Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide


Hiking Cinque Terre, Italy

There’s something rather intoxicating about the notion of hiking the Cinque Terre. For many people – perhaps for you – it’s an Italian dream. Walking along the cliffs, amongst the green forests and vineyards; stopping at the small coastal towns with their multicoloured buildings; sipping an aperetivo by the sea with the afternoon sun reflecting off the crests of the caves.

But how can you turn this dream into a reality? How do you plan a trip to Cinque Terre?

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

When I first started looking into it myself, I was a bit confused about the best way to approach a visit to the area. There seem to be a lot of options and I wasn’t sure where to start. I had seen lots of photos of the cute villages on the rocks by the coastline but I had never really thought through the practicalities of seeing them myself.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Well, the good news is that it’s actually quite simple once you have a basic understanding of how it all works. Let me talk you through it and make some suggestions for the best way for you to plan your own visit to Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

What is Cinque Terre?

The first thing is to understand what Cinque Terre is. It is a national park that stretches along about 20 kilometres of the western Italian coast, south of Genoa. Cinque Terre translates into English as ‘Five Lands’ and it gets its name because of the five main villages along the coast.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

However, it’s important to realise that there are more than five villages in the national park and that the famous five make up just a small part of the park. You’ll probably want to use your time (especially if it’s limited) to focus on the well-known areas – but it’s good to know how they fit into the surroundings.

Accommodation around Cinque Terre

One of the first things you’ll need to decide is where to stay. This may surprise you but I’m actually going to suggest you don’t stay in the Cinque Terre National Park itself. There’s a nearby city called La Spezia and it is a much more convenient base to use for your visit.

If you are committed to staying in one of the five towns (and I don’t blame you – they are so charming), you’ll find the best options in Riomaggiore or Monterosso al Mare.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

But let me explain my logic for suggesting La Spezia.

Firstly, there’s a much larger range of hotels and accommodation options here so you’re more likely to find something that fits your needs (and it will certainly be more affordable). Secondly, it will be more convenient with your luggage. For any of the Cinque Terre towns, you’ll need to change onto a train at La Spezia and, when you get there, potentially carry your bags up steep hills. In La Spezia, you can just wheel them a short distance to where you’re staying. If you’re driving, you won’t really be able to take the car into Cinque Terre so you’ll probably need to park it in La Spezia anyway. And, thirdly, La Spezia is a lovely city in itself and more convenient to explore other parts of the region from.

You can get dorm beds in the small apartments at Corner House or River 44.
For an affordable but comfortable option, check out HH Il Gabbiano or Casa Macaia.
A couple of really nice places are Hotel Crismar and Albergo delle Spezie.
And you can also try Hotel Genova, which is one of the most popular places in La Spezia.

Hiking in Cinque Terre

Most people spend their time in Cinque Terre exploring the different towns. There are a few ways to get between them – including bus, train and ferry. However, for the purpose of this guide, I’m going to focus on walking. I presume if you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ll know that’s my favourite way to explore an area (and it’s also what Cinque Terre is famous for).

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

The first thing to understand is that you can walk between all five towns within a single day. There is no need to hike with your bag and stay for a night somewhere along the way. I’ve seen a few people doing that and I think it’s completely unnecessary (although possible if you really want to).

There are well-marked trails between each of the towns. I’ve included a map here so you can see the route that I’m going to talk about.

You’ll notice that the two trails between Monterosso – Vernazza and Vernazza – Corniglia are along the coast and the other two between Corniglia – Manarola and Manarola – Riomaggiore go inland. That’s because landslides in recent years have led to the closure of the coastal options for those last two legs and there’s no indication they’ll open again soon.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

I suggest starting at Monterosso and walking towards Riomaggiore. This is partly because it means you’ll be getting closer to your accommodation at La Spezia. But it’s also because the legs between the villages will get harder each time, so if you get tired or run out of time, you’ll skip the stretches that are best skipped.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Monterosso to Vernazza

This is the longest of the legs by distance but is one of the easiest to walk. For quite a lot of the time you’ll be amongst quite dense foliage and you won’t be able to see much. But when you do get views of the coast, they are some of the best. In particular, the view back to Monterosso give you a wonderful sense of the coast and the perspective you get of Vernazza as you arrive is one of the most iconic images of the region.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Vernazza to Corniglia

This is also quite a long leg but is also quite an easy one to walk. You get a lot of wonderful views of the coastline as you go along this path. About halfway along, there’s a lovely terrace serving drinks and food, if you need a break.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Corniglia to Manarola

The inland path between these two villages has steep sections at both ends of it. Anyone with moderate fitness should be able to cope, though, because the steps are quite good. The middle section is relatively flat and is some of the nicest terrain you’ll go through because the path cuts through gorgeous terraces of grape and olive plantations (passing through the small town of Volastra).

