Have you ever dreamed of getting away from it all and immersing yourself in nature for weeks on end? Of leaving the rat race behind for a while and reconnecting with yourself? If so, I have the perfect bucket list item for you: Hiking a long-distance trail in Europe. If not, I’d highly recommend adding it to your bucket list anyway. From my personal experience I can say that hiking a long-distance trail is one of the most rewarding (maybe even transformative?) experiences you can gift yourself. From immersing yourself in beautiful nature and learning to listen to nature’s slow pace to battling your tired feet (and probably some demons as well), a lengthy trek will shift your perspectives in unforgettable ways. And I think Europe is one of the best locations for it. This compact yet incredibly diverse continent offers some of the world’s most epic treks combined with great infrastructure and a bounty of cultural experiences along the way.

In this post, I’ll share the top reasons why you should add a long-distance hike across Europe to the very top of your bucket list:

And I’ll also share why I think Europe is The Ideal Setting For a Long-Distance Hike.

View of a woman standing on rough cliffs in Brittany, France in front of the open sea

(Re-)Connect With Your Self

When going on a solo long-distance hike, you’re going to, well, spend a lot of time with yourself. I totally understand how that might feel a bit daunting when thinking about it. It definitely did for me before I set out on my first thru-hike. But if you’re ready to let go and embrace the experience, being alone with yourself for several weeks on end can become the single best thing about your adventure.

It gives you the chance to really listen to your body and follow your own rhythm. Hungry? Take a break and eat. Need to pee? Go for it. Too fast? Just slow down. For most of us, daily life is comprised of adjusting to the schedule of others. That’s not all bad of course, because it enables us to live in sync with the people that matter most to us. But it also sometimes makes it hard to listen to our very own needs and desires.

So, being out there all by yourself in the tranquility of nature can help to tune into your mind’s and body’s needs. To be fair, being faced with the challenges that hiking for days on end brings might help a little as well. 😅 In any case, however cheesy it might sound, these types of inward journeys are profound lessons in self-awareness.

A lonely bench wit a stunning views over mountains and valeys

Immerse Into Nature

Of course, the physical journey itself is what draws many hikers to long-distance trails. With every step, the landscapes around you morph and shift, revealing nature’s incredible diversity. And that is especially prevalent in European hiking trails. One day you may be traversing lush meadows and the next, craggy mountain peaks. You’ll see forests, valleys, and rivers. If you’re doing a really long trail, you’ll experience even more change with the seasons.

I personally find it extremely calming to be surrounded by nature all day. It takes a few days of getting used to but then my mind noticeably calms down. There were days while hiking the Alpe Adria Trail for example, where I didn’t meet a single person all day.

View of a path winding into a thick green forest in Slovenia

Appreciate Life’s Simple Pleasures

After spending weeks living only with what you can carry, you’ll develop a profound gratitude for life’s basic gifts - a nourishing meal, taking off your boots and grimy socks after a long day, the excitement of an early start, and the day’s first rays of sun. It sounds way too philosophical for my liking, but things do start to become quite - simple.

Surprisingly, one of the things I enjoyed most on my first thru-hike was the feeling of accomplishment of walking from point A to point B. It’s hard to describe, but there is something fundamentally rewarding in covering a distance rather than just doing a round-trip.

Essentially, when your life focuses solely on humble things like putting one foot in front of the other (and I’ve been on trails, where I was so exhausted, that this was all I could think about) everything else, all the noise, kind of quiets down. It’s incredibly grounding and centering. Those are the moments that stick most and make you wonder why we constantly overcomplicate stuff.

View of a sunset over a field

Why Europe is The Ideal Setting For a Long-Distance Hike

Europe is a hiker’s paradise, with an amazingly diverse array of environments, cultures, and cuisines compressed into a relatively small geographical area. Within a few days or weeks of walking, you can journey through multiple countries, languages and culinary scenes. There’s not even the hassle of constantly acquiring new visas and travel documents due to open travel between European nations within the Schengen area.

The extensive network of villages, mountain huts and public transportation also makes Europe an ideal introduction for aspiring long-distance hikers. You’re never too far from a warm meal, roof over your head, or ride back to civilization should an emergency arise. These comforts can make hiking a long-distance trail much more accessible, even for first-time thru-hikers.

At the same time, you can still find plenty of untamed wilderness to lose (or find) yourself in. From the soaring Alps to the sun-soaked Mediterranean coastlines, few places on Earth offer as much beautiful variety in such proximity. This variety stretches from nature to people to culture, offering the possibility of making hiking in Europe a truly transformative experience.

A small viallge by a river in Italy

Which are the best long-distance Hiking Trails in Europe?

The Camino de Santiago will probably be one of the first answers you normally get to this question. But I tend to disagree. Due to its popularity, it’s incredibly crowded these days, especially during the high season. It’s also not as varied in nature and landscape as other European hiking trails. My number one recommendation for the best long-distance hiking train in Europe is the Aple Adria Trail. If you want to learn why, check out my post on hiking the most beautiful stages of the Alpe Adria Trail. Other trails I can recommend are the Rheinsteig and the Eiffelsteig in Germany.

Wide view over straw fields with thick clouds on a summer sky in Germany

In summary, hiking a long-distance trail in Europe provides unparalleled opportunities for self-discovery, deep connections with nature, and appreciation for life’s simple joys. With its richly varied landscapes and cultures, Europe is an ideal destination where you can experience multiple countries and environments in one epic trek. So, if you’re looking for a transformative adventure to add to your bucket list, start planning your European thru-hike today!

Not sure what to pack? Here’s my guide on which clothes to pack for a thru-hike in Europe as well as a complete packing list for hiking a long-distance trail in Europe.

Cross on the summit of mount Osser in Bavaria in winter