Best tips to prepare for your first walking holiday

*Collaborative post

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What could be more natural than a walking holiday? You travel at your own pace and immerse yourself in your surroundings rather than speeding through them. You also reap physical and mental health benefits, feel a sense of achievement and get to spend time with old, and perhaps new, friends. Here are things to consider before you enjoy your first walking holiday

Where to go

Before you book, consider your stamina and mobility levels. Some walks, such as mountain hikes, require good levels of both. Maybe there is a country you want to visit? Or perhaps the route is more important to you. Summer in the Norwegian Fjords offers hospitable weather and gentle, rolling landscapes with routes marked by well-maintained paths. The scenery is pretty epic too. The Pyrenees on the Spain/France border has doable challenges. Coastal walks are a joy in Europe. The Amalfi coast in Italy, the Algarve in Portugal and Camino del Norte between San Sebastian and Bilbao in Spain all offer jaw-dropping inland scenery with ocean views.

When to go

Some parts of southern Europe are uncomfortably hot in summer. But then some routes are too cold or snowed-in (the Italian Dolomites) during winter. Walking a coastal path in summer offers a cooling sea breeze but you won’t get much shade from the sun. Walking a woodland trail on the other hand offers shade and cooling rivers and lakes. National Parks are scattered throughout the world and are great for forest walks. Pyhä-Luosto National Park in Finland has dense green forests in summer and magical, snow-covered walks in winter. The ‘shoulder seasons’ of spring and autumn have milder temperatures so can be the best times to go walking. These seasons are also less crowded and often have cheaper flights. Approaching stunning Mont St. Michel in France through fields of spring wildflowers is unforgettable. 

What to wear

When walking in mountain or coastal areas, weather can be changeable. Wear wicked, breathable layers but carry a waterproof jacket for sudden, intense rainfall. Walking boots are a given as are thick walking socks. Go with a sock size bigger than normal as your feet will swell when walking distances. Wear a sunhat even in overcast conditions. Equally, a hat and gloves can be useful if there’s a drop in temperature. Convertible trousers that morph into shorts are a space-saving device. Swimwear is a good choice as you’d hate to miss breaking a hot hike in a cooling lake. And take a backpack with a bottle holder so you can store essentials. 

Essentials to carry

Carry a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated and high-energy snacks to keep you going. Pack twice for certain things. Wet socks can be uncomfortable and cold so bring spares. Plastic bags are lightweight and useful for separating wet or dirty clothes from fresh. Sunscreen is essential. You may not notice you are getting burnt until it is too late, so apply it even on overcast days. Although you may be walking in groups, don’t rely on others for an emergency kit for cuts, blisters, torches and whistles. It’s always best to be safe than sorry!

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