For nature lovers, Europe is the perfect hiking destination. In addition to stunning landscapes, many of the destinations can be hiked in different seasons for a completely different experience.
Head to the Matterhorn in late fall for snow-covered mountains, or take on the mighty mountain in early summer to find flowering meadows and swarms of butterflies. Or discover hut-to-hut hikes for an overnight experience in the wilderness. Whether you’re looking for inspiration, help planning, or a chance to daydream, here’s our list of the best hikes in Europe.
1. Tour du Mont Blanc, Europe
When it comes to European hikes, it’s hard to beat Tour du Mont Blanc, a 170-kilometer system of walking trails set on and around the highest peak in Europe. It’s considered by many to be one of the best hiking areas in the world. While the majority of the most famous trails start on the French side, the Tour du Mont Blanc trails can also be accessed from Switzerland or Italy. Avid hikers can stay overnight in mountain refuges and complete the entire trail system in about 12 days.
The Tour du Mont Blanc trails cross picturesque Alpine villages, flowering meadows, and deep valleys. For those who need a break, there’s also plenty of opportunities to refuel at the mountain refuges along the way.
2. Corsica’s GR20 Trail, France
The French island of Corsica is famous for many things – medieval constructions, old ports, and one of the most beautiful coastlines in the Mediterranean. It’s also home to one of Europe’s toughest long-distance hikes. The GR20 trail runs for 180 kilometres – almost the entire length of the island – and has a massive total elevation of 12,000 meters. Routes are jagged and rocky, with steep descents only apt for very fit hikers.
Only expert hikers usually attempt the entire trail, which takes up to 15 days to complete. For those who want at least part of the experience, the trail is divided into a North (the hardest) part and a South section (slightly flatter).
3. Cinque Terre, Italy
No other hike in Italy comes close to the Cinque Terre route. The paths in this trail connect the five fishing villages that make up Cinque Terre. Set against dramatic coastal scenery and steeply terraced cliffs, the entire hike takes five to six hours. It’s also possible to stop at any of the villages along the way, then resume hiking the next day if you’d rather slow down your hike and linger at the most scenic stops.
You can hike this trail in two directions: from Monterosso or from Riomaggiore. If you start from Riomaggiore, you’ll access all the easy, paved paths first before the trails get increasingly more rugged and challenging. The last section of the trail, between the villages of Vernazza and Monterosso, is the most strenuous, taking you over narrow passageways and rough stone steps until you reach the best viewpoint of the hike. Views over the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea accompany you along the way no matter which way you start.
4. Saalbach to Schmittenhöhe Hike, Austria
The entire route from the Alpine resort town of Saalbach to Schmittenhöhe mountain runs for 17 kilometres and takes at least six hours to complete. Considered one of the most stunning high-altitude hikes in the Eastern Alps, it requires some steep walking and long-distance endurance – but the rewards are more than worth it.
The best way to tackle this hike is to take the Schattberg X-Press gondola lift to the top station. From here, it’s a well-marked trail past Alpine meadows full of flowers, lush mountainsides, and mighty peaks all around. There are no huts along the way, so pack enough food and water for the day.
5. Switzerland’s Engelberg Valley
With hundreds of kilometres available to explore, the Engelberg Valley offers endless hiking opportunities – from multiple-day hut-to-hut hikes to relaxed walking trails with equally stunning views. A popular hike here is the seven-kilometre Brunni Trail, which starts with a ride on the Brunni cable car up to the Ristis station. The views are already stunning from here, opening over the flowering Alpine pastures below and the soaring peaks around it.
The trail is well marked and can be followed easily until you reach the Brunnihütte refuge, which sits right next to Lake Härzli. This is the perfect stop for a quick bite at the small restaurant and to dip your toes in the cool water.
6. Samaria Gorge, Greece
One of Crete’s top attractions, this 16-kilometer trail gets you from an elevation of 1,230 meters down to the shores of the Libyan Sea. The trail zigzags along cliffside vistas and Byzantine ruins as you descend through slippery terrain.
After the steep, difficult first three kilometres, the trail levels out as you reach the bottom of the valley. Once you cross the dry riverbed, the path smooths out almost completely. Continue walking until you find a stream – a great place for a break and to drink some cool water. The rest of the trail crosses through ruined villages and makeshift wooden bridges until you reach the path’s most famous spot, known as “the Gate.”
7. Green Lake Hike, Slovakia
Set in the heart of the country, the High Tatras mountains are part of Slovakia’s oldest national park. The area attracts hikers from all over Europe, who come here for its mix of alpine lakes and rugged mountaintops. You could spend weeks in the High Tatras without running out of hiking trails to discover. But if you’re looking for a moderate adventure, the Green Lake hike is a long but doable day hike with stunning views.
Set off for the adventure early in the morning from the town of Tatranska Lomnica. You need to make a choice here: Either take the cable car up the mountain or hike up to Skalnate Pleso for about three hours to reach the start of the trail. While the walk up is steep and tiring, you’ll get to walk through meadows full of wildflowers, so it’s worth the extra work if you have the time.
Once at the top, it’s a 16-kilometer, five-hour walk on rocky but mostly easy terrain. Some steep, slippery sections are more challenging, but this is an otherwise idyllic hike through the Slovakian countryside, among lush valleys and mind-blowing views.
8. Matterhorn Base Camp, Switzerland
It might not be Everest, but the Matterhorn Base Camp hike still offers plenty of majestic views along the way. One of the highest mountains in the Alps, the Matterhorn offers the ultimate challenge for experienced multi-day hikers.
Reaching the summit requires at least one overnight stay at the Hörnli Hut at Base Camp, but you can also explore less challenging sections of the mighty mountain on a day hike.
A popular hike here is the Hornlihutte trail, which starts with a cable ride up from Zermatt Bergbahn. If you start very early and are up for it, you can also walk the trail up instead of taking the cable car – but be ready for about three hours of very steep, rocky uphill walking.
9. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of Croatia’s most popular tourist attractions. Home to stunning wildlife; cobalt blue lakes; and lush, vibrant forests, the park can get crowded in summer. For the best hiking, arrive in either fall or winter, which adds the beautiful reds and yellows of the season or the ethereal beauty of frozen lakes.
The park has well-marked, set trails that range from an easy 3.5-kilometer stroll to a difficult 18.3 kilometre, eight-hour-long walk zigzagging around waterfalls and over bridges.
10. Pravčice Gate Hike, Czech Republic
The Bohemian Switzerland National Park in northern Czech Republic is famous for its karst formations that are millions of years old. The park borders Germany’s Saxon Switzerland National Park. Hikers can start their adventure on the Czech side, then cross over into Germany to continue on the trails there.
Of the many trails and hikes available here, none is more famous than the Pravčice Gate Hike, an easy-to-moderate 10-kilometer hike that starts in the town of Hřensko. The hike lasts about four hours and takes you on a gentle uphill route past sandstone formations, rushing creeks and gorges, deep forests, and rocky castle ruins.