I visited the five seaside fisherman villages of Cinque Terre 4 years ago on my 21st birthday backpacking trip through Europe. But it wasn’t until this trip in 2019 that I realized how truly stunning and glorious the natural beauty of this tiny slice of the Mediterranean is. Alex and I both have hiked much of our planet. From the rainforests and volcanos in Costa Rica and Indonesia to the swiss alps in Switzerland, I’ve seen so many beautiful natural wonders. But Cinque Terre, we both agreed, was our favorite hike. The Cinque Terre National Park trails are absolutely breathtaking. There wasn’t a single turn along the path that didn’t leave me exclaiming, “wow, this is exquisite…”
Alex and I spent 2 full days hiking the trails of Cinque Terre. While a landslide has caused two of the blue trails (Corniglia to Riomaggiore) to be closed off, we still were able to hike to all of the 5 villages using both the . 2 days, 14 miles and a sore knee later, we are beyond appreciative that we ventured out to La Spezia to board a little train to the villages of Cinque Terre.
We arose early in the morning to find the blue trail entrance closed off with a single piece of thin rope. After reading online that the blue trail is closed off until 9 am, and not wanting to wait another two hours before beginning with our journey, we hopped over the rope and begun our journey from Corniglia to Vernazza.
We quickly hiked along the tight, stone-made paths along the mountains, looking down to spot razor-sharp cliffs cradling glittering turquoise. Ah, the Meditteranean will always be my favorite sea in the world with its crystal clear visibility and brilliant aqua blues. We enjoyed the quiet and solitude, having not encountered a single hiker on our journey. “Maybe the other hikers don’t want to hike so early in the morning?” we wondered aloud. But by 9:45 we started to worry. Why wasn’t anyone else on this trail? We couldn’t be the only morning hikers!
Upon finding construction signs warning us not to enter, we realized why the rope was drawn up at the entrance to the trail. Work was being down on the mountain, as it looked as if there was a mini-landslide that destroyed the footpath. We carefully climbed and maneuvered over the small, rickety ladder and we helped each other up. After a few minutes climb, we were on the other side, now deciding to come up with some excuses as to why we were on the trail if we got caught. Luckily, there were no construction workers on the site that Sunday. We continued our hike to find the small pastel-colored village of Vernazza far off in the distance, and we quickly trekked our way down past the small castle ruin and a little domed church to find the curved harbor with bobbing boats – and plenty of hikers gazing up at us from the entrance wondering why we were up there.
Aside from the red trails, the most beautiful hike on the blue trail is from Vernazza to Monterosso. With its trickling waterfalls, stray cat houses, stone bridges and infinite rows of leafy vineyards, we joined the crowded trail with the other hikers (this path was open!) and snapped a few polaroids on our climb down the side of the cliff. At last, after 4 hours, we arrived at the beach of Monterosso, where we enjoyed some left-over pesto pizza and relaxed on the beach.
The views from the mausoleum in Monterosso
The quaint restaurants and side streets in Monterosso
The Castello Doria stone tower in Vernazza – it looks like Tortuga from Pirates of the Carribean!
The village views from the beginning of the trailheads in Vernazza (Cornigilia trail entrance and Monterossa blue trail entrance)
The red trail was our favorite trail, as it was far more challenging than the cliff-side blue trail that hugs the sea below. The red trail took us up deep into the lush mountains, with its spattering of yellow wildflowers and green mossy leaves along the far off mountains. The dirt-path climb was steep and challenging, and we encountered the most awe-inspiring views of the vineyards leading down to the village of Manarola. The trail from Corniglia to Manarola was long, taking 4 hours to hike up, through and around the forest.
After arriving in Manarola, with all of its delicious pesto and cliff divers, we continued hiking the short distance to Riomaggiore. The views were far less impressive, as we had to trek along a tiny dirt path through a dark tunnel and along the highway, but we met many friendly felines and enjoyed the many steps down to Riomaggiore where we refueled on pesto pasta to-go! I also purchased 4 euros worth of lemon cake – a local specialty here in Cinque Terre – at a famous little bakery run by the sweetest woman.
The vineyards along the Red Trail (from Corniglia to Manarola)
The outdoor terrace overlooking the sea (Corniglia)
Hike one of the red trails – it’s peaceful and off the beaten tourist path. Plus. the views from high above are not to be missed!
Hike the red trail from Corniglia towards Manarola, not the other direction! The 2-hour steep climb is strenuous. We were happy hikers, whereas all the hikers that passed us coming from Manarola looked miserable.
Don’t forget your sunscreen for the hike! Bring sneakers or hiking boots, as open-toe sandals are not allowed on the trail.
An all-day pass for the blue trail is 7.50 euros. You can purchase the trekking card at the little hut at the entrance to the blue trail. The red trail is free!
Start the trek early in the morning to avoid all the crowds. The hiking trails close at dusk.
Grab some fruit, lemon cake, and focaccia at the little village markets to enjoy as a picnic during your hike!
Water faucets are located near the trail entrances, as well as along the main streets of the Cinque Terre villages, so bring a refillable water bottle!
Always carry cash in Cinque Terre! Many places do not take cards, including markets and the hiking trail entrances.
Take your time and enjoy – the fresh air, the forest smells, the sounds and the sights of this beautiful slice of heaven on Earth!
May 25, 2019
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