Hiking the Amalfi Coast: more than only the ‘Path of the Gods’ !
Over the last 15 years the Amalfi Coast has become one of Italy’s premier hiking destinations and not without reason! The now famous ‘Sentiero degli Dei’ (or ‘Path of the Gods’) by itself is already worth the journey. Listed as one of the world’s best hikes, it certainly lives up to its fame. But there is so much more to explore as well! There are many equally beautiful, and definitely less crowded trails, along the Amalfi Coast and throughout the whole Sorrento Peninsula (of which the Amalfi Coast is’only’ the southern side).
However, to explore the Amalfi Coast properly, both along the famous trails, as well as along some hidden tracks, you need to keep in mind a few things. With our hiking tips you can plan the perfect walking holiday (or hiking vacation), enjoying the best of the Amalfi Coast!
In Summer 2017 fires have destroyed part of the shrublands and forests above Positano, more specific above the hamlets of Nocelle and Montepertuso. Also the area of the so-called ‘Fjord of Furore has been interested by forest fires, as well as a large part of Mt. Vesuvius. The terrain being exposed, the heavy rain in Autumn has then caused several landslides – including one along the famous ‘Path of the Gods’ (now officially closed), another one along the historical ‘Via Maestra dei Villaggi’ near Amalfi. We therefore recommend NOT to go hiking in these areas without guidance (although feasible – the beauty in some areas is gone for a while – until Nature fights back).
How do you get onto the paths by myself?
An obvious answer is to book one of our self-guided’ walking tours !
All selfguided tours have been carefully planned, along the best possible routes. You stay in the best possible hotels, from where you can start the walks. And moreover you’ll have the big avantage that your luggage is being transported from place to place, from inn to inn, which allows you to do a number of the most stunning walks, which are often linear walks, not obliging you to walk loops.
There are tours for every taste: from easy walks with the accent on the culture, relax and sightseeing, to more demanding hikes through the stunning mountain scenery.
In case you don’t feel comfortable going out ‘into the wild’ by yourself is to book one of our guided tours. On these tours our experienced local guides will take you not only to all the famous spots, but introduce you to the ‘real’ Amalfi Coast, those authentic places which are often put in the shade by the glamour of the beautiful resort towns.
Another good option is to buy Julian Tippett’s guidebook “Landscapes of Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri” which gives detailed directions to footpaths in the area. However, we recommend to contact us to choose the right hotel for your walking tour. We can offer you a large selection of authentic hotel’s and agriturismo’s, from simple accomodations to some of the world’s best hotels, as acclaimed from Condé Nast Traveler, Travel+Leisure and many others. Genius Loci Travel, as the leading adventure travel company on the Amalfi Coast, can book your room in any hotel you could dream of!
How do I find the tour which is right for me?
With the largest choice of self-guided walking tours along the Amalfi Coast, Genius Loci Travel can cater for any taste, both for those who want a challenging hike, as well as for those who prefer a leisurely stroll, with time for swimming, sightseeing, relaxing & people-watching.
A very ‘complete’ tour, which shows you both the ‘highlights’ (Amalfi, Ravello, Positano), as well as the more quiet villages, is our classic ‘Amalfi Coast & Mountains‘ tour, walked by thousands of people over the last 20 years. If you want to stay near the coast and stay in all the Famous seaside resorts, our ‘Heart of the Amalfi Coast’ walking tour might be the right choice for you. Little time available? Take a short break, or take in only the best walks from Amalfi or Positano. Want to walk off-the-beaten track: check out the ‘Backroads’ or the ‘Unknown Amalfi Coast’. And of course, there is not only the Amalfi Coast: why not walk to the other side of the Sorrento Peninsula!
Choices enough, and even more tailor made options are available. Of course, consider your level of fitness. Some tours are more challenging than others. Consider what you want to see: is your main interest the charming villages, the gardens, the villa’s or do you prefer wild mountain scenery ? Do you prefer to take in all the highlights on a ashort trip, or do you prefer to walk off-the-beaten-track?
Contact us and we’ll give you all the info to choose the tour which is right for you !
Why go hiking the Amalfi Coast?
The Amalfi Coast is probably Italy’s most beautiful coastline. Located on the southern side of the Sorrento Peninsula, the Costiera Amalfitana is protected from the cold northern winds by its impressive mountains, and therefore has a wonderful climate all year long. Ideal for hiking all year long – with the exception of the hot Summer months. The landscape is immensely varied and surrounded by infinite ever-changing views. It can be typically Mediterranean, intoxicating with its wild perfumed herbs, myrtle shrubs, thyme, rosemary and mastic trees, or almost alpine with meadows and bare rocks. And cultural heritage abounds! Man has created an incomparable mosaic terraced landscape. Beautiful little churches, ruins of castles and old farmhouses are found all over the place… The Costiera Amalfitana is definitely Europe’s most dramatic stretch of coastline!
And everything can be discovered on foot! There are thousands of footpaths on the Amalfi coast, some which are famous, such as the “Sentiero degli Dei” (the “Footpath of the Gods”), or are at least a thousand years old, like the “Maestra dei Villaggi” – the ‘main road’ of the medieval Republic of Amalfi. Over the last 2 decades some of these paths have become immensily popular, and therefore often pretty crowded.
But there are many unknown trails which are just as beautiful! Going from the sea to the mountains, or vice versa, there are always stupendous views, and you’ll walk through little villages, vineyards and olive groves, Mediterranean scrubs and woods, living rocks and chestnut woods.
