The Covid-19 pandemic has completely turned our lives upside down.
There's no denying the global spread of coronavirus has driven our stress, anxiety and depression far above normal levels. Taking care of our mind as well as body has never been as important as it is now.
The good news is that there are many things we can do to keep the mental health impacts of the pandemic at manageable levels.
Hiking is one of them.
From the amazing views, fresh air, the sounds and smell of nature - there are many perks of hiking, plus it’s also good for the soul.
So here are six of the top places to hike through mother nature in Europe.
Tour de Mont Blanc
France, Italy, Switzerland
Those looking for multi-day hikes should head to the Tour de Mont Blanc. One of the most famous treks in Europe, it may not be the easiest but it’s definitely a rewarding one.
If you can conjure up the stamina and perseverance needed, and also possess good navigation skills, the exhilarating 170km hike takes you through three countries.
Most prefer the anticlockwise direction which allows you to take in Alpine vistas in Switzerland, Italy and France. There are plenty of mountain huts en route to rest overnight, as well as hostels and B&Bs in towns you pass through - so there's something to suit everyone's budget.
The Norwegian fjords really are a hiker’s paradise. You just can’t talk about a European walking trip without mentioning Norway’s unique combination of fjords and mountains.
Here you will find steep mountains that rise straight up from the sea, creating the perfect surroundings for an amazing walking experience. Many of the hikes start a short distance from a town centre or a hotel, allowing hikers to get stuck in straightaway.
The right to roam (Allemannstretten) makes the fjords one of the most desirable places to ramble in Europe. People have the right to explore the countryside without requiring any particular permits and set up camp freely giving you that extra connection with nature.
If you’re looking for a new place to explore, why not head to a lesser-known trekking destination?
Retezat National Park and mountains in Romania is the perfect spot for people who want to try something a little (more) off the beaten track.
Plus, Retezat is home to the well-protected UNESCO wildlife area where nature lovers can spot bears, lynx, birds and other unique creatures.
Romania has 20 peaks, with the highest standing at 2,509 metres. Hikers will be rewarded with fabulous views across the mountainous area and stunning glacial lakes.
Again, you won’t need a hiking permit for the Retezat area, but expect to pay a small fee to gain access to the national park.
Accomodation-wise, there’s a choice of mountain huts, camping and guest houses to choose from.
El Caminito del Rey
El Caminito del Rey (the King's Little Pathway) is a huge magnet for thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies.
Not one for the faint-hearted, this hike is known as the most dangerous pathway not just in Europe but the world. This hike hovers at 105 metres above the river in the Gaitanes gorge in El Chorro and offers breathtaking views.
The eight kilometre route through the Spanish landscape is anything but straightforward. Trekkers will need to book in advance to secure their place.
And, as the hike is only one way, you will need to make sure you've reserved a spot on a return bus.
Reaching Mount Triglav’s summit of 2,864 metres is worth every single step.
Easily accessible from the capital city Ljublijana, the route takes hikers around part of the Triglav National Park. A place of natural beauty, the region is fast becoming a bucket-list favourite.
If you’re new to hiking don’t despair: there’s something for every level of hiker, from a few hour hikes to multi-day ones taking in the national park and the Julian Alps.
But nature lovers may be disappointed to hear they won’t be able to pitch a tent or camp along the way. There are however, the usual mountain huts for longer hikes and hotels close by if you’re planning on day trips.
Translated as ‘the Hot Spring Route’, the Laugavegur walk in South-West Iceland takes hikers from the hot springs area of Landmannalaugar, across the Icelandic landscape on an easy-to-navigate and visually stimulating trail.
Here you will be treated to a constantly shifting landscape including rainbow-striped highland, psychedelic greenery, glaciers, hot springs, and otherworldly rock formations.
Depending on your experience, you can choose to travel the 55 km route in as little as two days. If you'd rather take your time, it’s the ideal place to treat yourself to bathe in one of the hot springs to fully immerse yourself in the geothermal beauty of Iceland.