Why The Cinque Terre In Italy Should Be Your Next Trip

Once a coastline of sleepy fishing villages, the Cinque Terre, or “Five Lands,” has become a popular destination for tourism over the recent years. What makes this Italian destination different from most tourist hot spots, however, is that it has somehow managed to retain its old-world charm and simple style.

Located in the Liguria region of Italy, the five towns that compose the Cinque Terre include Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The area hasn’t succumbed to the corporate world, as terraced hills of colorful buildings and small shops allow visitors to experience real life on the Italian Riviera. Moreover, the area is well known for its grapes, olives and pesto, which have unique flavors due to the mild, warm climate and shelter from winds by nearby mountains. Hiking from town to town is a popular activity, and a great way to experience each area while seeing as much as possible.

In October 2011, the towns of Vernazza and Monterosso experienced devastating floods, burying the cities under 10 feet of mud and leaving the people without water or electricity. Locals have been working feverishly to get the area back to its original state, and have done an excellent job of staying on schedule with the rebuilding. One great way to experience the beauty of the Italian Riviera is to stay in the towns of Vernazza and Monterosso. There, you can drink Ligurian wine, enjoy the cuisine and immerse yourself in the towns’ traditional cultures. It’s a unique time to go, as there is a feeling of renewed joy in the air. Moreover, you’ll be one of the first to experience the old town with its new vitality.

For a more visual idea of the Cinque Terre, check out the gallery below.


[Images via Big Stock]

8 best coastal walks from around the world

There’s nothing better when traveling than exploring a beautiful city coastline. Not only do these treks give you access to unique landscape and picturesque beaches, they also help you stay in shape while on the road.

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, Australia

When I lived in Sydney, Australia, this was one of my favorite ways to spend a sunny day. Not only do you get to explore the beaches of Bondi and Coogee, but also Tamarama and Bronte. The walk is not all beach, as you will also pass through local communities, parks, and a cemetery littered with palm trees while also seeing unique rock formations and jagged cliff faces with contrasting colors and shapes. At the end of the 4-mile walk, which includes some challenging uphill sections, reward yourself with a dip in the ocean or a brew from the adjacent Coogee Bay Hotel‘s beer garden.Abel Tasman Coast Track, New Zealand

While this coastal hike will take a few days to complete (it’s about 34 miles), it is worth it as you will get a lot of diverse experiences in different areas of the South Island of New Zealand. There are campsites along the way as well as the option to do only certain sections of the hike, which are outlined here. You begin the Abel Tasman Coast Track in Marahau at the Information Kiosk, making your way past Tinline Bay, Apple Tree Bay, and Torrent Bay as well as through forests of beech and kanuka trees until you reach Anchorage Bay. Here, you can choose to spend the night at a campsite or continue on to Bark Bay via coastal forests and a 154-foot suspension bridge. Next it’s on to Awaroa, passing an old rock quarry along the way. Moving on from Awaroa Estuary, which can only be crossed during low tide, you will head towards Totaranui and will be given access to prime lookout points. Next it’s on to Whariwharangi Bay via lush forests and Anapai Bay. On the final day of the hike, you will traverse gorse-covered ridges that are remnants of 1978 fire before ending the journey at Wainui Inlet.

Cinque Terre “5 Towns” Hike, Italy

While flash flooding has recently damaged the towns of Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, the spirit of the community is speeding the recovery process, which is expected to be almost back to normal around Easter. You can still visit now, and the Cinque Terre towns of Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore were generally not affected. According to the Cinque Terre Riviera blog, while some of the hiking trails were damaged by the flooding there are still many safe paths open to hikers. Hiking through the five towns of Cinque Terre was the best experience I had in Italy and is a great way to experience the Italian Riviera, diverse beaches, grape vines, countryside, and colorful towns embedded right into the hillside. The bright yellows, pale pinks, and olive greens of the buildings face all different directions in a confusing yet artistic pattern as fishing boats hug the coastline. It is definitely a unique way to experience the natural side of Italy as well as some old-world charm as you can take breaks during the walk and stop in the different towns. The hike is about 7 and a half miles and contains sections of uphill and uneven terrain, but is worth it for the views.

California Coastal Trail, California, USA

The California Coastal Trail, while not completely finished, will extend from Mexico to Oregon and was actually a mandatory creation by Proposition 20 in 1972, which stated that “a hiking, bicycle, and equestrian trails system shall be established along or near the coast”. The trail system will be 1,200 miles long and, while it is not fully complete, still has a lot to offer visitors. All trails are within “sight, sound, or at least the scent of the sea”, with various tracks running parallel to each other to accommodate the needs to different physical capabilities. For a map with access points, click here. For a list of fun day hikes on the California Coastal Trail, click here.

