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Walking the Camino de Santiago during Holy Year 2021

Definitive Guide to the Camino During Jacobean Holy Year 2021

Walk the Camino de Santiago during the Jacobean Holy Year 2021 

 

Welcome to our Definitive Guide to the Jacobean Holy Year in 2021. Here we will answer all of your questions about the Jacobean Holy Year, plus explain how you can walk your own Jacobean pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in 2021.

We recommend reading from start to finish to get a full perspective of what the Jacobean Holy Year means for the Camino de Santiago. However, if you'd like to jump ahead you can choose one of the questions below.

 


 

> We're making it easier to book your Camino trip during the Jacobean Holy Year. With our Worry-Free Booking Guarantee, you can enjoy flexible booking conditions so if your trip doesn't work out, we'll make sure you don't lose out. Click here for the full details.

 


  

Striking a pose along the Camino de Santiago |  <i>Rachel Goodman</i>

Short History of the Camino de Santiago

For centuries, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims (if not millions) have walked the historic Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims would travel from far and wide across Europe, and many walking routes were developed so they could reach the holy destination of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest region of Galicia in Spain.

Traditionally, people have walked the Camino for religious purposes. It is believed the Santiago Cathedral houses the tomb of St James, and people walk this path to pay their respects to St James.

In the modern era, people have all sorts of reasons for walking the Camino de Santiago. For adventure, for exercise, for clarity of mind, and for the sense of achievement are among them. In fact, according to the Pilgrims Office in Santiago de Compostela, just 10% of pilgrims who collect their Compostela certificate walk the Camino for reasons of religion.

However, religion is still an integral part of walking the Camino de Santiago and even more so in 2021, which is the Jacobean Holy Year.

Hikers on the Camino in Spain |  <i>@timcharody</i>

Who is Saint James and what does he have to do with the Camino de Santiago?

St James was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament. He is the patron saint of Spain and it is his remains that are buried in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, according to tradition. Most people who have some knowledge of the Camino will already know this.

Here’s where it gets interesting, and it’s all got to do with translations. In Spanish, Saint James translates to Santiago, Sant Iago, hence the city’s name.

Camino in Spanish means road, path, or way. So Camino de Santiago simply translates to Way of St James.

Perhaps the biggest translation quirk (that is equally enlightening) is that the name Iago is originally Hebrew for Ya’aqov. In Greek this is Iakobos, in Slavic it’s Yakov, Germanic it’s Jacobus and in English Iago translates to Jacob. If you haven’t connected the dots already: James = Iago = Jacob.

Church archway sculptures in Melide |  <i>@timcharody</i>

What is Saint James Day?

In Christianity, every canonised saint has a date allocated to them for celebration, which is known as the saint’s feast day. Saint James Day is commemorated on the 25th of July each year. Because St James is the patron saint of Spain and pilgrims, it is naturally an important date on the calendar.

In the ten days leading up to St James Day there are many festivities happening in Santiago to celebrate. There are light shows, street theatre, traditional dancing and outdoor concerts. Each year the city finds different ways to showcase the life of St James.

Ending your Camino pilgrimage during St James Day festivities is an extra special time to be there and there is a high increase in the number of pilgrims completing their journey during this period.

 

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

What is the Jacobean Holy Year?

A Jacobean Year is very meaningful to Camino pilgrims. A year is considered a Holy Year or Jubilee when St James Day, the 25th of July, occurs on a Sunday. This makes the Sunday mass at Santiago Cathedral even more special than normal and extra functions take place.

What does Xacobeo 2021 mean?

In Galician, Xacobeo translates to Jacobean. To put it simply, Jacobean Holy Year 2021 and Xacobeo 2021 mean the same thing.

What happens during the Jacobean Holy Year on the Camino de Santiago?

1. The Holy Door is opened. The Puerta Santa is a door located at the back of the Santiago Cathedral, and it stays open only during the Jacobean Holy Year.

Visitors to the Cathedral enter through the Holy Door and take part in a pilgrimage ritual. You descend to the tomb of St James before climbing a stairwell to exit to the outdoors. The symbolism is that the descent represents the pilgrimage, and the exit into the sunshine represents redemption and access to a new life.

