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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
Easter is quite late in 2019 – it falls on the third weekend of April and is a great time to enjoy the spring sunshine all over Europe. But where are the best places to go during Easter? In Italy, Spain and Portugal, all Catholic dominated countries, there are processions and other religious celebrations for the holiday – as there are on Greek Orthodox Cyprus. Often, these are very colourful and traditional events that are well worth travelling for and to take part in or observe.
Here are some of our favourite places in Europe to celebrate the Easter holidays, that are easily combined with a walking trip.
EASTER IN THE CANARY ISLANDS – LA PALMA
On the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Easter is celebrated extensively. In Los Llanos for example, the Good Friday procession assembles behind the church on the Plaza in the centre of the town, shortly after sunset, and is conducted in silence but with the accompaniment of a slow drumbeat. School children, joined to each other by chains, lead out one of the statues from the church. All the statues from the church are taken from their normal place and displayed in the procession. Some people are bare-footed and in shackles and chains, and the cross is slowly carried along, flanked by people with cardinal-coloured gowns. Many of the other villages on the island have similar processions.
Learn more about our walking tour of La Palma.
EASTER IN FLORENCE, TUSCANY
Make sure you’re in Florence on Easter Sunday and be up and ready by 9am for the spectacular Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart). A tradition that goes back to the 12th Century, this is still an important Easter practise for the city of Florence. A cart is drawn by oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Church Square, now connected with the altar in the cathedral via a wire. Here it is lit by a dove-shaped rocket from the cathedral, causing a 20-minute fireworks show. The whole spectacle happens in traditional 15th century style with flowers, music, and clerics.
You can combine this Easter tradition with a week-long cycling or walking holiday in Tuscany. Follow the backroads in the early spring months and spot the first flowers come to bloom among cypresses, vineyards, traditional Tuscan architecture – and of course the delicious Italian cuisine.
Read more about our holidays in Tuscany.
EASTER IN KATO PAPHOS, CYPRUS
Outside the church of Agia Kyriaki in the coastal town of Kato Paphos, the Passion Play, or Way of the Cross, takes place. It is one of the many Easter celebrations taking place over the island of Cyprus. Most of the residents are member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has its own Easter traditions. Normally falling at different dates than the Christian or Catholic Easter, in 2019 celebrations are one week later, with Easter Sunday falling on 28 April. Eat traditional lamb dishes and the Cypriot bread of flaounes and join any of the festive processions and performances.
Fly in to Paphos ahead of your 8 or 11 day Cyprus walking holiday and stay a few days to celebrate Easter. Then set off to explore the Troodos Mountains on foot and admire the rugged mountains, orchards and vineyards, profusion of exquisite, wild flowers and migratory birds that you can see particularly in spring.
Find out more about our walking holidays in Cyprus.
EASTER IN BRAGA, DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL
Braga is a short train ride from the start and end points of our 7-day Douro Rambler holiday, so it’s worth adding an extra day or two to your trip if you’re going to be there around Easter. The city hosts many concerts, dance performances, religious celebrations and street theatre activities during the Holy Week. You’ll also witness the Ecce Homo procession and many more Easter celebrations. The procession is led by coffin-bearers wearing traditional purple robes on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday. A traditional dessert to try for Easter if you’re in Porto or Braga is the Easter sponge cake of Pao de Lo.
The Douro Valley is just a 1-hour train ride from Braga and is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine and you can experience the importance of grapes when you stay at a beautifully restored manor that owns a small vineyard. Enjoy pretty walks in the wine county of Douro Valley in spring when nature is coming back to life and trails are usually quiet.
Read more about our Douro Rambler trip here.
EASTER IN ALGHERO, SARDINIA
Fly in to Sardinia’s Alghero airport and spend a few days to celebrate the Easter holidays. Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most famous places to go for Easter and is influenced by the Catalan culture. Celebrations revolve around the Santcristus, a wooden statue that washed ashore in 1606 and now symbolises Alghero’s religious identity. There are processions from Good Friday onwards, and on the Thursday before Easter you can witness the raising of the Santcristus at Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
These celebrations could form a fantastic start or end to your Saunter in Sardinia walking holiday. Your walks start in Santu Lussurgiu, 2 hrs away from Alghero, and take you around the Montiferru Mountain Range, Sinis Westlands, sea cliff of Su Tingiosu and many ancient sites as you follow romantic Mediterranean trails. The advantage of travelling in spring and around Easter is that you will find plenty of bird life, generally quieter trails and cooler temperatures.