Recommended Guidebook: ‘Landscapes of Sorrento, Amalfi & Capri’
One of the first guidebooks for walking along the Amalfi Coast was the book ‘Walks from Amalfi’ written by our friend Julian Tippett, back in 1991. He is the author of what is still one of the best guidebooks around, now called “Landscapes of Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri – a countryside guide”, edited by Sunflower Books.
At the time (nineties of last century) he wrote:
“Unknown to most tourists, wonderful networks of footpaths criss-cross the Peninsula and Capri, connecting little villages by easy paths and venturing on rougher ways up into the mountains. Visitors can plan simple walks of varying lengths often starting right outside their villa, allowing them to enjoy fantastic views whilst getting a feel for authentic Italy. The friendly local people you come across on foot could be pruning their vines, picking lemons or carrying supplies by mule to a remote house, a million miles from the tourist guide or souvenir vendor you meet in town. Experienced hikers can stretch their legs on stony trails high up in the mountains, guided by the red/white marks painted by the local Alpine Club (CAI), followed by a cool beer in a village bar at the end of the day.”
Since then, a lot has changed and especially the words ‘unknown to most tourists’ are not true any longer for footpaths which have become famous, like the ‘Sentiero degli Dei’ – where probably all nationalities have been seen over the last years. Still true is the following:
“Along the Amalfi coast the terrain is very steep, the bonus being spectacular views around every corner, but with the effect that paths are often built as stone steps. It helps to take your time to avoid getting out of breath or maybe take a bus to a higher starting point and walk mainly downhill. Mind you, going down a lot of steps can be hard on the knees too. If you are at all worried by this warning, just start with modest plans to get a feel for how the paths play out for you; judging by my fan mail few people are much bothered. At the Sorrento end of the peninsula you’ll meet fewer steps as the terrain is mostly more forgiving there.”
The book describes the whole of the coastline west from Maiori, including Ravello, Amalfi, Praiano, Positano and all of the peninsula behind Sorrento and also offers a number of routes on Capri. The network is divided up into 72 “segments”, with instructions given for how to walk each segment in either direction. Walk planner maps help you put together a walk of just the length you want by selecting and combining these segments to form a specific route. You can take account of where the bus will drop you and how much climbing each segment demands. Illustrated in colour, general sections of the guidebook contain lots of practical information useful to walkers including how to use the public transport (with timetables). Motorists can sample some mini car tours helped by a touring map to get you to some interesting out-of-the way places”.
Getting to a Walk – car or bus?
Having a car is a mixed blessing. If your accomodation lies away from bus services a car will get you to your walk easily, but everywhere along the Amalfi coast road from Positano to Maiori and in Sorrento you’ll find parking a nightmare and/or it will cost you a fortune. Parking in the little villages in the hills away from the coast road is easier. Two tips for car users:
1. On a circular walk, start and end the walk in a small village en-route where the parking will be easier, e.g. you want to go from Amalfi to Ravello up one way and back down another, so park in Pontone or Scala which lie on one of the routes.
2. Consider using a bus to get to the start, or back to the car at the end, e.g. park at Pogerola above Amalfi if you want to walk to San Lazzaro, followed by the Via dei Villaggi path back down to Amalfi. You’ll be tired by the time you get there, so take the bus back up to your car (hourly service approx).
If you can get to Amalfi or to Sorrento easily from your villa, or a number of other more minor centres like Ravello or Sant’Agata, you will not need a car for your walking; use the bus services that radiate from those places to connect to the start or end of your walk. Or work out a walk parallel to the coast road and return by bus along it. Once you are on the bus routes, then walk planning becomes easy.
For up-to-date timetables (included with our Route Notes & Maps), you can check the webite of the SITA bus company (unfortunately not always correct…). Timetables change for the summer season which runs Easter to the end of October.
Put simply, any time between September and June. Best for walking temperature are Spring, when the wild flowers are at their best, and autumn, promising chance meetings with fig trees groaning with ripe fruit overhanging the path. Summer is too hot for anything more than a stroll. Winter sees many fine days, but you might sometimes get raw days with a biting wind at 5°C/40°F at sea level and a sprinkling of snow on the tops. At any time you must reckon with the chance of rain, so pack your waterproofs and woollies just in case.
Apart from the above, the best footwear mostly is training shoes or similar. Boots are needed in the mountains and I prefer these at all times in winter as the paths can get slippery in rain. Apart from in winter take long sleeves and a sun hat. For food, either plan to stop at a village with pizzeria or bar, or take a picnic. Alimentari will make up simple bread rolls filled with ham or cheese of your choice. Add a bit of fruit and Bob’s your uncle. Take ample water supplies – either bottled or tap – even two litres each on a hot day. And don’t forget your SITA bus tickets for the return journey in case you can’t get them where your trail ends or the bus is just coming round the bend.
Be aware that many of the most beautiful and famous walks are linear walks. therefore you might want to change hotel. On our organised independent tours, you are free to follow the trail at your own pace, and your luggage is being transported to the next hotel, so that you don’t need to carry much more than your camera, water and perhaps a picnic lunch. You can leisurely enjoy your walk knowing that your baggage will be waiting for you at your next accommodation. Otherwise you’ll have to carry it yourself…..
How to get “Landscapes of Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri” by Julian Tippett ?
Log onto www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk or (for the US) www.hunterpublishing.com Also available on Amazon (UK and US). Published by Sunflower Books, ISBN 978-1-85691-357-7.
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