News & Inspiration

Inspiration and Advice for Walking in Europe Information, reviews and advice on Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk in England. Amalfi, Cilento, Tuscany, food and more Sherpa travellers share their reviews and experiences. Information, reviews and advice on Madeira walking holidays Information, reviews and advice on walks in the Cotswolds
rss

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 >>

 

Traveller’s Tale: Along the Most Beautiful Villages in France

traveller review on walking in France with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Since he was in his teens, Charles Hawes has been walking for fun. In recent years, he has re-discovered the pleasure of walking and Charles calls himself fortunate in having the Brecon Beacons and Wye Valley on his doorstep in south Wales. “I especially enjoy the rhythm of a good day’s walk (10-12 miles) to get to a new place, staying a night at a pub or Bed and Breakfast and then walking on. I completed the 870-miles Wales Coast path this way over nearly three years,” he recalls. According to Charles, perhaps the most enjoyable way of completing a long-distance walk, is to have all one’s creature comforts transported for you and to walk with a light day pack. That is how he did 10 days on The Way of St James in France with Sherpa and most recently how he did our circular walk along some of the most beautiful villages in France (Medieval France: Tarn and Aveyron). The latter is what Charles shares his memories on after coming back from the trip in early October.

 

Why did you choose to walk in France’s Tarn & Aveyron region?

I was introduced to France as a child and have loved it ever since. In my teens I hitch-hiked through the country, picking apples in the Loire. I love the language (though speak it badly), the food, the countryside with the typical French villages and the culture.

 

walk in the most beautiful villages in france - sherpa expeditions

 

traveller review of walking in the most beautiful villages in France - Sherpa walking holidays

 

How did you prepare for this walk in France?

I had been suffering from a bad back so I did daily strengthening exercises ahead of the trip. I also found a great app for my smartphone, which is called DuoLingo. A few weeks before the trip departed, I did half an hour of French lessons each day – it certainly made a difference.

 

What was your favourite or most beautiful village in France’s Aveyron region?

My favourite place must be Puycelci. We arrived at lunchtime on a sunny day with nothing better to do than have an omelette and frites and a cool beer and enjoy the views.

 

Best French food and drink on this walk?

Without question the best food I had was at the wonderful chambre d’hôte a little outside the village of Vaour. Our host, Nathalie, is married to a chef who trained under one of the Roux brothers. A tomato flan was followed by steaks from her brother’s herd of Aubrac cattle, a wonderful cheeseboard and a simple apple and pear pudding. And needless to say, a local French wine.

 

walking in france with sherpa expeditions walking holidays

 

most beautiful villages in france - sherpa walking holidays

 

What was your biggest surprise on this walking holiday?

From time to time we saw wild colchicums (autumn crocus) growing along the paths. I knew about these plants before and asked a passing lady what they were called in French. The word is the same, but she then sang me a little song about the flower!

 

What aspect of this walk in the Aveyron region did you find most challenging?

I think the hardest climb was after a leisurely visit we made to the extraordinarily pretty village and castle at Penne. That pull up the hill opposite felt unrelenting. It wasn’t really; we had just relaxed in this beautiful French village just a bit too much!

 

Do you have any advice for travellers thinking about walking the Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron trip?

Pay careful attention to the written notes you are given ahead of your trip, carry plenty of water, don’t be in a rush.

 

Our walking holiday along some of the most beautiful villages in France departs on any day you like during the European spring, summer and autumn months from May until the end of September. To learn more about the walk that Charles and his friend took, have a look at the full description of Medieval France: Tarn and Aveyron, or as always, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or write an email to our team of travel experts in the London office


 

Travellers’ Tale: Walking in Norway, The Fjordland

Norway Walking Holidays - Traveller Review - Sherpa


“We have been enthusiastic expeditioners for more than 30 years” say Australians Kerry Mather and Lachlan McCaw. Last summer they embarked on our Fjordland walking holiday in Norway with their daughter Darcie. In recent years they undertook a wide variety of walking throughout Australia including mountains, coastal areas and the remote arid interior of Western Australia. Living in the south-west of Western Australia they regularly take the opportunity to explore sections of the Bibbulmun Track. They didn’t stick to Australia: “Our overseas walking exploits have included an extended trek from Kashmir into Ladakh, the Milford Track in the South Island of New Zealand, and multi-day walks in the Pyrenees and Dinaric Alps of central Bosnia,” says Lachlan. Their 20-year-old daughter accompanied them on the Norway walking holiday and really enjoyed the experience of a tour like this as well.

 

Why did you choose to walk in the Fjordlands in Norway?

Our travel plans included visiting friends in Denmark, exploring southern Norway and Sweden, and spending time in Finland for a professional conference. Past experience has confirmed that including a challenging outdoor activity in our travel schedule adds greatly to the enjoyment and understanding of the country that we are visiting. Western Norway is renowned for stunning scenery of mountains and fjords, and the opportunity to stand on the summit of a sub-arctic mountain and gaze across glaciers and icefields was a strong drawcard. The Sherpa Expeditions Fjordland self-guided walking holiday offered a variety of walking experiences with interesting accommodation venues linked conveniently by public transport.