Read more about our Saunter in Sardinia trip here.
EASTER IN PALMA, MAJORCA
As elsewhere in Spain, Majorca celebrates the Semana Santa (Holy Week) for Easter. The island is in a festive mood from the Thursday before Easter onwards, when the biggest processions take place. The most colourful one is the La Sang procession in Palma. Other Majorcan places to go for Easter are the churches, with performances by children and other special Easter events. On Easter Sunday you may find many people on the streets for their local pilgrimage and abundant picnics. Make sure to try the Easter pastries of panades and rubiols.
If you’re interested in visiting Palma, Majorca during Easter, you could add a day or two to the start or finish of our 8-day Sierras and Monasteries walk.
EASTER IN THE UK - WINCHESTER (SOUTH DOWNS WAY)
If you’re thinking of walking the South Downs Way, a beautiful walk across the rolling landscapes of Southern England, you could time it so that the start of your trip falls over Easter. That means you’ll be in Winchester, home to one of the UK’s finest cathedrals. What better place to experience an Easter service than in this stunning Norman cathedral built in 1093, which is the longest medieval cathedral in Europe, and also the resting place of Jane Austen.
Read more about the South Downs Way.
We know that a lot of people like to take their holidays in the summer – and it’s true that June, July and August can be a great time to walk if you’re comfortable with the potentially high temperatures.
But April and May are wonderful months for a walking holiday, especially in some of our European destinations where it can get very hot from June onwards. April is also when most of our UK routes start running, and much of the UK countryside looks at its best and most green in the spring.
Another advantage of spring walking is that the more popular destinations are quieter than they are in the height of summer, so if a little solitude is your thing then it’s definitely worth considering. Flights are often cheaper outside of the summer holidays – although bear in mind that Easter falls 19-22 April this year, and flights are sometimes pricier during the school holidays.
Here are a few of our favourite trips for spring walking – although pretty much our entire programme is running from April onwards so you have plenty of other choices if the trips below aren’t quite what you’re after.
Cornwall is the UK’s most southerly county, and in spring the weather can be lovely, and the temperatures perfect for walking or cycling. Although, as with all coastal regions, there’s always an element of unpredictability with the weather – but that’s part of the fun!
With some of the best beaches and most popular towns in the UK, it’s definitely worth a visit outside of the high summer season, before the crowds arrive.
Cornwall is a region of dramatic beauty, spectacular coastal scenery, charming towns and villages – not to mention amazing fresh seafood and some of the UK’s finest beer! There’s a lovely atmosphere in Cornwall in spring – as if an entire county is waking up after a long, cold winter and excitedly anticipating the warm summer months ahead.
We offer several trips in Cornwall – each exploring a different section of the famous South West Coast Path. Find out more here.
Cyprus can get extremely hot in high summer – which is great for some, but for those who prefer to walk in slightly lower temperatures, March to early May is a great time to visit this beautiful island in the eastern Mediterranean.
If you’re a nature lover there are other advantages of a visit in spring – with orchids starting to flower, and migratory birds passing through. When you go hiking in Cyprus, you’ll discover sleepy villages, farms and forests with fabled mountain views, and stunning coastlines.
Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, brought her lover Adonis to the beautiful Akamas peninsula. When walking in Cyprus, you get to experience the land of the Greek gods.
We offer 8-day and 11-day versions of this trip. Find out more here.
Spring in Tuscany is when the vegetation starts to come back to life and the beautiful colours of the flowers are at their most vibrant, making it a very rewarding time to visit this beautiful region of Italy. As with many of our southern European destinations, spring is a great time to visit if you want to avoid the summer temperatures.
