Long-distance hike to Mariazell, © weinfranz.at

Planning your route stages

Step by step

In long-distance hiking, those who know themselves, the route, and possible challenges along the way are already several steps ahead. Good planning is indispensable—not just for pilgrimage beginners.

Let the adventure begin! The first step: planning your steps. As tempting as it may be to set out spontaneously: Multi-day hikes should be well-organised. This builds anticipation and gives you much-needed security. It is important to plan step by step—enjoy the process and take your time. Because sometimes goals can seem quite big at first, especially if they are new goals in your life. Therefore, it is good to plan in more detail, especially for pilgrimage first-timers.

Those who do not race, discover.

Another life lesson from the pilgrim's backpack. Life is not a competition. And long-distance hiking most certainly isn't. It is not about being the fastest or coming in first. There is no wrong pace. The right pace is the one that's good for body, mind, and soul. This can also mean shortening a stage, deliberately taking a day of rest or a longer break during a stage. Not least to explore the beauty and cultural treasures along the way at your leisure.

Despite all the love for individuality, a few general basic rules and tips are helpful for planning your hiking stages. We have summarised them below.

  • Mental and physical fitness:
    Body and mind are an important team when going on a pilgrimage. When both are fit and strong, you can plan longer hiking stages accordingly. An honest self-assessment is necessary here: If you do not exercise regularly and need more breaks in everyday life, it is better to plan shorter stages.
  • Distances and altitude:
    15 kilometres per day for beginners or 20 kilometres and a maximum of 1,000 metres of altitude for fit hikers are an approximate guideline for well-maintained hiking trails such as the Via Sacra and the Vienna Pilgrimage Trail. Daily stages of about 25 kilometres or more are reserved for more experienced long-distance hikers only. Make sure to pay close attention to the topography of the trail: Even if you are not hiking in alpine terrain, you will quickly accumulate several hundreds of metres of altitude on longer hikes. This costs time and energy and must be taken into account when planning. The Austrian Alpine Club's walking time calculator can serve as a valuable orientation here.
  • Backpack weight:
    It is best to only take what you really need. The less luggage you have to carry, the easier the walking will be. And then, the stages can also be a bit longer.
  • Eating and drinking:
    Enjoy your meal, and cheers! Being on pilgrimage on the Via Sacra or the Vienna Pilgrimage Trail, you will be well catered for in the restaurants and inns along the way. In any case: high-quality food and snacks, plenty to drink and as little alcohol as possible are good for the body and thus also for endurance.
  • Weather:
    Sunshine and bright-blue skies are a real turbo for long-distance hiking—given, however, that it's not too hot. Both heat and cold can have a negative effect on your endurance. Prolonged rain can also quickly affect your mood and drain your energy. Your pilgrimage is just around the corner but the weather forecast predicts four days of cold and wet weather? Then maybe it's better to postpone. Because the sun is bound to come back eventually.