Five car-free trips across Europe to boost your mood and ease your environmental conscience

There’s something very satisfying about reaching a destination under your own steam.

etting from A to B powered only by physical fitness and enthusiasm can often be as rewarding as spending time in the place you’re aiming to reach.

Many of us would likely be happier not to be behind a wheel while abroad, and then, of course, there’s the environmental aspect to consider.

With sustainability rapidly becoming a priority for travellers, one of the easiest ways to reduce our carbon footprints is to switch from planes to trains or ditch cars in favour of buses or bikes.

Many countries have invested heavily in public transport systems over the past few years. Norway, for example, has an excellent fleet of electric-fuelled public ferries.

The growing popularity of hiking and cycling holidays also makes it much easier to explore without turning a key in the ignition. Plus, there’s the benefit of boosting physical fitness at the same time.

If you want to swap motors for muscle-power on your next holiday, here are a few options for seeing parts of Europe car-free.

Free-wheeling in Estonia


Cycling in Talinn. PA Photo/Alamy.

A predominantly flat country with over 6,500 kilometres of trails – the majority of which are off-road – Estonia is an ideal destination for cyclists. For those wanting to cross the country by bike, the 981km EuroVelo 10 starts near the Latvian border in the south and passes through Pärnu, Tallinn, Lahemaa, the oldest national park in Estonia, and ends at the Russian border. For a shorter ride, try the 18km circular route around Kihnu island, a former seal hunting and fishing island, where the women take care of the preservation of the island’s cultural heritage while the men are out fishing.


Footloose in Menorca


Hiking in Menorca. PA Photo/Alamy.

Home to an abundance of winding coastal paths, peaks and rugged coves, the varied landscape and dramatic scenery of Menorca make it a prime hiking destination. Hikes include the iconic Camí de Cavalls, an historic path running around the entire coastline of the island. First constructed for military purposes, it has seen a number of improvements thanks to investment from the Sustainable Tourism Tax. Stay in Morvedra Nou Hotel, an elegant, family-run 17th century Spanish finca near Ciutadella.


Rambling around Guernsey


The Stone Circle Sark Henge on the Channel Island of Sark. PA Photo/Alamy.

A bronzed landscape and amber light provide a perfect backdrop for one of Guernsey’s best loved events, the Autumn Walking Festival. More than 40 morning, afternoon, and evening guided walks will take place from September 11–26, exploring the islands of Guernsey, Herm and Sark. Learn from local experts about their history and attractions, while tackling inland rambles or hiking rugged coastal paths. The walks vary in difficulty and length (ranging from one to five hours including an all-day Sark option) and are suitable for all ages and abilities. Prices from £10 per person.


Pedalling through pretty England


Arlington row in Bibury village, Cotswolds. PA Photo/Alamy.

Cycling in the UK can be a gamble at any time of year. But even though sunshine is never guaranteed, golden landscapes are certainly in store this autumn. Starting along the Oxford Canal, this gentle cycling tour continues through the villages of the southern Cotswolds, including Minster Lovell with its Cotswold stone and thatched cottages on the River Windrush, the medieval town of Burford and Bibury – described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England”. Finish in Bath, home to the historic Roman baths.


Blazing a trail in Switzerland


The Cize-Bolozon viaduct in France. PA Photo/Alamy.

Travel by track and trail on an adrenaline-fuelled trip to Swiss mountain Mont Blanc. As part of their commitment to shrink carbon emissions, Exodus Travel has expanded its train travel offering with over a third of all holidays now available flight-free – including an adventurous 15-day mission to explore one of Europe’s most iconic peaks.

It’s possible to take a journey from London to Geneva by rail (approximately seven hours) and, following a change of trains in Paris, the route continues through mesmerising mountainous terrain, crossing the spectacular Cize-Bolozon viaduct over the Ain gorge (above). Spend the next 10 days hiking with three rest days reserved for sitting back and enjoying the scenery.


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