It’s difficult to know where to begin when considering the highlights of a walking tour in Tuscany. Art, culture, rolling vineyards, ancient villages, and some of the finest food and wine you’ll find anywhere on the planet – Tuscany really does have it all. Which is why it can get rather busy in summer – another reason to consider a trip in spring.
This itinerary finishes in Siena, a classic Tuscan city full of ancient architecture, museums and a spectacular gothic cathedral.
Find out more here.
Andalucia, in southern Spain, is another area of Europe that gets very hot in summer, and is a perfect destination in the spring. At this time of year the fields are awash with flowers and blossoms of all colours, framed by the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Andalucia is a fascinating region – away from the well-known coastal beach resorts you’ll find the Moorish influence on the culture, architecture and food of this area rich in history. This trip focusses particularly on some of the more remote and unspoilt parts of the Alpujarras, a region of mountain villages clinging to the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada.
This is the perfect trip if you’re looking to experience southern Spain beyond the obvious flamenco, tapas and beaches.
Find out more here.
The Douro Valley is one of the finest wine regions in Europe, and spring is the perfect time to explore it. Not only are the temperatures perfect for walking, the whole area comes to life with the first bright green vine leaves emerging, and the hillsides covered in almond blossom.
Another highlight of this trip is the opportunity to spend a day exploring the lively city of Porto, with its maze of ancient streets, traditional town squares, and iconic blue and white azulas tiles.
If wine tasting is your thing, you’ll have the option to visit some of the many wine estates of the region – in fact the Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated and regulated wine region in the world.
Find out more here.
The variety on offer for a walking holiday in Italy is simply amazing. From the mountains of the Dolomites and the Alps, down to the lakes, across to the islands, and along the Amalfi coast – whatever type of holiday you’re after, Italy delivers it in stunning form. Add to this the delicious food and wine, and the warm welcome offered by the locals, and you have the perfect recipe for an unforgettable holiday.
Here are a few of our all-time favourite Italian trips. For the full programme of tours in this beautiful country, visit our Italy homepage.
The Cilento National Park may not be quite as well known as its more famous and popular neighbour, Amalfi, but it offers a huge amount for a varied and rewarding walking tour. There is a wild kind of beauty here - rocky ridges set between small picturesque inlets and richly scented pinewoods backing onto wide sandy beaches. This 5-day Cilento tour is both along the coast and inland across low mountains, through pristine natural areas and attractive countryside, with all its cultural treasures - rural chapels, ancient farm houses, old water mills and charming medieval villages.
Find out more.
Available as a 6, 8 or 11 day tour, our Classic Amalfi Coast walks encapsulate everything that makes an Italian holiday so special. The entire coast has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and a walking holiday here makes it easy to see why. The stunning views, culture, food and wine combine to create an unforgettable experience. The towns, villages and towers that cling to the cliffs can be a riotous mix of vibrant colours and pastel shades, and provide the backdrop to a truly special walking tour.
Find out more.
Coming soon – we’re currently putting together a new 11-day trip that combines the best of our Cilento and Amalfi trips. This will be available to book early in 2019 so watch this space!
The Dolomites are like no other mountains in Europe, and provide a completely different backdrop to the Alps’ jagged peaks. The Dolomites are dominated by continuous sheer cliffs, forming giant chiselled monuments. Below the mountains lie green meadows full of wild flowers, orchards and vineyards. The Dolomites are also an area of fascinating history, as they were heavily fought over during WW1. This 8-day trip encompasses an exhilarating mix of high mountain paths, lush meadows, pretty villages and mountain restaurants.
Find out more.
Sardinia is a beautiful island, with a unique mix of Italian and Spanish cultures. Walking from the black mountains of Montiferru to the Sinis wetlands you’ll discover beaches, bays, headlands, ancient ruins and historical sites. This is also a great trip if you’re interested in wildlife, and in particular, birds – as you’ll encounter large colonies of Grey Herons, Pink Flamingoes and a wealth of other bird life. This is a gentle walk that takes in some spectacular scenery, lovely villages and plenty of places to enjoy delicious Mediterranean cuisine.
Find out more.
