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Europe At Its Best: Top 10 Most Impressive Hikes

Europe is full of great landscapes, and there’s no better way to experience its variety of natural attractions than to hike some of the long distance paths that stitch the continent together. Hikers will always debate which are the greatest hikes, of course, but these ten routes are classics and ideal for fall weather trekking.

ENGLAND / SCOTLAND – Pennine Way starts just outside the busy industrial city of Sheffield, but within a few miles it’s crossing bleak wild peat moors and striding gritstone cliffs. The route follows the watershed up the backbone of England, finally crossing Hadrian’s wall and the border into Scotland and the Cheviot hills. 267 miles (430km)

FRANCE / SPAIN – Camino de Santiago, also known as GR 65 or Chemin de Saint-Jacques follows the medieval pilgrimage path from Le Puy in the center of France to Santiago de Compostela at the western edge of Spain, though many hikers only walk the Spanish stretch. The full route takes a couple of months. This hike is fascinating as it has both cultural and natural attractions; the cathedrals of Le Puy, Pamplona, Burgos, Leon and Astorga are all visited en route, while there are many ancient pilgrim hospices and monasteries, and even Roman bridges to be crossed. Way of St. James: 500 miles (804km)

Cantino de Santiago
Camino de Santiago

FRANCE / ITALY – Via Francigena is another medieval route, but it’s less well known than the Camino de Santiago. It was the route pilgrims took from northern France to Rome, and the stretch from Lucca to Rome runs through remote Tuscan hill towns, past Romanesque churches, Etruscan monuments, and bubbling hot springs. Most of the route is fairly gentle, running through vineyards and farmland until it reaches the suburbs of Rome. 270 miles (780km)

ITALY – Path of the Gods is an Amalfi Coast walk along the Mediterranean, and between small towns and villages. There are tiny beaches and coves below, monasteries and rough forested peaks above, with some stiff and sweaty ascents, but its worth it when you come across a fragrant lemon grove suspended vertiginously above the sea. Hikers can take time off to visit some of the fine palaces and ancient cathedrals along the route, or drink Amalfi’s famous limoncello liqueur and enjoy a plate of seafood. 25 miles (40km)

SWEDEN – Kungsleden or ‘Kings Way’ in the far north of Sweden is a true wilderness trek, taking a month or more to complete. The landscape encompasses tundra, birch forests, heathland, glaciers, and Sweden’s highest mountain, and wild camping is permitted everywhere along the route – indeed, it’s so remote that hikers need to carry a tent and food for some portions of the route. 270 miles (440km)

 Kungsleden or ‘Kings Way’
Kungsleden or ‘Kings Way’

ICELAND – Laugavegur is a big tough four-day hike (six if you carry on from Thorsmork to the coast) covering some of Iceland’s wickedest terrain. There are high ice fields, brightly colored volcanic rocks, amazing views of gorges gouged out by glacial floods, and mud geysers that spit sulfurous fumes as you pass. Best of all, at both ends of the trail, there are hot springs to bathe in after a hard day’s hiking. 49 miles (79km)

GERMANY – The Malerweg or ‘Painters’ Way’ in the sandstone hills of Saxony is one of the most romantic hikes in the world. Its picturesque scenery of limestone carved by wind and water includes narrow mossy gorges and splendid spires of rock; it’s worth getting up early for sunrise, when the rock glows pale yellow and pink and mist rises from the valleys. 69 miles (112km)

GERMANY – Saar Hunsrueck Steig, near Trier, is a pretty and highly adaptable trail. It was designed with a number of loops that can be added to the hike or made into day hikes. The landscape is always changing; there are castles, forests, megalithic sites, small towns, lakes, and open heath, and best of all there’s an iconic view of the Saarschleife, where the river Saar makes a tight u-bend between forested hills. 254 miles (410km)

Saar Hunsrueck Steig
Saar Hunsrueck Steig

CORSICA – GR 20, Corsica’s high route, makes hikers earn their rewards; it’s formidably tough in sections, including one via ferrata where chains are attached to the rock to enable walkers to scramble upwards. In return for hard work, it offers tremendous views over the island and out to sea, as well as mountain lakes that gleam turquoise in the Mediterranean sun. 112 miles (180km)

ITALY – Alta Via 1 is a high route through the Dolomites, offering the hiker a chance to see some of the most spectacular limestone scenery in Europe, together with alpine lakes and meadows. There are soaring dark limestone spikes, long sharp ridges, and gentle, fertile valleys, and best of all there are numerous mountain huts and refuges to spend the night. 75 miles (120km)

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