Three of Europe’s best coastal hikes

Europe has some incredible scenery, and a hiking adventure is one of the best ways to truly appreciate it.The European continent has it all, beautiful lakes, majestic mountains and spectacular rivers, with unique and charming towns and villages, often historic, scattered throughout, not to mention the food! There is an enormous variety of walking paths, offering everything from simple strolls to hardcore hiking. These three walks are my favourite coastal hikes in Europe, and worth the effort for the views alone.

The Lycian Way, Turkey

Kayakoy ghost village on the Lycian Way, near Fethiye, Turkey

Covering more than 500 kilometres, the Lycian Way (Lykia Yolu) is made up of several historic pathways that stretch along Turkey’s beautiful south west coast between Fethiye and Antalya. While sections make for a relaxing stroll, other parts of the historic trail lead up and down steep mountain inclines, along loose surfaces. The Lycian Way is fascinating. It brushes very close to modern resorts, making it very accessible, but leads through remote mountain villages and ancient Lycian and Roman sites. It also offers incredible glimpses through pine trees, and spectacular views, of the glittering Mediterranean as well as beach access in places. The walk offers authentic Turkish village encounters, ancient tombs, historic sites, such as ghost town Kayakoy, and amazing views. There are no fees to camp or hike along the Lycian Way.

Best time to go: March – June or September – November

Prepare: Maps are available but not strictly necessary as the path is marked with red and white waymarkers. For part of the walk the only accommodation option is camping so you will need to carry a tent. Buy one from Tesco; well-equipped camping shops don’t exist along Turkey’s southern coast! A torch will also be useful. Avoid moving rocks if unnecessary as small scorpions may lurk beneath them. Fresh water springs (that are safe to drink from) can be found at the western end of the trail, but not along its full length, so a plentiful supply of drinking water needs to be planned. Turk konusuyorsunuz? Unless you speak Turkish a phrasebook will be helpful in the more remote villages.

Via del’ Amore, Cinque Terre, Italy

Corniglia on Cinque Terre’s coastal walk, Italy

Picturesque Cinque Terre, on Italy’s north west coast, is a string of five coastal villages. The Via del’ Amore stretches between Riomaggiore and Manarola. It is famous for its tunnel covered in declarations of love and its kissing statue. The walk is a wide flat boulevard with coastal cliffs on one side and the seemingly endless Mediterranean on the other. Half way along the walk a café provides a beautiful spot to sit back and enjoy the view over a refreshing drink. The Via del’ Amore is only a fraction of the coastal hiking available on this coastline however, and is definitely the easiest stretch. It is possible to walk all the way from Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare (or in the other direction), and will take about six hours to complete, longer if you enjoy some of the wonderful local restaurants. Visitors need to purchase a Cinque Terre National Parks card to access the trail.

Best time to go: April – September, but beware it may be very hot July – August.

Prepare: Inclement weather can make conditions difficult along the Cinque Terre trail and paths are frequently closed to make them safe from dangers such as loose rocks and landslides. Check the Cinque Terre National Park website before you go to know which paths are open. Sections of the walk are very narrow and some do not have guardrails. There are also over 300 steps on the way up to Corniglia, so while the Via del’ Amore is easy, other sections of the walk are more challenging. The coastal walk does not provide options for camping but accommodation is available in all the towns along the route. It is easiest to choose one town to sleep in and then get the local train back from wherever you walked each day. Food and drinking water is available in each town. For more information about hiking in Cinque Terre click here.

Sentier du Petit Prince, Calanques, France

Calanques, near Cassis, Provence, France. Photo credit: akunamatata

France’s famous calanques attract not just hikers but all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts such as cavers, climbers, and even people from Marseille looking for a pretty Sunday afternoon picnic spot. The beautiful calanques line the southern coast between Marseille and Cassis, and the hiking path is called the ‘Sentier du Petit Prince’ named after aviator Saint Exupery’s classic children’s book ‘The Little Prince’ when the author died in a plane crash over the Mediterranean. This craggy white limestone coastline offers spectacular views from high cliffs down long narrow inlets to the beautiful turquoise Mediterranean. Three calanques are easily accessed via walking routes from Cassis. Port Miou is the nearest calanque to Cassis and provides a safe mooring for hundreds of boats. Smaller Port Pin and En Vau are further west have accessible beaches, and are especially pretty. It takes an hour to reach Port Pin from Cassis, and two to get to En Vau (access to which is particularly steep). It is possible to walk from Cassis to Marseille, following the red and white waymarkers. The walk takes 10 – 12 hours.

Best time to go: April – June or September – October, but beware there is a significant fire risk during summer and access is restricted, and during July and August can be forbidden.

Prepare: Vegetation is sparse in the extreme conditions common on this chalky limestone coastline. Parts of the trail are exposed, with vertical drops, and smooth surfaces; it can be slippery when wet. It is important to be aware of windy conditions (especially Provence’s gusty winter wind, the Mistral) and to wear appropriate footwear to remain sturdy on your feet. There are no restaurants or shops at any of the calanques, so it is essential to take water, snacks and suncream with you. Camping is not permitted at the calanques.

Do you love hiking in Europe? What is your favourite trail? Please share suggestions in the comments below.

Photo credit: Christine McIntosh

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