Alternatives to the Camino de Santiago
It is no secret that we love the Camino de Santiago and thru-hiking. We’ve written a lot of posts about it and a guide book too. But, we also know that there are other routes in Europe that we haven’t yet got our mucky paws on. As keen hikers, we are always on the lookout for long distance hiking trails in Europe. There are many to choose from, but we’ve compiled a list of our favourites that we hope to try at some point soon. A hiking bucket-list of sorts! If you’re looking for some alternatives to the Camino de Santiago, read on for some inspiration.
*Full disclosure – these are not our images, as we haven’t YET, walked these paths. Sharing images (with permission) in the hope of whetting your appetites*
- Short Multi-Day hikes in Europe (Approx 100km)
- Hikes that take around 14 days (approx 400km)
- Hikes that you can complete in one month (around 800km)
- Would you like to read more about hiking?
Short Multi-Day hikes in Europe
West Highland Way (Scotland)
About this trail: The West Highland Way, referred to as “Scotland’s best-loved hike” is a 96 mile trail. Starting near to the city of Glasgow and ending in Fort William, it passes varied terrain, including Loch Lomond. This is a really established trail, walked by many each year. It’s so well organised that you can even buy a West Highland Way passport.
Accommodation: There are hostels (bunk houses), B&Bs and hotels on route. And of course, the famous Scotties Bothies! The other popular option is to wild camp, which is legal in Scotland.
Distance/ duration: The West Highland Way is 96 miles/ 154km which will take 5 to 7 days to walk depending on your pace. If you don’t have time to do the full distance, there are shorter routes available too.
Best time of year: The best times of year to walk the West Highland Way are May, June, September and October
Find out more: The West Highland Way website
The Camino Ingles (England)
About this trail: OK, we haven’t fully moved away from the Camino. But, I bet you’ve never heard of this! There is a section of the Camino de Santiago in England. This trail has very recently been sign posted and is open for business. It’s the start of the Camino Ingles trail, which continues from A Coruna in Northern Spain, eventually joining Santiago.
In the South of England, you will start this trail in Reading before travelling across English countryside and visiting the city of Winchester, famous for it’s Cathedral. Eventually, you will end up in Southampton, a port city.
Fun fact – if you complete this trail (and get your pilgrim passport stamped) you can continue to the Camino Ingles in Spain (after a ferry ride) and walk to Santiago to get your Compostela. This is the only way to walk the Camino Ingles and qualify for your certificate.
Accommodation: There are no “official” pilgrim accommodation options, but plenty of good old fashioned English bed and breakfasts along the way. Did I mention there are 13 pubs on the trail too?
Distance/ Duration:The Camino from Reading is 68 miles/ 105 km which will take 3 to 5 days depending on your pace
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk the Camino Ingles English section is April to October
Find out more: Camino St James website
Long distance hikes in Europe that take around 14 days
The GR20 (Corsica)
About this trail: Widely thought to be one of the most challenging trails in Europe, the GR20 runs through the lower mountains of Corsica. It can be tricky to navigate and even trickier to walk, but it’s hugely popular with hikers. It’s not difficult to understand why it is so popular, Corsica is a beautiful island and the GR20 provides a challenging adventure for adrenaline chasers.
Accommodation: The accommodation on the GR20 is a mix of basic mountain refuge huts and bergeries (dorm style accommodation). There are also hotels at the start and the end of the route. Finally, you can choose to camp – either packing and carrying your own tent, or renting them daily from the mountain huts.
Distance/ Duration: The GR20 is 112 miles/ 180km. The entire GR20 will take two weeks to walk. But, you can walk the GR20 South or GR20 North, which is half the trail and takes half the time.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk the GR20 is May to October. During the winter, the trail is likely to be covered in snow.
Find out more: The GR-20 website.
Via Francigena (Italy)
About this trail: This route takes you from the charming town of Lucca, through Siena and the golden Tuscan countryside all the way to Rome. It’s a 400km section of the 2000km Via Francigena, which starts in Canterbury and also ends in Rome.
Many people talk about the Via Francigena as an alternative to the Camino de Santiago, but it is quite different. Although the premise is similar – it’s a pilgrimage to a holy site – the scenery and Italian culture are a marked contrast to the Camino.
We’ve heard that this is the prettiest stretch of the Via Francigena, plus, what can be bad about walking through vineyards in Tuscany?
Accommodation: There is pilgrim accommodation available as well as tourist hotels and B&Bs along the route from Lucca to Rome on the Via Francigena.
Distance/ Duration: The distance from Lucca to Rome on the Via Francigena is 260 miles/419 km. This will require around 14 to 18 days of walking depending on your pace.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk the Tuscany leg of the Via Francigena (Lucca to Rome) is March to October, but you may wish to avoid peak summer.
