Image credit: Wilderness Scotland

Easy, moderate, challenging. Joanna Booth finds the best walking tours, whatever your clients’ commitment level

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Walking may be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, but it’s still perfectly possible to get it completely wrong when it comes to booking a trip for your client.

Leisurely strollers looking for luxury accommodation won’t be happy trekking for 10 hours a day and sleeping in a tent – and those who love a challenge to brag about when they get home will be livid if they’re held back by ambling ramblers.

There are products to suit every fitness and commitment level on the market – just make sure you match the right walk to the right feet.

Easy



It’s not all about scaling Mont Blanc – Explore reports a strong growth in tours that are graded easy to moderate. “This may indicate that less experienced walkers are keen to integrate trekking into their travel time,” says Jude Berry, product manager. “We’ve also seen a rise in centre-based walking holidays, especially in Italy where customer numbers have increased by 10% year-on-year.”

Centre-based holidays do away with the packing and unpacking, which can make some tours feel less relaxing, and also give clients worried about fitness levels the chance to take days off from walking if they want to. Explore’s eight-day On Foot in Puglia and Basilicata introduces customers to the beautiful southern Italian landscape with a twin-centre stay, walks among the pine forests and beehive-shaped trulli houses, and the chance to sample local wines and cheeses. Prices start from £955 including flights, accommodation with breakfast and the services of a tour leader and trek guide.

The British Isles itself has stunning scenery and a range of terrain that can suit any walker. Wilderness Scotland, which offers agents commission or net rates, organises six-night, leisurely hikes around the Outer Hebrides and Skye. Staying in four-star guest house accommodation, with visits to the Talisker whisky distillery and a Harris Tweed workshop, it’s definitely tailored to clients who like to combine walking with the finer things in life.

Walking needn’t even be the focus of the holiday – just a small part. Big game spotting traditionally takes place from a vehicle, but it’s also possible to take walking safaris, too, with the focus as much on the landscape and smaller plant and animal life as the big five.

Travel 2 reports a rise in popularity of walking safaris and are now including them as part of the two game activities offered per day to clients staying in South African private game reserves. Africa product manager Michael Creighton says: “Walks normally start at dawn and return around mid-morning, and there is no special fitness required. However, good walking shoes, a hat and a camera are important.”

A three-night full-board stay with game-viewing activities at the three-star Shindzela Tented Bush Camp in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve starts from £269.

Moderate



Walking along a road doesn’t sound particularly difficult, or even that thrilling, but all that changes when you realise the highway in question is the Great Wall of China.

Intrepid Travel offers an eight-day round-trip tour from Beijing that treks along different sections of the wall, including quiet Jinshanling, temple-rich Gubeikou, and Jiankou, where the hike along a path on top of a mountain path can be hazardous, and so is optional. Hiking up to six hours a day, clients will need a decent level of fitness, but stays are in three-star hotels and a homestay, so they won’t be really roughing it. Walks are enlivened by talks on Chinese history from the guide, and there’ll be the chance to taste some regional specialities. Prices start from £945.

If their focus is more on living things than history, suggest Headwater’s 11-night Costa Rica Wildlife Walk, which will bring them face-to-face with everything from tree frogs and toucans to shy tapir and the rainbow-coloured quetzal. After trekking through the cloud forest clients will be able to relax in comfort in mountain lodges with swimming pools, alongside lakeshores or in mountain villages. Prices start from £2,267, including full-board accommodation, but excluding flights.

Clients needn’t venture so far away to push their walking to the next level, and trekking in less exotic locations can suit those who would prefer a self-guided trip, rather than a group, as they’re likely to feel more confident striking out on their own. Inntravel’s The Amalfi Coast & Villages snakes down this striking coast from Corpo di Cava to Positano. Trails lead through woodland, vineyards and lemon groves, and along cliff paths – visiting monasteries and villages along the way – and allowing two free days to explore Ravello and Positano. Luggage is transported for clients who self-guide from hotel to hotel. Prices start from £998 including seven nights’ accommodation with breakfast, some other meals, walking maps, notes and luggage transport.

Challenging



Challenging treks don’t have to mean entire holidays dedicated to walking. They can be dropped into more relaxing itineraries, such as Premier Holidays’ one-night Mount Kinabalu climb, which can slot into any Borneo trip. After a six-hour trek on the first day, clients will sleep in basic resthouse accommodation on the mountain so they can start the ascent to the summit early enough to reach the peak, at 4,095 metres, for sunrise. A good level of fitness is needed, but no special climbing equipment – just sensible clothing, walking shoes, a windproof jacket and a headtorch. Premier’s one-night package starts from £369, including full board, return transfers from a hotel, entrance fees and a guide.

However, many clients will dream of ticking off one of the world’s most famous hikes, and specialist operators are the ones to realise these aspirations, with the safety of sufficient backup and expertise. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, is on many a bucket list. The result is that it can also be crowded. Not so on Exodus’ Kilimanjaro Climb, which uses the least-trekked Lemosho route, which is also noted for its beauty and its high success rate – 96% of Exodus clients reach the summit. The 12-day trip – eight of which are spent on the mountain – means there’s time to acclimatise, and to enjoy the incredible scenery. Prices start from £2,699 including flights, transportation, most meals, accommodation in tents and hotels, and park fees.

Everest, the daddy of them all, can be adapted for different clients. Specialist operator KE Adventure Travel has a range of treks to choose from. Classic Everest Base Camp (18 days, from £1,845 including flights from London) is recommended for those who are fit but not experienced trekkers, or have limited time. Staying in teahouse lodges throughout, most of the walking is on good trails, with only the final couple of kilometres over the rubble-covered glacier to reach Basecamp itself.

The Ultimate Everest Trek (21 days, from £2,045 including flights from London) is more challenging, turning away from the classic trail and ascending the spectacular lake-filled Gokyo Valley and Cho La pass. Days are longer and ascents steeper, but accommodation is still in lodges.

For those who want to get up close to Everest, but aren’t concerned with making Basecamp, the Everest Luxury Lodge Trek (14 days, from £2,545 including flights from London) is at a lower altitude though still with superb Everest views and stays in Yeti Mountain Home luxury lodges, so even on the roof of the world, clients don’t necessarily need to rough it.

Kilimanjaro