Looking for recommendations for a walking holiday?
February 3, 2019 12:18 PM   Subscribe

One way we like to spend holidays while still getting exercise and not gaining weight is to do "walking holidays"; basically, the idea is doing moderate length hikes on foot every day, ideally traveling from one hotel/b&B to the next over several days, and a service both plans it and transfers your luggage for you so your daily pack is light. This has worked well for us for several UK vacations, Iceland, and more recently the Douro valley in Portugal, but I'm looking for recommendations for other places.

Ideally: 1. 7-10 days in duration (longer workable if there is feasible laundry service at some point mid-trip; this was *not* the case in Iceland), 2. Good scenery, 3. Good food, 4. Quirky and offbeat destinations (I adored long stretches of time in the Cotswolds and the Douro valley where we were completely alonge), and hopefully 5. Not crazy expensive.

posted by kaszeta to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 114 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any suggestions, but you might include some information on the ones that you've done and liked so that other people that read this and are interested in the idea can also check out the ones you've done. I'd be particularly interested in the Iceland one you mentioned.
posted by Candleman at 12:29 PM on February 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Would walking the Camino appeal? A beloved friend has a service answering questions and helping people plan their segments and route, stays and food spots. The walk is an altogether amazing experience and seems like it would tick all your boxes and then some!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:36 PM on February 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

The Lake District in England would be perfect for this, although it sounds like there is a chance you've done this one.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 12:39 PM on February 3, 2019

@DarlingBri The Camino has come up several times, especially since once of the businesses we've used (Portugal Green Walks) does most of their business with the Portuguese Camino. We

@Candleman UK have all been through Contours Walking Holidays (Cotswolds Way and Coast to Coast). Iceland was Mac's Adventures.

@lucy.jakobs. Haven't done Lake District yet. That's on the short list, but looking to get out from UK a bit more.
posted by kaszeta at 12:42 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I feel like i plug northern Minnesota a lot on here, but there are some great hikes here. While the Superior trail isn't as formally supported to do this as much as maybe some other places are, it looks like there are some options here. so I suspect there may be more providers doing this as well. Like the guide warns, accommodations book up FAST, so planning early and well is vital. There are also lots of options to use one place as a base, and then do day hikes/walks from there. Be mind of your time of year choice as the bugs view people as mobile buffets in early summer!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 12:50 PM on February 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sent you a PM!
posted by theodolite at 12:54 PM on February 3, 2019

I don't have direct experience with it, but you can do walking holidays in the manner you describe in the Mosel (Moselle, Mousel) Valley in Germany, across the river from Luxembourg. The countryside there is beautiful.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 12:54 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Many people travel the Kumano Kodo trail in Japan that way, and Japan in general has widely available luggage delivery. I'm fairly certain you can book the Kumano Kodo hike as a package if you prefer, though.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 12:57 PM on February 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

A friend has been on several trips with Country Walkers and raves about them. Idk if you’d consider them crazy expensive but she has specifically said she thought there was a ton of value and the accommodations were always beautiful, charming, and not something they’d have found on their own.
posted by stellaluna at 1:23 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I know there are many trekking possibilities like this in northern Thailand that might be worth investigating if that region of the world is appealing to you.
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:31 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

If El Camino holds interest you could check out the various pilgrimages to Mont St Michel in France. It’s easy to find the porter/gîtes combo of a real place to sleep and not having to carry a bag
posted by raccoon409 at 1:45 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I walked the Corfu trail with a tour company but I suspect it would work well independently. 220km and I think I did it over 12 days of fairly easy walking. Signposting was dire though.

The guide who led it was awesome and has now set up his own independent your company all around Greece. Lots of walking but also sail/walk combinations. Give me a shout if you want me to dig out his name.
posted by kadia_a at 2:01 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did an amazing trek with Walk Japan Along the Nakasendo Way between Kyoto and Tokyo. It was not cheap, but this will have a lot to do with the strength of the yen. Walk Japan did a fabulous job, and the have a number of Japan based hikes.

