The 8 Best Cinque Terre Tours to Book in 2018

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Cinque Terre, the five colorful cliffside Liguria villages that have become iconic images of coastal Italy, offer visitors a delightful blend of culinary adventures, outdoor activities, and beautiful waterfront scenery. Part of the fun of visiting Cinque Terre is exploring each of the little towns in turn and discovering the surprising variety of atmospheres and experiences they all offer. Small though they may be, they’re chock-a-block with things to do and see and to really take a deep dive into their offerings, you might consider taking a formal tour. There are plenty of excellent Cinque Terre tours available, each utilizing a variety of transportation options and focusing on several different facets of local life. Prefer to bike? Ride on a boat? Spend more time walking and less time shopping? More time eating and less time talking? These excellent tours offer you all of those options and more.

  • 01 of 08

    The five colorful villages of Cinque Terre are all linked by a train, which is a wonderfully easy and scenic way to hop from one to the next. With your private local guide leading the way, it becomes even easier. Starting from the train station at La Spezia, you’ll work your way one by one through the five villages, with your guide illuminating the history and culture of the region and offering tips for shopping, eating, and sightseeing.

    Because the tour is private, you’re fully flexible: if you want to see as much as possible, you can move through quickly. If something specific catches your fancy and you want to spend a good amount of time exploring, you certainly can. Leisurely lunch? Why not? Quick shopping stops? Sure. You’ve got some control, but you’ve also got a real live expert making sure you don’t miss anything amazing and that you have the time of your life.

  • 02 of 08

    Guided by an American expat who’s been living in the Cinque Terre for the better part of two decades, this tour is ideal for those who love a good hike. Your day will start in the morning at the train station in Riomaggio from where you’ll begin hiking on ancient pathways and trails through vineyards, tiny lesser-known hamlets, and several of the larger villages of the Cinque Terre.

    The pathways you’ll take are lesser-known to tourists, so you’ll catch breathtaking views of the villages that most visitors never get to see, and when you enter the villages themselves, you’ll have an expert right on hand to help you find the very best places to eat, shop, and visit.

    After visiting Volastra and Manarola entirely on foot, you’ll hop a short train to Vernazza and then again to Monterosso, with a stroll around the older part of each town. From Monterosso, you’ll take a ferry back to Riomaggio, where you started, giving you an entirely different view of the beautiful villages you hiked through earlier.

  • 03 of 08

    If you’d like to spend some time exploring the tiny villages that perch in the mountains above the more famous named seaside towns of Cinque Terre, consider this e-bike tour, which allows you to get those gorgeous views of the bay while visiting some lesser-seen places. Exploring this area by car is pretty difficult, as not all of the villages even allow vehicle traffic and it’s not the most efficient way to get from one to the next, in many cases.

    But the hills are steep, which makes regular biking its own challenge. E-bikes, which give you that extra motorized push to make ascending hills easy, are the perfect solution, and this tour takes full advantage of their flexibility. You’ll visit Levanto, Costa, Mount Serro, Setta, Anzo, and Framura before lunch, a hearty spread of Ligurian fare, including wine, before taking a slightly different path back to your starting location, this time past Bonassola.

    It’s another good off-the-beaten-path choice that lets you see some of the region that you’re not likely to see on other tours.

  • 04 of 08

    Seeing the beautiful, color-splashed villages of Cinque Terre from the water is a must-do, but there’s something uniquely special about being in a boat that you power with your own two arms. You don’t need to be an expert kayaker for this small-group (limit 12) kayaking tour along Cinque Terre’s rugged coast, either — the calm coastal waters make it an easy place for beginners to paddle.

    You’ll begin your day in Monterosso, where you’ll board your single or double kayak and set off. Paddling through the bright blue waters of the Cinque Terre Marine Protected Area, your guide will help you spot wildlife, from dolphins to cormorants. Your first stop will be the beach at Guvano, past Vernazza, where you’ll take a rest, munch on snacks (bring your own!), and take a swim or sunbathe for a bit before you head back into the water.

