Picture yourself following in the footsteps of smugglers through Spanish hills to the tinkle of cow bells, each footfall producing aromas of wild herbs. Now shift your gaze to Japan’s mountainous Kii Peninsula and imagine you are treading ancient Shinto-Buddhist pilgrims’ trails to shrines and temples. Feet getting itchy?
Having flown part way around the world at break-neck speed, slowing down to pedestrian pace promises a travel experience like no other. Turn your back on the famous cities – for a few days anyway – and get into the rhythms of country life on a walking holiday.
Many countries have extensive well-marked walking trail networks for enjoyable independent hiking. With good guide books, maps and computer time you can plan several days on foot between village accommodation and/or camp sites.
Efficient regional bus services – such as in Spain – enable you to save the cost of having a hired car sitting unused while you walk (and escape the stress of driving on the wrong side of the road). A great source of non-standard, excellently priced privately owned accommodation around the world is www.airbnb.com.
Europe inspired inn-to-inn walking – with the provision of food and lodgings for religious pilgrims – and a number of companies offer self-guided and guided inn to inn walking holidays. These are ideal if a tried and trusted walking route appeals and you don’t want to arrange it yourself. On these trips you either do walks from a central hub, with transport provided each day to a different starting point, or carry a day pack from hotel to hotel while your luggage takes a prearranged ride.
There are also fully guided walking tours, a great option in countries where language is a barrier and/or you want a walking companion and go-to person who knows about the region’s history and natural environment.
A couple of suggested overseas walks:
Arrange your own amble – with occasional scramble – from the white town of Pampaneira, in Las Alpujarras, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, to Alqueria de Morayma. This two-day walk via the towns of Mecina-Fondales, Busquistar and Castaras, festooned with drying chillies in autumn, takes you through verdant small holdings, walled sheep fields, olive groves and across a Moorish bridge.
Enjoy the gorgeous Abel Tasman Peninsula, on the South Island’s northwest coast, on a 3- or 5-day walk with the Wilson family, descendants of the Hadfields who settled here in the late 19th century; www.abeltasman.co.nz or www.outdoortravel.com.au.
Australian-based Outdoor Travel – www.outdoortravel.com.au – sells a range of self-guided and guided walking holidays in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Peregrine Adventures offers walking and trekking trips around the world: www.peregrineadventures.com.