⛰️ Hiking the Cinque Terre Guide: Tips + What To Know

Colorful houses on a mountain cliff sticking out into the ocean.

Cinque Terre is a protected coastal region in northern Italy that’s comprised of five colorful villages perched along the mountains.

A fantastic way to travel through this UNESCO World Heritage Site is by hiking through the small villages and experiencing its natural beauty.

The Cinque Terre hike is one of my favorite experiences in Italy, and here, I share my practical tips on hiking there. This post covers:

  • 🥾 Trail difficulty, length, and safety
  • ⛰️ The best Cinque Terre hiking trail
  • 📍 Map with trailheads pinned
  • 🏠 Where to stay and store luggage
  • 🎟️ How to buy the Cinque Terre card
  • 🧦 What to pack for your hike

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Italy.

Cinque Terre at a Glance

Here is some general information on Cinque Terre to help you plan your trip.

⛰️ What Is Cinque Terre Known For?

Cinque Terre, or the “Five Lands,” is known for its five picturesque villages and seaside landscapes. Here are the small towns from north to south:

  • Monterosso al Mare is the most visited village due to its larger size.
  • Vernazza is the most picturesque village with lots of sightseeing.
  • Corniglia is the most tranquil village, partially because it’s the most difficult to get to. It’s located on a cliff, unlike the other four villages that are more accessible.
  • Manarol is a village with a postcard-like aesthetic due to the shapes of its buildings on a cliff.
  • Riomaggiore is a village renowned for its cliffs and scenic harbor.
A view of many colorful buildings on a mountain by the ocean.
Vernazza, Cinque Terre.

📍 Where Is Cinque Terre Located?

Cinque Terre is located on the Italian Riviera in the Liguria region of northwestern Italy.

By train, it’s located three-and-a-half hours south of Milan and four-and-a-half hours northwest of Florence.

See how to spend a week or more in northern Italy.

Hiking Cinque Terre: The Blue Trail

An amazing way to visit Cinque Terre is by hiking through its five gorgeous villages. The main trail that connects them is the Blue Trail or Sentiero Azzurro.

The trail is part of Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, the National Park of Cinque Terre.

A map of a blue trail connecting five pins near the coast.
Cinque Terre’s Blue Trail.

🗓️ How Long Is the Cinque Terre Hike?

The Blue Trail is 7.5 miles long, stretching from Monterosso al Mare in the north to Riomaggiore in the south.

You can hike the Blue Trail in about six hours in a single day, but most visitors spend two to three days hiking it to also explore the Cinque Terre villages.

I hiked it in two days, which was enough time to hike and spend a few hours in each town.

💪 How Difficult Is the Cinque Terre Hike?

The Blue Trail is considered an easy to moderate hike. Most hikers will have no issues with it, but non-hikers may struggle with some parts.

A guide is not required for this hike, as most of the trail is accessible with clearly marked routes.

Some portions of the trail have a lot of steep inclines, both in the ascent and descent. See below for details on each trail.

A woman on a hiking trail and there's a small group of colorful buildings in the background.
The Blue Trail between Vernazza and Monterosso.

☀️ Best Time to Hike Cinque Terre

The Blue Trail is open year-round but can be randomly closed for trail maintenance.

The best times to hike Cinque Terre are around May and October, when the weather is pleasant and there are fewer tourists. I visited in May and had some rainy moments, but the trail was largely empty.

If possible, try to hike Cinque Terre on a weekday when there are fewer tourists. Some parts of the trails are narrow, so there can be congestion on the weekends, especially during the peak season in the summer.

🌱 Cinque Terre Weather Each Season

Here’s what you can expect on the Cinque Terre trail each season:

  • In the spring, the weather starts to warm up to 70 °F. The weather can be unpredictable during this time, so bring waterproof gear.
  • In the summer, the weather will start to hit the low 80s °F, and rain will be rare. This is also the high season when the trails will be the most crowded.
  • In the fall, the weather will be similar to spring’s in temperature, but heavy rains will be more common, so the Blue Trail can get flooded.
  • In the winter, the trail is considered to be in its off-season. Temperatures will drop below freezing. Between early November and mid-March, the Blue Trail is entirely free.
A mountain view with the ocean and yellow flowers.
Cinque Terre in May. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida).

