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guide to trips in the UK that are ideal for walkers with different fitness levels, now it’s the turn of Europe.
An important factor in the fitness levels required when choosing a walking holiday in Europe is the weather and the time of year. Although most of our European trips fall into the ‘moderate’ category, it obviously gets hotter as you head further south, and a trip in central or southern Europe is going to be more challenging in the height of summer than it is in spring or autumn.
This is just a small selection of the European trips that we offer. Just check out the suitability description on any of our trip pages to work out if it’s the right one for you.
GENTLE TRIPS FOR FIRST TIME WALKERS
This is a gentle walk that allows time to visit historic sites and vineyards along the route. Although the second half of the week provides a little more of a challenge as the distances and climbs increase slightly, it’s generally an extremely pleasant route that allows you to discover the landscape and savour some of the finest food and wine on offer anywhere in Europe. Travellers will discover a fabled land of mediaeval chateaux, ancient monasteries and fragrant breezes where the art of living is pursued to near perfection at a gentle unhurried pace.
Vineyard Trails of the Loire
The Loire is also one of the major wine producing areas of France, and it also has the advantage of being a great centre for cuisine and historical monuments. The walking is hilly at times, but generally the mix of old pathways, farm and forest trails make for fairly gentle walking. The combination of walking, spectacular historical sites, the food and wines of the Loire, makes this walk full of interest and pleasure and an ideal place to start for those with a love of France or setting out on a walking holiday for the first time.
MODERATE TRIPS FOR THE MORE ACTIVE
Starting in France and ending in Spain, this walk follows the steep coastline where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. With some days stretching for 22km and with ascents of up to 700m, you’ll certainly know that you’ve been working your legs hard by the end of the day! But this is generally a lovely walk that will pose no difficulties for someone with a decent level of fitness and experience of hill-walking. The walk includes visits to some charming fishing villages and you’ll be able to sample some lovely wines and delicious Catalan cuisine.
Lake Como Rambling
This is a lovely walk, which includes some days that you can lengthen for a slightly bigger challenge if your legs allow it. The spectacular Lake Como, formed by glaciers during the last Ice Age, is lined by Roman Villas with beautiful gardens, and grand hotels built during the Victorian era for European and American tourists. You’ll also be able to savour some delicious Italian food and wine whilst enjoying some of the country’s most stunning views.
CHALLENGING TRIPS FOR MORE EXPERIENCED WALKERS
Our trip takes in the most impressive two-week section of the full classic Alpine Pass – it’s a route that takes you over many alpine passes, some a leisurely stroll, others a tougher proposition, but all offering their own spectacular visual rewards. There are some long days but lifts and cable cars can be used to shorten some of the walks and overnight locations can all be reached by public transport in case of bad weather. However, this trek is a definite challenge, which involves much daily uphill and downhill walking, and is only suitable for fit walkers who can readily manage days with more than 1000m ascent and descent.
Tour du Mont Blanc
This classic alpine walk circumnavigates Western Europe’s highest mountain over passes and through the valleys of three contrasting countries. Walkers can savour the food and wine of France, Italy and Switzerland and enjoy some of the finest scenery in the world. There are no vertigo-inducing sections on this walk provided you stick to the itinerary as described in the route notes and defined on the maps; and avoid the ‘variations’. We make it clear in the notes which alternate routes in our opinion do require a ‘head for heights’. Some of the walks can be shortened if desired by the use of cable cars or (in Italy) a local bus service.
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.
Find out more
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.
Find out more
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.
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
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 departing in the next few weeks where you can experience the splendour of the changing leaves.
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.
If you like the look of these trips but would prefer to visit next spring, summer or autumn, you can book for 2019 now.
To give you a deeper understanding of our cycling and walking holidays in Europe, we like to introduce you to the On Track feature. This is a
series of quick Q&A’s on a specific trip from the Sherpa Expeditions offer.
Today’s FAQs (frequently asked questions) are answered by
resident guide John, who is one of our experts on walking in Tenerife.
#1 What aspects about the weather make Tenerife great for walking?
Tenerife has a pleasant sub-tropical climate with average daily maximums of over 20°C throughout the year, but it rarely gets too hot outside of high summer because of the prevalent north-easterly Trade Winds and because the island is cooled by the Canary Current. This means that temperatures are slightly cooler than would normally be expected at this latitude and keeps temperatures in the high-twenties rather than the mid-thirties.
