Where to go on a self
guided walking vacation

Self guided walking vacations allow you that independence, while leading you gently by the hand into regions you might not have thought of before. So the Alps are always mind-blowing, but the Mercantour National Park in the Southern Alps is stunning. And empty. The Italian Riviera is dreamy, but the Amalfi Coast is verging on walking pornography, the views are that obscenely good. And the Camino de Santiago is world-famous as a self guided walking vacation but, to escape the crowds, you will have more than a few heavenly moments walking through the deserted coves of Catalonia. These are some of our highlights, but the experts who create your itineraries along each self guided walk are the ones who hold the real secrets within.
The Alps

1. The Alps

Alpine walking vacations vary greatly, from ‘the hills being alive with the sound of music’ type to the more ‘full on conquering Mont Blanc’ type. You can go winter walking or summer meadow walking. You can take a guide or a donkey. You can touch toes with the Alps in France, Switzerland, Austria or Italy. Take your pick. Which you will need, when the snow hits.
Amalfi Coast, Italy

2. Amalfi Coast, Italy

This is coast candy for hikers. Mountains rise up from the Mediterranean, picture perfect towns nestle neatly into isolated coves and fine food and drink tumbles out of every trattoria. Follow ancient mule paths up from affluent villa clad beaches, and bash your boots through the likes of Sorrento, the Valle delle Ferriere nature reserve, Pompeii, Ravello, Capri and Positano.

3. Andalucia

Welcome to the Moorish heartland of Spain with walking vacations exploring the hills around the famous Arab-infuenced cities of Ronda, Malaga, Seville and Cadiz. Hike your way through Arab, Jewish and Christian history. Or enjoy the sheer gorges, glacial lakes and powder-dusted peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the highest mountain range in Europe after the Alps.
Camino de Santiago

4. Camino de Santiago

This humble trail across northern Spain draws pilgrims from across the globe to share in the classic landscapes, the hearty northern dishes and the very Spanish sense of “solidarity”. Roughing it in hostels is still possible – but plusher accommodation is now springing up along the Camino, meaning you can enjoy the trail's highlights but with a quiet, comfy bed to collapse into at the end of each day.

5. Catalonia

This is one of those ‘why have I never come here before now?’ places. As you walk, you will see that the famous Catalan regional pride is totally justified, boasting snowy Pyrenean peaks to sun-soaked Mediterranean coves as well as a volcanic park. There is a plethora of hiking trails traversing wild, deserted coasts and dainty turquoise coves, or the inland Aiguamolls Nature Reserve.

6. Croatia

With its pine forest islands and medieval walled cities, the coast is what most of us know about Croatia. But there are also extraordinary walking vacations to be had less than an hour inland, with five national parks to explore. Try the green valleys of Konavle, where ancient mills and family-run vineyards hide away against the Montenegro border.

7. Ireland

There are many ways to see Ireland, but walking along the Kerry or Dingle Way are a couple of great ones. Yes, you'll need rain gear on these wild mountain and coastal hiking routes, but you will never be far from a hot whiskey to warm you up again. Or a restaurant serving local seafood chowder and homemade Irish bread. Or, in true Irish style, a fine welcoming smile.
Mercantour National Park

8. Mercantour National Park

In Nice, take an hour-long mountain train into the otherworldly wonders of the Alpes Maritimes and Alpes de Haute Provence, all part of the relatively unknown Mercantour National Park. A popular area for walking with donkeys to carry your bags, you follow in the steps of shepherds who still do the same, along waymarked ways through ancient forest, up rocky inclines, and along icy river valleys.
Picos de Europa

9. Picos de Europa

Extraordinarily, this 2,650m-high mountain range has not popped up on most hikers' compasses. The limestone massif is frequently snow-draped, and shelters chamois goats, bearded vultures, Iberian wolves and even brown bears. The villages here are isolated yet welcoming, the food is possibly Spain's finest – and you're still just 10km from the craggy Costa Verde.
Pilgrims’ Way, UK

10. Pilgrims’ Way, UK

This 200km trail follows an ancient track between Winchester and Canterbury, with a good part of it following in the footsteps of those taking on the North Downs. A popular section is from the historic cathedral town of Rochester, following the chalk ridge along the edge of the North Downs, to the medieval cathedral town of Canterbury.

11. Poitou-Charentes

Rural rambling for Francophiles who don't want to tackle the Alpine peaks, but crave a few hits of Gallic gorgeousness. Such as Les Cinq Communes walk through wild orchid filled woods, or Le Beugnon Lake, with leafy valleys and overflowing orchards. And the Marais Poitevin, a vast patchwork of ancient canals surrounded by pastures, woods and the obligatory picturesque French villages.

12. Portugal

The 350km Rota Vicentina waymarked way, along Portugal's southwest coast, gets douze points from the European hiking jury. Hike through coastal wildflower valleys, cork forests and up into the Alentejo uplands. Inland, trace the Serra de Monchique's ancient paths through orange and almond groves, or if you want to aim high and head for the Serra d'Arga mountains.

13. Scotland

You have to walk in Scotland. It's against the law not to. Well, actually, the right to walk all over their varied landscape is enshrined in law, so even if they don't make you hike, it's rude not to really. There are good guides galore to show off the delights of the Cairngorms National Park as well as the islands and Highlands. A hipflask full of malt is also the law.

14. Turkey

Far from the madding crowds of the coastal resorts lie almost deserted hiking routes, such as the Lycian Way coastal trail from Fethiye to Antalya, which takes you up to the limestone peaks of Olympos. Or the Carian Trail into the hiking heartlands of southwestern Turkey, following old mule paths, with plenty of cool down options in glittering bays and the shade of ancient ruins.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Self guided walking or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Thomas Schweighofer] [The Alps: icenando] [Amalfi Coast, Italy: Sander Crombach] [Andalucia: Fotomicar] [Camino de Santiago: Mario Cales] [Catalonia: estivillml] [Croatia: ZM_Photo] [Ireland: dsblock] [Mercantour National Park: Tramont_ana] [Picos de Europa: MarquesPhotography] [Pilgrims’ Way, UK: Mikael Leppä] [Poitou-Charentes: Webzooloo] [Portugal: pxhere] [Scotland: Thierry Gregorius] [Turkey: Warren Talbot]