Europe is brimming with walking opportunities. Stroll through rural villages in southern France or trek amongst jaw-dropping scenery in the Italian Lakes and the Swiss Alps. European hikes combine beautiful landscapes with varied trails and historic sites.
The stunning Alpine regions of south-west Switzerland have long been a favourite of the more adventurous holiday maker. Vallais is riddled with mountain trails, pine woodlands and crystal-clear lakes. If you’re taking the kids, you can make the village of Zermatt your base and set off for the Gornergorge. Its roped trails and bridges make the unique landscape accessible for all. Serious hikers will want to strike out for the towering peaks and there are a number of trails which will take you into the heart of this spectacular glacial country. Cable cars will take you to Schwarzee, from where you can cross the Trift Gorge for unparalleled views of the Matterhorn.
Further east, alternative trekking and walking holidays can be enjoyed in the splendour of the Engadine Valley, where spring meadows and picturesque villages await, or the Bernese Alps around Jungfrau for iconic Swiss imagery and challenging hikes.
For a more relaxed feel, try rural France for a walking trip and discover hill-top chateaux, sunlit vineyards and fine food along the way. The south-eastern region around Provence and the Cote d’Azur is particularly appealing for its pleasant climate and the mix of inland and coastal walking. Roam through dense forests, monastic ruins, vast valleys and secret coves for a thoroughly varied experience. The warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea also provide a welcome break after a day’s trekking.
Many tour groups are available to explore this area, depending on the level of guidance you require. If your family is interested, cycling holidays in France for kids are a great way to see more of the countryside and are organised at a pace which suits you.
There are many outstanding natural regions in all corners of Italy, so it may be difficult to choose a starting point. The Riviera around Genoa is near the border with France so there are opportunities here to extend the break if you wish to explore more than one country while you’re away. Idyllic scenes of port towns, soaring cliffs and commanding views of the Apennines make this area a good choice for laid-back strolls.
Further north, the Italian Lake District is more demanding on the muscles but certainly worth the effort. The largest in Italy, Lake Garda is a hotspot for outdoor pursuits with its huge Alpine summits and placid blue waters. Casual walkers can also enjoy hiking through the terracotta villages which line the banks, past churches and olive groves to the many lakeside viewpoints.
Independent hikers can find a wealth of information online about routes, stop-off locations and border controls. There are advantages to this option, as you are free to roam where you choose and be more flexible about where you stay. However, local knowledge can be very useful when looking for the most varied treks and the best viewpoints. Hiking holidays in Europe can be planned to any degree you require, so that you can retain your independence while also benefiting from specialist advice.
Terry Cotterley writes for various websites and blogs on the subject of trekking and walking holidays and has a particular interest in cycling holidays in France for kids. His passion for hiking in Europe has taken him from the snows of Norway to the warm sands of the Balkans.