Adventure Through the Cinque Terre: A Hiker's Guide

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Curated By

Greer Ransom

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  • Cinque Terre

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Hiking

  • Sports

  • Ancient Sites

Adventure Through the Cinque Terre: A Hiker's Guide
Curator’s statement

Going to the Cinque Terre feels like getting lost in time. It gives you a moment to sit back and breath in and reflect on how beautiful the world can be. It is not just a place for advanced hikers but an opportunity for any person at any level to have a breath taking experience of reflection, challenge, good food, wine and the beauty of nature.

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Important Starting Place

The most important part of planning your hiking experience is to understand what your goals are for this trip. There are options for those who are just going to relax, eat, drink and enjoy the beautiful scenery to those who want to challenge themselves both mentally and physically. Our experience was different each time we went and that is what makes this the best destination for anyone!

Selecting your trails - be prepared to be Amazed.

Get your hiking boots ready because in Cinque Terre, you're about to embark on some of the most exhilarating trails you've ever experienced. From epic coastal paths to breathtaking mountain views, these hiking trails will take you on a journey of awe and wonder. The order of the towns goes Monterosso al Mare (the biggest), Vernazza (normally considered the prettiest), Corniglia (up high on the cliffs), Manarola and Riomaggiore. The last two are lumped together because one or the other is sometimes closed off to the hiking trails depending on the season. You can buy tickets at the start of each trail in each city but make sure you have cash. It’s normally five to 10 USD depending on the season.

Boats and houses on canal side

1. My Favorite Option is the Sentiero Azzurro, also known as the Blue Path. This iconic trail connects all five villages of Cinque Terre and offers stunning vistas of the rugged coastline and the azure waters below. This is a perfect path for those who are pretty active normally or play sports. My partner and I both played competitive tennis growing up and like to play together regularly and this hike left us tired! Because this path stops at each town you can choose to break it up however you want. Just remember these trains go up the mountain then down so between each town can be an hour to an hour-and-a-half. THe next best part about it stopping in each town is you can always take the train to the town you are staying in. Be prepared to be amazed as you hike along the cliffside, taking in the panoramic views that seem straight out of a postcard.

2. If you're looking for a challenge, the Sentiero Rosso, or the Red Path, is perfect for you. This trail takes you high up into the mountains, rewarding you with jaw-dropping views of the entire region. As you hike uphill, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment and a rush of adrenaline, making it all worth it when you reach the summit. I cannot begin to describe how stunning these views are. On top of that you are really challenging yourself physically and mentally. It is a very life changing experience being able to push yourself to the top of the world to enjoy just how amazing nature truly is.

3. For those seeking a more leisurely hike, the Sentiero del Amore, or the Love Path, is a delightful choice. This trail offers a relaxed and romantic stroll along the coastline, with charming views of the villages and the sparkling sea. Take your time, hold hands with your loved one, and enjoy the intimate moments that this trail has to offer. You will have the opportunity to venture around to hidden beaches and secrete spots along the way.

No matter which trail you choose, be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and your camera and whatever you do DO NOT FORGET an extra power bank so you can get back. Trust me, to capture these surreal landscapes and memories that will stay with you forever, drains the phone battery. So, lace up your boots and be prepared to be amazed, because the best hiking trails of Cinque Terre are calling your name!

Travel advisor posing in a valley beside sea

Explore the Charming Villages Along the Way

As you traverse the hiking trails of Cinque Terre, be sure to take the time to explore the charming villages spread along the coastline. Each village has a unique character and offers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the region.
Start your exploration in Monterosso, the largest of the five villages. Known for its stunning beaches and vibrant atmosphere, Monterosso is the perfect place to unwind after a long day of hiking. Take a dip in the crystal-clear waters, relax on the sun-soaked sands, and indulge in some delicious seafood at one of the waterfront restaurants. There are so many different things to do so it would be my suggestion to select a place to stay in this town and use it as a base for your hiking experiences. Indulge in the freshest seafood you'll ever taste. From succulent lobster and calamari to mouthwatering anchovies, the coastal delicacies will transport you to gastronomic heaven. Pair your meal with a crisp glass of locally produced Vermentino wine to enhance your dining experience. After, head to the sandy beach and snap some photos of the picturesque coastline. The turquoise waters and the colorful umbrellas create a serene and inviting scene that will make you want to dive right in. Don't forget to capture the breathtaking sunset, painting the sky with vibrant hues of orange and pink.

Next, head to Vernazza, the most picturesque of the villages. With its colorful buildings cascading down the hillside and a charming harbor filled with fishing boats, Vernazza is a true gem. Lose yourself in the narrow streets, wander through the local shops, and enjoy a gelato while taking in the breathtaking views. Cars are not allowed in this town so the vibe is very laid back and calm. If you want a more rustic experience Vernazza is the place to stay. It is also in the middle of the hike so you can stay and do half one day and half the other. Vernazza is famous for its pesto sauce, made from fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil. Treat yourself to a traditional plate of trofie al pesto, a pasta dish that perfectly showcases the village's culinary prowess. Afterward, don't forget to indulge in a scoop of gelato from one of the charming gelaterias. Continue your exploration in Vernazza, where you'll find the perfect spot to capture the essence of this charming village. Climb up to the Doria Castle and be rewarded with panoramic views of the village and the azure waters of the Ligurian Sea. The contrast between the rugged cliffs and the pastel-colored buildings makes for a truly enchanting image.

