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Traveller's Tale: Alison's La Gomera Walking Holiday
Alison Carr, a very skilled watercolour painter from the UK, took a walking holiday on La Gomera with us in November. Below, she shares some of her experiences – plus wonderful works of art that she produced along the way.
“The first word that comes to mind about this walking trip on La Gomera is contrast.”
The harbour town of Los Cristianos at the southernmost tip of Tenerife [red: where the nearest airport is] is so busy but then the ferry takes you away to the quiet and quaint San Sebastian on the island of La Gomera
, near enough to be seen but, in some way, a rather different world.
The first walking day takes me up to the hamlet of El Cedro. The road tunnel catapults me into one of the famous rain forests of La Gomera...it’s like a portal! On the other side is steamy, dense woodland with the light coming through in misty shards. It’s truly magical. Flowers and fruit grow in rich abundance and lizards scuttle about in the dry leaves as I walk past.
Being up so high affords sweeping views of the coastline below. It does also put you in touch with the elements, on occasion with a stiff breeze and atmospheric, swirling mists that frame glimpses of dramatic rock formations above and below.
Descending to the little town of Vallehermoso, I hear music and discover that the local bar in the square is a place where people congregate to sing (very heartily) with enthusiastic local guitarists and it’s so cheering to sit amongst them. Another contrast to the quiet of the day in the mountains above the town.
Highlights of the rest of the trip include the hill top village of Chipude with the zigzag path that takes you on up to the highest point of the island, into the National Park and its visitor centre with a comprehensive history of this fascinating place.
There was also an extra day to walk along the coast, a hot and dry walk with little pockets of green in the coves, such as the one at Playa Del Cabrito. Here, a banana plantation (the first I’ve ever seen!) completely takes me by surprise. A dip in the sea on the way back is most welcome.
Returning eventually to San Sebastian, there is a buzz of excitement. It may be a small place with a tiny harbour, but it’s also the place of choice for many great seafaring launches and today sees the teams for the challenge to row across the Atlantic getting their boats ready amongst all the media attention that goes with it. Even a Hollywood film, In the Heart of the Sea
, was shot here. By contrast, I board the steady, safe and slow ferry back to Tenerife and home after a really amazing walking tour of this lovely island of La Gomera.
© Words & artwork by Alison Carr
Walking is not just for summer! If you want to feel the warmth of the sun on your face in the middle of winter, a European walking holiday is a great way to escape those cold weather blues. There’s something about being out and active in the fresh air when most of the people you know are in hibernation mode that gives you a fantastic sense of well-being, especially as it can be hard to stay active when winter arrives and we tend to spend more time indoors.
Take a look at some of our favourite walking holidays for winter 2019-20.
La Palma Island Walking
A new destination for this year, La Palma is a fascinating volcanic island. The most north-westerly and the fifth largest of the Canary Islands, it’s famous for its volcanic craters and the huge collapsed erosion crater called The Caldera Taburiente - an amazing site 10 km across and with walls towering more than 2,000m over the caldera floor in places. Our itinerary in La Palma features a series of walks from three base towns – there is a lot of flexibility on offer, depending on how much you want to challenge yourself.
Exploring La Gomera
If you’ve been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to the Canaries before and you come to La Gomera, you’ll probably notice that the second smallest island of the Canaries is something special, and altogether quite different. Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s, but if you have travelled to countries of Central or South America, there are certainly Latin American elements that you will recognize in the villages and landscapes. This circular walk takes you around almost the entire island, allowing you to experience the amazing diversity of landscapes on offer.
Exploring La Gomera is available as an 8-day
Southern Trails of La Gomera
This trip focusses on the sunny south side of La Gomera. The shorter walking days will give you the opportunity to do other activities such as relax by the sea, snorkelling, kayaking or whale watching. You’ll experience coastal walks, quiet beaches, mountains and pretty, quiet towns. You’ll also visit Roque Agando – dubbed the Matterhorn of La Gomera because of its pyramid-like shape. This is a lovely winter walking trip that allows you to relax and take it easy as well as giving your body a moderate work-out.
Tenerife on Foot
The largest, and probably best-known of the Canary Islands is also the highest island in the Atlantic and home to the world’s third tallest volcano. Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of this trip is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast we have selected a programme of varied walks, which when combined with the walking on Mount Teide make for a wonderful week.
