Get those backpacks packed and get ready to hit these epic long distance trails in Europe.
From the foothills of the Alps to the chiseled cliffs of the Adriatic Coast, Europe is crisscrossed with options for day-hikers and backpackers. Serving up an abundance of adventures on foot [from windswept tracks threading regions rich in archaeological wonders to alpine circuits navigating seas of cloud-steeped peaks].
With the profusion of trails lacing the continent, it’s hard to pick just one trek, but here are a few of Europe’s best long-distance hiking routes.
1. Premužić Trail, Croatia
Croatia is hitting everyone’s radar for stunning coastlines and scenic landscapes.
Linking peaks in the northern and central portions of the Velebit, Croatia’s largest mountain chain, the 35-mile Premužić Trail snakes through a landscape of serrated limestone peaks and both beech and pine forests, offering island-studded views of the Adriatic Coast. For nearly a century it has offered trekkers a gently graded route into the rugged heart of the Velvet chain, once virtually inaccessible to trekkers. Aside from offering incredible views of the Kvarner Gulf, the Premužić Trails also meanders through a landscape rich in flora and fauna. In 1978, the entire Velebit range was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and nearly half of the Premužić Trail is located in the Northern Velebit National Park, offering hikers the chance to spy resident roe deer, reintroduced chamois, and grey wolves.
2. Rota Vicentina, Portugal
This is the ultimate surf and turf trek. Spanning nearly 220-miles across Rota Vicentina in southwest Portugal.
The trail is best known for its two different footpaths—the coastal Fisherman’s Trail and the longer Historical Way, located farther inland. Between Porto Covo and Cape Saint Vincent, the most southwestern point in mainland Europe, the 78-mile Fisherman’s Trail showcases one of the wildest stretches of coastline in Europe, traversing a seascape stacked with precipitous cliffs and pristine beaches while meandering through the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park.
In contrast, the 145-mile Historical Way delves into a culturally rich landscape of cork forests and bucolic fields edged by groves of ash trees and willows. In addition to foot traffic, bikes are also permitted along the inland Historical Way. Best of all, trekkers need not forgo creature comforts along the Rota Vicentina. The hiking route is dotted with accommodating guesthouses and cafés serving up beer and freshly caught seafood.
3. Westweg, Germany
In southwest Germany, the Westweg (or “West Trail”) traverses the landscape responsible for inspiring some of Europe’s most enduring fairy tales, namely the Black Forest.
Running the length of the Black Forest from Pforzheim to Basel, Switzerland, the approximately 175-mile Westweg blends history and scenery, taking hikers through moss-tufted evergreen forests, across alpine valleys, and along glacial lakes.
Along the way you’ll also find weathered ruins and historic hamlets like Hausach and Freiburg. Near Lake Titisee, the trail branches into an eastern and a western route. On the final leg to Basel, the western route offers up a string of summits, including 3,822-foot Blauen, 4,639-foot Belchen, and 4,894-foot Feldberg, the region’s highest peak. The eastern option ambles over 4,642-foot Herzogenhorn Mountain and then gradually mellows while winding through rolling meadows hemmed by the Rhine.
The sign-posted footpath is still maintained by the Schwarwaldverein, or Black Forest Association. The group provides a wealth of information about the Westweg, including outlining options for trekkers hoping to hopscotch between trailside accommodations and hike without having to haul luggage.
4. The Dingle Way, Ireland
The southern portion of Ireland is blessed with an abundance of headlands overlooking the sea, but the Dingle Peninsula is undoubtedly among the island’s most postcard-worthy straits.
While the peninsula’s idyllic country lanes regularly beckon road-tripping travelers, hikers have the chance to savor the isthmus on foot along the Dingle Way. Linking ribbons of sandy beach, country roads, and mountain passes, the nearly 115-mile walking route rings the entire Dingle Peninsula, beginning and ending in the town of Tralee.
While lapping the slender peninsula, the Dingle Way skirts the Slieve Mish Mountains, rambles over the northern flank of 3,127-foot Mount Brandon, and teeters around Slea Head, a panoramic promontory offering coastal views extending to the Blasket Islands.
The walking route also exposes trekkers to the peninsula’s rich archaeological history, showcasing ancient standing stones, the remains of the weathered Norman castles, and Celtic clocháns, which are beehive-shaped huts made of stone. For weary walkers, the trail also offers access to villages studded with pubs and eateries in small towns along the way. It’s an Irish experience you’ll never forget.
5. The King’s Trail, Sweden
Running between Abisko and Hemavan, the 275-mile King’s Trail (or Kungsleden) splices a wild corner or northern Sweden inside the Arctic Circle. Established by the Swedish Tourist Association at the beginning of the 20th century, the route meanders through the Scandinavian Mountains, skirting 6,926-foot Mount Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest peak. You’ll travel through forests of birch and old-growth spruce and encounter alpine lakes along the way. The route also strings together four different national parks, offering visitors the chance to glimpse reindeer, hearty wolverines, and golden eagles soaring overhead. While the King’s Trail showcases a remote corner of the Arctic, most of the route is dotted with mountain huts maintained by the Swedish Tourist Association, and backcountry camping is also permitted along the entirety of the footpath.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for Matcha in partnership with Gregory Mountain Products.
Featured image provided by murphman61