Europe is a land of stunning contrasts, from the snow-capped mountains of the Alps to the sun-drenched isles in the Mediterranean Sea. Without a doubt, the continent offers a variety of landscapes that are guaranteed to tickle any traveler’s fancy. Naturally, hiking has become a popular way for tourists to see fascinating sights all over Europe, with thousands of miles of trails that crisscross the continent.
1. Scottish Highlands, Scotland
The Scottish Highlands are home to the United Kingdom’s most spectacular scenery. There is no better way to explore Scotland’s most breathtaking landscapes than to hike along the 96-mile West Highland Way. This hike stretches from Milndavie in the south to Fort William in the north. The most difficult section is the Devil’s Staircase, an off-road mountain bike trail. However, the pastoral serenity of Loch Lomond is a favorite spot for tourists to catch their breath. At the trail’s northern end in Fort William, hikers can marvel at Ben Nevis. This is the highest point in Britain and towers 4,416 feet in elevation.
2. Grande Randonnée, Corsica
On the Mediterranean island of Corsica, the Grande Randonnée, also known as GR, tests the mettle of even the most seasoned hikers. The 112-mile route includes jagged cliffs and steep mountain peaks. In addition, the hike is approximately 60,000 feet in elevation. Several portions of the GR-20 are unmarked, while a few are all but impassable without the proper rock climbing equipment. The GR-20 also includes places that offer hot showers and other creature comforts for weary travelers along the way.
3. Laugavegurinn, Iceland
Iceland is world-renowned for its spectacular scenery, running the gamut from natural hot springs to active volcanoes, snow-covered peaks and emerald-hued valleys. The views often look like they are lifted out of a picture postcard. The 34-mile Laugavegurinn, or “Hot Springs Road”, is a place where hikers can marvel at the rich natural diversity that the subarctic island nation has to offer. Trekkers will be awestruck when they lay eyes on the landscape, chiseled by eons of glacial and volcanic activity. Camping along the trail is also fairly easy, with six conveniently located huts serving as popular overnight rest stops.
4. El Caminito del Rey, Spain
Despite its regal-sounding name, the two-mile El Caminito del Rey hiking trail outside of Malaga, Spain, is not for the faint of heart. Constructed in 1905 to serve two hydroelectric power plants in the region, the short but challenging Caminito is guaranteed to provide hikers of all experience levels with a once-in-a-lifetime adrenaline rush. In some locations along the trail, nothing separates hikers from certain peril other than a single steel beam, exposed to more than a century’s worth of the elements. Fortunately, a 2015 restoration project added safety features such as handrails on the bridges spanning the Gaitanes Gorge. The Valley of the Orange, framed by mountains on all sides and home to acres and acres of orange trees, is a sight not to be missed.
5. Slovenian Mountain Trail, Slovenia
Hiking 310 miles from northeast to southwest, the Slovenian Mountain Trail offers a glimpse of the country’s most scenic landscapes. The views range from the Kamnik-Savinja and Julian Alps to the seemingly endless wine country farther southwest. Highlights of the trail include the 9,396-ft. Mt. Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak, and the Skocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along its course are also the charming Alpine town of Maribor and the village of Ankaran on the Adriatic Sea. The Slovenian Mountain Trail is one of Europe’s best hikes.