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There’s nothing quite like walking in the mountains to reconnect yourself with nature. The majesty and vastness of a mountain landscape helps to remind us of our place in the world, and many people who spend a holiday amongst the magnificent peaks often describe it as a life-changing experience.
Although some mountain walking routes sit towards the challenging end of the spectrum, you certainly don’t need to be a mountaineer to take them on.
Here are a few of our favourite mountain walks for 2019.
The region around Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe (4,810m/15,780ft), is home to some of the best alpine walking and trekking in Europe, providing walkers with an opportunity to sample the culture and flavour of the three different countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. Our trekking holidays around Mont Blanc are dominated throughout by views of the highest peaks in the Alps. The traverse of the high passes takes you beneath spectacular glaciers and at other times you pass through picture-perfect Alpine villages and summer meadows.
Read more about the Tour du Mont Blanc.
You may also like: The Alpine Pass Route, The Wildstrubel Circuit, The Bernese Oberland & Reichenbach Falls, The Haute Route.
The Dolomites are like no other mountains in Europe. The Dolomite peaks are gigantic, chiselled monuments to the powerful forces of glacial erosion. Continuous sheer cliffs flank most of the peaks. Although not exceptionally high (the highest peak is Marmolada at 3,342m), they are amongst the most striking of all European mountains, coloured in weathered hues of rose, yellow, white and grey and rising in steep spires of fantastic form. Below lie bright green meadows alive with wild flowers all summer.
Read more about Walking in the Dolomites.
You may also like: Dolomites Guided Walk
The mountains form the backbone of this rugged island. Interesting and varied long distance footpaths cross the mountains from east to west. Based on old mule tracks and ancient routes of transhumance, these routes traditionally connected mountain villages with each other and with high level pastures. Crossing intermediate ridges and following forested valleys, they take the walker into the heart of the mountains, past tumbling rivers, mixed woodland and through attractive villages.
Read more about Corsica: Mountains & Sea
You may also like: A Saunter in Sardinia
This tour is a good choice for a summer hike, in a fascinating and generally quiet mountain region that is well off the beaten tracks of the higher Pyrenees. The route is truly spectacular in places, taking in some of the finest landscapes in Spain on the fringes of the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park. You cross two passes of over 2,000m, which are normally free of snow by mid-June. On the way are forests, plateaus, terraced hillsides, charming villages, deep canyons and broad valleys.
Read more about Alto Aragon: The Spanish Pyrenees
You may also like: Mountains to the Mediterranean
Cyprus is an island of natural beauty in a region with an abundance of ancient and modern civilisations and cultures. Away from the cosmopolitan towns and beach resorts you will find large areas of natural, unspoilt countryside. Rugged, conifer-clad mountains, woodland, orchards and vineyards are interspersed with tranquil, timeless villages. The Troodos Mountains cover much of the southern and western part of the country and this walk takes you from walking in the high mountains down to the coast, starting from an altitude of about 1,100m.
Read more about The Troodos Mountains and Akamas – available as an 8-day or 11-day trip
You may also like: Zagoria – The Secret Villages
Claimed by some to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles, The West Highland Way follows a national trail through some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes. Starting at the village of Drymen just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to somber Glencoe, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day).
Read more about The West Highland Way – available as an 8-day or 10-day trip
You may also like: The Great Glen Way, The Pennine Way
The beauty of the area embraced by the Dachstein Mountains and the Hallstattersee is truly inspirational - especially in the crisp, stable weather that this region often acquires during the period of this tour. There are people who claim that once you have walked here you will have experienced the best alpine hiking in Europe. The lower slopes of alpine pasture are dotted with picturesque lakes and villages including gorgeous Halstatt, whilst the high triangular mountaintops are smothered with glacial ice.
Read more about The Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps
You may also like: The Fjordland
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.
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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.
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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.
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Tour de France 2018 dates are slowly approaching and before you know, the official start from Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile (just off the coast of the Vendee) on July 7th will be here! It’s a unique opportunity to watch the Tour de France live in one of France’s charming towns. Spending some time with similar tour enthusiasts in high anticipation of the cyclists and then witnessing their speed and recognising famous participants will make for a lifetime memory.