Stanley Park Seawall and False Creek Seawall, Vancouver, BC, Canada

When I was in Vancouver, Canada, experiencing these hikes was one of my favorite parts of the trip, as I got to see great views of the skyline as well as beaches, marinas, and monuments. The hike is very easy, as it goes along a paved road. While you can experience the Stanley Park Seawall and the False Creek Seawall as two separate hikes (about 5 and a half miles each) it’s also possible to connect them and do one longer hike. During the Stanley Park Seawall, you will travel from Coal Harbor to English Bay while getting to see smooth beaches, the North Shore mountains, and Coal Harbor Marina. If you want to walk further and experience the second section of the hike, you can get to the False Creek Seawall via Sunset Beach. As you make your way towards Kitsilano Beach where you will end, you can take in views of Granville Island, Yorktown, and Science World, a unique looking dome that is a work of public art as well as an art gallery and museum.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail, Wales, United Kingdom

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail in the United Kingdom allows hikers to explore 186 miles of British coastline. The path is more than just your average walk on the beach, as you will pass rugged cliffs, winding estuaries, shaded coves, coastal flowers, and bird life. For those who like a bit of history with their adventure, you will also get the chance to see evidence of human activity from Neolithic times through prehistoric megalithic structures. The trail begins in St. Dogmaels in the north and runs to Amroth in the south. Be aware that it is physically challenging, with a 35,000-foot ascent and descent that is said to be “equivalent to climbing Mount Everest“. If you’re not in tip-top shape don’t be dismayed, as you can still enjoy the hike in smaller sections.

Hana-Waianapanapa Coastal Trail, Maui, Hawaii, USA

While not the longest hiking trail in the world (about 4-5 miles), the Hana-Waianapanapa Coastal Trail in Maui, Hawaii, has extremely unique scenery, including tidepools, blowholes, sea arches, black rock beaches, steep cliffs, jagged lava coastline, ancient temples, and spots where dark black lava dramatically meets with the bright blue sea. Beginning at Pailoa Bay in Waianapanapa State Park and makng your way to Kainalimu Bay, the hike follows a portion of the “King’s Highway”, a craggy lava road built in the mid-1800’s

Wild Coast Hiking Trail, South Africa

The Wild Coast Hiking Trail in South Africa is about 174 miles long and takes a little less than a month to complete, as the trail is divided into five 3-6 day sections. During the hike, which is thankfully well marked and begins in Port Edward, you will experience unique sea rock formations, dramatic coastlines, sandy and rocky beaches, lagoons, coves, cliffs, swamps, and wildlife. You can choose to go fishing or bird watching in between or visit the Xhosa villages that litter the hillsides. An array of accommodation styles are available along the way, such as lodges, tents, log cabins, and huts. Even if you don’t want to make the full trek it is still possible to explore certain sections. For this trail, it is important to note that permits are required, and bookings can be made up to 11 months in advance. For more information on getting a permit and the trails themselves, click here.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

While there are many beautiful and interesting hikes to choose from on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, one great coastal option is to trek from the small fishing village of Elgol to Camasunary Bay. The trail itself is about 9 miles long and requires a decent fitness level, however, the views you will get of the island of Soay and the Cuillins, a range of rocky mountains that also contain the highest point on the Isle of Skye, are worth the effort. You enter the hike a little ways up the road from the Elgol car park and behind some houses there will be a trail labeled Garsbheinn where you will turn left. Once you see the sign for Coruisk take that path. As you go you will have to negotiate steep hills and overhanging rocks until you reach the trail beyond Beinn Leacach to Camasunary Bay. These are literally some of the best views in Britain, if not the best, as the hillsides and mountains seem soft and vibrant as they hug pools of turquoise sea and azure lakes.

[First 3 photos are via the author, Jessica Festa; the rest are from Flickr via Rick McCharles and Gutsibikes]

Photo of the day (11.19.10)

The most compelling travel images are so often those that provide a glimpse into a half-hidden world previously unknown to the viewer. This image of a Cinque Terre cafe, taken by Flickr user snowjumpr, certainly feels like just this sort of world-revealing stolen glance, in large part due to the framing of the photograph by an external window. The proprietor is looking directly into the camera, aware that he is being watched, and the dance of light across the cafe beckons gently.

But what is most appealing about this cafe is what we don’t know about it. (Would the man at the counter offer a smile or a frown to guests? It’s difficult to tell from his impassive gaze. And what sorts of edible things are sold here? The blackboard is impossible to make out.)

Got an image of a half-hidden world among your archived travel images? Upload it to Gadling’s image pool on Flickr and we just might feature it as a future Photo of the Day.

The world’s best hikes

With so much challenging terrain, magnificent vistas, and unique cultural opportunities on the planet, shining a spotlight on the world’s best hikes is a difficult task. After all, there are various styles of hiking fitting different skill levels: some people enjoy long treks, while others like to get in and out in a single day. Some folks enjoy challenging, technical climbs, while others simply like to stroll through nature and appreciate her beauty. What follows is a list of ten of the top hikes in the world, offering a blend of styles that has something for everyone.

