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Experience Winter in Cyprus

Cyprus winter holidays with Sherpa Expeditions

Cyprus Winter Holidays to Enjoy A Milder Climate

Swap the cold British weather for a few days of milder climate in the Mediterranean on a Cyprus winter holiday.


While you may expect days in the winter months to be shorter and colder, the winter in Cyprus actually brings excellent walking conditions. Even in January and February, the heart of winter, the island south of Turkey enjoys daily averages of seven hours of sunshine and temperatures above 16 degrees Celsius. At the same time, you avoid the summer crowds and have more time to interact with the Cypriot people.


So, if you are planning a winter walking break, surrounded by unspoilt countryside and away from the cosmopolitan towns and beach resorts, go and explore Cyprus.

Experience the mild winter weather in Cyprus with Sherpa Expeditions

Go walking on Cyprus winter holidays - Sherpa Expeditions


Sherpa Expeditions’ walking trip concentrates on the Akamas Peninsula in the western part of the island. Here, the winter weather is warmer than in the Cypriot mountains. Highlights of a Cyprus winter holiday include:


  • Unspoilt and with a unique biodiversity, Akamas Peninsula remains largely inaccessible, as due to its mountainous nature there are no roads running through its heartland
  • Rugged, pine-clad mountains, woodland and gentle orchards and vineyards are interspersed with tranquil, timeless villages and Byzantine monasteries
  • A real geological mosaic, as almost all the geological formations of Cyprus can be found here, from narrow deep valleys and caves to islets and dramatic gorges
  • Breathtaking sea views of Cyprus’ western coastline, secluded bays and small fishing harbours
  • Visit the Baths of Aphrodite where, according to the legend, the goddess would come to bathe in a pool fed by a freshwater mountain spring – and where she met her lover, Adonis!
  • Accommodation in traditional family-run inns, guesthouses and small hotels


Unspoilt and with a unique biodiversity, Akamas Peninsula remains largely inaccessible and especially in the winter months, you can escape to a region where you will get a warm and friendly welcome from the local people. All that’s left for you to do is enjoy your winter walking days.


To learn more about the 8-day Cyprus winter walking holiday, download the trip notes here or get in touch with our team of travel experts by phone or email. 

5x Active Holidays in Southern England

The climate in southern England is widely praised by outdoor holidaymakers. With average temperatures around 17 degrees Celsius between April and October, this makes for excellent walking and cycling. With around 170 hours of sunshine in the same period, the region is one of the sunniest places in all of the UK. Reason enough for us to look at five places for active holidays in the south of England.


Whether you are looking for a windswept cliff top stroll to breathe in some salty sea air, want to immerse in the stunning beauty of the South Downs, are looking for an island break to really feel away from it all, or like the variety of walks going through forests and beaches, from April onward you can enjoy these holidays in southern England. Have a look at these self-guided walking and cycling ideas to make the most of your days off.


Isle of Wight – A Limited Holiday Opportunity

holidays in south England - Isle of Wight

The island in the south of the UK is disappearing into the sea, in some parts at rates of 3.5 metres a year. This means you have about another 4000 years to spend your holiday on the Isle of Wight. On an eight day visit, you can take in the Isle of Wight’s great natural beauty on foot, enjoy glittering sea views across the Solent and the English Channel, as well as the white cliffs and sea-stacks around The Needles. This is the place where Queen Victoria had her second home, Osbourne House, where she painted, rode horses, swam, and went for walks. Or for a five day getaway, pick up a bicycle at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde and take an undulating circular route with short cycling distances to allow enough time to stop and explore.


Isle of Wight holidays

Isle of Wight Coastal Walking

Isle of Wight Cycle


Cornwall – Britain’s Favourite Holiday Region

southern England vacations - visit Cornwall with Sherpa Expeditions


Cornwall is very much a holiday county known for its beaches, pirates and, of course, Cornish pasties. Cornwall enjoys the mildest climate in the UK, making it ideal for walking and cycling both earlier and later in the year. To give you even more choice, there are three 8-day options of classic Cornish coastal walking: North, striding out from Padstow’s old harbour and taking in Newquay, Britain’s surf capital, and the artist town of St. Ives; West, featuring mysterious Celtic standing stones, quaint smugglers’ coves and the celebrated Land’s End; and South, crossing picturesque ports and fishing villages all the way to Lizard Head, the southernmost tip of mainland Britain. For those that are more interested into cycling, and don’t mind a bit of wind along the way, discover the patchwork of landscapes from inland heaths and downs to tumbling coastlines and sheltered coves on a 9-day cycling holiday in this most southern part of England.


