We can think of no more rewarding way to explore Europe than by lacing up your walking shoes and hitting the trails. You can connect with local people and cultures more easily. You can savor breathtaking destinations at a meditative pace. And you can soak up vistas in ways that no other mode of transit allows.
To get the most out of the experience, we recommend approaching it with intention: Decide what you’d like to get from your walks—culturally, emotionally, physically—and, more importantly, how you’ll go about getting it.
We asked one of our veteran mountaineers to share some tips about following the many glorious footpaths on the continent. Country Walkers guide Claire Thioliere has been at it for many years. So it’s fair to say that she knows a thing or two about planning your adventure … and approaching it with intention.
Claire’s Top Tips for Hiking in Europe
- “Use all your senses. Walking in Europe is a thrill for the senses. Whether you’re gazing upon Mont-Saint-Michel during a stroll along the Normandy coast, the snow-capped peaks of the Alps, or the vast open countryside of Spain’s Basque Country, there is much to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Take your time. Stop often in peaceful areas and embrace the silence so you can fully appreciate the stillness and the beauty of where you are.”
- “Put your phone or electronic device away. There is nothing so captivating as the landscapes of Europe. Not even your phone. You are only passing through, so enjoy the moment. Savor it for yourself … sharing it on social media disrupts the relationship you want to form with your destination.”
- “If you stop for a picnic lunch, as we do on many Country Walkers adventures, treat yourself to a nice 15-minute siesta after your meal. Take off your shoes and socks, lie down, close your eyes, and just feel the breeze and listen—maybe to distant cowbells or the bleating of sheep.”
- “Take shorter walks—or even rest—on some days. By pacing yourself, you won’t risk fatigue. This can help you keep your energy even and make for a more enjoyable adventure overall. Our walking tours offer route choices on most days, and even the option to relax by the pool or explore a village for the day.”
- “Be prepared for rain. Walking in the rain is a great joy; you experience a destination in a way most people do not. Check the forecast each morning before you head out and decide whether you need to bring your rain gear. If not, you can send it along to your next hotel with the Country Walkers transfer vehicle.”
- “Fill up at breakfast. Trust me, you’ll want to! Freshly sourced European breakfasts are delicious and will keep you going all morning. Take full advantage of them!”
- “Visit for a spell. You will meet many people along the trail. Europe’s community of hikers is happy to just sit and chat about their experience, whether you meet them on the path or end up sharing lunch with them in a hut or a local restaurant. The most memorable part of any trip is making new friends!”
Claire’s Tips for Hiking in Her Native France
- “Crossing a border while on the trail is a real thrill for many hikers. We begin the Mont Blanc circuit in France, then walk into Italy and Switzerland. It’s very exciting to put one foot in Italy and the other in Switzerland as we arrive at the mountain pass that marks the border.”
- “Be on the lookout for shepherds leading their sheep, goats, or cows in the mountains. We also sometimes pass very large flocks of sheep making their way from one slope to another.”
- “Keep the larger picture in mind. Here, I’m not talking about the dramatic landscapes (though they are, of course, spectacular!), but the local economy. Appreciating that the natural world is a source of people’s livelihoods goes a long way in deepening your experience. In France and beyond, you see livestock that makes milk and cheese, visit vineyards that produce wine, and stop by farms that grow all manner of vegetables and fruits. There’s a social and economic history there … and a profound respect for the work of generations past.”
- “Pause at the beaches of Normandy. Every time I guide a group here, I am struck by the deep attention that travelers give to the docent as he describes the events that unfolded here. It’s a poignant moment, especially when you contrast the horror of D-Day with the local families out for a fun day at the beach.”
Ready to put Claire’s tips to work? Reserve your space on a European Walking Adventure today!