Seven Best Hikes in Europe

When you’re plan­ning a Europe trip, spread­ing out the guide­books and check­ing the maps, you prob­a­bly include land­mark cities and the famous bat­tle sites. While these des­ti­na­tions mer­it your respect and atten­tion, they can often be tourist-clogged and expensive.

When you’re ready to escape the traf­fic and overea­ger ven­dors to tack­le a real adven­ture, check out one of these famous Old World hikes.

west highland wayWest High­land Way, Scotland
This 96-mile amble gra­cious­ly sam­ples Scotland’s nat­ur­al beau­ty, from pris­tine lochs to lone­ly moors to rugged high­lands. Its course can be trekked by any rel­a­tive­ly fit walker—so it makes a good trip for any­one with the time and incli­na­tion to go out for a ram­ble. Giv­en the pop­u­lar­i­ty of this hike, there are accom­mo­da­tions along the route so you can hole up in charm­ing B&Bs to rest your weary feet before set­ting out again the next day.

Via ferrata in DolomitesVia Fer­ra­ta, Italy, and Austria
This one is not for begin­ners, but test­ing your men­tal strength against the “Iron Paths” of the Dolomite Moun­tains will give you plen­ty of brag­ging rights and thrills.

You’ll nav­i­gate the — angles and mas­ter the ver­tig­i­nous heights by pulling your­self along the series of cables, rungs, lad­ders, and bridges that make this wild trail sys­tem pos­si­ble. Not a scram­ble for the faint of heart, but this is once-in-a-life­time excite­ment well worth experiencing.

Camino de SantiagoCamino de San­ti­a­go (Way of St. James), France and Spain
This series of pil­grim­age routes lets you walk in the shoes of history’s reli­gious faith­ful. Its sig­nif­i­cance is based on the ninth-cen­tu­ry dis­cov­ery of an evan­gel­i­cal apostle’s tomb. The con­nect­ing net­work was orig­i­nal of most­ly Roman con­struc­tion. You’ll be tra­vers­ing lay­ers of his­to­ry the whole way through.

The most pop­u­lar part of the route is the near­ly 500 mile Camino Frances. It becomes crowd­ed in the sum­mer, so plan accordingly.

"wine route" of AlsaceAlsace Wine Route
While enjoy­ing this pic­turesque stroll, you might as well enjoy the local (and world-famous) vini­cul­ture. Medieval chateaux, Renais­sance hous­es, and, of course, ripen­ing grapes define this unfor­get­table hike.

Offi­cial­ly estab­lished in 1953, it has giv­en count­less hap­py wine-and-walk­ing enthu­si­asts oppor­tu­ni­ty to pon­der the beau­ty and fla­vor of this unique region.

haute routeHaute Route, Switzerland
Do you want a view of the Mat­ter­horn? Of course, you do. The Haute Route pro­vides this and more. Val­leys, glac­i­ers, and lakes abound along with this awe-inspir­ing and rugged trail system.

On top of the stun­ning views, you’ll like­ly spot ibex and oth­er wildlife the whole way through.

For those who wish to short­en time on their feet, there are also cable cars avail­able in some areas.

©istockphoto/fon_thachakulCinque Terre, Italy
Because every­one should expe­ri­ence the quin­tes­sen­tial­ly Ital­ian romance of pas­tel-col­ored hous­es ter­raced along the almost-sheer coast­line and the intox­i­cat­ing Mediter­ranean com­bi­na­tion of azure seas and rugged flo­ra. (And every­one should, once in life, eat deli­cious Ital­ian food after a good day of hiking.)

For your inner-adven­tur­er and your inner-food­ie, this is one of the best routes in the world.

Westweg TrailWest­weg Trail, Germany
The Black For­est calls to mind every fairy tale you’ve ever read, so why not immerse your­self in that world? For a con­tem­pla­tive trek past glassy water­ways, under cool green trees, through one of the world’s most beau­ti­ful regions, look no further.

Europe is a huge, diverse con­ti­nent. While it may be the Old World, there are still new and stun­ning places to dis­cov­er. Wher­ev­er you choose to explore, make sure to bring your hik­ing shoes.