An active and enjoyable way to discover Europe is hiking! You can walk in couples, as families, or with a group of friends. You can opt for an easy, pastoral route or chose an extreme mountain trail.
Which way to follow?
This is the best way to reach seldom-seen and protected spots, see breathtaking scenery, and have incomparable cultural experiences, whether in one of our wonderful European countries or a pan-European region. Vacations without borders: that’s our suggestion!
The European Ramblers’ Association is an umbrella organization for all the hiking associations in Europe, its objectives being to develop sustainable hiking, to protect Europe’s cultural heritage, and to safeguard rural space. Their European Code of Good Walking encourages mutual respect between walkers and the countries they visit.
The length of a hike is extremely variable, ranging from a ramble of a few hours or a full-day hike, to trekking in the mountains for days, or even for weeks, with accommodation en route.
Major Hiking Trails in Europe
Europe offers, hiking enthusiasts 11 long distance paths (identified by the letter “E” followed by a number). These paths follow the existing network of both large and small trails in each country. They allow you to crisscross Europe, from north to south and from east to west. The length and variety of these trails is impressive: you can hike the entire trail or choose sections of it, according to the amount of time you have available.
So get your boots on, grab your hiking poles, keep maps and compasses at hand, and embark on an extraordinary adventure!
Among these eleven paths, the E6 path starts in Finland and crosses to the southwest of Sweden, via Stockholm and the lake region. From there, it takes you on to Denmark and all the way to the border of Germany to Lübeck, a Hanseatic town. Next, you follow the southwest Baltic coast via Kiel, continuing to Brunswick and, after passing through part of the Bavarian forest, you reach Austria and the famous Wachau region, the city of Melk and its famous church. After that, the route takes you to Slovenia, a hiker’s heaven. Wherever you are, you’re surrounded by nature at your fingertips…and at your toes. Next, get acquainted with the Dinaric Alps where fantastic scenery is waiting for you. Path E6 crosses the country via the Julian Alps and limestone (karst) country to lose itself in northern Greece in its “backbone”, the Pindus Range. You’ll see ski stations and villages perched high up in the mountains, such as Samarina, the highest village in Greece. You’ll also see the Via Egnatia, one of the ancient Roman roads. You’ll have crossed 5,200 kilometers/3,230 miles and seven different European countries.
Path E4 starts in Tarifa, at the extreme southernmost tip of Spain. You’ll walk northward, crossing Andalusia: it’s your turn to marvel at the Alhambra in Granada, Murcia, Ronda and its dramatic setting. Continuing higher still, in the route takes you to the Pyrenees, via Andorra and headed for France. Just follow your nose and you’ll visit the sublime regions of Languedoc, the Cévennes, the Ardèche and the Rhône Valley en route to Switzerland, the crest of the Jura, and Lake Constance. In Germany and Austria you can choose between two paths; one is easier than the other. Both trails will lead you to Hungary. Here the trail is called “The Blue Route” and leads you all the way across the Hungarian countryside from the Austrian to the Slovakian border, passing by Budapest and Lake Balaton. A little tour in Bulgaria, across the mountains of Rila and Pirin, takes you to Greece. The path leads you across northern Greece to the central part of the country and onto the Peloponnesus. Along the way you’ll be immersed the beauty of the Greek countryside and the cultural richness of the country, and have the opportunity to visit unforgettable sites such as the Meteora monasteries or the cities we all discovered in books read at school: Delphi, Corinth, or the ruins of legendary Sparta.
Jump aboard a ferry and continue the route to Crete. Once there, don’t take off your hiking boots, but go and explore the Samaria Gorge. You won’t regret taking this 18 km/11 mile hike! Another little voyage towards Cyprus, and you’ve reached the end of Path E4. In Cyprus, the E4 trail links Larnaca with Paphos and its pine forests, nature reserves and the Cedar Valley, passing Cape Gkreko, ascending towards Mount Troodos, a few steps from the Monasteries, and then descending towards the Akama Peninsula. The trail lets you discover typical rural areas and areas of great natural beauty, all with impressive historical, archeological, cultural, and ecological value. You’ll have traveled 10,000 km/ 6212 miles and visited nine European countries.
A Mountain Ramble
The Via Alpina offers an itinerary which takes in eight alpine countries. This route traverses the principal chain of the Alps several times linking Trieste (Italy) with Monaco, passing through Bavaria (Germany), Liechtenstein, France, Slovenia, Austria and Switzerland. More than a trip, this experience will be an initiation into Europe, its geography, history, culture, and people. Take big gulps of pure mountain air, enjoy the protected flora and fauna, and imbibe the sumptuous scenery in several national parks!
