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If you are after an activity break with a dose of some salty sea air this Christmas, consider the great islands and coastline of Europe’s seas and oceans. From windswept cliff-top bicycle rides to more leisurely seaside strolls and walks off the mainstream tourist radar, you will be surprised of the options for a pleasant break during Christmas. For the active traveller wanting to visit Europe, winter tours are a great option to consider.
Popular year-round holiday destinations because of their excellent conditions for outdoor activities such as walking and cycling, these places do tend to attract a fair number of travellers during the winter season. Here is an overview of our favourite active winter trips in Europe.
Active Europe: Winter Tours
- Southern Trails of La Gomera | Relatively short walking days exploring the southern trails of La Gomera & leaving time to relax.
- Madeira Island Walking | Year round self guided walk following the Levadas and trails through the dramatic and rugged mountain scenery on the island of Madeira.
- Exploring La Gomera – 11 Days | Experience La Gomera's lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages.
- Walking in the Canaries | Year round walking opportunities exploring the mountains and coasts of Spain's most exotic islands.
- Hiking the Vermillion Coast | Discover the coast and mountains along the edge of the Pyrenees. Walk through beautiful seaside towns enjoying famous Banyuls wine and seafood.
- Exploring La Gomera – 8 Days | Experience the lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages of exotic La Gomera.
- Cycling in Sardinia | Cycle along the spectacular southwest coast of the island biking past white quartz beaches and towering sand dunes, Phoenician Ruins and Ancient Mines.
- Dingle Peninsula Walk | Experience on foot the history and natural beauty of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula.
- The Portuguese Road – Coimbra to Porto | Walk the quieter trails between historical Coimbra and Porto on stage two of the Camino Portuguès.
- Rota Vicentina – the Fishermen’s Trail | Traverse the Atlantic coastline of Portugal to reveal a landscape of deserted beaches, fishing villages and dramatic cliffs on foot.
Or How About these..
Especially during the Christmas period, accommodation is in high demand. We therefore advise to secure your winter break as early as possible. To discuss any special requirements or to chat about the best options for you, please feel free to drop by at our office in London (we’re located right along the Thames Path), give us a call or send us a message.
Discover the Surprises of a Majorca Walking Holiday
When browsing through the images we took on our recent inspection of the paths and accommodation in Majorca, we can feel the travel bug start itching again. With so many fantastic places, viewpoints and things to do in Majorca, the island is a perfect getaway for a week of walking. Good times to visit are the European spring (March, April, May) and late summer or autumn (September & October).
Whether you are interested in culture and history, agriculture, nature and geography, or are a foodie, the island of Majorca, with all its different facets, offers something to any type of walker. To give you an idea, we wanted to share some of our images with you so that you can see for yourself all that you can do in Majorca on your walking holiday.
1. Santuari de Lluc
When you search for things to do in Majorca, one of the top highlights that come up is Santuari de Lluc, or Lluc Monastery – and rightfully so. The monastery in the north-west of the Spanish island is the most important pilgrimage site of Majorca and is surrounded by impressive high mountains, forests and a network of walking trails. The 13th century building offers a hospitable place to stay and will be your personal sanctuary at the start of your trip.
The northwest part of Majorca is the most forested and when walking in or out of the mountains, you’ll often find pretty holm oak forests, but also woods of myrtle, arbutus and pine. The forests that cover the hills of this part of the island hide some interesting features, such as a forest nursery with an educational building, the 500-year-old ‘Encina d’en Pere’ (Oak of St Peter), and several sitjes. A sitja is a circular earth mound ringed with stones, which was used to make charcoal. Sometimes you can even find the remains of a stone hut dwelling near such a sitja.
3. Sierra Tramontana Mountain Range
The Sierra Tramontana, or locally Serra de Tramuntana, forms the backbone of north-west Majorca. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and with 90km long it covers some 30% of the island and is home to several 1,000m peaks. The highest are Puig Major (1,443m), Puig de Massanella (1,348m), Serra d’Alfàbia (1,069m), Es Teix (1,064m) and Galatzó (1,026m) and we recommend ascending the peaks of Es Teix and Puig de Massanella for impressive scenery and views.
4. Església de St Bartomeu
The façade of this cathedral on the main square of the picturesque town of Soller is designed by Juan Rubio, a follower of Antonio Gaudi who designed the world-famous Sagrada de Familia in Barcelona. The church was built before 1236 and has seen several amendments over the years. It has features of different architectural styles and part of the Church of St Bartholomew even made up a section of Soller’s defence wall. Inside, the rose window with its stained glass is beautiful.
