Winner: Via Dinarica, the Balkans
The Dinaric Alps have 8,000-foot stegosaurus spines, fairy-tale meadows, and stone guesthouses. Decades of conflict made them tough to experience, but the area is amping up its tourist offerings, and access is improving on the new Via Dinarica. Our favorite stretch: the 600-mile White Trail, which stitches together old routes from Slovenia to Albania and follows the highest peaks. Hire a guide and take three days to walk the 40 miles from Bosnia’s 6,900-foot Prenj Massif to Vran Mountain (from $50; viadinarica.com). You’ll wander over the 7,310-foot Cvrsnica Mountain and stay in huts like the simple but warm Vilinac Mountaintrail Lodge.
Runner-Up: The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
The newly established Wild Atlantic Way is a 1,491-mile collection of driving routes from Donegal to Cork’s rugged western shore. Our favorite stretch is the 400 miles from Sligo to Galway on the Connemara Coast. Make stops to sea-kayak past 16th-century castles, swim in the bay of Keel Strand on Achill Island, or forage for cockles near Killala Bay, a protected area packed with aquatic life. Stay in an ocean-view suite at the Doonbeg Lodge for early-morning walks on the beach (doubles, $533; doonbeglodge.com). Arrange hikes, bike rentals, and kayak tours through Wilderness Ireland (wildernessireland.com), or hire Vagabond to surf the coast (from $1,230; vagabondtoursofireland.ie).