Love walking but hate picking a route? Consider a guided walking trip. Packages from tour operators typically feature destination hotels, restaurants, trails, and sites that tour-bus travelers often miss. Before you book, consider these four need-to-know rules.
You really can go anywhere
North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and even the South Pacific can be explored on foot. Walking The World ($1,895 and up; 970-498-0500) specializes in walks for the 50-plus crowd, offering guided rambles through places ranging from the mountains of Peru, to the Spanish countryside, to the dramatic landscapes of Iceland. Serious snow lovers can also go on excursions to colder climates: Walking Adventures International ($3,500 and up; 800-779-0353) took a tour group to Antarctica this past December, and, at press time, the company was planning another such trip there in February.
Trips are expensive but include amenities
Most tours cost $350 to $500 per day, excluding airfare. That's high, but when you book with companies such as Country Walkers ($2,498 and up; 800-464-9255) or The Wayfarers ($2,595 and up; 800-249-4620), almost everything is included: lodging, meals, and wine with dinner, along with bottled water, snacks, entry fees, and some gratuities on outings. In general you should ask about amenities before booking, and remember to look out for bargains. We recently found a six-night trek along the Pacific coast for $699 and a five-day walking vacation through Yellowstone National Park starting at $736; both trips were available via Road Scholar (formerly Exploritas; 800-454-5768).
You'll be talking while walking
Groups average 10 to 14 people, and you can walk anywhere from 2 to 10-plus miles—together. You can also meet area residents as you stroll through towns, farmlands, and vineyards. In Italy, guests of Country Walkers can lunch at agriturismos—small farms open to tourists—that make wine, pasta, and the lemony liqueur called lemoncello. Or walk with Classic Journeys ($2,595 and up; 800-200-3887) and you may tiptoe through India's Ranthambhore National Park, one of the world's best places to see wild tigers, or even sip yak-butter tea in the highlands of Yunnan on the Tibetan border.
Some tours can be tough
Walking companies typically rate their trips from "easy" to "challenging." Tours can feature leisurely village walks or hikes over rugged, mountainous terrain. To find the best trip for your endurance level, ask each company about pacing and routes.