2. Plenary Indulgence can be received. To gain this, pilgrims needs to pray, attend Mass and attend a Confession. For Christians, plenary indulgence is a way to be forgiven of all sins.

What is Plenary Indulgence and how do Pilgrims gain Plenary Indulgence during the Jacobean Holy Year?

For the Catholic Church, plenary indulgence is ‘a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins’. In a way, it’s like an amnesty from punishment in the afterlife.

A plenary indulgence is granted to those who visit the tomb of St James during a Jacobean Holy Year.
 

Why is 2021 a Holy Year?

2021 is a Jacobean Holy Year because Saint James Day, the 25th July, falls on a Sunday.

For Jacobean Year 2021, pilgrims are especially enthusiastic to commemorate St James Day because it has been 11 years since the last Holy Year.

When was the Last Jacobean Year (ano Jacobeo)?

Before Jacobean Holy Year 2021, the last Jacobean Holy Year was in 2010. Ano Jacobeo translates to Jacobean Year.

When is the next Jacobean Holy Year?

The next Jacobean Holy Year takes place in 2021. After that it will be in 2027, 2032, 2038, and so on.

How often do Jacobean Holy Years occur?

A Jacobean Holy Year happens when St James Day falls on a Sunday, and this follows a pattern in year groups of 6, 5, 6, 11. There are approximately 14 Jacobean Holy Years every century.

Santiago cathedral and parador |  <i>Dana Garofani</i>

How do you pronounce Xacobeo?

According to the editor, pronouncing Xacobeo sounds like: Shak-o-bay-o. Hear genuine pronunciations by Galicians here.

How do you pronounce Jacobean?

According to Google, Jacobean is pronounced like this: ja-kuh-bee-uhn. Hear audio of their pronunciation of Jacobean here.

Arriving in the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela after completing the Camino Trail |  <i>Edwina Parsons</i>

Lastly, don’t confuse the Jacobean Holy Year with these 4 things:

1. Jacobite/Jacobitism. This is a 17th century movement in Great Britain that sought to restore King James to the British throne.

2. Jacobean Era. This refers to the period in English and Scottish history when James VI of Scotland inherited the crown of England in 1603.

3. Jacobean flowers. These are embroidered floral patterns that rose to fame during the Elizabethan era. They look pretty but you won’t see them while walking the Camino de Santiago. View some examples of Jacobean flowers here.

4. What does the Jacobean Holy Year have to do with the Alchemist? This is an interesting coincidence of facts, dates, history and the arts. In the 17th century, The Alchemist was a comedic play written by the English playwright Ben Jonson. He depicted life in Jacobean London.

Purely coincidentally, The Alchemist is a modern day novel written by famed Brazilian author Paulo Coelho in 1988. Coelho has also written an acclaimed book on the Camino, titled The Pilgrimage, which is part adventure story, part guide to self discovery. Read our take on his inspiring book here.

As you can see, seven degrees of separation between Ben Jonson and the Camino de Santiago!

  


  

> We're making it easier to book your Camino trip during the Jacobean Holy Year. With our Worry-Free Booking Guarantee, you can enjoy flexible booking conditions so if your trip doesn't work out, we'll make sure you don't lose out. Click here for the full details.

 


 

Do you have any more questions about walking your Camino de Santiago pilgrimage during the Jacobean Holy Year? If so, please don't hesitate to contact our friendly team of Camino experts. 

 

Pilgrims walking the Camino in Spain |  <i>Sue Finn</i>

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Worry-Free Booking Guarantee for 2021 Travels

Making it easy to hedge your bets on a UTracks holiday in 2021

It's time to lock in your trip to Europe

2020 has been a year we’ve missed our travel experiences with borders closed and the effects of the pandemic impacting our day to day lives. At UTracks, we are looking forward to 2021 with optimism. 

Indications are positive that a vaccine will be available, the 120th Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela is happening, more international flights are set to resume and our travellers are telling us they are eager to get out and explore the trails and tracks of Europe.
  
