It’s always been a dream to hike the trails of Cinque Terre, and this past summer I got to tick one more thing off my buck list. We had done a lot of research on which town to stay in, that would keep us busy for the 3 nights we were there. Three days is a perfect amount of time to take in the beautiful surroundings. We were able to relax on our first night, hike the trail on the second day, and relax again on the third before heading off again. Monterosso seemed like the perfect option for us, since there were so many restaurants, beautiful beaches and shops to enjoy.
Cinque Terre is a UNESCO heritage listed site, located in the Italian region of Liguria. Comprised of 5 main towns located on the rugged Ligurian coast, each town has something magical to offer. I personally would recommend more than one day, however those on a tight schedule can definitely walk the trails or visit each town by train or boat.
Staying in Monterosso, we started our journey with the toughest trail and worked our way down to the easiest. Trails consist of ancient goat-herd paths along the side of the cliffs, boasting stunning views of each town in the distance. From Monterosso to Riomaggiore, the hike takes approximately five to seven hours.
1. Monterosso al Mare
This is the northernmost village and also the largest of the five towns. Known for their boutique hotels, authentic cafes and restaurants and beautiful beaches, this is our top pick on towns to stay in. We spent three nights here at the beautiful Stella Della Marina hotel, which is located in the old town and a short walk to the beach and train station. The landscape is much flatter than the other towns, which is an added bonus to relaxation.
2. Monterosso to Vernazza
From Monterosso to Vernazza there are a few different options available. You can either take the train, which takes approximately 3 minutes to get from one town to the next or you can hike. Most people say this is the hardest out of all the hikes, which runs more than 3km (2 miles) in a series of hills.
If you’re going this route, I’d recommend taking a few breaks at the start as the first 15 minutes is the hardest part of the walk. However, the views are absolutely breathtaking and worth the walk.
Walk Time: 70-100 minutes
Known as the ‘most beautiful village’ out of all the Cinque Terre towns, the main town is located right near the water with beautiful cafes and restaurants to enjoy. The beach area is quite small, however protected, which creates calm, warm water.
The town is small with only one main street and a church built right on the water. The main piazza area is always bustling with tourists and offers an easy access point to boaters wanting to stop and enjoy what the town as to offer.
4. Vernazza to Corniglia
Again there are two options to get from Vernazza to Corniglia. The first is the train, which takes about 3 minutes, however keep in mind to get from Vernazza to the train station, you are required to walk down the hundreds of stairs to get to the main platform.
For us, we did the hike, where you will start making your way up the mountain and through the forest area. On our way up, we stopped at Bar ‘La Torre’, which boasts stunning views of Vernazza. We only stopped for a quick drink before heading back to our hike to Corniglia.
The hike distance is roughly 3km (2 miles), boasting stunning views of Corniglia the closer you get to the town.
Walk Time: 70-100 minutes
This is the only town of the five that is not situated right near the water. Located at an altitude of 100 metres (300ft) above sea level, the views from this town are incredible. Overlooking the entire coast line, you get a different perspective of Cinque Terre instead of just the beach and sea.
To get to the town, you need to climb 365 steps to reach the centre of the town. The town is much quieter than the others, so if you’re looking to get away from all the hustle and bustle from the tourists, this is the town you want to spend most of your time in.
6. Corniglia to Manarola
During our visit in 2015, the hike path was closed due a rebuild of part of the path, which is due to be completed in April 2016. This was the only hike we were unable to complete and were required to take the train, approximately a 2 minute ride.
The trail (once opened) is a 1.5km (1 mile) hike, walking close to the sea level.
Walk Time: 40-60 minutes
Arriving in Manarola, I instantly fell in love with the oversized rock pool, which seemed quite popular for locals and tourists. Because the water is enclosed by the rocks, the temperature feels like a bath.
Other than this, there isn’t much to do here. There are a few shops and restaurants, however this is primarily just locals and very little tourist activity.
8. Manarola to Riomaggiore
There are two different hiking paths to get from Manarola to Riomaggiore plus the train. The first hiking path is the ‘Way of Love’ which is less than a km and faster to walk than getting the train. For some reason we missed this, and took the extremely hard route.
Most of our hike consisted of an uphill climb (like the photograph above). I found this hike the hardest out of all the hikes we had taken. The hike is completely uphill, where you need to hold on to a rail for some of the hike to help you up some the steep steps.
I must admit the hike wasn’t the most fun, however the views we got from so high up on the mountain were definitely worth it. We got some of the best views of the coast line and was so rewarding when we had finally made it to Riomaggiore.
Walk Time: 60-100 minutes
The northern most town is Riomaggiore with one main street offering only a hand full of restaurants and cafes. There is a boat dock area that also acts as the pebble beach. There isn’t much to do in the area, however is quite a cute little fishing village, staying true to this.
- Try and spend a few days in Cinque Terre instead of trying to see all towns in one day.
- Be sure to print off a timetable of the train to avoid long wait times.
- The hike from start to finish is about 6-7 hours, depending on how quickly you walk and how many stops you take along the way.
- Wear comfortable clothes and bring a water bottle with you. There are fountains in every village to fill your bottles up with cold water.
- There is a fee to hike the trail. You need to purchase a ‘Cinque Terre Card’, which can be purchased in 1 day (€5), 2 days (€8), 3 days (€10), or 7 days (€20). It includes admission to the trails and use of the buses in some towns.