12 May 2019
A walking holiday is a fantastic way to discover the world's most intriguing destinations at your own pace. It’s also a savvy way to counteract any extra calories you plan to take in during your time away.
Some say a walking holiday is the ultimate in slow travel, allowing you the time to truly appreciate the local landscape and attractions rather than whizz past in a car or coach.
Naturally, walking holidays can be enjoyed virtually anywhere in the world, but here, we’re listing some of our favourites.
Weaving through the mountainous Kii Peninsula, the Kumano Kodō hiking route is one of Japan's most remote and rewarding journeys.
Situated almost three hours’ drive south of Osaka in the southern Kansai region, the Kumano Kodō pilgrimage trails were developed as a way for people to move between the Kii Peninsula’s sacred areas.
At the centre of this religious area sit three Kumano shrines: Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha and Nachi Taisha, collectively known as Kumano Sanzan - but even without the shrines, the pilgrimage trails are a religious experience.
Although most of the coastal trails have disappeared as the victim of development and the construction of modern roads, several mountain trails and passes remain. Aside from Spain’s Camino de Santiago, the Kumano Kodō is the only pilgrimage trail to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Where to stay: Mitsui Garden Shijo, Rhino Hotel Kyoto
Sharing borders with Tuscany and southern France, the Italian region of Liguria is home to some of the most spectacular walking trails in the world.
One highlight is the medieval Salt Road – a centuries-old network of paths once used by merchants and their laden mules to carry sea salt from the Gulf of Genoa across the Ligurian Apennines to the Po Valley. This rewarding walking route peaks at around 1,700 metres to deliver majestic views with the strong chance of encountering some wild animals, including horses, deer and dogs.
Other walking routes in the region take in the wonderful architecture, historic botanical gardens and mouth-watering local gastronomy, all tied up with a welcoming mild climate all year round. The cliff-clinging, UNESCO-protected Cinque Terre is a real travel classic too, with a route that strings together five charming villages.
Where to stay: Excelsior Palace Hotel, Belmond Hotel Splendido
Greece’s largest island offers a range of different walks, varying from easy coastal strolls to more demanding hikes. Regardless of how strenuous a route is, walking in Crete is a chance to view the island’s beautiful landscape, frescoed churches and delightful villages, from Plakias’ paths and tracks to the famous gorges such as Agia Irini, Sirikari, Karanos and Kydoni.
Perhaps the most famous (and challenging) though is Samaria Gorge. This dramatic walk stretches for 16km and includes spectacular scenery in the middle of Samaria National Park, peppered with beautiful foothills, stunning coastline and Minoan heritage.
Where to stay: Daios Cove Resort & Luxury Villas, St Nicolas Bay, Domes Of Elounda - An Autograph Collection Hotel
“There is much more to Crete than we had time for, and just the thought of some of the remote beaches like Elofonisi, the resorts of Agios Nikolaos and Elounda, more gorges to walk and historical sites to see like Spinalonga, made us realise that Crete is almost like a country of its own and why people can come back and experience a whole different holiday the next time they visit.”
Graham, Travel Counsellor
France offers some of Europe’s most hardcore walking routes in the shape of Mont Blanc and the Pyrenees.
The highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe, Mont Blanc peaks at 4,808.7 metres above sea level. The best way to take on this multinational massif (France, Italy and Switzerland all claim the territory) is to hike the Tour de Mont Blanc - a 170km circuit through all three countries. Reaching the summit is achievable but you’ll need more climbing experience and there are operators who can take you to the top if that’s your goal.
Meanwhile, around 600 miles south-west are the Pyrenees. Walking the whole 538-mile route can take around 52 days even for fit, experienced walkers and it’s the incredible 48,000-metre ascent what makes it so challenging. The stretch ranges between the spa towns of Cauterets and Bagnères-de-Luchon with some fabulous valleys and cols along the way. One highlight is the walkthrough Néouvielle national reserve - a section of footpath revered by hillwalkers. Just be wary of lammergeier vultures, griffons and golden eagles.
Where to stay: Hotel Villa Victoria
A summer hike in Norway can be an uplifting experience and excellent value, taking you through some classic Scandinavian mountain country, incorporating railways and cable cars to dodge some of the more challenging climbs.
Starting out with a few warm-up walks from Geilo, you can trot on to Finse - a spot popular with Antarctic explorers in winter with the chance to add a glacier walk with crampons. After a ferry journey to Aurland, there’s more walking or, if you prefer, one of the world’s great ferry rides up to Sognefjord before winding up in Flam for an incredible train journey.
Where to stay: The Thief, Lydmar Hotel, Nobis Hotel Stockholm
Majorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, is home to some of Europe’s most beautiful and historically interesting walking trails.
One highlight is the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, which juts up from the western edge of the island. It features dramatic zones of different vegetation with fertile almond and fig tree valleys, and centuries-old gnarled olive groves feeding on to pine forests and oak woodlands. Meanwhile, at the peaks, there are unobscured views in every direction from barren rocky outcroppings.
Other routes worth considering include the six-mile Es Capdella to Estellencs and the nine-mile stroll from Cuber reservoir to the bustling café-lined central square of Alaro.
Where to stay: Belmond La Residencia, Jumeirah Port Soller
Take the first steps towards your walking holiday and contact your Travel Counsellor to take advantage of a raft of benefits including full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and even after your stay.