Finding a great hike can be akin to finding your perfect walking footwear. It’s a challenge, but once you get it right, you never look back. Home to legendary thoroughfares steeped in history and to well-marked trails often lined with local food and varied accommodation options, Europe is a haven for hikers.
Whether you fancy a daylong meander or a challenging multiday trek, these seven hikes immerse travelers into communities, away from the typical tourist trails—and did we mention the killer views?
1. Camino Portuguese, Portugal and Spain
- Location: O Porriño – Santiago de Compostela
- Distance: 63.3 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
The Camino de Santiago needs no introduction. After all, it is one of the most hiked pilgrimage routes in the world—by people of all (and also no) faiths. The popular Camino Frances, which takes travelers from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to the Cathedral de Santiago, is ridiculously busy. But the Old Way, known as the Camino Portuguese, sees much less traffic. This section—which includes the minimum 62 miles (100 kilometers) required to officially gain a Compostela (an ancient document that allegedly absolves the bearer of a lifetime of sins)—starts outside Tui, in O Porriño. Along “The Way,” you’ll stop at riverside villages, eat fresh seafood, visit Albariño vineyards, and complete a part of the passage by boat. The hike doesn’t have to be tough. Slow-travel specialist Inntravel offers a relaxed 10-night version in comfy boutique hotels, with a wine tasting and a luggage transfer service.
2. Vikos Gorge, Greece
- Location: Monodendri
- Distance: 7.5 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
The Greek mainland is laced with well-maintained footpaths that lead hikers through small mountainside villages, olive groves, and dramatic canyons. Outstandingly beautiful is the Vikos Gorge (aka Greece’s Grand Canyon) in the Zagori region, where a network of 45 hamlets is tucked into the Pindus mountain range. Beginning at Monodendri, the trail consists of stone paths, bridges, and thigh-trembling staircases that lead you alongside the gorge, which is so deep it even holds a Guinness World Record. Taking roughly seven hours, the hike comes with a reward: the option to take a dip in the springs of Voidomatis, above which rises the centuries-old Monastery of Panagia. Guided options include G Adventures’ Hiking Northern Greece package.
3. Fisherfield Forest, Scotland
- Location: Kinlochewe – Dundonnell, Wester Ross
- Distance: 27.3 miles
- Difficulty: Hard
Fisherfield Forest (named after an ancient deer hunting ground—the mountains here are bare) is a remote 304-square-mile tract of glacially scoured peaks and Scottish glens. Crossing it means leaving the tiny village of Kinlochewe and its comfy family-run hotel and bar to follow a former postmaster’s trail alongside the shores of Loch Maree. Over the days that follow, you might spy golden eagles, pine marten, and deer; hike amid towering buttresses, crumbling pinnacles, and rock-scattered gullies; visit the most remote mountain in Britain and stay in bothies—remote former homesteads (now run by volunteers and funded by donations)—that are free to use.
4. Arctic Circle Trail, Greenland
- Location: Kangerlussuaq - Sisimiut
- Distance: 103 miles
- Difficulty: Hard
Though there is no physical line on the ground marking the Arctic Circle, at 66 degrees north, there is, for hikers in Greenland, something even better. Stretching from the polar ice cap above the town of Kangerlussuaq to the ocean at Sisimiut a little more than 100 miles away, marked with painted cairns, the Arctic Circle Trail is a summer hike that takes advantage of the midnight sun’s 24-hour daylight.
The hike is a serious commitment: Once begun, there are no escape routes and no settlements to resupply food. There is a series of nine free-to-use huts to shelter from the elements, but the huts aren’t reservable, so trekkers still have to carry their own tents and camping equipment. But what the trail lacks in facilities, it makes up for in Arctic wildlife—musk ox, caribou, ptarmigan, arctic fox, and hare— a smattering of mountains, glacial lakes, permafrost earth lined with long grass and broad-leaved willow herb, and uncrowded sandy beaches. Plus, hikers can relish in a peaceful silence unlike anywhere else on earth.
5. Kjerag (and Kjeragbolten), Norway
- Location: Øygardsstøl, Lysefjord
- Distance: 6.5 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate (includes chain-assisted sections)
High above the Norwegian fjord known as Lysefjorden, Kjerag mountain’s summit is relatively quiet, marked simply with a cairn. But beyond, a large ball of granite known as Kjeragbolten sits between two cliffs. Wedged into position during the last Ice Age, it’s become something of a dare for hikers to stand upon it while gazing at the water 3,556 feet below. The trailhead is reached by the Go Fjords Express public bus from the fishing town of Stavanger, from where this six-hour, out-and-back hike leads you over rocky slabs pockmarked with grassy fissures, which have fixed chains for hikers to use if they need.
6. Le Col du Grand St Bernard, Switzerland and Italy
- Location: Great St. Bernard Pass
- Distance: 7.5miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
Ever since Roman times, the Great St. Bernard Pass has been an important link between northern and southern Europe for pilgrims walking to Rome. As such, it was home to a gang of alpine bandits, out to rob tired hikers passing through. In the 11th century, priest Bernard of Menthon set up a hospice to offer refuge at this 8,100-foot-high pass. By the 1660s, the monks had established themselves as a mountain rescue team, breeding the famous St. Bernard dog (named after their founder) to help with searches. Fast-forward to today, and the hospice still offers year-round hostel accommodation, refreshments, and guided hikes. The best is this five- to six-hour loop to hike in the summer (alternative trails can be hiked on snowshoes in winter) that starts at the top of the pass and features three mountain lakes, a panorama of the region’s rocky legends—including Mont Blanc—and a border crossing into Italy.
7. Mlynicka and Furkotska Valley Circuit, Slovakia
- Location: Strbske Pleso
- Distance: 10.3 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate (chain-assisted scramble)
Snow-capped mountains, thundering waterfalls, towering pine trees, and glacially carved lakes—Slovakia’s Vysoké Tatry (High Tatras) offer all the thrills of the Alps without the crowds or high price tag of those in the west of the continent. This full-day, twin-valley pairing features everything you’d crave from a summer circuit: a forest stroll to Skok waterfall (an easy walk with energetic kids), a scramble up to a saddle between two Mordor-esque peaks (there are chains to assist you), and a descent to the heart-shaped Wahlenberg lake.