Cornwall holidays

Cornish Cycle Tour

Cornish Coastal Path (North): Padstow to St Ives (8 days)

Cornish Coastal Path (West): St Ives to Penzance (8 days)

Cornish Coastal Path (South: Marazion to Mevagissey (8 days)

Cornish Coastal Path: Padstow to Penzance (13 days)

Cornish Coastal Path: St Ives to Mevagissey (14 days)


Dorset & Wessex – Natural Wonders of the South

walking in south England: Coast of Dorset

The coastline of Dorset is an area of high geological importance and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is named the Jurassic Coast of England: over 200 million years of rocks have been laid down, bent and twisted before being eroded by the sea to expose rock profiles on beaches, accessible to fossil hunters and scientists. The pleasures of this part of the south of England are the unspoilt rural villages, the natural arch formation of Durdle Door, hill forts, fossil-encrusted cliffs, and the famed Golden Gap, a 190-metre headland of orange sandstone, and the beautifully preserved village of Abbotsbury, which does not even have street lighting!

Walking in Dorset, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, parts of the hike are as beautiful as it gets in the British Isles. Yet, you are always in close proximity to attractive villages and towns.


Dorset & Wessex holidays

Dorset-Wessex Trails


Guernsey Islands – Historical Channel Islands

walking the Channel Islands and Guernsey - Sherpa Expeditions

Closer to the coast of north-western France, and easy to access from southern England, you can find a group of four islands: Alderney, Herm, Sark and the bigger Guernsey Island. They are part of the Channel Islands and are brimming with historical sites including well preserved Nazi German fortifications, and other fortresses from the 16th to 20th century. Other places of historical interest are the home of Victor Hugo in St Peter Port, Victoria Tower that was built to commemorate Queen Victoria's 1846 visit to the island with Prince Albert, and the beach of Moulin Huet made famous by the paintings of Renoir and at the time a well-known resort for artists.

Nature-wise expect long sandy beaches, beautiful undulating cliff paths, and tiny coves with sparkling rock pools on the Guernsey Islands.


Channel Islands holidays

Guernsey Islands – The Channel Island Way


South Downs – Rolling Landscapes of Southern England

walks in south England: the South Downs Way with Sherpa Expeditions

In busy southern England, is the tranquil haven of the South Downs National Park with the South Downs Way long distance trail stretching from Eastbourne to Winchester. The trail is an ancient route that follows a chalk ridge, in the past used to take animals and goods between the market towns of southern England. Because the ridge is elevated, there are breathtaking views of the south of England all the way to the Isle of Wight and High Weald. You can walk the entire 100 miles stretch or go for a shorter 67 mile option. The hilly downlands are at intervals broken by “wind gaps” or river valleys, mixing the ridge walking with some meandering visits to beautiful rivers such at the Cuckmere, Arun, Ouse and Meon with their associated villages.


South Downs Way holidays

The South Downs Way - 8 Days

The South Downs Way – 10 Days


If you like to receive more information about walking destinations in the south of England, when to go, or if you like to make adjustments to the trips on offer, please get in touch with our team of travel experts

Gear Matters: Gearing Up for a New Year

popular hiking gear essentials by walking guide - Sherpa ExpeditionsEvery month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he brings you the latest outdoor gear news and talks about hiking gear essentials, drones, packing, and trendy camping gear. 

A new year dawns, and with it no doubt some of you are thinking about some bright and shiny new gear that you can spoil yourself with. So, let’s look at some of the newer trends rather than the obvious fleeces and waterproofs of yore.


Boots & Soles

What more innovation could a humble walking boot have after all of the material and waterproofing revolutions of the last few years? Well, Vibram, the famous sole manufacturer, has come up with the Arctic Grip Sole. The rubber of the sole is embedded with gritty-type materials that increase friction on slick surfaces. It is not designed to replace the crampon, but may give better security at times when you may have to cross an occasional short snow section like on a Tour du Mont Blanc trip, Haute Route, Alpine Pass or Norwegian Fjordland tour. 


Trendy Camping Gear

There are new makes of tents that double as a hammock, for instance ‘The Crua' is an all-in-one sleep system. It can be set up on the ground as a tent or hung as a hammock. It has a built-in insulated air mattress and detachable sleeping bag. It is made from ripstop nylon, with bug mesh with an aluminium frame so that the total weight is only about 3kg.