“The long mid-summer days in the Norwegian mountains were a special treat.”

Descending into Flam Valley - Norway walking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Varying weather on summer walking holidays in Norway - Sherpa Expeditions

 

How did you prepare for this Norway walking holiday?

The travel pack provided by Sherpa Expeditions was informative and a useful guide as to what to expect during the walk and the level of fitness required. The walk is graded as moderate to challenging and we found this to be an accurate description of the terrain, track conditions and weather. Our daily life activity program includes regular swimming, walking and moderate cycling and this ensured we had a good level of fitness to enjoy the walk. The trip did include some relatively long days on mountain tracks.

 

What was your favourite destination in the Fjordland?

There were so many beautiful places on our Norway walking holiday that it’s hard to pick a favourite. We relished the challenge of walking from Finse up to the summit of St Paul’s peak (1700 m) across deep hard-packed snow. The view from the summit was spectacular, made all the more atmospheric by an icy arctic wind and snow flurries. Our reward at the end of this (summer) day was hot chocolate and dinner in the warm and comfortable hotel at Finse! We loved the cosy library overseen by a solemn reindeer head mounted on the wall. The following day we walked 21 km from Myrdal to Flam down the beautiful Flam valley, basking in warm sunshine. The steep and rugged Aurland valley provided a stunning setting for the final day of walking. Our visit to the isolated stone Sinjarheim farmlet perched high above the river made this last day even more interesting. 

“The award for the most innovative dish would go to…”

What about the food and drinks in Norway?

All the hotels offered an excellent buffet breakfast which prepared us well for active days in the mountains. Evening meals provided at the hotels were of a uniformly high standard, well presented and tasty. Wine is expensive in Norway, but beer, cider and lunch supplies can be purchased at reasonable cost from small supermarkets in most of the villages used for overnight stays. The award for the most innovative dish would go to the chefs at the Vestlia Resort in Geilo who prepared a luscious dessert of pannacotta, fresh berries and cream served on a traditional slate roof tile!


Finse, Fjordland, Norway - Sherpa Expeditions


Walking holidays in Norway - Fjordland, Sherpa Walking Holidays

 

What was your biggest surprise on this walking holiday?

While at Aurland we took a shuttle bus up to the Stegastein lookout. It’s located high up on the side of the valley and offers stunning views of the fjord and town below. It’s well worth the visit. The long mid summer days in the Norwegian mountains were a special treat. 

 

What aspect of walking in Norway did you find most challenging?

Heavy spring snowfalls in 2015 resulted in one of deepest snow packs for several decades. This meant that the higher elevation walks were across continuous snow cover. Routes were generally well marked and easy to follow, but boots and snow gaiters were essential to keep our feet dry and comfortable.
The track from
Osterbo to Vassbygdi traverses rugged gorge country and is steep and challenging in places, but well within the capabilities of fit and well-prepared walkers.
In several places we encountered small waterfalls and had to zip up our waterproof jackets and run the gauntlet through a shower of icy water on this walking holiday in Norway.

“The travel pack provided by Sherpa Expeditions was informative and a useful guide as to what to expect during the walk and the level of fitness required.”

Our walking holiday to Norway’s Fjordland departs on any day you like during the European summer months from July until September. To learn more about the walk that the Mather-McCaw family took, have a look at the full description of The Fjordland Walk here, or as always, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or write an email to our team of travel experts in the London office

 

Travellers’ Tale: The Alsace Vineyard Trails

Travellers Derek & Hirae giving a review on the Alsace Wine Trail walking holiday, France

In recent years, hiking has played a very enjoyable part of Canadians Derek and Hirae Neale’s varied travel experiences. They set off on walking holidays to experience the heart and richness of other cultures and landscapes, with little or no contact with tourist throngs.

Derek and Hirae have enjoyed rugged wilderness adventures on Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail and Cape Scott, the rural charms of Offa’s Dyke National Trail on the English Welsh border, and took in the spectacular views from the Amalfi Coast’s Footpath of the Gods in Italy. Last May they went walking in Alsace.

 


Views over Riquewihr in the Alsace - Sherpa Expeditions


On the Camino Trail, Alsace France, Sherpa walking holidays

 

“Our recent hike with Sherpa Expeditions on the Alsace Wine Trails exceeded all our expectations."

 

Why did you choose to walk the Alsace Vineyard Trails?

Hirae and I were intrigued to discover this unique region of France sandwiched between the Vosges Mountains and the River Rhine. We were curious to see its distinguished and colourful half-timbered medieval architecture, hilltop castles, regional food, picturesque villages and its distinctive range of white wines what the Alsace region is known for. The moderate hike promised to offer a range of trails through the villages of the lower vineyards to the higher elevations of the Vosges with ancient castles.

 Aux-Trois-Rois-Ribeauville, Alsace - Sherpa Expeditions


Wine tasting in Alsace, France - Sherpa Expeditions


How did you prepare for your Alsace walking holiday?

