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Walking is not just for summer! If you want to feel the warmth of the sun on your face in the middle of winter, a European walking holiday is a great way to escape those cold weather blues. There’s something about being out and active in the fresh air when most of the people you know are in hibernation mode that gives you a fantastic sense of well-being, especially as it can be hard to stay active when winter arrives and we tend to spend more time indoors.
Take a look at some of our favourite walking holidays for winter 2019-20.
La Palma Island Walking
A new destination for this year, La Palma is a fascinating volcanic island. The most north-westerly and the fifth largest of the Canary Islands, it’s famous for its volcanic craters and the huge collapsed erosion crater called The Caldera Taburiente - an amazing site 10 km across and with walls towering more than 2,000m over the caldera floor in places. Our itinerary in La Palma features a series of walks from three base towns – there is a lot of flexibility on offer, depending on how much you want to challenge yourself.
Exploring La Gomera
If you’ve been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to the Canaries before and you come to La Gomera, you’ll probably notice that the second smallest island of the Canaries is something special, and altogether quite different. Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s, but if you have travelled to countries of Central or South America, there are certainly Latin American elements that you will recognize in the villages and landscapes. This circular walk takes you around almost the entire island, allowing you to experience the amazing diversity of landscapes on offer.
Exploring La Gomera is available as an 8-day
Southern Trails of La Gomera
This trip focusses on the sunny south side of La Gomera. The shorter walking days will give you the opportunity to do other activities such as relax by the sea, snorkelling, kayaking or whale watching. You’ll experience coastal walks, quiet beaches, mountains and pretty, quiet towns. You’ll also visit Roque Agando – dubbed the Matterhorn of La Gomera because of its pyramid-like shape. This is a lovely winter walking trip that allows you to relax and take it easy as well as giving your body a moderate work-out.
Tenerife on Foot
The largest, and probably best-known of the Canary Islands is also the highest island in the Atlantic and home to the world’s third tallest volcano. Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of this trip is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast we have selected a programme of varied walks, which when combined with the walking on Mount Teide make for a wonderful week.
Walking in the Canaries
If you’re after a longer winter break, this 15-day trip combines the best of Tenerife and La Gomera. You’ll spend the first week walking virtually the whole length of Tenerife, from north to south, experiencing the amazing diversity of landscapes that the island has to offer, including a visit to El Teide, Tenerife’s vast volcano. You’ll then take the ferry to La Gomera to take a circular walk around the eastern side of the island, sampling the beaches, forests and mountains of Tenerife’s smaller sister.
Madeira Island Walking
Madeira celebrates the 600th anniversary of its discovery by the Portuguese in July 2019 – and its easy to see why this island has become such a popular, year-round destination for holiday-makers. Best known for its cornucopia of gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. This trip is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.
Winter Walking in Cyprus
Seemingly isolated in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been at the cockpit of western history for thousands of years, notably during the medieval crusades, when it acted as a launch pad for the crusaders. A few kilometres inland from the busy coastal resorts, an older world prevails. Discover sleepy villages, farms and forests with fabled mountain views. Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, brought her lover Adonis to the beautiful Akamas peninsula. When walking in Cyprus, you get to experience the land of the Greek gods.
Hiking the Vermillion Coast
This lovely walk starts in France and finishes in Spain, along the coast where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. It’s a great trip for art lovers – starting in the former fishing village of Collioure, where the colourful Fauve school of painting began, and finishing in Figueres, home to the Salvador Dali museum. In between, you’ll discover charming towns and fishing villages, beautiful scenery and delicious food and wine.
Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena
This walk takes place in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, the second largest Natural Park of Andalucia, situated close to the border with Portugal. The rolling hills and white villages offer wonderful walking opportunities. The character of the villages has changed little over the centuries, their history reflected in their architecture and the landscape surrounding them. On walks you pass along Roman cobbled tracks, glimpsing abandoned watermills and ancient hill forts left by the Moors. This is also a great trip for bird-lovers – the area is rich in many important species including the black vulture, and golden, short-toes and and Bonelli’s eagles.