Different companies are offering “inflatable hammocks,” which can be used on the ground like a sofa. To inflate, no foot pump is necessary; you just swipe the bag through the air. Once the bag is filled, it closes like a drybag with a fastex buckle. The original one is made by Dutch manufacturer Lamzac, but there are others such as Windpouch. Besides serving as a perfect hiking gear essential, they also work on the beach or at an outdoors concert. Some have attachments so they can be used as a hammock as well and pack to about the size of a small sleeping bag.


popular hiking gear essentials - Sherpa Expeditions


Hot Weather Wear

Polartec has launched a fabric called Delta, advertised to “cool you down in the hottest conditions”. the fibres hold water yet let the fabric breathe and no chemical treatments are used. The fibres in the weave disperse moisture, increasing airflow, reducing friction against the skin when you move. There was no mention of how smelly this fabric may get after a couple of wears however.


Measure Your Meters

Power meters were developed primarily for cyclists to show their power output in Watts in order to train, but new technology is bringing power meters to walkers and runners. Although costly, during 2017 we will start to see models like Stryd and RPM2 enter the mainstream at a price. The RPM2 uses pressure pad sensing insoles and the Stryd is a device that just attaches to your shoe.


Packing Gear Essentials

If you like trekking from inn to inn, you can now get segmented roll packs. These are meant to keep your pack or luggage organised. You feed pockets with rolled up shirts, underwear, socks, toiletries and miscellaneous items. When you get to the hotel, pull the roll out, hang it up and easily find your things. These are made by Hang and Roll and if you like more information you can have a look at Kickstarter.  


popular hiking gear essentials for packing - Sherpa Expeditions


Droning On

Pretty soon any activity you do you could have your personal drone following and filming you. One example of this, the Staaker (perhaps should be called The Stalker), is touted as “artificially intelligent” enough to auto-follow (and film) anyone at up to 50mph. GoPro have brought out a (non-intelligent) model recently. Whether people will soon get fed up with being buzzed by these all the time and start waving their walking poles at them is another matter. 


Next month I test the power metres while being chased by a drone....or perhaps not!


If you have specific questions on your hiking gear, cycling equipment or other outdoor items, why not get in touch with John and the Sherpa team directly.  For more Gear Matters blog articles, have a look at this overview of the latest posts.


5 Marches in Italy

Planning a trip to Italy and looking for holiday ideas that you can undertake fairly soon? We have created an overview of the first trips travelling to Italy this year. You can be packing your bags and hitting the Italian trails in March undertaking one of these pleasant walking holidays in the land of pizza and the Romans.


The itineraries travel across the country and from the first of March, be among the firsts this year to enjoy the Italian walking paths, sip from your cappuccino on a quiet terrace in the first beams of sun in spring, visit ancient Roman sites without the crowds, and follow the trails of the Cilento Coast, Lake Como, Amalfi, Sardinia and Cinque Terre.


Lake Como

Go for a walking holiday around Lake Como in Italy with Sherpa Expeditions

The great lakes of northern Italy have been a popular holiday destination since Roman times, evidenced by the array of lavish villas and sumptuous gardens which line their shores. When you visit Italy in March, you can enjoy full flexibility on this itinerary that uses the old Roman tracks. They cross the mountains on the west side of Lake Como, exploring forested valleys, mountaintops and traditional villages. Still in use today by the locals, they have been transformed into a series of way marked trails offering breath-taking views.

>> Learn more about the 8-days Lake Como Rambling holiday


Cilento Coast

Italy's Cilento Coast is a hidden gem - Sherpa Expeditions

A brand-new trip in Italy to the less known side of Amalfi will be launched this March. Most visitors to Italy’s world famous coastal strip do not continue beyond Vietri sul Mare, the Amalfi’s easternmost point. Go a few miles further south though, and you will find Cilento: the country’s largest National Park. Richly scented pinewoods, mediaeval farm houses and traditional water mills remain largely ‘undisturbed’ by the 21st century.

>> Learn more about the 5-days Cilento Coast and Mountain walking holiday


Amalfi Coast

Visit Amalfi Coast, Italy, in March - Sherpa Expeditions

Few trips in Italy take in such a diverse combination of iconic highlights and stunning seascapes, making it impossible to escape the hordes of crowds that head to ‘Nastro Azzurro’ (Blue Ribbon) in the summer months. But, travel between March and May and you will have the Amalfi Coast virtually entirely to yourself.

