Walking regularly improves health and fitness. But those benefits are secondary for countless travelers who have started embracing the joys of "walking vacations." Whether on upscale, expert-guided inn-to-inn trips, on self-guided journeys organized by a travel outfit or on adventures designed from scratch, more and more travel walkers want to experience a new place authentically and viscerally.
Go on a Walking Vacationby
"It transforms you from being an observer to being a participant," says Edward Piegza, founder of the La Jolla, Calif.–based Classic Journeys. He says guests — 86 percent of whom are 50 or older — want to be immersed in the culture of the place they are visiting, so guides arrange for them to meet the locals, all of which can cost around $4,000 and up per person for a week (airfare is not included in any of the packages mentioned here).
You can hoof it without guides at your own pace but still use a walking-tour company to set up your stops. Or go totally DIY. For example, you could plan your own route along the countless long-distance footpaths in walk-loving Britain, basing miles and duration of stay on what you can pay.
A Few Possibilities
Wales Coast Path
For an independent adventure, pick a segment of this 870-mile footpath, which opened in 2012 and passes uninterrupted through quaint seaside villages and wildlife-rich nature reserves, as well as alongside dramatic cliffs and castles. The website provides maps, descriptions of each region, and hotel and bag-transfer options. Cost will vary. walescoastpath.gov.uk.
San Francisco Area
This five-night, self-guided inn-to-inn journey features four to nine miles of daily walking from San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to the Point Reyes National Seashore. You'll see stunning redwoods, and seals sunning on rocks. Bag transport, maps, hotels and some meals are included. Cost: $1,998 and up per person, double occupancy. cwadventures.com.
Take a nine-day trip with about three hours of easy walking each day. Local guides lead participants around Marrakesh, Fez and Saharan tribal areas, and on a camel safari through desert dunes. Includes all meals and accommodations, such as a restored medieval fortress and a luxury desert encampment. Cost: $4,395 per person, double occupancy. classicjourneys.com.
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