Easter is quite late in 2019 – it falls on the third weekend of April and is a great time to enjoy the spring sunshine all over Europe. But where are the best places to go during Easter? In Italy, Spain and Portugal, all Catholic dominated countries, there are processions and other religious celebrations for the holiday – as there are on Greek Orthodox Cyprus. Often, these are very colourful and traditional events that are well worth travelling for and to take part in or observe.
Here are some of our favourite places in Europe to celebrate the Easter holidays, that are easily combined with a walking trip.
EASTER IN THE CANARY ISLANDS – LA PALMA
On the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Easter is celebrated extensively. In Los Llanos for example, the Good Friday procession assembles behind the church on the Plaza in the centre of the town, shortly after sunset, and is conducted in silence but with the accompaniment of a slow drumbeat. School children, joined to each other by chains, lead out one of the statues from the church. All the statues from the church are taken from their normal place and displayed in the procession. Some people are bare-footed and in shackles and chains, and the cross is slowly carried along, flanked by people with cardinal-coloured gowns. Many of the other villages on the island have similar processions.
Learn more about our walking tour of La Palma.
EASTER IN FLORENCE, TUSCANY
Make sure you’re in Florence on Easter Sunday and be up and ready by 9am for the spectacular Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart). A tradition that goes back to the 12th Century, this is still an important Easter practise for the city of Florence. A cart is drawn by oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Church Square, now connected with the altar in the cathedral via a wire. Here it is lit by a dove-shaped rocket from the cathedral, causing a 20-minute fireworks show. The whole spectacle happens in traditional 15th century style with flowers, music, and clerics.
You can combine this Easter tradition with a week-long cycling or walking holiday in Tuscany. Follow the backroads in the early spring months and spot the first flowers come to bloom among cypresses, vineyards, traditional Tuscan architecture – and of course the delicious Italian cuisine.
Read more about our holidays in Tuscany.
EASTER IN KATO PAPHOS, CYPRUS
Outside the church of Agia Kyriaki in the coastal town of Kato Paphos, the Passion Play, or Way of the Cross, takes place. It is one of the many Easter celebrations taking place over the island of Cyprus. Most of the residents are member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has its own Easter traditions. Normally falling at different dates than the Christian or Catholic Easter, in 2019 celebrations are one week later, with Easter Sunday falling on 28 April. Eat traditional lamb dishes and the Cypriot bread of flaounes and join any of the festive processions and performances.
Fly in to Paphos ahead of your 8 or 11 day Cyprus walking holiday and stay a few days to celebrate Easter. Then set off to explore the Troodos Mountains on foot and admire the rugged mountains, orchards and vineyards, profusion of exquisite, wild flowers and migratory birds that you can see particularly in spring.
Find out more about our walking holidays in Cyprus.
EASTER IN BRAGA, DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL
Braga is a short train ride from the start and end points of our 7-day Douro Rambler holiday, so it’s worth adding an extra day or two to your trip if you’re going to be there around Easter. The city hosts many concerts, dance performances, religious celebrations and street theatre activities during the Holy Week. You’ll also witness the Ecce Homo procession and many more Easter celebrations. The procession is led by coffin-bearers wearing traditional purple robes on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday. A traditional dessert to try for Easter if you’re in Porto or Braga is the Easter sponge cake of Pao de Lo.
The Douro Valley is just a 1-hour train ride from Braga and is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine and you can experience the importance of grapes when you stay at a beautifully restored manor that owns a small vineyard. Enjoy pretty walks in the wine county of Douro Valley in spring when nature is coming back to life and trails are usually quiet.
Read more about our Douro Rambler trip here.
