UK & European Holiday News
The latest travel news, interviews, traveller reviews, inspiration & advice on cycling and walking holidays in the UK and Europe..
Return to Blog Home >>
Our resident guide and walking expert, John Millen, headed to Cyprus to research and update our route notes for our walking holidays on this beautiful island. Whilst there, he embarked on a hunt for the rare and elusive Tulipa Cypria, or Cyprus Tulip. But did he manage to find it..?
One of the principle joys of European walking in early to mid- spring is the abundance of wild flowers in certain locations where herbicides have not been used. Walking in the juniper scrub of the Akamas Peninsula in Cyprus is no exception.
In fact, bolstered by a very wet winter, the spring flowers are particularly good this year - but once the heat starts picking up they will be gone quite quickly.
One particularly interesting one is the Tulipa Cypria, or Cyprus Tulip, which is endemic to the island, and endangered. I had been walking for several days and had not seen any, when sitting in a café in a village in Drousiea, a little old 'Ouzo refreshed' man pointed to a photograph of one on the wall. “I knows where they are... 100 Euro, I'll drive you there!”
I didn’t take him up on the offer.
The next day I saw him again. “Just cover the petrol money, I'll take you there!” Once more I refused him. Three days later I stumble across a few on the Akamas, they were all alone and, yes quite rare. They would not last more than a handful of days. But the happiness of discovering them myself was profound.
Sherpa Expeditions runs 8-day and 11-day itineraries for its Troodos Mountains walking holidays in Cyprus. Click here to find out more.
As we approach St George’s Day on 23 April, it’s time to roll up your trousers and get out and about to explore England’s most beautiful corners.
For a small country, England offers a huge amount of variety when it comes to walking and cycling. Mountains, great lakes, dramatic coastlines and picture-perfect villages are all on offer as you choose your ideal way to explore the countryside.
Here are a just a few of our favourite holidays in England, now booking for 2019.
Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks”, the iconic Coast to Coast is widely considered nowadays as the most classic of all UK long distance trails. Nearly 200 miles and traversing three National Parks, this is the quintessential English hill-walking and long-distance trail experience. Typically taking two weeks to complete, the walk starts near the red sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head in Cumbria, and finishes at the fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the North York Moors coast.
We offer self-guided and guided Coast to Coast trips, with itineraries lasting 15, 16, 17 and 18 days, as well as shorter sections of the trail, and the Cyclist’s Coast to Coast.
Known for its beaches, pirates and Cornish pasties, Cornwall is very much a holiday county, enjoying the mildest climate in the UK. From Padstow to Land’s End through Lizard Point, the southernmost point on mainland Great Britain, this cycling journey takes you through a patchwork of landscapes, from inland heaths and downs to tumbling coastlines and sheltered coves. The daily rides are not that long, allowing plenty of time to see Cornwall the way you want to!
We also offer several self-guided walking holidays along the Cornish coast.
There is no dedicated way-marking throughout this route but that is part of its appeal. Covering 69 miles, The Richmond Way is a picturesque, yet unofficial, long distance trail along ancient trading routes that crossed the Pennines. From the medieval Lancaster Castle, passing through quaint villages, the trail traces the Lower Lune Valley before entering the Georgian town of Richmond, ending below the keep of Richmond Castle, one of the greatest Norman fortresses to be found in Britain.
Find out more about walking the Richmond Way
From Jane Austen to Thomas Hardy, Dorset has inspired generations of authors. Crossing unspoilt rural villages, this trip follows the coast as it stretches eastwards, along fossil-encrusted cliffs and the famed Golden Gap, a 190-metre headland of orange sandstone. Explore a timeless landscape of hidden valleys and hill forts before dropping down to the beautifully preserved village of Abbotsbury, which does not even have street lighting!
Find out more about walking our Dorset & Wessex Trail.
A British icon protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world. A must-see for history aficionados, it can also be followed on foot along the adjoining 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path, taking hikers across the rugged countryside of Northern England, from Whitley Bay in the east to Carlisle in the west. The undulating, well-waymarked walk follows the ancient Roman Wall – with a largely a rural feel!
We offer 8-day and 10-day itineraries along the Hadrian’s Wall Trail.
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the island, and let your holiday begin! Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; and taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.