>> Learn more about the 11-days Classic Amalfi Coast walking holiday, or check out the 6-days or the Classic Amalfi Coast - 8 Days options


Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is good for visiting Italy in March

The Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is Italian Riviera at its best. The coastline of the Cinque Terre in north-western Italy is as stunning as Amalfi, yet somehow even more colourful! For centuries artists and poets have praised the tiny aquamarine inlets that serve as fishing harbours and the ancient terraces rising steeply out of the coastal crags in words and pictures. You can opt for the gentle coastal strolls or strenuous hikes into the surroundings hills. Visit churches and viewpoints, walk through cliff-side vineyards and pine forests, while reserving ample time to feast on the rich Italian cuisine.

>> Learn more about the 6-days Cinque Terre Villages walking holiday



Take an Italy holiday in March to Sardinia with Sherpa Expeditions

The weather in Sardinia in March and April is often already relatively warm and pleasant for undertaking outdoor activities. When you visit the Italian island in March, stay around the coast to enjoy gentle walks and explore secluded bays and ancient watchtowers. Taste the clear spring water, spot birds like Grey Herons and Pink Flamingos, and watch the sunset turn the cliffs to shades of yellow and pink.

>> Learn more about the 8-days self guided walking holiday A Saunter in Sardinia


For more information on your options for visiting Italy in March and for booking details, you can download the trip notes on each trip’s page or contact our team of travel experts by phone or email.


The John Muir Way: Scotland’s Coast to Coast Walk

Walking in Scotland: John Muir Way long distance trail with Sherpa Expeditions


Scotland's Coast to Coast Walk

Head into the High Street of Dunbar and you’ll reach a white terraced house that was the birthplace of John Muir. Born here on April 21st 1838, Muir moved to the United States at 11 years old, and today is best known for his nature conservation work.


John Muir’s birthplace nowadays is a museum and marks the finish of our new 12-day walking holiday on the recently established long distance trail of the John Muir Way. When you arrive here, it will have been a 130 mile (215 km) hike across Scotland. Your walking trail would have started in Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland and led via Linlithgow Palace and Edinburgh all the way to Dunbar on the North Sea coast. Because of this route, the John Muir Way is also known as Scotland’s coast to coast walk. The reason for starting the walk in Helensburgh is that it was the port that John Muir emigrated from to the United States.


On the John Muir Way, Scotland - Sherpa Walking Holidays


Loch in Scotland on John Muir Way walk - Sherpa Expeditions


John Muir, Naturalist & Preservationist

John Muir in Yosemite, USA


John Muir, the great bushy bearded man, was born into a strictly religious household. As a child, he developed a deep love for the natural world around his home. He was known to escape from his bedroom window into the Dunbar countryside to enjoy volcanic deposits and dykes, raised beaches, and the glacial-isostatic uplift that has occurred here in Scotland.


Years later and while in the United States, the grown-up John Muir founded the Sierra Club, convinced politicians to create the Yosemite National Park, and raised the cry for conservationism and environmentalism decades before it was fashionable to do so.


John Muir Way

You may have heard of the famous John Muir Trail in California’s Yosemite Park? Since 21 April 2014 he is also honoured in his native Scotland with the John Muir Way long distance walk (it replaced a shorter walk under the same name). The trail offers a historical journey across Scotland from the seaside coast of Helensburgh on the river Clyde, then around the southern end of The Highland Fault, undulating through the Scottish Lowlands of farms, canals and former industrial towns to track along the Firth of Forth, threading through Edinburgh and then down the North Sea coast, passing golf courses and bird reserves down into Dunbar.


Walking the John Muir Way in Scotland


Accommodation in Scotland on Sherpa Expeditions' John Muir Way Walk


Walk This Way

We are excited to be able to offer you this trip from 2017 onwards and believe it will be an enjoyable and varied walk. Altogether, the John Muir Way walk links together some fine landscapes, countryside and places of historical and natural interest. It is clearly well marked, with routes for walkers and cyclists which converge and diverge at various points.


To find out more about this new walking holiday in Scotland and to download the trip notes, please have a look at the 12 day John Muir Way walking holiday or contact our team of travel experts with your queries.


New Trip to Italy’s South: Beyond Amalfi Lays Cilento

For anyone wanting to experience what is beyond Italy’s most popular stretch of coastline, in 2017 you can explore a new part of Italy’s south: the Cilento National Park. A new walking holiday takes you to the lesser-known Cilento Coast, on the Gulf of Salerno’s southern shore, the natural extension of the famous Amalfi Coast.