I’ve also done the Wicklow way near Dublin and that was super too. I’m afraid the tour company is lost in the mists of time, but there were several who offered it.
posted by frumiousb at 2:13 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm in the process of booking a trip that includes 2 days hiking the Kumano Kodo, which is a 4-5 hour train ride south of Osaka/Kyoto. You can find some itineraries here with what appears to be the primary booking agency in the area, and there are some alternative routes that can take it from 5 days to 7-10. Overview of someone's trek with lots of pictures and some links to tour agencies here.

Dewa Sanzan, north of Tokyo a few hours by shinkansen, also has several days of pilgrimage trails with bus shuttles between them. We were there too late in the year to visit all 3 peaks, but we did a one day hike and stay at a temple on Haguro-san and it was magical.

We hired a guide for a 4-day walk/trek to see the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Phillipines. Our accomodations were basic, but it was beautiful and quite off-the-beaten-track. It seemed like it would be possible to extend or modify the route we took to match your interests/goals.

If you're willing to stay in hostels and interested in something a bit shorter, the 5-day W-trek of Torres del Paine in Chile or 3-day Tiger Leaping Gorge hike in Southwestern China might have something your speed.

Feel free to memail me if you'd like more details about any of the walks/hikes I mentioned.
posted by asphericalcow at 3:39 PM on February 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Is Nepal too far? Because this is exactly what you can do there. The scenery is amazing, the food is delicious and the costs (once you get there) are very reasonable. There are comfortable tea houses to sleep in along the way. Not luxurious 5*, but I had hot showers and private bathrooms everywhere I went. And wifi, which surprised me. I can recommend an excellent tour company run by Nepali Tibetans if you'd like. PM me if you'd like the company name.
posted by Cuke at 5:31 PM on February 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Japan would be pretty awesome. There are a number of agencies that facilitate walking tours so you don't have to worry about lugging around your gear. And there is nothing better than relaxing after a hard day's walk by taking a bath.

The ideas upthread for Kumano sound great. Just to the north lies Nara Prefecture. It has a lot of ancient history and antiquities, with plenty of places to do a day's walk. I recently spent a day walking around Asuka , visiting museums and historical sites. It's the countryside, and was a pleasant place to spend the day walking. Central Nara Prefecture itself is full of places to walk, including the city of Nara itself, which I think is Japan's most walkable city.

You can spend the day walking around to various sites in the central area of the city (it's just a small provincial city), and then walk northwest to explore the remains of Heijo Palace, which is just a big municipal park popular with locals. Then take the Kintetsu line over to Kyoto, about 30 mins by express train.

Another supremely walkable city in Japan is Kanazawa. From the train station you can walk up to the main commercial district in Korinbo, passing restored "samurai" houses, and then walk on to the castle and then the eastern tea district. Or, walk to the west, cross the river towards another neighbourhood of restored houses.

I tend to think Kanazawa is Japan's most beautiful city. It was never bombed during the war and so was never rebuilt. It's a rich city and the newer architecture is generally pretty refined.

Yet another walkable area is the west shore of Lake Biwa. A walking and cycling trail follows the entire western coast of the lake, and the various towns along it are very beautiful as well. One city I like is Hikone (not Hakone). It's a castle and university town with plenty of places to explore. Further down the like lies Omi-Hachiman, a town of canals and willow trees. The remains of Oda Nobunaga's castle, Azuchi-jo, are there, too, which is a very interesting place.

Walk north up the lake from Hikone and you reach Nagahama, the old gateway to the north country. There are a ton of little sake breweries in the countryside north of the town. What's more, there some interesting cultural properties at the various temples and shrines in various nooks and crannies across the countryside.

The great thing about Japan is that all of these places are served by rail lines, so it's easy to get in. And there are so many interesting places to walk! There is some cool, cool stuff off the beaten track.

Another walk would be from Obama Onsen in Nagasaki up to Unzen. It's about 1,000 meters up, and there's a hot spring cluster up there. Then, walk down the other side to Shimabara. There was a massive volcanic mudflow here about 30 years ago, and you'll cross these huge, new dikes put in place to mitigate any future disaster. There's an interesting museum that preserves some houses buried in the mud slide. Shimabara itself is an interesting place, but the main attraction is the ferry over to Kumamoto.

