One of the best things about Europe is its sheer diversity in both landscape and culture in such a compact space. Every region of every county has something different to offer, and exploring it on foot gives you access to some of the most beautiful spots on the continent. And you don’t need to be an avid trekker either – there are plenty of short hikes with big rewards. Here are a few of our favourites.
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Bohinj is Slovenia’s largest permanent lake and yet a lot less crowded than the ever popular Lake Bled. It’s just a two hour bus ride or one hour drive from the capital, Ljubljana, but feels like a world away. With its ever-changing scenery of forests and meadows, stunning lake views and mountain backdrop of the Julian Alps, the 7 mile trail is easy to walk and takes between 3-4 hours. In the summer months you can even take a swim in the lake itself – a perfect way to cool off after the walk.
Cinque Terra National Park, Italy
Translating into English as Five Lands, the Cinque Terra National Park in Italy has a magical 10km coastal walk that passes through five historic fishing villages overlooking the Ligurian Sea. One of the things that makes this walk so pleasing to the eye is the pastel palette of buildings and boats, surrounded by azure water and patch-green cliffs covered in terraced gardens.
The entire route can be covered at an easy pace in about 6 hours, including short breaks. But there is also a train line that links each town so you can opt in and out of walking, or choose to spend a little longer indulging in the wonderful local cuisine on offer.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
The Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia could easily be mistaken for something straight out of a fantasy. Sixteen lakes set on two levels are connected by cascades and waterfalls (including the 78m-high Veliki Slap), surrounded by crevices of limestone and dolomite – complete with hidden caves. The park itself covers almost 115 square miles and can be explored on foot via the wooden boardwalks, or by one of the small trains and electric boats that take you to different areas. A day’s admission is about £20 during peak season (July-August) and includes all transport within the park.
Lac Blanc, France
Beginning with a cable car ride from Chamonix to La Flégère, followed by a chairlift up to the Index, this hike has all the beauty of being high up in the mountains with the added bonus of only really having to walk downhill. The trail’s starting point on foot at the Index is at an elevation of 2595 metres, and brings with it the most amazing views of the French Alps. From there you will amble down to a glittering Lac Blanc, perched on the edge of a cliff and overlooking the panoramic Mont Blanc massif. Once you’ve finished drinking in the view, continue to walk back down to La Flégère where you can enjoy a nice glass of something before catching the next cable car.
It is worth noting that the first stretch down from the Index can be a little tricky for less experienced walkers. But there is always the option of hiking up to the lake from La Flégère mid station instead.
This route is best walked between June and October as the lift doesn’t operate under snowy conditions and should take around 4 – 5 hours with time to enjoy the views.