featuring lakes, fjords, valleys, mountains, and waterfalls. If you want to really see the best of Norway, you can see it here. On top of that, Hardangervidda has one of the largest populations of wild reindeer on the continent as well as the largest preserved medieval stave church in the country, Heddalstavkirke.
West Highland Way (Scotland)
Of course, you don’t have to board a plane to experience a breathtaking hike. The West Highland Way track is an incredible route connecting Milngavie and Fort William that you can complete in between 6-8 days. So, it’s perfect if you’re looking for a short walking break. This 96-mile route is the most popular in Scotland and it’s not hard to see why. During your journey, you’ll pass Mugdock Country Park, stroll along the Loch Lomond shoreline, go through Rannoch Moor, climb the ‘Devil’s Staircase’, and enter Glen Nevis.
As you’d guess, you get to see the full spectrum of British landscape on this route from still lakes and jagged mountains to sweeping moorland and dense forest. Robert the Bruce and Rob Roy MacGregor are both associated with the area, which has a rich heritage and is still home to old villages like Balmaha, Tyndrum and Inversnaid. Spot deer, otters, badgers, red foxes, feral goats, pine martens, mountain hares, and Scottish wildcats on the West Highland Way before ending in Fort William — the gateway to Ben Nevis!
Thorsmork (Iceland )
Translate the name of this trail into English and you get Thor’s Forest; a beautiful wilderness on the northern side of the volcano, Eyjafjallajokull. If you remember that volcanic eruption in 2010 that cancelled all flights across Europe, you’ll get to see its effect here. Picture ash-covered hills, debris left scattered across the valley and steam coming from deep below the Gigjokull glacier.
A hike across Thorsmork in the Icelandic highlands is truly a unique experience compared to the rest of the trails in our list. The volcanic leftovers have given the near-untouched landscape a captivatingly haunting make-over that almost looks like an alien world. You can walk up towards strategic viewpoints for a panoramic scene or head down through the gullies and ravines.
Sibillini Mountains (Italy)
This mountain group in Italy is part of the Apennines and is home to wildlife including wolves, wildcats, porcupines, roe deer, eagle owls, and peregrine falcons. This is a walkers paradise, with fantastic scenery and excellent accessibility to high peaks. Visit medieval villages, winding rivers, plunging waterfalls and deep caves as you take one of many different routes through Monti Sibillini National Park, which is home to ten mountains towering more than 2,000m.
We suggest that you take a route heading towards Monte Vettore the range’s highest peak where you can also see the glacial Lake Pilato. Or, one passing by Lake Fiastra, with its turquoise water, relaxing beaches, and well-earned taverns and pizzerias.
This is just a small selection of the walking holidays in Europe you can experience. To deal with the rocky terrain, look through our men’s boots and women’s boots. Or to keep your feet cool, browse our range of men’s hiking sandals and women’s walking sandals.