There is no doubt that Europe is overflowing with beautiful cities, stunning beaches and rich history but there is much more to this continent than just sightseeing.
Although it may not boast as many remote mountain ranges or 8000’ers as other continents, Europe offers world-class hiking opportunities.
Whether you are looking for a multi-day mountain trek or a lowland camping adventure, a snowy paradise or a sunnier destination, there will be something that fits the bill.
We have pulled together just a handful of the best hikes in Europe that offer something unique and will have you taking out your camera time and time again.
There is also an abundance of trails in the UK that we haven’t included on the below list, but check out our top hiking trails for the UK.
France, Italy and Switzerland
The Alps are the ultimate destination for outdoor enthusiasts and the Tour du Mont Blanc, often referred to as the TMB, is undoubtedly one of the greatest hiking trails in Europe.
The high-altitude loop crosses three borders and climbs six passes, traversing beneath glaciers and meandering through alpine villages. Needless to say, the walking is sustained and strenuous, often at high altitude.
Flowing over the peaks and valleys of the Western Alps, then meandering through fields of flowers, pine-scented woodland and over the top of glaciers, The Tour du Mont Blanc definitely deserves a podium-position as one of the best hikes in Europe and even in the world.
Hikers can see everything from butterflies and marmots to wild boars, golden eagles and even wolf packs or lynx along the way.
This trek crosses from France to Italy to Switzerland, then back into France for a climactic ascent to the beautiful Lac Blanc, passing some of the best and most densely located peaks in Europe. It is an extraordinary journey for anyone wanting to explore one of the best hiking areas in Europe and once back in Chamonix, there are additional day hikes on offer. There are also plenty of route variations to satisfy even the pickiest of hikers.
Although the trek is physically challenging, the reward is that you can cover the most picturesque parts of the continent in under two weeks. And if that doesn’t sell it for you, the TMB offers a real treat with its accommodation options, varying from budget-friendly rustic mountain huts to boutique hostels and luxury ski resorts.
The King’s Trail, or Kungsleden, is a superb wilderness trek in Lapland that passes through the Vindelfjällens Nature Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Europe. The route takes visitors to the far north of Sweden, trekking through scenic mountains and four national parks that make up World Heritage Site of Laponia.
Even though it is a bit more remote than other destinations on our list, key draws include the snow-capped mountains, huge glaciated valleys, winding rivers, lakes, arctic tundra and northern wildlife.
You may even get the chance to meet the indigenous Sami people herding their reindeer around remote settlements.
Stay in the mountain huts for the authentic experience, with many scattered along the way to break your journey up at, and enjoy the only true wilderness of the Western Europe.
Despite its location above the Arctic Circle and cold temperatures, the King’s Trail is suitable for hikers of varying ability thanks to its low altitudes and fairly level terrain.
The The trail is generally well-marked and many sections are well-equipped and maintained with plank walkways covering swampy or rocky ground.
There are bridges to cross non-fordable streams and during the summer season you get to take a rowing boat over the lakes and rivers.
Multiple entry and exit points mean you can easily tailor your hike and many walkers only do a section of it. If you want to push yourself further, take on the full trek and tag on a day’s ascent of Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain. Just be sure to time your visit carefully and come prepared as Arctic mountain weather can be unpredictable.
France and Switzerland
The Haute Route is a multi-day, hut-to-hut alpine tour that is both spectacular and demanding in equal measure.
Located in a world of 4,000-meter glaciers, towering snow-capped peaks, lush green alpine valleys and picturesque villages, the Haute Route is a trek of contrasts. It is therefore not hard to understand why this cross-border trek is not only considered one of the 10 best hiking circuits in Europe, but in the world.
The route offers several variations including the Ski Touring Haute Route, the Classic Summer Haute Route, the Classic Winter Haute Route and the adapted Low-Level Route.
Depending on the route and accommodation you choose, an average day will incorporate 10 to 15 kilometres of walking with elevation gains of about 1,400 metres.
The biggest challenge lies in its ascents and descents but is achievable by any hiker in good physical condition.
The translation of Haute Route is “The High Level Route” – fitting given that it traverses below the summits of 10 out of the 12 of the highest peaks in the Alps and crosses several passes, the highest of which is almost 3,000 metres high.
The trek takes advantage of the popular mountain huts and small inns and hotels in the villages along the way. Hikers pass through the centre of the French and Swiss Alps, both stunning but distinctive in their language, culture, architecture and food.
It is best to walk this route during summer, otherwise you will need to brush up on your mountaineering skills and pack crampons, ice axes and plenty of layers.
