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.
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. France, Italy and Spain, with their varied terrain and enduring appeal, feature heavily on the list. There are also walks in Switzerland, Portugal, Greece, South 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 LoireThis 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.
2. The way to CreteThis 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.
3. Road to La GomeraBased 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.
Source : Telegraph.co.uk