Call it walking, hiking, backpacking, trekking, or rambling--here's some things you need to know about long distance trails and hiking in Europe
From the Epath network of long-distance trails that crisscross Europe to pilgrimages and urban walks, below is a survey of what's available on the web for European hikers, trekkers, ramblers and walkers.
Did you know you can walk from Portugal to Hungary?
Just strap on your hiking boots and and head out on the E7 Atlantic-Black Sea trail--it doesn't go all the way to the Black sea yet, but someday...
European Cross-Country Routes
Europe offers a number of long-distance hiking routes using the E-numbering system. These are the interstates of foot trails--nobody expects you to travel them end to end--they're there as conduits to allow you access when traveling country to country in Europe. Like an interstate highway, they don't claim to offer the best views or most charming countryside.
Where can you go? The most logical place to start would be a map of the entire system. The prime site for this is the European Ramblers Association, which started the Epaths process with six paths. There are now twelve.
Hiking trails in Europe, long distance hiking trails offers reports of long distance hiking trails in many European countries, mostly still undiscovered, but beautiful hiking areas. Information about getting there, trail accommodations, route maps, and information about the trail itself from folks who've walked them.
Catalana de Senderisme outlines 5 routes through Spain, including The Route of Peace - a route passing by the most interesting places of the Batalla de l'Ebre (Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939).
It's a great site to learn about Catalan Spanish, and European footpaths as well.
Barnatresc - Barcelona
I've come across some non-competitive 12-15 km walks in and around Barcelona so walkers can "get to know the city's most interesting parts, as well as its gardens, monuments, architecture, history, how the city was built, among others." [info]
Some of my favorite urban and suburban walks are documented in Great Walks of Europe. An interesting walk I've documented is a walk out of the Roman city center towards Ostia Antica: Museo della Via Ostiense to the Basilica of St. Paul. If you get off the train in Assisi and have some time on your hands, you might want to walk In the Footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.
The Rambler's Association has a fine site about walking in the UK. The site has a wealth of practical advice on walking as well.
Go on to page two to find out about pilgrimages, hiking books, and other hiking resources.
Sanitago de Compostela, the Route of St. James, Northern Spain
Since the 11th century, the route through northern Spain and extending into France has been a must for Christian devotees of St. James to solidify their faith and give a fine work-out to their thighs.
For the best coverage of the routes and the idea of pilgrimage, see the wealth of material posted by the Confraternity of Saint James. If you don't know anything about the Pilgrim's Passport or Credental del Peregrino, you're going to need to read the Camino FAQ.
If you like to read about other people's pilgrimages, how about the Dublin Pilgrimage to Lourdes. I also recommend The Italian Odyssey, the story of a couple's pilgrimage on the Italian part of the Via Francigena.
How about non-religious pilgrimage? You can follow the pilgrimage of playwright Henrik Ibsen, hiking without luggage.
How about a quick walk to the Chapels of Lombardy? See alpine pilgrimage chapels clustered together in beautiful rural settings in Northern Italy.
Just Plain Good Reading
Anthony Dyer runs a mountain trekking site for northern Europe and also has some great photos from mountain treks.
Looking for More on European Hiking?
If you'd like to start your own search for hikes in geographical areas that appeal to you, here are some tips:
- Terminology for the physical aspects: While the word "hiking" may work in web searches, much of the world uses "rambling" to describe long-distance hiking. Try "trekking" as well.
- Terminology for the trail: Try "footpath" as well as "trail" in your search.
The Last Word on Walking in Europe
See our own personal favorites in the article Great Walks of Europe or look for a walking guidebook.