The sun is very strong so you do need to use sunscreen and wear loose fitting clothes. The island is pleasant for walking year-round. Trekking on the coast and up in the mountains in winter time can be slightly colder due to winds and the altitude you gain.
#2 What is special about walking in Tenerife?
Clean air, fantastic lapis blue sea views over to other islands, extensive well waymarked trails, and the chance of finding a small bar or restaurant to take in a fish dish or tapas while drinking a nice glass of wine or golden beer. There is a great cheap bus service on Tenerife which enables you to really explore and do some full day walks. It doesn’t take too long to get to starting points and really get walking on some great mountain and coastal trails.
#3 What language do people speak?
Spanish is the language of Tenerife, with local dialects. It would be worth learning a few phrases in Spanish such as greetings, but many people who work in the hospitality sector speak some English. Being polite and asking if people understand English is always a virtue.
#4 As Tenerife is such a well-known island, are there still quiet places?
The island is quite densely populated on sections along the coast such as Los Cristianos, Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. There are also vast sections of cliffs and coast where there are just small holdings or wild terrain, you’ll discover these while walking in the Canary Island. In the interior of Tenerife, where the slopes of Mount Teide and the volcanic Caldera rise, there are very few settlements and it becomes a barren moonscape.
#5 Will we encounter other walkers on this trip in Tenerife?
The island of Tenerife is very popular with Dutch, German and British travellers. They usually come either for the beaches or for hiking and some of the paths do get a lot of traffic, but you will rarely feel as if you are in the crowds. At times around Mount Teide it can get busier due to the arrival of coach tourists.
#6 To what other region in the world can you compare Tenerife?
Well, you can compare a walking trip in Tenerife to the other volcanic islands around: such as
La Gomera, La Palma, Hierro, Gran Canaria, and of course Madeira and the Azores, although these latter are much greener islands. Then globally, you can compare the landscape to the volcanic areas in Central America: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and parts of Mexico, these also have similar Spanish or Portuguese colonial heritage.
#7 What extra costs will I have on Sherpa’s Tenerife walking trip?
You can find very keenly priced restaurants and well-priced drinks as well as some very expensive places. What is nice is discovering a traditional restaurant that the locals are using and having a meal with a local wine for under EUR 25. Buses are cheap and you can purchase a
Bono travel card for EUR 15-25 on arrival and keep it topped up for bus transfers. There is 1 bag transfer to Puerto de la Cruz (EUR 75) on day 3 of our Tenerife walking holiday, this has to be paid directly to your hotelier on arrival.
We hope this information has indeed answered some of the questions you may have had on walking in Tenerife. If you have other queries, please
get in touch with John and the Sherpa team via phone or email.
Did you like this Q&A and would you like to get similar details of one of our other active Europe holidays? We’d be happy to
hear about your suggestions.
Or if you like to be among the firsts to hear about the latest On Track Q&A destination,
sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.
Discover the Surprises of a Majorca Walking Holiday
When browsing through the images we took on our recent inspection of the paths and accommodation in Majorca, we can feel the travel bug start itching again. With so many fantastic places, viewpoints and things to do in Majorca, the island is a perfect getaway for a week of walking.
Good times to visit are the European spring (March, April, May) and late summer or autumn (September & October).
Whether you are interested in culture and history, agriculture, nature and geography, or are a foodie, the island of Majorca, with all its different facets, offers something to any type of walker. To give you an idea, we wanted to share some of our images with you so that you can see for yourself all that you can do in Majorca on your walking holiday.
Santuari de Lluc
When you search for things to do in Majorca, one of the top highlights that come up is Santuari de Lluc, or Lluc Monastery – and rightfully so. The monastery in the north-west of the Spanish island is the most important pilgrimage site of Majorca and is surrounded by impressive high mountains, forests and a network of walking trails. The 13
th century building offers a hospitable place to stay and will be your personal sanctuary at the start of your trip.
The northwest part of Majorca is the most forested and when walking in or out of the mountains, you’ll often find pretty holm oak forests, but also woods of myrtle, arbutus and pine. The forests that cover the hills of this part of the island hide some interesting features, such as a forest nursery with an educational building, the 500-year-old ‘Encina d’en Pere’ (Oak of St Peter), and several
sitjes. A sitja is a circular earth mound ringed with stones, which was used to make charcoal. Sometimes you can even find the remains of a stone hut dwelling near such a sitja.