This walk threads together some of the most attractive towns and villages in Tuscany. It’s a perfect introduction to the region and for people who love museums and galleries, Gothic and Romanesque architecture, there is plenty to see and do. You have plenty of time for attraction visits on most days. However the emphasis of the tour is to enjoy the countryside, the rolling vineyards, the poppies in spring and the wild cyclamen in autumn. This is a relatively gentle tour that is suitable for those who are new to walking. More experienced walkers will also enjoy the classic Tuscan landscape of small but sometimes steep hills, olive groves and vineyards.
Find out more.
The beauty of Lake Como has to be seen to be believed. The majestic mountains rolling down to the shores of the crystal clear blue water, the charming towns and villages dotted along the shoreline, ancient Roman villas and the majestic hotels built for wealthy European and American tourists during the Victorian era all add up to a landscape like no other. This lovely trip starts at the historic town of Como before taking in all that the area has to offer over the next 8 days, including hilltop ascents, villages, churches and ferry crossings.
Find out more.
5 Long Weekend Break Ideas for Europe
If you’ve only got a few days of holiday left this year, it does not mean there are no options to go away anymore. For those who’ve got at least 2 days of annual leave available and are looking for a weekend break in Europe, we gathered a few really short breaks across the continent and in England.
All of these short breaks depart daily, so it is entirely up to you to choose when you like to go. Perhaps you’re combining a break with a visit to overseas family and friends or saw a good flight offer. Our team in London can quickly support you with your request, leaving you to pack your bags and get ready for places like Tuscany, England’s Yorkshire Dales and the Swiss Alps.
Italy | Cycle San Gimignano to Siena
Delve into the magic of Tuscany from the walled medieval hill town of San Gimignano to one of Europe’s best preserved medieval towns, Siena. This iconic bicycle ride takes you through the typical landscapes that characterise this part of Italy. The trip is specially designed for those who want to experience the best of Tuscany’s palette of colours at handlebar level, but who only have a few days available.
You can take this European weekend break from March-November and it is graded as a moderate-challenging cycling holiday, find more info here >>
England | Yorkshire Dales Mini Break
Escape to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in northern England and stay at the Old Brewery, a tastefully decorated house that retains its old-world charm, yet offers every modern comfort. The bed & breakfast is a stone’s throw from the River Swale, at the foot of the castle hill, and just a short walk from the cobbled market place. This little break is perfect for several days walking surrounded by peaceful trails, quiet country lanes and sleepy villages.
You can take this trip year-round and it is graded as an introductory-moderate walking holiday, find more info here >>
England | Isle of Wight Cycle
Pick up your hire bike at the traditional seaside resort of Ryde, the largest town on the Isle of Wight, and let your holiday begin! This European mid-week or weekend break is deal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling break, the circular route is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving you time to stop and explore. Highlights include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line; the tidal estuary at Newport, known for its chain ferry; and Chale, the shipwreck capital of the British island.
You can take this short break in Europe from March-October and it is graded as an introductory-moderate cycling holiday, find more info here >>
Switzerland | Meiringen: Panorama’s of the Swiss Alps
Swiss Meiringen is famous for the Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular cataract that was the setting for the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. A natural transport hub situated at the convergence of three of Switzerland’s major passes, getting around is easy and it is possible to set out each day in a different direction using a network of cable cars, postbuses and mountain railways. A perfect setting for you a quick weekend break in Europe. The high places can be reached quickly without long uphill climbs out of the valley and you can fill a week with excellent day walks, from gentle strolls to high ridges.
You can take this short break in Europe from May-October and it is graded as a moderate walking holiday, find more info here >>
England | Exploring the Cotswolds
An itinerary specially crafted for those who want a soft introduction to walking in the English countryside. Highlights include the medieval wool town of Bourton-on-the-Water, the picture perfect village of Guiting Power, the atmospheric ruins of Hailes Abbey (destroyed under Henry VIII) and the still inhabited Sudeley Castle.
You can take this weekend break from April-October and it is graded as an introductory-moderate walking holiday, find more info here >>
More information? Download the complete trip notes via the blue button on the trip page or contact our team of travel experts for a chat.
