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If you are after an activity break with a dose of some salty sea air this Christmas, consider the great islands and coastline of Europe’s seas and oceans. From windswept cliff-top bicycle rides to more leisurely seaside strolls and walks off the mainstream tourist radar, you will be surprised of the options for a pleasant break during Christmas. For the active traveller wanting to visit Europe, winter tours are a great option to consider.
Popular year-round holiday destinations because of their excellent conditions for outdoor activities such as walking and cycling, these places do tend to attract a fair number of travellers during the winter season. Here is an overview of our favourite active winter trips in Europe.
Active Europe: Winter Tours
- Southern Trails of La Gomera | Relatively short walking days exploring the southern trails of La Gomera & leaving time to relax.
- Madeira Island Walking | Year round self guided walk following the Levadas and trails through the dramatic and rugged mountain scenery on the island of Madeira.
- Exploring La Gomera – 11 Days | Experience La Gomera's lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages.
- Walking in the Canaries | Year round walking opportunities exploring the mountains and coasts of Spain's most exotic islands.
- Hiking the Vermillion Coast | Discover the coast and mountains along the edge of the Pyrenees. Walk through beautiful seaside towns enjoying famous Banyuls wine and seafood.
- Exploring La Gomera – 8 Days | Experience the lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages of exotic La Gomera.
- Cycling in Sardinia | Cycle along the spectacular southwest coast of the island biking past white quartz beaches and towering sand dunes, Phoenician Ruins and Ancient Mines.
- Dingle Peninsula Walk | Experience on foot the history and natural beauty of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula.
- The Portuguese Road – Coimbra to Porto | Walk the quieter trails between historical Coimbra and Porto on stage two of the Camino Portuguès.
- Rota Vicentina – the Fishermen’s Trail | Traverse the Atlantic coastline of Portugal to reveal a landscape of deserted beaches, fishing villages and dramatic cliffs on foot.
Or How About these..
Especially during the Christmas period, accommodation is in high demand. We therefore advise to secure your winter break as early as possible. To discuss any special requirements or to chat about the best options for you, please feel free to drop by at our office in London (we’re located right along the Thames Path), give us a call or send us a message.
There are many reasons to travel to the Portuguese island of Madeira, but we believe that a walking holiday is the best way to fully appreciate the island. Spend your days in Madeira hiking the levadas and take in the beautiful viewpoints while at night roaming the charming streets of capital Funchal and other quaint towns.
If you’re curious to understand a little more what a Madeira hiking holiday may look like, check out the images below.
Make Your 2018 New Year’s Resolution to Travel More
Start Off with an Active Spring Breakaway
Get 2018 off to a great start and immediately realise your New Year’s Resolutions!
>> Receive a Discount of £65 per person when you book before 29 December 2017
>> Have your 2018 active getaway organised now
With another new year in sight, most of us will soon be thinking about making New Year’s Resolutions. For us in the Sherpa Expeditions team, there is one resolution that always tops the rest and that is quite obviously to Travel More!
We hope you have this New Year Resolution somewhere on your list and we are here to help you realise your goals for 2018. Receive a discount of £65 per person* when you book before 29 December 2017 for a trip departing before 31 May 2018. This way you can already look forward to travelling more in 2018 and enjoy Europe when the paths and trails are still relatively quiet and flowers begin to bloom. Or, why not start even sooner and discover on foot the sunny islands of southern Europe when other places are still covered in snow.
Top 10 Popular European Destinations to Visit before June 2018
1. Walking in Cyprus
2. Coast to Coast Walk Self Guided
3. Madeira Island Walking
4. Tuscany walking & cycling
5. Exploring the Cotswolds
6. Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
7. Tenerife on Foot
8. Isle of Wight
9. Amalfi Coast
10. Cornwall Coast Path
*Terms & Conditions:
- Book a holiday departing on or before 31 May 2018 and receive a discount of £65 per person.
- Booking must be received before 29 December 2017.
- Only valid for trips departing on or before 31 May 2018.
- Valid on land portion of the trip only and not valid on extensions, supplements or extra services.
- Only valid for bookings made with Sherpa Expeditions directly, not valid for bookings made through third parties.
- Only valid for new bookings received between 1-29 December 2017.
- Only valid for Sherpa Expeditions operated trips, eg. not valid on UTracks operated trips.
- Not valid with any other discount or offer.
- Offer applies only once per person per booking.