Hot Spring Route
If you want to experience icy landscapes, thawing waterfalls and the opportunity to see glaciers without heading to the Himalayas, this is one of your best options.
Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail is the country’s most popular hike and passes through scenery that is quite simply otherworldly.
The environment is a geological feast thanks to Iceland’s volcanic past. The landscape, which you would expect to be white, white and more white is actually colourful and varied.
In summer months trekkers are treated to rainbow-coloured hills, black volcanic deserts, neon green valleys and pearly ice caves.
The hills comprise of liquid lava that has been frozen in time, rolling out into moon-like plateaus of black volcanic ash and perfectly-shaped volcanoes cropping up from the under the floor.
The majority of the hike is undulating and anyone with a decent level of fitness should be able to complete it. If you want to extend your trip you can combine the Laugavegur Trail with the demanding two-day Fimmvörðuháls Trail for one of the most rewarding (albeit much more challenging) hiking experiences on earth.
The Alta Via (translating as high routes), are the long-distance trails of the Dolomites – a group of mountains in the northern Italian Alps. Alta Via 1 (AV1) is considered the classic high route of the Dolomites and offers moderate-level trekking.
In 2009 the Dolomites were named a UNESCO Site in recognition of their outstanding beauty and this route passes through some of the finest scenery in the area. From jaw-dropping rock formations, glacier lakes, deep-cut valleys and alpine meadows, the trek has it all.
It also passes old battle sites from World War One, with optional cable sections allowing hikers to explore the rocky hillsides and tunnels, including the famous Galleria Lagazuoi.
Hikers normally take around 10 days to complete the entire route where they can contemplate the magnificence of famous peaks such as the Tofana, Lagazuoi, Pelmo and of course the mighty Civetta.
Each evening you have a new village to look forward to, with hospitable hosts and a mix of French and Austrian influences noticeable in the food.
Widely regarded as some of the most stunning mountains in the world, you will pass through multiple regions and several natural parks, experiencing a variety of landscapes and geological features. These range from green pastures to lunar environments and wooded valleys to stomach-turning high peaks.
As a result, you should be ready to tackle all sorts of terrain.
Underfoot there is a variety of tracks and trails, with predominantly single-track paths that are rocky in places, some steps and gravel forest roads elsewhere.
It is possible to complete just a section of the AV1 if you don’t have the time or energy to tackle the full route. There are also hundreds of other trails in the Alps to choose from, ranging from a few hours to a couple of weeks’ trekking. Alternatively, if you fancy something a little tougher, the Alta Via 2 is dubbed Alta Via delle Leggende (High Route of Legends) as it is more strenuous and remains at a higher elevation throughout.
GR20 is an advanced trail along the jagged spine of Corsica’s mountainous centre, crossing diagonally from north to south.
This stunningly beautiful and varied route climbs through dense forest and larico pines, past shepherds’ huts and up through wispy coastal clouds before entering the quieter, mountainous inland.
GR20 is less of a designated trail and more an itinerary of mountain climbs.
From Calenzana the route is a chain of relentless ascents and descents on very steep and spiky footpaths as hikers head south along the island’s single mountain range.
Thrown in at the deep end, the start of the trek packs in the hardest days, getting slightly less gruelling as times goes on.
That said, trekkers must be prepared for a particularly savage section where they will rely on bolted chains to clamber over a steep ridge.
Over the two weeks of walking, there is almost 12,000 metres of elevation gain.
However, the efforts are not without reward. Trailing along the mountain range provides outstanding views of the the warm valleys below, lush meadows and sparkling lakes.
Each year over 10,000 hikers attempt the GR20 but with a 75% drop out rate – a testament to its difficulty.
The northern section is the most technical, set in a mineral environment with loose rocks, whilst the southern section is lower and more sheltered, but can quickly heat up in summer months. As the heat can add unecessary pain to the journey, try hiking either in early June, September or even October.
Crossing the entire country from east to west, the route takes in 33 different stages that when plotted on a map fall in the shape of an eagle with its wings outstretched over the alpine world.
The trail stretches between the Kaiser Mountains in North Tirol to the Großglockner peaks in East Tirol, combining gentle walks across picturesque landscapes to strenuous treks through the region’s highest peaks.
The hike is relatively tough, with a change in altitude over the entire trail is around 31,000 metres, but each individual stage runs at a similar altitude.
Those that conquer the trail will enjoy the same perspective as an eagle in flight, rewarded with sweeping views over valleys, snowy peaks and mountain chains.
Walking along this high-alpine trail opens up new and unique perspectives.
