Editor’s Note: The following post is by Renato Losio, editor of RunAbroad.com.
Not every hiker can master the entire 2,175-mile (3,500 km) Appalachian Trail! Not every hiker likes to struggle for months, climbing challenging peaks or carrying dehydrated food along the way. That’s why Europe is a paradise for lazy (or almost lazy) walkers – there are many easy one-week hikes with plenty to see, great food along the way and often a comfortable bed at the end of the day.
Because trekking doesn’t have to be a struggle, I have picked out five special hikes for next summer.
1. Hadrian’s Wall Path, UK
Wondering how to celebrate the 1,600th anniversary of the end of Roman Britain? Why not hike the entire 84-mile length of Hadrian’s Wall? It takes 6 to 9 days starting from the Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend to ending at the Cumbrian coast (at Bowness). No peaks, no high passes – just lots of sheep and farmlands in Tynedale, the occasional rainy day and the best of England‘s countryside.
Many barns, B&Bs, campsites and hostels are available along the entire path and you don’t need previous experience of long-distance hiking. Feasible all year round but strongly suggested between May and October (to avoid harming the ancient paths during the winter months). Check as well the tide predictions for the Cumbrian coast before you start. For more info visit nationaltrail.co.uk.
Read more: Roman Ruins in England
2. Mare e Monti, France
The GR20 in Corsica, France is a tough trek, and it’s the ultimate trail for many European hikers. However it comes with drawbacks: basic accommodations, strenuous trails and few options to buy food (let alone, enjoy a fine Corsican meal). It’s also crowded, especially in July and August.
Any better options here on Europe’s most mountainous island?
Corsica does offer less demanding and beautiful trail options: two Mare e Monti (from sea to mountain) and three Mare a Mare (from sea to sea) trails. And mixing the GR20 with the less popular Tra Mare e Monti and Da Mare Mare trails gives you a few benefits: in Calvi, a frozen Pietra, an amber beer brewed from a mix of malt and chestnut flour; the independence museum in the old city of Corte; and most of the maquis for yourself (even in August).
Allow some extra time for the beautiful, quiet and remote towns of Galeria and Girolata. No fellow hikers for hours and no need to book an expensive cab to reach the path, just board the Trinighellu train that runs from Corte – Calvi – Ajaccio – Bastia (where you can catch a ferry or a flight back to the continent). May, June and September are the best choices for a hike in Corsica. Plan at least 10 days. For more info visit parc-corse.org.
Read more about things to do in France
3. Cinque Terre, Italy
Hiking in Italy, in the rugged portion of coast in the Italian Riviera between Riomaggiore and Monterosso, is breathtaking. No cars are allowed here, and an amazing trail connects the five famous towns of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
The beauty of the trails in Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre is that they are ideal for novice hikers, or even for non-hikers who have a free weekend to spare. You can choose different hikes, including the very famous Via Dell’Amore, a semi-strenuous hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola; or the easier stretch from Manarola to Corniglia.
For a longer or more challenging hike, try the high road or Sentiero Rosso. You don’t have to hike between all five villages at one time (many B&B and hotels are available in the area) and, best of all, you can hike here all year round. (If you want to do book a Cinque Terre day hike from Florence, visit the Viator site.)
Read more about Cinque Terre
4. Estérel, France
Nice, St. Raphael, Cannes, Antibes: when you think about the French Riviera, hiking is not probably the first activity that comes to mind. But there’s more to the French Riviera than sunny beaches and a film festival. A spectacular network of footpaths allows you to hike the entire region, including a challenging hike above the seaside into the Estérel mountains, with superb views of the islands of Lérins and Cannes.
If you stay close to the coast and avoid the highest peaks, you can hike from March until November. There are also plenty of easier options – you can always put together your own combination of trails in the French Riviera. If you are looking for longer distances, you can choose between the Sentier du littoral, the GR49 or GR51.
Read more about things to do in the French Riviera
5. North Downs Way, UK
Want to follow in the footsteps of pilgrims without hiking the long (and frankly boring) Camino de Santiago de Compostela? Then the 153-mile North Downs Way is for you. It offers a peaceful Southern England landscape with spectacular views of Surrey and Kent.
From Farnham to Dover, the path is never far from a train or a bus to London or a flight to the Continent, while still offering plenty of honest-to-goodness wilderness and pure, glorious nature. The pilgrimage? That comes at the cathedral city of Canterbury along the way (just two days before reaching the White Cliffs of Dover). April to July and September to November are the best times here, though it can be managed year round. Give yourself 10 to 14 days to complete the entire circuit.
Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s hiking trips in Europe if you’re in the mood to join a semi-guided hike. If the idea of touring Hadrian’s Wall and the north of England sounds good, but not on foot, check out Viator’s 3-Day Lake District and Hadrian’s Wall small-group tour.