📍 Where Does the Cinque Terre Hike Start?

You can start the Blue Trail in any direction and from any village. Most visitors start from either end: at Monterosso al Mare in the north or Riomaggiore in the south. See below for each village’s trailhead location.

I hiked from Corniglia to Monterosso on the first day and then Riomaggiore to Corniglia on the second day.

💰 How Much Does It Cost to Hike Cinque Terre?

You need to account for these four expenses when hiking Cinque Terre:

  • A Cinque Terre Card is required if you plan to hike the part of the Blue Trail that’s between Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia.

During the off-season, the Blue Trail is completely free between early November and mid-March, so a Cinque Terre Card is unnecessary.

  • The train stations in the villages charge €1 for public toilets that I thought were well-maintained. The Cinque Terre Card covers this, so you don’t need to pay the fee if you have the card.
  • Some of the Cinque Terre towns have attractions with a small entrance fee (less than €3) that are cash-only, so it’s a good idea to bring some euro bills or coins.
  • If you plan to take the train between any of the villages, you’ll also need to buy train tickets, which cost €5 per ride. To save money, you can also evaluate getting a “train” or “train + trekking” card.

All prices mentioned in this post are in USD 💵 .

🍀 How Much I Spent Hiking Cinque Terre

I spent $35 on the Cinque Terre hike, as I had to pay for the Cinque Terre Card and train transportation between some villages.

I spent a total of $240 for two days in Cinque Terre. This included attractions, food, and accommodations.

I share all my travel expenses in this Italy cost breakdown.

🎟️ How To Buy the Cinque Terre Hiking Pass

You can buy the Cinque Terre Card in person at any of the village’s train stations, or you can buy it in advance online at the official Cinque Terre Card website.

I didn’t feel the need to buy the card in advance in May as there were fewer tourists.

Cinque Terre Card Types

There are two types of Cinque Terre Cards you can buy:

  • The Cinque Terre Trekking Card gives you hiking access. You also get Wi-Fi and toilet access at the train stations, which I found useful.
  • The Cinque Terre Train Card gives you the same benefits as the Trekking Card and unlimited rides on the Cinque Terre Express train.

The two-day Trekking + Train Card is worth it if you plan to take the train more than three times. Since I had to move between villages several times, this is the card type I bought.

Colorful houses on a mountain cliff by the ocean.
Manarola, Cinque Terre.

Is the Cinque Terre Hike Worth It?

You can travel through Cinque Terre’s towns by train, ferry, or hiking.

Driving through Cinque Terre is not recommended because of the winding, narrow roads and the parking limitations and fees.

While hiking is not the most efficient way to travel through Cinque Terre (taking the train or ferry is), I think it’s the best way to visit the area and a worthwhile experience on its own.

Below are four reasons to hike between Cinque Terre’s villages.

1. The Cinque Terre hike has spectacular views.

The villages are part of the protected Cinque Terre National Park, and the hiking trails pass through stunning mountains, deep-blue ocean views, and plunging cliffs.

The entire hike is on a coastal trail next to the Mediterranean Sea, so it’s the perfect place to enjoy a scenic walk.

Clear ocean water by some rocks.
Cinque Terre’s blue ocean views.

2. Each trail between the villages is unique.

The trail is divided into four portions by the five villages. The sections of the trail are distinct enough that you will experience different sights, views, elevations, and terrains throughout the hike.

3. You get to see local life between the villages.

The Cinque Terre villages are picturesque, but they’re also touristy. Hiking between the villages allows you to experience a quieter side of the towns as you hike through vineyards, homes, and churches.