When travelling to Europe from Vancouver, BC, we normally like to spend a few days acclimatising and adjusting to the local time before setting out on a hike. After a couple of days in Munich (Germany) we took trains to Colmar at the southern end of Alsace where we spent a couple more days before the start of our walking holiday. Colmar is a wonderful town for an introduction to Alsace and is full of colourful shops, regional architecture and waterfront restaurants in “Little Venice”. A short taxi ride took us to our first Sherpa hotel, the Hotel de Deux Clefs in Turckheim, a 15th century historic monument richly furnished with antiques and adornments in a way that only the French can pull off. The Deux Clefs (the keys to the past and future) seemed an appropriate starting point for an Alsace walking holiday, the very friendly lady in reception was unaware of any other hikers having checked in though. Our curious stares at the other guests’ footwear served only as introductions to people from far and wide.

 

Your favourite destination in the Alsace?

A tough choice. The towns, villages and historic sites such as Haut Koenigsbourg and Mont Saint-Odile on these trails in Alsace are all immensely appealing and interesting in their own right. With the vast majority of the villages untouched by modernism we often felt we were walking back through time. We were intrigued by the many pairs of storks that occupied huge nests perched precariously on metal rings attached to high-slanted rooftops in most of the villages. We learned that the storks we entrenched in Alsatian folklore with their fidelity and fertility symbolism.

We particularly enjoyed Turckheim, Riquewihr, Ribeauville and Andlau, but if we have to choose, our favourite stop while walking in Alsace goes to Kayserberg contained within its medieval ramparts. The River Weiss flows through the village and disappears through buildings in remarkable ways. We wandered the narrow twisting streets and stopped at a sidewalk café for beer and a few slices of tarte flambée before re-entering the trail that ascended to the Kayserberg Castle-Fort with its commanding views over the village.

 

Best food or drink?

Hirae always reminds me that I should pay more attention to detail, so you can imagine my surprise when checking into our hotel in Riquewihr after the first day walking. Our very friendly host announced that our dinner that evening would be at 7:30pm at the Relais Des Moines in the centre of town (I should read the Sherpa inclusions more carefully). From then on, at 7:30pm each evening, we were treated to a fine and varied array of regional cuisine. 

Dinner in the Relais Des Moines consisted of roast pork knuckle with Munster cheese, spaetzle, sauerkraut and salad accompanied by a local Riesling, the selection of which liberated with the knowledge that the food was pre-paid. And it got better. On our second evening, after relaxing with a beer on the terrace overlooking a fertile valley we were treated to a sumptuous meal at the 5-star Auberge La Meuniere in Thannenkirck, by far the best food experience of our trip. We were walking during the first week in May, and to our delight the large white asparagus were in full harvest. These were served with a variety of sauces often as an accompaniment to cheese and onion laden traditional tarte-flambée.


Food in France: tarte flambee and asparagus - walking holidays Alsace

 

Walking the Camino de Santiago in Alsace, France


Biggest surprise while walking in Alsace?

The first part of our hike took us through the gentle rolling vineyards of the lower slopes, and the steeper wooded walks to the higher vantage points of the Vosges. On Day 5 from Chatenois to Andlau, we encountered the middle ground – the beautiful and varied rural landscape and vistas to the south of Bernardville. In the centre of this were the buildings of the Fermes De Vignerons Boemstein where, with the generous hospitality of the vintner, Hirae and I stopped to taste wine with a group of jovial Germans. Who, after several glasses of fine Reisling, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer were in a serious buying mood – Oh, the hardships of wilderness hiking!

This, by way of introduction was not our biggest surprise. As we approached the village of Bernardville in Alsace we met a friendly lady hiker coming towards us on the trail. When I asked her where she was from we were surprised to hear that she had started in Cologne and was walking to Rome, for which she had allowed around 130 days. From the large shell on her backpack I suddenly realised the significance of all the shells on the maps supplied by Sherpa (which incidentally are excellent) – we were on part of the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route from northern Europe to Rome, adding even more significance to the host of churches, religious buildings and brass shells set into monuments along way. As we bid farewell to our friendly pilgrim and gazed out over the idyllic view, our spirits seemed to have lifted even higher.


Storks in Alsace, Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


Vineyards in France, Alsace - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

Day 6: the long climb from Andlau at 224m to Mont Saint-Odile at 790m. It was not the altitude gain, but the sheer distances involved that made this the most challenging day on our Alsace walking holiday. I’m sure we walked way further than necessary after a few wrong turns from the confusing signs on the myriad of trails crossing the mountain. Hirae, who is 58 and does 1 ½ hours of hot yoga four times per week, had plenty of rest time waiting for me: 67, overworked and overweight to catch up. After one wrong turn, a group of young mountain bikers clad in their colourful gear and helmets were kind enough to send us back down the trail to the correct turn, saving us a couple of kilometres of energy.

