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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.
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.
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.
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Oscar-winning director Ron Howard’s latest film ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ (released in the UK on 26 December) is expected to put the quaint Canary Island of La Gomera in the spotlight.
Based on the true story of the Essex whaleship, ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ was filmed extensively on location, including the remote Tapahuga beach and the town of Playa de Santiago, with many scenes at sea shot off the island’s south coast.
Easily accessible from Tenerife (the boat trip takes just over an hour), yet largely off the beaten track and unlike its famous neighbour, La Gomera is not moonscape-like but surprisingly lush green. Its deep ‘barrancos’ (gorges) are densely wooded at the top, covered by mountain rainforest and shrouded in cloud and mist.
If you are looking for a relaxed walking itinerary on this beautiful, largely untouched by mass tourism island, European activity holiday specialist Sherpa Expeditions offers a number of trips to La Gomera:
Southern Trails of La Gomera
A trip that concentrates on the southern – and sunnier – part of the island, with nights spent in traditional family-run pensions and small hotels. Highlights include: climb along coastal cliffs to reach the picturesque quaint bay at Playa de la Guanches; take one of the original mule tracks that cross the island, the breathtaking route from Chipude to Valle Gran Rey; follow the short rocky steps (dotted with small cascades along the way!) for spectacular views of the Arure waterfall; and discover a series of beautiful hamlets poised below the Matterhorn-like pyramid of Roque Agando. Find out more.
Exploring La Gomera
From high rocky mountains to misty cloud forests and even exotic banana plantations – if you want the feeling of walking alone with nature then this is the place to be. Relaxed and unsophisticated, La Gomera was Columbus’ last port of call before crossing the Atlantic in 1492. You can walk around the historical centre of capital San Sebastian, go in search of awe-inspiring volcanic chimney stacks of basalt or head towards the highest peak of Alto de Garajonay (1,450m) – from here you can see four other islands on a clear day! Find out more.
We also offer a 15-day itinerary that combines the island of La Gomera with Tenerife. Let yourself be surprised by the natural treasures of the island in the winter months. On our Walking in the Canaries self guided holiday you will explore the third talles volcano in the world, an ancient (UNESCO protected) university town, black sandy beaches and cactus strewn valleys. Find out more.
Image of Ron Howard around the Canary Islands, copyright of ©Jonathan Prime/Warner Bros. Pictures
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.