The best walking holidays for first-timers, from the UK to Italy

Walk on the wild side… at your own pace: Brilliant walking tours for first-timers that cross glorious, crowd-free landscapes

  • The Walking The Prosecco Hills tour is a small group trip that includes walks to classic Italian towns 
  • Macs Adventure’s Channel Islands tour begins on Jersey with walks to quiet coves and golden beaches
  • Inn Travel’s Heart Of The Tyrol holiday in Austria, from £660pp, takes walkers to Lake Achensee
  • Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: Walking holidays for first-timers.

    Fresh air and wide-open spaces are part of the package on walking holidays as you cross glorious, crowd-free landscapes and stay in anything from English country inns to luxury mountain spas.

    But what about having to lug around a huge backpack as you slowly trudge up huge hills?

    Treviso (above) is one of the Italian towns that walkers visit on the Walking The Prosecco Hills tour with Exodus Travel

    Treviso (above) is one of the Italian towns that walkers visit on the Walking The Prosecco Hills tour with Exodus Travel

    Be assured that those days are long gone. Nowadays first-time walkers don’t need to be particularly fit or spend money on a back-breaking rucksack to enjoy them.

    Some holidays are based in a single hotel with walks every day to nearby beauty spots. Other routes go between a new hotel each night, with your luggage transported ahead while you walk.

    Distances vary and trips are normally graded from easy to challenging. You can also choose between small group tours, where a guide is on hand at all times, or self-guided trips where you get detailed directions daily and walk at your own pace.

    Close to the easy end of the scale is the Walking The Prosecco Hills tour from Exodus Travel. It’s a small group trip starting north of Venice. Guests stay in the same hotel for seven nights, joining a guide for walks to classic Italian towns such as Treviso and Asolo. Wine-tastings are included and lunches are often eaten alfresco in historic vineyards. From £1,349pp plus flights.

    Exodus Travel's seven-night Sicilian Volcanoes holiday offers walks round active Mount Etna (pictured)

    Exodus Travel’s seven-night Sicilian Volcanoes holiday offers walks round active Mount Etna (pictured)

    Or pick the firm’s seven-night Sicilian Volcanoes holiday, starting in Catania. It’s a self-guided tour with an early highlight being walks round active Mount Etna. Also included are hydrofoil rides to the nearby ‘black pearl’ volcanic islands of Stromboli and Lipari, where you walk across rocky beaches and dried lava fields. From £1,379pp plus flights (exodus.co.uk).

    Island-hopping closer to home is on offer with a seven-night Channel Islands tour. 

    It begins on Jersey with walks to quiet coves and golden beaches that resemble the best of the Caribbean, before taking a ferry to Guernsey to explore its subtropical gardens. Then it’s on to the car-free island of Sark to walk along La Coupee, the clifftop footpath leading to Little Sark.

    Stepping out: Walk along La Coupee, the clifftop footpath leading to Little Sark, with Macs Adventure

    Stepping out: Walk along La Coupee, the clifftop footpath leading to Little Sark, with Macs Adventure

    From £960pp plus flights (macsadventure.com).

    If you feel uncertain about walking too far each day, trips from Ramblers Holidays are worth considering. Many of the company’s itineraries include regular opt-out points where you can take short cuts to the end of the day’s route.

    A top choice is the seven-night Emerald Coast tour of northern Portugal – one of the quietest, greenest corners of the country. From £985pp, including flights to Porto (ramblersholidays.co.uk).

    Muddy Boots Holidays offers a range of self-guided holidays in the Yorkshire Dales that include a visit to Aysgarth Falls (pictured)

    Muddy Boots Holidays offers a range of self-guided holidays in the Yorkshire Dales that include a visit to Aysgarth Falls (pictured) 

    Inn Travel’s three-night Heart Of The Tyrol holiday in Austria offers a choice of daily walks. One of the shorter choices passes pretty villages along the shores of Lake Achensee before returning by boat. Another option takes walkers to a mountaintop by cable car, before they head back down to the hotel where they can relax in the spa. From £660pp excluding flights (inntravel.co.uk).

    Most walking tour companies, such as Explore, Inghams, Responsible Travel and Saga, offer a range of holidays, but smaller, local providers are also worth considering.

    In the Yorkshire Dales, Muddy Boots Holidays offers a range of self-guided holidays, including a luxurious, three-night Boutique Wensleydale tour staying in country inns and visiting Aysgarth Falls. From £400pp (muddybootswalkingholidays.com).

    Trek along the shores of Lake Achensee, pictured, with Inn Travel’s three-night Heart Of The Tyrol holiday

    Trek along the shores of Lake Achensee, pictured, with Inn Travel’s three-night Heart Of The Tyrol holiday