Hiking, trekking, outdoor, camping – no longer can I imagine proper holidays without at least one of those. When planning a trip, I always look for hiking trails bucket lists and I thought, why not prepare my own? Spending time outdoors while hiking, like I did in the Lake District, or trekking, like I did in Iceland, makes me relaxed, clears my mind, refills my internal batteries, although it often challenges me and leaves me physically tired (if not exhausted). There is one rule, however. The more physically tired I get the more relaxed and happy I become. If you have the same, here is my subjective hiking trails bucket list.
I love hiking and have already found some really scenic and challenging hiking trails which I want to share with you in this post. I have compiled a list of hiking and trekking trails for those who want something light and easy, e.g. a day hike, for those who need a real challenge, for those who prefer camping, and finally, for those who need some comfort and prefer to sleep indoors.
Table of Contents
- 1 Multi-day backpacking hiking trails bucket list
- 2 Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland – a real trekking challenge
- 3 The most famous hiking trail in Iceland – the Laugavegur trek
- 4 Peaks of the Balkans – the most remote hiking trail you can imagine: Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo
- 5 Challenging day hikes bucket list
- 6 Helvellyn – scrambling to the top of England’s third highest mountain
- 7 Hiking from Valbona to Theth, Albania
- 8 Hiking to Leqinat Lake in Kosovo
- 9 Easy day hiking trails bucket list
- 10 Rural England – hiking around the Derwentwater Lake in Lake District, Cumbria
- 11 Pigeon Valley in Cappadocia – hiking in lunar landscapes, Turkey
- 12 Lower Silesia, Poland- hiking and discovering local culture
Multi-day backpacking hiking trails bucket list
Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland – a real trekking challenge
Duration: between 4-9 days
Hygienic/accommodation facilities on the way: none
Have to bring own food?: yes
Iceland is a country that MUST be added to basically any hiking trails bucket list. Vatnajökull National Park, located in the south of Iceland, is the largest national park in Iceland covering the area of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, as well as surrounding areas. It’s also home to Iceland’s highest mountain: Hvannadalshnjúkur. It’s special out of several reasons.
First, the landscape shaped by many forces such as glaciers, geothermal and volcanic actives, and glacial rivers is extremely diverse. You can literally walk through green, fairy tale like valleys leading to volcanic ash desert, changing quickly into a mighty glacier.
The second reason why trekking the Vatnajökull National Park is special, is that once you’re in, there’s no way out. There are no official hiking trails not to mention car roads. The level of difficulty is partly up to you. You can make it super challenging by choosing areas which are either exposed or steep or you can try to manoeuvre between the obstacles.
One thing is certain, though. Walking up and downhill is unavoidable. Another factor that spices the whole expedition up is the fact that you must carry all your belongings with you. Tent, cooking utensils, food reserves for several days, warm clothing, and… swimming suit. Yes! There are awesome places to have a hot bath in natural hot rivers having glaciers in close vicinity. I can assure you, it’s one of the best experiences you might have in life. Read more here.
The most famous hiking trail in Iceland – the Laugavegur trek
Duration: between 2-4 days
Hygienic/accommodation facilities on the way: huts and camping sites every 12-16 km
Have to bring own food?: yes
Is it a coincidence that Icelandic hiking trails are featured twice in this post? Well, nope! Iceland is a perfect country for hiking and trekking lovers, mostly to the magnitude of hiking trails. The Laugavegur trek is absolutely the most popular one in Iceland and well-known worldwide. Why? Located in Icelandic highlands, it is rich in varying landscapes. Along 55 kilometres, you will witness rivers, canyons, valleys, lava fields, glaciers, dusty plains, and rhyolite hills.
Contrary to trekking in the Vatnajökull National Park, there are hygienic and accommodation facilities on the way. You can either backpack those 3-4 days it takes to finish the trail, or book huts. In any case, take all your food with you, since it’s not possible to purchase any on the way. Also, it’s perfectly possible to hike it solo, as I did. The biggest challenge is the weather, though. The first part of the trek, from Landmanalaugar to Hrafntinnusker can get very foggy, in which case it is easy to walk off trail. Read more here.
Peaks of the Balkans – the most remote hiking trail you can imagine: Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo
Duration: between 7-10 days
Hygienic/accommodation facilities on the way: local guest houses
Have to bring own food?: yes
The Balkans can be super crowded and super remote at the same time. The coast is extremely crowded, I’d rather avoide that. The mountains, on the other hand, are absolutely off the beaten path and my hiking trails bucket list would be simply incomplete without adding the Balkans. Peaks of the Balkans trail covers 192 kilometres across the Accursed Mountains in three neighbouring countries: Montenegro, Albania, and Kosovo.
Usually, it takes between 8-9 days to complete the trail. It’s extremely beautiful, but this beauty is not safe. Accursed Mountains, known also as Prokletije, are rugged, steep, and once you walk across fallen and burnt tree skeletons, especially when it’s foggy, you feel like trekking through a cemetery. An extremely beautiful, awe-inspiring cemetery. It’s not recommended to walk this trail without a local guide because some parts might be not so well marked.
