Tired of traffic jams, car exhaust, and crowded museums? Maybe your next trip to Europe should include a little face time with the “great outdoors.” Smog-free air and awe-inspiring green vistas are well within the reach of all the great European cities. Here are a few of our favorite walks.
Elterwater, The Lake District
Some people treat walking in England’s Lake District as a quasi-spiritual experience. Whatever your motivation, the scenery is rugged and spectacular, and to see it at its best you must get out of the car and walk. One of our favorite villages is Elterwater, at the end of the Great Langdale Valley. The region boasts a selection of excellent circular walks. You can also stroll up the river valley, embark on more energetic hikes to Stickle Tarn, or amble on up to the summit of one of the Langdale Pikes. www.cumbria-the-lake-district.co.uk.
Montserrat, Serra de Montserrat
Montserrat, 30 miles northwest of Barcelona, is as memorable for its strange pink hills as it is for its religious treasures. The vast monastery is dwarfed by the grandeur of the looming sawtooth peaks. Several marked and unmarked footpaths lead to the secluded retreats that dot the mountain crest. From the hermitage of Sant Joan, the views over the mountains to the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees are breathtaking. If the rugged, boulder-strewn terrain has you worn out at the top, you can coast back down on the funicular running from Sant Joan’s hermitage. www.abadiamontserrat.net.
From the churches set among the silvery olive groves on the outskirts of town to the soaring Ponte delle Torri behind it, Spoleto has sublime views in every direction of the region’s misty valleys. Its close proximity to Assisi and Cannara makes it an ideal base for those interested in following in the footsteps of St. Francis. The saint gave his sermon to the birds in the fields of Pian d’Arca, an easy half-hour walk from Cannara. For slightly more arduous walks, you can follow the saint’s path, uphill from Assisi to the Eremo delle Carceri, and then continue along the trails that criss-cross Monte Subasio. At 4,250 feet, the Subasio’s treeless summit affords views of Assisi, Perugia, far-off Gubbio, and the distant mountain ranges of Abruzzo.
Cap d’Antibes, Côte d’Azur
Bordering the well-hidden mansions and zillion-dollar hotels of Cap d’Antibes, the Sentier Tirepoil is a spectacular footpath along the sea. The path runs for one mile along the outmost tip of Cap d’Antibes, a four-mile-long peninsula on the Eastern Côte d’Azur. It begins gently enough at the pretty Plage de la Garoupe, with a paved walkway and dazzling views over the Baie de la Garoupe and the faraway Alps. Round the far end of the cap, however, and the paved promenade soon gives way to a boulder-studded pathway that picks its way along 50-foot cliffs, dizzying switchbacks, and thundering breakers. On sunny days, you’ll have company, although for most stretches all signs of civilization completely disappear. www.antibesjuanlespins.com.
Schynige Platte, Berner Oberland
The Berner Oberland offers a wealth of highly developed walking and hiking options. For the region’s most splendid view, make the ambitious trip to Schynige Platte, a 6,445-foot peak. You can picnic here, or wander down any one of the many footpaths. Or you can always pay a visit to the Alpine Botanical Garden. If your legs need a rest, ride the cogwheel train up to the top of the peak. www.berneroberland.ch.
Photo Credits: (1) Cumbria Tourist Board; (2) Andrew Crump; (3) Lindy Ruggiero; (4) Robert Fisher; (5) Berner Oberland Tourist Board