We encountered few hikers to join on the trails in Alsace. A group of youngsters flew past us at such a rate I was unable to utilize my schoolboy French. Halfway up the mountain we met a wonderful old gentleman who was a serious and seasoned hiker. His hat was adorned with colourful badges and insignia attesting to his many exploits and he carried a programmed GPS device on his jacket. Next time, Hirae assures me, I will pay more attention to the details. The emblematic Catholic monastery and pilgrimage site of Mont Sainte-O’Dile was well worth the climb and after touring the buildings we enjoyed a lunch from the cafeteria in the central courtyard. As we descended through the forest towards our final destination of Obernai on our Alsace walking holiday, I resisted the temptation to tell hikers coming up in the other direction that it was “not far to go”…


Did Derek and Hirae's story activate your travelbuds? You can go for Alsace walking holidays from May till October and with the flexibility to depart within a week, you can still book your summer walking holiday for this year! To do so, or to find out more on our walking and cycling holidays, get in touch with our team of travel experts.  

Traveller's Tale: Cycle The Coast to Coast

Travellers cycling the Coast to Coast in the UK - Sherpa Expeditions


Septuagenarians Arnold and Margaret Horner each year embark on a walking or cycling holiday. After having walked among others Hadrian’s Wall, covered parts of Offa’s Dyke on foot, cycled from Passau to Vienna along the Danube and completed the Stevenson Trail in France, this year they decided to cycle the famous Coast to Coast route.

 

We chose to cycle the Coast-2-Coast route because it seemed to give us an interesting set of landscapes, a defined target and the possibility of completing the route at our own pace.”

Why did you choose to cycle where you did?

We chose the C2C route in the UK as offered by Sherpa Expeditions because it seemed to give us an interesting set of landscapes, a defined target (going coast to coast) and the possibility of completing the route at our own pace in fairly easy stages.

How did you prepare? 

We periodically do a bit of casual cycling in a part of County Kerry where there can be quite steep hills (some of which we just walk up). Otherwise we did no very particular physical preparation. What we did do however, was to look carefully at the gradients along the whole route. We decided that, at least in reasonable weather, we could manage most of the stages but that it might be prudent to break the longest day, the 36 miles and five big hills between Langwathby and Rookhope, into two stages. Trina at the Sherpa Expeditions office in London organised for us to stop off at Alston, and this worked very well for us.


Heading for Thirlmere while on a cycle holiday on the C2C, UK - Sherpa Expeditions


Old Vicarege at Rookhope, cycle the Coast to Coast route, UK - Sherpa Expeditions cycling holidays

 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

Some of the hills were pretty steep. For example, it was a long haul up to Hartside summit. For us Crawleyside Bank on the way from Stanhope to Parkhead was, at a 17% gradient, daunting. We walked up anything steep. Other challenges might have been posed had we had either poor or really warm weather, or problems with tyres and chains. But the bicycles we were given at the beginning of the trip in Ulverston were good and we had no significant problems.


Which was your favourite destination along the Coast to Coast route?

The various stopover points were varied enough in their features, and each had its pluses. Keswick offered us a very active place that was both a strong local town and a tourist centre. We stayed at Beckside Guesthouse which had just reopened after the floods of December 2015. Owners Andrew and Tracey were very welcoming. So too were Colin and Pauline at the Old Vicarage in Rookhope, a small village high in the north Pennine moors.

Cycling holidays in the UK with World Expeditions

Old mine near Rookhope on the Coast to Coast route, UK - Sherpa cycling holidays

“From the restaurant we visited on our last night we could look out across the river mouth, knowing that we had successfully finished the C2C.”

Best food and drink?

Most places along the route offered good food, but the place we will probably most remember was the Marina Vista at Roker, Sunderland, which we visited on our last night. We could look out across the river mouth, knowing that we had successfully finished cycling the C2C.


Waskerly Way on the Coast to Coast route, UK - Sherpa Expeditions - cycling holidays

 

What surprised you most on your C2C cycling holiday?

The biggest surprise was probably that we did complete the whole route, which we saw as something of a challenge given that we are aged around 70 and that we are very definitely only casual cyclists.


If you like to share your travel stories on our website as well, you can let us know by filling out our contact form. If the story of Arnold and Margaret inspired you to set off on a similar cycling holiday, please have a look at our cycling holidays or get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices. 


All images are copyright of ©Arnold Horner

Traveller’s Tale: Isle of Wight, England, UK

Author Jane Cable on her Sherpa Expeditions Isle of Wight walking holiday


British author Jane Cable and her husband Jim met Texans Marsha Smith and Mike Doan on a walking holiday almost twenty years ago. When Marsha mentioned she and Mike were considering Sherpa Expeditions’ Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday, Jane and Jim jumped at the chance to join them.

 

Why did you choose to walk on the Isle of Wight?

Jim and I have lived on the south coast of England all our married life – in fact we have distant views of Bembridge Down on the Island from our bedroom window – but we’ve never taken a holiday there. Plus it was a great opportunity to spend time with Mike and Marsha on one of their rare trips back to the UK.

How did you prepare?

I think the answer is quite poorly! Although Jim and I tried to take some lengthy hikes in the weeks and months running up to the holiday, the weather was awful and we didn’t get as much mileage into our legs as we’d hoped. Mike and Marsha amused their friends in Texas by taking six mile walks to the Whole Foods organic store but their problem was that where they live is very flat. And the Isle of Wight isn’t.

 

"My favourite walking day was from Yarmouth to Freshwater because it was so varied."

Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday

 

Beach huts, Totland Bay, Isle of Wight - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Which was your favourite destination on the island?

