Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like soaking up the views from a mountain summit, or stumbling upon a hidden waterfall when you least expect it – and it’s all the more rewarding when you’ve got there on your own two feet.
Walking holidays are a fantastic opportunity to venture off the beaten track and see a different side to the country you’re visiting. But with so many to choose from, where do you start? From world famous pilgrimages to secluded alpine mountain trails, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best walking holiday destinations in Europe, so you can start planning your next adventure.
With a rich heritage that can trace its influences back to the Macedonians, the Greeks and the Ottoman Turks, Albania is an often overlooked corner of Europe that’s perfect for trekkers who want to escape the typical tourist trails. Boasting alpine mountain valleys, emerald-green lakes, rustic highland villages and snow-capped peaks, this is a land of pure, untouched beauty.
Mountains make up 70% of Albania’s terrain, so it’s no surprise that they form the basis for most of the walking tours here. Book a tour within the Albanian Alps, the country’s star attraction, to discover towering waterfalls, meadows of wildflowers and charming mountain villages. Or venture into the south to soak up the coastal charms of the ‘Albanian Riviera’ – home to some of the best beaches in Europe.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
If you’re looking for drop-dead gorgeous scenery, a combination of sun, sea and sand, and a seemingly endless number of walking trails to choose from, Italy’s Amalfi Coast is the answer to all your prayers.
Covering a stretch of coastline from Punta Campanella to Salerno, taking in the hilltop towns of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, the trails here are truly out of this world. Carved out by Greek settlers as early as the eighth century BC, the mythical Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) is perhaps the coastline’s most famous. You’ll truly feel as though you’re walking in the heavens as you explore this sky-high coastal path, drinking in the far-reaching ocean views. Stretching for five miles from start to finish, the walk culminates in a breathtaking 1,500-step staircase that leads to the village of Arienzo.
Camino de Santiago, Spain
Culminating in a visit to the spectacular Santiago Cathedral, this 155km pilgrimage in northern Spain is a unique journey of holy significance that dates back over 1,000 years.
Travelling through undulating countryside, rural farmland and medieval villages, what makes the Camino de Santiago so popular is its variety. There are at least seven verified routes, running through multiple different countries, but the beauty is that you can walk as much or as little as you like. Spend weeks walking from Le Puy to Santiago, one month walking from St Jean Pied de Port, or just a few days trekking the final stretch. If you commit to walking the last 100km, you’ll even receive your very own Compostela pilgrim certificate.
Hiking Madeira’s levadas is an experience not to be missed, with thousands of people lacing up their hiking boots here each year. These irrigation canals were built to bring water from the northern slopes to the south side of the island. Although still in use, they now have another purpose, giving hikers a way to explore the island’s secret interior and dramatic landscapes.
With more than 2,000km to explore at heights reaching 1,861m, this Portuguese island has trails to suit all experience levels. Whichever you choose, you can expect spectacular scenery at every turn. If you’re up for a challenge, why not take on the island’s highest peak, Pico Ruivo?
La Gomera, Canary Islands
The Canary Island that time forgot, La Gomera is a hiker’s paradise. This volcanic land is shaped by cloud forests, steep-sided valleys and ancient hiking paths – the most famous of which wind their way through the UNESCO-listed Garajonay National Park. Ascend to the summit of Garajonay, the highest point on the island, or follow the island’s network of stunning footpaths and historic mule trails.
Around 25% of the flora and fauna found here are endemic to the island, but what makes La Gomera all the more fascinating is its very own whistling language, ‘el silbo gomero’, which dates back over 500 years.