What activities can I do on a small group walking vacation?
Things to do
Two for the price of one
There are more and more walking vacations for people who want to combine it with another activity, or learn a new skill. You can combine Spanish classes with strolls along sections of Spain’s famous Camino de Santiago. Or care for your chakras in the French Alps in the yoga studio or on the mountainside. Hike with huskies in Finland, or combine walking with kayaking in Patagonia.
Most walkers don’t just want to just ‘bag’ a mountain, or race from one valley to the next. Unless we’re in search of complete solitude, the concept of getting off the beaten track on vacation entices because it helps us to get in touch with the real country and its culture. Not the one laid on for tourists. A lot of walking vacations cater for this craving for cultural exchange, staying in traditional rural accommodation such as ryokans in the mountains of Japan, mountain auberges in the French Alps, or pensions in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey. Or by visiting important cultural sites en route, such as nunneries in Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains or ancient monasteries on Greek islands. As you walk past tea plantations and spice farms in Sri Lanka you can learn about traditional harvesting methods, and in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains you can mix with villagers while soothing aching muscles in the local hammam. That is one of the most wonderful things about walking vacations in remote spots. Hosts rarely feel threatened or ‘invaded’ by walkers. Turn up with a coachload of camera slinging tourists, however, and it’s a different story.
Hikers like to pack their bags full of energy bars and drinks, but it is worth remembering that buying local food is sometimes the only way that a destination can make money from tourists coming to hike their natural wonders. So you need to shake off that Tupperware full of homemade sandwiches and flask of tea frame of mind, eat local and gorge yourself on the goodies on offer whenever you can.
If you want to include wildlife watching as part of your walking vacation, you need to choose your destination carefully, and spend some time with an expert local guide if you can. Such as on a walking safari in Africa where, of course, you need full safety supervision while you walk. And if you didn’t think you were a wildlife fan Scotland will convert you, especially as there are fantastic guides there to help you spot a golden eagle or red deer. Watch out for wild goats in Sierra de Gredos in Spain, or combine a night trek on a walking vacation in Madagascar to spot the various species of lemur. The secret is to read up on the country’s wildlife a little before you go, bring binoculars, keep your voice down and your eyes peeled. And don’t forget to just stop and listen.