You’ve probably heard about the Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site based around five pastel coloured towns perched on the beautiful and dramatic coastline of Northern Italy. The best way to explore this area is on foot, with a series of hiking trails not only connecting the famous five, but a whole host of other beautiful towns in the surrounding area. If you’re looking for a hiking holiday that not only has challenging trails, stunning views and crystal blue waters, but also delicious Italian food to fuel you along the way – then this is the perfect destination for you!
Getting there: The nearest airport is Pisa which has affordable daily flights from the UK. It is a 90-minute drive from Pisa to the Cinque Terre coastline, we made this journey using a private transfer.
Getting around: The public transport network in Cinque Terre is amazing, with regular trains and buses. We used the train every day to get to the start points and return from the endpoints of our hikes.
Prices: Cinque Terre isn’t cheap as it is such a popular region. Food is more expensive in the main five villages and we definitely noticed it was more affordable in Levanto (where we stayed). The most expensive spot was Portofino, so maybe take a packed lunch there if you want to avoid splashing out.
How long to stay: I would recommend spending at least three full days in the region, but four is ideal as it allows you to do all the hikes I recommend and enjoy some downtime on the beach too.
When to go: I would avoid the summer months of June-September due to the heat and crowds. Instead, the shoulder season of May and October would be ideal. We went in May and although the weather forecast was rainy, we actually experienced blue skies 90% of the time!
Where to stay: We stayed at Park Hotel Argento in Levanto, which is one village along from Monterosso. It is a great location to easily access Cinque Terre via the train, but avoid the cost of staying in the main five villages themselves.
Travel tip: Purchase a Cinque Terre Treno Card. This gives you access to the Cinque Terre trails as well as the train network in the region for between one and three days.
Day 1: Arrive & explore Levanto
Day 2: Levanto to Monterosso
Day 3: Riomaggiore to Monterosso
Day 4: Riomaggiore to Portovenere
Day 5: San Margherita Ligure to Portofino and San Fruttuoso
Day 6: Departure
Levanto to Monterosso
The basics: An intermediate 8km point to point trail with 383m of elevation gain. Click here for a map.
The details: Start the hike in Levanto, climbing up and out of the town to follow the coastline to Monterosso. Make sure you stop off Sant’ Antonio al Mesco and walk out to the nearby view point, as this gives unparalleled panoramas over the Cinque Terre peninsula. Once you reach Monterosso I recommend grabbing a gelato and going for a swim. From there you can catch a train back to Levanto.
Riomaggiore to Monterosso
The basics: A challenging 15.1km point to point trail with 990m of elevation gain. Click here for a map.
The details: This is the most famous hike in Cinque Terre, the classic route which takes in all five of the beautiful villages along the renowned coastline. It starts in Riomaggiore with two challenging climbs to Manarola and Volastra, once you have these under your belt the hike becomes a lot more manageable as it passes through Corniglia, Vernazza and finally along to Monterosso al Mare. Take your time exploring each village as there are lots of beautiful views, cafes and boutiques to discover along this hike, as well as plenty of swimming spots. This trail is admittedly very busy but it is totally worth navigating the crowds. Just make sure you start early in the day.
Riomaggiore to Portovenere
The basics: An intermediate 13.4km point to point trail with 683m of elevation gain. Click here for a map.
The details: Catch a train to the start of the hike in Riomaggiore, ensuring you pop down to the marina to get the best view of the town. The hike starts with a steep climb, but once you reach the first peak it become a lot easier. You follow along the coastline, escaping the crowds of Cinque Terre on this quiet trail, and end up in the beautiful town of Portovenere – my personal favourite location we visited! It has an incredible castle, towering fortress walls and stunning narrow streets. Make sure you take a swim at Grotta di Byron before you catch the ferry back to Riomaggiore, providing a great opportunity to see the coastline from a new perspective.
San Margherita Ligure to Portofino and San Fruttuoso
The basics: An intermediate 10km point to point hike with 420m of elevation gain. Click here for a map.
The details: Catch a train to the start of the hike in Santa Margherita Ligure. The trail starts out with a flat easy walk along the coastline, before ascending up and over to Portofino. This is one of the most famous villages in Italy so be sure to have an explore, I highly recommend picking up a gelato from Gelateria Bar San Giorgio – it was the best we had on the whole trip! The continue along the route as it climbs up and out of Portofino before counting along the coastline, with incredible views along the way. Your final destination is San Fruttuoso, an idyllic spot home to small coves, crystal blue waters and a towering church. It is the perfect place for a post-hike sunbathe and swim! From there you can catch a ferry all the way back to San Margherita, which gives great views of the Portofino peninsula.