Find out more: The official Via Francigena site.
The Trans Caucasian Trail (Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan)
About this trail: The Trans Caucasian Trail really excites us, because it travels through a few countries that we haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting. The TCT is a path (in the making) through Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. At time of writing, you cannot yet thru-hike the entire trail. But, sections are opening regularly, with volunteers working passionately to unveil new paths for future hikers.
At present, the TCT officials are allowing a small number of hikers to thru-hike the 800km across Armenia, but currently this is described as a challenging route only available for self-sufficient hikers comfortable with the risk of walking a new trail with minimal infrastructure.
There are however some sections already open. There’s a 10 day stretch open in Georgia, a 10 day stretch in Azerbaijan and a 12 day trail open in Armenian.
Accommodation: Along the sections of the Trans Caucasian Trail that are open, there is a mix of some guest house accommodation or camping. If opting to hike across Armenia, you will only be able to camp on the route.
Distance/ Duration: As noted above, the full Trans Caucasian Trail is not yet open, but you can walk sections of it in 10-12 day durations.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk the Trans Caucasian Trail is June to October.
Find out more: Detailed information on the TCT website.
E4 Path (Cyprus)
About this trail: The E4 is one of Europe’s long distance paths. Starting in Gibraltar, it runs through Spain, France, Germany and a number of other countries before arriving in Cyprus.
The Cyprus section itself is around 500km and takes hikers from Larnarca airport to Paphos airport. Picture coastal walks followed by a dip in the clear blue water and a glass of local wine in the evening.
Accommodation: Accommodation on the E4 in Cyprus includes agritourism places and B&Bs. Sections of the route route are in touristy areas, therefore there are hotel options on some of it too. You can also camp at various campsites or wild camp along the route.
Distance/ Duration: The total path is around 500km, but you can walk sections of it instead. The coastal path around Paphos and sections of the Aphrodite trail are said to be the most beautiful.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk the E4 around Cyprus is April to October, but expect high temperatures in peak summer.
The South West Coast Path (England)
About this trail: After reading the Salt Path by Raynor Winn, I am enamoured with the idea of walking the South West Coast Path. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the path and what could be a better way to celebrate it than stomping along it?
The trail runs through some of the most stunning areas of England including Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. It starts in Minehead and ends in Poole, having wrapped around Lands End in Cornwall on the way.
Picture sweeping coastlines, rugged scenery and a pint of cold cider to end your day.
Accommodation: The South West Coast Path has a number of B&Bs and hotels along the way. There are also numerous campsites, where you can pitch a tent for a small price.
Distance/ Duration: The South West Coast Path is 630 miles/ 1014 km. Therefore to walk the entire trail would take over one month. But, you could walk half of it, or a section of this path easily in a shorter time period.
Best time of year: The best time of the year to walk the South West Coast Path is June, July and August
Find out more: The official South West Coast Path website.
Coast to Coast (England)
About this trail: The Coast to Coast Trail crosses the belly of England, from the West to the East. It winds through the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales before ending in Robin Hood’s Bay.
The walk is thought to have been founded by Alfred Wainwright in the 1970s. He famously remarked of the Coast to Coast “Surely there cannot be a finer itinerary for a long-distance walk!”
Accommodation: There are B&Bs, youth hostels and hotels along the coast to coast route. However, you are recommended to book these well in advance as the coast to coast is a popular walk that runs through tourist areas.
Distance/ Duration: The entire Coast to Coast path is 190 miles/ 305 km, it can be walked in around 14 days depending on your pace.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk Coast to Coast in the UK June, July and August.
About this trail: The Rheinsteig is a trail that skirts alongside the river Rhine through Bonn, Koblenz and Wiesbaden. It is mostly a narrow path with some steep climbs. You’ll find a mix of cities, like Bonn, juxtaposed with the vineyards abutting the river Rhine.
Perhaps the most famous wine of this region is Riesling, a drop of which could be your reward at the end of a good day of hiking. The other bonus to walking this trail is that the Rheinsteig officials boast that there is “Absolutely no chance of getting lost”, due to the thorough and clear markings along the trail.
Accommodation: There is a vast selection of accommodation on the Rheinsteig, from hostels, to B&Bs and hotels. Officially wild camping is illegal in Germany, but it’s unclear if stealth camping may be acceptable if the usual rules are followed.
Distance/ Duration: The Rheinsteig is 190miles/ 320km and will take between 10 and 14 days to complete, depending on your pace.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk the Rheinsteig in Germany is March to October
Find out more: You can find out more on the official Rheinsteig website.
