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Walking is not just for summer! If you want to feel the warmth of the sun on your face in the middle of winter, a European walking holiday is a great way to escape those cold weather blues. There’s something about being out and active in the fresh air when most of the people you know are in hibernation mode that gives you a fantastic sense of well-being, especially as it can be hard to stay active when winter arrives and we tend to spend more time indoors.
Take a look at some of our favourite walking holidays for winter 2019-20.
La Palma Island Walking
A new destination for this year, La Palma is a fascinating volcanic island. The most north-westerly and the fifth largest of the Canary Islands, it’s famous for its volcanic craters and the huge collapsed erosion crater called The Caldera Taburiente - an amazing site 10 km across and with walls towering more than 2,000m over the caldera floor in places. Our itinerary in La Palma features a series of walks from three base towns – there is a lot of flexibility on offer, depending on how much you want to challenge yourself.
Exploring La Gomera
If you’ve been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to the Canaries before and you come to La Gomera, you’ll probably notice that the second smallest island of the Canaries is something special, and altogether quite different. Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s, but if you have travelled to countries of Central or South America, there are certainly Latin American elements that you will recognize in the villages and landscapes. This circular walk takes you around almost the entire island, allowing you to experience the amazing diversity of landscapes on offer.
Exploring La Gomera is available as an 8-day
Southern Trails of La Gomera
This trip focusses on the sunny south side of La Gomera. The shorter walking days will give you the opportunity to do other activities such as relax by the sea, snorkelling, kayaking or whale watching. You’ll experience coastal walks, quiet beaches, mountains and pretty, quiet towns. You’ll also visit Roque Agando – dubbed the Matterhorn of La Gomera because of its pyramid-like shape. This is a lovely winter walking trip that allows you to relax and take it easy as well as giving your body a moderate work-out.
Tenerife on Foot
The largest, and probably best-known of the Canary Islands is also the highest island in the Atlantic and home to the world’s third tallest volcano. Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of this trip is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast we have selected a programme of varied walks, which when combined with the walking on Mount Teide make for a wonderful week.
Walking in the Canaries
If you’re after a longer winter break, this 15-day trip combines the best of Tenerife and La Gomera. You’ll spend the first week walking virtually the whole length of Tenerife, from north to south, experiencing the amazing diversity of landscapes that the island has to offer, including a visit to El Teide, Tenerife’s vast volcano. You’ll then take the ferry to La Gomera to take a circular walk around the eastern side of the island, sampling the beaches, forests and mountains of Tenerife’s smaller sister.
Madeira Island Walking
Madeira celebrates the 600th anniversary of its discovery by the Portuguese in July 2019 – and its easy to see why this island has become such a popular, year-round destination for holiday-makers. Best known for its cornucopia of gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. This trip is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.
Winter Walking in Cyprus
Seemingly isolated in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been at the cockpit of western history for thousands of years, notably during the medieval crusades, when it acted as a launch pad for the crusaders. A few kilometres inland from the busy coastal resorts, an older world prevails. Discover sleepy villages, farms and forests with fabled mountain views. Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, brought her lover Adonis to the beautiful Akamas peninsula. When walking in Cyprus, you get to experience the land of the Greek gods.
Hiking the Vermillion Coast
This lovely walk starts in France and finishes in Spain, along the coast where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. It’s a great trip for art lovers – starting in the former fishing village of Collioure, where the colourful Fauve school of painting began, and finishing in Figueres, home to the Salvador Dali museum. In between, you’ll discover charming towns and fishing villages, beautiful scenery and delicious food and wine.
Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena
This walk takes place in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, the second largest Natural Park of Andalucia, situated close to the border with Portugal. The rolling hills and white villages offer wonderful walking opportunities. The character of the villages has changed little over the centuries, their history reflected in their architecture and the landscape surrounding them. On walks you pass along Roman cobbled tracks, glimpsing abandoned watermills and ancient hill forts left by the Moors. This is also a great trip for bird-lovers – the area is rich in many important species including the black vulture, and golden, short-toes and and Bonelli’s eagles.
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.
Now don’t get us wrong – we love winter in the UK. Cold, crisp mornings, roaring fires, hearty stews and if we’re lucky, a covering of soft fluffy snow. But here’s the thing – winter lasts quite a long time. And it’s not always blue skies and frost – a dark, cold morning with the sleet stinging your face is enough to make the most ardent winter-lover dream of warmer times.
That’s where a winter walking trip to southern Europe comes in. A week or two soaking up some warm sunshine, topping up the vitamin D levels and experiencing some fabulous food, nature and culture is the perfect way to break up the winter. Plus, a winter walking holiday will help you burn off some of those comfort food calories.
So, as you reach for your slippers and turn the central heating up a notch, take a look at our top picks for a warm winter break.
Best known for its gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery everywhere you look, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. Our walking holiday in Madeira is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.
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Available as an 8-day or 11-day trip.
La Gomera is a spectacular volcanic island, away from the hustle and bustle of the busier neighbouring islands. Because of its relative lack of beaches, La Gomera has escaped the levels of development that other parts of Spain and its islands have experienced. As a result La Gomera has an old world, rural feel to it with homesteads, small vineyards, layers of terraces and large rocky peaks set in an amazing crown of Laurisilva - a laurel cloud forest.
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Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of our walking holidays is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast, we have selected a programme of varied walks. Your trip includes a walk to the crater of Mount Teide, a spectacular 3,718m high volcano.
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Cyprus may be best know for its popular, and busy, seaside resorts – but head a few kilometres inland and you’ll find an older, sleepier world of villages, farms and forests. The trip is focussed around the Akamas Peninsular, a beautiful nature reserve populated by friendly, welcoming people. If you’re there at the end of winter, you’ll witness the bloom of wild flowers that cover the landscape from February onwards.
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This walk along the Vermillion Coast starts in France and finishes in Spain, taking you along the coastline where the mountains of the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. You’ll experience pretty fishing villages, amazing French and Spanish cuisine, and spectacular coastal landscapes. This is also a region with a strong artistic heritage – from the French sculptor Aristide Maillol to Spanish master of surrealism, Salvador Dali.
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The daily walks on this trip are relatively short, giving you plenty of opportunities to relax or try some of the many activities available on La Gomera, such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking or whale-watching. The places you’ll visit are peaceful and unspoilt, with plenty of family-run restaurants to help you sample the delights of the local cuisine as you make your way around the south of the island.
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