The best backpacking routes in Europe
An adventurous backpacking trip to Europe can be the international trip of a lifetime and one to add to your bucket list. I was undecided when the idea was presented to me, but it didn’t take long for me to change my mind. Some seasoned travelers promised me backpacking is the only way to go, especially if you’re looking for beautiful nature, a melting pot of cultures, world-famous sites, and a whole world of adventure. There are few time restrictions when carrying the backpack and they are unmatched when compared to other ways of traveling. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy hiking in Europe, but here is a sample of our route that has worked for us.
Our first stop was Heathrow Airport because it is connected to public transport that will take you safely to some very famous places. Our first stop was Buckingham Palace and it was even better in person than any image or video I can convey. The royal family home is as amazing on the outside as it is on the inside. We missed the iconic Changing of the Guard, but I heard it’s spectacular. Be sure to add it to your “list while in London” as well as the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey. They also have historical significance and are a must-see during your walk through the city.
Trust me on this. Paris, known as the City of Love, is impressive. Take the Eurostar, underground train from London to Paris. The very idea of traveling under the English Channel is incredible. There is so much, so much to experience here. How about the one and only Eiffel Tower? My wife and I enjoyed a leisurely country lunch (cheese, wine, and French bread) from outside, but my fellow travelers paid for a ticket to get a bird’s-eye view from the top. Either way, get a photo or two because seeing this iconic tower in person was, to say the least, surreal. We could have stayed on the lawn forever, but when they came down from the top, we went out again to see Notre Dame Cathedral and the Montemartre art district that features the Sacré Coeur Basilica. The architecture alone is amazing. Whether you appreciate art or not, these landmarks will impress you.
This is truly the best place to backpack. It’s full of ancient history and cultural landmarks that look like postcard photos, only better. I have read about many of the places this eternal city has to offer and the fact that we were experiencing it personally was truly captivating. It takes a while to get there, but it’s worth the train ride. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take your time and spend more time here, if your schedule allows. One of the must-sees (actually, they are all must-sees) is the Colosseum. Walk, experience the historic architecture, and go back in time when the Romans sat and watched gladiators fight in the same arena. So I recommend visiting the Pantheon, The Vatican, to pray and contemplate Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel. If time permits, head to the Trevi Fountain and toss a few coins for good luck. Tradition says that one coin is for love and the other to guarantee that you will return to Rome again. I wish I had time to talk about the different restaurants. Our policy was to eat where the locals do and live by the old rule, “When in Rome”, do what the Romans do. We did not have a bad meal.
4. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre translates to five small towns on the western coast of Italy that look like a colorful boutique of buildings. The towns are Monterosso, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola and each one is an individual wonder. I can’t speak a word of Italian, but it didn’t matter. My senses were able to absorb all the culture and personality that is on offer here. We were amazed by the unique natural cliffs in their National Park that conveniently surround the five cities. It has to be one of Mother Nature’s best creations. It’s perfect for backpackers who don’t always like being in the big city crowds. We boarded a day pass train that allowed us to travel between these picturesque towns as many times as we wanted. You also need to buy a walking pass. Staying overnight is probably a good idea. There are a variety of overnight accommodations that offer a restful, comfortable and affordable sleep. Cinque Terre is a place that I will go back to maybe without my backpack next time and stay a bit longer.
Germany is fascinating and never fails to impress me. The sightseeing opportunities and landmarks are steeped in history, architectural wonders, and even castles. This European country is like no other and the landscape is almost like stepping back in time through an eclectic collection of modern buildings. For example, the famous landmark of the Brandenburg Gate, which was once a symbol of the division of the country, is not considered quite the opposite, unification. The dark granite pillars create a walking tour maze and is the perfect place to take photos. The most disturbing but moving place we visited was the underground museum that shows the plight of the Jews when the Nazis were in control. Talk about a challenging time. But Berlin also has a modern and much lighter side. There are some trendy neighborhoods to explore, really interesting locals to meet, and some delicious food to sample. I ordered the vegan cuisine with Vietnamese noodles which was delicious. We then took a walk around a closed airport runway that is now open to the public. There is so much to do and see, but the common denominator of Berlin is that no matter where you go, whether you go backpacking or not, the sky is the limit for incredible sights, sounds, tastes and experiences.
There is never enough time to explore all of Europe in one visit, so don’t expect to do it. But I recommend planning where you want to go and leaving plenty of room for a few unexpected stops along the way. Europe is one of the most interesting continents in the world, and especially interesting when you have your best friends and a backpack.