Our Favorite Lesser Known Hiking Trips That Avoid Crowds
Are you looking for a unique, under the radar hiking experience? While our popular destinations cover many bucket list routes, sometimes it’s nice to get off the beaten path and explore something new. We’ve rounded up six incredible hikes that are often overlooked, but still offer breathtaking scenery and unforgettable cultural experiences. From Northern Greece to Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, these trips are perfect for those seeking a more intimate and unique hiking experience. So, grab your hiking boots and get ready to discover some of the world’s best-kept secrets on foot!
Greece: Northern Greece
Northern Greece remains one of the best-kept travel secrets in the world. While the Greek coast and isles have become legendary tourist destinations, the Northern extreme of the country has flown almost completely under the radar. Even the city of Thessaloniki retains a huge portion of its authentic culture and lifestyle. The true highlight here is the Zagori region. During the Ottoman occupation of Greece, Christian refugees fled high into the mountains to build a series of isolated villages that would not be rediscovered until the close of the First World War, when a highway was finally constructed through the region to facilitate troop movements. Today, these hidden villages remain an incredible secret, retaining their original gray stone architecture and winding street plans, with only the most avid explorers wandering this far into the Greek mountains to explore them.
France: French Alps Chamonix Mont-Blanc to Val d’Isère
Chamonix is a destination that needs no introduction – the allure of the Mont Blanc has drawn huge crowds in recent years, with the Tour du Mont Blanc circuit becoming one of, if not, the most popular hike in the world. However, the region just abutting the classic route, the Val d’Isere remains a much quieter experience. Here smaller villages foster a thriving Savoiyan culture, where farmers practice traditional alpine cattle ranching techniques and produce some of the finest cheeses in the world. In the winter the Val d’Isere becomes a bustling ski destination, but in the summer, it remains a fairly peaceful vantage to experience the heart of the high Alps.
Slovenia: Julian Alps Triglav Circuit and Summit Series
The Julian Alps in Slovenia are a hidden gem. Deep and wild forests run up to truly awe-inspiring mountains around the Triglav Massif. This region experienced its most acute tourist boom in the early 20th century when the region was popular for spa resorts among Soviet tourists. Today the large spa hotels that facilitated this are either fields or ruins, with a much more modest alpine tourist experience flourishing in its place. The heart of this is Kranjska Gora, one of Slovenia’s only ski resorts. On our tour we set out even deeper into the Julian Alps, linking two remote huts through the Valley of the Seven Lakes, where you can experience the European wilderness in a way that only existed hundreds of years ago.
Morocco: The Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains are a stunning chain of desert mountains that run through Morocco. The highest peak in the region, and in Northern Africa, is the mighty Toubkal, whose summit is our goal over the course of this trek. The ascent to Toubkals summit takes us deep into some of the most remote mountains in the world, where the only company is shepherds and some isolated medieval-era villages such as Imlil. After summiting, we head to Essaouira, a historic pirate haven turned resort town, where we get to relax a bit and gaze out across the Atlantic. Hiking into the mysterious Atlas Mountains is truly a unique experience, where visitors get to experience a true example of historic Moroccan culture and explore a mountain range that remains genuinely undeveloped.
Italy: The Dolomiti di Brenta and Via Ladinia’s Heart of the Italian Dolomites
The Italian Dolomites, similar to the core of the Alps, have been booming in recent years as visitors look to get some time in nature after the long lockdowns and travel restrictions of the last few years. Despite this, there are still plenty of hidden gems among the limestone spires of the Dolomites. One of these is the Brenta Dolomites, a range of Dolomite mountains that are an entirely different range from the main chain, separated by the Trento Valley. This unique mountain range is quite contained, and we circumnavigate the entire thing over the course of our tour, alongside some delightful day hikes out of the region’s two main towns: Molveno and Madonna di Campiglio.
The Via Ladinia is another less-traveled region of the Dolomites. While the start of the tour passes through some iconic and popular destinations, such as the famous Lago di Braies, in the second half of the tour we explore the more secret spots around Lavinallongo. The Lavinallongo valley is the cultural home of the Ladin people, an isolated mountain culture that identifies with neither the Italian nor Austrian identities that have competed for control of the region. The Ladin people instead trace their heritage back to Rome and speak one of the closest living languages to Latin. An example of this is the Ladin baking traditions that focus on dense and dark breads, that while they may not be as delicious as the standard Italian baking, are certainly authentic. The centerpiece of this region is the Col di Lana or Blood Mountain, a battle site during World War I where a group of ambitious sappers completely decapitated the mountain – an impact on the landscape that is still visible today. In modernity, this region is peaceful and gorgeous, with broad alps that run to the edge of deep forested valleys offering views out to some of the most iconic summits in the Dolomites such as the Tofane range.