Going on an overseas holiday is always exciting, especially these days as most of us have been waiting a long time to do it. But what if you’re after a more meaningful travel experience than lying by the pool? For anyone seeking a truly rewarding vacation, the Great Walks of Europe offer a powerful journey of rediscovery after the emotional and spiritual challenges of the past few years.
Guided group walking tours with an experienced leader are about much more than simply walking from point A to point B. They provide income for locals in regional towns, many of which have been hit hard financially by border closures, and offer not just physical but also mental health benefits. When you walk with a group, the journey is shared, and the way ahead is easier with friends by your side.
Intrepid’s Great Walks of Europe offer a sustainable way to see some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, with the wind in your hair and the sun (and a smile) on your face. With your luggage transferred from one point to the next and an expert leader to guide the way, all you need is a pair of good walking shoes, a daypack and a sense of adventure to enjoy the following European walks.
Here are 5 of the best walks in Europe
1. Mont Blanc (the easy way)
Perhaps surprisingly, you don’t need to be an expert hiker to tackle mighty Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. On a small group Mont Blanc Highlights tour with an experienced International Mountain Leader, it’s possible to cut out the tiring climbs without missing a moment of the region’s scenic beauty. With an ingenious combination of cable car rides and local knowledge, your leader will share the magic of hiking Mont Blanc with the group.
On daily walking adventures from your home base at a historic hotel in the heart of Chamonix, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, you’ll hike along the foot of the Bionnassay glacier, cross a Himalayan style suspension bridge, and see the rocky needles of Mont Blanc piercing the sky above. With a free day in Chamonix halfway through the trip to rest your legs and discover the region your way, this centre-based trip offers the perfect mix of time spent together and apart and is a hit with adventurous solo female travellers.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT MONT BLANC WALKING TRIP FOR YOU
2. Camino de Santiago
Can’t decide whether you want a cultural odyssey, physical challenge, religious pilgrimage, or the chance to hang out with interesting travel companions? The Walk the Camino de Santiago tour was created especially for you. This seven-day life-affirming small group hiking adventure takes in the final section of Spain’s Camino de Santiago, the most iconic part of the trail. Walking through traditional countryside, quaint hamlets, Roman ruins and more, you’ll fuel up on traditional Galician specialties like polbo a feira octopus in Melide, cheese in Arzua and sample Queimada, which involves casting a spell so special powers are transferred to those who sip the local brew.
Your journey ends in the ancient city of Santiago de Compostela where you’ll collect your official Camino de Santiago certificate, the Compostela, which is only available to those who complete the minimum 100km (62 miles) of this iconic Great Walk. Time your arrival for before noon and you can enter the cathedral and participate in the pilgrims’ mass where the names of all those who have collected their Camino certificates in the last 24 hours are read aloud – including yours.
WALK THE CAMINO FROM SPAIN OR PORTUGAL
READ MORE: WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT MYSELF ON AN INTREPID WALKING TRIP
3. Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall is one of the most classical long-distance hikes in the United Kingdom, rightfully earning its place within the Great Walks of Europe. The ancient Roman ruins of Hadrian’s Wall, the largest section of which is located in the spectacular Northumberland National Park, are Britain’s largest archaeological feature and stretch along an unbroken 135 km (84 mile) footpath from one coast of England to the other.
With an experienced local guide sharing stories along the way, history comes alive and the miles fly by on the Walk Hadrian’s Wall Highlights tour as you walk from the western outpost of Carlisle to the eastern reaches at Heddon-on-the-Wall near Newcastle upon Tyne. You’ll be walking at a reasonable but not strenuous pace, on a well-designed itinerary that uses the region’s prevailing winds to give you a boost along the trail. With a day at leisure to explore the charming town of Cholleford and plenty of time to take photos along the way, this seven-day walking tour celebrates the unique beauty and history of this walk in equal measure.
4. The Dolomites
Hiking in the Dolomites is a Great Walk that’s popular with travellers from around the world. This eight-day round-trip guided group tour departs from Venice, one of Europe’s most iconic cities and the perfect spot for an extended pre- or post-tour stay to make your holiday last longer. After a couple of hours’ drive, you’ll arrive in the Italian town of Dobbiaco which is the perfect jumping off point for some of the Dolomites best walks which take in the sheer rock walls, deep valleys and lush pastures of the northern Italian Alps.
Highlights include the Three Peaks of Lavaredo loop, a full day walk which is widely regarded as the Dolomites’ most scenic hike, and Europe’s most incredible naturally formed earth pyramids. After a well-earned sleep in on the penultimate morning of the trip, you’ll settle back to enjoy a ‘merenda Tirolese’ picnic, a traditional meal eaten by farmers, overlooking sparkling Toblacher See lake with a glass of Schiava, a typical wine from the region, in hand to toast your amazing Dolomites adventure.
DISCOVER SOME OF ITALY’S BEST ACTIVE ADVENTURES
5. Tour du Mont Blanc
Lace up your hiking boots and get ready for one of Europe’s most famous and most beautiful long-distance treks. Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is Intrepid’s most popular Great Walk of Europe and features more snow-capped peaks, lakes, glaciers, and mountain pastures than you can point a camera at.
With daily luggage transport and comfortable accommodation ranging from historic hotels to scenic alpine huts to look forward to at the end of each day, this is your chance to tackle one of the more demanding Great Walks of Europe with an enthusiastic and encouraging International Mountain Guide by your side (and cable car rides along the way to make your journey easier). If you’re fit and in good health, the Tour du Mont Blanc shouldn’t be missed – but there’s a catch. If you want to do this walk any time soon, you’ll have to get in quick as many departures have already almost sold out!