8 Wonderful Walking Tours
U.S. and European adventures include easy strolls and tougher treks
En español | Forget the tour bus. Exploring by foot is a hot travel trend for 2019 — and why not? You’ll not only top 10,000 steps on your fitness tracker, but you’ll see destinations up close, with time to linger, look and learn. Many cities offer free tours, from self-guided walks in Dublin to guided tours in Amsterdam. Texas-based Take Walks offers guided treks in 10 European cities plus New Orleans, New York and San Francisco. (A half-day tour of New Orleans’ Garden District, for example, costs $45.) Feeling more ambitious? A variety of tour companies offer increasingly popular multiday treks. Butterfield & Robinson reports a 153 percent increase in bookings for walking trips since 2010, and the Backroads company says its walking and hiking segment (which includes booking and new trip locations) tripled from 2013 to 2018. Walking trips aren’t always cheap, but the tour companies manage the planning, from hotels and transportation to walking routes.
Ready to take the next step? Here are eight great U.S. and European walking trips, both guided and self-guided (which can help reduce costs).
Provence and the Alpilles, France
Walking through Provence is a magnifique way to study the region’s famous lavender and sunflower fields and rustic farmhouses. You’ll start in the town of St. Rémy on this self-guided trip from Hooked on Walking and smell rosemary, thyme and wild cistus flowers on your first scenic trail. How lovely is St. Rémy? Van Gogh spent the last year of his life here, and you’ll follow his footsteps as you amble through forests to the Alpilles Mountains. Other highlights include strolls through Les Baux-de-Provence (famous for its stone homes and mountain perch), Maussane-les-Alpilles (try the local olive oil) and Arles (a Roman town with one of the empire’s largest coliseums).
Length of trip: 5 days
Cost: $617 per person
Fee includes: Four breakfasts; accommodations in small hotels or B&Bs; maps and walking instructions; luggage transfers from Days 2 to 4; taxi from Maussane to Arles; on-call team for advice or assistance.
Daily walking totals: 4 to 6 miles
There’s more to the New England countryside than autumn leaves. On this trip from nonprofit Road Scholar, you’ll embark on nature walks through the scenic Dover region, learn about bear habitats, check out beaver ponds and track moose activity near serene Grout Pond. You’ll also meet experts from local organizations such as the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum. The walking distances are short, but if you’re feeling pooped, you can choose on Day 3 between a challenging hike up Haystack Mountain or a leisurely walk through historic Wilmington.
Length of trip: 6 days
Cost: $829-$929 per person (the cost increases in September and October)
Fee includes: 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 5 dinners; accommodations at the Gray Ghost Inn B&B; 2 lectures; guided walks.
Daily walking totals: 1.5 to 2 miles
This Road Scholar trip is a unique way to escape the crowds at America’s sixth most-visited national park. You’ll not only hike with a naturalist who’s knowledgeable about the park’s geology and wildlife, but you’ll explore backcountry areas that only 5 percent of Yellowstone’s visitors ever see. This trip is more about learning than luxury — you’ll enjoy a sack lunch for your mid-hike meal — but the guides provide expert insights on well-known sites such as the Mammoth Hot Springs and, of course, Old Faithful, based on their years of studying and exploring the park.
Length of trip: 6 days
Cost: $1,549 per person
Fee includes: 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 4 dinners; lodging at the Yellowstone River Motel; SUV rides to trailheads; guided hikes.
Daily walking totals: 3 to 7 miles; you can choose from multiple hiking options based on your own pace.
Bavarian Rivers in Germany
This trip from Exodus Travels starts and ends in Regensburg, about 90 minutes north of Munich. Exploring this World Heritage Site is a time-traveling treat, whether observing medieval architecture, crossing the 12th-century stone bridge or heading to the Historic Sausage Kitchen, which has served weenies for, no joke, 900 years. (Don’t worry about the calories — you’ll burn ’em off by walking.) You’ll also walk along the Altmuhl and Danube rivers for views of wildflowers, animals (look for deer and wild boar) and castles. On your journey through Kelheim, take a break at Kloster Weltenburg, a Benedictine abbey with its own brewery (this is Germany, after all).
