10 unforgettable hikes across Europe

Want to get off the grid and immerse yourself in the wilderness? From seeking out vampiric castles to following in the footsteps of pilgrims and polar explorers, here are 10 incredible hikes across Europe...

Dingle Way, Ireland

Slea Head, Dingle peninsula, County Kerry. Credit: Jenifoto406.
The Emerald Isle dazzles from coast to coast and the diverse landscapes of the Dingle Way are no exception. Pass lush green fields dotted with sheep and cattle, catch a glimpse of the mysterious Skellig Islands punching up from the North Atlantic, and scramble up to the summit of Mount Brandon for fantastic panoramas.

Perhaps what makes this path most enjoyable are the picturesque villages brimming with quintessential Celtic charm scattered along the route. Here, the many pubs and B&Bs provide the perfect place to rest your feet with a pint of Guinness to soothe any lingering aches.

Camino de Santiago, Portugal and Northern Spain

Pilgrim on the Way of St James from Portugal to Spain. Credit: iStock: Martin Schütz.
Passing through timeless landscapes and ancient villages, the Way of St. James is a well-worn path trodden by a thousand years worth of pilgrims. After obtaining your Pilgrim’s Passport at Porto’s Cathedral, you’ll embark on a two-week trek that will take you past bird-filled wetlands, lighthouse-studded headlands, grape-garlanded vineyards and humble fishing ports.

The final stretch from Padrón in Northern Spain retraces the oxen path that delivered St. James to his final resting place. You’ll know you're close to reaching your destination when you spy the majestic towers of Santiago de Compostela piercing the horizon.

Il Sentiero degli Dei, Italy

Aerial view of Positano. Credit: iStock: karp85.
The Path of the Gods” is an apt name for this route that traces Italy’s sun-kissed Amalfi Coast. Visions of dramatic cliffs plunging into the deep blue water of the Mediterran Sea, the scent of lemon trees in the air, and the soothing sound of waves crashing against secluded sandy coves are sure to inspire worship of Mother Nature.

Breathtaking views unfold at every corner, making it easy to imagine how this landscape has inspired so many writers and poets. When you reach the end of your journey at the sleepy village of Nocelle, remember to look back—some of the most impressive views of the heavenly coastline can be enjoyed from here.

Trollsteinen, Norway

Arctic landscape at night in Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Credit: Erectus.
Those brave enough to embark on a polar expedition through Svalbard’s arctic terrain will be rewarded with a dazzling show of snowy peaks and luminescent glaciers. The path unwinds through an icy wilderness, past Trollsteinen, or “The Troll Rock,” an ancient rock tower that beckons intrepid travelers on. 

Though this unforgiving landscape may be challenging, there is nothing like the sight of the ethereal Northern Lights dancing in the night sky to remind you why you took this journey.

West Highland Way, Scotland

Snows on Rannoch Moor Hills. Credit: George Robertson.
Stretching from Milngavie to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, the West Highland Way is cobbled together from old drovers’ trails, coaching paths, and military roads used during the Jacobite Uprisings.

Passing through wild and windy landscapes, you’ll cross the awe-inspiring expanse of Rannoch Moor, skirt along the banks of serene Loch Lomond, and test your endurance against the Devil’s Staircase. En route, quench your thirst with a dram of whiskey at Glengoyne Distillery and warm up at Scotland’s oldest pub, The Drovers Inn.

Tatra Mountains, Poland to Slovakia

Sunny footpath in Tatras Mountains, Poland. Credit: Shaiith.
Skirting the mountainous border between Poland and Slovakia, this day-long hike begins in Kuźnice and takes a circular route through the Tatras’ most spectacular scenery, from craggy cliffs to pristine pine forest. 

The journey includes a steep ascent on slippery sheets of rock but the panoramic views at the summit make it well worth the effort. Along the way, be sure to pause at the historic mountain hut, Hala Kondratowa, to drink in the sweeping vista of golden brush, forest-veiled valleys, and soaring rocky peaks.

Carpathian Mountains, Romania

Winding road through the gorge in spring, Piatra Craiului National Park, Romania. Credit: Bereczki Barna.
This four-day hike through the heart of Romania’s fantastical Carpathian Mountains is an opportunity to enjoy true wilderness: emerald forests, unusual rock formations, limestone cliffs and craggy gorges. Setting off from Sinaia, you’ll follow peaceful forest trails and sleepy streams, taking shelter overnight in quaint cabanas (mountain huts).

The journey will take you past the picturesque village of Bran, home to the famous 14th century “Dracula’s Castle”. While there’s no evidence to suggest that Dracula author Bram Stoker was actually inspired by Bran Castle, its charming architecture, display of royal art and the exhibition on Romanian peasant culture make it well worth a visit.

Kungsleden Trail, Sweden

Reindeers in Sarek national park. Credit: istock: yes-thats-it.
The King’s Trail, Sweden’s longest walking route, winds its way above the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland. Here, in Europe’s most sparsely populated region, vast swathes of birch and needle forest blanket the undulating landscape.

Tracks in the puffy snow drifts betray the presence of life: a Sami reindeer grazing, a scavenging wolverine, a wolf searching for prey, or perhaps even a bear cub stirring from hibernation. At night, you’ll take shelter from the wilderness in cozy cabins, illuminated by the spectacular midnight sun or kaleidoscopic aurora borealis.

Julian Alps Peak Walk, Slovenia

Lake Bled. Credit: iStock: helovi.
Starting an ending at picture perfect Lake Bled, this adventure through Triglav National Park takes in sweeping mountain scenery, thick fir-tree forests, gorgeous glacial pools, and tumbling waterfalls. As you climb, incredible vistas unfold before you, from airy alpine meadows filled with flowers to rocky ravines and canyons carved out by aqua-blue rivers. 

Along the way, look out for secret caves and caverns lined with creeping moss and fossilised ammonites in the rocks around the Triglav Lakes. At the end of your journey, catching a cable car up to the peak of Mount Vogel for a spectacular panoramic view of the Julian Alps feels like a particularly special reward.

Wales Coast Path, Wales

Strumble Head Lighthouse. Credit: Valerijs Jegorovs.
The first path in the world to follow a country’s coastline in its entirety, the Wales Coast Path is an epic trail several millennia in the making. Encompassing windswept peninsulas, surf-beaten cliffs and stunning beaches, there is no shortage of breathtaking views.

Magnificent Chepstow Castle looming over the River Wye; myth-shrouded Snowdon brooding on the horizon; the last of the day’s rays illuminating the sweeping curve of Caernarfon Bay—these are but a taste of the sights worth savoring along the route.

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