My favourite walking day was from Yarmouth to Freshwater because it was so varied. We started off with a really pretty woodland walk with some fun sculptures at Fort Victoria Country Park then followed the promenade along part of Colwell Bay and Totland Bay with stunning views across the Solent to Hurst Castle. Then there was a short but steep climb up to Headon Warren – an amazing ancient chalk downland – which we crossed to reach Alum Bay for a much needed coffee and loo stop.

After our break, we carried on to The Needles. Jim and Marsha aren’t too keen on heights so they sat by the Coastguard Cottages while Mike and I ventured to the viewpoint at the New Battery. We also varied our walk to Freshwater by taking the path at the back of Tennyson Down which again took us through some lovely woodland, ending up at Freshwater right next to the thatched church.

The day finished really well too because we stayed at Seahorses, an oasis of calm with beautiful rooms, wonderful gardens, an art studio and the warmest welcome we could have wished for.

What aspect of this walking trip did you find most challenging?

Before we left we thought it might be the cliffs, but it was actually really easy to find alternative routes further inland with great countryside and stunning views. On the ground, the worst thing was the mud. We travelled in April after a very wet winter and on the route between Cowes and Yarmouth it was everywhere, with some parts of the path practically impassable. It didn’t help that it was the longest walking day at 15 miles and we were footsore, filthy and exhausted by the time we reached our destination.

 

The Needles, Isle of Wight - Sherpa Expeditions walking holiday

 

Beautiful sunset on the Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday - Sherpa Expeditions UK

What was the biggest surprise?

The genuine welcome we received from hoteliers, bartenders and restaurateurs – for most of them, nothing was too much trouble. There was a party at the hotel in Cowes (we stayed at the lovely Holmwood Hotel on the seafront at Egypt Point), so they gave us earplugs. Marsha left her stick at Chale Bay Farm but the owner’s wife delivered it to Ryde when she did her school run. And eating at Bellamy’s Bistro in Sandown felt more like dining with friends.

 

Best food and drink?

Without a doubt The Three Buoys on Appley Beach in Ryde. We ate there on the first night – it’s a short walk from the town centre but well worth it for the views, excellent service and local seafood presented in a way you’d only expect at a Michelin starred restaurant. And, at the time of writing, all for gastro pub prices.

 

Do you have any recommendations for other travellers taking this trip?

Take an extra day or two to chill or to see the sights. Although there was plenty of time to look around Osborne House on the first day it would have been good to visit some places not directly on the route, such as Carisbrooke Castle and the roman villa at Brading. Freshwater would be a good place as it’s close to Newport which is the Island’s transport hub and about half way in terms of the walk.

 

More information

You can find out more about Jane Cable’s novels, which are inspired by the British countryside, on her website www.janecable.com and for more details on Sherpa Expeditions’ Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday, you can have a look at the Isle of Wight walking trip details or get in touch with our team of travel experts in the London office

Traveller’s Tale: The Alpine Pass Route, Switzerland

Feedback from Traveller Eileen-walking in the Swiss Alps with Sherpa Expeditions


Eileen Allen (in the middle at the above picture) from the USA realised that she had a need to prove to herself that she could still handle a significant challenge during the year she turned 60. So after many years of hiking in the USA in places like California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Grand Canyon National Park, she embarked on a guided hiking trip in the legendary Swiss Alps


Why did you choose to walk where you did? 

“The Alpine Pass Route’s varied terrain, wonderful scenery, and welcome food for hikers, met all of my expectations, and then some more. I found the Swiss culture, including eating in cafes and huts, riding the various forms of public transportation, and routine activities such as shopping in the local grocery stores, very interesting as well."


How did you prepare?

“I like to hike on weekends in California’s Coast Range mountains and the Sierras. In 2014 I worked in Sacramento which is very flat and close to sea level elevation. I usually walked each weekday morning for about 1,5km from the Sacramento train station to my job near the State Capitol, and then retraced that walk in the afternoon. After I committed to the Alpine Pass Route trip, I added a lunch-time stair climbing routine on one or two days each week at a 16-storey building across the street from my job. The stairs were tedious, but listening to music helped, and the conditioning was invaluable in preparation for the elevation gain and loss in the Swiss Alps.” 

Which was your favourite destination?

“The Hohturli Pass. The views from the pass on a clear morning were absolutely extraordinary, with the green Kiental/Golderli region from which we ascended on one side, and the intensely blue, large Oeschinsee Lake far below us on the other side. The second half of the Hohturli ascent was quite steep and somewhat arduous, so a bench near the top of the pass provided a very welcome spot for a brief rest.” 

 

Oeschinensee-in-Switzerland-on-a-Sherpa-Expeditions-Holidays-to-the-Alpine-Pass

 

Resting-below-Jungfrau-on-a-Sherpa-Expeditions-Alpine-Pass-Route-walking-holiday-in-Switzerland

 

“The first surprise was that our hiking group consisted of seven strong, adventurous women from throughout the world. To my delight we had great camaraderie.”

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging? 

“The Bernese Oberland has very changeable summer weather, so we put on and took off raingear and clothing layers frequently. This was a minor inconvenience, which was easily offset by the scenery.”