Length of trip: 7 days
Cost: $1,615 per person
Fee includes: All breakfasts; accommodations in 3- and 4-star hotels; map and route notes; luggage transported to each hotel; 24-hour emergency assistance; a representative meets you when you arrive and remains on call; complimentary beer collection service (if you buy beer at a local brewery, your Exodus rep will transport it to your final hotel).
Daily walking totals: 11 to 14 miles, but don’t panic. Exodus rates this a leisurely walking experience, and since it’s self-guided, you can go at your pace (or call the local rep for a taxi).
Dubrovnik, Croatia, and the Elaphiti Islands
Travelers may neglect Croatia for Italy, its neighbor on the other side of the Adriatic Sea, but Dubrovnik is as scenic as any seaside town in Europe. On this self-guided trip from On Foot Holidays, you’ll wander the walled city’s alleys, shops and churches, then ferry to the Elaphiti Islands for quiet strolls along wooded hills and rocky shores. The towns are quiet, too: The islands of Lopud and Kolocep are car-free (just watch for bikers and locals in golf buggies). Kolocep is home to Konoba Skerac, a popular seafood restaurant, says Dubrovnik-born Tomislav Coric, who designed the walking routes on both Sipan and Kolocep. Each island features stone churches and sandy beaches, so you’ll find plenty of spots for selfies.
Length of trip: 8 days
Cost: $1,073 per person (prices can increase by around $260 during peak seasons)
Fee includes: 5 breakfasts; accommodations; airport and ferry port transfers; ferry tickets (excluding the optional Kolocep day); detailed maps, route notes, timetables and background information; support staff available by phone.
Daily walking totals: 2.4 to 7.5 miles; you can choose how much you want to walk each day.
San Francisco, Muir Woods and Point Reyes
How’s this for contrasts? After a day in the bustling city and a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito, you’ll head to the redwood forests of Muir Woods and then to rugged Point Reyes — one of the bay area’s under-the-radar gems — to see white-sand beaches and jagged cliffs. You may even spot gray whales or harbor seals on this self-guided trip from Country Walkers. The company provides a detailed itinerary with turn-by-turn directions for every walk, including points of interest, restaurant recommendations and side trips.
Length of trip: 6 days
Cost: $2,648 to $2,798 per person
Fee includes: Breakfast, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners; boutique accommodations; maps and route notes; local rep available 24/7; taxi pickups at the start and end of each day (except for hikes that start at your hotel).
Daily walking totals: 4 to 8.5 miles, self-guided
Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
After meeting your Backroads guides in Grand Junction, you’ll stop for a day-one picnic lunch along the Colorado River and then hike to Fisher Towers — not a typical tourist route — to see towering sandstone formations and views of Castle Valley and the Colorado River Canyon. By Day 2, your guides will offer their ecological expertise in otherworldly Arches, explaining the science behind iconic sites such as Delicate Arch. The rest of the journey includes walks through Canyonlands National Park (you’ll love the 360-degree views from the White Rim Overlooks) and Colorado National Monument, where your guides will scan for bighorn sheep and golden eagles.
Length of trip: 5 days
Cost: $2,899 to $3,049 per person
Fee includes: All breakfasts, 5 lunches and 4 dinners (plus snacks and beverages); 3 guides; upscale accommodations; support vans to take you to and from walks; baggage transfers.
Daily walking totals: 2 to 6 miles; you can choose a longer or shorter route each day.
Athens and Greek Islands
This two-week trek from Adventures Abroad starts in Athens, where you’ll explore must-see sites, from the Acropolis to the ancient Dionysus Theatre. From there, you and your guides will take ferries for multiple-day stays on the islands of Amorgos (highlights include walks with views of the Aegean Sea and a cooking class), Naxos (statues and ruins dating back to the 6th century BC), Santorini (hiking to the cliffside town of Oia) and Tinos (known for homemade cheeses, honey and local sausages).
Length of trip: 14 days
Cost: $3,220 per person
Fee includes: Breakfasts and dinners; lodging in boutique and family-run hotels; local guides for tours; transportation.
Daily walking totals: 4 to 10 miles; includes frequent stops; you can skip treks that seem too long and walk at your own pace.