Tips for Village-to-Village hiking in Europe

Tips for Village-to-Village hiking in Europe

Walking is the original "slow travel," and village-to-village hiking is my favorite vacation because I can see interesting things, get some exercise, and eat excellent food. Some of our customers have enjoyed trips on the Fisherman's Trail in Portugal, the West Highland Way in Scotland, and the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I just returned from an organized self-guided trip around Zugspitze in Germany and Austria, so this is a good time to talk about village-to-village hiking.

It's more popular in Europe than in the United States, but the concept is easy to understand: each day of the trip you hike from one village to the next, where your accommodations might be an inn, a hotel, a bed and breakfast, a pub, a hut, or even camping, depending on the trip. Many companies propose itineraries and will handle all logistics for you, even transporting your suitcase from one stop to the next so you only need to carry what you need for the day. These trips are most commonly "self-guided," meaning you are given maps and trail descriptions, but you hike on your own, at your own pace. The company on my recent trip also provided an excellent multi-lingual GPS-enabled app for our phones that made navigation easy. Of course it is possible to make the arrangements yourself and forego the baggage transport, as I have done on several trips in France, sometimes taking my tent and making no reservations in advance on the Chemin de St Jacques.

Days are spent viewing the countryside, the natural beauty, the local agriculture, and the local history. You can explore regional cuisine differences that are just a day's walk apart, and the best strawberries and cherries I have ever eaten were bought directly on the trail in France. In Germany, we quickly acclimated to stopping on the trail for a beer in the afternoon! You will often meet other hikers on the same itinerary, and it's always interesting to talk with them. While you are likely to pass some popular sights, you won't be rushing from one tourist attraction to the next, you won't be overwhelmed by crowds, and you may find both prices and service to be more agreeable than big cities.

Many routes are available depending on the season, your interests, and your athletic ambition. When previewing itineraries, do note that elevations are usually in meters, not feet, so that climb might be steeper than it looks at first! On the other hand, most of the trails are more like developed paths, so it's unlikely that you'll have to scramble like on Old Rag.

Remember:

  • You can hire a company to arrange logistics, including baggage transport
  • Trails are generally more developed than US trails
  • You will avoid the crowds and see the local culture
  • Enjoy all the local food and drink that you can

Stop by the store, and we can talk about village-to-village hiking as the ultimate authentic travel experience. 

Back to blog