Wander through a sea of vineyards interspersed with the romantic villages of Hunawihr and Riquewihr, eventually finishing in the larger village of Kaysersberg.
Where yesterday’s walk was on the steep and wooded upper slopes of the Vosges mountains, today we remain lower, navigating a path across the tumultuous sea of vineyards with a gentle swell that ripples over the undulating foothills. There is a unique microclimate here as the Vosges mountains shelter Alsace from the predominantly westerly winds – nearby Colmar is the driest town in France! – and allows some of the best white wine, especially of the Riesling variety, to be produced.
The walk is punctuated by villages that can trace their history back over millennia, and occasionally it can feel like little has changed in that time. With each arrival to a new village comes a shocking lurch back through history as you wander the car-less cobbled streets, pass between half-timbered shops and houses, permeate city walls that once prevented invasions and weathered besiegement, and drink wine that has been honed to perfection over several hundred years.
It is no exaggeration to claim that today, history, geography, culture, nature, architecture and food and wine all blend together to allow a superlative walk.
In a sense the whole village of Riquewihr is a giant open-air museum, however the Thieves’ Tower, Winemakers’ House and Dolder Belfry are all interesting museums which are worth checking out. (See ‘points of interest’ for more information.)
There are some exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk; be careful and remain on the path.
There are many stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Points of Interest
The 7th century village of Hunawihr is named after Hune, the patron Saint of Washerwomen. The large village fountain is a pilgrimage site, where it is believed she washed the clothes of the poor. In addition to the wealth brought by wine, Hunawihr is rich in construction materials with wood, sandstone, gypsum and clay all obtained nearby.
You will arrive in Riquewihr in the most impressive fashion; after trekking across the surrounding sea of vineyards where the village found its wealth, you will enter through the ‘Dolder’, a mighty gatehouse in the city wall with its portcullis lifted to welcome you in.
You might find the following museums interesting, if you wish to learn more about the area.
The Thieves’ Tower and Winemakers’ House – These two museums are interconnected. The Thieves’ Tower was a prison, where you can explore where criminals were kept, and the grisly methods of torture and punishment. On a lighter note, the winemakers’ house details the wine making process.
The Dolder Belfry – This museum details the thrilling mediaeval history of Riquewihr between the 12th and 17th century, going into particular detail regarding the defence and fortifications.
More information on all museums available here: https://www.ribeauville-riquewihr.com/en/visit/museums.htm
Château du Kaysersberg
Standing atop this castle, just above the village of Kaysersberg, you can see cars speeding along a heavily-trafficked road. This road is one of only a few that cuts through the Vosges mountains, which otherwise forms a barrier to the north and south, and thus this route has long been significant. This castle was built by the Roman Empire around 1220 AD to prevent attack from the Duchy of Lorraine which lay west of the mountains.
Food and Drink
After leaving Ribeauvillé , today’s route passes through the villages of Riquewihr and Hunawihr, both of which have opportunities to buy food or drink. Riquewihr is the larger of the two and is renowned for great food and wine!
Note that often the village fountains in France are drinking water where you can refill your water bottles, however don’t assume that is the case today – look for the plaque of ‘Eau Potable’ which means it is drinkable, or ‘Eau Non Potable’ which means not-drinkable.