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Do you love being surrounded by flowers in bloom? Whether you’re thinking of a spring getaway to the English countryside or a trip to Europe later in the summer, we have a number of trips departing in the next few months that will allow you to experience nature in all its glory.
From bluebells and daffodils to orchids and edelweiss, this is where you need to head to enjoy nature’s beautiful spectacle of colours…
DAFFODILS IN NORTH YORKSHIRE | BEST TIME: MARCH-APRIL
Daffodils may be typically associated with the English countryside but for the genuine wild variety (two-tone yellow flowers, narrow trumpets and forward pointing petals) head to North Yorkshire to walk the Cleveland Way. The daffodils at Farndale Valley are reputed to have been planted by the monks of the nearby Rievaulx Abbey and there is even a dedicated mile-long ‘daffodil walk’!
Find out more about the Cleveland Way
BLUEBELLS IN THE COTSWOLDS | BEST TIME: APRIL-MAY
The Cotswolds are on the finest regions to enjoy these quintessentially English carpets of blue. The Cotswolds landscape features a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath through Cheltenham to Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. Along the way you’ll encounter villages lined with stone-built houses and unspoilt woodland, often covered with bluebells during the spring months .
Find out more about walking in the Cotswolds
A carpet of bluebells
LAVENDER IN PROVENCE | BEST TIME: JUNE-AUGUST
With colours varying from violet to indigo and everything in between, the lavender fields of Provence are guaranteed to take your breath away and awaken all your senses. The heady scent of lavender is strongest in the height of summer, when the fine stalks wave in the wind, with prairies in bloom stretching as far as the eye can see.
Discover our Rambling in the Luberon trip
Lavender in Provence
Lavender in Provence
SUNFLOWERS IN TUSCANY | BEST TIME: JULY-AUGUST
It’s hard not to fall in love with sunflowers: they give a sense of happiness, like a sun shining on a beautiful summer’s day. Sunflowers in bloom are a striking sight and in Tuscany they are an icon of the region. Follow the backroads in the warm summer months and spot the sun-loving ‘girasoli’ among cypresses, vineyards and traditional Tuscan architecture.
Find out more about walking in Tuscany
A field of sunflowers
EDELWEISS IN THE ALPS | BEST TIME: JULY-SEPTEMBER
The national flower of Switzerland, edelweiss takes its name from the German words ‘edel’ (noble) and ‘weiß’ (white). It is probably Europe’s best known mountain flower, mostly seen between the months of July to September. It grows in rocky limestone places and its scarce, often short-lived bloom can be found in remote mountain areas of the Alps. There plenty of other wild flowers that adorn the meadows of the Swiss Alps throughout the summer.
Find out more about walking in Switzerland
An Alpine meadow
ORCHIDS IN MADEIRA | BEST TIME: YEAR ROUND
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira’s subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil make for perfect growing conditions and orchids here enjoy an impressive year-round flowering season. There is a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species, while a week-long Flower Festival takes place every spring. This year the festival takes place from 2 - 19 May.
Find out more about walking in Madeira
Orchids in Madeira
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.
Now don’t get us wrong – we love winter in the UK. Cold, crisp mornings, roaring fires, hearty stews and if we’re lucky, a covering of soft fluffy snow. But here’s the thing – winter lasts quite a long time. And it’s not always blue skies and frost – a dark, cold morning with the sleet stinging your face is enough to make the most ardent winter-lover dream of warmer times.
That’s where a winter walking trip to southern Europe comes in. A week or two soaking up some warm sunshine, topping up the vitamin D levels and experiencing some fabulous food, nature and culture is the perfect way to break up the winter. Plus, a winter walking holiday will help you burn off some of those comfort food calories.
So, as you reach for your slippers and turn the central heating up a notch, take a look at our top picks for a warm winter break.
Best known for its gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery everywhere you look, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. Our walking holiday in Madeira 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.
Find out more
Available as an 8-day or 11-day trip.
