Autumn can be perfect for hiking. The weather is cooler, the trails are less crowded and the beauty of nature takes on a new golden hue. Early morning mountain air is just that bit crisper, there is less danger of dehydration or sunburn and there is the self-satisfied feeling that the rest of the world are slogging away at office, school and university desks while you are free as the migrating swallows.
We have put together some lesser known, but still accessible European hiking trails that will tempt you to autumn trekking and hiking, off the beaten path.
Croatia – Mosor Mountain
Croatia has some of the most breathtakingly scenic hiking routes anywhere in Europe. The Paklenica National Park offers the best routes, including a 4hr return hike up to Anica Kuk, featuring incredible views over the bay of Strarigrad. But this area is difficult to get to from most major airports. If you have less time available, the Mosor Mountain is right next to the city of Split. A destination for many budget airlines. The route on Mosor is easy to access and has wonderful views of the Adriatic and the city of Split itself. Follow the trail to Vickov Stup for a rewarding and mildly challenging 5 hr return hike. The mountain is home to wild deer and goats and an amazing variety of alpine flora and fauna. If you are feeling truly energetic, there are a choice of other mountain trails in and around Croatia’s second city which are worthy of a stride out and are guaranteed to fulfil your sense of adventure. Of course, Split is an attractive coastal city with lots to offer in terms of food, drink, night life and the beaches of the Dalmation coastline and a perfect place to rest up after your vigorous trekking.
Spain – Montserrat, Catalonia
Just 54 km away from Barcelona, Monteserrat is a less frequently visited gem of a destination. Although this is one of the most amazingly beautiful places in Catalonia, Northern Spain, it’s not always included in the usual tourist itinerary. There are a choice of hiking trails for all levels of competency. From the 5 km easy trek (with the sneaky option of a cable car home!) to longer, way off the beaten track trails. The Montserrat hiking trail up to the San Jeroni summit is by far the most rewarding hike. If you have the time, it’s definitely the one you should choose. The 360 degree views, not only over the whole of the Montserrat mountain range, but also over most of Catalonia will be your well-deserved reward at the end of this trail. Spain is a great choice for autumn hiking as the temperatures are very pleasant, but you should be aware that the hours of daylight may be shorter than you are used to. Flights to Barcelona are plentiful from Ireland and there is cheap local transport to Monteserrat, making this a very accessible hiking spot for weekend trippers.
More often famed for its sun tourist, Cyprus has a lot more to offer. Leave the crowds lying on their sunbeds by the pool and tighten up your hiking boots for some awesome trails across the island. The Madari Circular trek is an 8 mile trail which takes in some incredible views of the UNESCO world heritage sites and rewards the trekker with magical views of the Xylliatos Dam. This trail is not particularly tough but is very beautiful with unspoilt vistas and almost deserted tracks and trails. The island does have much to offer for the more hard core hiker. The Besparmak Trail is 255km long and you need to set aside at least five days to tackle this experience. Traversing mountains, coastal trails, forests and quaint villages. Crusader castles, monasteries and churches, the wonderful scenic views will ease the journey. For the even more adventurous, there is also the St Georges Trail. This is the most dangerous trail in Cyprus, famed for high ground, steep drops and an abundance of snakes. If this is your idea of fun, then make sure you have stout well fitted boots to go with that sense of adventure.
Georgia – Caucasian Mountains.
Completely off the track, beaten or otherwise, Georgia offers some hiking trails where you may well be the only Western trekker for miles. Time seems to have stood still in this beautiful wilderness. Locals use horse and carts to get around and traditional farming methods to survive. Follow the Mestia to Ushguli trail and it will bring you to nature at its purest. High glacial peaks, unspoilt lakes and lush valleys, the trail winds through one stone village after another. Guest houses are available for cheap sleeps on your journey and September is thought to be the most perfect time of year for the Caucasian Mountains where Europe and Asia meet.
Albanian Alps: Hiking the Spectacular Theth to Valbona Trail
A five-and-a-half-hour flight can bring you to the far-flung coast of Albania, on South-eastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. It’s a small country with Adriatic and Ionian coastlines and an interior crossed by the Albanian Alps. The most famous hiking trails are here in the Alps. The most picturesque and inspiring trail goes from Valbona to Theth, through the Accursed Mountains. How Lord of the Rings does that sound? Spectacular landscapes of the Balkan Peninsula and the incredible beauty of the majestic Albanian Alps await the most intrepid traveller. The hike, called Peaks of the Balkans, crosses over into the neighbouring countries of Kosovo and Montenegro, follows an old mule track and is almost 20 km long, and can be completed in one day. There are many such routes through this wild and wonderful country and as the average temperatures in October are more pleasant than most Irish days, it may well be the perfect destination for hikers who prefer a less crowded route with all the challenges and beauty possible.
Main photo credit: Adventurescroatia