10 Best Treks in Europe
These are our 10 Best Treks in Europe spread over the continent from the Arctic Circle to the Iberian Peninsula and across to the Caspian sea.
The trails range from 4 to 40 days in duration giving trekkers numerous opportunities to explore alpine mountains, navigate through wild landscapes, wander along deserted beaches and camp in idyllic locations.
The treks can be a rich cultural experience, visiting UNESCO world heritage sites, following a pilgrim’s trail or just enjoying the hospitality and cuisine in the countries visited.
Tour du Mont Blanc, France
A classic route with dramatic views around the highest mountain in the alps. At 170km it’s a long distance trek with over 10,000 meters of cumulative descent and ascent. Regularly voted one of the best treks in Europe due to fantastic Alpine scenery, chocolate box villages and fabulous Haute-Savoie cuisine.
- Distance: 170 km. 10,000 meters of ascent and descent
- Duration: 10-11 days
- Countries Visited: France, Italy, Switzerland
- Grade: Moderate – steep ascents and descents each day
- Navigation: Well signposted, guidebook recommended
- Best time to do it: Mid June to early September
- Accommodation: Hotels, Mountain Huts, Camping
- Further information: TMB, Chamonix
The Kungsleden, or Kings Trail is Sweden’s longest and most famous trail usually walked in the summer although is an exciting adventure on skis during winter. The 400km trail in Swedish Lapland has huge glaciated valleys, winding rivers, alpine tundra, birch forest and dramatic peaks. The route is well-marked with bridges crossing fast-flowing streams. You may meet the indigenous Sami people herding their reindeer or in their remote settlements
- Distance: 400 km. Duration: 40 days, although often done in stages
- Location: Swedish Lapland, within the Arctic Circle
- Grade: Serious, strenuous and extremely remote
- Navigation: Map required as trail markings can be hidden in bad weather
- Best time to do it: Winter: March to Mid May. Summer: July to September
- Accommodation: Huts, Cabins, Camping
- Further information: Swedish Lapland, Distant North
Laugavegur is Icelandic for hot spring road which gives you a sense of this amazing trail. It’s one of National Geographic’s top 20 Epic trails and includes two new craters that were formed when Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010. This trail is an assault on the senses with bubbling hot springs, multi-colored mountains, crystal ice caves, Grænagil canyon with green walls and the 60 m high Skógafoss waterfall to cap it off. Regularly voted one of the best treks in Europe.
- Distance: 55 km. Typically takes 3-4 days
- Location: Iceland
- Grade: Moderate – rough terrain, wilderness, snow in summer, windy
- Navigation: Map required
- Best time to do it: Mid June to Mid September
- Accommodation: Huts (book in advance), Camping
- Further information: FIS
Alta Via 1, Dolomites
Alta Via 1 is the most famous hut-to-hut trek in the Dolomites linking its best-known landmarks including Braies lake and Cinque Torri. It’s an ideal route for novice alpine trekkers as the trail is well marked and there are few exposed sections. The route is popular with organised groups although the majority of people walking the trail are self guided.
- Distance: 120 km. Highest point 2,752 m, height gain on route 6,665 m
- Duration: 10 days
- Location: Italy
- Grade: Moderate, good level of fitness required
- Navigation: Well marked trails, guidebook recommended
- Best time to do it: Summer
- Accommodation: Rifugio (Mountain huts)
- Further information: Cicerone guides
The Corsican GR20 is considered to be the toughest and most beautiful long distance trial in Europe with twice the ascent and descent of the Tour du Mont Blanc. The trek is a major challenge with steep scrambling, exposed ridges and arduous climbs. It’s popularity can lead to congested paths particularly in the southwards direction so you may want to consider walking northwards. national geographic top 20 in world regularly voted one of the best treks in Europe
- Distance: 180 km. 19,000 meters of ascent and descent
- Duration: 15 days
- Location: Corsica, France
- Grade: Strenuous , good mountain fitness required
- Navigation: Well marked trails although navigation through mountain sections is difficult
- Best time to do it: late June and early September
- Accommodation: Mountain huts (basic), camping near huts
- Further information: Corsica for Hikers, Video (Memories of a trekker)
West Highland Way, Scotland
The West Highland Way is one of National Geographic‘s best treks in world and the most popular trail in Scotland. The route cuts through the heart of the highlands and includes some of the iconic landscapes in Scotland including beautiful Loch Lomond, mystical Rannoch Moor, historic Glencoe and Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. The route is rugged and the weather can be unrelenting, many a hiker will have enjoyed a wee dram of whisky in the Glengoyne Distillery as they take refuge from a Scottish storm
- Distance: 154 km
- Duration: 8-10 days
- Location: Scotland
- Grade: Difficult – Rough terrain with unpredictable weather
- Navigation: Good waymarking, although map is required
- Best time to do it: May is the most stable month
- Accommodation: B & B, Bunkhouse, Camping
- Further information: Official website, Walk Highlands
Lycian Way, Turkey
The Lycian Way was established in the 1990’s along old roads and mule tracks on Turkey’s southern coast. The waymarked trail follows the rocky coastline between the Mediterranean sea and steep mountainsides passing through medieval villages, historical sites and deserted beaches. This route is often listed as one of the great treks in the world with walkers getting completely immersed in Turkish culture.