La Gomera is a spectacular volcanic island, away from the hustle and bustle of the busier neighbouring islands. Because of its relative lack of beaches, La Gomera has escaped the levels of development that other parts of Spain and its islands have experienced. As a result La Gomera has an old world, rural feel to it with homesteads, small vineyards, layers of terraces and large rocky peaks set in an amazing crown of Laurisilva - a laurel cloud forest.
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Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of our walking holidays 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. Your trip includes a walk to the crater of Mount Teide, a spectacular 3,718m high volcano.
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Cyprus may be best know for its popular, and busy, seaside resorts – but head a few kilometres inland and you’ll find an older, sleepier world of villages, farms and forests. The trip is focussed around the Akamas Peninsular, a beautiful nature reserve populated by friendly, welcoming people. If you’re there at the end of winter, you’ll witness the bloom of wild flowers that cover the landscape from February onwards.
Find out more
This walk along the Vermillion Coast starts in France and finishes in Spain, taking you along the coastline where the mountains of the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. You’ll experience pretty fishing villages, amazing French and Spanish cuisine, and spectacular coastal landscapes. This is also a region with a strong artistic heritage – from the French sculptor Aristide Maillol to Spanish master of surrealism, Salvador Dali.
Find out more
The daily walks on this trip are relatively short, giving you plenty of opportunities to relax or try some of the many activities available on La Gomera, such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking or whale-watching. The places you’ll visit are peaceful and unspoilt, with plenty of family-run restaurants to help you sample the delights of the local cuisine as you make your way around the south of the island.
Find out more
If you are after an activity break with a dose of some salty sea air this Christmas, consider the great islands and coastline of Europe’s seas and oceans. From windswept cliff-top bicycle rides to more leisurely seaside strolls and walks off the mainstream tourist radar, you will be surprised of the options for a pleasant break during Christmas. For the active traveller wanting to visit Europe, winter tours are a great option to consider.
Popular year-round holiday destinations because of their excellent conditions for outdoor activities such as walking and cycling, these places do tend to attract a fair number of travellers during the winter season. Here is an overview of our favourite active winter trips in Europe.
Active Europe: Winter Tours
- Southern Trails of La Gomera | Relatively short walking days exploring the southern trails of La Gomera & leaving time to relax.
- Madeira Island Walking | Year round self guided walk following the Levadas and trails through the dramatic and rugged mountain scenery on the island of Madeira.
- Exploring La Gomera – 11 Days | Experience La Gomera's lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages.
- Walking in the Canaries | Year round walking opportunities exploring the mountains and coasts of Spain's most exotic islands.
- Hiking the Vermillion Coast | Discover the coast and mountains along the edge of the Pyrenees. Walk through beautiful seaside towns enjoying famous Banyuls wine and seafood.
- Exploring La Gomera – 8 Days | Experience the lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages of exotic La Gomera.
- Cycling in Sardinia | Cycle along the spectacular southwest coast of the island biking past white quartz beaches and towering sand dunes, Phoenician Ruins and Ancient Mines.
- Dingle Peninsula Walk | Experience on foot the history and natural beauty of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula.
- The Portuguese Road – Coimbra to Porto | Walk the quieter trails between historical Coimbra and Porto on stage two of the Camino Portuguès.
- Rota Vicentina – the Fishermen’s Trail | Traverse the Atlantic coastline of Portugal to reveal a landscape of deserted beaches, fishing villages and dramatic cliffs on foot.
Or How About these..
Especially during the Christmas period, accommodation is in high demand. We therefore advise to secure your winter break as early as possible. To discuss any special requirements or to chat about the best options for you, please feel free to drop by at our office in London (we’re located right along the Thames Path), give us a call or send us a message.
“Beautiful scenery, well selected hikes, expertly handled logistics. It was so hard to leave Funchal!” - E & K Pavlik from Canada
Madeira, the Portuguese island, is famed for its excellent walking temperatures – year-round! But there are many more reasons for the island to be popular, besides its good weather. If you are interested in the rich Portuguese history, a varied landscape that ranges from rugged coastline to pine forests and a wealth of flowers then read on and find out what Madeira walks can look like.