Walking in the Canaries
If you’re after a longer winter break, this 15-day trip combines the best of Tenerife and La Gomera. You’ll spend the first week walking virtually the whole length of Tenerife, from north to south, experiencing the amazing diversity of landscapes that the island has to offer, including a visit to El Teide, Tenerife’s vast volcano. You’ll then take the ferry to La Gomera to take a circular walk around the eastern side of the island, sampling the beaches, forests and mountains of Tenerife’s smaller sister.
Madeira Island Walking
Madeira celebrates the 600th anniversary of its discovery by the Portuguese in July 2019 – and its easy to see why this island has become such a popular, year-round destination for holiday-makers. Best known for its cornucopia of gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. This trip is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.
Winter Walking in Cyprus
Seemingly isolated in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been at the cockpit of western history for thousands of years, notably during the medieval crusades, when it acted as a launch pad for the crusaders. A few kilometres inland from the busy coastal resorts, an older world prevails. Discover sleepy villages, farms and forests with fabled mountain views. Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, brought her lover Adonis to the beautiful Akamas peninsula. When walking in Cyprus, you get to experience the land of the Greek gods.
Hiking the Vermillion Coast
This lovely walk starts in France and finishes in Spain, along the coast where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. It’s a great trip for art lovers – starting in the former fishing village of Collioure, where the colourful Fauve school of painting began, and finishing in Figueres, home to the Salvador Dali museum. In between, you’ll discover charming towns and fishing villages, beautiful scenery and delicious food and wine.
Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena
This walk takes place in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, the second largest Natural Park of Andalucia, situated close to the border with Portugal. The rolling hills and white villages offer wonderful walking opportunities. The character of the villages has changed little over the centuries, their history reflected in their architecture and the landscape surrounding them. On walks you pass along Roman cobbled tracks, glimpsing abandoned watermills and ancient hill forts left by the Moors. This is also a great trip for bird-lovers – the area is rich in many important species including the black vulture, and golden, short-toes and and Bonelli’s eagles.
July 2019 marks 600 years since the Atlantic archipelago of Madeira was discovered by Portuguese explorers, and a year-long programme of events, shows and exhibitions is taking place throughout 2019 to mark the anniversary.
It was in July 1419 when Portuguese explorers João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz, originally heading to the coast of West Africa, came across the islands of Madeira while looking for shelter from a storm. Fast forward 600 years and the so-called ‘Island of Eternal Spring’ has become a popular tourist destination.
Walking among Madeira's peaks (Photo: Visit Portugal/Francisco Correia)
Walking in Madeira (photo by Visit Portugal/Francisco Correia)
Visitors are attracted by Madeira’s dramatic scenery, lush nature and perfect temperatures – and our walking holiday on the island is an ideal way to experience everything that it has to offer, especially if you’re looking for a winter walking destination.
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa, Madeira offers both a mild year-round climate and a 1,350-mile network of ‘levadas’ – man-made channels created to carry water for irrigation.
Volcanic in origin, Madeira’s rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres (6,000 ft), with forests of pine and laurel flanking its jagged peaks.
Follow levadas through a peaceful pastoral countryside, or traverse terraced hillsides. Dating back to the 16th century, these irrigation channels or aqueducts are specific to Madeira, originally built to carry water to the agricultural regions.
Walking along Madeira's levadas (photo: Visit Portugal/Tiago Sousa)
Climb up to Pico Ruivo, the island’s highest peak. Many of the levadas can be followed on foot, which, together with a network of local trails, make even the most remote parts of the island accessible.
Walking up to Pico Ruivo (Photo: Visit Portugal/AP Madeira)
Discover a myriad of colourful flowers - jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias form just a part of the spectacular flora, while the dedicated Orchid Garden is home to more than 7,500 species.
Spend time in the bustling capital of Funchal – visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb seafood restaurants.
Funchal (Photo: Visit Portugal/Francisco Correia)
Funchal Market at Christmas (Photo: Visit Portugal/Franciso Correia
For more information on walking in Madeira, click here.
We’re experiencing some pretty wintery weather here at Sherpa’s UK headquarters right now, and it’s certainly making us dream of warm southern European sunshine.
Luckily, if you’re after a bit of respite from the freezing temperatures, you don’t have to wait until the spring to feel the warmth of the sun on your face. We offer a number of trips departing in February and March, to destinations that offer all-year-round walking enjoyment. So why not treat yourself to a few days in the sun to help ease your way through the rest of winter?
Here are a few of our favourite winter walking destinations.
The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago situated off the northwest coast of Africa. Beyond their popular beaches, the natural beauty and amiable climate of these exotic island make them an ideal winter walking destination.
