I realize that talking about trekking now, when we are all hunkered down at home for the majority of the day, may seem superfluous.
But we all need something to look forward to.
When things do get back to normal (and they will, no matter how long that takes), we might all just appreciate our daily lives more and not take as much for granted the joys we have available to us.
One of these joys is certainly hiking – and after being cooped up between our four walls for so long, I have a feeling we’ll all be more than ready to spend some more time in nature than we used to.
When that time finally comes, you’ll want to have a destination in mind, which is where this list of under-the-radar hikes comes in. If you are looking for something less often traveled, a challenge, a time to get back in touch with yourself, or just an expanse of open road (well, path), read on to hopefully find your next European hiking destination.
La Via Francigena, Italy
La Via Francigena is a pilgrimage route that connected Canterbury to Rome back in the Middle Ages, but sadly, today it is largely unknown – yet it is probably also one of the best routes you can choose to walk. While its full length runs through England, France, Switzerland, and Italy, some of the Italian 587 miles are what I’d recommend you to walk.
It may take you up to three months to complete the whole route, but you can do smaller sections of it in a week or ten days. It will take you through some incredible scenery, including the Tuscan landscape of olive trees, ancient Roman and Etruscan buildings, across hills and valleys all the way into Rome itself, where the route ends in St. Peter’s Square.
Any forgotten section of the Camino de Santiago, Spain
While the Camino de Santiago is certainly one of the most popular pilgrimages and treks in Europe, there are certain parts of it that fly mostly under the radar. Most hikers will focus on the Camino Frances or the Camino Portugues, yet you can try a road less travelled.
For instance, there is the Camino dos Faros, which is a coastal trail running through Galicia. It is also known as the Lighthouse Way, and it was built by local volunteers, running 125 miles in total.
Again, you can choose a ten-day section of the route, which will take you through wilder coastal terrain and tiny villages, by delicate beaches dotted with lighthouses, and all the way to Cape Finisterre and finally, Santiago de Compostela.
The route is famous for its seafood and fresh local meals, and you can turn the hike into quite a relaxing affair, if you take your time and walk at a more leisurely pace.
A higher section of the Mont Blanc, France
If higher-altitude trekking is what youʼre looking for, thereʼs no better option than Mont Blanc. And while this truly isn’t an underdog of European hiking routes, there are sections where you can climb and hike with little or no company other than your team.
The mountains have some impressive ascents and descents, as well as some very sharp inclines. You simply must be prepared for this high-altitude climb, otherwise your body will give up under the strain.
You can, of course, also stick to any section of the actual Tour du Mont Blanc out of the height of season, and choose a section in Switzerland, where there is usually less traffic than in France.
Mount Triglav, Slovenia
Slovenia is becoming more and more popular as a destination. If you want to summit its Triglav Mountain and reach the whopping 2864 meters of altitude it offers, you might want to do it during the next available season.
The hike will take around two days, and there will be some more challenging sections where you need to use fixed cables to reach your destination, but the views are truly incredible. A particular gem is the lake of Bled that is also your starting point, and that will truly make you forget about the outside world.
Via Dinarica, the Balkans
Another Balkan trek that you might like, the Via Dinarica is a route that runs through the Dinaric Alps and the Sharr Mountains, for an incredible 1930 kilometers.
The adventure runs through all of the former Yugoslav states, as well as Albania, and it is a great way to get to know this part of Europe.
Of course, you can also choose to break the trip into chunks and visit a couple of countries only, so for instance, you can do a section from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia, and so on.
The Lousios Gorge Monasteries Hike, Greece
While you may not instantly associate Greece with hiking, there are plenty of routes and climbs you can take, away from the seaside and the popular tourist attractions.
There is an excellent trail running through the Lousios Gorge in the Peloponnese peninsula, starting out at Karytaina and ending at Philosphou. There are not many hikers on this route, so the nature will be a bit more rugged and untouched.
There are cypress and olive trees to marvel at, there are meadows and streams to traverse, and amazing Greek architecture to admire. There is also the Prodromos monastery you can visit, built into the face of a rock, overlooking the gorge below.
The going is not overly demanding, but you should be prepared for a bit of a climb.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Slovenia
Another Slovenian gem makes it onto this list, but with very good reason.
The turquoise waters of the lakes, the waterfalls and their complete calm, the woodlands where silence reigns absolute are just some of the appeal this region holds.
You will likely meet plenty of local hikers, as the Slovenians are a pretty active nation who love to spend their time in nature. However, these routes are still mostly undiscovered by foreigners, so you should still retain some of that authentic feel.
You can stay in one of the lodges at the lakes, hike from one to the other during a week’s stay, and experience the true ambiguity of time, as hours fly while you admire the wildlife and breathe in the fresh air.
When all of this is over, hopefully we will all finally learn to appreciate the things we have so far taken for granted: the air in our lungs, the path beneath our feet, and that sublime exhaustion of rolling into our shelter for the night at the end of a long road.