5. Wine & Vineyards
Perhaps less expected, but Mallorca is home to two wine-growing regions. A little south from the route of our walking holiday, you can find several vineyards that are part of the Vino de la Tierra Serra de Tramuntana – Costa Nord. There also are the more inland vineyards, which are part of the Binissalem Denomination of Origin. It is believed that wine was introduced to the island by the Romans back in the 15th or 16th century. Why not try some local wine during one of your meals...
6. Trails & Coastal Walkways
In Mallorca, the main walking routes are part of the GR (Gran Recorrido, or in French Grande Randonnée) network, which stands for long distance paths. Virtually all the walking we do in Majorca is carried out on this network of paths and trails, and wherever possible, we avoid the use of tarmac roads. With the peaks of the Sierra de Tramontana on one side and the north-west coast of Majorca on the other, this is one of the most spectacular coastlines of the Mediterranean. Walk in Majorca and you will follow bare mountain paths, the Archdukes’ Way and even an old mule path, interchanged by shaded forest paths and trails through terraces of olive, orange and almond groves.
The villages of the mountains, such as Valldemossa, Soller, Deia, Biniaraix and Fornalutx are particularly attractive, with their mellow stonewalls and flower-bedecked balconies. In Valldemossa we’ll stay in one such old house with good views over the village and surrounding hills. The town used to be home to Chopin and his mistress George Sand and the monastery where they used to live is now a museum open to the public. Out of Valldemossa, you can also follow the Camino de Arxiduque (Archduke’s Way), which is one of the first examples of a path built for recreational purposes.
8. Oranges & Orange Groves
The descend into Soller town from Mirador de ses Barques, is a very pleasant walk amid orange and lemon groves. You’ll walk through the town’s important history as Soller prospered because of the export of oranges. You’ll be able to get a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for just a couple of euros, or try the locally produced orange liqueur. Another thing to do in Soller is to take the tourist train to La Palma. Originally, the tramway was built in the early 1900s by orange growers to transport their fruits to the port of La Palma. We think the scenery is worthy and it makes for a enjoyable return day trip.
9. Seafood & Grilled Meats
Majorcan cuisine is hearty with plenty of grilled meats marinated in garlic and chunky stews loaded with fresh vegetables providing you with the perfect source of energy to get you through a day of walking. Since Majorca is an island, seafood is also a common staple throughout. Sea bream and monkfish are the two most popular fish dishes served grilled and smothered in all kinds of exciting sauces.
10. Casa de Robert Graves
In Deia, close to Soller, you’ll find the house where Robert Graves (1895-1985) lived on and off for 52 years. The famous British poet and author served in the British army during WWI, studied at Oxford University, and moved to Majorca in 1929. In his house in Deia he wrote two extremely successful historical novels, I Claudius (1934) and Claudius the God (1934), which were the base for a popular television series in both the UK and USA. A visit to Casa de Robert Graves allows you to tour the house and garden to experience it as it was in the mid-40s.
Visit Majorca on a walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions for a piece of mind and to have your accommodation booked, bags transferred and maps & route notes in hand.
If you like to enquire about the possibilities of walking in Majorca or like to learn more about the 8-day Majorca: Sierras and Mountains holiday, do get in touch with our team of travel experts and they will be happy to assist you more.
With so many gorgeous islands scattered all over Europe, they are perfect holiday destinations attracting tourists from all over the world. Whether interested in culture, history, sunbathing, the delicious food or more active activities like walking and cycling, they offer something for any type of traveller. Sometimes there’s a risk of islands getting packed and we therefore thought it a good idea to list below a few little known and remote European islands that are great for walking holidays off the beaten path.
Isle of Wight
Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling or walking break, the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom is your go-to European island! Routes are undulating and distances on our walking and cycling holidays on the island are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights on the Isle of Wight include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; and taking the path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.
The island is easy to reach from mainland UK and the only time of year it’s flooded by travellers is during the annual Isle of Wight Festival that’s been running since the 1960s.
Visit the Isle of Wight between April and October >>
If you have been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to the Canary Islands before and you come to La Gomera, you will probably notice that this, the second smallest island of the Canaries, is something special, altogether quite different.
Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s and others feel there’s Latin American elements to recognise in the villages and landscapes of this remote European Island. La Gomera is a relaxed, unsophisticated island with a population of around 20,000 people who live mostly in the capital and villages of the north. The island has a good infrastructure of roads, amenities and services, including some good restaurants and small family run hotels. It is off the mainstream tourist radar so you won’t encounter many other visitors.
Visit La Gomera yearround
Zagoria (we know, not quite exactly an island)
Treasures of vernacular architecture, many of these late 18th century stone-built villages are within what is today a designated conservation area in northwestern Greece: Zagoria. The area is brimming with dramatic wilderness of striking peaks, deep chasms and extensive natural forests. The virtually virgin Vikos Gorge, sometimes referred to as the Greek Grand Canyon, is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the deepest canyon in the world in proportion to its width.