Hidden on the foot of the Apuan Alps in Italy’s Tuscany is the (teaching) farm of Francesca and her family. Besides producing her own honey and olive oil, she loves to discover more of the Apuan Alps, hiking its hidden paths and admiring the same woods and hills that generations before her already have.
We asked Francesca to share some of her secrets on the Italian region and give you a bit of an insight into what an Apuan Alps hiking experience may involve.
Can you tell us who you are and your relation to the Apuane Alps?
I’m 54 and it was my father who taught me to love mountains. My family have always been living in areas surrounded by mountains, first the Appennino Tosco Emiliano and later the Alpi Apuane. I went out ‘walking’ on his shoulder first and when I got older on my own legs. Today I like going out together with my dogs, it's one of the best things to do! I really like to discover where each road or path goes (or was going in the past) and to see and feel what the generations before me were thinking and doing when they used to cross my same steps. The history of the Apuan Alps goes far, first there were pre-roman populations, followed by the Romans, medieval and renaissance people and then WWII soldiers (we are on the Gothic line) and finally us today.
What is special about the Apuane Alps National Park?
The Apuane Alps are “new mountains”, which means young geologically speaking. The alps are a kind of an island out of the sea. There are great peaks that are perfect for expert alpinists allowing spectacular views on the Versilia Coast and the Tuscan Archipelago with the biggest island of Elba. The alps can be rocky and steep with waterfalls and caves. The peculiarities of these rare mountains are that while being not so high, they do offer all what other great chains bring, but you can experience it all in one day.
For example, you can wake up in a medieval village and start walking on a path that takes you through a chestnut wood; when getting out of it, you will find yourself where trees no longer grow. After the blackberry bushes and grassy bit, here called paleo, finally you’ll hike up the rocky part that goes fast up to the sky. In as quick as 3 hours from leaving your bed you can hike up a great peak, and back!
What is your favourite spot in the Apuan Alps?
There are many, some of them for example are abandoned villages that are perfect for a picnic break sitting on an ancient ruin. One of my most favourite spots is the top of Monte Croce, which is full of white flowers in late May/early June.
What are other interesting places in the Apuan Alps and why?
There are natural caves like the Grotta del Vento and Antro del Corchia, which are well organised for a visit. But there are many other interesting caves than just these two. When walking in the Apuane Alps, travellers will also encounter castles, fortresses and walled towns. Barga, where I live, is an amazing town for example. It was first a Roman settlement, then a medieval walled town that in the time of the Renaissance developed into an even more beautiful city. The marble from here is plentiful and it is so white. It can only be found around the Apuane Alps Park and Michelangelo got the marble for his statues from one of the quarries here, imagine!
Can you tell us about the food in this part of Italy?
I’m an agrichef myself and consider myself an expert in food. I am also a guide to local food producers. I know where in the alps they make the perfect pecorino cheese, as well the best salumi, prosciutto and lardo, olive oil and wines. I’m a beekeeper and on our farm we produce our own honey, as well as extra virgin olive oil from our own olive trees.
Farro (spelt), chestnut and our Formenton 8 file (our corn) are the renowned treasures of the valley around Barga. The DNA of our Formenton 8 file shows that it is exactly equal to the maíz found in Mexico. This means that from the day that Columbus came back with the first seeds of corn, we have never changed it or mixed it with other variants. We still grow exactly the same corn!
Chestnuts, if you allow me to tell you a story, made “us” survive through the cold winter of 1944 during WWII. You can survive eating just and only chestnuts as they are rich in healthy ingredients and vitamins such as the vitamin C. It didn’t get boring to eat, as the chestnuts were prepared in the thousands of ways we know.
What are your most favourite restaurants in the Alps?
I personally know, as I mentioned earlier, most of the food producers in the region. So, I know to which restaurants their products go, and those places are exactly where I like to go for dinner, lunch or a snack. For example, I can recommend Il Vecchio Mulino, Ristorante La Buca and Theobroma, an ice-cream maker that uses my honey!
What, for you, is the best time of year to walk in the Apuane Alps?
