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The Americans call it leaf peeping, the Japanese call it momiji gari. But if you're looking to be inspired by the shades of autumn foliage, you don't need to travel all the way to New England or the Far East – Sherpa Expeditions have a number of trips where you can experience the splendour of the changing leaves in Europe.
PORTUGAL | Douro RAMBLER
Surround yourself with colour as autumn transforms the photogenic Douro River Valley, which slices across northern Portugal. As the terraced vineyards that slope along the riverbanks prepare for winter, they turn into an endless sea of red, orange and yellow. From visiting small working wine estates to taking scenic boat trips, there will be plenty of opportunities for wine tasting tours, where you can fortify yourself against the autumn chill with a glass of the region’s famed local port.
Departure dates until 15 October - click here for details and booking.
SPAIN | hiking in hidden Andalucía
The weather in Andalucía’s mountains can be harsh in the summer and winter months – but visit in autumn for beautiful gold and yellow colours of chestnuts and poplars lighting up the valleys, while the hedgerows and paths are lined with figs, mulberries, walnuts and pomegranates. With the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, this is an exhilarating walk among terraced fields and through white-washed villages and along irrigation channels that date back to the Moorish era.
Departure dates until 20 November - click here for details and booking.
GERMANY | Bavaria - King Ludwig's Way
Saturated with alpine flowers in spring and crowded with tourists in summer, southern Germany offers more relaxed tempos for leaf-peeping during the autumn months. Home to the idyllic Romantic Road, this is fairy-tale country, with geranium-bedecked chalets, onion-shaped church spires and copper-turreted castles rising out of red and green forests – including the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle, the eccentric King Ludwig’s most famous architectural masterpiece.
Departure dates until 22 October - click here for details and booking.
AUSTRIA | The Lake District and Dachstein Alps
Towering peaks, high mountain passes, alpine meadows and lakeside walks are all combined in this surprisingly compact area – there is nowhere better to experience autumn unfold in Austria than the heart of the Lake District, which encompasses 76 crystal clear lakes, the impressive Dachstein Glacier and breathtaking rock faces up to 3,000 vertical metres high. Wander through ochre mountain forests, explore glimmering lakeland shores and visit alpine villages of wooden chalets.
Departure dates until 20 October - click here for details and booking.
UK | Exploring the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath, through Cheltenham to Stratford-upon-Avon - the ‘Heart of England’. The Cotswold landscape is an entrancing mixture of parkland, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls and patches of unspoilt woodland. In autumn the trees turn into a beautiful myriad of colours - there is nowhere better to experience the splendour of the English countryside as summer slowly fades away. Our walking tours of the Cotswolds are available as 5-day
If you’re someone who likes to travel solo, but without walking on your own, you may have tried an escorted tour in the past. After all, it’s a great way to ensure that you’ve got a group of people to walk with, especially if you’re not so keen on navigating on your own. But what do you do if you didn’t like the pace, or even the company? Maybe there was not enough time to take photos, or to visit that rather interesting pub on the way? Are you walking alone to get away from people, to clear your mind? Or are you hoping to meet new friends and see where the path takes you? In this article we take a look at a selection of trips, at different ability levels, that might make good choices for solo walkers.
So what is the difference between solo walking and going with friends or family? Well, for a start there is no one to argue with over directions or to where to stop for a break... you can literally take that all in your stride! A very important aspect is solo safety: if you were to have an accident, would phone reception be enough to raise the alarm or would there be people on the trail to help? It’s important that solo walkers think about such matters, have a fully charged phone and perhaps a fully-charged portable battery recharger. Carry a small first aid kit and a lightweight survival bag, and make sure you have a map and compass, a torch (plus spare batteries), extra water and emergency snack supplies.
Less Challenging Trips
If you’re starting down this road, there is no better place to look at than Hadrian's Wall
in Northern England, starting at Wallsend near Newcastle. There is a day of urban walking before you burst out across the countryside, essentially following a linear feature, the famous Roman wall. Although this no longer stretches all the way as an intact wall, the clues are often in the landscape, and just to help out you will have little white National Trail acorn waymarks to guide you. There are usually quite a number of people on the trail each day, particularly on the popular central section of the walk, which covers a couple of days.
Walking the Hadrian's Wall Path
A bit quieter, but covering a similar theme with the National Trail white acorns to show you the way, are both the South Downs Way and Dales Way, which both represent relatively easy challenges. Some care is needed with navigation, as these twist and turn a bit, and you need to follow the map carefully to be prepared for a junction. The Dales Way is the harder of the two - as you cross the Pennines you have a greater chance of bad weather, which can mean low visibility. There is a bit of route-finding across fields in places, and although well waymarked, it only takes one to be missing for you to have to consider where you are going.
