Budget walking vacations in Europe

It’s true that you don’t need much beyond a good pair of hiking boots and a backpack for a budget walking vacation in Europe. But the best vacations go beyond that. Making a big profit isn’t a priority for the companies we work with. They want to share their love of their world with you and support their community.

“I wanted to set up something that provided a bit of dynamism to the local economy,” says Ana Rodriguez Garcia. Ana founded Peak Me, one of our most popular walking and language vacation partners. “It’s a small area with an ageing population – the highest in Europe. A very high proportion of people are over 85, the population is rapidly disappearing, and there are few children. There are no international chains here; all businesses are local. Because our season is so long, we can help them.”
Budget doesn’t have to equal backpacker when you’re walking in Europe.
Like many of our walking vacations in Europe, Ana’s are week-long trips with accommodation, activities, walks, and spending within the immediate community included. Perhaps surprisingly, considering how much is included, these vacations are great for hikers traveling on a bootstring.
Budget doesn’t have to equal backpacker when you’re walking in Europe. In fact, often the only thing they have in common is the backpack – and instead of combination locks and unwashed clothes mulling, your daypack will be filled with pastries, cheese and a bottle of wine picked up from the farm shops and vineyards you pass. You might not spend loads on our budget walking vacations in Europe, but your money will reach far – and our expert tour operators are passionate about ensuring that it ends up in the right hands.

North-south divide

As a general rule, the cost of living rises the further north you go. If your vacation includes bed and breakfast, it’s worth considering the cost of eating out for lunch and dinner. Countries like Iceland, the Nordics and Switzerland can be very expensive, although your tour provider will recommend budgeting tips.

Your pennies will go much further when walking in countries like Spain, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania and Greece, especially when you head away from cities and into the rural areas. This has the extra benefit of spreading your tourist dollars into small communities that welcome the extra income. Small group tours include most of your meals, so budgeting is less of a concern; most things are included in the price.

Eco-cheap accommodation

Budget accommodation will surprise you. It could range from homestays in the Picos de Europa to a family-run hotel with a pool in Spain. You might stay in a mountain refugio, but most budget walking vacations in Europe don’t have a hostel in sight.

Often, the most eco-friendly accommodation can offer the best prices. An off-grid cottage in Scotland that relies on solar and wind power is less expensive for your hosts to run, so they can factor in lower prices for your accommodation costs. In other cases, it’s simply that the tour operator has a great long-term relationship with the hotels they choose.

It’s a similar story when it comes to any meals included at your accommodation. If the accommodations you bed down at grow their own food or have good connections with local farmers, then running costs come down – and so do your vacation costs.

Dish of the day

Steve Clifford from Catalan Adventures runs some of our most popular budget walking vacations. While walking in rural Spain, budgeting tips are barely needed: you’ll almost always eat out – and eat well – cheaply.

“You can just eat where the locals are eating,” says Steve. “By law each restaurant is supposed to provide a three-course meal with a drink – it’s called the menu del dia. You can find these places everywhere, so you can have three courses and a bottle of wine for 10-12 euros... You can get some incredible food – dishes that can cost you 15-20 euros each in the UK.”
You can just eat where the locals are eating.
Tailor made walking vacations are particularly good at adapting to hikers’ budgets. You’ll often start with a welcome meeting with a guide who’ll run through all your route notes before you set off, pointing out places that’ll suit your wallet.

Even notoriously expensive places like Sweden have deals if you know where to look. Your tour provider will tell you to look out for ‘dagens lunch’, where you can eat a cooked meal with a salad, drink and coffee for 80-100 krona (£8). In Montenegro, meanwhile, almost every village has its own cheese to inspire a cheap and tasty picnic.

Our top Europe walking Vacation

Naxos and the small Cyclades walking vacation, Greece

Naxos and the small Cyclades walking vacation, Greece

Walk and discover Naxos and the unspoilt Small Cyclades

From £896 to £996 10 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 7 Oct, 21 Oct, 4 Nov
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Europe walking or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Off season & out of hours

“It’s good to stretch the season,” says Tomi Coric, co-founder of our walking vacation specialist Epic Croatia. “It keeps more B&Bs and small restaurants busy. It’s especially good for the islands because they are not as busy outside June and August... They also have a huge number of visitors during the day and then during the night just a few visitors stay there.”

It’s also cheaper to travel out of season – and a piece of advice that almost all our tour companies agree on. Ana, founder of our partner Peak Me, says: “Many businesses only make money in 6-8 weeks during summer and easter; the rest of the year is almost dead. To have people coming in from March all the way to October really makes the difference. We tell people to come outside those busy six weeks in the summer, because the experience is so much more real in those months.”
Annie Antonatou, a guide at our Greece specialists Mystic Blue, says getting away from the high cruise season in the Greek Islands isn’t just recommended – it’s vital: “It’s very busy June, July, August, but the rest – it’s very relaxed. It’s better to come out of season… It’s not so crowded, it’s more laidback, you have more opportunities to meet local people, to learn, to socialise.”
Her top tip: “Support the local people. That’s the most important thing. Try to stay at hotels and guest houses owned by people who live at the islands throughout the year and not just for three months. Eat only at local taverns and not at seasonal restaurants.”

Freed from flights

Most of our vacations don’t include flights, so you can choose a way of traveling that suits your budget. Some vacations, like Ana’s Spanish language and hiking trip, offer to snip the price if you swap the plane for a train. Incentives like these can knock 10 percent off the price of an already well-priced vacation. Others offer free transfers from the nearest train station. It’s not a marketing ploy, either; the companies we work with genuinely want to encourage you to ditch carbon-heavy travel if you’re able to.
Photo credits: [Page banner: Aneta Ivanova] [Top box: Kitty Terwolbeck] [Eco cheap accommodation: Joe Gardner] [Out of season hours: Anthony DELANOIX]