Most popular hiking trails in Europe and their alternatives

Publication date: 02 Apr 2024


Discover the most popular hiking trails in Europe and their less busy alternatives. Europe offers a great variety of trails from the rugged highlands of Scotland to the high mountain peaks in Switzerland, pilgrim paths in Spain, and rocky trails alongside the fjords in Norway. A unique way to hike in Europe is to enjoy a hut-to-hut tour in the Alps or Pyrenees where you’ll sleep in the beautiful and cozy mountain huts. These huts, also called refugios or refuges, range from very basic dormitory-style sleeping rooms to luxurious mountain huts with delicious cuisine and they are all mostly above 2000m (6561 ft).

As hiking, and especially long-distance hiking, in Europe gets more and more popular, it can get crowded on the trails. Especially during the peak seasons, usually July and August. That’s why we’ve summed up five of Europe’s most popular long-distance trails and their less busy alternatives if you seek a more serene experience. If you still want to hike one of the most popular trails (no worries, we understand), make sure you book the accommodations months in advance. Especially during high season, most mountain huts or campgrounds are sold out months in advance.

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Katie Mitchell

After a whirlwind of 8 years on the road (and trail!), Katie has hiked the Camino Frances, the Peaks of the Balkans, the Fisherman’s Trail, and extensively in the United States. She is an avid trail runner and now lives in Colorado where she plays in the mountains in her free time. You can follow her adventures on Instagram.

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Top 5 most popular trails in Europe

1. Tour du Mont Blanc
Alternative: Tour du Queyras
2. West Highland Way
Alternative: Skye Trail
3. Alta Via 1
Alternative: Zoldo Valley Ring
4. Laugavagur Trail
Alternative: Long Lofoten Crossing
5. Fishermen’s Trail
Alternative: Lycian Way

1. Tour du Mont Blanc

Meet Europe’s most popular hiking trail: the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). And for good reason. This long-distance trail offers an unforgettable trek around the Mont Blanc massif, which encompasses parts of France, Italy, and Switzerland. Spanning approximately 170 kilometers (about 105 miles) and featuring diverse terrains, this trail is magnificent. No wonder that this is one the most popular hiking trails in Europe.

Typically completed in 7 to 10 days, the TMB attracts hikers from around the globe. Most hikers start in Les Houches just a few kilometers from Chamonix, the famous mountain town in the French Alps. It’s possible to stay in the mountain huts (refuges) but you’ll need to book months in advance. A lot of hikers also camp at the designated spots near the mountain huts and campsites along the trail.

Tour du Mont Blanc

Person walking up a grassy hill with mountains in the backgroundAn alternative to the Tour du Mont Blanc: the Tour du Queyras

The Tour du Queyras is a less busy alternative to the Tour du Mont Blanc. This long-distance trail lies in the French Hautes-Alpes, along the Italian border. This hut-to-hut tour offers beautiful alpine meadows, mountain lakes, and dense forests, paired with the beauty of the higher mountain terrains. The Queyras Valley is a hidden gem in Europe.

Weather permitting, the views extend to the Italian border’s defining mountain range, showcasing peaks like Pic de Caramantran, Rocca Bianca, and Tête des Toilliés, all above 3000 meters. Not to be missed is the Barre des Écrins at 4102 meters. The Ecrins region is also a very popular destination for hikers just beside the Queyras. This hut-to-hut trek leads you up to almost 3000 meters crossing several alpine passes. The Tour du Queyras will not disappoint you!

Tour du Queyras

Two hikers walking up on gravel road with mountains in the background2. West Highland Way

The West Highland Way is Scotland’s first officially designated long-distance trail and one of the most iconic treks in Scotland. Stretching approximately 154 kilometers (96 miles) from Milngavie, just outside Glasgow, to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak, the trail offers a perfect Scottish hiking experience. It typically takes 5 to 7 days to complete this trail. It’s Scotland’s most popular hiking trail.

The West Highland Way is known for its accessibility and well-maintained paths, making it suitable for a wide range of hikers, from beginning long-distance hikers to seasoned trekkers. Along the route, there are numerous accommodations and support services, from cozy bed and breakfasts to convenient luggage transfer companies. You can also choose to wild camp or stay at the campsites.

West Highland Way

Rugged mountains in cloudy weather. An alternative to the West Highland Way: the Skye Trail

Say hello to the beautiful Scotland’s Isle of Skye. Here you’ll find the Skye Trail, a perfect alternative for the more busy West Highland Way. This long-distance trail in Scotland combines stunning landscapes, rich history, and mythical tales. Starting in the north at Rubha Hunish, the trail takes you to Flodigarry and through the Quiraing, with dramatic landscapes, to the panoramic views of the Trotternish Ridge. The Cuillin Range challenges hikers with its rugged terrain, while the beauty of Glen Sligachan signals the trail’s end in Broadford.

The Old Man of Storr is one of the most iconic natural landmarks on the Isle of Skye, and the Skye Trail in Scotland. Situated on the Trotternish Ridge, this magnificent pinnacle of rock stands tall against the skyline. The name “Storr” comes from the Old Norse word for “great man,” which is fitting given the imposing presence of the rock formation. On this trail, wild camping is possible but you can also choose to sleep at one of the cozy accommodations like guest houses and bed & breakfasts and campsites alongside the towns on this trail.

Skye Trail

Aerial view of rugged mountain peak 3. Alta Via 1

The Alta Via 1, also known as the Dolomite High Route 1, is the most popular long-distance trail in the Italian Dolomites. And also for good reason. This hut-to-hut tour showcases the beauty of the Italian Dolomites from alpine mountain lakes to unique rock formations. Extending over approximately 120 kilometers (75 miles), the trail takes hikers from the famous mountain lake Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee) in the north to Belluno in the south, usually completed in 7 to 10 days.