Find out more about our Isle of Wight Cycle trip. We also offer a coastal walking tour of the island.
With 2019 marking 70 years since the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed, the recently revamped ‘Discover National Parks Fortnight’ – as promoted by National Parks UK – offers the perfect opportunity to get outside and discover the length and breadth of Britain’s countryside.
Here are some of our favourite walks in the UK’s magnificent National Parks.
National Parks UK says “A real haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Get inspired by the rolling hills, dramatic cliffs and picturesque villages found throughout the National Park.”
Exactly 100 miles of downland walking separate the Victorian seaside town of Eastbourne and Winchester, the former Saxon Capital of Wessex and England. Stretching over a rare large Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in crowded southern UK, this ancient route follows the chalk ridge just to the north of the popular seaside towns on the Sussex and Hampshire coast.
Find out more about walking the South Downs Way
Photo: Joseph Pearson
National Parks UK says “The majestic rolling hills, old stone villages and farming heritage of the Yorkshire Dales truly showcase the best of the British countryside.”
A circular walk that threads its way around the valleys of Wensleydale and Swaledale and over the mountains and moorlands between these two emerald dales. The 50-mile route has been designed to take in some of the beloved countryside that James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot, was so fond of.
Find out more about walking the James Herriot Way
National Parks UK says “Rugged yet beautiful. An awe-inspiring landscape of high fells, deep glacial lakes and quaint rural villages.”
Celebrated by the poetry of Wordsworth and the stories of Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome, the Lake District is the first National Park in the UK to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. In between quaint market towns, the trail leads past the peaceful depths of Coniston Water and Derwentwater lakes, as well as the superb Tarn Hows, set in picturesque wooded hills.
Find out more about walking the Cumbria Way
National Parks UK says “The perfect place to get away from it all. Fascinating ancient monuments, tranquil rolling moorland and the beautiful uplands of The Cheviot Hills”
Reflecting the life of the 7th century monk, the St Cuthbert’s Way takes you to the northernmost national park in England. Set between the Scottish borders in the north to just south of Hadrian's Wall, it is one of the least visited and least populated of the UK’s National Parks. It is home to England’s cleanest rivers and clearest air, as well as Europe’s largest area of protected night sky.
Find out more about walking St Cuthbert’s Way
LOCH LOMOND & THE TROSSACHS
National Parks UK says “One of Scotland’s most-loved landscapes. Home to the largest lake in the UK, multiple stunning lochs, extensive forests and dramatic mountain ranges.”
John Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar, on the southeast coast of Scotland, and as a child developed a deep love of the natural world around his home. The John Muir Way is a path that symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and the seaside town of Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast-to-coast route.
Find out more about walking the John Muir Way
Alternatively, you can take in the beauty of the North York Moors National Park on walks such as The Cleveland Way (one of the UK’s earliest official National Trails), the iconic Coast to Coast and The Pennine Way, a new addition for 2019.
There’s something very calming about walking beside a lake. The stillness of the water, and the views to the hills or mountains rising up from the far side of the lake can give a wonderful sense of space. And whether in the UK or Europe, lakeside towns and villages are often some of the most picturesque you’ll come across.
We offer a number of walks that include significant stretches of beautiful lakeside walking – here are a few of our favourites.
The Italian lakes are stunning – beautiful blue ribbons of water carving their way through majestic mountains, with classic coastal towns and villas dotted along the shores. Lake Como is one of the most famous, and has been a popular destination since the days of the Romans. As well as ancient Roman villas, the lake boasts grand hotels built for wealthy European and American tourists during the Victorian era.
Our trip starts in Como, and includes several walks that take you to some of the most attractive towns and villages on the lake’s shores, offering plenty of opportunities to drink in the magnificent views and sample the delicious food and wine.
Find out more about Lake Como Rambling here.
Undoubtedly the best way to enjoy Cumbria’s breath-taking natural beauty and refreshingly clear air is at a leisurely pace walking the Cumbria Way.
This tour provides an excellent introduction to the charms of English Lakeland, England’s most mountainous area, and one if its most beautiful regions. Walking is unquestionably the best way to see this celebrated landscape, hailed over the years by the likes of poets, authors and painters. Wordsworth, Tennyson, Arthur Ramson, Beatrix Potter and Wainwright have all left their mark.