 

What was the biggest surprise?

“The first surprise was that our hiking group consisted of seven strong, adventurous women from throughout the world. Our guide, John Millen, handled this group very well! To my delight we had great camaraderie. It was also a pleasant surprise to have humorous encounters over several days with a group of Dutch hikers whom we first met at the Rostockhutte on the way to the Sefinenfurke Pass.” 

 

Marmot-Switzerland-Walking-Holidays-Sherpa-Expedition

 

 

Best food and drink?

“My favourite meal was a lunch at the Bluemlis Alphutte just above the Hohturli Pass. I was somewhat depleted after the ascent to the pass, so the hut’s hot, tasty soup to which I added sausage slices, was wonderfully rejuvenating. I also loved the fruit kuchen, which we had during breaks from hiking at Rosenlaui and at the Rostockhutte. The restaurant at the Silberhorn Hotel in Lauterbrunnen stood out for great breakfast buffets, dinner salad bar, and delicious dinner specials. ”

 

Wetterhorn-from-Engstlenalp-Sherpa-Expeditions-Walking-Switzerland
 

Do you have any recommendations for other travellers considering this trip? 

“Our guide, John Millen, and the Sherpa office staff were excellent. For fitness preparation, lots of walking combined with frequent stair climbing will get you ready for the ups and downs of the Alpine passes even if you can’t hike in the mountains often. Bring good rain-gear and make sure to test that while carrying a daypack.”

More information
Find a detailed itinerary, departure dates and more information on the Alpine Pass Route walking holiday in Switzerland here. Also have a look at this full list of other Sherpa Expeditions walking tours in Switzerland.

Traveller's Tale: Alto Aragon, Spanish Pyrenees

Traveller's Tale: Alto Aragon - Walking

Traveller's Tale: Alto Aragon, Spanish Pyrenees

Sherpa Expeditions travellers Tony Powell and Glenys Hughes share their experiences on their Alto Aragon: The Spanish Pyrenees holiday.  

   

Why did you choose to walk in Alto Aragon in the Spanish Pyrenees?

We chose Alto Aragon after talking to Jon from the Sherpa Expeditions team. Having previously walked on the French side of the Pyrenees we had heard that the Spanish side was completely different – and it was! In comparison it is surprisingly green and forested.

 

I also wanted to prove to myself that I can still do a challenging walk. The rest of our walking group thought that we were completely nuts, Glenys admits to being 50-something and I am a fit 79 years old!

 

How did you prepare?

We walk most weekends in the hills and mountains of South Wales, close to where we live. We expect to walk for 5 hours at least, it is good cardio-vascular exercise. In preparation for this trip, I had attempted Fan Brycheiniog, the highest peak in the Black Mountain region of the Brecon Beacons National Park, the week before. It was an incredibly wet day and blowing a gale but I struggled on. Glenys hadn't walked for a fortnight but she had been scuba diving, not much help but thankfully she is a strong walker anyway.

 

 

 

Which was your favourite destination?

We kicked off with a 1,200m climb from Bielsa, a small town on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees that was heavily bombed in the Spanish Civil War, to a major pass called Portillo de Tella. This walk was breathtaking in more ways than one, no sooner had we arrived when a couple of eagles soared close overhead followed by several griffin vultures. In the distance we could see at least 60 chamois (mountain antelopes) proving to both of us that this region is filled with fascinating nature at every turn. 

 

After staying a while to enjoy the views we then started the 1,500m descent into a hamlet called Hospital de Tella, you might think we needed a hospital but there is only a simple guesthouse and a few holiday houses. In fact, this was our favourite stop, we couldn't wait to get into the river to cool off, thankfully for us this was located directly below the accommodation.

 

We had two nights there and the food was simple country fare; no menu, no pretensions. We had what they offered and enjoyed it, not least the free bottle of wine with our meal (this turned out to be standard practice)!

 

 

 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

We saw hardly any other walkers, perhaps because they know how hot it gets in August! We could feel the weather getting hotter with each day that passed and sometimes at the end of the day we really struggled. 


Although the hotels were very comfortable and the views were amazing, often the first beer wouldn't touch the sides. 

 

What was the biggest surprise?

Our stop on the fifth day was Lafortunada, a rather strange village that supports a hydroelectric station. We thankfully arrived early just in time for a well-deserved siesta. However in the evening we decided to walk up to the 16th century church at Badain, this gave us a good view over the valley and village below. During the evening the whole village came out to celebrate their fiesta; the villagers brought food in hampers and they all sat down to eat and share their food together, the music and dancing seemed to go on for most of the night.

 

Do you have any recommendations for anyone considering this trip?

The organisation has been quite exemplary from start to finish. The maps provided by Sherpa Expeditions were very good but the way-marking and the route notes were so comprehensive that you could easily follow the route without any maps. We had absolutely no problems with route finding. 

 

There is a lot of flexibility built in so that if the weather is bad or someone just needs an easy day there are opt-outs. In the worst case, you could just travel with the baggage transfer from one hotel to the next. We thoroughly enjoyed this trip and we already look forward to our next holiday with Sherpa Expeditions!

