Κυριακή 10 Ιανουαρίου 2016

The 10 best walking tours for 2016

The best escorted and self-guided walking holidays for 2016, including coastal rambles and challenging hikes, in destinations such as France, Italy, Crete, and Costa Rica

All signs lead to the Amalfi coast: walk past sleepy villages, pebble beaches and remarkable views Photo: Pierre-Jean DURIEU - Fotolia
Walking holidays are the antidote to the pressures of modern life. There is no real goal or to-do list other than to wend your way from A to B at your own pace, typically against a scenic backdrop. There is real benefit in booking a tour, whether it’s self-guided or fully escorted. With your walking routes arranged, accommodation and flights booked and luggage transfers organised, with most meals included, the only thing you will need to remember is your walking shoes.
Below, I’ve selected the 10 best walking holidays for 2016. FranceItalyand Spain, with their varied terrain and enduring appeal, feature heavily on the list. There are also walks in SwitzerlandPortugalGreeceSouth Africa and Costa Rica, which offer varying difficulty levels. However, most holidays in the selection are what we might call leisurely; even those which include challenging routes offer easier alternatives. After all, a relaxing ramble is the best way to take in the scenery.
Nine of the tour operators I’ve recommended specialise in walking holidays, while one focuses on adventure holidays to more far-flung destinations.

1. Rivers and chateaux of the Loire

This gentle "Rivers and Chateaux of the Loire" walk takes you off the beaten track on flat routes. The eight-day self-guided tour starts at Chaumont before strolling down along the River Cher through Montrichard, Chenonceau and Montlouis past fields and vineyards, with time for wine tastings. There’s a stop at Amboise and some of France’s finest chateaus. Highlights include the Chateau de Chaumont, set in landscaped gardens; Chateau d’Amboise, a former royal residence which houses the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci; Caves des Roches, an underground town previously sculpted in a limestone quarry; and La Magnanerie de Bourre, a troglodyte site and silk-worm farm.
Departures between May and October, from £979 including flights/rail travel but excluding meals. Headwater (01606 822657; headwater.com).
Château de Chenonceau

2. The way to Crete

This 13-day Crete’s Coast and Mountains itinerary wends its way around western Crete, passing through Aiolos, homeland of the god of the winds, the pirate country of Gramvoussa, and Elafonisi, land of the Cyclops. A self-guided trip, it includes stops at a monastery in Chryssoskalitissa, a beach at Elafonisi and the gorges of Paleochora, one of the main attractions of walking in southern Crete. There’s a chance to spot griffin vultures that nest on the slopes of Mount Prophet Ilias and the option to spend a full day relaxing in Souyia, a small seaside village. Other highlights include the ancient ruins of Lissos, the city of Chania and the Irini Gorge which has only recently been opened up for exploration, and rivals the more famous Samaria Gorge.
Departures between April and October, from £998, including some meals but excluding flights. Inntravel (01653 617001; inntravel.co.uk).
Wend your way around western Crete, passing through Aiolos, homeland of the god of the winds and the pirate country of Gramvoussa

3. Road to La Gomera

Based in a four-star hotel, this seven-day guided walking tour takes in Garajonay National Park, Hermigua, the Green Valley, Benchijigua Valley and the Guanimiar Barranco. The itinerary offers a choice to choose between an easier or harder walk each day to suit your mood or fitness level. Highlights include a visit to the Visitor Centre high above Agulo to learn about the flora and fauna of the island, the beach of Playa Guancha, and the town of El Cercado, famed for its pottery. There’s also a stroll through San Sebastian and a visit to the Ermita de Lourdes, a small chapel tucked away beside a stream in the woods.
Departures between February and April, from £1,149 half-board including flights. HF Holidays (0345 470 8558; hfholidays.co.uk).
La Gomera

4. St Emilion and La Rochelle

Visit St Emilion and then La Rochelle on foot on this new guided walking tour. The eight-day itinerary visits the vineyards of St Emilion and stops at the Chateau Trescher for a wine tasting before ambling through Charente-Maritime and ending at La Rochelle via the "city of oysters" and the 16th-century citadel at Brouage. The tour includes a guided walk through La Rochelle’s vieille ville to visit its old port, cathedral and market quarter as well as a stop at Ile de Ré’s fishing villages and beaches. There’s also a boat ride to the Ile d’Aix for a stroll to a sandy cove.
Departures between May and September, from £1,099 half-board. Adagio (01707 386700; adagio.co.uk).