Sierra Tramontana Mountain Range
The Sierra Tramontana, or locally
Serra de Tramuntana, forms the backbone of north-west Majorca. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and with 90km long it covers some 30% of the island and is home to several 1,000m peaks. The highest are Puig Major (1,443m), Puig de Massanella (1,348m), Serra d’Alfàbia (1,069m), Es Teix (1,064m) and Galatzó (1,026m) and we recommend ascending the peaks of Es Teix and Puig de Massanella for impressive scenery and views.
Església de St Bartomeu
The façade of this cathedral on the main square of the picturesque town of Soller is designed by Juan Rubio, a follower of Antonio Gaudi who designed the world-famous Sagrada de Familia in Barcelona. The church was built before 1236 and has seen several amendments over the years. It has features of different architectural styles and part of the
Church of St Bartholomew even made up a section of Soller’s defence wall. Inside, the rose window with its stained glass is beautiful.
Wine & Vineyards
Perhaps less expected, but Mallorca is home to two wine-growing regions. A little south from the route of our walking holiday, you can find several vineyards that are part of the Vino de la Tierra Serra de Tramuntana – Costa Nord. There also are the more inland vineyards, which are part of the Binissalem Denomination of Origin. It is believed that wine was introduced to the island by the Romans back in the 15
th or 16 th century. Why not try some local wine during one of your meals...
Trails & Coastal Walkways
In Mallorca, the main walking routes are part of the GR (Gran Recorrido, or in French Grande Randonnée) network, which stands for long distance paths. Virtually all the walking we do in Majorca is carried out on this network of paths and trails, and wherever possible, we avoid the use of tarmac roads. With the peaks of the Sierra de Tramontana on one side and the north-west coast of Majorca on the other, this is one of the most spectacular coastlines of the Mediterranean. Walk in Majorca and you will follow bare mountain paths, the Archdukes’ Way and even an old mule path, interchanged by shaded forest paths and trails through terraces of olive, orange and almond groves.
The villages of the mountains, such as Valldemossa, Soller, Deia, Biniaraix and Fornalutx are particularly attractive, with their mellow stonewalls and flower-bedecked balconies. In Valldemossa we’ll stay in one such old house with good views over the village and surrounding hills. The town used to be home to Chopin and his mistress George Sand and the monastery where they used to live is now a museum open to the public. Out of Valldemossa, you can also follow the Camino de Arxiduque (Archduke’s Way), which is one of the first examples of a path built for recreational purposes.
Oranges & Orange Groves
The descend into Soller town from Mirador de ses Barques, is a very pleasant walk amid orange and lemon groves. You’ll walk through the town’s important history as Soller prospered because of the export of oranges. You’ll be able to get a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for just a couple of euros, or try the locally produced orange liqueur. Another thing to do in Soller is to take the tourist train to La Palma. Originally, the tramway was built in the early 1900s by orange growers to transport their fruits to the port of La Palma. We think the scenery is worthy and it makes for a enjoyable return day trip.
Seafood & Grilled Meats
Majorcan cuisine is hearty with plenty of grilled meats marinated in garlic and chunky stews loaded with fresh vegetables providing you with the perfect source of energy to get you through a day of walking. Since Majorca is an island, seafood is also a common staple throughout. Sea bream and monkfish are the two most popular fish dishes served grilled and smothered in all kinds of exciting sauces.
Casa de Robert Graves
In Deia, close to Soller, you’ll find the house where Robert Graves (1895-1985) lived on and off for 52 years. The famous British poet and author served in the British army during WWI, studied at Oxford University, and moved to Majorca in 1929. In his house in Deia he wrote two extremely successful historical novels,
I Claudius (1934) and Claudius the God (1934), which were the base for a popular television series in both the UK and USA. A visit to Casa de Robert Graves allows you to tour the house and garden to experience it as it was in the mid-40s.
Majorca on a walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions for a piece of mind and to have your accommodation booked, bags transferred and maps & route notes in hand.
If you like to enquire about the possibilities of walking in Majorca or like to learn more about the 8-day
Majorca: Sierras and Mountains holiday, do get in touch with our team of travel experts and they will be happy to assist you more.
Self Guided Walking Holiday: Tenerife on Foot
Watch this short video in which Sherpa Expeditions shows you what it's like to go walking in Tenerife.