This year, why not plan your summer holiday around the Tour de France dates and combine an active holiday in France with witnessing Le Tour for real? Whether you want to walk between vineyards in the Loire Valley, get lost in the Pyrenees – once a hideout for the Cathars, outperform yourself on Mont Blanc or traverse the remote countryside of Cevennes, below are six of the very best trips to combine with the Tour de France this year.
10 July: La Baule – Sarzeau >> Loire Valley
The ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc was one of the very first fine wines to be commercially bottled with a screw cap and the Loire Valley is known to be producing some excellent delicate varietals – especially the Upper Loire areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pick a nice terrace in the shade and with a cool glass of white in your hand, watch the Tour de France cyclists pass by on one of the first stages between La Baule and Sarzeau.
Travel on the Vineyard Trails of the Loire and watch the Tour de France live >>
17-19 July: Annecy – Alp d’Huez >> Mont Blanc Region
This extended itinerary circumnavigates Mont Blanc and explores the surrounding alpine region. Faced with picture postcard vistas from every vantage point, this trek affords unsurpassed views of the different faces of the Mont Blanc massif, as well as the highest point on the Tour of Mont Blanc, the Grand Col Ferret at 2,537m. Take in glittering glaciers and spectacular mountainscapes – your bags and supplies will be transported for you, allowing for plenty of time to explore en route. Add some extra days to see the Tour cyclists climb some of France’s highest mountains.
Travel on the Tour de Mont Blanc and watch the Tour de France live >>
21 July: Saint-Paul Trois-Chateaux – Mende >> Cevennes
In the autumn of 1878 Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, set out to walk across the Cevennes accompanied by “a small grey donkey called Modestine”. His journey inspired Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes, which has since become a travel classic. Starting in the Auvergne, this trip follows a winding route across a region that boasts great natural beauty, sad romantic ruins and is almost totally unspoilt. Ahead or after your walking holiday, visit Mende to watch the tour de France live.
Follow Louis Stevenson’s Trail and watch the Tour de France in Cevennes >>
24 July: Carcassonne – Bagneres-de-Luchon >> Crusaders Cathar Castles
Joining in Toulouse, this walking quest in the foothills of the Pyrenees delves into the rich history of the Cathar Country of the Foix, Aude Valley and Corbières areas of Southern France. The trip follows the tragic fate of the Cathar heretics, whose parfaits or priests were burned at the stake or driven into hiding. As well as its rich and evocative historical heritage, the area offers outstanding scenery of wild flowers and fine local dishes and will make for a mountainous stage 16 of this year’s Tour.
Trace the footsteps of the Crusaders’ Cathar Castles and watch the Tour de France >>
24-26 July: Bagneres-de-Luchon – Pau >> Tarn & Aveyron
Our walking route winds between the ‘Bastides’ (fortified towns) that sprung up during the Wars of Religion: rich in history and situated in spectacular settings on rocky promontories, here every stop has a tangle of narrow medieval streets to wander and sweeping views from the rocky hilltops or ancient walls. The start and end point of this circular walking tour, through the departments of Tarn and Aveyron, is Cordes-sur-Ciel, the first and most important of the ‘Bastides’, founded in 1222.
Travel on the Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron trip and watch the Tour de France >>
27 July: Lourdes – Laruns >> Pyrenees
When the Greenwich Meridian was agreed upon as the international standard, the fact that it was passing through some of the most spectacular corners of the High Pyrénées was probably not a major consideration. Trip highlights on include the dramatic, natural ‘amphitheatre’ of Cirque de Gavarnie and the famous Brêche de Roland, a natural rock doorway into Spain. The latter location is closer to the 25 July stage of the Tour de France that finishes in Saint-Lary-Soulan.
Travel on The Meridian Way: Heart of the Pyrenees and watch the Tour de France >>
If you are curious to find the exact schedule and Tour de France dates for 2018, below map may give you some support:
For more information and booking details, please contact our team of travel experts via email, phone or drop into our office in London.
