The Ultimate Cinque Terre Hiking Guide
There are some places you travel where instead thousands of miles away from home, you actually feel right at home. This is how Cinque Terre makes me feel. It's the kind of place that just makes me feel at ease. The scenery is lovely, and so are the people!
Even though Cinque Terre is quite popular with tourists and day trippers, to me, the magic happens in staying here! This gives you the option of hiking early or late in the day, when the trails will be less crowded, and it gives you a sense of excitement having the stunning views a little bit to yourself.
The trails were definitely more crowded in my opinion this time than they were 2 years ago. So we opted for a couple of evening hikes, and these turned out to be our favorite! We'd finish right as the sun was setting and then find a restaurant for dinner to replenish our tired muscles!
Now for the hikes! The best part!
UPDATE: As of June 2017: The coastal trail from Corniglia to Riomaggiore is still closed (closed due to major storm damage years ago). It is easy to find the higher (Blue trail) and many people are doing this one instead. I hope to do the coastal trail one day, BUT the higher trail is gorgeous! You are right in the vineyards, and seeing the gardens and flowers everywhere, almost feels like you’re in the Garden of Eden!
What you need:
1. Trail Pass
You will need to purchase a pass to hike the trails, there are checkpoints along the way where they make sure that you have one. You can buy these at the train stations and they also have a pass that includes a train pass as well so you can ride from town to town. This is the one we bought and I highly recommend. If you get tired, you can take the train back!
2. Trekking Poles
I recommend these (which we did have not at the time). I used to think they were just for old people, no. If your serious about hiking and want to reduce the impact on your knees, invest in quality poles. See which ones I recommend here.
3. Quality Hiking Shoes
There are lots of steps, I mean a ton! Some are gradual and some are steep. But these trails reward you with some gorgeous scenery, so it's worth it! Basically you climb for long time and then it will flatten out at the top and you will descend again to the next town.
Monterosso to Vernazza
Probably the easiest of the hikes, we did it in about 45 min. To get to the trail, start in the old town of Monterosso and go up the hill toward the sign of the Hotel Porto Roco and you instead of going into the hotel, you will see the trail beginning just beyond that. It starts out with some serious climbing. If you're lucky about 1 mile in there is a local guy with a little stand set up on the side of the trail who makes homemade lemonade and limoncello. Unfortunately, we missed him on this trip (every time was much later in the evening), but it's such a treat, so if you time it to be there during midday, definitely stop and enjoy this treat!
Vernazza to Corniglia
This one is great too! A little tougher. Corniglia is special to me. It just seems smaller and a little less touristy than Vernazza or Manarola. It's got a charm all it's own. You'll start by going up towards this restaurant and beyond it. This restaurant is a great place to stop by the way for little lunch! You should also see little trail signs ( a man walking) on the buildings, guiding you towards the trail. But usually there will be people to follow also!
Corniglia to Manarola
My favorite! This one probably gives you the best views of the Mediterranean and the crystal blue water that seems out of a dream. It is the most challenging section. You will climb what feels like forever (took us about 30 min, and we were moving at a good pace) , but stopping to take breaks and enjoy the view is encouraged! There is another small town you will come to, Volastra, before you start to descend back down to Manarola. You can stop and get a snack here and there's a little restaurant where we had lunch one day with some friends! Coming down the stairs, when you are almost to the town, there will be a point where you can keep doing straight down the steep steps or turn left for the path. I recommend turning left because then you have a little more gradual descent. We didn't discover this until our last time and kept climbing down those steps! Whoops! Our knees thanked us once we found the alternate route!
Manaorla to Riomaggiore
We actually only did this hike from the other direction, Rio to Manarola. And this one definitely get a little sketchy with very steep and narrow steps and not a lot to hold on to. I had my camera out, and needed to put it away. Just be prepared to be a little more careful on this one! Trekking poles would help tremendously!
You can hike all 5 villages in one day (even on the high trail). We did it from Riomaggiore and back and just enjoyed our breaks in between each village. It did take most of the day, but with this scenery we didn't mind!
To me, Cinque Terre is a day hiker's dream because you look forward to stopping at each village for a little treat! I recommend some fresh berries in one of the markets. It's truly amazing and if you really want more seclusion on the trail, try early or late in the day. Corniglia makes a good stop as well because it's a little less busy than the other towns!
The parks website here.
Hope you enjoy! Happy trekking!
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