If you’re looking for the best Via Ferrata routes in Europe, then you’ve come to the right place. Our guide covers a selection of routes for all abilities, hand-picked, just for you.
Via Ferrata is a brilliant hobby and perfectly bridges the gap between technical hiking and rock climbing. It’s thrilling, daunting, and hugely rewarding, and is sure to get the blood pumping with every new rung. So whether you’re new to the sport or a veteran hands, you’re likely looking for some new routes to explore. And that’s where we come in. We’ve scoured the internet and the guidebooks for a selection of routes to suit everyone. From beginners to experts, this hand-curated guide will provide plenty to tantalise you as you begin to plan your next adventure. And with more and more routes popping up all the time, and the safety standards higher than ever, there’s never been a better time to wriggle into your harness and get scrambling!
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Via Ferrata is a century-old way of traversing seemingly impassable terrain, and literally translates as ‘Iron Way’ or ‘Iron Path’. Invented during the first world war as a way to move troops through the mountains to strategic strongholds, iron rungs were driven into cliffsides, and [sometimes] had cables passed through them onto which a climber would clip to prevent them falling. This helped to create a network of stepping-stones that would allow someone move across and up cliff faces, along knife-edge ridges, or through terrain that would be otherwise impossible to pass through.
A blend of technical hiking and climbing, what was one a necessity to gain strategic military advantage has now become a pastime for those who want to see the world from vantage points only birds enjoy! There is a long history of military applications becoming hobbies for the general public — off-road driving, parachuting, ski-touring/Nordic skiing, target shooting … the list goes on. And Via Ferrata is one such sport. With a growing community, routes now criss-cross the whole world, but due to the rich history and heritage that it enjoys in southern Europe, this is where the most diverse set of trails still exist, and is considered the centre of the universe for this interesting, and often death-defying sport.
Italy is the first country on our list, and it’s only fitting considering it’s the home of Via Ferrata. Across both the Dolomites and the Alps, there are lots of great routes to follow, taking you on a tour of some of the more breathtaking mountain ranges in the world. From the Sella Ronda to the high Alps, there are some of the best Via Ferrata Routes in Italy.
A beautiful beginner Via Ferrata course with some optional and skippable challenging sections that some budding climbers may want to tackle! With modern fixtures and obstacles, this is an ideal Via Ferrata to get started on.
A slightly longer course with some difficult and dizzying traverses and sections, this 600m course requires some skill, but mostly endurance as it’s got a lot of vertical ascents required to complete it.
This is an all-day adventure that requires some hiking, plenty of strength and endurance, and a strong stomach for heights. There are some long climbing and traversing sections which are very exposed, but the pay-off is more than worth it as this route will delight you with some of the best views you’ve ever seen.
France lies adjacent to Italy, and hasn’t lost much time following suit when it comes to installing Via Ferrata routes. With both the Alps and the Pyrenees at its disposal, France is certainly not short of mountains that can’t be simply ‘walked’ up. This is where Via Ferrata comes in, with routes crisscrossing inaccessible cliff faces and reaching towering peaks. If you’re ready to branch out from the Dolomites, France should be your first stop!
This short, beginner friendly course is the perfect toe-dipper if you’re interested in getting into this course. The area is filled with other, more challenging routes, so it’s an ideal place to visit for mixed ability groups, or those looking to progress.
Out of the Alps, La Panoramique is a relatively long and somewhat technical course that’ll take you up some steep and exposed faces and along some knife-edge ridges. With ladders and plenty of cable bridges, it’s a true Via Ferrata experience with some terrific views.
This route is legendary and offers up a long day of climbing filled with technical obstacles including cable bridges spanned across dizzying valleys, sheer wall traverses, and plenty of long, vertical climbs including some inverted sections. Not for the faint of heart, this route has to be experienced to be appreciated.
Spain may not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking about Via Ferrata, but with the Sierra Nevada and Pyrenees mountain ranges, and a wide variety of cliffs and other verticality on offer, it’s definitely a destination worth considering. And with lots of endemic limestone and granite, the geography couldn’t be better for some excellent Via Ferrata routes — especially those on the coast! Something you certainly won’t find in the Alps or Dolomites.
