Walking holidays travel guide

Walking holidays travel guide


2 minute summary

Walking holidays are the oldest form of tourism known to man. For centuries people have travelled by foot whether for a pilgrimage, to visit friends or family on the other side of a mountain, or simply to be at one with nature. Walking holidays have had a revival over the last decade, however, as the initial buzz of high adrenaline holiday options began to wear off for many of us, and a craving for just getting back to nature kicked in. Most walking holiday companies have been founded by people who live and breathe walking. They have spent years getting to know waymarked ways way off the normal tourist trails. Or befriending and then hiring wonderful local guides who know the bridle and byways inside out. It is this combination of expertise and excitement about walking as a form of relaxation that has opened a whole new walking world for the 21st century, and yet one that will almost always take you right back in time.
Our walking holidays travel guide shares information on where to go – and how to hike there.
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Underrated

Croatia Japan Canada Portugal

Croatia

Known more for its coast and islands, there are extraordinary walking holidays even just an hour inland, with eight national parks to explore. There are also mountains just an hour from Zagreb, probably one of the most underrated European capital cities. And you would be mad not to walk a bit of the coast too, of course, hopping and hiking all those island idylls.

Japan

Hiking is a must when travelling in Japan, with mountains and forests covering 70% of the country. The Kumano Kodo and Nakasendo Trails are pure rapture for ramblers. The former an ancient pilgrimage route through the richly forested Kii Mountains, and the latter a 17th century historic byway from Kyoto to Edo, now Tokyo.

Canada

One of the biggest countries in the world, this is a land to walk in, wonder at and go wild in. With the Rocky Mountains at its core, you can hike through Jasper, Banff, Glacier and Yoho national parks, head with a packhorse and guide into the remote Tweedsmuir Park. Or just stay in one place and still find a different walk every day for a year.

Portugal

You don’t have to forgo the sun, sea and sand that Portugal is famous for when you go on a walking holiday. Not with a newly opened 350 kms Rota Vicentina waymarked way that stretches along the coast. You can also take in the flower filled coastal valleys of the Alentejo uplands or just aim high and head to the stunning Serra de Estrela mountains.

Rated

Nepal Patagonia Morocco Madagascar

Nepal

Which hiker doesn’t hanker after the Himalayas? It has the highest mountains, bottomless gorges, and some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet. Everest is the leader of the pack, the breathtaking Annapurna range, a horseshoe-shaped, 210km route that wanders through traditional Hindu villages coming in second, with Manaslu, a long and challenging trek that’s higher than Annapurna the latest one to bag.

Patagonia

Belonging to both Chile and Argentina, Patagonia feels as if it was created especially for hikers. Because this is a land where borders don’t matter. The magnificent mountains, lakes and rivers don’t stop because of a line on the map, and the welcome given to hikers doesn’t change either. Because this is Patagonia - the end of the world. And a pure walkers’ world at that.

Morocco

This has been on the expert explorers’ radar for a long time, but lovers of Moroccan souks and seaside are now starting to embark on journeys up to its magnificent peaks. Hardcore hikers head for the High Atlas’ Mount Toubkal but there is superb walking to be had in the lower Atlas range too, with welcoming Berber people at wonderfully remote mountain villages.

Madagascar

Most of Madagascar's flora and fauna isn’t only endemic but also entrancing, and so when you hike here, you really do feel as if you are stepping into a lost world. Parts of the island are so remote you’ll often combine walking with kayaking or rafting in order to get to the otherwise inaccessible mountains and canyons of the south, or rainforest of the north.

Overrated

Chokka charity climbs The beaten track Old walking gear Racing to the top

Chokka charity climbs

They are almost a business onto themselves and, although most have great intentions, the minority have responsible tourism policies, throwing thousands of hikers on the hills, trampling and littering, often with little financial benefit for local people to boot. So, choose your charity hike wisely and consider the options of raising money for a local charity. At least, extend your stay and leave some money locally too.