Escape to excellent walking temperatures. Madeira, just over 3.5 hours away from London, less than 2 hrs from Lisbon, and 7 & 8 hours from Toronto & Miami respectively, is one of your best options in Europe. The island enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil. For example, October and November still see well over 10 hours of sunshine daily and temperatures in the low-20oC. In comparison, the average temperature for England is half of that.
When thinking of exploring Madeira, walks are a good option and below you can find 5 reasons to go.
“Enjoyed the great views, the way the tours were laid up so we had very different walks each day.” - J Brandstrom from Sweden
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa, Madeira offers both a mild year-round climate and a 1,350-mile network of ‘levadas’ to discover on foot. Follow ‘levadas’ through a peaceful pastoral countryside or traverse terraced hillsides; dating back to the 16th century, these irrigation channels or aqueducts are specific to Madeira, originally built to carry water to the agricultural regions. Read more about the levadas of Madeira.
Volcanic in origin, Madeira’s rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres (approx. 6,000 feet) with forests of pine and laurel flanking its jagged peaks. The island is home to a myriad of colourful flowers and trees, such as jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias.
#3 Pico Ruivo
Walk up to Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest peak, from where there is an exceptional ridge walk following the backbone of the island. The views to either side over the island and ocean are very rewarding.
Loose count of how many orchids you can see in the dedicated Orchid Garden – there are more than 7,500 species! Madeira’s subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil make for perfect growing conditions and orchids here enjoy an impressive year-round flowering season. A dedicated weeklong Flower Festival takes place every spring.
Spend time in the bustling little capital of Funchal: visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb fish restaurants to finish off a week of impressive Madeira walks.
Intrigued? With Sherpa Expeditions you can visit the Portuguese island on an 8-day trip called Madeira Island Walking. Learn more about it by downloading the trip notes here or contact one of our travel experts in the UK office.
There are many reasons to travel to the Portuguese island of Madeira, but we believe that a walking holiday is the best way to fully appreciate the island. Spend your days in Madeira hiking the levadas and take in the beautiful viewpoints while at night roaming the charming streets of capital Funchal and other quaint towns.
If you’re curious to understand a little more what a Madeira hiking holiday may look like, check out the images below.
Few places in Europe celebrate autumn in such a dynamic way as Madeira…
Through a wide range of festivals, you can experience a lively autumn in Madeira. Most likely, your main reason to visit Madeira in September, October & November is exploring the Portuguese island on foot. But there are many more things to do in Madeira in autumn besides navigating the island’s ancient levadas and walking paths. From wine and apple cider festivals to celebrating the organ and stunning nature, below find an overview of some of the festivals to attend this autumn.
Madeira Wine Festival
When >> 26 August – 09 September 2018
Where >> from Estreito de Câmara de Lobos to Funchal (start & finish of the Madeira Island Walking trip)
What >> The wine festival has been running since the '70s and coincides with the island’s Wine Harvest Festival, European Folklore Week and street entertainment in Funchal. Late August/early September is when the annual grape harvest takes place in Madeira and attending these is certainly a reason to plan your travel dates accordingly. There are musical performances, ethnographic parades, demonstrations of old-style viticulture tools and even the opportunity to join in treading the grapes!
More >> madeirawinefestival.com
When >> 13-15 September 2018
Where >> the island of Porto Santo northeast of Madeira (ask our team for details on how to get there)
What >> The world-famous explorer once called home Porto Santo Island and each year in September, the island close to Madeira organises many events evolving around the epic Portuguese discoveries from the 15-16th century. You can for example witness the ‘disembarking of Columbus’, browse a 16th century market for food & craft, listen to orations as they were held at the time, and join in many of the other things to do at this time of year. Expect to be drawn back in time when visiting this small island close to Madeira in September.