Starting in Ulverston and finishing in Keswick, the walk takes in views of Lakes Coniston and Derwentwater, as well as Langdale and Borrowdale, two of the area’s prettiest valleys.
Find out more about walking the Cumbrian Way here.
Welcome to beautiful Upper Austria in the hinterland of Mozart’s city of Salzburg. The beauty of the area embraced by the Dachstein Mountains and the Hallstattersee is truly inspirational. There are people who claim that once you have walked here you will have experienced the best ‘typical’ alpine hiking in Europe.
After a few days in the mountains you’ll descend to the waters of Lake Hallstattersee, and the ancient, picture-perfect lakeside town of Hallstatt. From here you’ll be able to explore the fascinating local area, and swim in the lake if the weather is warm enough.
Find out more about the trip here.
The Wicklow Way is Ireland's oldest waymarked trail, pioneered by a famous hill walker, J.B Malone over 40 years ago and reveals some of Irelands finest views - Powerscourt Waterfall, Luggala, Loch Dan, Glenmalure and historical Glendalough.
The Wicklow Way explores unspoilt trails, remote scenery, lakes, glacial valleys, forests and gentle farmland – before finishing in the famous city of Dublin. Along the way, you’ll pass through the spectacular Glendalough valley, with views of the two lakes that sit at the bottom of the valley.
Photo: Magdalena Smolnicka
We offer 7-day and 9-day versions of the Wicklow Way.
Loch Ness hardly needs an introduction – Scotland’s second largest loch stretches for 23 miles along the Great Glen, which links Fort William in the south to Inverness in the north, and contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
Whilst walking the great Glen Way, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Loch Ness, as well the other lochs, and the majestic surrounding mountains, including, of course, Ben Nevis itself, the UK’s highest peak. Along the way, you’ll be treated by famous Scottish hospitality, and traditional food.
Read more about walking the Great Glen Way here.
Not technically lakes, the Fjords are great coastal grooves, gouged out by retreating glaciers from the last ice-age. What they definitely are though, is spectacular – providing a breath-taking walking experience that will live with you forever. There are a wide range of walks to take in the highlands, which lead you right up onto the glaciers edge; it is even possible to go out onto the ice to take an excursion. There are also the lusher walks down into the pastoral settings of the Flam and Aurland Valleys. These are furnished with forests, farmsteads, cascades and churches.
You’ll also visit Sognefjord, the longest fjord in the world.
Find out more about walking in the Fjordland here.
One of our self-guided cycling holidays, this trip takes you through the heart of the Scottish Highlands, which have long been a favoured destination for cyclists and walkers keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. Along the way, you’ll visit beautiful lochs Tay and Earn, as well as the River Tay and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead and Killin.
En route there are opportunities to take a forest walk or visit one of the many castles and ancient monuments to be found along the way.
Find out more about cycling the Lochs and Bens.
A coastal walk is a very special experience. If you love the sea, there’s nothing better than a walk that takes you along cliff tops, beaches and peninsulas, with the crashing waves or crystal clear sea an ever-present companion as you make your way.
If looking out across the ocean to the horizon is an important element of your walking holiday, take a look at some of our favourite coastal walks.
The South West Coast Path, at 630 miles, is the longest National Trail in the UK, and the majority of it winds its way along the spectacular coast of Cornwall, regularly voted Britain’s favourite holiday destination. Despite Cornwall’s popularity, you can easily escape the crowds, dipping in and out of coves and harbours and ascending beside dramatic cliffs, up to high viewpoints, along promontories and back down to expansive beaches which out of the high season can be all but deserted.
Sherpa Expeditions offers several trips along different sections of the South West Coast Path, each one offering something special as you pass through delightful fishing villages, larger towns and some of the most stunning scenery to be found anywhere in the UK.
Read more about all of the trips we offer on the South West Coastal Path here.
The Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the quintessential Italian holiday - with stunning scenery and mouth-watering food. Pastel coloured fishing villages are perched on the staggering cliff side overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.
You can walk along the Amalfi Coast using the extensive web of footpaths and mule tracks that thread along the cliffs, and a wealth of natural and cultural treasures can be reached relatively easily. The walking routes pass close to nature reserves, beautiful monasteries, caves and ancient farmhouses. You will also have the chance to walk through the historic towns of Amalfi, Atrani, Ravello, Scala Praiano and Positano, all little pearls set in a fantastic landscape.
