Europe’s best wilderness cabins and mountain huts for hikers

From designer dens to remote refuges, there are thousands of – often free – walkers’ huts in amazing locations across Europe.

Finland has a huge network of open wilderness huts across its 40 national parks, where hikers, skiers and canoers can spend one or two nights for free. Most are log cabins, some dating back to the 1900s; more unusual huts include a former lifeboat rescue station on Koivuluoto Island and an ex-military canteen on Ulko-Tammio Island, both in the Gulf of Finland national park; and a former fire guard’s home in Rokua national park. Facilities are generally basic, but a few have saunas. Vargis, a hut with a jetty on the banks of a small channel in the Kvarken archipelago, is a fantastic place to stay on a canoe trip.

The Swedish Tourist Association owns 40 or so cabins in areas of outstanding natural beauty, spaced 10-20km apart along skiing and hiking trails. They are good places to meet fellow explorers, stock up on supplies and get local tips. Guests chip in with tasks such as chopping wood and fetching water, and cook in the communal kitchen. Many are on lakes, such as Lunndörren Mountain Cabin, where you can fish, swim or forage for cloudberries before warming up in the wood-fired sauna. It’s on Lunndörr pass, a 1,000-year-old trail near stunning Issjö Valley.

In Crete, local mountaineering clubs manage about a dozen shelters on the main mountain ranges. The most popular is Shelter Kallergis in the White Mountains, which has views over the north and south Crete seas; Shelter Greleska in the same range overlooks the Agia Irini gorge and doubles as an observatory for the endangered Cretan ibex. Others include a circular stone tower in the Ida (Psiloritis) range in central Crete, and a sanctuary next to a windswept chapel on the top of Stavromenos, the highest peak in the Thripti range.

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