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How To Hike The Cinque Terre, Italy: What You Need to Know Before Visiting

How to Hike the Cinque Terre_ What you need to know before visitingHike the Cinque Terre – a place untouched for centuries, brimming with unparalleled beauty. Planning tips for your unforgettable adventure. A place that can only be reached by foot– a place that has stood untouched for centuries– a place that contains more beauty than any traveler could dream of.  Hiking the Cinque Terre is a one-of-a-kind experience that adventurers should miss when visiting Italy, but it can be confusing to plan so here are some things you should know.

There’s really nowhere on earth like the Cinque Terre.  There are very few places in the world where no cars can get to and instead, must be trekked to, increasing your appreciation of the beauty of the crystalline water splashing against villages’ colorful buildings that are filled with family-run restaurants and shops.

The Cinque Terre, meaning “Five Lands”, is exacly that—a coast with five towns, each unique and beautiful in their own way.

How To Hike The Cinque Terre, Italy: What You Need to Know Before Visiting

To hike the Cinque Terre should be on everyone’s bucket list.  It’s incomprehensibly stunning and it’s a privilege that people are still able to access it.  Sadly, this place will not likely be able to withstand the eventual rise of ocean levels. Nevertheless, you must experience the spiritual journey of hiking here.

Choosing Your Route

What route to take is the hard question.  Information about how to hike the Cinque Terre can be a little confusing with the low trail, mid-trail, high trail, and coastal trail.

To be clear, 3 different trails parallel the coast:

  • the coastal path (AKA the low trail),
  • the middle trail,
  • and the high trail.

How to Hike the Cinque Terre

Some say hiking the middle trail is better, some say the high one, and some say the coastal one.  I think the coastal trail is the most beautiful one.  However, it does get crowded so if you are visiting during the high season (July and August) the middle trail might be a better option.

Take note, that if you do choose to hike the Cinque Terre’s middle trail or high trail, the total amount of miles you hike will be substantially higher because:

  1. The middle and high trails are more strenuous, and
  2. You will also be adding mileage on the descent down into the towns and back out.

For ultimate adventure buffs, casual backpackers, or if you have no problem hiking from dawn to dusk, the middle or high trails are the way to go.

If you have little kids or aren’t a big hiker, you should defenitley take the coastal path.

You should be sure to check what sections of the trail are open, especially if you only plan on taking the coastal path because it could add a significant amount of distance to your hike.  Worst case, if you find yourself on a trail that’s closed for the next town-to-town, you can always take the train.

Pricing + and Info on The Cinque Terre Card

Planning your trail route is the fun part, but to hike the Cinque Terre you have to prepare on all fronts.  First of all, it does cost to get into the park.  I know, kind of a bummer.

The Cinque Terre Card that you are required to buy to trek in the park can be bought in multiple places.  

  • In Levanto (a town to the north of Cinque Terre)
  • In La Spezia (a town to the south of Cinque Terre)
  • Or at the start of the trail which is much more convenient

We ended up buying our tickets in Levanto because we didn’t know any better and it turned out to be a bit of an inconvenience due to the length of time it took to wait in lines, purchase cards, and re-board a train.  At the time, we didn’t know that the cards could’ve been purchased right on the trail, as that would’ve saved us a lot of time.

There are little shacks at the beginning of each segment of trail where you have to show your park card.  This is where you can purchase your Cinque Terre Card.

The price for the Cinque Terre card is as follows:

Adults (ages 13+)– 1-day Cinque Terre Card: € 7,50 or 2-day Cinque Terre Card: € 14,50

Kids (ages 5-12 )– 1 day Cinque Terre Card: € 4,50; 2 day Cinque Terre Card: € 7,20

Family– 1 day Cinque Terre Card: € 19,60; 2 day Cinque Terre Card: € 31,50

If you are going to be traveling from the towns of Levanto or La Spezia to the Cinque Terre, it may be worth buying the Cinque Terre + Regional Train card.  For these prices check out the official website.  These do not come in handy if you are staying in town even further than Levanto or La Spezia.

Other adventures:

There are many other adventurous ways to see the epic Cinque Terre such as:

Rock Climbing on the Mediterranean with views of the Cinque Terre

Or explore the trails via mountain bike tour and add a little more adventure to your visit

How To Hike The Cinque Terre, Italy: What You Need to Know Before Visiting

Coordinating Accommodation: Think About Your Start and End Point

It’s really important to think about what town your accommodation is in.  To do this you should have a good idea of the towns surrounding the Cinque Terre:

Map of Cinque Terre Towns, How to Hike the Cinque Terre_ What you need to know before visiting

For example…It was inconvenient for us to stop in Levanto because we were camping one town over, Deiva Marina. The train from Deiva Marina ran to town but we thought we had to stop and get Cinque Terre Cards.  We had to:

  • Arrive at Deiva Marina train station and buy roundtrip train tickets to and from Levanto.
  • Getting on the train to Levanto
  • Get off the train in Levanto to buy Cinque Terre Cards (which we didn’t know you could buy at the trailheads)
  • Get back on the train and arrive in Monterosso.

