There really is no better way to immerse yourself in a new place than to experience it on foot. As well as discovering your new location up close, walking is a great way to combine culture, exploration and adventure, with a dash of exercise thrown in for good measure.
Breathe in mountain air as you scale a rocky peak, doff your hiking shoes to dip your feet in a cool mountain stream, and enjoy a well-earned rest at the end of the day in a different village each night.
Europe is brimming with beautiful destinations for walking holidays as it’s full of national parks, soaring peaks, enchanting forests, and vast rivers and lakes; the perfect antidote to city life.
Here are three great ideas for walking holidays in Europe:
North Italian Dolomites
Named after the mineralogist who first wrote about the mountain range, the eighteen limestone peaks of the Dolomites capture all that is beautiful about Northern Italy.
Part of the Alps, and declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2009, the Dolomites are an astounding vista packed with sheer cliffs, open air museums and the vast Dolomiti Bellunesi national park.
Ranges such as the Dolomites are often just regarded as skiing destinations, but by taking the time to walk through this captivating terrain, visitors can truly appreciate the natural beauty of this part of Italy, and experience magnificent scenery, flora and fauna at close quarters.
The Amalfi Coast
Alternatively, travel to the south of Italy for an equally beautiful but contrasting experience. The lemon and olive groves, beaches and colourful towns stacked on cliff edges of the Amalfi Coast make it the perfect place to explore by foot.
The winding roads carved out of sheer mountain sides can look daunting at first,
but this soon fades as each twist and turn in the road reveals, yet more, outstanding ocean views.
You will be spoilt for choice when presented with impossibly beautiful towns to visit on your trip, between Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento and Ravello, the list goes on! A visit to the town of Ravello is a real must owing to its botanical gardens spectacular views, wonderful locals and all round Mediterranean charm.
While in the vicinity, take advantage of Amalfi’s proximity to Mt Vezouvios and the ruined cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, where hours can be lost roaming the ancient cobbled streets and houses preserved by volcanic ash.
As Amalfi is always a popular holiday destination, travelling just out of season is recommended for a more relaxed atmosphere, where you can spend time with the locals and unwind on the beach, but be warned, one visit will leave you forever yearning your return.
The Floating Gardens of Portugal
Madeira is an island of infinite beauty, home to a dazzling display of plants from all over the world. This place is a walker’s paradise, and there are a wealth of walking tours through verdant forests, exploring the coast between majestic cliffs and ridges.
Deservedly called the Pearl of the Atlantic, Madeira has a mild climate throughout the year, perfect for walkers who are not in a hurry, stopping to contemplate the breath taking scenery, exotic flowers and beautiful birds – and if you are fortunate, a glimpse of the bird of paradise.
Some walks follow a network of water channels, known as levadas, leading you through picturesque villages and quiet subtropical terrain, or you can immerse yourself walking along the miles of coastline through hilltop hamlets with unforgettable views of the Atlantic waves crashing in against the cliffs.
Although the walks are magnificent, take the time to visit the historic Monte’s botanical gardens and elaborate 18th century church, then take the cable car to Funchal, a captivating hilltop city with a piratical past. When it’s time to take a break from walking you can enjoy a leisurely boat trip or find a unique purchase in one of the local markets.
Biog: Lucy is a complete and utter lover of Italy and is relishing the opportunity to return to the Amalfi Coast.