The beaten track

For every packed peak, there is nearly always another empty one nearby. Same goes for national parks. 70 per cent of Japan, for example is mountainous, yet most people only want to fawn over Fuji. Switched on hikers are heading south to explore Kerala’s Western Ghats instead of the Himalayas, and worshippers of the Camino de Santiago are discovering heavenly spots along Portugal’s Serra de Monchique's ancient paths.

Old walking gear

It’s all very well being attached to the hiking boots your dad wore, and his dad before that. Or that daypack you have had for years, and stitched up again and again. But sometimes it is OK just to let them go, enshrine them if needs be, and acknowledge the benefits of high tech waterproof and breathable walking gear. With the exception of a fine old handed down hipflask of course.

Racing to the top

The clue is in the name ‘Walking… Holiday’. They are not about getting to the top first, or rounding that distant headland before everyone else. They are for people who want to step into other natural landscapes, explore culture in remote places, and pass the time of day with people they meet en route. Who needs the top? There’ll be plenty of highs along the way.

Go on a walking holiday if…

  • Life has become too much of a rush. You don’t even have to rush to get your towel on a sunbed
  • You enjoy the company of an expert guide. Not all walking holidays are guided, but good ones take you, and your holiday, to another level
  • You want to explore the real rural culture of a place, not the one put on for tourists
  • You have a reasonable level of fitness
Don’t go on a walking holiday if…

  • You don’t want to get wet. In the mountains, in particular, weather conditions change quickly, so you need to be prepared
  • You are a fastidious time keeper. Walking holidays are for taking your watch off and switching off
  • You are more into Michelin Stars than star gazing on a remote mountainside
  • Long lie-ins and lazing by the pool are what you crave.
Photo credits: [Top box - solo walker in Peruvian mountains: Rick McCharles] [Canada: Thank you for visiting my page] [Chokka charity climbs: Kyle Taylor] [The beaten track - Western Ghats: Sankara Subramanian] [Old walking gear: Centre for Sustainable Energy] [Racing to the top: Thomas Shahan]
Written by Catherine Mack
Amalfi Coast walking holiday, Italy

Amalfi Coast walking holiday, Italy

Walk in lemon groves and hillside villages

From £979 8 Days inc UK flights
Piedmont walking holiday, Vineyards of Barolo

Piedmont walking holiday, Vineyards of Barolo

A gastronomic gem quietly tucked away

From £1599 9 Days inc UK flights
Pilgrims Way self guided walking tour, England

Pilgrims Way self guided walking tour, England

Discover Kent's history, its landscape and its people

From £616 6 Days ex flights
Spanish course & walking holiday, Picos de Europa, Spain

Spanish course & walking holiday, Picos de Europa, Spain

Spanish classes + stunning hikes in Picos de Europa

From €400 7 Days ex flights
Las Alpujarras walking holiday, Spain

Las Alpujarras walking holiday, Spain

Guided walking holiday, Andalucia, with writer Chris Stewart

From €1275 8 Days ex flights
Guided walking holidays in the French Alps

Guided walking holidays in the French Alps

Guided walking from a historic chalet base

From £615 8 Days ex flights
Cyclades walking holidays in Greece

Cyclades walking holidays in Greece

A gently active holiday in the Cyclades

From £1019 8 Days inc UK flights
Hiking the Inca trail holiday

Hiking the Inca trail holiday

An unrivalled combination of history and spectacular scenery

From £2099 11 Days inc UK flights
Croatian coast walking tours, self guided

Croatian coast walking tours, self guided

Self guided walking tour on the sunny Croatian coast

From €520 7 Days ex flights
Dolomites walking holiday in Italy

Dolomites walking holiday in Italy

Sandwiched between the spectacular peaks of the Dolomites

From £1149 8 Days inc UK flights
Majorca self guided walking holiday

Majorca self guided walking holiday

Walking the stunning Tramuntana, Majorca at its scenic best.

From £549 8 Days ex flights
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