Stretching an impressive 10.2 million km², the continent of Europe holds a myriad of fascinating places to discover on foot. European coastlines are a thing of beauty – from the romantic, pastel-coloured coastal towns of Italy and the marble-lined streets of Croatia to the tropical flower-lined levadas in Madeira. Europe is also home to some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world including the iconic granite spires in the Italian Dolomites and the limestone peaks of the Sierra de Aitana in the Spanish Province of Alicante. With so many places across the continent to explore, we’ve collected 5 of our favourite walking holidays in Europe below to spark your next adventure.
1. Discover the heady ‘Path of the Gods’ in Italy
This idyllic slice of Italy is perfect for a walking holiday in Europe. On our Walking the Amalfi Coast trip, you’ll enjoy a picturesque walk up to the top of Monte Tre Calli, take an optional crater trek in Mount Vesuvius, discover the fascinating ruins of Pompeii and a stroll from the musical city of Ravello towards Amalfi. But arguably one of our travellers’ favourite walks on this eight-day adventure is the legendary ‘Sentiero degli Dei’, the ‘Path of the Gods’.
Covering around 6.8 miles, the 2–5-hour hike is easy to moderate, with some narrow sections and several steps downhill along ancient mule routes and through quaint hillside villages between the hamlets of Bomerano and Nocelle. According to legend, Greek Gods travelled along this path to save Ulysses, the main character in Homer’s poem, the Odyssey, from three tempting sirens who lived in the Li Galli Islands. Some also say these mythological sirens seduced and bewitched sailors with songs that made them crash into the rocks.
Undoubtedly this path that’s steeped in folklore and beauty has attracted some world-renowned writers – so much so, that locals call it the “Path of the Poets”. Italian writer, Italo Calvino, famously described his walk along the Lattari Mountains; “A journey is an occasion which can be renewed as a choice and a measure of an interior wish: in a sense it is right to restore the fantasy again, starting from the Path of the Gods, that road suspended above the magic bay of the Sirens, furrowed again today by memory and myth.” So why not discover the beauty of this path for yourself?
2. Stroll along the flower-lined levadas of Madeira
Blessed with black sand beaches, tropical greenery, natural volcanic pools and warm Mediterranean climates year-round, the island of Madeira is a great choice for walkers, as it offers a variety of different sceneries and numerous trails suitable for all abilities.
On our eight-day Walking the Island of Madeira trip, you’ll be able to discover some of the island’s most classic routes and quiet paths, including the Ponta de São Lourenço and the little Levada do Caniçal that leads you to the cliffs at Boca do Risco which boasts incredible views along the north coast. On day three, if schedules allow, your group may also get the opportunity to make a pit stop at the North Mills Distillery, a rum refinery that opened its doors back in 1927. When you’re there, ask for the local’s favourite, poncha. Made with “aguardente de cana” (distilled alcohol derived from sugar cane juice) lemon or orange juice and honey, it’s a delicious cocktail to enjoy after a day exploring the island on foot.
Next up, you’ll visit Vereda do Fanal, a beautiful ancient forest, before taking a free day to explore the city of Funchal or, with the help of our expert local guide, book an optional whale-watching excursion off the coast. Your adventure comes to an end with an exhilarating trek up Pico Arieiro (1,818m), the island’s third-highest mountain, just in time for sunrise.
3. Wander in the shadow of the Sierra de Aitana
Known as ‘the rooftop of Alicante’, the Sierra Aitana Mountain Range covers an extensive area and rises to a height of 1,557m above sea level. For those looking to explore trails less trodden, the Sierra de Aitana is somewhat of a hidden gem. With spectacular limestone amphitheatres, sweeping valleys and panoramic vistas overlooking Costa Blanca, you’d be mistaken to overlook the idyllic hiking trails in this region. And with an average of over 300 days of sunshine per year, the weather conditions make this an ideal spot for out-of-season trekking.
On our eight-day Sierra de Aitana Trek, you’ll start by making a walk towards the towering limestone needles of Penya Roc and Collado Papatxi. The following day, you and your group will take a circular walk that brings you to Peña del Rastrell, where you’ll journey to the Callosad’en Sarria viewpoint that boasts breathtaking mountain scenery overlooking the Guadalest Valley and Altea Bay. Over the next couple of days, you’ll enjoy exhilarating ascents up to Pico Serrella and Mallada del Llop (1,361m) before summiting Puig Campana (1,410m). Saving the best view till last, you’ll scramble up to Pass de la Rabosa, which overlooks the striking beautiful Simas Limestone Fissures, where your group will share your last picnic together.
4. Delve into the streets of Dubrovnik
Croatia has it all – incredible waterfalls, stunning national parks, sweeping gorges, pine forests and mountains. And what better way to experience the fantastic scenery this country has to offer than on a walking holiday? Our Croatia: Islands & Mountains ticks off all of this and more in just eight days.
Starting in the enchanting marble-lined streets of Dubrovnik, you’ll make the short, zig-zag ascent up to the village of Velji Do and Strazisce Peak for panoramic views of Dubrovnik’s fortified walls and red tile roofs. After taking some time to explore the churches, palaces and museums in the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, you’ll make a transfer to Tucepi the following day where you’ll walk through the breathtaking Biokovo mountains to Makarska. From the lively town of Makarska, you’ll catch a ferry to Bol, the oldest and most picturesque town on Brac Island. Summiting the small peak of Vidova (780m) the next day has its perks, as you’ll be able to see the island of Hvar and the iconic long turquoise-fringed spit of Zlatni Rat, known as “the Golden Horn”.
Even more epic sights await you as you make your way to Spit and on to Krka National Park where you’ll visit the impressive Skradinski Buk waterfalls. On days six and seven, you’ll get to explore Velka Paklenica National Park, known for its sweeping canyons and unusual karst forms and caves. If you’re looking to take in all the wonderful sights Croatia has to offer on foot – this trip doesn’t disappoint.
5. Delight in the wonders of the Dolomites
Stretching across the provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige in northeastern Italy, the impressive limestone massifs of the Dolomites dominate the landscape and attract trekkers from all around the world to come and admire its beauty. But they don’t only come for the scenic viewpoints, they come for the challenge.
On our Highlights of the Dolomites trip, you can choose between Activity Level 3 (Moderate) to Activity Level 5 (Challenging) routes each day, with an expert local guide leading the way. Depending on which level you choose, you can walk to Rifugio Sassopiatto, summit Viel dal Pan (3,343m) with spectacular views of Marmolada and take on the Catinaccio massif (2,290m) on our Level 3 (Moderate) trails. Or beat your personal best by choosing our Level 5 (Challenging) route where you ascend the Rifugio Sasso Piatto (2,400m), make the climb to Piz Boe (3,152m) and enjoy a final trek up to Forca Neigra (2,508m). During this centre-based trip, you’ll enjoy a wonderful seven-night stay in the family-run Sporthotel Enrosadira, where you can rest your legs in the evenings with a sauna, or unwind with a good book on their lounge chairs.
If this has sparked your interest in booking a walking holiday in Europe, browse our full collection of adventures here.