Can I go walking in Europe? Walking and trekking in summer and autumn 2021

12 minute read

Walking, trekking and other outdoor activity holidays in Europe, and Brexit and coronavirus-related restrictions. This page will help you find up-to-date information for walking, trekking and other outdoor activities during summer and autumn 2021.

Updated 13 April 2021

LATEST NEWS

Brexit

The European Health Card (EHIC) can continue to be used while it is still in date. A new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) can now be applied for, which will continue to provide cover while on holiday, studying or travelling for business within the EU.

The new GHIC card is free and can be obtained via the official GHIC website. Note however that the GHIC does NOT cover you for necessary healthcare in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

If you are walking or trekking, you are also advised to take out accident and emergency rescue cover, such as that provided automatically to members of the Austrian Alpine Club, or for a fee through the BMC, or similar. It is currently unclear if The Austrian Alpine Club cover will continue to be free of additional charges for UK members in the future, but for now all is okay.

The use of mobile phones will be more costly and less convenient as mobile roaming charges will be applied.

There is also a requirement for Passports to have at least six months remaining validity and to be less than ten years old, (currently costing £75 to renew), and visas will be needed (in most countries) even for UK citizens if you are staying for more than 90 days in a 180 day period. If you are driving to your walking destination, you will need a GB sticker and are likely to need to apply for a green card to cover insurance abroad.

Details on the UK Government website

Hey ho. On the bright side, with these additional hurdles, it's just possible that you will have the trails, hills and mountains more to yourself. Or, it might be just one big rush to finally be able to get away and do the things we love, once we are all able to travel safely again. One thing is for sure, walking and enjoying the wide open spaces of the outdoors is good for the environment, good for local communities and good for your health, fitness and happiness!

Coronavirus

Currently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises British Nationals against all but essential international travel, if you are legally permitted. If intending to travel, you have to have a new permit proving that you are travelling for essential reasons.

All non-essential travel (ie holidays) to Europe is still banned until at least 17 May, but still possibly the end of June. But there is light ahead! A traffic light system will help identify countries deemed safe for travel, green being the safest, requiring very little in terms of testing and quarantine.

The most likely countries to be first to welcome UK visitors this summer are:

  • Spain, especially the Canary and Balearic islands. They have announced intention to be first to accept UK visitors when travel resumes. Certainly the islands are generally keen to have visitors, and if the UK and Spanish governments can agree reciprocal protocols Spain could be an easy and relatively safe destination.
  • Greece hopes to admit UK visitors in time for the holiday season. Some of the Greek islands especially were the most consistently-available holiday destinations in 2020.
  • Cyprus has declared its intention to admit UK holidaymakers from May onwards.
  • Iceland is already happy to admit vaccinated travellers, and has one of the lowest Covid rates in the world.

France currently still has closed borders to many countries outside the EU until further notice, with a few exceptions (Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, UK, New Zealand and Singapore).

Spain has extended it’s restrictions for non essential travel from countries outside the EU or Schengen zone until at least the end of April.

Turkey has indicated it will receive visitors this summer, however infection rates are high so it may not be a good idea to travel there for the time being.

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You must show proof of a completed passenger locator form at the UK border. This applies to UK residents and visitors entering the UK from all Countries. You should complete the form before you enter the UK. You are also required to self isolate, taking a test on the second and eighth days of your self isolation (at a cost of £210).

Visitors from the US to the UK should check the current guidelines issued by the US Embassy.

14 day self-isolation is mandatory on re-entering the UK from all European countries, and others identified as 'Red' zones. Travel corridors are closed until further notice. Mandatory isolation in a quarantine hotel is required when entering the UK from one of 33 countries (principally in southern Africa, all of South America, UAE, and Portugal.

Vaccination certificates

Various countries are looking at 'vaccination passports or certificates'. Cyprus has indicated they will accept fully vaccinated tourists from 1st May. Israel and Greece have agreed a two-way travel corridor. Countries that currently (as at 10 March) have low infection rates and good vaccination percentages include Greece, Iceland, the Balearic islands and Sardinia. The earliest it MIGHT be possible to book to travel from the UK to any foreign country will be 21 June.

In our opinion...

Booking a holiday is clearly going to be a bit less predictable than in the pre-Covid world, but here are our thoughts, based on a little research we have heard about.

  • Book any accommodation or trips through a reputable company, rather than doing everything yourself. This may well be a concept new to many of us, but by going through just one company, they will cancel everything for you in one process and give you a full refund, should it be necessary for the lockdown to be reintroduced, or other restrictions placed which prevent you from going on your trip. (The alternative is a series fo forms and phone calls to cancel everything yourself, and hope everyone pays up.)
  • Choose dates that might be less busy if at all possible. Accommodation will be scarce, and not everything will be able to open up immediately.
  • Booking ahead is a good idea, provided it is through a reputable company who can handle changes, re-bookings and cancellations properly.
  • It is unlikely that there will be a wide choice of possible European destinations available for travel this summer, so keep a look out for countries with low infection rates and high vaccination percentages, as these are likely to be the first to open up to visitors, probably with the proviso that the visitors have been vaccinated and have had a negative test within three days of travel.
Whats App Image 2020 07 14 at 11 42 39

General travel requirements and restrictions

Non-UK/EU/EFTA citizens still face entry restrictions, notably from the USA.

In general, most European countries are currently experiencing rising numbers of Covid cases, and travel is strongly discouraged.

Travel corridors are suspended, when they return, will be listed on the Gov.uk website.