- Subject to availability and on guided trips also subject to minimum numbers reached.
- Booking Terms & Conditions apply.
- Quote code ACTIVESPRING18 at the time of booking.
Each year on the 17th of November you will find lots of people going out to celebrate Take a Hike Day. Originally initiated by the American Hiking Society in 2013, the day is mostly known and observed by our north American friends.
Aim for the day is, perhaps not too unexpectedly, to go out for a hike and appreciate the outdoors. By dedicating a specific day in the year to go out on a walking trip, more awareness and attention will be given to the benefits of walking. Not only is going out for a walk good for your personal well-being, by actually going to the outdoors, hikers will at the same time learn more about nature and their surroundings.
Autumn days in November can be beautiful, crisp and sunny, with the colours of orange, red and brown dominating the European countryside. In southern Europe there are even islands at this time of year where sunshine is almost guaranteed and there are flowers flourishing.
If Take a Hike Day inspires you to explore even more and go on a walking holiday for a week or two, have a look at the below trips that depart daily throughout the year or in the coming months:
Happy Take a Hike Day!
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.
Cyprus Winter Holidays to Enjoy A Milder Climate
Swap the cold British weather for a few days of milder climate in the Mediterranean on a Cyprus winter holiday.
While you may expect days in the winter months to be shorter and colder, the winter in Cyprus actually brings excellent walking conditions. Even in January and February, the heart of winter, the island south of Turkey enjoys daily averages of seven hours of sunshine and temperatures above 16 degrees Celsius. At the same time, you avoid the summer crowds and have more time to interact with the Cypriot people.
So, if you are planning a winter walking break, surrounded by unspoilt countryside and away from the cosmopolitan towns and beach resorts, go and explore Cyprus.
Sherpa Expeditions’ walking trip concentrates on the Akamas Peninsula in the western part of the island. Here, the winter weather is warmer than in the Cypriot mountains. Highlights of a Cyprus winter holiday include:
- Unspoilt and with a unique biodiversity, Akamas Peninsula remains largely inaccessible, as due to its mountainous nature there are no roads running through its heartland
- Rugged, pine-clad mountains, woodland and gentle orchards and vineyards are interspersed with tranquil, timeless villages and Byzantine monasteries
- A real geological mosaic, as almost all the geological formations of Cyprus can be found here, from narrow deep valleys and caves to islets and dramatic gorges
- Breathtaking sea views of Cyprus’ western coastline, secluded bays and small fishing harbours
- Visit the Baths of Aphrodite where, according to the legend, the goddess would come to bathe in a pool fed by a freshwater mountain spring – and where she met her lover, Adonis!
- Accommodation in traditional family-run inns, guesthouses and small hotels
Unspoilt and with a unique biodiversity, Akamas Peninsula remains largely inaccessible and especially in the winter months, you can escape to a region where you will get a warm and friendly welcome from the local people. All that’s left for you to do is enjoy your winter walking days.
To learn more about the 8-day Cyprus winter walking holiday, download the trip notes here or get in touch with our team of travel experts by phone or email.
On a walking holiday you like to pack as lightweight as possible. But with unpredictable weather, or when walking at different altitudes this isn’t an easy job. That’s why guide John looks at walking clothes for colder weather this month!
Autumn, winter sun, and spring breaks at lower altitudes require walking clothes that are lightweight and easily to pack as you will hopefully rarely use them, but they are always there in your bag if things get a little chilly. Long gone are the days of heavy furry fleeces and waterproofs that are the weight and consistency of wet cardboard. Although maybe less durable than the heavy duty stuff, modern lightweight walking clothes are so compact that they can be folded up and carried almost unnoticed until the time it is needed. All this has been spurred on by revolutions in lightweight mountaineering and mountain running.
Starting with shells, have a look at the ranges by the likes of Montane, Salomon, Berghaus, Mountain Equipment and Rab etc. They all manufacture super-lightweight jackets that are great clothing to wear when walking. Check out test reviews online or in magazines for the best models and look out for sale items. Haglofs for example do an ultralight trekking jacket called the L.I.M, which has minimal seams and pockets for waterproofness.
