OUR FAVOURITE EUROPEAN HIKINGS

“How monotonous the face of the earth would be without the mountains.”
Immanuel Kant

PASTERZE GLACIAL VALLEY

In the northern part of the Carinthia region, a trail at the foot of the highest mountain in Austria, the Großglockner (3798 metres), crosses the glacial valley, anciently fully covered by the Pasterze glacier.

The trail ascends to the lake named Sandersee, that is the glacial lake originated from the thaw; from here you’ll have a great view of both Pasterze and Großglockner. By proceeding with the trail in the northern side of the lake, a first step of scree leads to the Pasterze glacier, the higher and longer glacier of all the Eastern Alps which is reduced of almost the half from what it was in the middle of 19th century. The name Pasterze derives from the vocation of the area as a pasture for cattle, as finds of wood and peat witness. In this area it is also clearly shown how the glaciers are reducing in the last decades; the last and higher level of extension of the glacier is registered in 1852. On a rocky ridge with some steps and a final serpentine path, you can reach the Franz-Josephs Höhe (2369 metres), a panoramic view in a touristic station easily accessible by all and in different ways.


Curiosity:
The Franz-Josephs Höhe and the Elizabethfelsen, the massif above the Sandersee, are named for the emperor Franz-Joseph and her wife, the Empress Sissi, who visited the Glockner region in 1856.


Location: Austria

SKÓGAFOSS

Skógafoss Waterfall is located in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline; after these had receded seaward, the former sea cliffs remained. The waterfall comes directly from two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull.

A staircase with 370 steps on the right side of the waterfall take you up to the top; from here you can admire and experience the waterfall features: more you approach the water, more the heavy veil of water becomes impressive and envelopes you in a cloud of spray, sound and refracted light. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days.

On top of Skogafoss it starts a 6.8 kilometers path that follows the Skoga river behind the waterfall, in which you can hike among waterfalls, greenery and 360 degree views of the surrounding landscapes, up to the view out over south Iceland’s coastline. 

Curiosity: According to legend, a Viking named Thrasi hid his hoarded gold on a chest under the falls. Many have tried to find it, but a young man almost succeeded; he pulled with a rope and took only the handle ring of the chest (which is then used for the church door at Skogar).


Location: Iceland

LAGHI DI PLITVICE

Plitvice Lakes is the first national park in the Republic of Croatia and it is situated in the mountainous region of Dalmatia; it is a protected area of 33.000 hectares in which you can admire a complex of 16 lakes cascading one into the next and fed by rivers Bijela and Crna or underground founts. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1979, a network of paths and 18 km of wooden walkways along the way allow the visit to the place. The Park is open to visitors year-round, but the best period is in May/June, when the lakes are full of water and the trees and flowers bloom. 

Due to the geological substrate and characteristic hydrogeological conditions, the lake system has been divided into the Upper and Lower lakes. The twelve lakes forming the Upper Lakes were formed on impermeable dolomite rock and are larger, with more indented and gentler shores than the Lower Lakes. The Lower Lakes were formed in permeable limestone substrate, cut into a deep canyon with steep cliffs. 


Curiosity:
 the place is sadly known also for the local history: on the 31st of March 1991 (now called “The Bloody Easter of Plitvice”) there was an armed conflict between the Croatian and Serbian armed forces; until now this is considered the starting point of the Croatian war of independence.


Location: Croatia

ENGADINA VALLEY

The Engadina Valley is a high Alpine valley in the eastern Swiss Alps in the Canton of Grisons; it is crossed by the Via Engiadina trail, an hike which extends from Maloja to Samedan, covering 35 kilometres of paths through mountain pastures, thick Swiss pine forests and tiny villages that seem untouched by time.

Its first step is a 11-kilometer hike that takes you from Maloja to Silvaplana and it is one of the most panoramic trekkings in the valley. After a steep stretch, you can get two stunning places: Blaunca, a small and rustic mountain village situated ad 2034 metres, full of huts and little paths among the houses and then at Grevasalvas (1904 metres), a reign of peace and beauty, with beautiful huts all around.