5. Costa Rica on foot

This new 15-day "Volcanoes and Tropical Forests" trip visits Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The tour includes walks in Braulio Carrillo National Park, La Selva Biological Station’s rainforest and Cerro Chato in Arenal Volcano National Park. There are also hikes through cloudforest to San Ramon Waterfall and through Rincon de la Vieja National Park to the Blue Lagoon Waterfall. In addition to walks and hikes, there is a ferry to Isla Ometepe and a horse-drawn carriage ride through Granada. In keeping with the theme, there’s a walking tour of Mombacho Volcano and a hike on El Hoyo. There is also a visit to thermal baths and a chance to see howler monkeys, toucans and humming birds.
Departures between November and December, from £2,087 b&b. Explore (01252 883 936; explore.co.uk).

6. Along the Amalfi coast

A self-guided Amalfi coast tour sees walkers hike from Amalfi to Sorrento, taking in Ravello, Praiano, Positano and the Sentiero degli Dei, or the "path of the gods". This eight-day itinerary allows you to walk the whole route without using a single bus or taxi if you wish. Highlights include the gardens of the Villa Cimbrone, castle Torre dello Ziro overlooking both Amalfi and Atrani, the Marina di Furore “fiord” and the uninhabited monastery, San Domenico. There is the option to spend a day in Positano and the Sorrento Peninsula, which is home to three beaches: Ieranto, Marina del Cantone and Recommone. Extend your stay a few nights to visit Pompeii, Herculaneum, Vesuvius, Capri or Naples — all possible from Sorrento.
From £730 b&b excluding flights. On Foot Holidays (01722 322 652;onfootholidays.co.uk).

7. Panoramas of the Swiss Alps

Based in Meiringen, this eight-day itinerary from Sherpa Expeditions includes strolls to high ridges and even glacier exploring. The self-guided tour includes a walk from the hamlet of Gschwantenmad along the Reichenbech River to Schwarzwaldalp across the Brünig Pass, a walk up through the forest and pastures to the pass at Kleine Scheidegg for great views of the Eiger and Jungfrau, and a walk past meadows and rugged limestone crags to the Bernese Oberland Massif. There are stops along the way: the Piz Gloria of James Bond fame, the Ballenberg open-air museum at Brienzwiler where you can spot traditional farm buildings from all over Switzerland, and the Reichenbach Falls.
Departures between May and October, from £790 including most meals, but excluding flights. Sherpa Expeditions (0800 008 7741;sherpaexpeditions.com).
Grindelwald Village in Berner Oberland, Switzerland

8. Trails of the Garden Route

This new "Trails of the Garden Route" tour takes in some of the best coastal trails, forest and gorges in South Africa. The 16-day trip includes a hike up Table Mountain, a walk along the Alexandria Trail and a full day game drive in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa’s third largest national park home to lions, Black rhino, meerkats and the dung beetle. There are free days with optional beach walks or boat rides through Featherbed Nature Reserve as well as time to explore Cape Town. Other highlights include some of the country’s famous wineries in Stellenbosch and Franschoek where you will stop for tastings. There are plenty of hikes in the trip, including a walk along part of the Whale Trail, which provides the chance to spot Southern Right whales off shore.
Departures between June and September, from £2,599 including flights and most meals. Exodus (0845 287 7583; exodus.co.uk).

9. From Porto to Santiago de Compostela

This seven-day tour from Porto to Santiago de Compostela begins in the old town of Porto and meanders into Barcelos, before strolling to Ponte de Lima and then onwards into Calda de Reis and Padron, before ending at the holy city of Santiago de Compostela. St James’s remains are said to have been carried here for burial after arriving at Padron by boat from Jerusalem. Highlights of the tour include visits to Porto's cathedral, walking across the border from Portugal into Spain on the iron bridge over the river Minho, and a walk through farming lands in Ponte de Lima where the famous vinho verde is produced.
Departures between April and October, from £1,125 half-board. Ramblers (01707 33 11 33; ramblersholidays.co.uk).

10. Tuscan Trail

Tuscan Trail was the first tour ATG Oxford ran when the company began in 1979. It is offering it again this year with an enhanced itinerary and an improved selection of hotels and restaurants. This seven-day guided trip takes in Volterra, San Gimignano, Colle Val d’Elsa, Monterigionni and Siena. There are walks through medieval streets down to an olive grove beneath which lie extensive Etruscan tombs, picnics hosted by ATG, dinner at one of San Gimignano’s best restaurants and a visit to a Romanesque abbey church before walking in the footsteps of Dante Alighieri. There is also a free day in Siena to explore the lesser-known parts of the medieval city.
Departures between May and September, from £2,895 including flights and most meals. ATG Oxford (01865 315 678; atg-oxford.co.uk).
Volterra, Tuscany


  • Most tours are suitable for travellers of all fitness levels. However, for some trips, guests must be able to swim. Walking tours nearly always give details of how demanding the daily itineraries are - if not, ask!
  • Luggage transfers between hotels are normally included in the price, but double check.
  • Some tours listed are self-guided. Route notes and maps will be provided.
  • αναδημοσίευση από http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

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