One of the best things about the Alta Via 1 is the stays in the beautiful mountain huts along the way. In these refugios, you can taste the cuisine of South Tyrol in the heart of the Dolomites, a UNESCO world heritage site. In these mountain huts, you’ll meet many other hikers and you’ll all eat together during the evening. Great trail!

Alta Via 1

Hiker watching out in the distance over green valley and mountainsAn alternative to the Alta Via 1: the Zoldo Valley Ring

Also in the Italian Dolomites, Val di Zoldo remains a hidden gem, overlooked by the throngs of tourists in nearby regions, despite its status as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This secluded valley’s obscurity isn’t due to a lack of vistas; rather, it’s the ruggedness of its paths that might deter a casual hiker. This six-day circuit winds through the valley, leading trekkers through forests, over rocky terrain, and across beautiful gorges, offering solitude rarely found elsewhere.

The Zoldo Mountains, graced by the iconic Dolomite peaks, Pelmo and Civetta, both surpassing the ‘3000-meter’ mark, undoubtedly rank among the most picturesque valleys of the Dolomites. If you want to hike in the Dolomites and are looking for a quieter trail than for example the Alta Via 1, don’t look any further!

Zoldo Valley Ring

Two hikers walking in distance on black sand with colored mountains in the background4. Laugavegur Trail

The Laugavegur Trail is Iceland’s most popular hiking trail and maybe one of the most popular trails in the world. Spanning roughly 55 kilometers (34 miles), it connects the Landmannalaugar region in the highlands with Þórsmörk, a valley nestled at the foot of the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. Most hikers complete the trail in 4 to 5 days. But take it slow, the Laugavegur Trail offers a unique and diverse hiking experience, characterized by its otherworldly terrains that range from geothermal hot springs and deep green mountains to black sand deserts and glacial rivers. It’s a magical volcanic landscape.

One of the best aspects of the Laugavegur Trail is its accessibility to a wide range of hikers, with well-marked paths and a series of mountain huts and camping sites providing accommodation along the route. This infrastructure, combined with the trail’s breathtaking vistas, makes the Laugavegur loved by thousands of hikers every year. Please note that the season (July – August) is short and also in summer you’ll have a chance at snow blizzards.

Laugavagur Trail

An alternative to the Laugavegur Trail: the Long Crossing of the Lofoten Islands

The Long Crossing of the Lofoten Islands is an ‘unofficial’ hiking trail that has become more popular over the last few years. Created by a group of enthusiastic hikers, the trail merges the best hiking paths of the Lofoten (pronounced Loff-ooten) into a true thru-hike from west to east. You will traverse the four largest islands, thru-hiking the rugged Norwegian landscape, where you’ll occasionally board a ferry to cross the fjords to the next island.

The Lofoten archipelago extends approximately 180 kilometers above the Arctic Circle in the Norwegian Sea. Characterized by steep mountains rising from the water, deep fjords, beautiful beaches, green valleys, and ancient fishing villages, the main islands are Austvågøy, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøy, and Moskenesøy, along with many smaller islets. Lofoten has a rich fishing history that dates back to the Viking Age. Traditional fishing practices, such as drying cod on wooden racks, continue to be a significant aspect of the local culture.

It’s important to note that the Long Crossing of the Lofoten Islands is not an official route. The trail consists of various linked hiking paths and is a highly challenging journey that traverses steep mountain ridges in rocky terrain. This hike should only be undertaken by experienced mountain hikers with a bit of alpine experience and no fear of heights as the trails are rocky and technical. Find the GPX on the trail page.

Long Lofoten Crossing

Dry landscape with some vegetation beside the sea5. Fishermen’s Trail

The Fishermen’s Trail, part of the Rota Vicentina network, is a coastal hiking trail along the southwestern coast of Portugal, known as the Alentejo and Vicentina Coast. This trail stretches approximately 230 kilometers (143 miles) and is famous for its breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and rugged cliffs. It’s one of the most beautiful coastal trails in the world. Unlike the earlier named more traditional ´mountain´ trails, the Fishermen’s Trail offers a hiking experience that meanders along the coastline, with the Atlantic Ocean always at your side.

Most hikers complete the Fishermen’s Trail in 13 days, beginning a bit under Lisbon in Sao Torpes and ending in Lagos. Accommodation options along the Fishermen’s Trail include a mix of camping sites, guesthouses, hotels, and hostels for a comfortable trail experience. Every stage ends at a fishing village. As you might know, this region is well known for its seafood with local restaurants serving fresh dishes that reflect the rich history of the region. Don’t forget to drink some Vinho Verde, the typical green Portuguese wine.

Fisherman’s Trail

An alternative to the Fishermen’s Trail: the Lycian Way

In the southwestern of Turkey, you’ll find another one of the most beautiful coastal trails in the world: the Lycian Way. This great long-distance trail of 540 kilometers (335 miles) weaves through the rugged terrain of the Taurus Mountains, descending into stunning bays, and traversing the ruins of the old Lycian civilization.

The journey begins in Ölüdeniz and after a few weeks of following the coastline, you’ll reach the endpoint close to Antalya. This trail is a bit longer than the Fishermen’s Trail and many long-distance hikers hike this trail in sections. It’s a great option for those who seek a bit more of an adventure. Wild camping is possible here and there are many opportunities to enjoy the rich kitchen of this ancient area in Turkey. This hiking trail truly deserves more attention and definitily can become one of the most popular trails in Europe in the future.

Lycian Way


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