Walking in the Apuane Alps in winter may complicate things a little due to colder temperatures, precipitation and slippery paths, but every season is different and an amazing time of year to visit for their own reasons.
What tip or advice do you have for travellers who want to do a walking holiday in the Apuane Alps?
They will love hiking the Apuane Alps for sure. Most of the time, walkers will find themselves on the paths alone, meeting other people only in the small settlements. The Apuane Alps are not a wild land, but we are an old land that evolved by marks left by pilgrims, merchants, emigrants and passers-by.
My tips for an Apuane Alps hiking trip: wear long trousers and never ask local people for directions - few of them walk themselves, but if you ask for the right path to take, they will come up with an answer anyway and it will be wrong for sure. Also, do not ask the same people about snakes: everywhere in the valley, the locals are afraid of snakes in a silly way. Each village will have their own legend or tale involving snakes, whether based on reality or not, that is up to yourself…
You can go on a hiking trip exploring the Apuane Alps yourself from the first of April until early October. On Sherpa Expeditions’ 8-day Walking in the Apuane Alps holiday, you’ll spend one night at Francesca’s farm before you head on to discover more of the 'Parco Alpi Apuane'.
It’s easy to think of advantages for centre based walking holidays: only unpack once, really get to know your hosts, and a chance to explore every corner of the region you’re in.
On Sherpa Expeditions’ centre based walking holidays you get a pack of day walks, sometimes circular and sometimes with a short train or bus ride, from which you can pick and select one each day. Let the weather, your mood or physical conditions decide which walk to go for that day and have the freedom to explore an area exactly the way you like.
Here are four of our centre-based walking holidays with departure dates throughout the year.
Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps
Situated at the convergence of three of Switzerland’s major passes, Meiringen is famous for the Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular cascade that was the setting for the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. A place for anyone who wants to see the real Switzerland: in summer the meadows are full of flowers and in autumn the landscape is painted with a riot of colour. Walks here encompass all grades from gentle strolls to high ridges, while a superb integrated network of cable cars, postbuses and trams takes you in all directions quickly and easily.
>> 8 Day self guided walking holiday, departs daily from mid-May to the end of October
Yorkshire Dales Mini Break
Escape to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales staying at the Old Brewery: a tastefully decorated house that retains its old world charm, yet offers every modern comfort. The accommodation is a stone’s throw from the River Swale and at the foot of the castle hill. From the base of your hotel it’s just a short walk to the cobbled market place. The day walks we provided for you make sure you are surrounded by peaceful trails, quiet country lanes and sleepy villages of the Yorkshire Dales.
>> 4 Days self guided walking holiday, departs daily year round
Cinque Terre Villages
The coastline of the Cinque Terre in north-western Italy is as stunning as Amalfi and even more colourful. For centuries, artists and poets have praised the tiny aquamarine inlets that serve as fishing harbours and the ancient terraces rising steeply out of the coastal crags in words and pictures. It is the Italian Riviera at its best and you can explore the region on your own pace on the various day trips on this centre based walking holiday.
>> 6 Days self guided walking holiday, departs daily between March and October
The beautiful fortified village of Monteriggoni forms the perfect base for the series of walks we provide you with on this trip. Right on the Via Francigena, the village is surrounded by Chianti vineyards, museums and the beautiful hills of Tuscany. The way we’ve set up this centre based walking holiday allows you to do a combination of walks, relax in the village, visit Siena or San Gimignano, and use the bus connections. Of course wine tasting is always an option and we can easily book extra nights for you should you wish so.
>> 6 Days self guided walking holiday, departs daily between April and November
Do you feel that such a centre based walking holiday is something that could suit you? Browse each trip's page to find the trip notes for more details or contact our team of travel experts in our London offices to discuss your options.
Sherpa Expeditions travellers Julia and Gordon Blackwell share their experience in Tuscany on our Walking South of Siena holiday.
What is your travelling/walking history?
