The villages and sanctuaries of the Cinque Terre are connected by 100 km of trails. You can hike in amazing places through forests, vineyards, olive groves, mediterranean flowers and tiny villages. The views towards the bright green terraces and the deep blue sea are breathtaking. I think you can't really see and understand the Cinque Terre if you don't do any hiking. So don't just rush through the 5 villages by train or boat in a single day! Try to spend more days here and discover the Cinque Terre National Park on foot. Of course, you need a good fitness level to do that, as there are many ups and downs and long flights of steps in the area.
When hiking, take enough water with you! On the path, between two villages, there is usually no water available. In the villages, you can always find a fountain to refill your bottle and even in the smallest village or at the sanctuaries, you can find a bar.
Summer on the trails can be really hot as there is not much shade. You should start early, spend the early afternoon swimming or relaxing in the shade, and then continue hiking late afternoon. If you come to the Cinque Terre more for hiking than swimming, come in April, May, September or October for a more pleasant climate.
The path can be quite narrow and there is no railing, so mind your step! Some sections are not recommended if you suffer from vertigo. I have to admit that I do suffer from vertigo in some situations but I've never had any problems on any of the Cinque Terre trails. For hiking, please wear proper hiking shoes. No flip flops!
In case of bad weather or maintenance work, some sections can be closed. You usually find a posted notice about this in the villages, or you can ask for information in the Information Centers of the National Park. You can also buy hiking maps there.
You can find the list and map of hiking trails on the website of the Cinque Terre National Park. Here you can see how long is a path, how much time it takes going there and coming back, depending on which way is up of course. The map also shows which path is closed. At the Information Center, they'll be happy to help you choose between the many trails, depending on your fitness level and the number of days you spend in the area. But let me also share my favourite hikes with you.
If you only have time for one hike, do this one!
It's a full day hike with marvellous views. From Portovenere, you can come back by boat or bus & train.
The Monesteroli steps and the whole Tramonti area are just unbelievable and off the beaten track. For more information, read the Tramonti page. There are many, I mean MANY steps going down to the village, and you also have to come back. Not a good option if you have problems with your knees.
On the higher trail, passing the two sanctuaries, with the best views of Vernazza and some really wild sections.
A wonderful, relaxing hike with the panorama of the entire Cinque Terre coastline and also the Bay of Levanto on the other side.
You are probably wondering why I don't mention the famous coastal path of the Cinque Terre, the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue path) which connects the 5 villages. Unfortunately this path was damaged by floods and landslides during the past years. The Via dell'Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola is closed. (UPDATE: A very short section between Manarola and the bar has been opened.) The Manarola-Corniglia section is basically ready but we are still waiting for the National Park to open it. Corniglia-Vernazza is open. Vernazza-Monterosso is open. This might change, so for updated information ask at the National Park Centers. For the coastal path, you have to buy the Cinque Terre Card, even if only one section is open. All the other trails in the area are free, including my favourite ones mentioned above.
Don't forget, that many trails are waiting for you also outside the Cinque Terre National Park. Liguria is a hikers' paradise! You could walk for months and never get bored of the breathtaking views of the colourful villages, nature and the sea. You could basically walk all the way to France on the beautiful Ligurian trails.