A recent InsureandGo poll revealed that 3 out of 4 British people are more likely to consider an eco-friendly holiday now than they were a decade ago. Topping the list of greener holidays people want to try are walking and hiking holidays, with a third of people in the UK indicating they would be open to this type of trip.
With this in mind, we’ve put together five fantastic destinations for walking holidays in Europe. Even better for the planet, we’ve included suggestions on how you can get there by rail.
Camino de Santiago, Spain
The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage that dates back centuries leading to Santiago de Compostela in North Western Spain. It has various routes, including the popular Camino Francés, which starts in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, the Camino Portugués, which starts from Lisbon, and the Camino del Norte, which runs along the northern coast of Spain.
The journey varies in length and can take about a month to complete for longer routes. Accommodation is available in hostels called ‘albergues,’ and a pilgrim’s passport, or ‘credential,’ is recommended for stays. The best times to go are spring and autumn to avoid extreme weather and crowds.
To reach the starting point of the Camino Francés from the UK, you can take a train to Paris, then to Bayonne, and a local train to St. Jean Pied de Port. You can get to Lisbon via Paris and Madrid or Porto.
Tour du Mont Blanc, France/Switzerland/Italy
One of the most renowned long-distance hiking trails in Europe, the Tour du Mont Blanc is a long-distance trek that circles the Mont Blanc massif, covering approximately 170 km (105 miles) through France, Italy, and Switzerland. Most hikers complete the challenging trail in 10 to 12 days, usually between late June and mid-September when the snow has melted. Accommodation options range from mountain huts to hotels, with reservations highly recommended during peak season. Hikers should be well-prepared with proper gear and check weather forecasts regularly.
The trail is accessible from major European cities. From the UK, take the Eurostar to Paris and then a TGV to Geneva or a direct train to Chamonix.
The Grande Randonnée No. 20 (GR20), Corsica
For the ultra-fit, the French Grande Randonnée No. 20, better known as the GR20, is a 112-mile-long hiking trail in Corsica. It’s also often described as the toughest long-distance hiking trail in all of Europe. The trail traverses rugged landscapes of granite peaks, glacial lakes, and forests. The trek is usually completed in 15 to 16 days, but both faster and slower itineraries are possible. The best time to attempt the GR20 is between late May and early October, when most of the snow has melted and the mountain huts (“refuges”) are open.
Getting to the starting points at either Calenzana or Conca in Corsica involves taking a ferry from either Marseille or Nice, both of which are accessible by train from the UK.
The Kerry Way, Ireland
The Kerry Way is a long-distance walking trail located in County Kerry, Ireland, covering approximately 214 km in a circular route that starts and ends in Killarney. On the route you encounter lakes, rivers, mountains, and cliffs, with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Ring of Kerry. Typically, hikers complete the trail in 9 to 11 days, though shorter segments are also popular. Accommodation options range from campsites to bed and breakfasts, and the trail is well-marked for easy navigation. There are also plenty of pubs along the way for refreshments. The best time to hike the Kerry Way is between May and September, when the weather is relatively mild and the days are longer.
To travel from the UK to Killarney by train, take a train to Holyhead, then a ferry to Dublin, followed by a train from Dublin to Killarney.
The King’s Trail, Sweden
The Kungsleden, also known as “The King’s Trail,” offers a chance to explore the untouched wilderness of Swedish Lapland, complete with stunning lakes, mountains, and the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. The trail stretches approximately 440 km (about 270 miles) from Abisko in the north to Hemavan in the south.
Completing the entire trail typically takes about a month, but it’s divided into sections for those wanting shorter hikes. The most popular section is the northernmost stretch from Abisko to Nikkaluokta, which is approximately 105 km long and usually takes about a week to complete. The prime hiking season is between late June and September, although some sections of the trail are suitable for skiing. Along the trail, there are a number of huts operated by the Swedish Tourist Association (STF), where you can find accommodation and other basic facilities.
To get to Abisko, you would need to take a train to Brussels, then continue through Belgium and Denmark, and on to Sweden, before taking an overnight train to northern Sweden, and finally a bus to Abisko.
Wherever you plan to enjoy a walking holiday, make sure you have the right travel insurance in place.