Hiking is often mistaken for a strenuous outdoor activity, requiring years of experience. Even though climbing a mountain should never be taken lightly, the reality is that almost anyone can embark on a memorable journey towards an imposing mountain peak. The secret to hiking lies in simple things, such as passion for nature, will for adventure, and responsibility (staying safe up there is the most important of all).
For first-time mountain climbers, Eastern Europe is a great option. With friendly itineraries, scenic landscapes, and plenty of opportunities for one-day hikes, the locations presented below are meant to quench your thirst for the outdoors.
Here are the eight of the friendliest and most spectacular mountain peaks in Eastern Europe, also reachable by less experienced hikers:
Northwestern Peak, Rysy Mountains – Poland
A summer journey in Poland is not complete without a hike in the Tatra Mountains, the highest mountain range in the Carpathians. Rysy lies at the border between Poland and Slovakia and can be accessed via Zakopane, a town located not far from Krakow, or via the town of Strbske Pleso (in Slovakia).
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The mountain has three famous peaks and each of them can be the target of a great hike.The north-western peak is the tallest in Poland, at an altitude of 2,499 meters (8,199 ft). The other two peaks belong to the Slovak region of Presov.
The great thing about the beautiful Rysy peaks is that they are reachable through Poland as well as via Slovakia. Either way, the hikes do not require technical climbing – probably one of the reasons why many tourists choose to climb here during the summer. It is advisable that you start your hike towards the top at the Morskie Oko lake chalet (on the Polish side), or in Strbske Pleso (in Slovakia). Just follow the red marks and the enthusiastic hikers, and you should be on top of Europe in a matter of hours.
Peleaga Peak in the Retezat Mountains – Romania
Easier to reach via Timisoara (served by an International Airport), rather than Bucharest by train or car, Retezat National Park in Romania captivates its visitors with over 80 lakes and hundreds of flower species, making each season worth a trip. Rising 2,509 meters (8,231 ft) above sea level, Peleaga peak is the highest point in the area, offering extensive views over the surrounding peaks, lakes, and valleys.
Conquering Peleaga peak is easier if you camp on the edge of Bucura Lake (widest lake in the park) and start your journey from here. Reaching the top of Retezat Mountains from Bucura will take no more than three hours during the summer, no matter what your experience level is. If you climb fast and avoid making plenty of stops for sightseeing, you can make the trip in one and a half hours.
Aside from Peleaga peak, camping near Bucura Lake offers plenty of options for short hikes in the Retezat Mountains. It is advisable that you visit the park in the summer, and always ask for weather information from the people at the rescue cabin (Salvamont), before embarking on a hike.
Read 8 Spectacular Locations in Romania Worth Discovering Up Close, book a hostel in Romania, and find a flight to Romania
Veliki Risnjak Peak, Risnjak Mountains – Croatia
With a diverse vegetation that makes up for its relatively low altitude (1,528 meters above sea level or 5,013 feet), Veliki Risnjak Peak is the highest point of the Risnjak Mountains in Croatia.
If you are planning on a memorable one-day hike, there are many routes heading towards this beautiful place. Overlooking one of the eight national parks in the country (Risnjak National Park), the peak is not difficult to reach by foot and it can be climbed almost all year long.
The secret to hiking lies in simple things, such as passion for nature, will for adventure, and responsibility.
The easiest way to get here is by taking a car ride to one of the four entrances on the western part of the Park, entitled Vilje, Cajtige, Lazac, and Šegina. All the routes are marked, and it is forbidden to go off the paths. A ride to the top requires a permit (about $7 park entrance fee) and takes a few hours to complete, depending on the starting point and the hiker’s pace. Camping is not allowed in the area of the National Park, but visitors can take cover in the cottages and hotels nearby. Other activities in the area include mountain biking and animal observations.
Musala Peak, Rila Mountains – Bulgaria
Hiking Musala will grant you the right of conquering not only the highest point in Bulgaria, but also the tallest peak in the entire Balkan Peninsula. At 2,925 meters (9,596 feet) above sea level, this charming crest is part of the Rila mountains, and its name can be literally translated into “the mountain of Allah.” Aside from being inspired by the height of the peak, this designation is probably related to the divine beauty of the surrounding places, reflected in sparkling lakes and other impressive summits as far as the eye can see.
