Europe on Foot
Walking tours, hiking, and trekking in Europe
It may be slow going, but there's no way to see the Olde Worlde like a walking or hiking tour through Europe. For millennia, this is how anyone not rich enough to afford a horse got around, and Europe is still very much built to a human scale, crisscrossed with ancient pathways, scattered with tiny villages and hamlets with welcoming inns each within a day's walk of the last.
G Adventures (www.gadventures.com) - A variety of adventure trips, including many hiking, trekking, and multi-sport active vacations.
Intrepid Travel (www.intrepidtravel.com) - This fantastic Australian company marries an independent travel style (staying in cheap guesthouses, traveling by public transport) with the expertise of truly knowledgeable guides. Intrepid has a larger than usual commitment to sustainable tourism, and travels in tiny groups, often limited to 8-12. Intrepid is a bit less about the physical activities and more about the cultural experiences.
iExplore (www.iExplore.com) - The number one–ranked website for adventure and experiential travel—and it provides the adventure tour booking engine for everyone from Expedia to the Travel Channel to Frommer's and Lonely Planet's websites. It's been around for more than a decade now and was recently acquired by TUI, which owns more than 30 major travel brands. That means iExplore incorporates all the tours from sister company Adventure Center, a major player able to maintain low prices on hundreds of adventures on all seven continents by contracting with expert local outfitters and other specialist operators.
InfoHub.com (www.infohub.com) - Hundreds of hiking, trekking, and walking tours throughout the world offered by dozens of tour operators and guides.
Butterfield & Robinson (www.butterfield.com) - Long-established, upscale walking tour outfit. Top notch.
Country Walkers (www.countrywalkers.com) - High-end (and hence pricey), but impeccably credentialed.
Wilderness Travel (www.wildernesstravel.com), specializes in walking tours, treks, and inn-to-inn hiking tours of Europe, as well as less strenuous walking tours.
The Wayfarers (www.thewayfarers.com) - Top walking tour outfit for nearly three decades.
Sherpa Expeditions (www.sherpa-walking-holidays.co.uk) - British company offering both self-guided and group treks through off-the-beaten-track regions.
Hiking, walking, and trekking resources
Walkers' Associations - Most European countries have associations geared toward aiding hikers and walkers, where membership also usually gets you discounts at the countries' networks of mountain huts: Austria (Österreichischer Alpenverein, www.alpenverein.at), England (Ramblers' Association, www.ramblers.org.uk), France (Club Alpin Français, www.clubalpin.com), Germany (Deutscher Alpenverein, www.alpenverein.de), Italy (Club Alpino Italiano, www.cai.it), Switzerland (Schweizer Alpenclub, www.sac-cas.ch), USA (American Alpine Club, www.americanalpineclub.org).
WALKING IN THE UK
UK Countryside Access (www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk) - The new rules (as of 2000) governing walkers' access to public and private lands across the United Kingdom. If you're buying the spiffy Ordnance Survey maps (www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/leisure), make sure you get one of the new (as of 2004) "OS Explorer Maps" with the little brown guy walking across the horizon on the cover—rather than the old "Explorer Maps"—as these new versions show all the new trails. The sister site in Scotland is Scottish Outdoor Access (www.outdooraccess-scotland.com).
Walking in Scotland (walking.visitscotland.com) - Whether it's a trek across the Scottish Highlands, climbing Ben Nevis (Britain's tallest mountain), or a simple stroll along Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal (all 170 miles from Inverness to Glasgow via the Great Glen Way and West Highland Way, if you'd like), you can find hints, tips, links, and basic info for hundreds upon hundreds of Scottish walks at this site maintained by the tourist board.
Walking World (www.walkingworld.com) - Taking the famed OS (Ordnance Survey; (www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/leisure) maps and plotting on them more than 2700 walks all over Britain, accompanied by photographs and descriptive text. You can only see a half-dozen or so for free; otherwise, each walks costs £1.50 to download (you print it out yourself), or pay £17.45 for an annual subscription and unlimited access.
WALKING IN IRELAND
SouthWest Walks (www.southwestwalksireland.com) - Local tour company specializing (or, rather, specializing) in both guided and self-guided walks lasting around 5 to 10 days. The greatest concentration of walks are in Ireland's popular southwest corner—Kerry (Dingle, Ring of Kerry, Beara Peninsula), Sheep's Head, the Southern Islands, The Burren, Connemara. But there are also treks through the Wicklow Mountains, Sligo and Leitrim, Donegal, and the Antrim Coast and Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.