For the dedicated long distance hiker looking to travel across Europe, you might be best advised to take a look at the 12 European Long Distance Paths. First created in 1938 after the establishment of the European Union, these are about as close as you’ll get to America’s borderless epic continental treks anywhere else in the world.
However, being controlled purely by the European Rambler’s Association and not upheld on a federal level, these routes were mostly designed purely for length – rather than scenic attractions. For the more casual walker (although some of these are still extremely difficult) looking for a couple of days among stunning scenery and natural vistas, rather than months of travelling across flat landscapes, these three trails offer some of the best views the continent of Europe has to offer.
Tour De Mont Blanc
This European classic is a 1700-mile monster trail that circles the entire base of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe at 4800 metres (or ~16,000 feet) tall. Crossing three separate countries, and passing through quaint mountain villages in Italy, stunning Alpine lakes in Switzerland, gorgeous sloping meadows of wildflowers in France and much, much more – this 11-day hike is certified as one of the most picturesque in the world and attracts millions of visitors every year.
Of course, not all of them complete the full 11-day trip, and therein lies the attraction of this mountain loop for many people. As a self-enclosed circuit, with plenty of hiking shelters, hotels and bed & breakfasts along the route, there’s a lot of opportunity to complete Le Tour de Mont Blanc as and when you want. However, just watch out for the Winter season when snowfall and the ever-present threat of mountain avalanches make hiking many parts of this trail unadvisable.
Spanning a positively titch 55km, or just 35 miles, this Icelandic trail offers unearthly scenery that we promise you is like nowhere else in the world. From massive frozen glaciers to bubbling geothermal springs or, yes, rainbow coloured mountains, the remote and mountainous Laugavegur Trail spans some of the most unbelievable natural vistas you’ll find anywhere on Earth.
The trail itself is impassable for all but the most dedicated and experienced hikers for most of the year due to heavy snow and ice that covers the actual trailhead. The northern end of the path, Landmannalaugar, where most people start, doesn’t even have permanent year-round roads – so prospective hikers are advised to book with local bus operators out here during the Summer months. Don’t expect any fancy hotels or urban centres along the three-day or so trek either, although basic camping facilities and shelters are provided at many points.
West Highland Way
Crossing nearly 100 miles of Scottish Highlands and mountain walks, from Glasgow to Fort William, the West Highland Way sees over 100,000 visitors every year since it first opened in 1980. However, only about 1/3 of these walkers actually complete the entire route, which is understandable seeing as it crosses nearly an entire country. Highlights of the walk include gorgeous Scottish lakes like Loch Lomond, the Devil’s Staircase hike up Glen Coe and the winding pass at the base of the UK’s highest mountain Ben Nevis.