All over the world are walking tours and treks which have been established and enjoyed by thousands. They don’t have to be strenuous, although some are not for couch potatoes.
In this article, I have singled out 8 iconic walking tours or treks involving 4 continents.
Camino de Santiago Walk, Spain
This walking tour is on one of the world’s oldest pilgrimage routes. However, you don’t have to be a “pilgrim” to undertake this particular walk on Spain holidays. Those who decide to walk this trail, do it for various reasons. They may see it as a religious undertaking; they may see it as a challenge; or they may just enjoy walking and meeting others as there can be much camaraderie involved in this walk. The ultimate aim is to reach the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain where the shrine of the apostle St. James is located. There is no one way to walk the Camino as there are nine main routes. However, the most common route, known as the Camino del Norte (Northern Way), starts in San Sebastian on the French border and follows trails along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. The total distance of the route is 650 kilometres/400 miles. En route, you stay at hostels with beds in dormitories called a refugio or albergue. The cost is extremely low and it is expected you only stay overnight and then continue on the next morning. It is in these hostels that you have the opportunity to socialize with other like-minded travellers. How far do you walk each day? Around 20 kilometres/12 miles. For a less Spartan experience, you can arrange to stay in more upscale establishments such as paradors (luxury hotels usually located in a converted historic building such as a monastery or a castle) and you can have even your luggage transferred each day from one place to the next. All this can be arranged in advance.
Sample Group Itinerary:
Spain – Camino Santiago Walking Tour
The Amalfi Coast, Italy
You have heard the expression, “See Naples and die.” Well, I have had to invent a new expression for this walking tour, “See the Amalfi Coast and believe you are in heaven.” If you are aware of the beauty and magnificence of this part of Italy, you will know how exceptional it is. By exploring on foot, you will appreciate the coastal scenery seen from tall cliffs while meandering through attractive sleepy small villages. There are many advertised walks on offer which range from easy to reasonably strenuous. Distances vary from 4 kilometres/2.5 miles to 16 kilometres/10 miles and length from 3 to 6 hours. An example is the one called Path of the Gods which goes from Agerola to Positano and takes around four and a half hours. The views on this walk are unbelievable. The route is lined with orchids and you can smell the lemon groves. Far below, waves are crashing against giant boulders. If you are ever in this region on an Italy vacation, you will be able to obtain information on these walks, all of which are recommended on your Europe trip.
8-Day Active Amalfi Coast
The Inca Trail, Peru
You can certainly view the famous site of Machu Picchu in relative comfort on an organized Peru vacation by bus or train, but a different way is to lace up your walking boots and take a trek with the ultimate destination being this iconic site. The Inca Trail is probably South America’s most famous walk. The trail begins in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas to the ceremonial site of Machu Picchu. After anywhere from 1 to 6 days of hiking through wild mountain scenery, you will suddenly arrive at this magical ancient city. You must join an organized group to undertake this trek. It is highly recommended that you arrive in Peru a few days before the trek to become acclimatized to the altitude, otherwise the trek will be much more difficult than it need be. You will sleep in tents and porters will carry provisions for meals which are prepared for you en route. You will stay at designated campsites. This spectacular trek through the high Andes of 43 kilometres/26 miles for the full trek gives you the opportunity to enjoy extraordinary mountain views combined with lush cloud-forest, subtropical jungle, and a stunning mix of Inca paving stones, ruins, and tunnels.
Torres del Paine National Park W Trek, Chile
Torres del Paine National Park is a national park in Patagonia which offers what I would call majestic and dramatic scenery on a Chile vacation. This consists of breathtaking glaciers, valleys and lakes as well as magnificent mountains. It is called the W Trek because it is shaped like a W. You can start from either Punta Arenas in the extreme south of Chile or Calafate, further north, and drive to the park to commence the trek. There are treks in the Torres del Paine National Park ranging from 1 to 6 days and stop over in mountain lodges. Certain parts of this trek can be strenuous but not all of it. Paths are good and well maintained. The trail to the base of the Tower viewpoint is probably the most famous trek in Torres del Paine. The challenge comes at the end, climbing the steep moraine of boulders overlooking the famous Torres del Paine which consists of three gigantic granite monoliths.