4. The Cinque Terre hike is a choose-your-own adventure.

You can hike the entire trail, or you can hike portions of the trail. It’s possible to start the hike from any of the villages.

If you can only do a section of the hike, see below for the best trails.

A woman standing in front of a background with colorful buildings on a mountain by the ocean.
A view of a Cinque Terre town.

5 Tips When Planning for the Cinque Terre Hike

Here are five tips when planning your Cinque Terre hike.

1. Check for trail closures.

The Blue Trail is open year-round but can be randomly closed for maintenance due to bad weather.

Before going on your hike, check the current status of each trail on Cinque Terre’s website.

2. Rely on Cinque Terre’s local train.

The Cinque Terre Express train stops in every village. Thanks to how convenient the train is, you can quickly move between the towns, cut your hike short if necessary, and start or stop your hike from any village.

The train runs every 20 minutes daily and takes only about 5 minutes between each village. For example, if you stay in Monterosso al Mare, you can drop off your luggage, take a 20-minute train ride to Riomaggiore, and hike the Blue Trail back.

Train tickets in Cinque Terre cost €5 per ride, but you can get unlimited rides with the Cinque Terre Card.

3. Stay in one Cinque Terre village.

I recommend staying in one village if you’re staying multiple nights. The Cinque Terre Express train is so easy and convenient that it’s not worth the hassle of moving your luggage around the different villages.

I stayed at two accommodations in Corniglia and Riomaggiore and wished I had just stayed in one location.

Make sure to book Cinque Terre accommodations in advance, as there are no major hotels in any of the villages.

If you want to save money while visiting Cinque Terre, you can also stay in La Spezia, which is an eight-minute train ride from Riomaggiore.

Two people holding a cone with fried seafood in them.
Fried seafood near our Riomaggiore accommodation.

4. Corniglia is the most inconvenient to stay at.

All villages are accessible from the Cinque Terre’s hiking trail, except Corniglia.

Corniglia is the only village that’s not next to the waterfront. To get into town, you have to climb approximately 400 steps or wait for the shuttle bus.

The shuttle bus runs every 15 minutes, but you might have to wait for a few rounds if there’s a crowd waiting for it. When I stayed in Corniglia and waited for the bus, visitors were not in line, so everyone just pushed to get onto the bus when it arrived.

5. Luggage storing options are limited.

If you need to store your luggage before check-in or after check-out, you have a few luggage storage options in Cinque Terre:

  • Monterosso al Mare has a tourist information center next to the train station that offers storage, but note that it doesn’t offer overnight storage.
  • Vernazza has a STAYLUGGAGE located a two-minute walk from the train station.
  • Riomaggiore has a small luggage storage shop right next to its train station.
  • Hotels will sometimes be willing to store your luggage for a few hours for a small fee, even if you’re not staying with them. However, almost all of them won’t store luggage overnight.

Since taking the Cinque Terre Express train is convenient (i.e., it only takes five minutes between villages), the best option is usually to take the train to wherever you want to store your luggage and then take it to wherever you want to hike from.

Two people climbing down a steep set of stairs down a mountain.
No luggages on the Blue Trail. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida).

Cinque Terre’s Hiking Trails and Reviews

The Blue Trail is divided into four sections by the five Cinque Terre villages. Below is an overview of each section from north to south and my review of each hiking trail.

Cinque Terre Hiking Map

This Cinque Terre hiking map has each of the village’s trailheads pinned.

Trail #1: Monterosso to Vernazza

🥾 Length: 2.3 miles

💪 Difficulty: Moderate. There are a lot of steep steps on both ends near the villages, but it’s relatively flat otherwise.

Hiking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

🍀 My Experience: I hiked this trail starting from Vernazza. The views, especially facing Vernazza, are breathtaking. This is the most popular trail due to its proximity to Monterosso, so it was easily the most crowded trail.

A view of a bay with blue water and colorful buildings.
A view of Monterosso on the Blue Trail.