- Distance: 540km Typical Duration: 29 days
- Location: Turkey
- Grade: Moderate
- Navigation: Waymarked, although guide book is recommended
- Best time to do it: Spring or Autumn to avoid summer heat
- Accommodation: Pensions, small hotels, camping
- Further information: Guidebook, Lycian Turkey Planning
Camino de Santiago, Spain
The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James at Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. Modern day pilgrims follow the route to escape the pressures of our daily life and enjoy the simple pleasures of walking through the countryside chatting to fellow travellers and staying at simple hostels. There are 6 different routes with the Camino Frances being the most popular with over 200,000 people completing it each year. A number of films and documentaries have been produced on the Camino de Santiago including “The Way” staring Martin Sheen.
- Distance: Camino Francés 800km Typical Duration: 5 weeks
- Countries Visited : Spain, France, Portugal
- Grade: Easy walking although good fitness is required
- Navigation: Signposted, although guide book is recommended
- Best time to do it: May, June, September
- Accommodation: Albergues (Pilgrim Hostels) , Hotels, camping
- Further information: Camino ways, Camino Guidebooks
Slovenian Mountain Trail
The Slovenian Mountain Trail was the first connective mountain trail in the world established in 1953. Stretching from near the Austrian border to the Mediterranean sea the trail crosses the Kamnik-Savinja, Julian and Karawanks Alps. These are steep limestone cliffs overlooking lush green meadows and crystal clear lakes. A chain of 49 huts are scattered over the mountains so accomodation is plentiful. Although not famous, the scenery is stunning, less crowded than northern alpine cousins and certainly more affordable.
- Distance: 617 km. Ascent 37,300 m
- Duration: 28 to 37 days
- Location: Slovenia
- Grade: Moderate, good level of physical fitness required
- Navigation: Guidebook and map required
- Best time to do it: Mid June to end September
- Accommodation: Huts, Camping is forbidden
- Further information: Alpine Association of Slovenia, Guidebook
The Transcaucasian Trail on the border between Europe and Asia will extend more than 3000km through the upper and lower Caucauses on its completion. Connecting 20 national parks and a series of UNESCO sites this is likely to become one of the best trails in the world. There are currently four multi-day routes sections available in Georgia and Armenia which attract a small but growing number of extreme hikers looking for adventure in a mostly uncharted wilderness.
- Distance: Multiday routes 400 km
- Countries Visited : Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan
- Grade: Serious, undeveloped wilderness with natural hazards.
- Navigation: Difficult. Maps and GPS essential
- Best time to do it: April to November depending on trail
- Accommodation: Guest houses, camping
- Further information: Official site, Caucasus Trekking, Hike Armenia
Trekking is a potentially dangerous activity so thorough preparation is essential before you start a Trek. Make sure you select a route that’s within your capability and you understand the potential risks before embarking on the adventure. There are numerous companies that offer guided or escorted treks which is a great option if you want to enjoy the trek without the hassle of organising it.
Top Tips for trekking
- Research route on line to understand potential hazards, river crossings etc.
- Select trekking partners wisely – do they have sufficient experience?
- Make sure you train well, have the right fitness level
- Select and test equipment before you go
- Book accommodation & plan meals in advance
- Obtain maps and guidebooks
- Navigate using physical map, GPS device is useful to check location
- You will be off the grid – so no mobile phone reception
- Seek local advice on route / weather before starting out
- Leave details of your route and timing with a reliable contact
Hiking guides in the UK
Our 10 Best Treks in Europe are part of a series of hiking guides