EASTER IN ALGHERO, SARDINIA
Fly in to Sardinia’s Alghero airport and spend a few days to celebrate the Easter holidays. Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most famous places to go for Easter and is influenced by the Catalan culture. Celebrations revolve around the Santcristus, a wooden statue that washed ashore in 1606 and now symbolises Alghero’s religious identity. There are processions from Good Friday onwards, and on the Thursday before Easter you can witness the raising of the Santcristus at Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
These celebrations could form a fantastic start or end to your Saunter in Sardinia walking holiday. Your walks start in Santu Lussurgiu, 2 hrs away from Alghero, and take you around the Montiferru Mountain Range, Sinis Westlands, sea cliff of Su Tingiosu and many ancient sites as you follow romantic Mediterranean trails. The advantage of travelling in spring and around Easter is that you will find plenty of bird life, generally quieter trails and cooler temperatures.
Read more about our Saunter in Sardinia trip here.
EASTER IN PALMA, MAJORCA
As elsewhere in Spain, Majorca celebrates the Semana Santa (Holy Week) for Easter. The island is in a festive mood from the Thursday before Easter onwards, when the biggest processions take place. The most colourful one is the La Sang procession in Palma. Other Majorcan places to go for Easter are the churches, with performances by children and other special Easter events. On Easter Sunday you may find many people on the streets for their local pilgrimage and abundant picnics. Make sure to try the Easter pastries of panades and rubiols.
If you’re interested in visiting Palma, Majorca during Easter, you could add a day or two to the start or finish of our 8-day Sierras and Monasteries walk.
EASTER IN THE UK - WINCHESTER (SOUTH DOWNS WAY)
If you’re thinking of walking the South Downs Way, a beautiful walk across the rolling landscapes of Southern England, you could time it so that the start of your trip falls over Easter. That means you’ll be in Winchester, home to one of the UK’s finest cathedrals. What better place to experience an Easter service than in this stunning Norman cathedral built in 1093, which is the longest medieval cathedral in Europe, and also the resting place of Jane Austen.
Read more about the South Downs Way.
We’re experiencing some pretty wintery weather here at Sherpa’s UK headquarters right now, and it’s certainly making us dream of warm southern European sunshine.
Luckily, if you’re after a bit of respite from the freezing temperatures, you don’t have to wait until the spring to feel the warmth of the sun on your face. We offer a number of trips departing in February and March, to destinations that offer all-year-round walking enjoyment. So why not treat yourself to a few days in the sun to help ease your way through the rest of winter?
Here are a few of our favourite winter walking destinations.
The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago situated off the northwest coast of Africa. Beyond their popular beaches, the natural beauty and amiable climate of these exotic island make them an ideal winter walking destination.
Our holidays currently focus on the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera, although we are also about to launch a trip to La Palma (see below). The Canaries offer so much to the winter walker – a perfect climate, stunning scenery, delicious food and fascinating history.
Departures from 31 January 2019. Read more here.
Coming soon – La Palma Island Walking. We’re currently putting the finishing touches to a new trip for 2019 – a fantastic walking tour of the volcanic island of La Palma. On this trip you’ll visit the dramatic volcanic crater of the Caldera de Taburiente, said to be the largest erosion crater in the World. This trip will be on sale very soon – if you want us to let you know as soon as it’s available to book, email [email protected] and we’ll contact you once it’s on the website.
Thanks to its year-round mild climate and low rainfall, you can enjoy walking all-year-long in Madeira. March is one of the best times to visit, when a kaleidoscope of colourful trees and flowers are starting to bloom.
When walking in Madeira, you’ll clearly see how important the dramatic scenery and botanical wonders are to the local people. Well-maintained tropical gardens, walking trails and tempting restaurants where only authentic Madeiran cuisine is served are all testament to how much the locals love their home and culture.
Departures from 31 January 2019. Read more here.
The Vermillion Coast runs from France to Spain where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean – which means that on our 8-day trip you get to sample 2 different countries and cultures. This is a beautiful coastal walk that offers plenty of opportunities for swimming in the sea, visiting point of cultural interest and tasting local cuisine.