Pieterpad (The Netherlands)
About this trail: The Pieterpad was crated by two Dutch ladies in the early 1980s who were inspired to create a long distance path in The Netherlands. It is a way marked path, starting near to Groningen and ending in Sint Pietersberg to the South, near to the cosmopolitan city of Maastricht.
Of course, The Netherlands is not known for mountainous terrain, the trail is fairly flat. But it flows across countryside that you wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to see in The Netherlands. And of course, you can stop at some fun Dutch towns and cities on route.
Accommodation: Bed and breakfasts, hotels and camping options are available along the Pieterpad trail.
Distance/ Duration: The entirety of this trail is 500km (310 miles). You’d be hard pushed to walk this in 14 days, but perhaps could do a section of it, or take a little longer to complete it.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk the Pieterpad in The Netherlands is April to October
Find out more: The Pieterpad official website
Long distance hikes in Europe that take around one month
About this trail: Kungsleden literally means Kings Trail. The hike in Sweden is between Abisko and Hemavan. The most exciting thing, is that in walking this trail, you cross through Lapland mountains and four national parks.
Accommodation: There are 16 mountain huts on the Kungsleden, but some patches where other accommodation must be relied upon.
Distance/ Duration: The distance of Kungsleden is 270 miles/ 440 km. Although this is not a particularly long trail, it is recommended to walk it in four weeks, due to the difficulty. But, if you have a quicker walking pace you may be able to complete it in less time.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk Kungsleden Mid-June until Mid-September.
Find out more: The Swedish Tourist Association website has further information.
St Olav Ways (Norway)
About this trail: St Olav Ways are actually a series of different paths in Norway. We have our eye on the Gudbrandsdalsleden, which runs from Oslo to Trondheim, which is the most popular of the paths.
This trail takes in two large Norwegian cities at the start and end, as well as passing through small communities and towns. The real selling point is the opportunity to stay in farming communities along the way and enjoy the tranquil Scandinavian countryside.
Accommodation: There are small walkers hostels along the Gudbrandsdalsleden route, it’s recommended to book these in advance. There is also the option to wild camp, as this is legal in Norway.
Distance/ Duration: The length of the Gudbrandsdalsleden 643km/ 400 miles. The recommended walking time is 32 days.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk one of the St Olavs way routes in Norway is May to August
Find out more: You can find the official website here.
High Scardus Trail (Kosovo, Albania, North Macedonia)
About this trail: The High Scardus is a new hiking trail through the Balkans. Not only is it the newest, but it is also the highest trail in the Balkans, with ascents of up to 2000m.
This is a remote but beautiful trail, with the opportunity to see three countries as you hike. Scenery highlights include Lake Ohrid and Mount Korab. But mostly, the draw to the High Scardus Trail is the Balkans hospitality that comes with Raki and home cooked food.
Accommodation: There are basic home stays along the way on the High Scardus Trail, these should be booked in advance. Wild camping is also an option (with some restrictions.)
Distance/ Duration: The High Scardus trail is 495km/ 307 miles. 20 days is the recommended duration to walk the entire trail.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk the High Scardus trail is June to September.
Find out more: The official High Scardus website.
Slovenia Mountain Trail (Slovenia)
About this trail: The Slovenia Mountain Trail runs across Slovenia through alpine routes. This mountainous route is said to be well way-marked and takes in some incredible scenery along the way.
You don’t necessarily have to walk the whole way, you can pick sections of it, or walk the length of the trail if you wish to. The highest point of the route is just short of 3000m in Triglav. Highlights include the Julian Alps where unbelievable blue lakes contrast with green pastures.
Accommodation: There are mountain huts at various points along the route. Camping is not allowed on the Slovenia Mountain Trail however.
Distance/ Duration: The distance of the Slovenia Mountain Trail is 599km/ 372 miles. The recommended walking time is 30 days, depending on your pace.
Best time of year: The best time of year to walk the Slovenia trail is June to October
Traumpfad (Germany to Italy)
About this trail: Traumpfad (The Dream Way) is a trail from Munich, in Germany, to Venice in Italy. Crossing the Bavarian foothills and eventually through the Dolomites. There’s some significant elevation (of course) but it’s rumoured to be a suitable trail for most experienced walkers.
We like the idea of it, because walking from Munich to Venice just sounds like a good idea! It seems like it would be mildly crazy but with a whiff of romance. From beer halls in Germany, to mountain tipples in Austria and spritz by the canals of Venezia. Truly, the Dream Way.
Accommodation: Mountain huts are the name of the game when it comes to accommodation on Traumpfad. Expect group dining and basic facilities, but oodles of Alpine charm.
Distance/ Duration: The Traumpfad is 327 miles/ 526 km long. As this is a mountainous walk, it’s difficult to specify a duration but most people would complete it within 30 days.
Best time of year: May to September is the best time of year to walk the Traumpfad.
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