Sherpa Expeditions offers the Classic Amalfi Coast as a 6-day, 8-day or 11-day trip – and you can also combine it with the best of the neighbouring Cilento region in our new Cilento and Amalfi Highlights 10-day trip.
Starting in France and finishing in Spain, this walk along 'La Cote Vermeille' follows the steep coastline where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. Taking in the culture and cuisine of French Catalunya and Spanish Catalonia, the trip visits beautiful coastal villages, including Collioure, where the colourful Fauve school of painting began, and follows waymarked paths between the vineyards of Roussillon and through heavily scented maquis to the seaport of Banyuls, home of the great French sculptor Aristide Maillol.
After crossing the frontier into Spain, you continue past rocky bays and then climb inland over a high col and along the mountains to the monastery of San Pere de Rodes, before descending steeply, passing ancient Dolmens to the attractive fishing village of Port de la Selva. From here the trails become more remote as you head into the recently established Natural Park of Cap de Creus - into the beautiful whitewashed old town of Cadaques.
This is a great opportunity to explore a lesser-known, but beautiful, stretch of European coastline. Find out more about the trip here.
Sardinia is an inspirational island of natural beauty, with a mix of Italian and Spanish cultures. Walking from the black mountains of Montiferru to the Sinis wetlands you will discover beaches, bays, headlands, ancient ruins and historical sites. This is a gentle walk crossing a variety of terrain and home to much bird life, especially in the spring. The Montiferru mountains, a basaltic area famous for green forests, clear spring water and local 'red' beef provide wonderful walking opportunities with sweeping coastal views, charming accommodation and plenty of places to swim.
Bird watchers will be entertained by the large colonies of grey herons, pink flamingoes and a wealth of other bird life, while the ancient Spanish watchtowers, small villages and the ancient site of Tharros occupied by the Phoenicians, Punics and Romans offer welcome distractions for those keen to learn more about the island's history and culture.
Find out more about the trip here.
With Sherpa Expeditions you can walk or cycle the entire coastline of the Isle of Wight, a jewel of an island off the south coast of England, where you can visit historical places on scenic coastal paths and cross hilly grassy down land, through ancient woodlands, and past rustic farms.
Famous for its sailing regattas, white chalk cliffs and Queen Victoria’s holiday home, Osborne House, the Isle of Wight seems to exist in its own time. Beyond the big tourist towns of Shanklin and Sandown, and the sophistication of Cowes harbour, everything is on a manageable scale - no huge towns, or big industrial blights, but long chalky downs, sandy beaches and enchanting woodlands. Seaside rock, ice cream and fish ’n’ chips of course, but also great pubs and restaurants, quiet paths, historical churches and gems of villages.
Whether you choose to walk or cycle around this island, you’re sure to have a quite charming experience. Find out more here.
The Cleveland Way isn’t an entirely coastal walk – but fans of walking along cliff tops overlooking the sea will have plenty to entertain them, as over half of the walk follows the hilly coastline of the Yorkshire seaside.
This is the second of the UK’s National Trails, dating from 1969 and is rooted in the North York Moors National Park and Yorkshire Heritage Coast. Along its length there are contrasts in walking between field-quilted farmlands, forest patches, dramatic sandstone rock scarps, bleak moorlands and the highly eroded coastline, punctuated by beautiful little fishing villages, clinging to the cliffs. Apart from busy coastal towns such as Scarborough, it remains a tranquil area, bolstered and protected by the presence of the National Park of which about 80% of the walk occupies. Highlights of the Cleveland Way include, the remains of the Norman Rievaulx Abbey, and 13th century Whitby Abbey (but dating from the 7th century!), the Captain Cook Monument and Robin Hoods Bay with its cliff-hanging cottages.
Find out more about walking the Cleveland Way here.
Enjoy some of the finest coastal walking in Europe on this the most beautiful section of the Italian Riviera. The five charming villages of the Cinque Terre - Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore have been praised by artists and poets for centuries. They have celebrated the tiny aquamarine inlets that serve as fishing harbours and the ancient terraces rising steeply out of the coastal crags in words and pictures.