Note that due to the very high infection rates in the UK, most countries are banning entry from the UK, except in exceptional circumstances and with proof of a test within the previous 72 hours.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises British Nationals against all but essential international travel.

Covid-19 and public transport

Masks must be worn at all times when using public transport, both in the UK and in Europe generally. General advice is to avoid using public transport whenever possible.

On buses, long-distance coaches, ferryboats, ships and trains it’s always necessary to wear a mask, keep a safety distance to strangers and only take specified seats. The number of passengers is limited.

Cicerone has guidebooks for many other areas of Europe, as well as France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland already covered in separate articles related to Covid 19 (see related articles below). Travel for walking and hiking outside of Europe is severely limited for the foreseeable future.

Greece and Covid-19 walking and trekking restrictions

* Greece is currently in hard lockdown and under curfew, as at 18th January this has been extended indefinitely, although some stores are allowed to open.

Anyone arriving into Greece from abroad will be required to take a test for coronavirus (COVID-19), and to undergo a period of self-isolation/quarantine. The specific arrangements that apply depend on your point of departure. See Entry requirements for more information. Passengers arriving into Greece by air, sea or road, are required to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 48 hours before entering the country and provide information including their point of departure and the address of their stay while in Greece.

A flavour of Greece from 2020...

July 2020 – message from Gillian Cameron-Cooper (author of The Greek Islands: the Cyclades) about Greece and the Greek Islands:

"None of the walks on any of the islands in the Cyclades guidebook involve huts, and independent walking remains the healthiest and safest way to explore the islands. Hotels, tavernas, and shops are open. Villa lets/airbnb are as well, and these are the best bet for accommodation on the Naxos Strada route, for example. Special COVID19 health & safety guidelines have been issued for all holiday accommodation, such as disinfected keys left in sealed plastic bags, chlorine-based cleaning, etc. Bus and taxi services appear to be running but restrictions on number of passengers, and you have to wear a mask."

Gilly adds that autumn and spring are the best time to walk in the Cyclades...'All that’s best about Greece is condensed into four iconic islands, linked by ferry, location and history, but quite different in character. The 35 day walks take you to the heart of each island that other tourist don’t reach: the dramatically diverse landscape of Naxos, peaceful monasteries of Paros, starkly beautiful Amorgos and volcanic Santorini."

July 2020 message from Tim Salmon, author of Trekking in Greece (Pindos and Peloponnese)

"The Pindos guesthouses are all functioning normally. They are without exception tiny remote places with very few guests, about as safe as it gets. The same goes for the Peloponnese and the rest of the Greek mountains. There are only a couple of manned huts in the entire country, principally on Mt Olympus. I don’t know whether they are operating any restrictions on numbers of guests. I would avoid Olympus anyway in the summer now; it has become a tourist attraction, the summit sometimes crawling with people who have never seen a mountain before – and potentially dangerous as a result. The only risky bits, from the Covid point of view, could be the bus journeys to your chosen starting point.

If I had to recommend one section of the Pindos Way at present, it would be the last stage, Metsovo to Samarina and Ayia Paraskevi, six or seven days’ worth. The path has been all but completely cleared and signposted in the last two years. You would have to spend at least one night under canvas if you went beyond Samarina. Last year an American friend did it alone and said he did not even need to look at the map. The only thing is the start, Metsovo, is five or six hours by bus from Athens or Thessaloniki or one hour from Ioannina if you flew there from Athens.
This applies to the Peloponnese Way also. They only places you will come into contact with more than a handful of people is on public transport or in cities.

How will Covid-19 affect mountain huts and refuges?

Mountain huts have been open during summer 2020, however various restrictions were in force. These restrictions are highly likely to continue into 2021. We will do our best to update everyone before the main Alpine season begins.

General rules have been:
Maintain physical distancing of at least 2 metres, and provide details to your mountain leader or refuge for future tracking of possible infection. Wear a mask if it is not possible to keep your distance (for example on public transport) and wash or disinfect hands regularly. Stay at home if you have symptoms.

Reduce risk of accidents by staying on marked trails and taking care when crossing snow, and when staying in a refuge, the additional requirements are;

  • Only visit huts in a healthy condition.
  • Reserve your place to sleep - no overnight stays without a reservation.
  • Bring your own: hut sleeping bag, pillow case, disinfectant hand gel. Soap, towel and protective masks. (Attention: CIA huts have duvets and blankets removed and you have to take your own sleeping bag with you.)
  • Take your rubbish back down to the valley.

Tour of Mont Blanc is planned to be open. See here for updates and further information.

Austria and Covid-19 walking and trekking restrictions

General guidance for hikers and outdoor activities (courtesy of the Austrian Alpine Club) There is a booking system, online or by phone for all reservations.

Slovenia and Covid-19 walking and trekking restrictions

Restrictions such as wearing face masks, and social distancing. Mountain huts are planned to be open to serve food and drinks outside. It is currently unclear if huts will open for overnight accommodation.

Romania and Covid-19 walking and trekking restrictions:

All travellers arriving from the UK are subject to compulsory self-isolation for 14 days. Self-isolation is rigorously enforced. Some land border checkpoints remain closed, and those that are open may vary.
For mountain walking, the Romanian authorities recommend day walks, and activities well within your ability, to avoid unnecessary exposure to rescuers. Also recommended is social distancing and face masks.

Sweden and Covid-19 walking and trekking restrictions

Up to date tourist information is available here, for staying in mountain huts.

Spain

Wearing a mask is obligatory in all public areas/streets even where social distancing can be achieved. The latest graphic is above. They are giving out fines of a minimum of €100 but looking to increase this!

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