For most people the highlight of the entire hike is the Goetheweg Trail in the Karwendel Mountains overlooking Innsbruck.
The contrast between the remote mountain world and the urban setting of the regional capital is unfathomable.
Don’t fancy taking on the trail in its entirety? We don’t blame you. Tirol’s comprehensive network of public transport makes it easy to travel around the region and hikers can access the start and finish points of each stage using using trains and buses.
These multi-day sub-sections of the Eagle Walk, ranging between two and five days, generally start and end next to stations. The most popular shortened hike is the first three stages through the Kaiser Mountains. Sure-footedness and a head for heights are recommended on many of the stages. If you don’t have time for a multi-day trip, it is also possible to pick a day hike, with opportunities for all levels of hikers.
Slovenian Mountain Trail
Slovenia is a country well-known for its mountains and picturesque lakes and this trek combines the best of both – making it the most popular (and longest) long-distance trail in the country. The Slovenian Mountain Trail incorporates all of the alpine ranges in Slovenia – Kamnik Alps, Karavanke and Julian Alps.
Starting with a hike across Pohorje, the trail first enters the Alps in the Kamnik and Savinja Alpine range, running across its highest peaks and then continuing along the Karavanke range that separates Slovenia from Austria.
From here, it descends into the valley and rises into the heart of the Julian Alps, before eventually approaching the glistening Adriatic Sea.
The trail connects 49 mountain huts, 23 peaks and five towns passing through extensive forests, which are home to a variety of wildlife.
If you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of animals such as the golden eagle or brown bear. Look out for native flora such as edelweiss or snake’s head fritillary, both of which are endangered and protected in Slovenia.
As one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world is not as popular as it should be, meaning you won’t face the same crowds as some of the other routes through the Alps.
This is because Slovenians are avid but predominantly day-hikers and the country doesn’t get many international tourists outside of the Alps region.
This trek crosses the Hardangervidda National Park, from the high mountain plateau down through the canyons to the Hardangerfjord.
The Hardangervidda Plateau is one of Norway’s and Europe’s most wondrous open spaces, encompassing nearly 10,000 square kilometres of Arctic wilderness (bigger than Yellowstone National Park!). It is the largest plateau of its kind in Europe, with a cold year-round alpine climate, and Hardangerjøkulen, one of Norway’s largest glaciers, is situated here.
The route is breathtaking from start to finish, passing through majestic fjord landscape, over the largest high-mountain plateau in Northern Europe, glimpsing the Vøringsfossen waterfall and spectacular Måbødalen canyon.
Needless to say there are plenty of reasons and places to make a stop.
Crossing paths with others only around the main huts, the majority of time hikers can enjoy the untouched corners of this Norwegian paradise in solitude.
After the staffed lodges in the north, the terrain gets increasingly barren and huts and trails thin out. The treeless scenery and large herds of wild reindeer are reminiscent of Lapland.
The Plateau sits entirely above the tree line with a rugged composition of rolling mountains, glaciers, boulders, lakes, rivers, and bogs. The hiking is not easy and this adventure is best-suited to fit hikers. That said, once on the Plateau the terrain is moderate, meaning that it isn’t overly difficult.
There are easier options available for less experienced hikers. Visitors can opt for short walks, mountain tours, city walks, day trips, top tours and excursions at Hardangervidda.
France and Spain
The Camino De Santiago trails are a a network of pilgrims’ ways that lead to a shrine at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. Originally the most famous route for Catholic pilgrims, and Medieval Europe’s answer to a thru-hike, it is today a well-mapped trail for culture-driven hikers from around the world.
The most popular and picturesque route is The French Way (Camino de Francés). This trek takes its visitors across valleys with powerful rivers, alongside majestic summits through Pamplona, Burgos, Leon and a host of smaller towns and villages to see the diversity of people and culture in France and Spain.
Unlike other long-distance hikes, this trail is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Thanks to its heritage, the route is packed with major cultural sites of the region and a vast array of quaint villages to stop off and enjoy the local cuisine.
The majority of the Camino de Francés is on well-maintained tracks or pavement with very little technical walking. Various towns and settlements dot the route with just a handful of mountainous areas and the trail is even most of the time – making it doable by hikers of different ages and abilities.
If you want to dodge the crowds and opt for something nearby but a little more quiet, the alternative (yet equally compelling) Camino dos Faros coastal trail is the country’s under-the-radar gem.
It weaves through the rugged, wild terrain of Costa da Morte on the Atlantic coast of Galicia, Spain, with much of the same landscape and scenery en route.
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