More >> festivaldocolombo.visitmadeira.pt
Apple Festival & Apple Cider Festival
When >> 15 & 16 September 2018
Where >> Ponta do Pargo (on the far west of the island)
What >> In its 34th year in 2018, the Madeira Apple Festival is a rural event to celebrate the ‘pêro’ – what Madeirans commonly call the apple. The small festival takes place in Ponta do Pargo in the western tip of Madeira and attracts apple farmers from the surrounding farmsteads. Festivities usually include apple cider tasting, a street parade, exhibitions, and several musical performances. Besides the festival, Ponta do Pargo is a charming town to visit on its own. Or wait a few weeks for the annual Madeira Cider Festival in the weekend of 22 & 23 September.
Madeira Nature Festival
When >> 2-7 October 2018
Where >> around the island of Madeira (check the stand at the Largo da Restauração for more info)
What >> Just like the Madeira Flower Festival in spring, the island’s nature festival celebrates all activities on the island that involve nature. The natural heritage of the island is rich thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil and Madeira is even nicknamed ‘Garden Island’ or ‘Ilha Jardim’. Everything that you can do during the Madeira Nature Festival takes place on the land, in the air or in the sea and includes activities like birdwatching, mountain biking, levadas walks, sailing, and short leisure flights.
More >> madeiranaturefestival.visitmadeira.pt
Madeira Organ Festival
When >> normally at the end of October, exact dates for 2018 to be announced
Where >> Funchal, Machico & Porto da Cruz (which you’ll visit at the beginning of the walking holiday)
What >> The organ is a relatively unknown part of Madeiran heritage and can be found in several churches and cathedrals across the island. A series of 12 concerts will be held to showcase the instrument and beautiful music it can produce. The festival will have Portuguese and internationally renowned master organ players perform in stunning venues like the Cathedral of Funchal, College Church, Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Church of St Peter.
More >> festivaldeorgaodamadeira.com or on their Facebook page
Madeira is a year-round walking destination with pleasant temperatures to be in the outdoors and there are lots of things to in Madeira apart from walking. For more information and advice on planning your holiday, feel free to contact our team of travel experts in London.
The 8-day Madeira Island Walking holiday departs daily, year-round.
Along Madeira's Levadas
Madeira’s 1,350-mile network of watercourses (known locally as levadas) offer fantastic opportunities for walking holidays. Join us on an historical journey along Madeira’s levadas and learn more about the different routes.
In the early 1400s, Madeira was discovered by three navigators from Portugal. They found several high peaks, stunning nature and a beautiful coastline on an island that was wet in the northwest, but dry in the southeast. Several years later, the process of building the so-called levadas (aqueducts or watercourses) that are unique to Madeira had started, so that water could be carried to the agricultural regions in the south of the island.
A Network of Levadas
Many of the levadas had to be cut into the sides of the mountains and even tunnels were necessary to complete the network. Today, most of the levadas – and tunnels – that were built between 1461 and 1966 still remain. What’s more, made out of stone or concrete, they still function, although not to distribute water, but to provide hydro-electric power to the island.
Another advantage of the 1,350 miles-long network is the ability for hikers to follow them on foot. Via, at times, easy walks through the countryside and mountain ranges and at other points challenging narrow paths, you can discover the beautiful island of Madeira on a walking holiday.
Levada Walking in Madeira
Partly thanks to Madeira’s levadas, the island owes its nickname of ‘Ilha Jardim’ (Garden Island). On our walking holiday, you can explore several trails along the levadas in Madeira on foot:
Levada do Furado
The walk along this levada is the most dramatic and challenging of all on our 8-day walking holiday in Madeira. It follows narrow paths and uneven going underfoot. You will walk up into the wild, forested hills of the Madeira National Park and be rewarded with magnificent views at a number of points.
Levada dos Tornos
Located around Monte, known for the Tropical Gardens and wickerwork sleds, are the trails of the Levada dos Tornos. Along the way you will be able to enjoy the colourful flora and fauna and views over Funchal Bay. On our day’s walk, we only cover a section of this levada in Madeira.
Levada da Serra
This levada shows you a wonderful part of the island that is fit for walkers year-round. It contours – at a slightly higher level (750m) than the other routes on our walking trip – around the head of the impressive ‘Valley of Paradise’. It is a leisurely walk along a flower-lined levada.