The classic puffa jacket may be a bit of an overkill for this sort of walking, however you see some Europeans in them sometimes in the summer! - well at least the fashion versions. The lightest, most compact walking clothes of this type are not cheap, but if you feel the cold they are great to wear and look great too. Look at the Montane 'Featherlite' or the Rab 'Microlight' jackets, they are goose/duck down, pack to nothing and have nice features. They do become a bit of a wet tea bag in the rain, hence you should wear a shell with them in such conditions. If socialising in them, beware of smokers or open fires: cigarette ash and wood sparks will immediately make your walking clothes somewhat less water resistant.
Talking about walking clothes for cold weather, baselayers must of course be mentioned. Merino wool tops are nice, they may not be ultra-quick drying, but they are very warming for their weight and you can wear them a few more times compared to polyester. Look at makes such as Ayacucho or Icebreaker. Although Merino is relatively expensive, there are nearly always deals during the winter clothing sales at your local gear stores (see Cotswolds Outdoor in the UK for example or Paddy Pallin in Australia). Merino baselayers come in different weights but the lightest ones are really fine for walking, although if sitting at a bar on the trail, it looks as if you are wearing your underwear, so the next step is to wear a fleece jacket.
Fleece jackets are as numerous as the stars and come in as many different weights and qualities. Take a look around the outdoor shops for this type of walking clothing and see what fits you well and folds into a small space. Berghaus, Northface and Haglofs do a good range of cold-weather walking gear, some being technical with hoods and handwarmer pockets and/or thumbloops on sleeves which extend over your hands if you don't want to carry gloves.
Enjoy the cooler seasons in great style and comfort!
If you like to find out what walking holidays you can book with us in the autumn and winter months, have a look at these tips to beat the winter!
The festive season has started with plenty of different celebrations around Europe. Here are five festivals you can join this December or January in Slovenia, Rome, Germany, Tyrol, and Andalucía.
1. Three Kings Parade | Andalucia, Spain
Cabalgata Los Reyes Magos is the Three Kings Parade celebrated across Spain on the 6th January. In Andalucia, towns and cities welcome the Three Kings when the evening falls on the Iberian Peninsula on the 5th January. It's a colourful parade where the kings toss out sweets for the children waiting along the streets for the parade to pass by.
Thousands of spectators come to witness the arrival the three wise Kings Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar dressed in traditional costumes.
When: 6 January 2016
2. Nativity Scene | Postojna Cave, Slovenia
The Live Nativity Scene in the Postojna Cave in Slovenia, about 1 hour drive from Trieste, is a unique performance. The caves are an attraction on its own already, but when the biblical scenes come to life they're even more rewarding. Fantasy stalactite forms, the inventive play of light, harmonious music and singing in a very acoustic environment together create an almost surreal Christmas atmosphere. At the cave's entrance a Christmas market takes place. If you want to experience the nativity scene, it's best to make a booking in advance. Shows run every half hour from 1-3pm.
When: 25-30 December 2015
3. Krampustag | Eastern Tyrol, Salzburg & Bavaria, Austria
Perhaps less suitable for younger children, in Austria on the 5th of December the Krampustag is celebrated. Young men dress like demons: wearing fearsome masks made out of wood, fur robes, tails and use branches as weapons to chase away bad spirits. The processions organised are known as Perchtenläufe and are truly spectacular to watch. The Perchtenläufe originally take place only four nights a year, on December 21 and 24 and New Year's Eve and January 5. Good places to observe this festival are Gastein, Altenmarkt, St. Johann and Bischofshofen in Salzburg, Henndorf and other places in Eastern Tyrol and Bavaria.
When: 21 December 2015 - 5 January 2016
Sherpa Expeditions self guided walking holidays in Tyrol & Bavaria
4. Christmas market | Stuttgart, Germany
One of the best places to go for a typical German Christmas market is Stuttgart. It is said to have one of the most beautiful markets in Europe and has a very nostalgic feel to it. The market is set up in and around the Old Palace on the Renaissance inner courtyard. There are over 280 wooden Christmas stalls, which sell a range of Christmas items and gifts. Obviously there's also plenty of German snacks and drinks available, try for example roasted chestnuts, gingerbread, Swabian specialities and mulled wine (gluewhein).
When: 28 November - 23 December 2015
Sherpa Expeditions trips in Germany
5. Fireworks | Rome, Italy
For those of you who are in Rome over the holiday period, make sure to be part of the New Year's Eve celebrations in town. Prepare for lots of fireworks after the midnight countdown. It's especially spectacular with the backdrop of some of the world's most impressive monuments like the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, and San Marco square. Prepare for lots of noise as well; people throw old pots, pans and furniture out of their windows to 'let go of unhappiness and prepare Rome for a happier future'.