Walking holidays in Cilento Italy - Sherpa Expeditions


There is more to the Amalfi Coast than Positano, Ravello, endless sips of limoncello and crowded walking paths.


Concentrating on Cilento, Italy’s largest national park, the new self guided trip is a short walking break designed to appeal to anyone who wants to experience ‘the other side of Amalfi’. A place which in many ways exists in its own time warp, little visited Cilento remains largely undisturbed by the 21st century.


In Roman Times, Cilento was known as Campania Felix – or ‘happy land’!


Along the Cilento Coast in Italy - walking holidays


Sherpa Walking Holidays - Cilento, Italy


The walk takes you along rocky ridges, richly scented pinewoods and centuries-old olive trees and intersperses with quaint fishing villages, medieval farm houses and traditional water mills. Stay in an ancient convent and enjoy quiet and remote walking in a stunning, yet less known, pocket of Italy. Highlights include:


  • Take in the wild beauty of the Cilento Coast, with rocky ridges set between small picturesque inlets and richly scented pinewoods backing onto wide sandy beaches and serene Italian fishing villages
  • Witness the traditional way of life as you visit medieval borghi (fortified hilltop villages), rural chapels and ancient farm houses in Cilento National Park
  • Enjoy sumptuous, drenched-in-olive-oil banquets – homemade pasta, locally sourced ingredients and wines from the somewhat unusual (but very amenable) aglianico grape
  • Follow the old mule track to the ‘Valley of the Mills’, named after the many medieval watermills that once dotted the course of the stream
  • Cross the ‘Alta Via’ along the Monte Stella ridge, past the Chapel of Monte Stella and through chestnut woods to the abandoned, pre-Roman fortress of Castelluccio
  • Admire panoramic views of the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri – on a clear day you may even catch a glimpse of Sicily if you look south!
  • Visit the archaeological site Paestum – famous for its Doric-order temples, the museum in Italy preserves a unique Diver’s Tomb, a prime example of Greek funerary painting.


Take the new Cilento Coast and Mountain trip in Italy either as a standalone short break or as an extension to our 8 and 11-day Amalfi itineraries.


For more information on Cilento National Park and to speak with one of our travel consultants, there are various ways to contact us.


Coast on Cilento Italy walking holiday - Sherpa Expeditions


Coastal Walks in Cilento, Italy - Sherpa Expeditions


New Gear's Resolutions

Gear Matters: Outdoor Christmas Gifts and New Year ResolutionsEvery month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. As we currently are in between seasons it is a good time to recoup and evaluate our outdoor kit, maybe the tatty old gaiters need a bit of 'Gaitor aid,' or that distressed rucksack some TLC? Perhaps this is a great time to make New Gear's Resolutions. Did you know that you can do good with redundant gear? So, this month John talks about new year’s resolutions and outdoor Christmas gifts.


Ahhh Christmas! What a better time to ask for new outdoor gear and all those extra stocking fillers. Perhaps it is prudent to check out your boots, the water resistance in your old jacket, or the batteries in your head torch. Are your walking socks beyond darning and that trekking shirt you have worn the last 15 years beyond ironing? Now we are at the end of the year, it may be a good time to come up with your new year resolutions and a list of outdoor Christmas gifts.


Gear Donations

Firstly, you may have some relatives or friends who are getting into walking and you can start them off with some older kit. A second resolution could be to donate old gear outright. There is a charity called 'Gift Your Gear' ( which accepts mail donations of gear or through participating stores, such as Rohan in the UK, and then redisposes the items to charities, normally youth groups engaged in the outdoors. If you have an adventure or trekking holiday planned for the new year, you can often give gear to the local travel team, this is particularly appreciated in countries such as Nepal, India, Morocco and Peru which have established trekking industries, but with limited equipment available locally. 


Gear Matters: New Year Resolutions - Gift Your Gear


Winter Break Reproof

Outdoor gear is of course expensive and should be maintained for as long as possible, so a good resolution could be to spend some of the winter break reproofing or cleaning gear. Often a waterproof that seems to be losing its function just needs a good clean, reproof and maybe a cool ironing. As stocking fillers, it may be an idea to ask Santa for restorative products such as the various formulas from Nikwax or Grangers. Obviously check your garment or boot labels as to the recommended care.

There are other things to check out in the new year too. Simple things. Like: are your bootlaces fraying? Or for instance, look at your outdoor electrical items.


