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walking holidays

  Think walking holidays are for hardened hikers? Think again. A spate of new on foot tours include leisurely meanders with good food and boutique hotels. It’s a hot trend.
  In San Diego, California, a distinct  buzz fi lls the air. Office workers begin to fi lter out from their buildings, cars begin to choc up the highways, and one by one the lights start to twinkle against the skyline. But I’m watching  all this chaos feeling distinctly calm.
  That’s because around 15.00 I made my way to Cowles Mountain, for a walk. As a keen hiker, I’ve enjoyed a host of walking holidays around the world. I’ve undertaken a two week altitude battling trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal I’ve walked innto inn along the Camino de Santiago in Spain section hiked chunks of the USA’s Appalachian Trail and climbed the highest point in Japan. But it doesn’t have to be an all encompassing multi day hike to make it worthwhile.
  The two hour stroll up Cowles Mountain was a happy add on to a city break that included the usual museums, excursions and good food. Yet, standing atop that small hill, being able to watch the cityscape fade  into the horizon, against the border with Mexico, a patchwork of wetlands and the Pacifi c Coast stretching out in front, gave me an instant understanding of the place.
  I spoke to Californians who were out walking their dog or going for a jog many gave me tips on where to eat or pointed out the American kestrel soaring overhead.
  Simon Wrench, Head of Marketing at Inntravel. says more people are discovering specialist operators. “They’re recognising that we can design holidays as much for leisure strollers as for hardened mountain hikers, where they can walk light as their luggage is transferred between hotels, go at their own pace instead of being part of a group, and where the standard of accommodation is a delight.”
  Andrew Turner, Head of Sales for Intrepid, adds: “Walking gives clients the chance to see a country up close, rather than from a tour bus window, local interaction, and a sense of accomplishment.”
  And, despite the feeling of uncertainty around Brexit, it seems that when it comes to hiking the numbers are not slowing down: “We have seen bookings growing for the last four years,” says Steve Berry, Managing Director of Mountain Kingdoms, which has off ered mountain hiking trips to the Himalayas since 1987 but now sells South East Asia, Central Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa.
  But where are people going and why? “Japan has really taken off thanks to Joanna Lumley,” says Berry. “Uzbekistan is also a big surprise hit this year and again all thanks to Lumley’s programme on the Silk Road.”
  TV Adventurer Levison Wood, who walked through the Caucasus (Georgia and Armenia) in 2017, has impacted numbers on Explore’s trip to that region, according to its Walking Programme Manager, Caroline Phillips. She says it’s led to customers “looking  outside of Western  Europe for more  adventurous short haul destinations that are good value.” She adds: “Turkey and Jordan have made big comebacks in 2019 and further afi eld places like Madagascar are also doing well.”
  So, who is going on these walking trips? It may not be who you expect. Wild Frontiers’ Marketing Manager, Michael Pullman, says: “For the retired demographic, who are now staying healthier and more active for longer, walking trips are proving popular.”
  But he says there’s a growing number of young travellers interested too: “They want to get away from city noise and the all pervasiveness of technology,” he says.
  The UK is a great starting point, with trails like the popular seven day West Highland Way an achievable undertaking in Scotland.
  Europe also off ers the chance to sample some great routes while a ‘sherpa’ luggage  transfer service carries bags from hotel to hotel, making circular routes such as the Tour de Mont Blanc passing through  Italy, Switzerland and France and the Camino de Santiago in Spain easy even for newcomers to hiking (off ered by companies including Headwater, Explore and Ramblers Walking Holidays).
  For those nervous about committing to a whole week (or more) spent walking, there’s the option of self guided ‘centred’ walking trips, like those off ered by Inntravel, where the accommodation is located somewhere with plenty to do and provides the base for  several walks of diff erent levels.
  The itinerary is fl exible and self guided, that way if days off are required or one  member of the party wants to walk and one doesn’t, there’s plenty to explore from the hotel door or the option to do nothing at all.  
  Companies, such as Intrepid have noticed  that “many clients want to combine walking with other activities such as kayaking or cycling on multi activity trips”.
Or consider adding on hiking perhaps a section of the Amalfi Coast as part of a relaxing break to Italy. 
  Or a visit to Jordan to see Petra and the Dead Sea, with a two day hike and overnight in Wadi Rum.


  The country has unveiled 10 new hiking routes for 2019. These include the foodie themed 8km Rundweg Bussard in the Bavarian Forest, which takes in small, independent restaurants and local produce, and the art themed TalaueKunst Weg in Stuttgart, which circles the city in 4.5km  alongside rivers and half timbered houses.


  Camino Ways can work with agents to take clients on the established Camino de Santiago pilgrimage’s hottest new route the Sea of Arousa Camino Walk and Boat. It combines walking the dramatic coast of O Salnes with a boat trip across the Ria de Arousa and up the River Ulla to Padron where the boat carrying St James is said to have fi rst landed in Galicia.


  The Algarve’s popular Rota Vicentina coastal route has been extended to include 16 new circular side trails. Recommended is the Fisherman’s Trail, which will now continue on to Lagos.


  The fi fth Walking Festival takes place May 21 25 and enables participants to explore its volcanic scenery, ancient laurel forest and starlit skies on a series of routes aimed at families, couple and individuals.