6 of the best European hiking destinations
A holiday that gets you fit is a win-win. Modern hiking trips mean exercise, views, great food and comfy beds. If you book through an operator, you’ll often get your luggage transported from point to point, too. Travel writer, Sophie Pither, selects six stunning European destinations to get you in the walking mood.
French Alps to the Med The wonder of walking down from the high Alps to the sea is encapsulated in those first glimpses of sparkling water beyond the dramatic ridges. Take a week-long hotel-to-hotel hike from pretty French medieval mountain-town La Brigue, reachable by train from Paris, and trek down to Riviera beauty Menton on the Mediterranean coast. You can include parts of the dramatic high-level GR52 long-distance footpath, and the reward is spectacular Alpine scenery, accommodation in picturesque towns, and panoramas of the Med. Inntravel offers French Alps to Med walking holidays (www.inntravel.com)
Volcanic Azores The Azores archipelago of nine warm islands 850 miles west of Portugal is perfect for year-round hiking. Paths for all abilities criss-cross the verdant volcanic landscapes, a mix of basalt cones, dense greenery and bubbling hot springs. On the largest island, Sao Miguel, the aquamarine volcanic crater lakes are unmissable. Hop to Pico island to climb Portugal’s highest peak, Pico Mountain, and for coastal trails. Operators can organise hotel accommodation and transport between islands, plus extras including whale watching. Ramblers Walking Holidays offers Azores walking holidays (www.ramblersholidays.co.uk) Useful info: http://trails.visitazores.com/en
Sweden’s Jämtland Triangle With peaceful well-marked mountain trails, milky blue glacial lakes, and a season of almost never-ending daylight, Sweden makes an ideal summer hiking destination. The Jämtland Triangle is one of its most popular medium-distance trails at 47km, with the distinct advantage of numerous well-equipped mountain cabins, offering saunas and great food at the end of each day’s trek. Starting and finishing in the ultra-efficient Swedish Tourist Board mountain station Storulvån, you’ll pass glaciers, climb summits, and may even spot reindeer. The Swedish Tourist Board (STF) offers Jämtland Triangle walking holidays (https://naturesbestsweden.com) Useful info: https://www.swedishtouristassociation.com/areas/jamtland-and-harjedalsfjallen/
Italy’s Cinque Terre This Ligurian route’s fame is well deserved – its outstanding beauty won it UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1997. The rocky coastline and pastel-hued medieval towns (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) that cling to the cliffs are connected by the Sentiero Azzurro or Blue Route. It’s just six hours’ in total, but stop to take in the sights and flavours of each town, then continue past Riomaggiore for steeper ascents, all best appreciated in quieter spring and autumn.
If you’re new to hiking or want to try something closer to home, a guided walk in the Lake District could be just the thing. The stunning natural setting inspired Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter and offers challenging hikes as well as gentle strolls. As a Benenden member, you can take advantage of a room upgrade offer with HF Holidays while staying at Monk Coniston – and the same applies for the company’s holidays around the UK. For more information, check the My Benenden area of the website [my.benenden.co.uk]