4 Walking Holidays for 2017
A selection of walks that are in reach for the international tourist and homegrown walks that you can do to prepare for your journey.
When you’ve enjoyed some of the most challenging Irish walks, which come with some of the most unforgettable views, it’s very easy to catch the bug and incorporate walking into your next holiday plans.
Affordable air travel has made the world a much smaller place and with this in mind we have put together some destinations that offer an incredible adventure but are still in reach for everyday walking enthusiasts.
Te Araroa is a country-long walking trail that starts at the tip of the North Island at Cape Reinga and finishes at the very bottom of the South Island in Bluff. Walkers have more than 3000 km worth of different trails and walking routes to choose from, with a full trip taking up to five months to complete. Thankfully there are many sections that can be experienced in a shorter time, allowing visitors to have their pick of trails and enjoy the rest of their time in New Zealand as they please.
The Te Araroa trail was designed to connect visitors to settlements, townships and cities, while putting a strong emphasis on cultural and historic awareness. From a scenic perspective, the trail provides an entire geography book checklist of natural features including: tombolos, volcanos, mountain ranges, rivers, lakes and valleys.
The country’s first national scenic walk was launched in 1975 by The New Zealand Walkways Commission, however this 3000 km trail was opened in 2011 and is managed by the Te Araroa Trust.
For those not too comfy in wet or cold weather, the best times to do any of the walks are in October or early November, for a southbound start, or December or early January for a northbound start.
Trail Focus: Cullen Brynderwyn Walkway
One of the smallest segments on the Te Araroa trail is this 14 km route, which can be enjoyed in five to six hours. This walkway offers an insight into the busy logging activities in the surrounding hills, as well as a glimpse of Taranga Island off the coast.
You can see more information on this route by clicking here.
Irish Inspiration: Marlay Park to Knockree
Why not get some hillwalking practice by sampling a single stage of a larger walk at home? Stage one of The Wicklow Way is the perfect challenge for beginners.
Stage one, a 21 km trek from Marlay Park to Knockree, starts in the park grounds, before following the Little Dargle River and leading towards Kilmashogue Mountain and Two Rock Mountain.
You can see our guide for this route here.
Santiago de Compostela is a city located in the north west of Spain. For walking enthusiasts, it’s widely known as the finishing point for popular catholic pilgrimages that make up the Way of St. James.
The pilgrimage, which is thought to have originated in the 9th century, is made up of 16 smaller routes in total, offering walkers the chance to take in a range of cultural sites across a number of European countries.
The busiest months for the trails are between April and October, with the French Way, or ‘Camino Francés’ considered to be the most popular. This route marks the last 100 km of the trail bringing walkers between Sarria to Santiago de Compostela, across a scenic countryside route.
Whatever route you take it’s likely you’ll experience a mixture of country roads, footpaths and off-road tracks.
In 1985 the city’s Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture, culture and various activities to be enjoyed in the town all come together to make Santiago de Compostela a wonderful destination. The city’s famous cathedral holds a pilgrims’ mass that many walkers attend to celebrate the end of their journey.
Trail Focus: The Arles Way
One of the trails that the organisation Camino Ways organises is the Arles Way that starts in Montpellier in the south of France. The route passes through iconic cities such as Castres, Toulouse and Auch.
You can see more information on this route here.
Irish Inspiration: Tóchar Phádraig, Co. Mayo
Although there’s no way to replicate the climate of southern France and Spain, you can get a taste of what it means to travel on a pilgrim path on the way to Croagh Patrick. Tóchar Phádraig connects Croagh Patrick to Ballintubber, a spot where St. Patrick is said to have baptised people before beginning his journey to the mountain. History suggests that Cathal Crovderg O’Connor built the abbey that stood there in the 13th century.
You can see our detailed Tóchar Phádraig route here.
The Alpe Adria Trail spreads across three regions: the Austrian Kärnten, the Italian Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Slovenia. The huge trail is spread across 43 stages and extends for 750 km.
Adding to its reputation of being accessible and walker-friendly, the stages are typically 20 km in length with an average duration of approximately 6 hours walking time. The stages along the Alpe Adria Trail can also be travelled both ways, giving walkers even more choice on the trail.
The Alpe Adria Trail is designed to link up existing paths across the three countries, with most of these geared toward ramblers and hill walkers. One of the most appealing aspects of this route is that there aren’t many dramatic shifts in altitude despite the trail being alpine in nature.
Trail Focus: Stage 20 Ossiach to Velden
This stage of the Alpe Adria perfectly captures the characteristics of the trail, delivering picturesque views, cultural landmarks and a manageable 20 km excursion. This stage of the trail brings visitors to Hohenwart Castle before finishing up in the town of Velden.
You can learn more about the Alpe Adria Trail here.
Irish Inspiration: St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Path, Co. Cork
Lakes, hills and monasteries — it’s safe to say we’ve found an Irish twin for this stage of The Alpe Adria Trail in St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Path. The full path is actually longer than the route from Ossiach to Veldenm, but part one, Kealkill to Gougane Barra is a handy 19km route.
Can the ornate Monastery at Gougane Barra give breath-taking Ossiach Abbey a run for its money?
You can see our detailed route of this Irish Pilgrim trail here.
Don’t let the name scare you, Kilimanjaro is reachable and achievable with the right preparation and assistance. Kilimanjaro consists of three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. Kibo is the mountain’s highest peak, standing at 5,895 metres, and climbers are considered to have conquered Kilimanjaro when they reach its summit.
Unlike some of the other international excursions mentioned on this list, a Kilimanjaro trek involves a several day hike with overnight camping and is best done as part of a large group supervised by experience guides. Being part of a group can increase the chances of a successful climb, with many operators bringing a qualified medical professional on the trek with them.
Altitude has a very big part to play on this journey. The oxygen at the top of Kilimanjaro is half the level we are used to at sea level. This is one of the reasons that the longest routes to the summit have the higher success rates, as longer routes with slower climbs in elevation allow climbers’ lungs to acclimatise in a more gradual manor.
Trail Focus: Northern Circuit
Many of the specialised tour operators have praised the Northern Circuit as having a high success rate. This route is typically an eight to nine-day trek and delivers a more gradual climb through stunning scenery and a wide variety of landscapes. Caves, volcanic peaks and rainforests await those who take on the Northern Circuit.
You can learn more about the Kilimanjaro trek here.
Irish Inspiration: Carrauntoohil
As you might imagine, Ireland doesn’t have an abundance of 5,000+ metres mountains to practice on. In fact, Carrauntoohil, the highest peak of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, only reaches 1,038 metres. The experts say that if you can’t replicate the altitude conditions, focus on your physical fitness and be sure you are able to walk for six to seven hours continuously at a time. One way to get used to a week-long hiking holiday would be to try your hand at a number of the different Glendalough walking trails. You could start off early on a Saturday morning and try squeeze in the Derrybawn Woodland Trail, The Spink and Glenealo Valley in one day.
You can check out more about Wicklow walks routes here.
Whatever your level of experience, make sure that you know how to stay safe. Read our Essential Guide to Walking Safety blog post before you head off on your next walk.