Mt Whitney, California

A fortress of peaks stands to the west of the small California town of Lone Pine. Driving north from Los Angeles, the Sierra Nevada range slowly begins to rise from the Mojave Desert and tops out at 14,505 feet on Mt. Whitney‘s summit. As the highest peak in the lower 48, Mt Whitney gets quite a bit of traffic.

This overnight — or very long day hike — requires a permit. Permits are obtained through the forest service and are dolled out by lottery. If you are one of the lucky few to be granted access, you’ll enjoy some of the best high desert views in the states… and perhaps the world.

Salkantay Trek, Peru
The ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu have been stirring spirituality and emotion in visitors since Hiram Bingham rediscovered them in 1911. Most hikers take the standard Inca Trail to reach this stone fortress in the clouds. However, alternate routes are also an option and the Salkantay Trek tops the list.This version of the Inca Trail takes hikers over a 15,000 foot pass and through rural valleys where farming practices are conducted much the same way they were during the time of the Inca empire. The hike ends in the hamlet oft Aguas Calientes known for it’s hot springs. The final day is spent touring Machu Picchu.

Bonus: Huayna Pichhu is the peak seen in the typical tourist photo of Machu Picchu. It can be climbed within a few hours from the main archaeological site.


Timberline Trail, Oregon
When three old college buddies wanted to meet up in Portland and hike the 41 miles circumnavigating Mount Hood, I did not hesitate. Starting out at the Timberline Lodge (the exterior was used in the classic film The Shining), the hike meanders through cool dark forests, across rushing rivers fed by snow melt, and over frozen snow patches.

Several other trails connect to get hikers onto the Timberline Trail. This makes section-hiking from Portland a perfect option for those who don’t want to overnight on the mountains slopes.

Everest Base Camp, Nepal
The expense for the flight and a guided trek in the Everest region may send many hikers into cardiac arrest. But world-class views of massive glaciers, yaks carrying equipment to Everest Base Camp, and quaint villages perched in an ancient landscape quickly make the money factor fade.

The dynamite photo opportunities are enough to keep a trekker’s mind spinning, but many return raving even more about their cultural experiences in this fascinating corner of the world.

Appalachian Trail, North Carolina
The Appalachian Trail is well-worn and easy to follow no matter where you hop on. But on the North Carolina section, good trail conditions aren’t the only thing hikers are treated to.

Beautiful grassy balds and rocking exposed summits provide spectacular views of the Smokies. Easy access from the East coast makes this area a prime day hike or overnight opportunity for many weekend warriors.

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
A few years back, I set out to tackle the Umbwe Route up the western slopes of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. With proper conditioning, this is one of the seven summits that can be notched into the belt of most hikers — if altitude doesn’t wreak havoc on you first.

Trekking through five distinct climate zones is something truly special, as hikers watch their surroundings change each day from lush jungle all the way to glaciated summit.

Zion Narrows, Utah
Slot canyons are narrow gorges carved into the earth by thousands of years of erosion. They are also an awe inspiring place to walk and connect with one’s inner self. Utah’s Zion Narrows has over 16 miles of these slot canyons. The narrows is a perfect place to escape from the bustle of daily life, take in the breathtaking power of nature, and melt into a world of smooth sandstone and intriguing shadow.

Pro tip: Going when dry weather is in the forecast is a must. Many areas are inescapable if a flash flood were to show up.

Haute Route, France/Switzerland
Spending two weeks backpacking Europe after college, the High Alps was by far my favorite stop. The Alps are known for their snow-covered peaks and bright green pastured valleys. This part of Europe evokes visions of fine cheese and expensive watches for the average visitor.

But to hikers, the Haute Route is a life goal. This alpine hike can be done with a light pack by utilizing the hut system dotting the trail. Fine food and fantastic views combine to easily put this trail near the top of any list.

John Muir Trail, California
The John Muir Trail comprises a 223 mile section of the much longer Pacific Crest Trail. Scrambling over Half Dome in Yosemite and ending on the Mt Whitney trail (see above), an ambitious trekker with several weeks off work can bag two of these top 10 hikes in one session.

Camping alongside crystal clear alpine lakes while staring up at the Milky Way makes for the quintessential night in the mountains.

Cinque Terre, Italy
Hiking through vineyards and along sheer granite cliffs the Cinque Terre or “Five Lands” is a foodie’s dream.

Connected by a trail system along the northwest coast of Italy, these five quaint fishing villages allow hikers to walk the trails during the day and indulge with exquisite seafood and fabulous wine after dark. A train from Milan passes each hamlet and can drop visitors off to allow for a one-way hike.

Whether staying state-side or venturing out into the international hiking world, these destinations are a sure-fire way to rejuvenate any work-worn desk jockey, or get them pondering how to make hiking a career path.

Need more inspiration to get outside? Keep reading!