The trip is perfect for walkers who enjoy being based at a single centre. You’ll stay in a traditional style ‘albergo’ in the small resort of Monterosso close to the sea, where regional dishes are very much the speciality. The idea is that on most days you either walk from the hotel or take the train from Monterosso to start the next walk. If you don't feel like walking, or if you want to reduce the length of the existing walk, you can always spend time on the beaches or more time discovering the beautiful villages of the Cinque Terre more intimately, with each village boasting its own unique character and flavour.
Find out more about Cinque Terre Villages here.
There’s nothing quite like walking in the mountains to reconnect yourself with nature. The majesty and vastness of a mountain landscape helps to remind us of our place in the world, and many people who spend a holiday amongst the magnificent peaks often describe it as a life-changing experience.
Although some mountain walking routes sit towards the challenging end of the spectrum, you certainly don’t need to be a mountaineer to take them on.
Here are a few of our favourite mountain walks for 2019.
The region around Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe (4,810m/15,780ft), is home to some of the best alpine walking and trekking in Europe, providing walkers with an opportunity to sample the culture and flavour of the three different countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. Our trekking holidays around Mont Blanc are dominated throughout by views of the highest peaks in the Alps. The traverse of the high passes takes you beneath spectacular glaciers and at other times you pass through picture-perfect Alpine villages and summer meadows.
Read more about the Tour du Mont Blanc.
You may also like: The Alpine Pass Route, The Wildstrubel Circuit, The Bernese Oberland & Reichenbach Falls, The Haute Route.
The Dolomites are like no other mountains in Europe. The Dolomite peaks are gigantic, chiselled monuments to the powerful forces of glacial erosion. Continuous sheer cliffs flank most of the peaks. Although not exceptionally high (the highest peak is Marmolada at 3,342m), they are amongst the most striking of all European mountains, coloured in weathered hues of rose, yellow, white and grey and rising in steep spires of fantastic form. Below lie bright green meadows alive with wild flowers all summer.
Read more about Walking in the Dolomites.
You may also like: Dolomites Guided Walk
The mountains form the backbone of this rugged island. Interesting and varied long distance footpaths cross the mountains from east to west. Based on old mule tracks and ancient routes of transhumance, these routes traditionally connected mountain villages with each other and with high level pastures. Crossing intermediate ridges and following forested valleys, they take the walker into the heart of the mountains, past tumbling rivers, mixed woodland and through attractive villages.
Read more about Corsica: Mountains & Sea
You may also like: A Saunter in Sardinia
This tour is a good choice for a summer hike, in a fascinating and generally quiet mountain region that is well off the beaten tracks of the higher Pyrenees. The route is truly spectacular in places, taking in some of the finest landscapes in Spain on the fringes of the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park. You cross two passes of over 2,000m, which are normally free of snow by mid-June. On the way are forests, plateaus, terraced hillsides, charming villages, deep canyons and broad valleys.
Read more about Alto Aragon: The Spanish Pyrenees
You may also like: Mountains to the Mediterranean
Cyprus is an island of natural beauty in a region with an abundance of ancient and modern civilisations and cultures. Away from the cosmopolitan towns and beach resorts you will find large areas of natural, unspoilt countryside. Rugged, conifer-clad mountains, woodland, orchards and vineyards are interspersed with tranquil, timeless villages. The Troodos Mountains cover much of the southern and western part of the country and this walk takes you from walking in the high mountains down to the coast, starting from an altitude of about 1,100m.
Read more about The Troodos Mountains and Akamas – available as an 8-day or 11-day trip
You may also like: Zagoria – The Secret Villages
Claimed by some to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles, The West Highland Way follows a national trail through some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes. Starting at the village of Drymen just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to somber Glencoe, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day).
Read more about The West Highland Way – available as an 8-day or 10-day trip
You may also like: The Great Glen Way, The Pennine Way
The beauty of the area embraced by the Dachstein Mountains and the Hallstattersee is truly inspirational - especially in the crisp, stable weather that this region often acquires during the period of this tour. There are people who claim that once you have walked here you will have experienced the best alpine hiking in Europe. The lower slopes of alpine pasture are dotted with picturesque lakes and villages including gorgeous Halstatt, whilst the high triangular mountaintops are smothered with glacial ice.