Are you after some days of leisurely walking in Tenerife? Up for an active inn to inn Tenerife hiking trip? Or are you looking to mix your active walking days with a day of relaxing? On the 8-day self guided walking holiday on the Spanish island, '
Tenerife on Foot', you have plenty of freedom to adjust the days to your wishes. Spend your rest day at the beach or exploring towns and coastal paths and have the opportunity to use the network of buses to shorten your walks.
>> Learn more about Tenerife, one of Spain's Canary Islands
>> View the 8-day self guided walking holiday Tenerife on Foot
Lucy and Ángel run and own the guesthouse in the Sierra de Aracena (Spain) that is the start to our Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena walking holiday. It gives opportunities for hiking near Seville in an area that is dotted with tiny white-washed villages and a network of 70+ year-old walking paths. We sat down with the couple to talk about their love for Andalusia, the best regional food and their favourite places of the Sierra de Aracena.
Can you tell us about yourself and how you ended up in the Sierra de Aracena?
We are Lucy and Ángel an Anglo Spanish couple that met in the USA almost 30 years ago, when we coincided on a working holiday at a family-run hotel in upstate New York. The seed was sown!
We lived together in Sevilla, Ángel’s home city, for over 10 years. Both teachers, we loved to escape and discover Spain whenever we could – usually on a motorbike. Trips to the
Alpujarras, Sierra Norte de Sevilla, Galicia, Leon, Murcía, Jaen, Ronda, Cadiz coastline and Portugal were all memorable explorations. However, the place we kept going back to was the Sierra de Aracena in Huelva. We fell in love with the tiny village (750 inhabitants) of Alájar; its narrow-cobbled streets, the lack of mainstream tourism, the friendliness of the people, the great walking and the mild climate all concluded to us taking over the business and setting up home at the original Posada de Alájar in 2004. In 2006 our family was completed with our amazing daughter.
Ángel always says I am not here for him but for the
jamón and the gambas (prawns), which I sometimes find hard to dispute! We love the feeling of being part of a community, where everyone knows each other and even when life does get a bit difficult you can get out and go talk to the pigs!
“We fell in love with the tiny village of Alájar: the narrow-cobbled streets, the lack of mainstream tourism, the friendliness of the people, the great walking and the mild climate.” What are your 3 most favourite places in the Sierra de Aracena?
We chose Alájar, so we really are very biased about our favourite place! La Posada de San Marcos is somewhere very close to our hearts. We have set up this accommodation with sustainability at the forefront and it is a favourite for us. We are proud of the fact that our carbon footprint is minimal and enjoy explaining to our visitors how everything works in terms of eg. (water) recycling, building materials like sheep wool, and renewable energy. Every little bit helps - as they say!
The Peña de Arias Montano is a very special place with a spiritual pull and views all the way down to the coast. Aracena is our main town, it’s a bustling market town that covers most of everyone’s needs and boasts the Caves of Wonder (Gruta de las Maravillas), an amazing set of caves that are well worth a visit.
What do you like best about welcoming travellers to your accommodation?
The conversations! It is so interesting to chat about all sorts of things, share recipes and give tips on where to walk, eat and what to look out for. We love chatting with Sherpa’s hikers when they get back to
Alájar to hear all about their walk and discuss what they have seen along the route.
What is a typical dish for people to try when visiting the Sierra de Aracena?
The most important ingredient of the area is the Iberian ham. The Iberian pig is endemic to this area and has been farmed free-range for centuries. On a walk, you will see many roaming around the hillsides under the holm and cork oaks eating as many acorns as possible. The acorns and the air from the sierra in the drying process give the ham a unique flavour. The fresh meat is also amazing – nothing like regular pork. The noble cuts were sold to those who could afford to eat such delicacies meaning that the locals were left with the poorer cuts and therefore have developed lots of dishes based on pulses, locally grown vegetables and the wild mushrooms found in abundance given the right weather, so there is plenty for the vegetarian too.
“We like to call it our secret sierra ”
What is special about walking in this part of Andalusia?
Less than 90 minutes from the sophisticated city of Sevilla it feels like time has stopped still in La Sierra de Aracena. We like to call it our secret
sierra with a greenness more likely to be found in the north of Spain and the warmth of the Andalusian sun then on a trip hiking near Seville. There is an amazing variety of flora and the area has recently been designated a starlight dark sky destination.