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Manarola to Riomaggiore

This final stretch is really tough and you might want to consider skipping it. You will basically go up a very steep hill on one side and then go down another steep slope on the other side. There are steps the whole way but they are not all easy. The view along the way are no better then anything else on the coast. The good news, though, is that it’s not a very long hike if you can handle the inclines!

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Keep reading for some information on how you can skip sections of the hike.

Hiking passes for Cinque Terre

You need to buy a pass to be able to hike the trails of Cinque Terre and there are control booths along the way to check you have one. A one day pass costs €7.50 and you can buy it at one of the tourist information centres or at one of the control booths.

The other option is to buy the combined train/hiking pass. This costs €16 and includes unlimited use of the trains. The trains go between La Spezia and Levanto and stop at each of the five towns.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

If you’re staying in La Spezia, it is worth considering. A train ticket each way costs €4 so you would end up paying €15.50 anyway. If all you do is catch the train to Monterosso, hike to Riomaggiore, and then catch the train back to La Spezia, you actually end up paying 50c more than needed. But it is much more convenient than having to buy train tickets individually (and there’s usually a line at the station at the end of the day). It does also give you the option to skip a section or go back to your favourite one for an afternoon celebratory drink.

Cinque Terre Hiking Guide

Other things near Cinque Terre

If you have time, I would suggest spending more than just one day in Cinque Terre. You can also buy a two day hiking pass and split the walk, giving yourself more time to explore – perhaps going on some of the lesser-used paths further into the park away from the coast.

But my top tip is to get the boat to Portovenere and have a look around the town and also do a hike on Palmaria Island. I have written a whole story about Portovenere and Palmaria, so you might like to read that to find out some more information.

Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful parts of Italy and has the wonderful combination of nature and culture. For this reason, it’s a popular place with visitors. It’s going to be busy during the peak summer periods and so try to come in the shoulder seasons, if possible.

Regardless of when you visit, though, enjoy! I hope this guide has helped and please ask any questions you have in the comments section below.

Are there hiking tours in Cinque Terre?

As I’ve already mentioned, you don’t need a guide or a tour to hike along the main stretch of the Cinque Terre. The path is very well marked and relatively easy. However, there are some options for guided tours that will help you appreciate the cultural landscape a lot more. Hiking with a local means you’ll hear all about the history, people and food of the Cinque Terre. If you’re interested, I would suggest having a look at this hiking tour.

Where should you stay in La Spezia?

You can get dorm beds in the small apartments at Corner House or River 44.
For an affordable but comfortable option, check out HH Il Gabbiano or Casa Macaia.
A couple of really nice places are Hotel Crismar and Albergo delle Spezie.
And you can also try Hotel Genova, which is one of the most popular places in La Spezia.

  • Same Day Agra Tour By Car | May 26, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    what a lovely place it is and seems a wonderful place in these pictures thanks you very very much for this information

  • overnight Mathura tour | May 26, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    It is the beautiful places to visit and stay there in our vacations and the travel there is very impressive beautiful places to visit in holidays.

  • Bebe Bragg | May 27, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    Any reason why you didn’t suggest Levanto as a place to stay outside the Cinque Terre villages?

  • day trip to agra | May 29, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Excellent blog and the views you shared of the cinque terre I am planning to a trip to Cinque Terre for the hiking.

  • Best flight deals | May 29, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    i want to put my opinion that there is no place like this and after watching or listening about cinque every want to go there
    thanks for sharing this .

  • Agra | May 30, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Awe-inspiring post and the views you shared of the cinque terre. It’s wonderful with amazing information trip for the hiking, thanks.

  • Peggy | Jun 1, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    I stayed 3 days in Manarola and loved every minute of it. I’d say 1 day would have been way too short for me – there isn’t a whole lot to do except wander the streets, sit by the water, soak up some sun and watch the boats and people go by. The hikes are lovely as well of course, and you can even go horse riding in the area. La Spezia looks like a pretty little town but given the choice I’d definitely prefer to stay in the village rather than La Spezia!

    • Bo | Aug 3, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      Where did you stay in Manarola?

  • Alex Steven | Jun 1, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Wow! Cinque looks amazing and hiking in such a beautiful place would be so exciting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ronnie Walter | Jun 2, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Cinque is lovely. I have been there for a hiking trip a year ago and it was mesmerizing. Amazing place it is.

  • Agness of aTukTuk | Jun 13, 2017 at 12:00 am

    I needed a guide like this one. I would love to hike in Cinque!
    Agness of aTukTuk recently posted..Spending a Year Abroad: Why Take the Plunge?My Profile

  • | Aug 16, 2017 at 3:45 pm

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