Train travel is slow so I’d’ recommend starting early and checking the train schedules (train schedule for inside the National Park).  In addition, be sure to check the train schedules for the corresponding area you are staying in if you’re not staying within the Cinque Terre, Levanto, or La Spezia.

Since we were in an RV (camper) and wanted to stay in a campground nearby, we stayed at Camping La Sfinge near Deiva Marina.  I highly recommend staying here.  They have a free shuttle to take you to the train station, there is great sports rock climbing next to it, and it sits in a beautiful forest with great trails for hiking.

If you are looking to just park your RV and spend all your time in the Cinque Terre, there is a parking lot for RVs in the town of Monterossa that allows overnight parking.

What to Pack:

Cinque Terre Card

Hat (it gets super sunny and hot on especially the middle and high trails)

Our essential hiking gear

All natural Sun Bum sunscreen

If you have more questions about how to hike the Cinque Terre be sure to let us know in the comments section below! We’d be happy to help!

Without further ado, here is how we hiked the Cinque Terre (PS don’t forget to share this infographic below on Pinterest):

How To Hike The Cinque Terre, Italy: What You Need to Know Before Visiting

I had dreamed of visiting this place since I first saw images of it.  The anticipation was relentless and it did not disappoint.  

Because we were traveling with a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old, we didn’t anticipate their willingness to hike all day. Thus, we divided the group, leaving them with our dad at a stunning campground outside the National Park, while my mom, Daniel, Isabelle, and I boarded the train to explore the hiking area.

We experienced guilt about leaving the younger kids and Victor behind, so we opted for the quickest route— the coastal path. While we anticipated missing out on the scenic middle trail, many blogs praised its beauty. However, I must admit, the coastal path proved to be incredibly stunning, and I’m not certain anything could surpass its beauty.

The fact that we were visiting outside of the high season was probably a contributing factor to the costal path’s pleasantness.

There were crowds, more than we’d experienced in most of Europe, but it was tolerable.  I’m sure it could get really out of hand in the summer on this trail.

How To Hike The Cinque Terre, Italy: What You Need to Know Before Visiting

It took only a few minutes for us to realize why so many people hike the Cinque Terre.  We hiked the coastal path for the first two town-to-towns, meaning from Monterosso to Vernazza to Corniglia.

Monterosso to Vernazza via Coastal Trail

Time: 2 hours
Length: 3 km

Vernazza was one of our favorites.  It is the most colorful and also the most crowded.  Be sure to stop and The Lunchbox restaurant here for a great sandwich energizer.

How To Hike The Cinque Terre, Italy: What You Need to Know Before Visiting

How To Hike The Cinque Terre, Italy: What You Need to Know Before Visiting

How To Hike The Cinque Terre, Italy: What You Need to Know Before Visiting

Monterosso to Vernazza via Coastal Trail

Vernazza to Corniglia via Coastal Trail

Time: 1.5 hours
Length: 4 km

The next section of the trail had fewer people than the first and we were stoked to find some fresh squeezed lemonade which was being sold out of someone’s house at the peak elevation of the trail.

We arrived in Corniglia, which was the most secluded, sitting on the cliffside overlooking the sea.  If you’re not big on crowds, definitely take your time walking through the alleyways here, and don’t miss the incredible gelato at Alberto Gelateria.

Monterosso to Vernazza via Coastal Trail

Corniglia to Manarola via Train

On Coastal Path
Time: 2 hours
Length: 3 km

The next section of the trail was closed (Corniglia to Manarola via the coastal path) and I was a little bummed because it was supposed to be the most beautiful section.

We got to enjoy Manarola just as much, though, after a brief train ride between the two towns.  Manarola is a must-see and has got to be the most stunning town I’ve ever seen, though Vernazza comes close.  The dark gray rocks contrast so starkly against the colorful buildings and turquoise blue waters that swayed against the rocks.

Manarola to Riomaggiore via Train

On Coastal Path
Time: 20 minutes
Length: 1 km

At that point, our legs were feeling a little wobbly so we decided to just take the train to the last town, Riomaggiore, explore the coastal views, then train back to the start.  It was an amazing experience and I wish we could have stayed longer.

The Cinque Terre is one of the top destinations in the world.

With a little preparation and organization, this too will be one of your favorite places to ever visit.

Click here to join Fit To Hike and get ready to tackle bigger adventures this year.

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