At the ages of 65 and 71 we had some initial reservations as to whether we were up to this tour, even though our previous walking experience has included treks in Switzerland, Austria, Nepal, Iceland, and Canada. Our customary afternoon stroll usually covers about 7 km, and we also go 'fast walking' for an hour each week with friends. I would therefore describe ourselves as reasonably fit and experienced, but with some age related restrictions. In the event, the 'Walking South of Siena' tour turned out to be totally do-able – some days quite strenuous, but we were never seriously overstretched. Above all, it was totally enjoyable.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
We had wanted to visit Siena for a long time, and also wanted to spend some time in the surrounding countryside exploring the villages and tasting the local food and wines. The self-guided tour 'Walking South of Siena' seemed to be an ideal way to combine these wishes, walking from one village to another at our own pace and without stress – accommodation and luggage transport being taken care of by Sherpa.
How did you prepare?
A few weeks before the tour we checked our fitness by walking increasingly long distances every few days, up to the maximum length of a day on the tour. In addition we studied the directions and the maps so that we knew what possible problems to expect, and what we might especially want to see on the way. We also looked at alternative maps, and as a backup entered the routes into a GPS navigator. Although the instructions provided by Sherpa were generally good, the Italian maps were sometimes difficult to read or unclear and the GPS proved its worth more than once in helping us to keep on the track – or to deliberately deviate from it when we chose to. Although most hotel staff spoke English, the few key Italian phrases we learnt proved to be useful in shops and cafés.
Your favourite destination?
Our favourite destination is difficult to decide on, as we would willingly go back to any of them. Perhaps for pure charm of both the village and the B&B we stayed in, the overall winner has to be Bagno Vignoni. Two days here would not too long for us, especially after the long walk to get there.
Best food and drink?
This is another difficult question, as almost all the food and drink we had was excellent, and by no means expensive. A bottle of top wine for under 10€ can't be bad, and we especially enjoyed the wine from Montalcino. For beer drinkers, the Birra Moretti La Rossa can be unreservedly recommended - a wonderful red-brown coloured beer which I would go a long way to have again.
Biggest surprise of the trip?
I don't know why we were surprised, but the openness and friendliness of everyone we met was remarkable. One particular experience that sticks in our memory was the bus journey from Siena to Taverne d'Arbia, when almost everyone on the bus, including the driver, joined in to wish us luck and ensure that we got off at the right stop. Also unexpected was the consideration shown by drivers of the occasional cars which passed us on the sometimes dusty “white roads” or gravel tracks. Most slowed down to walking pace as they approached and passed. This minimised the dust, and we were often greeted with a friendly wave too.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The most challenging day was undoubtedly the walk from Montalcino to Bagno Vignoni, purely because of the distance and height ascent which had to be covered – by our GPS 27 km and 850 height meters including deviations and on-route sightseeing.
Other days brought different challenges such as a closed section of track, a closed bridge, misleading sign posts, and difficult to find (sometimes apparently non existent) tracks across fields. However these were all relatively easily overcome with careful reading of the instructions – and use of the GPS navigator.
Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?
Some of the days on this trek were, for us 66 and 71 year old youngsters, quite tough. We walked at a fairly constant pace of 4.0 - 4.5 km/h (excluding pauses), and most walks took us a bit longer than suggested - but after all we were on holiday and who wants to rush? In this regard, the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore between Asciano and Buonconvento is well worth a visit, and in order to arrive in time for a leisurely look around (it is closed from 12:00 to 15:00) we opted to go there by taxi from Asciano rather than walk. This also gave time for lunch in the nearby village and a relaxed walk on to Buonconvento.
Although perhaps not to everyone's liking, our GPS navigator was sometimes a godsend and saved us several times from missed turnings and long diversions – just make sure you have spare charged batteries in your day pack, and a charger in your luggage! If like us you decide to ignore some of the directions on the route to Bagno Vignoni and opt to ford a stream rather than walk along a railway track to a bridge, then rubber sandals would be useful but not essential. Lastly, remember that most electrical sockets in Italy are of the Italian design (type L socket) and you will need an adaptor for either UK or European plugs.