 

More information

For more information about our Alto Aragon tour please visit our website for details on how to book. For a full list of our tours in Spain visit our Self-Guided Walking Holidays in Spain page for other recommendations.

 

Walking in Tarn & Aveyron with Eric Martin and Julie Gardinier

 

Walking in Tarn & Aveyron with Eric Martin and Julie Gardinier

Sherpa Expeditions travellers Eric Martin and Julie Gardinier share their experience on our Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron holiday.

 

What is your travelling/walking history?

We love to both bike and hike and most of our travelling adventures involve one of these activities, plus some amount of time spent visiting museums or historical sites. We like to combine physical activities with learning experiences of other countries and cultures when we are on holiday and we have travelled in most of Asia, Africa, South America, Western and Eastern Europe. We have been on many wonderful Sherpa Expeditions trips before so we knew that the Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron walking trip would be great.

 

                                                                

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

We decided to go on the Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron walking trip because we have never been to that area of France with beautiful Medieval villages, fields, forests and farms, and we are very interested in the history of the region concerning the Cathars and the bastide villages. We also wanted to improve our speaking and understanding French. The descriptions of the villages and the accommodations really appealed to us, as did the variety of walks and terrain. Walking through very old villages with homes made of stone and shopping at the local ‘alimentation generale’ for our pain, fromage and saucisson for our picnic lunches was great fun and so delicious. We were definitely not disappointed and actually loved every minute of the trip.

 

 

How did you prepare for this trip?

In preparation for this trip, we increased our walking distance and made sure that we walked up and down hills as steep as we could find. We also made sure that we walked 7 miles at least once or twice a week. The most important thing was to make sure that our hiking shoes were in good shape and very comfortable. Socks are very important too, especially wool socks, as they keep feet dry and cushioned. Other than these things, we followed our usual walking and biking routines. We usually do not walk with a backpack, but for a couple of days we added weight to our backpacks and walked with them on to make sure they fit well and were comfortable.

 

Which was your favourite destination?

So many experiences and places stand out in our mind… I think all of the villages and areas of the Tarn were so amazing and interesting that we really don't have a favourite.

 

 

Where did you have the best food and drink on your trip?

Most of the food that we had was delicious and some meals were outstanding and quite different from our usual fare. The food in Vaour was all homemade and wonderful (bread baked in their own oven, duck confit, lasagne, boudin noir, pork rillette, apple tart) and the dinner in Bruniquel was outstanding. The owner prepared ‘loup de mer’ (Mediterranean seabass) in a mild curry sauce with shallots, oranges and cream. Delicious! We also had very interesting local wines with the home dinners.

 

 

What was the biggest surprise on your trip?

The biggest and most wonderful surprise was that instead of just serving us dinner at these two places (Vaour and Bruniquel) the family actually sat and ate with us. Of course they only spoke limited English – so we could practice our French! – but they were so helpful and we learned so much. Plus they were truly interesting people and we so enjoyed being with them and learning about them and their lives.

 

 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

This was quite a challenging trip for us because it was exactly one year ago that I had fractured my femur and broke my collarbone on a bicycle accident – but after a year of physical therapy, daily exercises and a regimen of walking to build up miles, we were very excited to take this trip! The first day of 13 miles was a challenge just because of the distance (I was still having some difficulty walking) and on two days we did shorten the distance by hiring a taxi with a very nice man who accommodated our schedule. There were rocks, stones and tree trunks to negotiate going from Bruniquel to Puycelci but it was a beautiful walk and I am glad that we walked the entire length. I do think the hikes are not difficult. On one day, we walked on a very small local road as the regular walk was too steep and muddy (it had rained the night before) but we were fortunate not to have any rainy days.

 

 

Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about booking this trip?

I would also add that an extension to Albi for two days was really a great thing to do. Katia from Sherpa Expeditions helped us with the arrangements and her recommendation of the small 2-star hotel in the centre of Albi was just perfect. We also added a rest day in Puycelci, which was a wonderful village to wander around. We went inside the beautiful church across from our hotel, visited a local potter, walked around the fortifications and shopped in a local ‘epicerie-boulangerie’. I would definitely recommend this trip. It was truly exceptional and will always be remembered.

Walking South of Siena with Julia and Gordon Blackwell

Walking South of Siena Header

 

Sherpa Expeditions travellers Julia and Gordon Blackwell share their experience in Tuscany on our Walking South of Siena holiday.

 

What is your travelling/walking history?

At the ages of 65 and 71 we had some initial reservations as to whether we were up to this tour, even though our previous walking experience has included treks in Switzerland, Austria, Nepal, Iceland, and Canada. Our customary afternoon stroll usually covers about 7 km, and we also go 'fast walking' for an hour each week with friends. I would therefore describe ourselves as reasonably fit and experienced, but with some age related restrictions. In the event, the 'Walking South of Siena' tour turned out to be totally do-able – some days quite strenuous, but we were never seriously overstretched. Above all, it was totally enjoyable.

