Types of walking vacations

They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes

Choosing a walking vacation feels a bit like when you go to buy a pair of hiking boots. There are so many choose from, to suit different budgets, different terrains and different seasons.. So we have categorized our walking vacations just to make your search a little easier. If you are just stepping out for the first time, you will want an introductory or moderate level walking vacation. If you want to work it a bit, training up before you go and stretching yourself a little on vacation, then go for something like our strenuous walking vacations or winter walking vacations. And if you really want to push the boat out and every single muscle in your body, go for one of our very challenging treks or climbing vacations. Whichever you choose, just make sure you have the right boots.

Stepping out

Introductory walking
If a long Sunday afternoon walk is about all you can manage, time wise or stamina wise, an introductory walking trip will help put a spring in your step. No experience required, but healthy enough to walk 4-5 hours on flat–ish trails such as the Almalfi or Croatian Coast Path, ancient mountain pathways such as the Nakansendo Trail in Japan, or simply combine walking with wine tasting in Tuscany. Rude not to, really.
Moderate walking
If you have pushed yourself up a few hills of a Sunday these moderate walking vacations will push you just a bit more, with 5-8 hours walking per day, and some days stretching those calves more than others, but leaving you a bit of rest in between, so you can take in the sights. The Alentjo region of Portugal or even the Mont Blanc circuit (not ascent) will whet your appetite as examples.
Walking plus one
There are more and more walking vacations for people who want to combine it with another activity, or learning a new skill. For example, you can combine Spanish classes with strolls along sections of Spain’s famous Camino de Santiago. Or salute the sun in the French Alps from both a yoga studio and a mountainside. Hike with huskies in Finland, or combine walking with kayaking in Patagonia.
Self-guided walking
Many walking vacations are for groups, however, if you prefer to walk independently, then there are superb options out there. An organised self-guided walking vacation takes all the work out of it for you, providing maps, copious notes, accommodation, luggage transfers and food. So all you have to do is walk. It depends on the walk, but in general no previous experience is needed, although an ability to read a map does help!
Walking safari
This is how safaris used to be – experiencing wildlife by trekking and tracking with expert guides. For example, walk through Tanzania’s Silela Forest following elephant and buffalo trails to secret waterholes, or walk 10 kms per day along Zambia’s Mupamadzi River in search of lions, buffalo and extraordinary birdlife. Walking safaris range from a 3-4 hour walk from camp, to a mobile safari moving from camp to camp.
Centre-based walking
Basing yourself in one place, but taking different walks every day, center-based walking vacations are great for people who want to explore but not keep unpacking and repacking. They range from basing yourself in a wilderness lodge in Canada’s Rockies, an auberge in the Poitou-Charentes region of France, a 4 star hotel in Catalonia or a country hotel in the Rif Mountains of Morocco.

Working it

Strenuous walking
Treks like Everest Base Camp, Mount Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains or the remote peaks of Los Glaciares National Parks in Patagonia are definitely strenuous walking vacations, and definitely for regular gym goers, runners or serious hikers. These trips take you into challenging mountain terrain, usually at altitude, so you need good all round fitness to adjust to this too. These walking vacations are nearly always guided.
Wilderness trekking
The world’s truly wild places are few and far between these days as we humans tend to get everywhere. Wilderness trekking vacations take place where you will meet virtually no other hikers, in locations that are almost raw in their beauty. Most require a reasonable but not super level of fitness, and often require camping. Examples include Yunnan Province in China, the Khangai Mountains of Mongolia or the Maliau Basin of Borneo.
Winter walking
You can still get your fix of the mountains in winter, even if you don’t ski, on a ‘wake up the senses’ winter walking vacation. Learn new skills such as snowshoeing in the Mercantour region of the lower Alps, or using crampons and ice picks in Scotland’s Cairngorms. Or just enjoy the mild winters and empty mountains around Andalucia or Alicante. Whichever you choose, these vacations usually require no experience, but reasonable fitness.
Pilgrimage walks
The most famous is, of course, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, which religious pilgrims still undertake, but worshippers of all things natural love walking love too. There are many other such ancient pilgrimages in the world, however, such as the Kumano Kodo Trail in Japan along the sacred and shrine filled Kii Peninsula or, closer to home, The Pilgrims Way in Kent.

Pushing it

Very challenging trekking
When does a strenuous walking vacation become a very challenging trek? Well, Mount Toubkal is strenuous, but in winter, it’s a different ball game. Patagonia is out of this world, but trekking across its Ice Cap is another planet. And Kilimanjaro is what it is. Serious fitness, stamina and a desire to just keep going for 7-9 hours a day, sometimes for up to 14 days, are what’s needed in these majestic mountain terrains.
High altitude trekking
It’s tough at the top, and that is where you are headed on high altitude trekking vacations. Think High Inca Trail, Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp, Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo, or the Annapurna Base Camp. And then think serious training, as guided by vacation company experts, weekend trips to trek in local mountains before you go, cold temperatures, long days, high altitudes. Oh, and some of the most gobsmacking scenery in the world. Beauty never comes easy, after all.
A trek turns into a climbing vacation when you start to add in all the gadgets, such as ropes, crampons and ice picks. You need to up your skills for these vacations, not just your stamina, although many climbing vacations do take beginners, spending some time training at lower altitudes. Fitness levels need to be high though. Climbing climaxes include the volcanoes of Ecuador, ice climbing on Mont Blanc, and the dramatic rock formations of Granada, Spain.
Charity treks
Charity treks give an incentive to take on a personal challenge while also contributing to charity. There are two types: one that raises
money for a local charity, such as social
change projects for Machu Picchu
residents or projects proposed by the
Zulu communities you walk through in
South Africa’s Drakensberg
Mountains. Or take on a classic such
as the Great Wall of China or
Everest Base Camp to raise
money for a favourite charity.
Photo credits: [Top box: Zach Dischner] [Intro & moderate: Andrew Hitchcock] [Plus one & self guided: Steve K] [Safari & center based: Stig Nygaard] [Strenuous & wilderness: McKay Savage] [Winter & pilgrimage: Jennifer C.] [Climbing & charity treks: Travelmate Vacations Sdn. Bhd]
Written by Catherine Mack
Amalfi Coast walking vacation, Italy

Amalfi Coast walking vacation, Italy

Walk in lemon groves and hillside villages

From US $1475 8 Days ex flights
Luxury trekking vacation in the Atlas Mountains

Luxury trekking vacation in the Atlas Mountains

Stay at the Kasbah and trek in style

From 957 6 Days ex flights
Walking vacation in Greece

Walking vacation in Greece

A week's walking

From US $1395 8 Days ex flights
Croatian coast walking tours, self guided

Croatian coast walking tours, self guided

Self guided walking tour on the sunny Croatian coast

From 575 7 Days ex flights
Croatia national parks hiking vacation

Croatia national parks hiking vacation

Walking vacation in Croatia's beautiful national parks.

From 670 8 Days ex flights
Dolomites walking vacation in Italy

Dolomites walking vacation in Italy

Sandwiched between the spectacular peaks of the Dolomites

From US $1395 8 Days ex flights
Hiking the Inca trail vacation

Hiking the Inca trail vacation

An unrivalled combination of history and spectacular scenery

From US $1785 9 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: Tdway]
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