Read more about The Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps
You may also like: The Fjordland
Do you love being surrounded by flowers in bloom? Whether you’re thinking of a spring getaway to the English countryside or a trip to Europe later in the summer, we have a number of trips departing in the next few months that will allow you to experience nature in all its glory.
From bluebells and daffodils to orchids and edelweiss, this is where you need to head to enjoy nature’s beautiful spectacle of colours…
DAFFODILS IN NORTH YORKSHIRE | BEST TIME: MARCH-APRIL
Daffodils may be typically associated with the English countryside but for the genuine wild variety (two-tone yellow flowers, narrow trumpets and forward pointing petals) head to North Yorkshire to walk the Cleveland Way. The daffodils at Farndale Valley are reputed to have been planted by the monks of the nearby Rievaulx Abbey and there is even a dedicated mile-long ‘daffodil walk’!
Find out more about the Cleveland Way
BLUEBELLS IN THE COTSWOLDS | BEST TIME: APRIL-MAY
The Cotswolds are on the finest regions to enjoy these quintessentially English carpets of blue. The Cotswolds landscape features a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath through Cheltenham to Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. Along the way you’ll encounter villages lined with stone-built houses and unspoilt woodland, often covered with bluebells during the spring months .
Find out more about walking in the Cotswolds
A carpet of bluebells
LAVENDER IN PROVENCE | BEST TIME: JUNE-AUGUST
With colours varying from violet to indigo and everything in between, the lavender fields of Provence are guaranteed to take your breath away and awaken all your senses. The heady scent of lavender is strongest in the height of summer, when the fine stalks wave in the wind, with prairies in bloom stretching as far as the eye can see.
Discover our Rambling in the Luberon trip
Lavender in Provence
Lavender in Provence
SUNFLOWERS IN TUSCANY | BEST TIME: JULY-AUGUST
It’s hard not to fall in love with sunflowers: they give a sense of happiness, like a sun shining on a beautiful summer’s day. Sunflowers in bloom are a striking sight and in Tuscany they are an icon of the region. Follow the backroads in the warm summer months and spot the sun-loving ‘girasoli’ among cypresses, vineyards and traditional Tuscan architecture.
Find out more about walking in Tuscany
A field of sunflowers
EDELWEISS IN THE ALPS | BEST TIME: JULY-SEPTEMBER
The national flower of Switzerland, edelweiss takes its name from the German words ‘edel’ (noble) and ‘weiß’ (white). It is probably Europe’s best known mountain flower, mostly seen between the months of July to September. It grows in rocky limestone places and its scarce, often short-lived bloom can be found in remote mountain areas of the Alps. There plenty of other wild flowers that adorn the meadows of the Swiss Alps throughout the summer.
Find out more about walking in Switzerland
An Alpine meadow
ORCHIDS IN MADEIRA | BEST TIME: YEAR ROUND
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira’s subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil make for perfect growing conditions and orchids here enjoy an impressive year-round flowering season. There is a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species, while a week-long Flower Festival takes place every spring. This year the festival takes place from 2 - 19 May.
Find out more about walking in Madeira
Orchids in Madeira
By John Millen, Sherpa Expeditions' resident guide and walking expert.
I was walking on the Norfolk Broads last weekend and met up with an old friend, now into his eighties. I hadn't seen him for 7 years but he used to amble along puffing his pipe, eyes bright and twinkling full of ideas. He is a landscape painter and still manages to paint three pictures a week. He sells quite a few of them and you could see him analysing the light, colour, changing clouds and the harmony of the perspective before him. The pipe smoking stopped when his son started medical school and forced him to quit, and the walking slowed, but never stopped. The little pearl of wisdom that he gave to me at the weekend was a succinct piece of Latin which can be applied to all our walking - solvitur ambulando, which literally means 'it is solved by walking'.
If the ancients knew this, then it also applies so much to our lives today. Of course running and cycling also provide an endorphin rush, which is not quite the same thing, and although you can get lost in the act of exercise, you really only get to think deeply when you have fewer distractions such as traffic or uneven paving, and when walking in beautiful landscapes. It is more the view, the smells, the sounds and the brush of the air and how they play upon our mind, mixing up emotions, memories, nostalgia and thoughts. The time and space created by walking allows us to disentangle thoughts, put things in perspective, calm down and figure out ways of sorting out issues in our often-complicated lives.