 

Views of Siena

 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

 

We had wanted to visit Siena for a long time, and also wanted to spend some time in the surrounding countryside exploring the villages and tasting the local food and wines. The self-guided tour 'Walking South of Siena' seemed to be an ideal way to combine these wishes, walking from one village to another at our own pace and without stress – accommodation and luggage transport being taken care of by Sherpa.

 

Old Square in Bagno Vignoni

 

How did you prepare?

A few weeks before the tour we checked our fitness by walking increasingly long distances every few days, up to the maximum length of a day on the tour. In addition we studied the directions and the maps so that we knew what possible problems to expect, and what we might especially want to see on the way. We also looked at alternative maps, and as a backup entered the routes into a GPS navigator. Although the instructions provided by Sherpa were generally good, the Italian maps were sometimes difficult to read or unclear and the GPS proved its worth more than once in helping us to keep on the track – or to deliberately deviate from it when we chose to. Although most hotel staff spoke English, the few key Italian phrases we learnt proved to be useful in shops and cafés.

 

Your favourite destination?

Our favourite destination is difficult to decide on, as we would willingly go back to any of them. Perhaps for pure charm of both the village and the B&B we stayed in, the overall winner has to be Bagno Vignoni. Two days here would not too long for us, especially after the long walk to get there. 

 

The old bath in Bagno Vignoni

 

Best food and drink?

This is another difficult question, as almost all the food and drink we had was excellent, and by no means expensive. A bottle of top wine for under 10€ can't be bad, and we especially enjoyed the wine from Montalcino. For beer drinkers, the Birra Moretti La Rossa can be unreservedly recommended - a wonderful red-brown coloured beer which I would go a long way to have again.

 

Biggest surprise of the trip?

I don't know why we were surprised, but the openness and friendliness of everyone we met was remarkable. One particular experience that sticks in our memory was the bus journey from Siena to Taverne d'Arbia, when almost everyone on the bus, including the driver, joined in to wish us luck and ensure that we got off at the right stop. Also unexpected was the consideration shown by drivers of the occasional cars which passed us on the sometimes dusty “white roads” or gravel tracks. Most slowed down to walking pace as they approached and passed. This minimised the dust, and we were often greeted with a friendly wave too. 

 

Enjoying a glass of wine and a beer Morreti La Rossa in Montepulciano

 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

The most challenging day was undoubtedly the walk from Montalcino to Bagno Vignoni, purely because of the distance and height ascent which had to be covered – by our GPS 27 km and 850 height meters including deviations and on-route sightseeing.

 

Other days brought different challenges such as a closed section of track, a closed bridge, misleading sign posts, and difficult to find (sometimes apparently non existent) tracks across fields. However these were all relatively easily overcome with careful reading of the instructions – and use of the GPS navigator.

 

Intended deviation

 

Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?

Some of the days on this trek were, for us 66 and 71 year old youngsters, quite tough. We walked at a fairly constant pace of 4.0 - 4.5 km/h (excluding pauses), and most walks took us a bit longer than suggested - but after all we were on holiday and who wants to rush? In this regard, the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore between Asciano and Buonconvento is well worth a visit, and in order to arrive in time for a leisurely look around (it is closed from 12:00 to 15:00) we opted to go there by taxi from Asciano rather than walk. This also gave time for lunch in the nearby village and a relaxed walk on to Buonconvento. 

 

Although perhaps not to everyone's liking, our GPS navigator was sometimes a godsend and saved us several times from missed turnings and long diversions – just make sure you have spare charged batteries in your day pack, and a charger in your luggage! If like us you decide to ignore some of the directions on the route to Bagno Vignoni and opt to ford a stream rather than walk along a railway track to a bridge, then rubber sandals would be useful but not essential. Lastly, remember that most electrical sockets in Italy are of the Italian design (type L socket) and you will need an adaptor for either UK or European plugs.

 

Have you ever been on a Sherpa Expeditions walking or cycling holiday?  If yes, send us your story and get £50 off your next trip... 

 

Check out  more Travellers' Tales >>


Mosaics

Travellers Tales

Travellers' Tales Header

Have you been on a Sherpa Expeditions trip lately?

Travellers’ Tales are a great way for our travellers to learn more about specific trips, helping them decide which holiday would best suit their interests and we try to publish as many as we can. If you'd like to share your story, simply contact us with the answers (can be as short or as long as you like) to the following questions. As a little thank you, when your tale is published we'll give you £50 towards the cost of your next Sherpa operated trip

  1. What is your travelling/walking/cycling history?
    We’d love to know what kinds of holidays you have taken in the past and the level of walking/cycling you do regularly. Please be as general as you would like. It is good to just paint a picture for other travellers to help them relate their experiences to yours.

  2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?

  3. How did you prepare?
    What physical preparation did you do to make sure you would enjoy the trip? If this was nothing different from your normal routine, then please just mention what this involves. We’d also like to hear of any other preparation (or lack of it!) that you thought helpful.

  4. Your favourite destination?
    Did you have a favourite village or area on your trip?

  5. Best food and drink?
    What was the best food/drink that you had on the trip and where did you have it?

  6. Biggest surprise?
    Did you have any nice surprises or serendipitous experiences?

  7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
    (i.e. a specific hill or the overall distance .. or coming back to the real world!)

  8. Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?