By western European standards Zagoria is a relatively wild and remote area. However, the footpaths have been marked and with our route notes and a detailed map you will be able to find your way easily.
Visit Zagoria between May and early October
Away from the burgeoning coastal resorts, the majestic Sierra de Tramontana is a massif of limestone peaks tumbling to the turquoise waters. Venture forth on a series of hikes through shady forests, olive groves and ancient farmsteads, visit tiny sun-drenched beaches and spend the night in a traditional monastery, listening to the sound of nightingales from your bedroom window.
Follow parts of the restored Pilgrims’ Way along the Sierra de Tramontana in Majorca, have a look here for a picture impression. On our Sierras and Monasteries walking holiday, three nights are spent at the atmospheric Santuari de Lluc monastery - the most important pilgrimage site on the island. Guests can attend the choral singing in its church, which takes place on most evenings.
Visit Majorca between March and October
For more information and booking details, please have a look at the webpage of your chosen trip or get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices.
With the rugged limestone mountain range of Sierra de Tramontana, Majorca has one of the most spectacular coastlines of the Mediterranean. This is where you’ll find rocky and arid mountain tops, thickly forested slopes, ancient olive, orange and almond groves, and small coastal villages. There’s even an opportunity to overnight in an actual monastery! Get to know more about walking in Majorca via this image impression of the Spanish island.
A walk around Puig Roig is a popular classic for walking in Majorca. The views of the rugged coastline are fine and you can see Majorca’s highest peak Puig Mayor: a fantastic introduction to the island of Majorca.
The beach at the small coastal inlet of Cala Tuent is the starting point for your walk on the fourth day of our Majorca walking trip. It’ll prove to be an amazing day following a scenic coastal footpath that then takes you inland through olive groves.
During a fine day of walking, enjoy a fantastic lunch or dinner of some fine Spanish paella. It’s one of those dishes not to be missed on a Majorca walking holiday!
On your free morning in Soller, there are plenty of activities to undertake. Enjoy the village’s terraces and church while you wait for the afternoon bus, or take a boat trip to the beach of Sa Calobra, take a scenic train ride, or visit Soller’s fossil museum and botanical garden – one of the best you’ll come across while walking in Majorca.
Mountain villages, such as Valldemossa, Soller, Deia, Biniaraix and Fornalutx are particularly attractive, with yellow stonewalls and flower-bedecked balconies.
Our carefully compiled route guides you along the 19th century "Archduke's trail" above Valldemossa. It’s named after Austrian archduke Ludwig Salvador who purchased an estate here in the late 1800s. Much of the path you’ll follow was constructed during his time.
Valldemossa is famous for its Carthusian monastery and for its associations with Chopin and the Austrian Archduke Ludwig. It is one of the three centres that our walking trip is based on.
Has this inspired you to go on a walking holiday in Majorca yourself as well? Or do you have any questions based on our pictures? Have a look at our 8-day walking holiday in Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries (on which you’ll stay in an actual monastery!) or get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices.
If you are after an activity break with a dose of some salty sea air, the great islands of the Mediterranean offer from windswept cliff-top bicycle rides to more leisurely seaside strolls. Here are three of our favourite trips.
The Sierra de Tramontana is a rugged limestone mountain range, which runs parallel to the northwestern coast of the Majorca island, forming one of the most spectacular coastlines of the Mediterranean. Mountain tops are bare, lower slopes are thickly forested, while in the settled valleys there are ancient terraces of olive, orange and almond groves. Our tour is based on three centres, the Santuari of Lluc, the cathedral town of Soller and Valldemossa, famous for its Carthusian monastery. Find out more >>
Plunge into the wild yet romantic beauty of southwestern Sardinia and cycle beside empty beaches and sand dunes in total freedom and at your own pace. The terrain is rugged in parts, with high cliffs ascending from the coast, interspersed with long sandy beaches, grass covered dunes and breathtaking views. The ride commences through the fascinating Sinis wetlands, home to colonies of pink flamingos, and concludes along the beautiful Costa del Sud, with its gleaming white beaches and a visit to an ancient Phoenician settlement. Find out more >>
To the north of Sicily is the beautiful Aeolian Archipelago, made up of 7 diverse islands. Its active volcanic cone dominates the horizon but you will also find dramatic cliffs and winding coastline, black beaches and thermal hot springs, a deep blue sea and charming port towns. Four days have been set aside to explore these islands on foot, including a guided ascent of Stromboli, while back on the mainland of Sicily the focus shifts to the famous volcano of Mount Etna, where the 2002/03 eruption opened a line of gaping craters. Find out more >>