©Le Tour de France
There is an elaborate network of grande randonnées in France (literally "big hikes") that form part of the European long-distance footpaths. In the country alone, there is already a network of 60,000km of GR trail to discover. If that’s not enough, France has many other interesting long-distance footpaths that offer fabulous walking conditions.
Below, we selected five French long distance footpaths for you. No matter if you like to complete them in one go, like to break them up in separate sections, or just cover the best parts, as usual, our team in London can assist with your wishes.
Way of St James
Full Length: 1500km / 935 miles
Rustic and charming, this is one of our most popular trips, ideal for anyone who wishes to explore some of the more unusual, less visited landscapes of rural France, coupled with a flavour of the past and a dose of religious history. It covers a large swathe of the uplands of the Massif Central, taking a path that the early pilgrims walked to reach Santiago de Compostela about 1500 kilometres later.
>> See More & Walk this Long-Distance Footpath
Full Length: 180km / 112 miles
Dense maquis, mountain ridges and granite peaks that soar to 2,700m create a rugged terrain that is tempered by deeply wooded valleys, pine forest and cascading streams. This toughest of all grande randonnées in France starts in Corte’s old town, which clings to the steep slope below its majestic citadel. It then leads from the heart of the mountains across the north-south watershed to the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Along the way you will pass ancient villages that preserve century-old traditions and visit iconic rock formations such as Les Calanches.
>> See More & Walk this Grande Randonnée
Tour de Mont Blanc
Full Length: 170km / 106 miles
This self-guided, extended itinerary circumnavigates Mont Blanc via a network of footpaths to explore the surrounding alpine region. Faced with picture postcard vistas from every vantage point, on a two week trek you can enjoy unsurpassed views of the different faces of the Mont Blanc massif. The trails also lead you to the highest point on the Tour of Mont Blanc, the Grand Col Ferret at 2,537m.
>> See More & Walk this Long-Distance Footpath
GR70 | Stevenson’s Trail
Full Length: 274km / 170 miles
In the autumn of 1878 Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the book Treasure Island, set out to walk across the Cevennes region of France accompanied by “a small grey donkey called Modestine”. His journey inspired Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, which has since become a classic travel book. Starting in the Auvergne, this French long distance footpath follows a winding route across a region that boasts great natural beauty, sad romantic ruins and is almost totally unspoilt. Today it is known as the Stevenson’s Trail or Chemin Stevenson.
>> See More & Walk this Grande Randonnée
GR10 | The Meridian Way
Full Length: 866km / 538 miles
When the Greenwich Meridian was agreed upon as the international standard in 1884, the fact that it was passing through some of the most spectacular corners of the High Pyrenees was probably not a major consideration. Today, the line forms part of the grande randonnée GR10 that goes through the Haute Pyrenees. Highlights of the route include: the dramatic Cirque de Gavarnie, a natural amphitheatre 1,400m high; the spectacular Grande Cascade, whose 423m drop makes it the longest in Europe; and the famous Brêche de Roland, a natural rock ‘doorway’ into Spain.
>> See More & Walk this Grande Randonnée
You can find more information in the trip notes, which you can download via the blue button on each trip’s page. Or for other details and booking information, please do contact our team of travel experts by phone or email.
Joining in Perpignan, this walking quest in the foothills of the Pyrenees delves into the rich history of the Cathar Country of Corbières area of Southern France. The trip follows the tragic fate of the Cathar heretics, whose ‘Perfects’ or priests were burned at the stake or driven into hiding. As well as its rich and evocative historical heritage, the area offers outstanding scenery of wild flowers, forest, charming French towns and fine local dishes.
If you’re curious to understand a little more what a walking tour of the Cathar castles in this part of southern France looks like, check out the images below.
Way-marks on a Cathar Castles Walk
Hilltop Castles & Forts in the French Pyrenees
Ancient Trails of the Cathars
French Wining & Dining
Flora & Fauna
For more information on Cathar castles walks, how to get to and from Perpignan and any other queries you may have, please contact our team of travel experts or download the trip notes.
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!
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.