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Walking in Tuscany
To speak of Tuscany conjures up images of art, culture, rolling vineyards, cypress trees and ancient hill villages. It is a region well suited to a gentle pace of walking and where you will enjoy a varied countryside of rolling hillsides, vineyards, olive groves and forests alive with colour. Here are also some of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe with their Romanesque and gothic churches and buildings. A walking holiday in Tuscany offers many gastronomic delights: pecorino cheese, wild boar and porcini mushrooms to name but a few. It is also Chianti wine country with a plethora of wine tasting opportunities.
Best Time to walk in Tuscany
Spring in Tuscany usually starts in the second half of March when the vegetation starts to come back to life, making April and May the two months when the colours of the flowers are at their most vibrant. If you are planning to visit over this period, we’d recommend avoiding the days around Easter and the first of May, as these times tend to be quite crowded.
Walking the countryside of Tuscany is often quiet and peaceful, even in the high season (between June and September), but in the towns it can be quite busy. After the hot summer days the air again becomes pleasantly fresh in September and October and the walking is fine, but it is in the second half of October or early November that you are most likely to experience the picturesque morning fog that the region is famous for.
Our Favourite Villages and Towns in Tuscany
Most of the towns and villages on our routes in Tuscany, have something special and unique to offer travellers on our walking holidays, but here are just a few of the personal favourites from our team.
Perched on a hill with its towers thrown into sharp relief by the deep green mountains behind it, San Gimignano looks like a town plucked from a fairy tale and set into the Tuscan countryside. It has not always been the sleepy little town it is today (at least when the tourists aren't there): in the late middle ages it was one of Central Tuscany’s most important trading centres, strategically perched astride the intersection between the main highway from Rome to the Alpine passes, and the road connecting the Tuscan heartland to the maritime republic of Pisa and the coast.
San Gimignano is renowned for its white stone towers thrusting up into the sky, which were built as homes/mini fortresses by wealthy citizens that could afford it. They were built in this manner as space was at a premium in the village and the Council had decreed that buildings were to be no more than 17 yards wide and 24 deep, so the only way to grow was up. The more powerful the family, the taller the tower.
Montepulciano, located in the Val di Chiana of Tuscany, Italy, within easy reach of the Val d'Orcia, is one of the most attractive hill towns in Tuscany. Easily explored on foot the town is a major producer of food and drink. Renowned for its pork, cheese, "pici" (thick local pasta, like a fat spaghetti), lentils, and honey, it is known world-wide for its wine. Connoisseurs consider its Il vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one of the best in Italy.
Volterra is home to more than 3000 years of history, which is evident in the spectacular town-walls and gates, a roman amphitheatre and a unique Etruscan museum, the first "Palazzo Pubblico" in Italy. Unlike many of the tourist towns and villages in the region that can lose their character, Volterra is a refreshing exception. Every afternoon in Volterra visitors can join the locals as they enjoy an aperitivo with a spritz, chatting with their friends, admiring amazing sunsets from the lonely hill looking towards the seaside.
The ancient village of Bagno Vignoni is well known for its hot springs and makes for a relaxing pitstop on a walking or cycling holiday in Tuscany. The water of Bagno Vignoni (Vignoni Baths) bursts out of the ground from a depth of some 3.540 feet (1,080m.) at a temperature of 125,6°F (52°C). Nothing is more relaxing than a bath in the thermal pool, with a gorgeous view facing the Orcia canyon with the Rocca di Tentennano, after a long ride or walk. Enjoying a glass of wine with some pecorino cheese and honey, while sitting in this charming villages is something that will relax even the most frenetic character.
If you’ve already enjoyed exploring the better known towns and regions of Tuscany and are looking for some undiscovered gems, then head into the backwoods of northern Tuscany and visit the sleepy towns and hamlets of the Apuane Alps, including Eremo di Calomini and Fornovolasco, which are set in the mountains and rarely see international visitors.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY
Tuscany is served by a number of airlines (low cost and otherwise), trains and buses from a multitude of European and international destinations. Depending on the region you are going to, we recommend heading to Siena, Pisa or Florence, where you will find onward local connections.
Our Walking & Cycling Holidays in Tuscany
Visit the Walking and Cycling Holidays in Tuscany page to find out more about our range of trips that will help you get the most out of your time there.