Challenging day hikes bucket list
Helvellyn – scrambling to the top of England’s third highest mountain
England is great for all kinds of outdoor sports and especially for hiking, due to its mild climate, beautiful landscapes and easiness of planning your travels. Helvellyn is not a very high mountain. It doesn’t even reach 1000 meters, but to climb it, it actually takes some effort. The trail starts in Glenridding, a town located in England’s most scenic province, Cumbria. If you have not heard about Cumbria, you must have heard about the Lake District, a very beautiful region in north-west England, where the poets of Romanticism drove their inspiration from.
The trail is approximately 12 km long and, depending on how fit you are, weather conditions, frequency of stops to take photos, you can finish it either in 6 or 10 hours. The main challenge is right before getting to the top of the mountain, the famous Striding Edge. It’s a steep, narrow edge of approximately 20 meters where you will be totally exposed. If you fall, there’s literally nothing to hold on to, so be careful and make sure you have appropriate shoes.
After the edge, there’s a steep, rocky wall where you need to use all your fours to climb down. After that, there’s one more distance of walking uphill and you’ve made it! The views from the top of Helvellyn make up for all the sweat and stress you’ve experienced while getting there. That’s why hiking Cumbria is a must on my hiking trails bucket list.
Hiking from Valbona to Theth, Albania
Trail from Valbona to Theth (also known as Theti), located in the north-east of Albania, is the first part of the Peaks of the Balkans trail, but if you don’t have as many as 9 days at your disposal, you can just as well hike only this part. It takes you through a variety of landscapes. The Valbona valley is more rocky, rugged, violent. Once you make it to the ridge separating Valbona from Theth, you’ll see how rapidly the nature changes. Theth is simply cute. It’s all about green meadows, mild hills, flowers and clear blue rivers. The trail is quite steep at times, but there are plenty of nice places where you can hide in a shadow and have a break. This trails is also well-marked, perfectly fine to do it solo.
Hiking to Leqinat Lake in Kosovo
Leqinat, a small but cute lake located in Kosovo, a stone’s throw from the border with Montenegro. The trail is not long, but you will get tired, I assure you. It starts in a little village near Peja, Kuqishte. In order to get there, either hitch-hike or go with your own car, since public transport from Peja to Kuqishte is not the most reliable. Don’t let this discourage you, though, since the trail itself and the views are really amazing.
The first part of the hike is on asphalt and you might just as well skip it and go with a car. The true fun begins once you reach the Leqinat restaurant where the asphalt ends. Initially, the trails starts mildly, but as you continue, you will have to walk on a pretty steep terrain. You will pass through a plot of fallen, burnt trees, large, white rocks and high summits. If the weather is nice, it will be breath-taking. If it’s foggy, as it was in my case, you will feel as if you are walking through a dead people’s land. Read more here.
Easy day hiking trails bucket list
Rural England – hiking around the Derwentwater Lake in Lake District, Cumbria
This one is pretty easy since it doesn’t involve any uphill walking or scrambling. It’s just a very pleasant, 13-km walk around one of England’s most picturesque lakes, the Derwentwater lake. One of the greatest things about this hike is that it’s close to Keswick, a cute, dog-friendly town with numerous bars where you can grab a pint after the hike. To complete the whole hike you would need between 4-6 hours, depending on how fast you walk and how often you will stop to take photos (and there are many of places where you will feel tempted to do so!). The lake is very photogenic, I am sure I will revisit one day.
Pigeon Valley in Cappadocia – hiking in lunar landscapes, Turkey
OK, I know it’s NOT Europe, but getting into Cappadocia is so easy, I thought it would be worth sharing this trail with you any way. It’s one of the best hikes I’ve ever done. I went to Turkey in early May and this was definitely a very good decision out of (at least) two reasons. First, it was warm but still not scorching hot. Second, the valley was green. Once June arrives, the green grass gets yellow and orange because of the strong sunshine and no rain.
To hike the Pigeon Valley you can start either in Nevşehir or Göreme. I started in Nevşehir and walked my way to Göreme. This was a good choice since you walk slightly downhill. It’s relatively easy, perfect for a day out. You will see weird-shaped white rocks, lots of rich green meadows; you will walk through dark tunnels in sand rocks and near a deep canyon. Every now and then, you will encounter horses or other animals feeding on the grass. It’s a wonderful spot for a hike, trust me. And it’s not crowded.
Lower Silesia, Poland- hiking and discovering local culture
Lower Silesia district in Poland is rich in accessible, easy mountains below 1000 meters, perfect for day hikes. I hiked three of the highest mountains in this region, the Wielka Sowa (Great Owl), Chełmiec, and Waligóra, each of which was pleasant and easy. You don’t really have to climb, walking uphill appears, of course, but it’s not too tiring.
The main challenge is not getting lost since the way is not always marked in a clear way, but if you have a map or a GPS, you’ll do just fine. What’s awesome about this region is its richness in history. In every town and village, you can find some remnants from the WWII and listen to local legends which are absolutely fascinating, like the one about the golden train. Also, people in Lower Silesia are very friendly and will do their best to make your stay awesome.
Hiking is awesome. Trekking is even more awesome. What you can find in this post is some inspiration, but dig deeper, because anywhere you travel, you can find some really cool hiking trails. Some people relax in cities, I relax in the nature and hiking is just the perfect way to recharge my internal batteries and clear my mind. If you are also that type of outdoor person, try those hikes out. You will not be disappointed.