Levada do Canical
Built in relatively recent times (developments finished in the 1960s), the Levada do Canical is easy to follow. The trail is about seven miles towards its source near Ribeira de Machico. We cover a section of this levada that goes through the Canical Tunnel. This Madeira levada is known as the ‘mimosa levada’ as there are many mimosa trees found along the course of the route.
On a short flight from Europe and about 4 hours from London, discover these levadas on our Madeira walking holidays.
For more information and booking details, please have a look at our 8-day self guided Madeira walking holiday, or get in touch with our team of travel experts.
Few places in Europe welcome spring in such a colourful way as Madeira…
Taking place in spring every year (2017 from 4-21 May), the island’s dazzling annual Flower Festival features beautiful displays of tropical flowers. Over the years it has become known for its Sunday parade, when hundreds of dancers accompanied by huge floral floats march through the main streets of capital Funchal.
Madeira enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil – you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species! But this is not the only reason why we are such a big fan of Portugal's Madeira island. The mild year-round climate and a 1,350-mile network of levadas together with the impressive scenery form the base for an 8-day self guided walking trip that will immerse you in the island's lush nature.
Flowers in Bloom
© Allie Caulfield
Spring is the perfect time to visit the Portuguese island when a myriad of colourful flowers and trees are in bloom – jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias form just a part of the spectacular flora.
Volcanic in origin, Madeira’s rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres (approx. 6,000 feet) with forests of pine and laurel flanking its jagged peaks.
16th Century Aqueducts
© D Stanley
Follow levadas through a peaceful pastoral countryside or traverse terraced hillsides; dating back to the 16th century, these irrigation channels or aqueducts are specific to Madeira, originally built to carry water to the agricultural regions.
Climb up to Pico Ruivo, the island’s highest peak; many of the levadas can be followed on foot, which together with a network of local trails make even the most remote parts of the island, such as this peak, accessible.
© Artur Malinowski
Spend time in the bustling little capital of Funchal – visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb fish restaurants.
On our self-guided walking tour of Madeira island, you will walk 4-7 hours per day. The trip departs year round. For more information you can download the trip notes or get in touch with our team of experts in London.
The Iberian Peninsula remains a firm favourite for many holidaymakers and not just during the summer months. Actually the coming months of December to February are an exceptionally good time to travel to Spanish and Portuguese destinations like Madeira, La Gomera, Andalucia, and the Sierra de Aracena. With pleasant temperatures around 20 degrees C, sunny days, and a landscape that ranges from subtropical greenery, to pine forests, and barren flatlands you have all the ingredients for a welcoming winter holiday. Ah, and the flights to Tenerife, Santa Cruz, and Seville have competitive rates for the winter months as well. So if you want to beat the tourists and enjoy a crowd-free break here are some tips for things to do in Spain and Portugal.
Canary Islands: Southern Trails of La Gomera
Despite being easily accessible from Tenerife (the boat trip takes just an hour), La Gomera remains largely untouched by mass tourism. The southern part of the island is also the sunnier part. The landscape is surprisingly lush green, with deep gorges densely wooded at the top, covered by mountain rainforest. Columbus’ last port of call before crossing the Atlantic in 1492, La Gomera is home to many friendly and small resorts. What you can do on the island is taking coastal walks, enjoy a view of Tenerife from Mt Garajonay, visit waterfalls, or take a historical walk of San Sebastian town.
Madeira Island Walking
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa, Madeira offers both a mild climate and a 1,350-mile network of levadas through which you can discover the island on foot. Madeira island enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil – you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species here! Another thing to do is take a guided tour of a Madeira wine lodge - and try some local libations...
Hiking in Hidden Andalucia
There's a part of Andalucia that is a bit more off the beaten path: the unspoilt sector of the Alpujarras east of Trevelez. A visit in the winter months of December, January or February is great for walks on sunny days. There can also be snowfall and it can get a bit chilly, but the landscape is rewarding these months. Walking the southern fringes of the Sierra Nevada, following the Camino Real (Royal Trail), and staying at charming villages of Berchules, Yegen an Mairena make for a fantastic winter break, even when the sun doesn't show its face.