Anyway, I recommend Japan!
posted by JamesBay at 6:00 PM on February 3, 2019 [9 favorites]

Tour du Mont Blanc is on my bucket list. You don't climb Mont Blanc, you circle it. There are services that will transfer your luggage from inn to inn along the way, and if it is too long for you, you can skip sections.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:14 PM on February 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

The Milford Track in New Zealand is stunning and you can walk between accommodations. The airfare down there might blow your budget though. If you are on this side of the world, also consider the 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania. If you truly want to blow the budget, there are "luxury" versions of the Overland Track that might suit your needs too.
posted by cholly at 8:19 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had a great time walking on the Rheinsteig a few years ago. It’s the ridge trail along the Rhine Valley. I used trains along the Rhine to move my bags from hotel to hotel every few nights as well as dropping me near the trailhead for my daily segments.

Castles, vineyards, forests, Doberman puppies, and bratwurst. It was a pleasant and varied walk.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:37 PM on February 3, 2019

We did 7 nights on the Harzer-Hexenstieg. We had so much fun.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:18 PM on February 3, 2019

The Wicklow Way in Ireland has baggage transfer service available. I've walked part of it and it's lovely.
posted by Harald74 at 1:59 AM on February 4, 2019

I don't know if there are any services that do organized trips along it, but the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin has a list of B&B's along the trail.

The Appalachian Trail might have shorter segment organized hikes, as well.
posted by abeja bicicleta at 5:09 AM on February 4, 2019

A lot of great ideas, folks. Leaning towards the Kumano Kodo since I've been wanting to visit Kyoto as well!
posted by kaszeta at 5:44 AM on February 4, 2019

Highly recommend the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador. It begins or ends at the incredible Quilotoa crater lake.
posted by saul wright at 7:11 AM on February 4, 2019

I believe the Dolomites in Northern Italy are basically set up for this. You mentioned Mac's Adventures, they seem to run a couple of tours there.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:23 AM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Dewa Sanzan idea upthread is also great great great. The Shonai region is pretty spread out so you'll have to rely in part on the bus to get some places, but it's really cool and unique.

You could use Tsuruoka as your base. One walking trip would be to walk to Sakata, the old river port where rice from the region was sent all over Japan. There are lots of old-timey houses there.

Or, head south and walk along the coast towards Atsumi Onsen. My wife and I took a couple of romantic trips there (once by car, the other by train), and the coastline is amazing. There aren't many resort towns like Atsumi left, either. It's a fair walk from Tsuruoka, but not to worry, since there's a local train -- hop on, hop off.

If you're up that way in Japan, check out Hiraizumi in southern Iwate. It's an ancient city (wiped out by the shogunate) with some really cool temples. Chusonji features an altar and crypt that is covered in gold. The Hiraizumi region has lots of little nooks and crannies suitable for a walking tour. And it's on the Shinkansen line.
posted by JamesBay at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2019

I'm wondering if large world cities that are setup for people to never own cars would qualify.

I've spent a ton of time on foot in NYC and Chicago, and love doing so for a vacation. As long as you're good to cover ground on foot, you never, ever run out of stuff to see and do.

And if you're not looking for luxury digs, it's not crazy expensive; the expensive things there feel like "parking a car" and "paying for someone to drive you around".
posted by talldean at 2:39 PM on February 4, 2019

@talldean funny you mention that, one short vacation every year involves me and a group of friends going to a different urban area and exploring it on foot, usually with 20 miles on one day, and a few eating and drinking outings on each side of it. We call it a "Death March" for historical reasons. So far, done NYC, SF, Chicago, Boston, DC, Montreal, Seattle, London, and Cleveland (with Detroit coming up).
posted by kaszeta at 6:59 AM on February 5, 2019

You should absolutely consider Nepal! You can do part of the Annapurna Circuit, and it would be around 7 days if you took the shorter route. You fly to a town on the Tibetan Plateau, and then gradually walk down through different ecosystems, ending up in a rhododendron forest! The paths are essentially foot highways between villages so there are lots of places to stay. Guides and porters are not required, but it's a good way to support the local economy. You can go with a tour company that will arrange everything, or hire guides/porters independently.
posted by lunasol at 12:35 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

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