    The next village you’ll reach is Corniglia, where you can choose to disembark and spend some time strolling, shopping, and sightseeing or, if you’re up for it, you can paddle on a bit further along the coast before ultimately turning around and heading back to Monterosso. It’s not the wildest paddle you’ll ever do, but it’s unquestionably one of the most beautiful.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    There’s something charming about taking a sailboat out into the water next to these coastal fishing villages, following the waterborne path of countless generations of locals, who’d head out in the morning with nets and return in the afternoon with boats full of fish. This isn’t a fishing tour (probably for the better, smell-wise) but you do get to dabble in the ancient art of harnessing the wind to move your little boat.

    You’ll meet your skipper at the harbor at La Spezia and set off for a seven-hour tour along the coastline of the Cinque Terre. Throughout the day, you’ll have chances to jump into the water for a swim or a snorkel and enjoy the pleasant company of your small group (max 10) and the crew, who’ll gladly teach you some sailing tips and let you help with the process.

    At the edge of the Varnazza shore, you’ll drop anchor and indulge in a delicious lunch of local specialties, typically including a selection of cured meats, anchovies, local olives, fresh fruit, and bread, all finished off with a hearty swig of local wine. This tour does not stop at any towns — it’s a whole day at sea, full of magnificent views and wonderful company.

  • 06 of 08

    Though a motorboat doesn’t have quite the romance that a sailboat does, for practical purposes, it’s a great way to scoot from town to town while getting that gorgeous view from the water. This short two-hour tour takes off from Vernazza and hugs the coastline closely (something larger touristic boats can’t do), giving you perfect glimpses of each of the villages as they appear around the bends.

    You’ll have an opportunity to swim and snorkel within the Cinque Terre Marine Protected Area, and depending on the wishes of the group on the boat, you also may dock at one of the picture-perfect towns along the route and disembark for a quick bit of sightseeing.

    On your way back to Vernazza, you’ll enjoy a glass (or two) of locally-produced wine. Cin-cin!

  • 07 of 08

    Meeting and interacting with locals is one of the great goals of travel and yet, especially in heavily-touristed regions, can be strangely elusive. This tour is fabulous because it allows you not only to learn about the famous food and drink products of Cinque Terre, but also to get to know a local and understand the culture a bit better from the inside. Your guide, a certified Cesarine (a proud coordinated network of Italian home cooks) will meet you at the local food market and show you how Ligurians select the perfect ingredients from the produce on display — truly an art form unto itself.

    After an hour or so of trawling the market stalls, seeking out perfect plump lemons and briny anchovies from the sea below, you’ll head back to your new local friend’s home, where you’ll help to prepare a decadent four-course menu. And then, ovviamente, you eat. (True to form, the meal portion takes twice as long as either of the other portions.) Alongside your meal, you’ll enjoy local wines, and you’ll end your experience with a perfect cup of espresso.

    Your souvenirs will include not just an official Cesarine apron and market bag, but newfound insider knowledge that will allow you to replicate your decadent meal (and shopping techniques) back at home.

  • 08 of 08

    Can’t decide whether to pick a boat tour or a food tour? Trying to please multiple people in your party? Simply looking for the most thorough experience you can come by? This tour might just do the trick for you. You’ll begin your day with a scenic train ride into the heart of Cinque Terre, where a short and pretty walk will take you to your day’s first experience: a pesto-making class.

    Pesto is one of the iconic dishes of Northern Italy and they take great pride in it around here. The class is hands-on — you’ll even grind the basil and garlic with a mortar and pestle (the word “pesto” is related to the word “pestle”). All of your labor will be worth it, though, as once you’re finished, you can dig into it, served on local bread aside cured meats, cheeses, and other delicacies.

    After you’ve filled up, it’s just a short stroll to the harbor where you’ll board your boat, which will take you on a scenery-filled trip along the coastline to Vernazza, where the tour officially ends. You may choose to explore Vernazza a bit further, though, or simply jump on the train back to La Spezia.

    The tour does include a pass to give you access to the local walking trails as well as the train, so you can really spend the rest of your day however you like. 

Our Process

Our writers spent 2 hours researching the most popular Cinque Terre tours on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 40 different tours overall, screened options from 40 different brands and read over 60 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.