Trail #2: Vernazza to Corniglia

🥾 Length: 2.1 miles

💪 Difficulty: Easy to moderate. There is some elevation gain, but the trail is mostly wide and flat with rocky parts.

Hiking Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

🍀 My Experience: I hiked this trail starting from Corniglia, and I found it similar to the hike between Monterosso and Vernazza with fewer tourists. The best views of Vernazza, the most picturesque village, are when you’re approaching it from Corniglia, not Monterosso.

Three people standing together and there are colorful houses in the background sticking out into the ocean.
A view of Vernazza from the south side.

Trail #3: Corniglia to Manarola

🥾 Length: 3.6 miles

💪 Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. This is the longest portion of the Blue Trail, with narrow paths and elevation gain.

Hiking Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

🍀 My Experience: Corniglia to Manarola has some great views, and I find this trail to be the most interesting one because the terrain varies a bit. This is also the only trail where you can walk through charming vineyards and olive groves.

A person walking on a narrow trail next to the side of a mountain.
Narrow trail between Corniglia and Manarola.

Trail #4: Manarola to Riomaggiore

🥾 Length: 1 mile

💪 Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. The hike near Riomaggiore has steep hills and is the steepest portion of the entire route. During the steep portions, note that there are no handrails.

Hiking Time: 1 hour

🍀 My Experience: I hiked this trail starting from Riomaggiore, which is the direction most people recommend. This hike has the steepest incline. Near Manarola, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of vineyards that you don’t get to see in other portions of the hike.

A mountain view with vineyards and a group of colorful houses.
Trail view between Riomaggiore and Manarola.

Which Cinque Terre Hike Is the Best?

Having hiked all Cinque Terre trails, here are my recommendations for the best ones:

If you can only do half of the Blue Trail, the best trail depends on your preference:

  • If you want more nature and fewer stairs, hike the northern half of the Blue Trail between Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia.
  • If you want to see more terraced vineyards and a more strenuous hike, hike the southern half of the Blue Trail between Corniglia and Riomaggiore.

All four hikes are coastal trails with amazing ocean views, but they’re unique enough that different portions of the trail will have distinct sights, views, and terrains.

View of a mountain side by a blue ocean.
Coastal views on Cinque Terre hike.

What To Pack for the Cinque Terre Hike

Here is what you should pack and wear when hiking through Cinque Terre:

  • Athletic or hiking shoes. You can hike the entire Blue Trail in athletic shoes (my friends and I all wore running shoes, even in the rain). If you’re concerned about traction or rain, consider wearing waterproof hiking shoes, especially if you’re doing the steep Manarola to Riomaggiore trail.

Note that appropriate shoes are required by law. Open-toe shoes without a grip (e.g., flip-flops or sandals) are prohibited on the Blue Trail. You can face steep fines if you’re caught breaking the rules.

  • Rain jacket. Bring a rain jacket if you’re hiking Cinque Terre in the spring or fall. My friends and I all brought rain gear in May.
A woman standing on a balcony overlooking colorful buildings by a mountain.
Wearing a rain jacket in Cinque Terre in May.
  • Reusable water bottle. Cinque Terre has public water fountains in the villages where you can refill your water bottle instead of buying overpriced bottled water.
  • Sunscreen. Make sure to wear some sunscreen, especially during the summer. A large portion of the Blue Trail is exposed with not much shade.
  • Bug repellent. During the warmer months, mosquitos will come out. I’m a mosquito magnet, so I use this bug-repellent lotion.
  • Swimsuit in the summer. During the high season, when it’s warm enough, remember to bring a swimsuit if you plan to enjoy the beaches in the villages.

The best tip I can give about preparing for the Cinque Terre trail is to treat portions of the trail like a real hiking trail and not as a last-minute activity, so make sure to bring appropriate attire and pack accordingly.

Italy Trip Planner

To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.

The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Italy trip planner.

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.

Lists by Lukiih is Readers-Supported

If you find my travel tips helpful, say thanks with a bubble tea🧋!

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