A Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Posted on: 25 March 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

We suggest five unusual and less obvious destinations for a hiking holiday this Spring and Summer to suit experienced and novice hikers alike.


Everyone is walking these days, all over the world. Travel has never been easier; guided walks and the companies that offer them have never been so thick on the ground.

Who doesn’t know someone who has hiked to Machu Picchu, or climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, or gone trekking in the Himalayas? And yet some of the best walking in the world lies right on our doorstep in these fortunate isles where fantastically rich and varied geology, history, wildlife and humanity jostle for a walker’s attention at every step. 

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world: walking is the way to go. It’s clean and green but more than that, it’s the best, in fact, the only way to get at the heart and soul of a landscape.

Fly, sail or drive it, train it or bus it or bike it: you won’t touch it as you could and should. On foot you talk to people at human pace in their own valley or on their native hillside. You not only see the wayside flower, the bird over the crags, the ruin on the promontory; you stop and look, you scramble up to savour and to understand.

In a world turning more and more virtual, homogenised and sanitised, walking is the true way to catch the magic of sometimes scary challenge, of communicating with real people in their everyday setting, of intense experience pouring in through all five senses.

So with hiking holidays gaining in popularity, many may have been inspired by the celebrity Mount Kilimanjaro team’s recent efforts for Red Nose Day. Now we recommend some of the less obvious places for the experienced and the novice hiker alike so dust off your boots and plan your hiking holiday this year.

Gran Canaria

Over the last few years the island has been investing in the restoration of the caminos reales (royal paths). These ancient paths criss-cross the island and were once the only means to get around.

Now they can be used by hikers of all levels, with the paths offering a range of grades, from a short afternoon stroll to more challenging hikes involving serious climbs.

Hiking is a fantastic way to view the 66,000 hectares of protected land featuring rural parks, nature reserves and natural monuments.


The Cappadocia Mountains were formed by the violent eruptions of the volcanoes Erciyes and Hasan three million years ago, creating what is often referred to as a “fairytale landscape”.

The natural weathering process has formed monumental rock formations with rock cones, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines, and a landscape varying in colour from warm red and gold to cool greens and greys.

Hiking through the region allows you not only to see some of the most impressive rock formations in the world, but is also an opportunity to explore the many cave dwellings, rock-cut churches, monasteries and underground cities created during the early Christian era.


The country’s most beautiful landscapes are discovered by taking the famous ‘King’s Highway’ which links Amman in the north and Aqaba in the south via Petra. The descent down into the valley of Wadi Majab, the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Jordan is particularly impressive.

Two must-see attractions are the Dead Sea, and Petra. The first offers an unforgettable experience of floating on water, caused by eight times the normal concentration of sea salt. Petra is the former capital and necropolis of the Nabataens, sculpted into the Sharah mountains. It can only be accessed by a winding gorge which leads straight to Petra’s most famous monument ‘el Khazneh’.

You can also climb up to the ed-Deir or monastery and then back down the path to the bottom of the valley. The climb up takes about 45 minutes through sumptuous gorges and ravines.


Madeira is a subtropical paradise of volcanic origin. Few walking destinations offer such variety with picturesque villages, terraced gardens, rugged peaks, alpine plateaus, waterfalls and gorges.

Its lush valleys offer wild fruit and flowers in abundance contrasting with an un-spoilt coastline with towering sea cliffs. A summit path will take you to the highest point of the island at Pico de Ariero (5,938ft), which is approximately a three hour hike.

The island has a mild climate all year round making it an ideal place to book a hiking holiday at any time of the year.


The Atlas Mountains offer a range of hiking adventures, from the forest walks and waterfalls of the middle and Anti-Atlas mountains, to the peaks, valleys and gorges on offer in the High Atlas.

One of the most strenuous treks in the region is the two and a half day climb of Mount Toubkal, the second highest peak in Africa after Kilimanjaro at 4167 metres. Further south, valleys spread across the picturesque landscape, dotted with red-earth kasbahs (walled towns and villages) and palm groves.

Are you planning a hiking holiday this year?

If so, let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums.

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