Surrounded by glaciers and open views over the Upper Engadine lake, a path which runs along the Sils Lake leads you to the medieval Sils-Baselgia church; at this point you can choose to proceed around the lake to turn back to Maloja or to go up again until Silvaplana. 


Curiosity:
I panorami della Valle Engadina hanno ispirato la storia di Heidi: Maienfeld è il villaggio che ha ispirato Johanna Spyri nella stesura del suo romanzo Heidi e Grevasalvas è stato scelto come set per girare alcune scene del film su Heidi negli anni ’70. 

Location: Switzerland

CIRQUE DU GAVARNIE

In the National Park of the Pyrenees Mountains, the Cirque de Gavarnie is a glacial circle with a diameter of 6 kilometres; classified from 1997 as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is accessible with an easy loop walk. 

With a little steepness along the way, from the tiny village of Gavarnie you can enter in the head of the valley, which is closed all around by the glacier-formed limestone rock walls which soar 1,700 meters; it seems like you are inside a cathedral in nature. Lots of rushing waterfalls are originated from the snow-dusted summits (over 3,000 meters in altitude); the most amazing is the Grande Cascade, which drops for over 400 meters and it is the tallest waterfall in Europe. 

To continue the hike, you should take the trail up to the Brèche de Roland, a natural mountain gap situated at 2,807 meters (40 m across and 100 m high), on the French-Spanish border. According to the legend, the Brèche de Roland was cut by Roland itself, the foremost or Charlemagne’s paladins, with his sword Durendal while he was attempting to destroy the sword, after being defeated during the Battle of Roncesvalles in 778. 


Curiosity: 
the gentle and short hike let you enjoy the beauty of the Nature in this place, characterized by the presence of small rustic chalets, pastures of goats and mountain streams crossed by amazing footbridges. 

Location: France

RAS IL-QAMMIEGH

In the far northern point of the Malta island, you can hike on a circular route to discover some of natural and historical points of interest in this area. Starting from the White Tower, built in the 17th century as a lookout point across the water to the nearby islands of Camino and Gozo, you can trek on a rough and limestone rock footpath until the “Coral Lagoon”, a huge sink hole, filled with deep sea water and an opening to the sea on the northern side.

By following the cliff tops, you can see the cliffs that form “islands” into the sea covered in green vegetation with deep “crevasses” in the rock and by entering in two different nature reserve, you reach the Red Tower (also known as St Agatha’s tower): it was a 17th century defence point for the north coast of the island. 

After a lonely track, you can see an abandoned and ruined radar station at Ras il – Qammieh, at 424m the highest point on this walk, and all around a seashore in which you look like you’re walking on the moon and with thousands of beautiful fossils all around.

Curiosity: On the map, the Marfa peninsula looks like the outline of the head of a Hammerhead Shark, with a ridge running east to west in the middle. The circular ridge trail we are talking about let you hike around in the “hammerhead” shape of the peninsula.

Location: Malta

PEREDA-GERÊS NATIONAL PARK

The Peneda-Gerês National Park is located in the northwest of Portugal, quite close to the Spanish border. Spanning just over 700 sq. km, it is the oldest protected area and the only national park in Portugal; it is named for the two largest mountains in the region, Peneda and Gerês. 

The climate is Atlantic and rainfall is abundant; for this, we can see a lush tree vegetation (oaks, beeches, pines), endemic floral species such as the Gerês lily, which colours the meadows with its violet-blue shades and an abundant wildlife (roe deers, eagles, boars, foxes, wolves, partridges).

The PR3 trail (also known as Trihlo dos Currais) is a 10 km walking loop into the park which starts (and also ends) from the small village of Vidoeiro, just outside Gerês. After some moderate climbs for the first few kilometres through pine forest, narrow and rocky, the trail levels out and it opens into a large clearing with fine 360-degree views of the forest and surrounding mountains. By descending, you can stop and admire the landscape from one of the viewpoints of the park: one of his is the Miradouro da Pedra Bela (with an altitude of 829 metres), from where you can see the mountains rose up all around, covered in a green carpet while villages clung to the lower slopes or the waters of the Cavado River glistening in the sunlight.