This is a great trip if you’re an art lover, as the walk starts in the former fishing village of Collioure, the birthplace of the Fauve school of painting, and concludes in Figueres, home to the Salvadore Dali museum. Along the way you’ll also visit the seaport of Banyuls, home of the great French sculptor Aristide Maillol.
This is a great opportunity to get to know a stunning stretch of coastline rich in both French and Spanish culture and cuisine.
Departures from 1 February 2019. Read more here.
Sardinia is a fascinating and beautiful island with a mix of Italian and Spanish cultures. Walking from the black mountains of Montiferru to the Sinis wetlands you will discover beaches, bays, headlands, ancient ruins and historical sites.
Our trip to Sardinia is perfect if you’re interested in culture, nature and wildlife. Bird watchers will be entertained by the large colonies of Grey Herons, Pink Flamingoes and a wealth of other bird life, while the ancient Spanish watchtowers, small villages and the ancient site of Tharros occupied by the Phoenicians, Punics and Romans offer welcome distractions for those keen to learn more about the island's history and culture. Whilst walking, you will also come across artichoke fields, Vernaccia vineyards, olive groves and the Cabras Lagoon, famous for grey mullet and its 'Bottarga'.
Departures from 1 March 2019. Read more here.
The Summer was a busy time for our resident guide, John, who tried out a couple of new walks that we will be operating in 2019. In fact, the first one was not a new walk at all, but the oldest National Trail in Britain - the famous Pennine Way.
Walking by Hadrian's Wall on the Pennine Way
Blessed with great sunshine, and with only 1.5 hours of rain during the duration of the walk over some 20 days, the 260 mile walk was completed in ‘redneck’ style! The trek follows the high trails, packhorse routes and Roman roads from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yethom in Scotland, along the Pennine chain of hills, aptly named by the Romans after their own Appenines running along the spine of Italy. There are some amazing views and features on this walk, particularly the waterfalls of the Tees Valley, the limestone scenery around Malham and the most attractive part of Hadrian’s Wall. Hopefully you’ll get the views from several big peaks such as Kinder Scout, Blackhill, Cross Fell and The Cheviot. Very few people walk the Pennine Way compared to the Coast to Coast -some areas have limited accommodation, but those who do tend to revel in the experience of visiting attractive villages that they would not normally have heard of, such as Edale, Bellingham, Dufton and Alston - mixed with more famous places such as Malham, Horton and Keld. There are also some very idiosyncratic places such as Tan Hill and Byrness. It’s a tough old walk but the challenge is made worth it not by a medal at the end, but by a certificate and the free half-pint of beer given to you at the Border Hotel in Kirk Yethom. Mind you, by that time you’ll have probably already drunk at least 30 pints of the finest beer in Christendom!
Cross Fell from Dun Fell
Descending towards the Schill from Cheviot
The second new trip is one to join those that we already offer in the Canary Islands - this time to La Palma, a gorgeous dormant volcanic island whose rich soils have spawned a profundity of the special Laurisilva vegetation, that at times creates its own clouds on the eastern side of the mountain.
La Palma - the Caldera de Taburiente
The island of La Palma is essentially one huge caldera that tapers to the south to more recent volcanoes - the last eruption was in 1971. On a two centre based stay in the towns of Santa Cruz and Los Llanos, John ventured out on walks that threaded through the forests to view points, and others that took him to the highest points of the island on peaks, down gorges and to the coast. La Palma is quite old fashioned, offering a good selection of restaurants and a nice family atmosphere in the villages and towns. As expected there is a lot of great seafood including tuna, squid and octopus. There are avocados, apples and a large banana cultivation, which is the island’s main economy. There are certainly things to do on a day off from walking, including boat trips to whale watch and a visit to dramatic sea caves. La Palma is also a world centre in astronomy. Visiting the island has certainly been made easier by the introduction of Easyjet flights from London Gatwick from autumn through to spring.
La Palma - Coastal Scenery
Near the caldera
Both of these trips will be available to book soon – so watch this space. To register your interest, email [email protected] and we’ll contact you when booking opens.