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Top 10 walks in Europe

From an easy hike across French wine country to a tough trek around the Mont Blanc massif, here are 10 European walks for all abilities 

Oiriginally published by The Guardian – Friday 27 April 2012 – Simon Ingram


Camino Francés, Spain

camino-frances-caminowaysThe Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James, is a series of pilgrimages beginning at various points across Europe but all ending in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Most popular is the Camino Francés, which begins in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France. To walk the whole 780km takes around a month, but for a shorter trip, tackle the final 111km, from Sarria to Santiago.

Level/time Moderate – you’re covering up to 25km a day, but the route’s well serviced. Allow seven days.
Getting there Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies to Santiago de Compostela from Stansted from around £80 return, then take a bus or taxi (from around €90) to Sarria. See the route at tinyurl.com/camfrances.

Alsace Wine Trail, France

Civilised cultural wandering amid the woody charm of the Rue du Vin is the perfect opportunity to mix wine and walking. Bergheim, Turckheim, pretty Riquewihr and Kaysersberg are easily linked on day-long walks of up to 17km.
Level/time Mostly easy walking; ask in a local tourist office for footpath pointers. Allow four to five days.
Getting there EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies from Luton to Paris from £67 return, then take a train to Turckheim (from £64 return, raileurope.co.uk), or drive via Eurotunnel (£110 return, eurotunnel.com). For hikes in northern Alsace, see tinyurl.com/northalsace.

Lake district, Austria

Hallstatt is a perfect hub for exploring the Austrian lake district. From here you can travel between steepled villages on easy footpaths, indulging in the odd lake crossing.
Level/time Typically easy, pleasant walking through Julie Andrews terrain. Allow from three days to a week.
Getting there Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Stansted to Salzburg from around £75 return, then take a bus to Hallstatt for around €30 (huttleceskykrumlov.com). See walking trails from Halstatt at tinyurl.com/halstatthike.

Kastelli Kissamos, Crete

Base yourself in Kastelli Kissamos in the far north-west of Crete and you have access to a variety of routes, taking in necropolises, deserted coastal paths and olive groves. Don’t miss the beautiful Sirikari Gorge.
Level/time Walks to suit any level, though beware of summer heat. Between five days and a week is ideal.
Getting there Several budget airlines fly to nearby Chania from about £100 return. Check out The High Mountains of Crete (£14, Cicerone, tinyurl.com/highcrete) for walking routes.

Durmitor national park, Montenegro

Parts of Montenegro’s coast buzz with wealth, but the interior is all crumbling mountains and dark, Balkan wilderness, refreshingly undeveloped. Durmitor national park’s trails can be accessed from the well-serviced hub of Zabljak, on the edge of the park.
Level/time All levels. Allow five days: two to travel, three to walk.
Getting there Monarch (monarch.co.uk) has returns from Gatwick to Dubrovnik from £105, then hire a car for the short hop over the border.


Tuscany, Italy

The historic hilltop villages of San Gimignano, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Strove and Monteriggioni are close enough to be linked with pleasant one-day walks.
Level/time Easy walking through open countryside and villages. Can be hot in summer. Allow a long weekend.
Getting there Budget airlines fly to Pisa from about £1oo return. Find good-value accommodation at thriftytuscany.com. Get hold of a copy of Walking in Tuscany by Gillian Price (£15, Cicerone, tinyurl.com/tuscanyprice) before you go.

Tour du Mont Blanc France

tour-mont-blancFor the best view of the Mont Blanc massif, get yourself on to this elevated path above Chamonix. Do one-day or shorter sections of the route between Les Houches and Argentière, or tackle the Tour du Mont Blanc, a strenuous 250km trail that takes in the most naturally dramatic slices of Switzerland, France and Italy.

Level/time Moderate fitness for the shorter walks; the tour is tougher. Allow a long weekend for the smaller trails; 10 six-hour days for the tour.
Getting there Budget airlines fly to Geneva from £68 return, minibus to Chamonix from £41 return. Hiking maps from chamonix.com; more details on tourdumontblanc.tripod.com.

Kerry, Ireland

Kerry’s hills are eerie and wet, but atmospheric. The range called MacGillycuddy’s Reeks is the finest example of Irish mountainscape, and makes a superb centrepiece for a long weekend. Ideally based in a small cottage. By the sea. Near a pub.
Level/time Moderate – most of the hills have straightforward ways up, but a full traverse of the Reeks ridge requires good mountain walking skills. Allow four days – two either side for travel, and one each for exploring the Reeks and the nearby Dingle peninsula.
Getting there Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Gatwick to Cork from £52 return. For walking routes and places to stay see discoverireland.ie.

Jotunheimen national park Norway

Norway can rival the Rockies for a fraction of the time and cash, particularly if you pack a tent. Jotunheimen national park is a sub-Arctic wilderness with trails up and around glaciated peaks such as Norway’s highest, Galdhøppigen.
Level/time Robust fitness an asset. Allow three days to a week.
Getting there Norwegian (norwegian.com) flies from Gatwick to Oslo or Bergen from £90. Grab a trail map at Juvasshytta Visitor Centre (juvasshytta.no).

Via Ferrata, Lake Garda, Italy

First world war soldiers engineered this system of iron ladders and cables. The staggering heights and angles achievable with relatively little skill attract more adventurous walkers. You need a helmet and harness to make your way across screech-inducing drops.
Level/Time Routes are graded but this is definitely adventurous. Allow five days. You’ll also need to get Via Ferrata instruction. Check out Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites, Vols 1 and 2 (£15.95, Cicerone, tinyurl/viaferratas).
Getting there EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies from Gatwick to Verona from £62 return. For buses to Riva del Garda see bus company website (atv.verona.it).

Simon Ingram, editor of hillwalking magazine Trail (livefortheoutdoors.com)

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