The starting point when heading towards Musala is Borovets, a famous mountain resort in Bulgaria, located 70 kilometers away from Sofia. From here on, there are two major routes one can embark on in order to get to the top. No matter what road you take, the hike from Borovets to Musala should not take longer than 8 hours. If you do not have so much time on your hands, take a gondola lift from Borovets to Jastrebec Peak and save three hours. You can relax on the way by having a fresh water drink at one of three huts in Mussala, which also offer overnight stays.
Omu Peak, Bucegi Mountains – Romania
Omu peak may not be the tallest or most spectacular mountain in Romania, but it is certainly the most popular. Its proximity to the country’s capital and its ease of access are tangible arguments for thousands of visits each year. But some people come here simply because they have a crush on this great peak and on the charming chalet which not too long ago became its companion.
There are many ways to reach the second highest peak in Romania, elevated 2,507 meters (8,225 ft) above sea level. In fact, over 100 hiking routes (and counting) can take you here, each one more beautiful than the next. To narrow it down, you can reach the Bucegi mountains from two starting points, one to the east (from the small cities of Sinaia or Busteni), and one to the west (from Bran). A hike to the top can vary in time, depending on the itinerary you take and the stops you make along the way. If you decide to venture on a one day hike, you can get to the top from Sinaia in 5-6 hours.
There are no permits necessary in order to get to Omu and there are plenty of huts along the way. The peak is also reachable by cable transportation from Sinaia or Busteni.
Polezhan Peak, Pirin Mountains – Bulgaria
Polezhan peak is the 4th highest peak in the Pirin range and is one of the easiest to climb in the area (in summer conditions). Reaching Polezhan comes with a memorable landscape; the peak is surrounded by lakes and offers panoramic views over the entire Pirin range and of the Rila mountains to the north.
The town of Bansko (a famous skiing destination during the winter, reachable via bus from Sofia) is where you will find the starting point of the hike, Demianitza hut. Blue stripes on trees and rocks mark the road towards the top, which should take no longer than 4 hours. Another way to reach Polezhan is by taking a taxi ride towards the mountain road leading to Vihren peak, stopping at Bistritza hotel, and continuing from there (a two-hour hike). A taxi from Bansko to Bistritza hotel should not cost more than $10.
Camping in the area is only allowed in the proximity of the huts. You can also book a place in one of the hotels in Bansko or Dobrinishte.
Check out our Bulgaria Travel Guide
Moldoveanu Peak, Fagaras Mountains – Romania
Moldoveanu is literally the top of Romania, reigning over the Fagaras mountains in the Carpathians. Elevated 2,544 meters (8,346 feet) above sea level, the summit is not the easiest one to conquer, yet the extensive views it offers make up for all the effort (especially if you are lucky enough to go up on a sunny day, with no clouds obstructing your path). Hiking Moldoveanu requires no special skills and no technical climbing, yet reaching it via the small town of Victoria (a bus ride away from Brasov) can take about two days.
Hiking Moldoveanu is also possible by taking a car ride during the summer all the way to Balea Lake (on the famous Transfagarasan Road). From here on, the journey to the top will still last a considerable amount of time (at least one day), so it is advisable that you bring along adequate equipment (thick clothes, good sleeping bag, water) and rest during the night in the refuges along the way. Camping is also allowed everywhere in the area.
For first-time hikers, ascending Fagaras mountains could be an intricate task (partially due to fast-changing weather conditions), which is why it is best to ask plenty of information beforehand and try to join experienced backpackers on their way to the top.
Chopok Peak, Low Tatras – Slovakia
The second highest mountain peak in the Low Tatras is also one of the most visited crests in Slovakia. At 2,024 meters above sea level (6,640 feet), this extreme point is easily accessible by cable, but a lot more fun to travel to by foot.
Reaching Chopok is possible by getting to the city of Poprad and then taking a bus or car ride to Liptovsky Mikulas, located 50 kilometers away. From here on, you can get to Demanovska Dolina, the starting grounds for many hiking routes in the National Park Low Tatras. Getting to the top can be achieved by taking one of the various marked trails, yet the most popular one remains E8 European Walking Route, following the main ridge and marked with red. Once you conquer this friendly peak, you could also try going further, on Dumbier, which is the highest in the Low Tatras.
Camping in the area of the National Park is forbidden, but you can take cover in one of the many huts along the marked roads.