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Long-distance hiking: five hidden gems in Switzerland and Europe

Zwei Personen unterwegs auf einem Fernwanderweg, sie tragen einen grossen Rucksack und stehen an einem Aussichtspunkt.
Tamara
Marketing, Zurich Office
© Photos

Well-known hiking trails like the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain or Sweden’s Kungsleden are thronged with keen hikers. Want to go off the beaten path? Here are five lesser-known hiking routes in Switzerland and Europe.

Hiking long-distance through a country’s most beautiful landscapes, hardly seeing another soul, immersed in the natural world and exploring under your own steam: what an idyll! You’ll probably only be able to enjoy this experience, though, if you opt to brave the inclement weather rather than taking popular long-distance routes during the busy season. Conversely, lesser-known trails offer an astonishing opportunity to interact with the natural world – even during high season. There are plenty of long-distance hiking routes in Switzerland and Europe, but not all of them have been the subject of countless books and reports.

So, if you’re looking for something longer than a multi-day hike, we might just have the perfect hidden gem for your next adventure here.

Országos Kéktúra (National Blue Trail) – exploring Hungary

Országos Kéktúra (National Blue Trail) – exploring Hungary

This route starts on the Austrian border and finishes just before the border with Slovakia. It takes you past the world’s largest natural thermal lake and its plethora of swimming spots – perfect for resting your legs for a while! Alongside nature as far as the eye can see, you’ll also come across a city: the route takes you through Budapest, so you can start there and trim down the distance, if you like. The 13-hour night train offers an easy way to get to Hungary’s capital.

Length: 1,100 km
Countries: Hungary
Start: Írottkő
Finish: Hollóháza
Seasons: spring or late summer
Tip: order a stamp booklet from the Hungarian Hiking Association so you can record your efforts.

You’ll see hills covered with woodland on Hungary’s National Blue Trail long-distance trek.

You’ll often be surrounded by the natural world on Hungary’s National Blue Trail – but the hike does take you through Budapest, too.

Photo © Barna Burger
Peaks of the Balkans – a circular Balkan hike

Peaks of the Balkans – a circular Balkan hike

The ten one-day sections of the Peaks of the Balkans long-distance trail take you through the Albanian Alps. One aim of the route was to break down national borders and bring the population closer together. As a result, the ‘Balkans Peace Park’ project, in particular, worked to reopen old shepherds’ routes.

If you want to get to the starting-point over land, you can hop on the train to Bari then take the ferry to Durrës. Albania has plenty of buses that will take you anywhere you need to go.

Length: 192 km
Countries: Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro
Start/Finish: Theth, Albania
Seasons: June to October

View of Albania’s mountains and a wide valley.

On the Peaks of the Balkans long-distance trail – here, in Albania.

Photo © peaksofthebalkans.com
Sardona World Heritage Trail – long-distance hiking in Switzerland

Sardona World Heritage Trail – long-distance hiking in Switzerland

This route takes you through Eastern Switzerland, an area well-known for practically offering insights into the deepest reaches of the Earth: the wind and rain have unveiled unique structures, showing how various stones have been pushed on top of each other. As a result, stunning views are guaranteed on this long-distance trail!

Length: 84 km
Countries: Switzerland
Start: Filzbach (GL)
Finish: Flims (GR)
Seasons: June to October

Not so keen on this trail? No problem! While Switzerland is a small country, it has plenty of long-distance hiking routes to explore.

View of the Tschingelhörner mountains.

View of the Tschingelhörner mountains, with the Martinsloch on the left.

Photo © Welterbe Sardona, Foto Homberger.
Transcaucasian Trail (TCT) – an as-yet incomplete route

Transcaucasian Trail (TCT) – an as-yet incomplete route

The Transcaucasian Trail takes you through Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Not all the sections have been finished yet, so you can’t hike right through all three countries. Armenia is the exception: the route in this country was completed in 2022. You can hike along individual sections of the route in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Plus, you can help develop other sections as a volunteer by assisting with the trail’s construction.

Length: approx. 1,540 km
Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia
Seasons: spring and autumn

  • A person hiking through a mountainous, dry landscape on the TCT.

    Exploring the province of Javakheti in southern Georgia.

    Photo © Meagan Neal
  • The Tatev Monastery in Syunik, Armenia.

    The Tatev Monastery in Syunik, Armenia – one of the country’s most significant architectural monuments.

    Photo © Tom Allen
  • A dining room in Azerbaijan.

    Having a meal in Azerbaijan.

    Photo © Meagan Neal
  • Tents in a mountainous landscape in Georgia.

    Volunteers’ camp in Georgia – the Transcaucasian Trail has not been completed yet.

    Photo © Tom Allen
Malerweg (Painters’ Way) – adventures in Saxon Switzerland

Malerweg (Painters’ Way) – adventures in Saxon Switzerland

Hiking through the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, you’ll be amazed by the bizarre rock formations flanking the path. You can get to this area on the border with Czechia by public transport: take the train to Dresden, then switch to a regional train to Liebethal. The trains don’t go straight through to Dresden – so you might have the chance to explore another city on a stopover en route.

Length: 116 km
Countries: Germany
Start: Liebethal
Finish: Pirna
Seasons: May to October

The Basteibrücke bridge on the Malerweg in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.

The Basteibrücke bridge and the unique rock faces are a highlight of this long-distance route.

Photo © Achim Meurer
Equipment for long-distance hikes

Equipment for long-distance hikes

Even the dreamiest long-distance trek can turn into a nightmare without the right equipment. This isn’t hugely different from the kit you’d take with you for a one-day hike. However, you need to take a change of clothes with you, too. Tip: clothing made from Merino wool won’t retain bad odours, even after a multi-day hike.

  • Plan exactly where you’ll fill up your water bottle and top up your supplies. It’s generally worth packing a water filter or water purification tablets.

  • Accommodation: will you spend the night in hostels or a tent? Depending on which you pick, you might need to take a tent or tarp, sleeping bag and sleeping mat with you.

  • Lots of long-distance hikers prefer lightweight footwear, in contrast to the boots you’d wear when on a mountain trail. Category A trail running shoes or hiking boots will see you right.

  • Make sure your backpack is the appropriate size for your adventure. You do need a bit more room if you have to carry food for several days – but don’t simply opt for a backpack that’s too big. This just adds extra weight and can tempt you into packing too much.

Long-distance hiking equipment

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  • #Long-distance travel

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