Walking the Dales Way
If you’re looking for a similar trip in Europe you could consider something like the Alsace Vineyard Trail in France or King Ludwig's Way in Bavaria, Germany. Both are largely waymarked routes - the French long distance paths the, known as GRs, have red and white flash markings which are usually clear in dim forest light, although not all our trips continuously follow such waymarks. A couple of good trips for solo walkers in southern France are The Way of St. James, or the Robert Louis Stevenson Walk in the Cevennes. There are some long days but you are generally following drove roads and mule paths with good waymarking.
Walking King Ludwig's Way
Stevenson's Trail in the Cevennes
Another good concept for a solo traveller is a centre-based holiday in Switzerland - Sherpa has one based in Meiringen. There are several walks you can choose, so you can do shorter or longer options, and there are a lot of public transport possibilities in general. Something else in its favour is that Swiss walks are generally very clearly waymarked and signposted at most junctions.
Walking solo in the Swiss Alps
Harder up the scale for solo walkers in terms of navigation are trails with some wild terrain and maybe fewer, or no waymarks. In the UK there’s the short but beautiful James Herriot Way
, celebrating the life and times of the famous British vet, whose books inspired the much-loved TV series All Creatures Great and Small
. This walk climbs and drops into the great dales of the Pennines, and may require some careful navigation in bad weather. But if solitude is what you’re after you’ll definitely find it! The Troodos and Akamas
tours in Cyprus have few waymarks, but generally follow dirt roads and quiet, surfaced lanes. This is definitely one for the walker seeking solitude, as apart from a couple of trails in the Akamas, it is unlikely you will see many another walkers.
The James Herriot Way
Harder tours present more of a challenge for solos as they are more remote. We can suggest the Tour du Mont Blanc and The Alpine Pass Route - both are well waymarked, have various variants you can follow, and, especially on the Tour du Mont Blanc, you will always find people walking, running or mountain biking. In the UK the Coast to Coast also stands out, with quite a number of people on the trail every day, although you may also find yourself alone for some long sections. If you’re really looking for a decent amount of time on your own, you could consider the Pennine Way for the ultimate challenge, with long, deserted moorland sections on a walk covering 270 miles!
The UK Coast to Coast Walk
The Pennine Way
But what about solo traveller supplements, we hear you ask? Well, it is true that we have to add a supplement to the cost of your holiday if you’re travelling alone. This is mainly due to the cost of luggage transfers for just one bag. However, we try to keep the solo supplement as low as we possibly can, as we do not want to create any barriers for those wishing to travel alone.
Christmas is just around the corner, and we hope your plans for the festive season are coming along nicely. As well as enjoying this special time with friends and family, Christmas is also the perfect time to start making your holiday plans for next year – but what’s on your wish list for 2019? Here, we pick out a few of our trips that might help you decide – but there are hundreds more trips to choose from on our website. In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Whichever trip you choose, Sherpa Expeditions can help to make your 2019 a very memorable year.
Tick off a classic UK walk
Coast to Coast
This classic Coast to Coast walking route, stretching from the east to west of the UK, was originated and described by Alfred Wainwright, author of a well-known series of mountain-walking guide books on the Lake District. The walk starts on the Irish Sea coast of Cumbria near the huge red sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head. You cross three National Parks before reaching the North Sea at the pretty fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the rocky coastline of the North York Moors. Sherpa Expeditions offers a range of guided and self guided Coast to Coast walks, ranging from 15 to 18 days for the entire route, and with shorter sections available.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The West Highland Way
Cornwall: The South West Coast Path
Take on a challenge
The Pennine Way
A mountain journey across the backbone of England, The Pennine Way became the very first British National Trail in 1965. It is a long, 268 mile (429 km) hike from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It crosses some of the finest upland landscapes in England, from the Peak District, through the Yorkshire Dales, across the North Pennines and over Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, through the Cheviots and down into Scotland. Its sheer length makes it the perfect for those seeking a challenge – although you can also choose to do just the southern or northern sections.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The Tour du Mont Blanc
Alto Aragon : The Spanish Pyrenees
Try a Scandinavian adventure
This trip is the ideal introduction into the magic of Norwegian walking; it is undertaken from several centres using easy transportation on trains and boats in between. From Oslo or Bergen you travel by rail to some of the wildest, most spectacular, classic “picture postcard” settings within the realms of Norwegian mountain and fjordland. The retreating glaciers from the last ice age once overwhelmed and molded this landscape, gouging out the great coastal grooves which, with post glacial rising sea levels, have become the fjords.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Sweden: Hiking Stockholm and Beyond
Soak up some sun
Classic Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is the quintessential Italian holiday, with stunning scenery and mouth-watering food. Pastel coloured fishing villages are perched on the staggering cliff side overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea with some outstanding walks to experience this destination. There is no better way to immerse in this jaw dropping Italian coastline than hiking the Amalfi Coast to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you're a sun worshipper, you'll love the warmth and colours of this beautiful part of Italy.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries
Rambling in the Luberon
Enjoy a food and wine lover’s paradise
Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
Everyone’s idea of what constitutes great food is different, but there’s no doubting that classic French food and wine is up there with the best. The food from the Dordogne features dishes that embody most people’s idea of classic French cuisine – this is the land of truffles, magret de canard and rich, dark wines. However, there’s much more to the Dordogne than just the amazing food and wine – beautiful medieval villages, lush, green, wooded hills and even caves all add to this lovely walking tour. (8 and 10 day trips available).