When: 31 December 2015
Sherpa Expeditions trips in Italy
Image of Three Kings in Spain, copyright of ©Europe Video Productions | Image of Postojna Cave, copyright of ©Shadowgate Postojna Cave | Image of Perchtenlauf, copyright of ©riegersburg.com | Image of fireworks in Rome, copyright of ©neigesdantan
The Iberian Peninsula remains a firm favourite for many holidaymakers and not just during the summer months. Actually the coming months of December to February are an exceptionally good time to travel to Spanish and Portuguese destinations like Madeira, La Gomera, Andalucia, and the Sierra de Aracena. With pleasant temperatures around 20 degrees C, sunny days, and a landscape that ranges from subtropical greenery, to pine forests, and barren flatlands you have all the ingredients for a welcoming winter holiday. Ah, and the flights to Tenerife, Santa Cruz, and Seville have competitive rates for the winter months as well. So if you want to beat the tourists and enjoy a crowd-free break here are some tips for things to do in Spain and Portugal.
Canary Islands: Southern Trails of La Gomera
Despite being easily accessible from Tenerife (the boat trip takes just an hour), La Gomera remains largely untouched by mass tourism. The southern part of the island is also the sunnier part. The landscape is surprisingly lush green, with deep gorges densely wooded at the top, covered by mountain rainforest. Columbus’ last port of call before crossing the Atlantic in 1492, La Gomera is home to many friendly and small resorts. What you can do on the island is taking coastal walks, enjoy a view of Tenerife from Mt Garajonay, visit waterfalls, or take a historical walk of San Sebastian town.
Madeira Island Walking
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa, Madeira offers both a mild climate and a 1,350-mile network of levadas through which you can discover the island on foot. Madeira island enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil – you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species here! Another thing to do is take a guided tour of a Madeira wine lodge - and try some local libations...
Hiking in Hidden Andalucia
There's a part of Andalucia that is a bit more off the beaten path: the unspoilt sector of the Alpujarras east of Trevelez. A visit in the winter months of December, January or February is great for walks on sunny days. There can also be snowfall and it can get a bit chilly, but the landscape is rewarding these months. Walking the southern fringes of the Sierra Nevada, following the Camino Real (Royal Trail), and staying at charming villages of Berchules, Yegen an Mairena make for a fantastic winter break, even when the sun doesn't show its face.
Beat the European Winter!
Are you looking for an active break combined with some winter sun? Here are some of our trip destinations that enjoy a much milder climate and warmer temperatures in the winter.
La Gomera is a year-round breathtaking destination. The variety of the landscapes that you will see in such a small area is amazing and Gomeran hospitality is truly memorable. This trip covers the south – and sunnier! – side of the island and the shorter walking days will give you the opportunity to do other activities such as relax by the sea, snorkelling, kayaking or whale watching. La Gomera has a good infrastructure of roads, amenities and services, including good restaurants and small, family-run hotels. Find out more >>
The Portuguese island of Madeira lies well out in the Atlantic, where the Gulf Stream affords it a mild and equable year-round climate. Volcanic in origin, the rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres/6000 feet. A characteristic feature of the island is the elaborate system of ‘levadas’ (irrigation channels), which over the centuries has extended to more than 2,000km of channels and 40km of tunnels. Many of the levadas can be followed on foot and these together with a network of local trails make even the most remote parts of the island accessible. Find out more >>
Tenerife is the highest island in the Atlantic and the largest of the Canary Islands. Your first view of the great volcano Mount Teide, Spain's highest mountain and the third tallest volcano in the world will probably be from the aeroplane window… and a few days later you will be there, walking across the massive crater of Cañadas del Teide! Hiking on North Tenerife is hugely varied – from banana plantations to pine forests and from laurisilva cloud forests to lava fields – and our aim is to show you as much as possible. Find out more >>
Cyprus is an island of natural beauty in a region with an abundance of ancient and modern civilisations and cultures. Away from the cosmopolitan towns and beach resorts you will find large areas of natural, unspoilt countryside. Rugged, conifer-clad mountains, woodland and gentle orchards and vineyards are interspersed with tranquil, timeless villages. The people extend a warm and friendly welcome and their hospitality will add greatly to the enjoyment of your tour. Find out more >>