Manarola, with its iconic pastel-colored houses, is a photographer's dream. This small village is known for its spectacular sunset views, so make sure to stay until dusk to witness the sky come alive with vibrant hues and take the train back to the town they are staying. Don't forget to visit Nessun Dorma, a popular bar perched on a cliff, where you can have a drink while soaking in the panoramic vistas. Manarola is known for its delectable Sciacchetrà wine, produced from the terraced vineyards that cling to the cliffs. Take a wine tasting tour and savor the complexity and sweetness of this unique local grape variety. Pair it with Schiacciata alla Fiorentina, a delicious cake made with orange zest and powdered sugar, and you'll discover a taste combination that will leave you wanting more. Wander through the winding streets until you reach the iconic viewpoint overlooking the harbor. From here, you can capture the vibrant facades of the buildings against the backdrop of the crystal-clear waters. This postcard-worthy image will be a cherished memory of your time in Cinque Terre.

Riomaggiore, the southernmost village, is a delight to explore with its steep, narrow streets and charming squares. Visit the picturesque Via dell'Amore, a path carved into the cliffs that connects Riomaggiore to Manarola. This romantic walkway offers stunning views of the coastline and is the perfect spot for a memorable sunset stroll. In Riomaggiore, don't miss the chance to try the local specialty known as "whale spartan." This dish, made with marinated strips of whale meat, is a unique delicacy that showcases the region's long history of whaling. If you prefer seafood, indulge in a plate of Spaghetti alle Vongole, a pasta dish with clams in a garlic and white wine sauce that will leave you craving for seconds. Riomaggiore offers a unique opportunity for photography enthusiasts. Take a leisurely stroll along the Via dell'Amore, a romantic cliffside path, and capture the mesmerizing views of the rugged coastline and the endless expanse of the sea. This spot is the perfect backdrop for a couple's photo or a solo shot that captures the essence of Cinque Terre's natural beauty.

Last but not least, make your way to Corniglia, the only village of Cinque Terre not directly on the coastline. Perched on top of a hill, Corniglia is a peaceful retreat away from the crowds. Climb the 365 steps up to the village, and you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards and the turquoise sea. Corniglia offers a variety of delicacies, with its picturesque vineyards providing the perfect setting for wine enthusiasts. Sip on the refreshing and aromatic Sciacchetrà wine while enjoying a platter of fresh local cheeses and cured meats. The flavors will perfectly complement the serene and breathtaking views that surround you. Climb the narrow staircase that leads to the terraced vineyards and capture the sweeping vistas of the countryside. The harmonious blend of the vineyards, colorful houses, and the distant sea make for a truly magnificent image.

Whether you choose to spend a few hours or an overnighter at these villages, you'll be enchanted by their beauty and charm. Immerse yourself in the local culture, sample the traditional cuisine, and interact with the friendly locals, and take as many pictures to remember your time forever. So, take your time, soak it all in, and let the magic of Cinque Terre envelop you.

Even More to Discover

If you have more time in your schedule there are many hidden gems you can check out.

Start your journey by venturing off the beaten path and discover secluded beaches tucked away in hidden coves. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin as you relax on the soft sand and take in the tranquility of the crystal-clear waters. These secret spots will make you feel like you've discovered your own private paradise.

Don't forget to explore the vibrant vineyards that dot the landscape, producing some of Italy's finest wines. Take a tour and indulge in wine tastings, where you can savor the rich flavors and admire the breathtaking views of endless vineyards that stretch out as far as the eye can see.

Further inland you can discover ancient ruins and historic landmarks. Uncover the stories and legends that have shaped the region throughout the centuries, and marvel at the wonders that stand the test of time.

Tips and Tricks for a Successful Hiking Trip

Here are some tips and tricks that you should keep in mind:

1. First and foremost, make sure you have the right gear for hiking. Invest in a sturdy pair of hiking shoes that provide good traction and ankle support. The trails in Cinque Terre can be steep and rocky, so having the right footwear will make your journey more comfortable and safe.

2. Don't forget to pack essentials such as a hat, sunscreen, and a reusable water bottle and a power bank. The sun can be intense, especially during the summer months, so it's important to protect yourself from the heat and stay hydrated along the way.

3. Before you set off on your hike, be sure to check the weather forecast. Cinque Terre experiences a Mediterranean climate, which means it can be unpredictable at times. Dress in layers, so you can adjust accordingly if the weather changes throughout the day. If there is meant to be rain please take caution because in some areas the paths are very slippery and steep. We ended up taking a train back after the rains hit because the path between Monterosso and Riomaggiore became too slippery and hazardous.

4. One of the most important things to remember when hiking in Cinque Terre is to stay on the designated paths. These trails have been carefully constructed to preserve the natural landscape and protect the delicate ecosystem of the area. Straying off the path can not only be dangerous but also damaging to the environment.

Need to Know

In order to get the most out of this life changing place its important to know yourself and your travel goals. Do you want a cultural experience? a physical challenge? Relaxing? Fun friends trip? No matter what you want it takes time research and planning. I have been several times and have experienced this area of the world in various ways. I can take the stress and question out of planning unknown details so your trip will be created to make your experience perfect for the goals.

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to Cinque Terre. In need of further inspiration? Check out Kirsten Johansson’s guide, Three Nights in the Cinque Terre.

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Travel Advisor

Greer Ransom

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