Suspension bridge across a river

We Rank the Best Hikes in Europe (Alps Included)

Idyllic landscapes, snow-capped mountains and clear blue waters are common features of Europe’s nature scene, and if you haven’t experienced a hike here, well then you’ve been missing out.

The great thing about hiking in Europe is the high volume of trails all in close proximity of one another. You can hike in the Spanish mountains with mesmerising views of warm sandy tones and then fly for an hour to Germany, hike in the Bavarian Alps and hop from one wooden alpine chalet to another. The diversity is what makes these hikes incomparable, and this offers new challenges for even the most experienced hikers.

1. Mont Blanc – France

Mont Blanc is an iconic mountain along the border of France and Italy, parts of the massif also fall in Swiss territory. It boasts epic treks of varying lengths (8-12 days), making it a top contender for hiking in Europe. What’s more, Mont Blanc is also home to some of the most enthralling day hikes too, with a walk to Lac Blanc as the most popular.

Mont Blanc, France | © Charlie Hammond/Unsplash

Begin this hike by taking the cable car to Flégère, where you will be met by a fairly level trail leading you to a secluded bright blue lake named Lac Blanc. This picturesque spot provides stunning close-up views of the lake, and the scenery across the valley of the surrounding Alps — including Mer de Glace, Drus, Grandes Jorasses and, of course, Mont Blanc. A camera, lots of energy and excitement are all necessities to enjoy this trip, along with a hefty dose of bravery if you’re willing to dip into the chilling glacial waters of Lac Blanc.

  • Hiking time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Best time to hike: Mid-May to mid-September

Invest in a pair of quality waterproof hiking boots.

2. Obersee – Germany

Although short in length, this day hike to Lake Obersee is definitely a must-do! Located in Germany close to the Austrian border, this trail offers stunning picture-perfect views the entire time. Located up in an alpine valley, Obersee is one of the highest altitude lakes in Germany. The hiking trail follows the lake around and exposes its hiding place from behind saw-edged cliffs. Dipping in and out of the forest, the trail passes signboards offering information on the flora and fauna of the valley and is dotted with multiple fire pits, providing the ultimate picnic location.

a small wooden hut on the banks of a bay surrounded by scenery
Lake Obersee, Germany | © Kordi Vahle/Pixabay

Not to mention the traditionally-German wooden hut that sits on the lake, which adds to the beauty of this spot but also makes for the best photo opportunities. Spring and summer are prime for a visit Obersee, however in November when the mountains become snow-capped and the iced-over lake catches light from the sun, it becomes more breathtaking.

  • Hiking time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Best time to hike: April to November

 3. Soča Trail and Slovenian Mountain Trail – Slovenia

A hike to the source of one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe and an opportunity to swim amongst the crystal blue waters of a valley surrounded by mountain scenery, what could be better? The Soča River, located in Triglav National Park in Slovenia, is renowned for its vibrantly pigmented waters. 

Suspension bridge across a river
Soča Valley, Slovenia | © Neil JS/Flickr

As you travel from the river’s source to the town centre of Bovec, you will move through uphill terrain and alpine of the Julian Alps, whilst also passing through three gorges. The most prominent of these is called the ‘Big Soča Gorge’, which is considered to be one of the most stunning natural sights of the Soča trail. This is 28km long and can take anywhere from 6-8 hours to complete, including stops for swimming spots and extremely picturesque picnics.

  • Hiking time: 6 – 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Best time to hike: Mid-June to mid-September

4. Trolltunga – Norway

Norway’s famous Trolltunga day hike has a firm place on thousands of eager hiker bucket lists. The name Trolltunga translates to troll’s tongue, which represents the insane rock formations that exist at the end of this hike. This sliver of rock overhanging an 1180-metre drop has views that are completely out of this world, and opportunities for photography below the warm rays of Norwegian sun.

man standing on a thin sliver of protuding rock over a valley
Trolltunga, Norway | © Robert Bye/Unsplash

Hiking without a guide can only be done from mid-June to mid-September, meaning that the rest of the time walkers must be part of a guided tour. To make things easier when hiking Trolltunga without a guide, try to begin your walk before 8 am to allow for as much daylight as possible, as this hike is a relatively long one.