Just a couple of hours of walking certainly solved a couple of things for me. I hadn't seen a barn owl for two years, and then one flew out of a woody thicket. Two rare marsh harriers skimmed the backlit reed beds in scything silhouettes, mewing to each other.
So many people walk to clear their minds, solve problems and reach for ideas. We can think of Charles Darwin at Down House in Kent. After he bought the property he laid down various walking loops around the estate and spent much time walking and pondering the theory of natural selection, evolution and where that placed religion. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein walked together, discussing literature and religion - and wrote some rather famous books about it! Nan Shepherd, in a beautiful short book called The Living Mountain, talked about how, as we walk, we become one with the landscape and nature and, in her mind’s eye, actually entered into the mountain – in her case the Cairngorms of Scotland.
All of this points to the benefits of walking, and what better way than to take a Sherpa Expeditions walking holiday for a bit of solvitur ambulando?
Have you been on a trip with Sherpa Expeditions over the past year? If the answer’s yes, then we’d love you to tell us, and the world, about your trip.
Here at Sherpa Expeditions we believe that our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and the best way to get a flavour of one of our trips is to read about the experience of someone who’s already travelled with us.
write a review
The easiest way to give feedback on your trip is to write a review on Google or leave a recommendation on Facebook. Either way, we'd love to hear your feedback.
If you'd like to write about your trip in a little more detail, you could write a short account of your holiday - we call them Travellers' Tales. We’re not looking for a straightforward review of your experience like you'd write on a feedback form – we’d love you to include things like your reasons for booking on to a particular trip, your highlights, your lowlights and what sort of effect did the walk (or cycle) have on you, and your feet!
You could base your tale around the following questions:
1. What is your walking/cycling history?
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
3. How did you prepare?
4. What was your favourite destination?
5. Best food & drink?
6. Biggest surprise?
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Your contribution will be published in the Travellers’ Tales section of our blog, and you’ll receive £50 off the next trip you book with us.
Not a writer? No problem!
We’re not looking for Shakespearean perfection – what’s important is that your tale comes from your heart, using your own voice. And if you’d like, you can always send us rough notes and we’ll help to turn them into a rounded article.
We can also send you a list of ‘interview’ questions to help you shape your story – have a look at this recent one by Jan from Australia and you’ll get the idea.
Pictures paint a thousand words
Online blogs work best when there are some great photos alongside them, so please include your photos from the trip when you send us your story.
If you’d prefer to go down a more visual route, your tale could even take the form of a photo gallery with a caption accompanying each shot. Videos are great as well – we’re always looking for more video content so if you have anything suitable that you’re happy to share, please send it on to us.
How to get involved
Please email [email protected] if you have something you’d like to send us, if you have any questions, or if you’d like us to send you a list of interview questions. We’re here to help, and we’re very happy to have a chat before you head to your keyboard.
Easter is quite late in 2019 – it falls on the third weekend of April and is a great time to enjoy the spring sunshine all over Europe. But where are the best places to go during Easter? In Italy, Spain and Portugal, all Catholic dominated countries, there are processions and other religious celebrations for the holiday – as there are on Greek Orthodox Cyprus. Often, these are very colourful and traditional events that are well worth travelling for and to take part in or observe.
Here are some of our favourite places in Europe to celebrate the Easter holidays, that are easily combined with a walking trip.
EASTER IN THE CANARY ISLANDS – LA PALMA
On the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Easter is celebrated extensively. In Los Llanos for example, the Good Friday procession assembles behind the church on the Plaza in the centre of the town, shortly after sunset, and is conducted in silence but with the accompaniment of a slow drumbeat. School children, joined to each other by chains, lead out one of the statues from the church. All the statues from the church are taken from their normal place and displayed in the procession. Some people are bare-footed and in shackles and chains, and the cross is slowly carried along, flanked by people with cardinal-coloured gowns. Many of the other villages on the island have similar processions.
Learn more about our walking tour of La Palma.
EASTER IN FLORENCE, TUSCANY
Make sure you’re in Florence on Easter Sunday and be up and ready by 9am for the spectacular Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart). A tradition that goes back to the 12th Century, this is still an important Easter practise for the city of Florence. A cart is drawn by oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Church Square, now connected with the altar in the cathedral via a wire. Here it is lit by a dove-shaped rocket from the cathedral, causing a 20-minute fireworks show. The whole spectacle happens in traditional 15th century style with flowers, music, and clerics.
