Mount Olympus, the Matterhorn, El Camino de Santiago—these are but a few European destinations which just about every traveling outdoorsman has on his/her bucket list. However, Europe as a continent has far more to offer to those who are willing to venture away from the beaten tourist hiking trail. Push a few extra branches aside, step in a few mud puddles, and if you’re adventurous enough, you’ll find yourself at one of these three unique European hiking destinations, admirably unfrequented by tourists.
This little mountain town isn’t exactly unknown to tourists, but the trick is to stop by when there’s no snow on the ground! Bansko is typically quite populated by slope-seeking travelers during the winter season. Yet, you’ll find the place almost completely foreigner-free just about every other time of year. Not only does this mean some serious hotel/Airbnb discounts, but it makes for some excellent, quiet hiking conditions on dozens of scenic mountain trails which the typical tourist only experiences when zooming passed over white powder on a pair of skis.
Spend an entire day trekking from this breezy, rose-filled village all the way up to the 9,560-foot-high peak of Vihren—the tallest peak of Bulgaria’s Pirin mountain range, the second highest peak in Bulgaria, and the third highest peak in the entire Balkan area. Take a break once you reach the top to admire the view you have earned: a breath-taking panoramic of Pirin National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), a view of six other nearby mountain ranges, and a handful of picturesque lakes which surround the peak.
When you’ve decided you’ve had enough, wave the bears and goats goodbye and begin your descent back down the mountain until you’ve reached the road. From here, you can hitch a ride the rest of the way into town to enjoy some well-deserved dinner of Moussaka and Shopska salad. It’s a day straight from the hike-loving travelers’ dreams.
Triglav National Park, Slovenia
Squished right in between tourist-bustling Italy, Austria, and Croatia lies the small nation of Slovenia—aka, a hiker’s Eden. Book a hostel room in the charming and quaint capital of Ljubljana from where you can take countless day trips to experience the many hikes located within nearby Triglav National Park. Perhaps the most popular destination (and for a good reason) is Lake Bled. Here, you will have the pleasure of gazing upon an immaculate lake with a Baroque church floating mystically in the middle of the brisk blue body of water.
Spend the day strolling around the lake itself, or break a sweat by taking a short, but challenging hike to one of the many nearby viewpoints. It would be no exaggeration to describe these viewpoints of utterly awe-inspiring, so we definitely recommend lacing up and hitting the trails to make your trip to Lake Bled truly worthwhile.
For those of us who are looking for something a bit more intense, head on over to the Mamut tour office before leaving Bled and book one of their adventure tours. Not only will you be able to choose from a number of exhilarating excursions to add on, but each and every tour includes unforgettable sight-seeing on and off the hiking trail. Stop by a mirror-like lake you’ll think was created with CGI, reflecting an astonishing landscape of white-tipped mountains hugged by low-hanging clouds. Take a hike spent clinging to rocky cliff-sides, cannonballing into a crystal clear cyan river, shuffling across steep ledges underneath waterfalls, and drinking from fresh mountain streams before reaching the highlight of your tour: your excursion! Go white-water rafting in the Soča river, cave kayaking, paragliding, canyoning, skydiving, or pick one of Mamut’s other invigorating activities designed to get your adrenaline pumping.
If wild-camping in the highlands (where legend says you just may spot a wild unicorn) is something that piques your interest, then rural Scotland is the place for you! This is a prime location to rent a car and take an extended road trip. From the Isle of Skye to Loch Ness, countless unforeseen adventures await you in this enchanting corner of the world.
Scotland is one of few places in Europe where wild-camping is legal and accepted, which allows you to experience exploration in a way that is extraordinarily boundless. Start out by flying into one of the country’s historic and highly characteristic cities, Edinburgh or Glasgow. The price of renting a vehicle typically won’t cost you more than around $10 per day, so pack a tent and sleeping bag and get ready to hit the road!
Pretty much anywhere your feet (or wheels) can take you, you can feel free to pitch your tent for the night and start your own campfire. Spend your days hiking up mountainsides through lush green fields spotted with castle ruins overlooking bewitching lakes; end your days in verdant prairies, cozily snuggled up in your sleeping bag and falling asleep under the Northern Lights. It doesn’t get much closer to Heaven on Earth than this!
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