  • Hiking time: 8-12 hours
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Best time to hike: Mid-March to mid-October

If you’re taking on a more challenging hike, consider bringing a waterproof GPS device with you.

5. Picos de Europa – Spain

The Ruta Del Cares or Cares Trail in Spain’s Picos de Europa National Park is one of the most spectacular hikes in Europe. Known as Spain’s favourite hike, this northern trail runs from the province of Asturias to León, through rivers, deep gorges, lakes and forests. This walk will take you across hanging bridges and tunnels carved in mountain rock faces, letting you get that little bit closer to the nature that surrounds you. With mountain peaks exceeding 2000m and an abundance of jaw-dropping rock formations, the Cares Trail is full of scenic wonders.

  • Hiking time: 3 – 4 hours (one way)
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Best time to hike: April – September

Pack a pair of tried and tested trekking poles.

6. Landmannalaugar – Iceland

There are many trails that exist in Landmannalaugar, arguably the best for its unique appearance and awe-inspiring views — is a trail called Mt. Bláhnjúkur. Bláhnjúkur translates to ‘blue peak’ in English, which reflects the blue-black colour of the mountain’s appearance making it unique to any nature you’ve seen before.

man in black jacket standing in front of a green valley with a river snaking through it
Landmannalaugar, Iceland | © Joshua Sortino/Unsplash

Mt. Bláhnjúkur rose as a result of the surrounding volcano’s lava and ash, and the 360-degree view from the mountain’s peak shows exquisite views of these colourfully spotted volcanoes and the Laugahraun Lava Field. On a clear day, you can spot five glaciers from the mountain’s peak, making this contrasting scenery a paradise for photographers.

  • Hiking time: 4-5 hours
  • Difficulty: Intermediate 
  • Best time to hike: June to September

7. The Ladder of Kotor – Montenegro

This hike is located in one of Montenegro’s most bustling cities and involves a great deal of elevation to accomplish the magnificent views across the Bay of Kotor. When beginning the trail in the Old Town, there is an option to travel through the fortress walls of Kotor which is a must-do experience when visiting this culture-rich city. During the ascent, you will pass the Chapel of St. Ivan in a shaded valley, and clamber through a stone-built window to the Castle of San Giovanni, which is the best spot to catch a Kotor sunset.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro | © Amir Appel/Flickr

The final kilometre of the hike travels through a lush pine forest after which you reach the most epic of view lofty mountains in the distance. Make sure you have your camera for this one, this is a sight you won’t want to forget!

  • Hiking time: 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Best time to hike: All year

Bring along a waterproof fanny pack to carry your gear.

The best three-day hikes in Europe

If you want to explore Europe’s nature but only have a few days, don’t worry! That’s plenty of time to explore some of the nature this continent has to offer. Spoiler alert: They are all in Italy!

  • Cinque Terre Coastal Trail in Italy: Discover Mediterranean beauty! The trail is only 11km but make sure you stop along the way for some food and wine.
  • Path of the Gods in Italy: Another stunning walk that winds above the coastal villages of the Amalfi Coast. While you can do portions of this walk over a day, you can actually hike all the way from Bomerano to Positano and break your journey in Nocelle for over several days.
  • Sassolungo in Italy: Located in the Italian Dolomites, this trail will take you around the mountain. Some people do it in a day, but it’s worth breaking over three days to stay in some of the wooden rest houses along the way and explore the other trails that branch off from here.

Half-English and half-Canadian, Simone now resides in Melbourne where she is consumed by both the Victorian architecture and the love of tending to her garden. When she isn’t planning her next adventure or fertilising her blood orange tree, she enjoys writing, hiking, and learning German.

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