Sometimes it’s the tales, not just the trails that matter. Judging from the messages we get back from our adventurers who have embarked on the likes of the Tour du Mont Blanc, or the Via Dinarica, there are so many stories to tell. There is something about a long-distance walking trail that appeals to people who seek closure, or simply composure. Sometimes people take on the Camino de Santiago, for example, because they want to follow in ancient footsteps across incredible landscapes. Sharing the camaraderie of a shared ambition with like-minded adventurers. Others do it because they want to spend quality time in retreat, with only one focus – to just keep walking until they get there. Whatever your reason for taking on long-distance walking trails, rest assured that we will look after you and carry a lot of the load. Leaving you to walk, wonder and maybe even write some stories.
Tour du Mont Blanc
Also known as the TMB for short, the Tour du Mont Blanc does not actually conquer the great peak but circumnavigates it instead. One of the world’s most celebrated long-distance walking trails, although it starts and ends in France, it’s actually a multinational massif, inviting you into Switzerland and Italy en route. The TMB is a 170km circuit around the highest peak in Europe (4,810m), a tri-partite trail. Whether you stay in mountain huts or hotels, camp it or chalet it, the TMB is a natural adventure ‘extraordinaire’. It’s also one of the world’s most popular hikes, so you need to get in early to book this one. We have plenty more information on this in our blog, Everything you need to know about the Tour du Mont Blanc hike.
Corsica’s GR20, France
Corsica is, in many ways, like a natural kingdom all of its own, its colossal peaks towering over the Mediterranean, 170km from the French mainland. Its crowning glory for hikers is the GR20 trail, which takes both training and a good head for heights. GR stands for Grandes Randonnées walking trails, a network covering over 35,000km of waymarked ways in France. The GR20 is considered one of the toughest long-distance walking trails in Europe. However, you are rewarded with some of France’s most exquisite elevated landscapes, such as the route between Vizzavona to Calvi on the north coast, where you have to really work out to bliss out. Most of our GR20 tours are self-guided, with the exception of this guided one, which is also open to solo travellers, and all of these tours are available between June and September.
Peaks of the Balkans
The hard-won peaceful relationships between Balkan countries can be celebrated on a cross-border 190km walking trail called the Peaks of the Balkans. This long-distance hiking trail traverses the Western Balkans on a circuit that encompasses the heritage highlights (and highlands) of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. Depending on the heights that you want to hit, there are options to ascend Mt. Trekufiri, Hajla, Taljanka and Arapi, all promising the most peaceful panoramas. You don’t have to take on the whole thing, although we do offer the complete trail as both a self-guided and guided tour. You can also do a shorter highlights version, again as self-guided or walking with a guided, small group.
Via Dinarica Trail, Dinaric Alps
The Via Dinarica takes you on a journey of around 1,200km across the main ridge of the Dinaric Alps, through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia. It was launched in 2010 and is the baby of a group of local and regional leaders who had the vision to not only put their countries on the map but to do so in a sustainable and adventurous way. It has a network of three trails, covering over 2,000km in all, but the most complete one is the White Trail and the best one right now for walking the Via Dinarica Trail. You can read more about it in our blog, Walking the Dinarica Trail.
West Highland Way, Scotland
The West Highland Way, walkable in ten days, is one of the most magnificent walking holidays, covering 154km between Milngavie, just north of Glasgow up to Fort William on the shores of Loch Linnhe, with Ben Nevis waiting to greet you on the final stretch. Although you won’t have many ascents, you will definitely have wilderness, including Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, the wilds of Rannoch Moor and Glencoe. Just like you don’t have to down a whisky in one, you don’t have to walk the Way in one either, but imbibe it slowly in different sections, either following Loch Lomond between Milngavie and Inverarnan or through the Highlands between Tyndrum and Fort William.
Great Glen Way, Scotland
If being by the water, wind in your hair and dipping your toes along the way is your thing, then the Great Glen Way may be the bonniest of our Scotland walking holidays. Spend nine days sauntering along the shores of the Caledonian Canal, with its adjoining lochs and locks, on a 118km trail leading from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east through the Great Glen Valley. Staying in small hotels or B&Bs along the way, with your luggage transported daily for you, take the low road through the Highlands and be invigorated by fresh air coming in off the waters of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness along the way. For an even greater ‘way’, combine this with the West Highland Way on this ultimate Scotland hiking tour. For more long-distance walking trails in Scotland, see our blog, The best hikes in Scotland.
Camino de Santiago, France, Spain and Portugal
Although the world-renowned and ancient Camino tours all lead to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, there are three main routes to get you there, depending on where you start your mammoth journey: the Camino Portugues starts in Porto; Camino Frances walkers have their debut in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port; and Camino del Norte walkers cling to the north coast all the way from San Sebastián. You can do all of it, a section of it, walk it or cycle it. The most important thing is to choose a Camino that will challenge but also be cherished, which is why we have dedicated a detailed Guide to all the Camino routes.
Rota Vicentina Trails, Alentejo and Algarve, Portugal
A 400km colossal web of natural trails that have been crafted over the centuries by Portugal’s rural residents, the Rota Vicentina comes in two equally perfect packages. The Caminho Histórico or the Historical Way and the Trilho dos Pescadores or the Fishermen’s Trail. Both link Santiago do Cacém in the Alentejo region with the dramatic headland of Cabo de São Vicente on the southern Algarve coast. The Historical Way heads inland through ancient cork forests, remote villages and wildflower meadows, and the Fishermen’s Trail clings to cliffs, seduces you with sandy coves and beckons hikers on from one headland to the next. For more information, see our detailed blog on the Fishermen’s Trail.
GR10, Pyrenees, France
Many of our walking holidays in the Pyrenees, and its eponymous national park, follow the Grande Randonnée (GR10) trail. At 866km long, it is topped and tailed by contrasting Atlantic and Mediterranean seascapes, with trailheads at Hendaye and Banyuls-sur-Mer, respectively. Extraordinary landscapes in between, some needing slight detours from the main GR10, include the Cirque de Gavarnie vast natural amphitheatre, solitary lakelands and views of Vignemale, and the highest French Pyrenean summit (3,298m).
On this eight day self-guided trek between Cauterets and Néouvielle, for example, you hike across the highest pass on the GR10, the Hourquette d’Ossoue (2,734m), as well as the magnificent Madamète Pass (2,509m). Or this GR10 holiday which starts in the hiking haven of Cauterets and follows the trail to the thermal spa village of Luz-Saint-Sauveur, finishing Gavarnie village with views of its celebrated cirque en route. You may also be interested in our blog on France’s iconic GR routes.
Coast to Coast Path, England
Traditionally walked west to east, the Coast to Coast Path leads you between the sandy stretches of St Bees on the Cumbrian Coast and Robin Hoods Bay at the foot of the North York Moors National Park. This is just one of three national parks that the colossal 293km Coast to Coast Path covers, the others being the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. So although this is in no way a walk in just one park, you don’t need to be an ironman or woman to take on the challenge. Walk the whole thing gently in two weeks, or break it up into a west and east segment, staying in charming hotels and inns along the way while having your luggage transferred for you.
We hope that these trails have you digging out your maps and envisaging some of Europe’s finest walking odysseys that you can undertake. There are many more to mention, as you can see from all our walking holidays. However, for more direction, you may enjoy our blogs on France’s iconic GR routes, Our best coastal walking tours, Our top ten tough treks and Hiking holidays with some of the best mountain walks. Adventure. It’s in our nature.