Walking is still not a pastime in this area, it used to be a necessity and the paths between the villages show you a way and pace of life that has been lost in most parts of Europe. Walkers are surprised at how few people they actually see on the trails, which helps you feel you are discovering the area and then you come across a lovely traditional village or hamlet.
The Andalusians are happy to stop and chat and try hard to communicate, it amazes them that people are fascinated by something that is second nature to them and are even envious of what they have here.
What kind of people should go for self guided walking trips in Andalusia?
The walking is quite easy, there are no major climbs. We do recommend to wear boots as the once cobbled paths have now become quite stony in places. You never feel completely alone while walking as there are plenty of animals along the route and there is usually a small hamlet or village just in time for refreshment! Just 1,5 hours away from Seville, the walking route starts in Alájar and makes a circuit around the sierra. Hikers will be sleeping in other lovely whitewashed, cobblestone paved villages and return to our accommodation for the final night, which is lovely for us as we can greet you back ‘home’ and hear your stories.
If you like more information on hiking near Seville and the
8-day Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena walking holiday, please contact our team of travel experts.
This year you can be visiting Spain again from March onward, benefitting a long travel season in the southern European country. This opens up opportunities for all types of travellers. Whether you are up for a challenge, like to go remote, are interested in crossing borders or can’t choose between the mountains and the sea, Spain offers a type of holiday for any interest. Will you be visiting Spain in March or later this year?
Check out the below ideas that show the variety of options available for active holidays in the outdoors of Spain.
If You Like to Get 2 For the Price Of 1
With an average of 300 days of sunshine each year, the dramatic coastline where the Pyrenees tumble to the Mediterranean can be enjoyed almost all year. For those of you who can’t decide between the French or Spanish section of the Pyrenees, why not cross the border between France and Spain on foot. Hike the Vermillion Coast and expect stunning mountainscapes, sea views, bright skies and delicious seafood. Also, there is plenty of time for relaxation built in the itinerary, so that you can enjoy the off-season calm of the pretty fishing ports along the Vermillion Coast in months like March, April and May.
Travel to Spain in Spring
>> Go Hiking the Vermillion Coast >>
For Those Who Like to Go Remote
The weather in Andalucía’s mountains can be harsh in the summer and winter months – but come in spring for beautiful fresh colours of green lighting up the valleys. Visit this part of Spain from March onward and find the hedgerows and paths lined with flower buds and migratory birds, while enjoying the pleasant temperatures. With the snowy peaks of Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, go on an exhilarating walk in a remote part of Spain. Explore along terraced fields and irrigation channels that date back to the Moorish era, while staying in hidden white-washed villages.
Travel to Spain in Spring
>> Go Hiking in Hidden Andalucia >>
If You Can’t Choose
The majestic Sierra de Tramontana is a massif of limestone peaks tumbling to the turquoise waters of the Balearic Sea on the northwest part of Majorca. For those that can’t choose between mountain hikes or coastal walks, this is the perfect setting. Venture forth on a series of hikes through shady forests, olive groves and ancient farmsteads, visit tiny sun-drenched beaches and spend the night in a traditional monastery, listening to the sound of nightingales from your bedroom window.
Travel to Spain in Spring
>> Go walking along Majorca's Sierras and Monasteries along the coast >>
Go Island Hopping
Hiking in Spain can be easily done year-round as long as you choose its exotic islands. Explore for example the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera while visiting Spain in March or any other time in spring. Hike your way around the second smallest Canary Island, La Gomera. Here you can experience high rocky mountains to cloud forest and banana plantations, but before that, explore Tenerife and Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain and the world’s third tallest volcano!
Travel to Spain in Spring
>> Go Walking in the Canaries >>
If You’re After a Challenge
The Spanish side of the Pyrenees has a drier climate than the French side and is less visited. It offers a magnificent array of rugged mountains, deep gorges, beech and pine forests, cultivated terraces, ancient stone bridges, unspoilt towns and villages with many historic buildings, linked through a network of waymarked trails and paths. The walking is about 5-8 hours a day with an average altitude gain of 900m (sometimes over 1000m) and you’ll need to be competent at map reading and compass work.
Travel to Spain from June onward
>> Go walking in the Alto Aragon: The Spanish Pyrenees >>
For the complete overview of cycling and walking holidays in Spain, have a look these 15+ trips. If you like more information on any of the above-mentioned holidays, please download the trip notes from the blue button on the trip page or contact our team of travel experts.