Austria invites you to explore its Alps on foot! Hike in the Alpbach Valley among some of the most beautiful villages in Europe, an explosion of carved wooden chalets, the windows and balconies dripping with colorful flowers. Next, walk right into Salzburg. You’ll be in the heart of “Sound of Music” country, featuring marvelous views of the mountains, lakes and unspoiled nature; you’ll want to break into song...
Switzerland offers you mountains, alpine meadows, valleys, and glaciers to get your circulation going. From the canton of Grison (home of Heidi), on old mule paths all the way to the Franches Mountains of the Jura, the Jungfraujoch, object of your desires, to the Valais region and its valleys laced with exceptional trails, where you can walk without a care in the world, and never tire of it. “Switzerland touches you, naturally”.
Time for the romantic atmosphere of Germany: its forests, peaks, lakes and valleys, picturesque and welcoming villages will help you discover the Bavarian Alps, and the “Green Roof of Europe”, a magnificent area between the Danube, the Bohemian Forest, and the Austrian border. Make a stop in one of the glass-blowing towns, the specialty of the region!
France, besides its access to Alpine hiking trails, also has legendary hiking trails called “Grande Randonnées” (GR). Among them, for example, is the GR10, which crosses the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, passing across Spain.
Another famous “Grand Randonnée” trail is the GR20, which crosses Corsica from north to south; the wild landscape and fabulous reserves, however, are only for experienced hikers.
Another hike…countryside and coast
Italy is well known for the Alps, and always will be. So how about stirring the dust on the trails of Tuscany? This captivating region of incomparable light and famous cities such as Florence and Siena, will take you in the footsteps of the Etruscans.
In the Baltic States, hikes are particularly popular in all three countries’ national parks. Aukštaitija National Park (Lithuania) is one of the prettiest in the Baltic region, or take a walk in Laheema National Park in Estonia, amongst its pine forests, some over 200 years old, on the shores of the superb lakes formed during the glacial period. In Latvia, in addition to rambling in the national parks of Gauja, Slieter, or Kemeri, plant your hiking poles in the sand of the beaches on the Baltic coast!
Montenegro also offers many surprises: a long, protected coastline, fjords as breathtaking as those in more northern latitudes, fortified cities, high summits to climb, plunging canyons….Are we really on the Adriatic coast?
Rambling in the Isles
The United Kingdom has many hidden charms: the gentle English landscape of Devon or the Lake District, mountains and national parks, or the rugged coastline of Wales, as well as the wild and impressive landscapes of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
If you have itchy feet (!!),Ireland is for you. Romantic mountains and valleys, heather-covered moors, jagged cliffs and peat bogs: don’t miss the opportunity to experience such a variety of scenery and the warmth of an Irish welcome.
Spain will put some mileage on your boots in the Canary Islands, and particularly Gran Canaria, of which a large part is protected by UNESCO. Feast your eyes on its unutterable beauty, panoramas of volcanic rock punctuated with waterfalls. The experience of rugged landscape will delight you.
In the Azores, (Portugal) feel the heat through your shoes on the volcanic cones on the sides of its craters, and then cool them off in lagoons surrounded by luxuriant vegetation. In Madeira (Portugal), plunge into the exotic ambiance of the Laruisliva forest, listed by UNESCO, or choose to explore the impressive scenery as you follow 1400 km/870 miles of the island’s irrigation network.
Finland, country of 1,000 lakes and 35 national parks, offers you a multitude of hiking options - in forests, or along rivers and lakes which will lift your spirits.
The panoramic views of all this well-preserved nature are striking. In Lapland, in the northern part of the country, the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park offers numerous hiking trails in a landscape of small hills, tundra and immense valleys that are a hiker’s dream. And imagine being in this fairytale landscape when the Northern Lights appear….
Iceland attracts walkers to explore its wide open spaces: huge, wind-swept plains, volcanic territory adjacent to glaciers. Your hikes will lead you to splendid waterfalls, hot springs and geysers. The paths are marked; the choice of length and degree of difficulty is yours.
In Norway the feeling of liberty associated with the beauty of the landscape is a rambler’s reward. Choose your own formula: a walk along the fjords, a hike on a glacier or a ramble in the forest will all provide you with lasting memories.
Sweden is crisscrossed with marked trails, from the Baltic coast to the expanses of the far north. Those who appreciate the deserted landscape with typical Nordic fauna should go to Swedish Lapland and trek with the reindeer, in the footsteps of the nomads of yesteryear.