Curiosity:
 In 1892 on the Sierra de Gerês was sighted for the last time a female specimen of Portoguese ibex, now extinct. From 1998 a new subspecies has introduced itself: the Gredos ibex.

Location: Portugal

WASSERFALLSTEIG

The Swabian Alps is a mountain range in the southern Germany, in Baden-Württemberg Land, and occupies the region bounded by the Danube in the southeast and that rises also to the higher mountains of the Black Forest. 

A 9 kilometers loop trail leads from different routes throughout the stunning landscape of the UNESCO Swabian Alps Biosphere Reserve. A sort of jungle which shows us lots of little wonders of Nature and continuous contrasts between shadows and lights, woods and meadows, water and earth, valley and plateau.

A steep path leads to a plateau from where we can admire infinite expanses and stunning views on the Uracher Alps and the ruins of Hohenurach Castle. The main points of interest of this hiking are the Güterstein waterfall and the rock slope from which you can observe the scenery but the Urach Waterfall is the real goal for the hiking: nearly 40 metres high, plunges freely into the depth, hits a tuff limestone step and flows another 50 meters over a steeply sloping moss-covered tuff limestone cushion. A natural show we can see from different sides and up to a bridge over the waterfall itself.


Curiosity:
 the Wasserfallsteig was elected as the best hiking trail of Germany in 2016; the specialized magazine “Wandermagazin” launched to hikers and mountain-lovers a poll and this trail passed the other ones for the category Daily hikes.


Location: Germany

TATRAS MOUNTAINS

The Tatras is a mountain range with almost 29 peaks over 2,500 metres amsl, situated in the north of Slovakia and partly in the southern Poland. 

There are three main parts of High Tatras, with different geological identity: the Western Tatras, the (central) High Tatras and the Belianske Tatras, all joined together by the “Road of Freedom”, where are settled the Górale people ("highlanders"), the indigenous people with a distinctive traditional culture. Hiking paths, more or less demanding, allow you to reach the majestic peaks throughout rocky ridges, glacier-cut valleys or lakes of glacier origin and meet rare and endemic animals like chamois (mountain goat) or the alpine marmot or native plant species.

The Kriváň Peak (2.494 m), whose characteristic shape reminds a horn, offers one of the best views of the surrounding peaks. With a trail across hidden lakes and a (not too dangerous) climbing route without chains, you can reach the peak and admire the 360-degree view.

Curiosity: it is said that every Slovak has to climb to the top of Krivan at least once in his lifetime. Since 1955 the traditional national walks have been devoted to local heroes and the mount became a national symbol for the Slovaks: it was voted to be one of the images on Slovakia’s euro coins.


Location: Slovakia

FAIRFIELD HORSESHOE

The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England, famous for its lakes, forests and mountains. The Lake District National Park covers an area of 2,362 sq. km, it was established in 1951 and designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. 

The Fairfield Horseshoe is an absolute classic easy ridge hike which offers the walkers fine views overlooking much of Lakeland. The trail starts in the heart of Ambleside and crosses the fields in Rydal before entering in a steep but well-walked grassy track up Nab Scar. 

By walking beside the steep edge of the hanging valley on the right, the path becomes rocky, until you can reach the summit of Fairfield: the summit area is quite flat, with no real peak-marker and you can often arrive and confuse you in the mist. By continuing along the ridge, you can reach the trail form where start the long descent over High Pike and Low Pike, before crossing the track back into Ambleside.


Curiosity: the famous English fellwalker and guidebooks author Alfred Wainwright said: “From the south it appears as a great horseshoe of grassy slopes below a consistently high skyline…but lacking those dramatic qualities that appeal most to the lover of hills.” (Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells). 


Location: United Kingdom

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