We sat down with Alpujarras resident, hiker, guesthouse owner and author Emma Illsley to talk about walking in Andalucia , her recently launched cookbook, that she wrote with husband David, and of course asked her about the best Andalusian dish.
Can You Tell A Bit About Yourself?
We are David and Emma, we moved to the Alpujarra Mountains and Mairena village in 1998. Nearly a decade before that we were living in different parts of Spain and Portugal. We both worked for the British Council and were in Galicia, Oporto and then in the Canary Islands where we indulged in our love of windsurfing.
We initially came to the Alpujarra mountains as a sabbatical year on which we wanted time to think and plan where we would like to live and work. We fell in love with the Alpujarras. Both with the astonishing Spanish landscape and with the way of life. The small villages of Andalusia consist of families and of subsistence farmers still producing food and farming the land as they have done for generations. We both love hiking as well as cycling so we decided to set up as a small guesthouse in the middle of the Alpujarra mountains.
What Inspired You to Write the Andalusia Cookbook 'Las Chimeneas'?
We both write in our spare time and I had written another book Bee-eaters and other Migrants . In this, I chronicle what it is like to live in a small remote mountain community, focussing on the changes in the seasons and the local traditions. We were looking for another project like this. As our small restaurant was already getting fantastic reviews and many of our guests kept asking us why we didn't put together a book of recipes, the idea came about. From here the project emerged as a book that informs about the food we cook at our restaurant combined with content about local food production and traditions, as well as interviews with our neighbours. That is how “Las Chimeneas – Recipes and Stories from An Alpujarran Village” developed. The fact that we were put in touch with two very talented people, Anna Norman - a writer and editor who structured the book and gave us much needed deadlines, along with Suzy Bennett - a very experienced travel and food photographer, meant the project grew from a small idea into something much bigger.
What Is a Typical Dish for People to Try When Hiking in Andalucia?
Our dish pollo en asado or chicken with sundried tomatoes & peppers is very traditional. It uses the sundried produce that is famous in the Alpujarra Mountains. If you travel in September, you will see drying peppers hanging from the balconies and tomatoes on the rooftops.
Even just one generation ago people produced everything they ate. All our dishes are also made from ingredients that are grown on the terraces around us. To prepare the food, we work with Sole and Conchi who are from our village. Another traditional dish we like is carne en ajillo - a pork dish with an almond sauce. It is the dish that people used to make for special occasions such as birthdays or communions. As we are surrounded by almond terraces, there are plenty of nuts for this dish at hand!
Both dishes are delicious and guests give rave reviews and compliments to the chef regularly. The Alpujarra mountain range is also very famous for the air-dried jamon serrano which is delicious cut thinly as a tapas - or added to our broad bean dish in spring along with sundried tomatoes and the zest of an orange.
What Season Do You Like Best for Walking in Andalucia?
I love walking in September and October because there is so much produce in the fields such as wild grapes, figs and almonds. But every month has its delights. November has the autumn colours. Winter walking is fantastic in December and January with clear skies and views across to Africa with snow on the high peaks. The amazing almond blossom comes in February and then we move into spring from March onwards with an incredible range of birds and flowers. June in Andalusia can be warm for walking, but it is a very dry heat so more than manageable if you wear a hat and carry plenty of water - and then it is lovely to come back to sit out in the warm evenings. The only months that are too hot for walking in Andalusia are July and August.
When Is the Annual Harvest Of The Alpujarra Mountains?
We have several harvests in the Alpujarra mountains surrounding us. The olive harvest is in January and February and as many of the walks go through the olive terraces, it is quite common to walk alongside families in the fields. You will see them busy with their nets and long sticks, which they use to hit the olives off the high branches.
The other important harvest is the almond harvest in September. This is another interesting time to come walking in Andalucia as it often coincides with fiesta season. Every weekend sees a different village celebrating the day of their own Patron Saint. Our village fiesta of Santo Cristo de la Luz is the nearest weekend to 18th September. We love for walkers to be involved in these harvests, it’s a great experience and opportunity to spend time with the local Andalusians.
What Is Your Favourite Place In Andalusia?