Other trips that fit the bill…
Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron
Burgundy Vineyard Trails
Keep cool in the forest
King Ludwig’s Way
For those that like some trees to shade them from the heat of the summer sun, this lovely, fascinating walk offers some very enjoyable stretches through the beech forests of Bavaria. The route passes two of Bavaria's most scenic lakes and through charming villages of geranium bedecked chalets with typical onion shaped church spires. The walk ends at King Ludwig’s spectacular fairy tale castle at Neuschwanstein.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Austrian Lake District and the Dachstein Alps
This is just a tiny selection of the trips available, but we hope it provides some inspiration. You can search all of our holidays here.
The festive season has started with plenty of different celebrations around Europe. Here are five festivals you can join this December or January in Slovenia, Rome, Germany, Tyrol, and Andalucía.
1. Three Kings Parade | Andalucia, Spain
Cabalgata Los Reyes Magos is the Three Kings Parade celebrated across Spain on the 6th January. In Andalucia, towns and cities welcome the Three Kings when the evening falls on the Iberian Peninsula on the 5th January. It's a colourful parade where the kings toss out sweets for the children waiting along the streets for the parade to pass by.
Thousands of spectators come to witness the arrival the three wise Kings Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar dressed in traditional costumes.
When: 6 January 2016
2. Nativity Scene | Postojna Cave, Slovenia
The Live Nativity Scene in the Postojna Cave in Slovenia, about 1 hour drive from Trieste, is a unique performance. The caves are an attraction on its own already, but when the biblical scenes come to life they're even more rewarding. Fantasy stalactite forms, the inventive play of light, harmonious music and singing in a very acoustic environment together create an almost surreal Christmas atmosphere. At the cave's entrance a Christmas market takes place. If you want to experience the nativity scene, it's best to make a booking in advance. Shows run every half hour from 1-3pm.
When: 25-30 December 2015
3. Krampustag | Eastern Tyrol, Salzburg & Bavaria, Austria
Perhaps less suitable for younger children, in Austria on the 5th of December the Krampustag is celebrated. Young men dress like demons: wearing fearsome masks made out of wood, fur robes, tails and use branches as weapons to chase away bad spirits. The processions organised are known as Perchtenläufe and are truly spectacular to watch. The Perchtenläufe originally take place only four nights a year, on December 21 and 24 and New Year's Eve and January 5. Good places to observe this festival are Gastein, Altenmarkt, St. Johann and Bischofshofen in Salzburg, Henndorf and other places in Eastern Tyrol and Bavaria.
When: 21 December 2015 - 5 January 2016
Sherpa Expeditions self guided walking holidays in Tyrol & Bavaria
4. Christmas market | Stuttgart, Germany
One of the best places to go for a typical German Christmas market is Stuttgart. It is said to have one of the most beautiful markets in Europe and has a very nostalgic feel to it. The market is set up in and around the Old Palace on the Renaissance inner courtyard. There are over 280 wooden Christmas stalls, which sell a range of Christmas items and gifts. Obviously there's also plenty of German snacks and drinks available, try for example roasted chestnuts, gingerbread, Swabian specialities and mulled wine (gluewhein).
When: 28 November - 23 December 2015
Sherpa Expeditions trips in Germany
5. Fireworks | Rome, Italy
For those of you who are in Rome over the holiday period, make sure to be part of the New Year's Eve celebrations in town. Prepare for lots of fireworks after the midnight countdown. It's especially spectacular with the backdrop of some of the world's most impressive monuments like the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, and San Marco square. Prepare for lots of noise as well; people throw old pots, pans and furniture out of their windows to 'let go of unhappiness and prepare Rome for a happier future'.
When: 31 December 2015
Sherpa Expeditions trips in Italy
Image of Three Kings in Spain, copyright of ©Europe Video Productions | Image of Postojna Cave, copyright of ©Shadowgate Postojna Cave | Image of Perchtenlauf, copyright of ©riegersburg.com | Image of fireworks in Rome, copyright of ©neigesdantan
Christmas traditions across Europe are as varied as the villages, mountains and countryside in which they take place. To give you an idea what traditional Christmas celebrations look like in Italy, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, France, Iceland, Slovenia and Germany, we did a little research among our friends and came to the below typical traditions.
ICELAND - GLEÐILEG JÓL!
Because the days are so short and dark the Christmas lights are put up early in Iceland. Icelanders celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December. On Christmas day the traditional meal that most Icelanders enjoy is smoked lamb (hangikjöt) served with leaf bread (Laufabrauð). The leaf bread is a hard, deep fried, thin bread that families get together to bake, cutting decorative patterns in the dough.
Baking holds a special place at Christmas time as it provides an opportunity for families and friends to do something together while the kids dance around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols.
There are 13 Santas, or Yule lads, in Iceland with each providing children a small present in their shoe for each of the 13 nights before Christmas. If the kids are naughty they get an old potato. This tradition has helped to ensure good behaviour for the second part of December!
ITALY - Buon Natale!
On Christmas Eve, children across the country leave out a glass of wine and cake for Babbo Natale (Father Christmas). In some cities, like Trieste, San Nicolò (Santa Claus) brings presents on December 6, while in Verona the tradition of Santa Lucia sees the whole city celebrate with Christmas markets and children receiving presents on December 13.
The traditional cakes eaten through the season include pandoro
, originally from Verona, and panettone
, from Milan, both sweet breads with raisins and candied fruit included in the panettone. On Christmas Day the hero dish is roasted capon (cockerel).
CZECH REPUBLIC - Ježíšku panáčku!
Advent, the period of fasting that begins four weeks before Christmas holidays, is the most eagerly awaited time of year for many Czechs as it means the preparations for Christmas can begin.
On Christmas Eve, fairy-tales are told and houses are decorated with mistletoe and of course a Christmas tree. Traditions include an all-day fast (it is said that whoever lasts until the evening will see a golden pig) or the throwing of a slipper (if it lands with the toes pointing at the door, it means that the girl in the house will marry within a year). Meatless dishes are served for lunch – peas, barley, or a mushroom casserole.
Other unique Czech Christmas traditions include; placing a candle in a nutshell and put it in the water. If the candle doesn’t sink, it means a prosperous year ahead.
SLOVENIA - Vesel božič!
Around 60% of Slovenians are Christians and typically only this part of the Slovenian population celebrates Christmas. For many other non-Christian Slovenians New Year’s Eve is celebrated, instead of Christmas, however the family gets together on January 2 for the celebratory meal.
Children in Slovenia can receive gifts from St. Nicholas, Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, or Grandfather Frost. St. Nicholas visits on St. Nicholas Day, December 6. Santa Claus or Baby Jesus visits on Christmas while Grandfather, or Father, Frost may appear on New Year.
THE NETHERLANDS - Gelukkig Kerstfeest!
Most organisations in the Netherlands share in the festive spirit by rewarding their employees with a kerstpakket
(Christmas box). Traditionally this contains groceries like lobster soup, bread sticks, ragout & patties, candles, crisps and maybe even a bottle of mulled wine.
The main Christmas meal is embraced by everyone, usually even two days in a row on the 25th and 26th (second Christmas Day) of December. These dinners in the Netherlands typically include either a roulade with trimmings or a raclette dinner.
GERMANY - Frohe Weihnachten!
For most Germans the one colourful tradition is the Christmas market. Beginning mostly in late November in almost every German city, town or village, Christmas markets will pop up on the local square and often in several other locations with beautifully decorated stalls, entertainment and all kinds of delicious foods like Glühwein (mulled wine) and roasted chestnuts.
Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) is the main day where presents are exchanged. Traditionally a small meal like potato salad with small sausages (Frankfurter/Wiener Würstchen) or carp are served before the opening of gifts.
FRANCE - Joyeux Noël!
As you would expect in France, the Christmas meal is something to behold with a Christmas turkey served with pommes dauphine
(crisp potato puffs made by mixing mashed potatoes with savory choux pastry), green beans rolled in bacon, and some chestnuts. And it wouldn’t be a French Christmas without some good red wine of course!
Several days before Christmas the towns and villages of France take on a festive air. Town hall facades are decorated, huge trees are erected in the major squares and the main streets begin to dazzle with a wonderful array of Christmas lights.
Image of reindeer in Iceland, copyright of ©Dokiai Aikido
| Image of panettone in Italy, copyright of ©tristanf
| Image of square in Slovenia, copyright of ©Nicola since 1972
| Image of Christmas market in France, copyright of ©sarahstierch