What are the key factors that define your idea of the perfect walking holiday? Is it the place, time, distance, terrain or accommodation? Is it your own particular combination of these, or could it be something entirely different? There’s a lot to think about and many important decisions to make before you pull on your boots, grab your map and head off into the (albeit waymarked) ‘unknown’.
For many of us, it’s the natural environment – be it the majestic, soaring grandeur of the Swiss Alps or the pastel shades of pastoral Provence – that is often most influential in helping you reach your decision on where to go. Whether you’re following a winding path as it leads you to discover an idyllic corner of some sun-kissed Greek island, or wandering beneath the awe-inspiring backdrop of the rugged Sierra Nevada in southern Spain, glorious landscapes are best absorbed and appreciated on foot.
Walk and be inspired by the natural wonders around you – from the almost surreal fairy chimneys of Cappadocia to the geysers, glaciers and waterfalls of Iceland’s striking interior. Walk to get away from it all: off the beaten track along Corfu’s north-west coast or amid the handsome Picos de Europa in Asturias, unhindered by baggage and, more importantly, at a pace you set. Walk and encounter friendly, unassuming people in the medieval villages of Tuscany or the traditional pubs of southern Ireland and discover more about the place you are in: its history, culture and heritage.
It’s also vital to match the level of walking you’re planning to undertake with your own capabilities and levels of fitness. Some may prefer the thrill and exhilaration of high mountain routes that cross craggy ridges beneath the snow-capped peaks of Bavaria; for others, a leisurely walk amid rolling hills, shady woodland and the quiet villages of Istria will be enough to recharge the batteries and re-energise the soul; while for many more, a gentle stroll along the picturesque coast of Brittany, or through flower-filled meadows in the Yorkshire Dales is sufficient reward. Equally important, too, is selecting the type of walking holiday that best suits your needs – does the idea of walking from village to village in the Apennines of northern Italy appeal, or would you rather spend each day exploring a place in more detail, from the comfort of a single base on the genteel island of Menorca or along the rugged coast of Crete?
And when the day is done, your walk is over and you reach your accommodation for the night, it’s time to relax and reflect on where you have been and all you have seen. Dine on a delicately-flavoured seafood dish in an elegant 4-star hotel overlooking the Catalan Coast; savour a hearty wild boar stew in an authentic wayside inn in the mountains of the Auvergne, or relax over a feast of local delicacies in a traditional Norwegian fishing village in the remarkable Lofoten Islands.
On an ideal walking holiday, it pays to be inquisitive – you see more by slowing down, by stopping to pass the time of day with the people you meet, and by relaxing into the rhythm and patterns of everyday life. Only by taking time to walk at your own pace will you appreciate the little things and see a place as it really is – as the locals do…
About our guest blogger: Peter Williamson is an experienced travel writer and walker, having spent the past five years as copywriter for specialist travel company, Inntravel, the Slow Holiday People. During this time he has travelled extensively throughout Europe, researching and writing route notes for the company’s self-guided walking holidays, as well as writing for Inntravel’s brochures and website. Prior to this, Peter was a freelance writer and author for many years, writing on a wide range of subjects across a wide range of industries. He has published a number of popular walking books, including ‘Castle Walks in Yorkshire’, highlighting his love of his home county; history (he has an MA in Historical Research) and, of course, walking.
Top photo: Lofoten Islands, Norway © Peter Williamson