A Hiking Guide to Cinque Terre

An Overview of The Blue Trail and The Sanctuaries Trails

When to Go

Cinque Terre is a popular tourist destination and it gets particularly crowded during the summer months. Spring and fall can see its fair share of tourists as well, but fall in particular is a nice time to visit as it's harvest season for the vineyards. Some of the best months for hiking in Cinque Terre are April, May, September, and October. The temperatures are cooler and there are less tourists around. The summer months can be hot and crowded, so hit the trails as early as possible if you're in town during this season.

The trails are open year around, so it's possible to go hiking through the winter, but many hotels and restaurants closes for the season. It's also a lot cooler and heavy rain isn't uncommon. This can create landslides and make for hazardous hiking conditions. Check out the Cinque Terre National Park website for up-to-date trail conditions.

Walking along the seaside trail

Passes and Logistical Information

The Italian word for trail is sentiero. There are many hiking trails throughout Cinque Terre and at any given time some of them will be closed due to landslides or for maintenance. It's challenging to find up-to-date information on the internet so your best option is to visit a tourist information center when you arrive, grab a trail map, and ask about current trail conditions.

Most of the trails in Cinque Terre are free. The main exception to this is the sentiero azzurro, also known as the blue trail or trail number 2. This is the most popular trail in the area and requires a hiking pass (€7.50) to access. A two day pass is available for €14.50. It's also possible to get a Cinque Terre Card, which combines the train pass between the villages with the hiking pass for €16 (€29 for 2 day pass). A single train ticket costs €4, so depending how much you plan to take the train, this may be a worthwhile purchase (train tickets here).

Where to Stay

Any of the Cinque Terre towns make a good base for hiking, but pick just one town and return there every night. It's easy to travel by train between the towns so you can hike for the day and then return to your base town and sleep comfortably for the night. It's not necessary or recommended to hike with your belongings between the towns. Just take your camera, some water, a snack, and have lunch in one of the towns along the way.

For more information on accommodation in Cinque Terre, check out this article about the five towns.

What to Pack

As previously mentioned, you only need to hike with a day pack, as you'll return to your hotel every night. Carry plenty of water and sunscreen, particularly during the summer months. Snacks are readily available in the markets in each town, so stock up on plenty of focaccia, cheeses, and cured meats, and snack your way down the trail. If the weather's warm, also make sure you pack a swimsuit (and a snorkel, perhaps) as there are swimming spots along the trails.

Most of the trails are hard packed dirt or loose stones. So for one or two day hikes, hiking boots aren't really necessary, but you should wear tennis shoes or sturdy hiking sandals. For some of the more off-the-beaten-path hikes, hiking boots are a good idea.

If you're only walking on sentiero azzurro, you likely won't need a trail map. The trail is clear and easy to follow, and it's identified with paint markings to ensure you stay on the correct route. If you're doing a more complex hike, it's worth picking up a map at a tourist information center.

Popular Hikes

Before planning your hikes, remember that trails are always opening and closing due to various conditions. Check out the Cinque Terre National Park website for up-to-date trail conditions.

The view of Vernazza from the trail
Sentiero azzuro (the blue trail/trail number 2) is indefinitely closed between Riomaggiore and Manarola and between Manarola and Corniglia. Other trail closures and openings should be confirmed at a tourist information office after you arrive in Cinque Terre as the information you find on most websites is out-of-date. There are plenty of trails in the area, and you'll find many options worth exploring once you arrive, so don't put too much thought into which trails are opened or closed ahead of time.

Sentiero Azzurro (The Blue Trail/Trail #2)

Sentiero Azzurro is the most famous and popular trail in Cinque Terre. It's made up of four separate paths that follow along the coastline. The entire hike, when done at a brisk pace with only short breaks, takes about six hours. But that isn't how sentiero azzurro is meant to be hiked. Most hikers prefer to stroll along at a relaxed pace, soaking up the views and exploring the towns along the way. It's best to divide the hike into several days so you can really enjoy and make the most of the experience.

The trail can be hiked from either direction. Start at Riomaggiore if you want to travel south to north. The trails are paved and easier to hike on the southern areas, and get more challenging as you progress. Start in Monterosso if you want to travel north to south.

Riomaggiore to Manarola (The Via dell'Amore)
1.2 miles (2 kilometers)/approximately a 40 minute walk

"Lover's Lane" starts in Riomaggiore and makes its way to Manarola. The trail is wide, flat, and paved making it the easiest part of Sentiero Azzurro. Famous sights along the way include the kissing statue and the tunnel filled with declarations of love.

Manarola to Corniglia
1.2 miles (2 kilometers)/approximately 1 hour 15 minutes to walk

This trail is also relatively easy, passing by impressive gardens and giving hikers breathtaking views of the sea.

Corniglia to Vernazza
2 miles (4 kilometers)/ 1 hours 45 minutes to walk

This part of the trail makes the climb to the highest point in Cinque Terre before descending back down. It's considered a "medium difficulty" trail with steep stone steps that are uneven at times. The hike offers spectacular views and interesting landscapes as it wanders through olive groves past beautiful plants and flowers.

Vernazza to Monterosso
1.8 miles (3 kilometers) 2 hours to walk

This trail is the longest of the route and many consider it to be the most challenging. There are narrow passages and lots of stairs, but the reward is well worth the work. You'll enjoy some of the most spectacular views of the area and look back over all five of the Cinque Terre towns, including a stunning view overlooking nearby Vernazza.

Other Hiking Trails in Cinque Terre

If you want to do something a little different and skip some of the crowds, head to a less popular, but still rewarding trail. All of these trails are free to hike.

The Sanctuaries Trail

The view over all of Cinque Terre
This trail connects the five sanctuaries of the National Park of Cinque Terre. These sanctuaries (churches or shrines) are located high in the hills. Each village has its own sanctuary and there are trails that connect each sanctuary to its town, the Blue Trail, and the High Trail. It's helpful to have a map as the route can get confusing. The trails are a bit more challenging than the Blue Trail so come prepared. There are also very few places to get food or water, so pack what you need.

Riomaggiore - Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montenero (Nostra Signora di Montenero)
Manarolo - Sanctuary of Our Lady of Health (Nostra Signora della Salute)
Corniglia - Sanctuary of Our Lady of Graces (nostra Signora delle Grazie)
Vernazza - Sanctuary of Our Lady of Reggio (Nostra Signora di Reggio)
Monterosso al Mare - Sanctuary of Our Lady of Soviore (Nostra Signora di Soviore)

The Mountain Trails (High Trails)

These trails are inland and offer a more challenging trek for experienced hikers. They're considered to be "medium to difficult" level trails, and there are not many spots to get fresh water or food, so come prepared.

If you have a limited amount of time for your journey, see our advice about how much time to spend here: Should I spend 1, 2, or 3 days in Cinque Terre?, Should I spend 3, 4, or 5 days in Cinque Terre?, Should I spend 1 or 2 weeks in Cinque Terre? and Is Cinque Terre Worth Visiting?

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A Hiking Guide to Cinque Terre: When to Go, Required Passes, and the Best Hiking Trails  | Budget Your Trip

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