It is completely biased to say it of course, but I love our own village of Mairena where Sherpa’s hikers spend their first night and their last two nights. It is partly because I have been here so long and know everyone in the village, but it is also because our village really hasn't changed much over the years. Pretty much the only tourists we see in the village are our guests! It is still mainly a village made up of farmers. Mairena has one friendly bar and a shop and the houses all have the traditional flat rooves based on the Moorish architecture of North Africa. Above our village, the ancient threshing circles have been turned into a lookout point and our olive mill is one of two in the whole province of Granada which is still a traditional press. The village locals are friendly and will always give a big grinned ‘Hola!’ as anyone walks by.
What Can Walkers Make from The Fruits They Can Pick Up on Their Hike?
We are always happy to give people the recipe for our delicious ajo blanco or white almond gazpacho. For most of the year it is possible to gather almonds in their shells, which does mean you then have to shell them but that's part of the pleasure. I have a quote from the local best-selling author Chris Stewart who is a regular diner at our restaurant. He once happened to be dining with a trumpeter who agreed to serenade the restaurant that evening!
"The trumpeter’s willowy wife offered me a spoon of her ajo blanco. This miraculous combination of garlic, almonds, olive oil, and the water of a clear mountain spring, was as good as it gets. It’s easy to louse this simple dish up – too thin or too thick; too garlicky or too oily… but Sole, who runs the show here from the kitchen, has the trick of getting it just right." – Chris Stewart
What Is the Best Thing About Walking in Andalucia?
David always says that coming to the Alpujarras is probably one of the shortest flights from Northern Europe that brings you to immerse yourself in something truly different and culturally exciting. Although it is a cliché, walking in Andalucia makes you experience a way of life that in much of the world has been lost. You will have challenging, varied walks with incredible views down to the Mediterranean and up to some of the highest peaks in mainland Spain. The norm is to hardly see another hiker for hours. Each night you will stay in lovely traditional villages and get to see a way of life little changed. People here for example still think that one of life’s pleasures is the privilege of being able to fill their jugs with spring water from the village source. Andalusians continue to grow their own food wherever possible, simply because they know, rightly, that it tastes so much better.
I believe that walking in Andalucia gives hikers a very rounded experience; get to feel fit, enjoy raw nature, and experience something life enhancing. On top of that, hiking in Andalucia is the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life.
If you are interested in the cookbook Las Chimeneas – Recipes and Stories From An Alpujarran Village, please let us know and we can bring you in touch with David and Emma. If you are interested in walking in Andalucia and staying at David & Emma's guesthouse, have a look at our 8-day Hiking in Hidden Andalucia self guided walking holiday .
With the rugged limestone mountain range of Sierra de Tramontana, Majorca has one of the most spectacular coastlines of the Mediterranean. This is where you’ll find rocky and arid mountain tops, thickly forested slopes, ancient olive, orange and almond groves, and small coastal villages. There’s even an opportunity to overnight in an actual monastery! Get to know more about walking in Majorca via this image impression of the Spanish island.
A walk around Puig Roig is a popular classic for walking in Majorca. The views of the rugged coastline are fine and you can see Majorca’s highest peak Puig Mayor: a fantastic introduction to the island of Majorca.
The beach at the small coastal inlet of Cala Tuent is the starting point for your walk on the fourth day of our Majorca walking trip. It’ll prove to be an amazing day following a scenic coastal footpath that then takes you inland through olive groves.
During a fine day of walking, enjoy a fantastic lunch or dinner of some fine Spanish paella. It’s one of those dishes not to be missed on a Majorca walking holiday!
On your free morning in Soller, there are plenty of activities to undertake. Enjoy the village’s terraces and church while you wait for the afternoon bus, or take a boat trip to the beach of Sa Calobra, take a scenic train ride, or visit Soller’s fossil museum and botanical garden – one of the best you’ll come across while walking in Majorca.
Mountain villages, such as Valldemossa, Soller, Deia, Biniaraix and Fornalutx are particularly attractive, with yellow stonewalls and flower-bedecked balconies.
Our carefully compiled route guides you along the 19th century "Archduke's trail" above Valldemossa. It’s named after Austrian archduke Ludwig Salvador who purchased an estate here in the late 1800s. Much of the path you’ll follow was constructed during his time.
Valldemossa is famous for its Carthusian monastery and for its associations with Chopin and the Austrian Archduke Ludwig. It is one of the three centres that our walking trip is based on.
Has this inspired you to go on a walking holiday in Majorca yourself as well? Or do you have any questions based on our pictures? Have a look at our
8-day walking holiday in Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries (on which you’ll stay in an actual monastery!) or get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices.