Self guided walking travel guide

2 minute summary

Walking holidays are the oldest form of tourism known to man. For centuries people have travelled by foot whether it is was for a pilgrimage or just for sheer pleasure. They didn’t always have the luxury of being given all the information they need in advance, however, or having their bags transported, or a sauna and sumptuous supper waiting for them at the other end. Herein lies the luxury of the self guided walking holiday, which is a little misguided as a term, actually. Because in many ways, you are totally guided on these holidays, with everything you need sent to you in an exciting bundle before you leave. It’s as if your favourite old aunt, who has walked the Alps or the Pyrenees every summer since the year dot, just sent you her travel journals. And maps. And address book. You just need to follow in her steps, but have enough independence to find a few of your own too.
See our self guided walking travel guide for where, how and when to get the most out of exploring the world by foot.
If you'd like to chat about walking holidays or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team.
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What we rate & what we don't



Croatia Portugal Catalonia Pilgrims’ Way


Known more for its coast and islands, there are extraordinary walking holidays even just an hour inland, with five 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.


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 350km 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.


The famous regional pride is hardly surprising when you take in the wealth of natural Catalan beauty on offer to walkers. From the snowy Pyrenean peaks to sun-soaked Mediterranean coves, there is also a volcanic park and plethora of hiking trails. These traverse wild deserted coasts and dainty turquoise coves, or the inland Aiguamolls Nature Reserve. Polish up your boots for the magnificent cities of Barcelona, Tarragona and Girona.

Pilgrims’ Way

Closer to home for most, this 72km trail follows an ancient track between Winchester and Canterbury, with a good part of it following in the footsteps of those taking on the North Downs. A popular section is from the historic cathedral town of Rochester, following the chalk ridge along the edge of the North Down, to the medieval and cathedral town of Canterbury.


Europe Detailed trip notes Luggage transfer Great accommodation


Don’t overlook Europe for amazing hiking holidays, especially self-guided ones. With a superb European network of waymarked ways such as the Grandes Randonnees, a network of long distance walking paths which spread out all over Europe, you can easily spend a week just hiking without heading all the way to the Himalayas. Easy to access, you can be at your desk in the morning, and taking on a hike along the Amalfi coast in the evening.

Detailed trip notes

Even if you are a map geek, you will still love the copious walking notes and itineraries sent in advance of your self-guided walking tour. These are detailed instructions on how to get from A to B, historic and cultural details, a list of restaurants en route and a few extra tips like, ‘turn left down the lane to a secluded beach, which is perfect for lunch and a swim”.

Luggage transfer

One of the coolest things about self-guided walking holidays that aren’t based in one centre is that, in most cases, your bags are transferred for you. So all you have to do is have breakfast, leave your bag at reception, and hit the walking trail. Your bag will be waiting for you at the next spot on your itinerary. All you have to think about is the weather, what to wear and walking.

Great accommodation

Hand-picked, tried and tested by tour operators and, depending on location, they are often three or four star, have pools or a spa, and are well vetted for fine food too. Which includes top picnic lunches in some cases. These are accommodations that ‘get’ walkers. They won’t look at you strangely if you come into the foyer with muddy boots, or ask them to fill your water bottles before you hit the road.


Going into private land Old walking gear Hurrying the hike The beaten track

Going into private land

Just because you are self guided, doesn’t give you the right to stray into people’s gardens, or wander through their farmland. It is usually pretty clear when a sign means ‘Keep out’ whether it is in French, Italian or Turkish. Waymarked ways are managed and delicately negotiated with landowners. So, if you want to right off the beaten path, only do so with an expert local guide.

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.

Hurrying the hike

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 chill on the hills. Who needs the top anyway? There’ll be plenty of highs along the way.

The beaten track

For every packed walking trail, there is nearly always another empty one nearby. The French Alps are a huge pull, for example, but the lower Alps, around the Mercantour region, are just stunning. And worshippers of the Camino de Santiago are discovering heavenly spots along Portugal’s Serra de Monchique's ancient paths. So, always look beyond the first trail in the book.

Is a self guided tour for you?


Go on a self guided 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 want family bonding time, but with all the planning done for you in advance.
  • You want to explore the real rural culture of a place, not the one put on for tourists.
  • Research and planning is not your strongpoint.
Don’t go on a self guided 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 : Ray Bouknight] [Pilgrim's Way: Mikael Leppä] [Europe: Guillaume Baviere] [Detailed trip notes: Mats Hagwell] [Luggage transfer: THOR] [Great accommodation: Ingo Ronner] [Going into private land: Catherine Mack] [Old walking gear: Centre for Sustainable Energy] [Hurrying the hike: Thomas Shahan] [The beaten track: Sankara Subramanian]
Picos inn to inn walking holiday

Picos inn to inn walking holiday

Hike through beautiful mountains staying in rural inns

From £1105 8 Days ex flights
Amalfi to Sorrento walking holiday in Italy

Amalfi to Sorrento walking holiday in Italy

Explore the peninsula between Ravello and Sorrento

From £1739 9 Days inc UK flights
Piedmont walking holiday, Vineyards of Barolo

Piedmont walking holiday, Vineyards of Barolo

A gastronomic gem quietly tucked away

From £1849 9 Days inc UK flights
Volterra to San Gimignano walking holiday in Italy

Volterra to San Gimignano walking holiday in Italy

Picturesque Volterra and soaring towers of San Gimignano

From £1539 9 Days inc UK flights
Japan self guided walking holiday, Nakasendo Trail

Japan self guided walking holiday, Nakasendo Trail

Self-guided walking along Japan’s ancient Nakasendo trail

From £750 5 Days ex flights
Pisa to Lucca walking holiday in Italy

Pisa to Lucca walking holiday in Italy

Self guided walking between Italian cities Pisa and Lucca.

From €529 8 Days ex flights
Bergamo circular walking tour in Italy

Bergamo circular walking tour in Italy

Begamo; start hiking at about 5 km distance from the airport

From €658 8 Days ex flights
Catalonia self guided walking holidays

Catalonia self guided walking holidays

Self-guided walking holidays in Catalonia

From €715 8 Days ex flights
French Alps self guided walking holiday

French Alps self guided walking holiday

Chalet based, self guided walking holiday in the French Alps

From £525 8 Days ex flights
Croatian coast walking tours, self guided

Croatian coast walking tours, self guided

Self guided walking tour on the sunny Croatian coast

From €575 7 Days ex flights
Self guided walking holiday in France

Self guided walking holiday in France

Idyllic walking in France with great food, wine and ambience

From £875 7 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: Thomas Schweighofer]
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