You can combine this Easter tradition with a week-long cycling or walking holiday in Tuscany. Follow the backroads in the early spring months and spot the first flowers come to bloom among cypresses, vineyards, traditional Tuscan architecture – and of course the delicious Italian cuisine.
Read more about our holidays in Tuscany.
EASTER IN KATO PAPHOS, CYPRUS
Outside the church of Agia Kyriaki in the coastal town of Kato Paphos, the Passion Play, or Way of the Cross, takes place. It is one of the many Easter celebrations taking place over the island of Cyprus. Most of the residents are member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has its own Easter traditions. Normally falling at different dates than the Christian or Catholic Easter, in 2019 celebrations are one week later, with Easter Sunday falling on 28 April. Eat traditional lamb dishes and the Cypriot bread of flaounes and join any of the festive processions and performances.
Fly in to Paphos ahead of your 8 or 11 day Cyprus walking holiday and stay a few days to celebrate Easter. Then set off to explore the Troodos Mountains on foot and admire the rugged mountains, orchards and vineyards, profusion of exquisite, wild flowers and migratory birds that you can see particularly in spring.
Find out more about our walking holidays in Cyprus.
EASTER IN BRAGA, DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL
Braga is a short train ride from the start and end points of our 7-day Douro Rambler holiday, so it’s worth adding an extra day or two to your trip if you’re going to be there around Easter. The city hosts many concerts, dance performances, religious celebrations and street theatre activities during the Holy Week. You’ll also witness the Ecce Homo procession and many more Easter celebrations. The procession is led by coffin-bearers wearing traditional purple robes on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday. A traditional dessert to try for Easter if you’re in Porto or Braga is the Easter sponge cake of Pao de Lo.
The Douro Valley is just a 1-hour train ride from Braga and is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine and you can experience the importance of grapes when you stay at a beautifully restored manor that owns a small vineyard. Enjoy pretty walks in the wine county of Douro Valley in spring when nature is coming back to life and trails are usually quiet.
Read more about our Douro Rambler trip here.
EASTER IN ALGHERO, SARDINIA
Fly in to Sardinia’s Alghero airport and spend a few days to celebrate the Easter holidays. Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most famous places to go for Easter and is influenced by the Catalan culture. Celebrations revolve around the Santcristus, a wooden statue that washed ashore in 1606 and now symbolises Alghero’s religious identity. There are processions from Good Friday onwards, and on the Thursday before Easter you can witness the raising of the Santcristus at Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
These celebrations could form a fantastic start or end to your Saunter in Sardinia walking holiday. Your walks start in Santu Lussurgiu, 2 hrs away from Alghero, and take you around the Montiferru Mountain Range, Sinis Westlands, sea cliff of Su Tingiosu and many ancient sites as you follow romantic Mediterranean trails. The advantage of travelling in spring and around Easter is that you will find plenty of bird life, generally quieter trails and cooler temperatures.
Read more about our Saunter in Sardinia trip here.
EASTER IN PALMA, MAJORCA
As elsewhere in Spain, Majorca celebrates the Semana Santa (Holy Week) for Easter. The island is in a festive mood from the Thursday before Easter onwards, when the biggest processions take place. The most colourful one is the La Sang procession in Palma. Other Majorcan places to go for Easter are the churches, with performances by children and other special Easter events. On Easter Sunday you may find many people on the streets for their local pilgrimage and abundant picnics. Make sure to try the Easter pastries of panades and rubiols.
If you’re interested in visiting Palma, Majorca during Easter, you could add a day or two to the start or finish of our 8-day Sierras and Monasteries walk.
EASTER IN THE UK - WINCHESTER (SOUTH DOWNS WAY)
If you’re thinking of walking the South Downs Way, a beautiful walk across the rolling landscapes of Southern England, you could time it so that the start of your trip falls over Easter. That means you’ll be in Winchester, home to one of the UK’s finest cathedrals. What better place to experience an Easter service than in this stunning Norman cathedral built in 1093, which is the longest medieval cathedral in Europe, and also the resting place of Jane Austen.
Read more about the South Downs Way.