Finding easy Via Ferrata in Spain isn’t a super straightforward task. Most accessible Via Ferrata is included in a hiking route, and this one is no different. Hiking out from Jauregi, this 8km out-and-back trail has pretty easy-going Via Ferrata sections that’ll allow you to gain some altitude before heading back towards town.
Another mixed route, this shorter hike will take you from the start point to the face of the cliff, where you’ll traverse across before making the climb via the Via Ferrata section of this hike. From the top, you’ll loop back around and make a moderately steep hike back to the start point.
A multi-day trek perfect for those looking to wild camp and watch the sun come up over the Pyrenees, this hike is a tour of the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, and offers long, challenging Via Ferrata sections, along with technical hiking, ideal for the avid adventurer!
Switzerland is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in Europe, so it’s only natural that it’s home to some of the most dramatic Via Ferrata routes. From dizzying ascents up vertical cliffs to glacial traverses, Switzerland is certainly a lofty goal to set your sights on. But fear not, because many easier ascents also exist, all of which have stunning outlooks, whether they be across the snow-capped high Alps, or rolling Alpine meadows. Both of which are equally excellent.
It’s not easy to find beginner-suited Via Ferrata in Switzerland, but this route is hailed as one of the best for those just starting out. With no vertical sections and just two short monkey bridges, it’s great for those starting off, and sure to stoke the fire for more challenging routes.
This Via Ferrata is a straight 700m climb that takes you up 250m of solid, rocky face. It begins with a small hanging bridge, before tackling the main face, ending in a mildly technical vertical wall. Something for everyone, Gabi is a great, accessible progression route for those with the Via Ferrata bug!
The Jegihorn is a renowned Via Ferrata route that takes you up to a staggering 3,200m in height. This long route is well-laid out, meandering and climbing through scree fields and jagged valleys, with plenty of obstacles and variety to get excited about.
As well as the big names above, Via Ferrata also persists into many other European countries. They may not have the sheer verticality, but Via Ferrata isn’t always about height. From technical climbs in Germany and Czechia, to more traditional clambers in Slovenia, there’s Via Ferrata in every corner of the continent. Finding the best Via Ferrata routes is sometimes tricky as they can be tucked away, known only to locals, or on obscure tourist sights with little to no information! You’d be surprised by how common they are, but we always advise ensuring they’re being maintained before tackling any of them.
Many hiking websites carry a lot of information about Via Ferrata routes, but it’s the communities themselves that offer the best advice and guidance. The countries listed above will have specific tour operators to guide you on the routes, but many will be accessible solo, too. All we say is to do your research, check the weather and the conditions on the routes, and always check your gear. Then check it again. Because while fun, and safe when looked after, Via Ferrata routes will degrade over time, and can be tricky when wet.
What equipment is needed for Via Ferrata?
Essential equipment for Via Ferrata includes a specialized climbing helmet, a Via Ferrata harness, Via Ferrata lanyards with shock absorber, gloves, and sturdy, grip-friendly footwear. Additionally, layers of clothing suitable for the weather conditions and a small backpack for water, snacks, and emergency supplies are advised.
Can beginners try Via Ferrata?
Absolutely! Numerous beginner-friendly routes exist across Europe, allowing people who are new to the sport to try Via Ferrata under less challenging conditions. These routes often have shorter climbs and less vertical exposure, easing beginners into the sport safely.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been scrambling around Via Ferrata routes for years, we hope you’ve found something interesting on this list! While not exhaustive, these are just some of our favourites from around the European continent. What was once a way of moving troops into strategically advantageous vantage points or military strongholds, Via Ferrata has now become a much-enjoyed hobby by thrill-seekers everywhere. There’s nothing that gets the heart going like a good old scramble, so we, for one, are so glad more and more people are coming to this sport, and as a result, the routes are ever-expanding and always evolving. But just one final word of parting advice — have fun, check your gear thoroughly, and don’t look down!