7-Day W Trek Torres del Paine National Park
Trekking in Nepal
Trekking in Nepal can be done from both Kathmandu in the east of the country or Pokhara in the west. Nepal treks can be easy or strenuous depending on your interest and ability. They can be done stopping overnight at what are called Tea Houses – which are basically tourist lodges – or by sleeping overnight in tents. Usually, most trekkers join a group on Nepal tours which includes a guide, porters, and full provisions. Treks can be customized to the individual, ranging from one day to much longer periods of up to at least 3 weeks. Pokhara is the more popular starting point because of the proximity of the beautiful Annapurna mountain range. Walking follows ancient foot trails which meander through scenic riverbanks, intricately terraced fields and forested ridges connecting picturesque hamlets and mountain villages. One special trek is to the Mount Everest Base Camp. This is undertaken by flying from Kathmandu to Lukla, which is the start of the trek at 2860 metres/9295 feet. You eventually reach the base camp which is at 5380 metres/17,600 feet. On average, the trek takes 8 days to reach the camp and 4 days to return coming down. It is a good idea to spend a little time in the village of Namche en route to acclimatize to the altitude. Aside from the breathtaking beauty along the way, you will come across villages and monasteries where you can experience typical Sherpa culture.
3-Day Trekking in Nepal (Gurung Easy Trek)
You can choose treks in Northern or Southern Thailand. The terrain and scenery in each are vastly different. In Northern Thailand where you will find the best trekking, there are a number of options. There is much to see, and in fact, you could undertake three trekking trips and still not cover all the trails available in this part of the country. You can trek through lush valleys, forest-covered hills and over mountain peaks. You can join an organized trek in Chiang Mai and head to places such as Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and other traditional Thai towns. Some treks include homestays which are hosted by local people and will give you an experience and an insight into village life, in some case, the hill tribe people. While staying here, you will head out on walks in the forest with the villagers.
In Southern Thailand, your treks can be taken through national parks featuring lush jungle, spectacular waterfalls, and limestone caves, and through areas of exotic flora and fauna. Some of the better-known places to trek are Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Khao Sok National Park, which has everything described above. These are just two of many available on a Thailand vacation.
Kilimanjaro Climb, Tanzania
At 5,895 metres/19,341 feet, this is the highest mountain in Africa. You can view this magnificent snow-capped mountain from Amboseli National Park just over the border in Kenya and, at the same time, enjoy a Tanzania safari. If you are the adventurous, fit and energetic type, you can, as many others have done on a Tanzania vacation, climb Mount Kilimanjaro. There are six official trekking routes that attract visitors from around the world. Despite its fame, Kilimanjaro is often underestimated because it can be walked and is therefore not technically a climb. However, many mountaineers dispute this, saying that the high elevations, low temperatures and occasional high winds make the mountain very physically demanding. For the average person, it takes between five to nine days to complete the round-trip. Statistics show that less than half of all climbers actually reach the summit. Unbelievably, the fastest ascent-descent was by a Swiss-Ecuadorian mountain guide who ran to the top and back in 6 hours and 42 minutes in 2014!
If you have ever been on a safari in either east or southern Africa, you have probably viewed the wildlife from a safari vehicle in perfect safety. Well, you can actually take a walking safari in some of the same places and live to tell the tale. My first experience of a walking safari was in Kruger National Park on a South Africa vacation. A group of us were taken out from our lodge in the bush led by a ranger with a shotgun. We were all somewhat trepid and when we asked the ranger if anyone had been attacked on one of these walking tours, he replied, never. That made me feel better as we followed animal footprints to track down perhaps the more docile of animals such as giraffes. It was an exhilarating experience. You have to trust your guide. He wants to live too!
In the vast majority of cases, a walking safari is a short stroll around the periphery of your camp and it is unlikely you will encounter the more dangerous large animals. However, if you are up for it, you can join a walking safari which includes getting close – but not too close – to elephants, rhinos, buffalos, and lions. This type of walk should get your adrenaline going. Both kinds of walking safaris can be done in at least Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
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