Our holidays currently focus on the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera, although we are also about to launch a trip to La Palma (see below). The Canaries offer so much to the winter walker – a perfect climate, stunning scenery, delicious food and fascinating history.
Departures from 31 January 2019. Read more here.
Coming soon – La Palma Island Walking. We’re currently putting the finishing touches to a new trip for 2019 – a fantastic walking tour of the volcanic island of La Palma. On this trip you’ll visit the dramatic volcanic crater of the Caldera de Taburiente, said to be the largest erosion crater in the World. This trip will be on sale very soon – if you want us to let you know as soon as it’s available to book, email [email protected] and we’ll contact you once it’s on the website.
Thanks to its year-round mild climate and low rainfall, you can enjoy walking all-year-long in Madeira. March is one of the best times to visit, when a kaleidoscope of colourful trees and flowers are starting to bloom.
When walking in Madeira, you’ll clearly see how important the dramatic scenery and botanical wonders are to the local people. Well-maintained tropical gardens, walking trails and tempting restaurants where only authentic Madeiran cuisine is served are all testament to how much the locals love their home and culture.
Departures from 31 January 2019. Read more here.
The Vermillion Coast runs from France to Spain where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean – which means that on our 8-day trip you get to sample 2 different countries and cultures. This is a beautiful coastal walk that offers plenty of opportunities for swimming in the sea, visiting point of cultural interest and tasting local cuisine.
This is a great trip if you’re an art lover, as the walk starts in the former fishing village of Collioure, the birthplace of the Fauve school of painting, and concludes in Figueres, home to the Salvadore Dali museum. Along the way you’ll also visit the seaport of Banyuls, home of the great French sculptor Aristide Maillol.
This is a great opportunity to get to know a stunning stretch of coastline rich in both French and Spanish culture and cuisine.
Departures from 1 February 2019. Read more here.
Sardinia is a fascinating and beautiful island with a mix of Italian and Spanish cultures. Walking from the black mountains of Montiferru to the Sinis wetlands you will discover beaches, bays, headlands, ancient ruins and historical sites.
Our trip to Sardinia is perfect if you’re interested in culture, nature and wildlife. Bird watchers will be entertained by the large colonies of Grey Herons, Pink Flamingoes and a wealth of other bird life, while the ancient Spanish watchtowers, small villages and the ancient site of Tharros occupied by the Phoenicians, Punics and Romans offer welcome distractions for those keen to learn more about the island's history and culture. Whilst walking, you will also come across artichoke fields, Vernaccia vineyards, olive groves and the Cabras Lagoon, famous for grey mullet and its 'Bottarga'.
Departures from 1 March 2019. Read more here.
Now don’t get us wrong – we love winter in the UK. Cold, crisp mornings, roaring fires, hearty stews and if we’re lucky, a covering of soft fluffy snow. But here’s the thing – winter lasts quite a long time. And it’s not always blue skies and frost – a dark, cold morning with the sleet stinging your face is enough to make the most ardent winter-lover dream of warmer times.
That’s where a winter walking trip to southern Europe comes in. A week or two soaking up some warm sunshine, topping up the vitamin D levels and experiencing some fabulous food, nature and culture is the perfect way to break up the winter. Plus, a winter walking holiday will help you burn off some of those comfort food calories.
So, as you reach for your slippers and turn the central heating up a notch, take a look at our top picks for a warm winter break.
Best known for its gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery everywhere you look, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. Our walking holiday in Madeira is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.
Find out more
Available as an 8-day or 11-day trip.
La Gomera is a spectacular volcanic island, away from the hustle and bustle of the busier neighbouring islands. Because of its relative lack of beaches, La Gomera has escaped the levels of development that other parts of Spain and its islands have experienced. As a result La Gomera has an old world, rural feel to it with homesteads, small vineyards, layers of terraces and large rocky peaks set in an amazing crown of Laurisilva - a laurel cloud forest.
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Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of our walking holidays is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast, we have selected a programme of varied walks. Your trip includes a walk to the crater of Mount Teide, a spectacular 3,718m high volcano.
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Cyprus may be best know for its popular, and busy, seaside resorts – but head a few kilometres inland and you’ll find an older, sleepier world of villages, farms and forests. The trip is focussed around the Akamas Peninsular, a beautiful nature reserve populated by friendly, welcoming people. If you’re there at the end of winter, you’ll witness the bloom of wild flowers that cover the landscape from February onwards.
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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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