Protect & Preserve

Fairly often if something doesn't work after you have tested new batteries, it can be that you just need to lightly rub the unit's contacts with fine sand paper (this also applies to camera batteries).

Cameras, binoculars etc, need to be protected from not just rain, but condensation as well. So when you are out on a cold day and enter a warm room or a pub with a roaring fire, make sure the devices are cased up or even placed in a bag so that they adapt slowly to the new temperature regime.


New Gear Savings

At the end of the day, or rather at the end of the year, a good incentive for getting out into the outdoors is to buy new outdoor gear and to take full advantage of the winter sales. Superb savings can be had, quite often a new kit may only be a colour change on the previous year's gear in the sale.

On the other hand, there are also all those shiny new toys from Suunto or Garmin such as GPS watches that tell you how far you have gone, how far you have climbed and whether a storm is rolling in- perhaps a special outdoor Christmas gift for a loved one (or yourself!).


Outdoor Gear Donations - New Year Resolution


Read Up

Winter is a good time to catch up with reading, so as well as the latest novel, why not get a guide book to an area you fancy going to and start planning next year’s walking or cycling holiday?


Enjoy a bit of downtime to resolve resolutions!

Want to read more blogs on cycling and walking gear by Sherpa Expeditions' resident guide John? Have a look at his monthly Gear Matters blog articles.

Island-Based Walking Holidays: Guernsey, Channel Islands

Guensey Channel Islands walking with Sherpa Expeditions

New Trip in 2017: Walking in Guernsey, Channel Islands

In 2017 you have an increased choice of travel opportunities in the UK as we launch a new trip on the John Muir Way and a walking holiday to Guernsey, Channel Islands.


In the Channel Islands, you can already step on your bicycle with us for a three-centre cycling itinerary and in the new year we will complement this offering with a weeklong self guided walking option on the islands of Guernsey, Herm, Sark and Alderney.


Local transportation on Guernsey, Channel Islands - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


Channel Islands Way walking along beaches of Guernsey


Follow in the footsteps of Victor Hugo, Renoir & Queen Victoria


Guernsey and the Channel Islands (geographically closer to France, yet a Crown dependency) brim with character and are a walker’s paradise. On your walks, expect long sandy beaches and beautiful undulating cliff paths leading to tiny coves with sparkling rock pools. Walk past forts of various sizes, some dating back to the 1600s while others, more recent, were created by the Nazis during their occupation of the islands in World War II.


Puffin on Guernsey, Channel Island Way - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


City of St Peter on Guernsey walks with Sherpa Expeditions


The weeklong walking holiday around the islands of Guernsey is the longer half of the Channel Island Way. You can embark on seven days of Guernsey walks from April until October on the new Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way trip, with your first travel option on 1 April 2017 (no fooling!).


For more information and bookings, download the trip notes here or contact our team of travel experts by phone or email.

Emma Takes Us on A Tour of Cooking & Walking in Andalucia

We sat down with Alpujarras resident, hiker, guesthouse owner and author Emma Illsley to talk about walking in Andalucia, her recently launched cookbook, that she wrote with husband David, and of course asked her about the best Andalusian dish. 

Can You Tell A Bit About Yourself?

guesthouse owners in Andalusia_Sherpa ExpeditionsWe are David and Emma, we moved to the Alpujarra Mountains and Mairena village in 1998. Nearly a decade before that we were living in different parts of Spain and Portugal. We both worked for the British Council and were in Galicia, Oporto and then in the Canary Islands where we indulged in our love of windsurfing.

We initially came to the Alpujarra mountains as a sabbatical year on which we wanted time to think and plan where we would like to live and work. We fell in love with the Alpujarras. Both with the astonishing Spanish landscape and with the way of life. The small villages of Andalusia consist of families and of subsistence farmers still producing food and farming the land as they have done for generations. We both love hiking as well as cycling so we decided to set up as a small guesthouse in the middle of the Alpujarra mountains.


What Inspired You to Write the Andalusia Cookbook 'Las Chimeneas'?

We both write in our spare time and I had written another book Bee-eaters and other Migrants. In this, I chronicle what it is like to live in a small remote mountain community, focussing on the changes in the seasons and the local traditions. We were looking for another project like this. As our small restaurant was already getting fantastic reviews and many of our guests kept asking us why we didn't put together a book of recipes, the idea came about. From here the project emerged as a book that informs about the food we cook at our restaurant combined with content about local food production and traditions, as well as interviews with our neighbours. That is how “Las Chimeneas – Recipes and Stories from An Alpujarran Village” developed. The fact that we were put in touch with two very talented people, Anna Norman - a writer and editor who structured the book and gave us much needed deadlines, along with Suzy Bennett - a very experienced travel and food photographer, meant the project grew from a small idea into something much bigger. 

