Europe is full of picturesque coastlines, nature trails and sightseeing opportunities. The best way to experience these wonders is to hike through the extensive areas of countryside and take some time to soak in the sights. So, if you’re keen to jump into your next walking vacation, you’ll most likely want to know which European country has the best hikes.
To help out hikers plan their future adventures, energy comparison site Save on Energy has researched the best countries for hiking and ranking them according to various factors, such as:
Average walk length
Average elevation gain
From this data, we were able to see which European country comes out on top in terms of their hiking trails.
If you’re looking to be left in awe of extraordinary landscapes and incidences of natural beauty then Ireland is the place to be. The average rating tops the rankings at 87.3 out of 100.
The average walking length is 11,402 which is roughly equivalent to seven miles - enough to get your blood pumping but still within the realms of enjoyment for the casual hiker. With the rolling green hills, you can expect an average elevation of 427 metres too.
Iceland is famed for its gorgeous scenery, unspoilt environment and spectacular views wherever you look — all ingredients for a great hiking trail! With plenty of hiking and trekking choices, you’re bound to find a good one with an average rating of 86.6 out of 100.
The trails tend to be a little longer than in Ireland, with the average walk length sitting at 18,976 metres which is nearly 12 miles. Although this may seem long to hiking beginners, the advantages far outweigh the length with benefits of walking including increased heart health and depression prevention.
The coastal walks in the United Kingdom are very highly rated and due to the abundance of coastline, it’s easy to see why. The average length is comparable to Ireland at 11,041 metres yet the average elevation is lower at 307 metres, meaning reaching the finishing point is more attainable for those new to hiking.
The average rating of hikes throughout the UK is 86.5 out of a possible 100, which means it takes third place in this ranking.
While Italy's splendours are well known, people say it is only when you venture into the rugged mountains and journey along its beaches that you realise just how beautiful the nation is. This is especially true when it comes to hiker feedback, as the trails have gained an average rating of 86.1 out of 100.
The elevation is the highest in the rankings with the average being 675, whilst the walk length is 13,194 metres.
There is a hiking route for everyone in Spain, from the famed Camino de Santiago to the Vas Verdes. Finding a good hike in this country isn't difficult due to the diverse landscapes, well-marked trails, and pleasant weather, with many people agreeing and giving them an average rating of 84.9.
A novice may find the average elevation (646 metres) and walk length (16,356 metres) tricky but the scenery you’ll see along the route is more than worth it.
Switzerland is a hiker's dream, with the famous Alps and the gorgeous blue lakes. The nation includes simple routes for solo travellers and families looking for a fun daytime activity, to difficult tracks that can take you all the way to the summit of mountains for the greatest views.
With an average walk length of 17,338 metres and the highest elevation on the list of 833 metres, Switzerland has an average rating of 84.6.
Place seven is a tie between Norway and Germany as both countries achieved an average rating of 83.7. People come from around the world to experience the trails each of these nations offer, but you'll find the longest in Germany, with an average length of 14,048 as opposed to Norway’s 8,682 metres.
The average elevation of the two countries is pretty similar though, the results are both over 400 metres.
Another tied place is France and Portugal in the eighth spot with a rating of 83.3 out of 100. While hiking may not necessarily be at the top of your agenda when you visit these countries, you should definitely consider walking along a few of the trails.
Despite the fact that the two countries' average elevations are almost identical with the findings both above 460 metres, there is quite a large difference between the average hike length. Novice hikers may prefer the shorter routes in France, which has an average route length of 12,526, while those more experienced may prefer Portugal’s trails which average out to 15,127 metres.
In ninth place is Belgium and Denmark with an identical average rating of 81.3. The pilgrim walks, long-distance hikes and beginner trails are great ways to explore these areas in Europe.
The average walk length is slightly higher in Denmark (13,433 metres) than that of Belgium (12,196 metres) but the elevation stays similar with 196 and 261 metres respectively.
Completing the top 10 European countries with the best hikes is Luxembourg with an average rating of 81 out of 100. This country boasts one of the most comprehensive networks of walking routes in Europe, with over 300 hiking trails to choose from.
Out of these many walks, the average length is 10,017 metres and the elevation you can expect is around 273 metres.
If there is a top 10 when it comes to hiking, there must be a bottom 10. The countries with the lowest rated hikes include Bulgaria, Finland and Estonia, to name a few. The low ratings may come from factors such as the lack of scenery, the difficulty of the hike or just the type of walk you get from these countries.
Belarus has the lowest rating of the European countries in terms of hiking potential, with an average of 60.8 out of 100. Liechtenstein is not much better either with a rating of 61.3 and a massive average elevation of 2,910 metres.
If you’re the type of person who likes to dedicate a weekend to completing a hiking route then these countries are for you! Liechtenstein is number one for the longest hikes, with an average walk length of 48,662 metres. To put this into context, this is equivalent to 30.2 miles which is longer than the London Marathon.
Ukraine and Iceland are also great choices with the average hike length at 23,682 and 18,976 metres respectively.
If when you’re looking for a hike that is a little shorter, Lithuania is the place to go. The average length of hikes in this country is 4,568 metres which takes the average person under two hours to complete.
The Czech Republic (6,357 metres) and Belarus (6,667 metres) also boast fairly short trails that will keep you entertained for an afternoon.
Whilst a lot of people shy away from hikes with an intense incline, others see it as a way to challenge themselves. If you’re like this then Liechtenstein should be at the top of your list. With hikes that have an average elevation of 2,910 metres, you’ll be sure to get a good workout from these walks.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is also a good call. Although it’s quite a small country, there are opportunities to explore deep limestone gorges, subterranean sinkholes, as well as the highest summits with average elevation gain at 1,029 metres.
If you’re looking for a hike that is a little easier on your legs, you will probably want a trail that is quite flat throughout. For this, you need to be looking at Lithuania as the average elevation gain of hikes across this country is just 104 metres.
The Netherlands is not a bad choice either. As the flattest country in Europe, the hiking trails elevate 122 metres on average which is great for those who want to see the countryside without embarking on an extreme workout. Whilst this nation did not rank on the European countries with the best hikes, it is still a solid choice for those interested in walking.
SaveOnEnergy.com/uk used fitness and travel website AllTrails.com to find a list of hiking trails in Europe.
They scraped the metadata for each hike to find their average rating (/5), average length (metres), average elevation (metres), number of walks, and number of reviews for each walk.
SaveOnEnergy.com/uk then calculated a Bayesian average rating for each country’s hikes out of 100 possible points.
This average was used to define which European country had the highest rated hikes.
Any country with under 5 hikes according to AllTrails.com was removed from the study due to inaccuracy: Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Malta and Kosovo.