Walking in Andalucia with Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays  

Delicious spanish food in the Alpujarras_Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays in spain

What Is a Typical Dish for People to Try When Hiking in Andalucia?

Our dish pollo en asado or chicken with sundried tomatoes & peppers is very traditional. It uses the sundried produce that is famous in the Alpujarra Mountains. If you travel in September, you will see drying peppers hanging from the balconies and tomatoes on the rooftops. 

Even just one generation ago people produced everything they ate. All our dishes are also made from ingredients that are grown on the terraces around us. To prepare the food, we work with Sole and Conchi who are from our village. Another traditional dish we like is carne en ajillo - a pork dish with an almond sauce. It is the dish that people used to make for special occasions such as birthdays or communions. As we are surrounded by almond terraces, there are plenty of nuts for this dish at hand! 

Both dishes are delicious and guests give rave reviews and compliments to the chef regularly. The Alpujarra mountain range is also very famous for the air-dried jamon serrano which is delicious cut thinly as a tapas - or added to our broad bean dish in spring along with sundried tomatoes and the zest of an orange. 


What Season Do You Like Best for Walking in Andalucia? 

I love walking in September and October because there is so much produce in the fields such as wild grapes, figs and almonds. But every month has its delights. November has the autumn colours. Winter walking is fantastic in December and January with clear skies and views across to Africa with snow on the high peaks. The amazing almond blossom comes in February and then we move into spring from March onwards with an incredible range of birds and flowers. June in Andalusia can be warm for walking, but it is a very dry heat so more than manageable if you wear a hat and carry plenty of water - and then it is lovely to come back to sit out in the warm evenings. The only months that are too hot for walking in Andalusia are July and August. 


When Is the Annual Harvest Of The Alpujarra Mountains?

We have several harvests in the Alpujarra mountains surrounding us. The olive harvest is in January and February and as many of the walks go through the olive terraces, it is quite common to walk alongside families in the fields. You will see them busy with their nets and long sticks, which they use to hit the olives off the high branches.

The other important harvest is the almond harvest in September. This is another interesting time to come walking in Andalucia as it often coincides with fiesta season. Every weekend sees a different village celebrating the day of their own Patron Saint. Our village fiesta of Santo Cristo de la Luz is the nearest weekend to 18th September. We love for walkers to be involved in these harvests, it’s a great experience and opportunity to spend time with the local Andalusians. 

Olive harvest in Spain, Andalusia - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

walking in Andalucia - festival in Alpujarras on walking holiday

What Is Your Favourite Place In Andalusia?

It is completely biased to say it of course, but I love our own village of Mairena where Sherpa’s hikers spend their first night and their last two nights. It is partly because I have been here so long and know everyone in the village, but it is also because our village really hasn't changed much over the years. Pretty much the only tourists we see in the village are our guests! It is still mainly a village made up of farmers. Mairena has one friendly bar and a shop and the houses all have the traditional flat rooves based on the Moorish architecture of North Africa. Above our village, the ancient threshing circles have been turned into a lookout point and our olive mill is one of two in the whole province of Granada which is still a traditional press. The village locals are friendly and will always give a big grinned ‘Hola!’ as anyone walks by. 

Accommodation on walking in Andalucia holiday with Sherpa Expeditions

walking in andalucia_Sherpa Expeditions_people of Alpujarra Mountains


What Can Walkers Make from The Fruits They Can Pick Up on Their Hike?

We are always happy to give people the recipe for our delicious ajo blanco or white almond gazpacho. For most of the year it is possible to gather almonds in their shells, which does mean you then have to shell them but that's part of the pleasure. I have a quote from the local best-selling author Chris Stewart who is a regular diner at our restaurant. He once happened to be dining with a trumpeter who agreed to serenade the restaurant that evening!

"The trumpeter’s willowy wife offered me a spoon of her ajo blanco. This miraculous combination of garlic, almonds, olive oil, and the water of a clear mountain spring, was as good as it gets. It’s easy to louse this simple dish up – too thin or too thick; too garlicky or too oily… but Sole, who runs the show here from the kitchen, has the trick of getting it just right." Chris Stewart


What Is the Best Thing About Walking in Andalucia?

David always says that coming to the Alpujarras is probably one of the shortest flights from Northern Europe that brings you to immerse yourself in something truly different and culturally exciting. Although it is a cliché, walking in Andalucia makes you experience a way of life that in much of the world has been lost. You will have challenging, varied walks with incredible views down to the Mediterranean and up to some of the highest peaks in mainland Spain. The norm is to hardly see another hiker for hours. Each night you will stay in lovely traditional villages and get to see a way of life little changed. People here for example still think that one of life’s pleasures is the privilege of being able to fill their jugs with spring water from the village source. Andalusians continue to grow their own food wherever possible, simply because they know, rightly, that it tastes so much better. 

I believe that walking in Andalucia gives hikers a very rounded experience; get to feel fit, enjoy raw nature, and experience something life enhancing. On top of that, hiking in Andalucia is the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life.


If you are interested in the cookbook Las Chimeneas – Recipes and Stories From An Alpujarran Village, please let us know and we can bring you in touch with David and Emma. If you are interested in walking in Andalucia and staying at David & Emma's guesthouse, have a look at our 8-day Hiking in Hidden Andalucia self guided walking holiday

Walks in Dorset: Planning Your Walking Holiday

One of our favourite walks in England are the trails following the Dorset Coast Path. This route is part of the South West Coast Path an area of outstanding geological importance (named the Jurassic Coast of England) and our walking holiday in Dorset provides great variety.

To help you get a better picture of what our walks in Dorset are like and to help you plan your hiking trip, we asked Lisa, our Dorset expert, to answer a few questions. We hope it helps you on your way! 


Walks in Dorset with Sherpa Expeditions UK


What is the best way to get to the start of the Dorset walking holiday?

“Sherpa Expeditions’ Dorset and Wessex Trail walk starts in Lyme Regis. The easiest way to reach the start is by train from London’s Waterloo Station to Axminster train station. From there you can take a direct bus to Lyme Regis that stops across the street from your hotel.”


What is the best time to visit Dorset for hiking?

“Although you will find many quiet areas whilst walking, in summer Dorset’s coastal villages can get rather crowded. So, if you like the idea of less crowds, you should plan your walking trip in spring or late summer, until the end of September.”


Dorset hiking with English coastline - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


traditional English villages in Dorset walks - UK Sherpa Expeditons 

What is accommodation on Sherpa’s Dorset walking holiday like?

“When you join our walks in Dorset we will have accommodation arranged in a mixture of quaint B&Bs and rooms in traditional English pubs.”


What are the walking conditions in Dorset like?  

“We grade this trip as introductory to moderate and you will see that the path is like a roller coaster. Our Dorset walking holiday includes cliff walking which is very steep at times, beach walking, optional town walks, and walking in woodlands and grassy paths.”


To what other region in England can you compare the walks in Dorset?

“The only other walk I can compare the walks in Dorset with is walking in Cornwall due to climbing up and down the rugged cliffs. However, the scenery in Cornwall is very different and I think both are equally beautiful.”


Seaside towns on your walks in Dorset with Sherpa walking holidays


Jurassic Coast, Dorset, England - Sherpa Expeditions UK


If walkers have more time available, what can they combine the walks in Dorset with?

“I just mentioned Cornwall to be offering similar walking conditions as Dorset and our choice of walking holidays in Cornwall are nice walks to tag along. Cornwall is just down the coast to the west so it is easy to combine the two regions.”


What is the food in Dorset and south west England like?

“There are great fish & chips shops and restaurants around Dorset, which serve fresh catches from the sea daily. The Hive Café on the beach at Burton Bradstock (just past West Bay) often serves fresh lobster, not to be missed!”


Dorset hiking holidays in England, Sherpa Expeditions UK


Rewarding walks in Dorset with Sherpa walking holidays UK


Doesn’t it always rain in England?  

“Down south where Dorset is, the English weather is much better than, for example, Scotland. The weather is generally warmer and more settled on England’s south coast than in other parts of Britain and in Dorset it’s even warmer than in Cornwall or Devon. So the general idea of ‘it always rains in Britain’ certainly does not apply to Dorset with its temperate maritime climate!”


How well way-marked is the Dorset walk? 

 “The walk is very well way-marked and you follow a mixture of signs from a white acorn to coloured arrows on gates.”


If you have more questions for Lisa or would like to read more about our Dorset and Wessex Trails walking holiday, you can download the trip notes via the button on the trip page or get in touch with us by email or phone. Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays to Dorset depart daily between late March and late October.