For the hotels, guides, tourist attractions and locals who rely on international visitors, this will be a welcome relief. We encourage you to make plans for 2021 and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll make sure you don’t lose out.

For new bookings made from 1 October 2020 on a trip that’s departing in 2021 you’ll have peace of mind with our flexible conditions:-
  • - We will waive any transfer or change fees for bookings up to 70 days prior to departure for any reason*
  • - You will get a refund of your funds if at 4 weeks prior to travel there is a government travel restriction preventing you from being able to travel*
*exclusions apply, see terms and conditions below.
  
If you have any questions about our worry-free guarantee, feel free to call or email our friendly team for a chat.
 
Walking in the village of Montusclat


Covid-19 Safety Measures

Your well being has always been our priority and we’ve enacted Covid-19 safety measures on all our tours. Read about these in detail here.

People who travelled with us during the 2020 summer had this to say:



Read more reviews of our walking and cycling tours during the European summer in 2020.



 

What to look forward to in 2021

Support global travel
 
The entire global tourism industry is looking forward to 2021, from staff working in hotels, guides, tourist attractions and locals who rely on international visitors. A return to travel will be a welcome relief. 

Particularly our style of travel, with many of our walking and cycling trips following backroad trails in Europe’s countryside, helps support smaller communities where tourism is the main source of income.
 
Cyclists getting directions from a local farmer in Switzerland

Camino Holy Year 2021
 
2021 is a special year for making a Camino pilgrimage. It’s the Jacobean Holy Year which commemorates the patron saint of Spain, Saint James. 
 
Many pilgrims will walk the Camino de Santiago during a Jacobean Holy Year because of the special reverence attributed to the jubilee of Saint James. Learn all about the Camino Holy Year 2021 in our definitive guide here.

Beautiful scenes on the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain |  <i>@timcharody</i>


Terms and Conditions

*Flexible conditions detailed above are applicable for new bookings from 1 October 2020. 

*Valid on any UTracks holiday in 2021 with the exception of our boat based trips in France, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Scotland. 
  
*All other terms and conditions remain as per the terms and conditions on our website, agreed to at the time of booking, including payment terms. 

*Cancellations for change of mind or any other reason apart from government restrictions within the parameters described above will be subject to our standard terms and conditions.

*Some trips will require the payment of non-refundable costs at the time of booking which will be advised at that time if applicable to your booking. These non refundable costs are excluded from the offer and will be forfeited in the event of cancellation for any reason including government restrictions. 

*A government travel restriction is official government advice or restrictions in your home country or the destination country, associated with the pandemic such as border restrictions and quarantine requirements.
  
*Check carefully the terms and conditions of any airline bookings that you are making. UTracks will not be responsible for airline schedule changes, cancellations or fare increases.
 
*Offer is not valid on postponed bookings that were initially scheduled to depart in 2020. 
 
  
Which country are you most excited to explore next? Share in the comment section below.
 
  
Covid Health Guidelines On Tour

Covid-19 Safety Measures

Your well being is our priority 

Whilst the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on our passenger’s travel plans, our hard-working staff and our ground operators in Europe has been devastating, we are now looking forward with optimism to a brighter 2021.

The ongoing safety of our travellers is our top priority. Our style of travel is naturally already adhering to social distancing guidelines. However, our travellers will be interested in the policies adopted by our accommodation providers, boat operators and the government policies regarding public transport and social distancing. 

 

Walking in Auvergne, France Hiking between the vineyards of Alsace |  <i>Charles Hawes</i> Cyclist passing sunflowers on a rural road on a self guided cycle trip in Catalonia |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 

Individual countries, in conjunction with health authorities, have set policies based on ensuring the safety of travellers. Our partners will be strictly adhering to these policies and in many instances going beyond to provide hygienic and safe environments for our travellers.

>> With our Worry-Free Booking Guarantee, you can enjoy flexible booking conditions for your travels in 2021, so if your trip doesn't work out, we'll make sure you don't lose out. Click here for the full details. <<

Examples of what our travellers may expect when joining a cycling or walking holiday in 2021 (subject to change without notice depending on current health advice) are as follows: 

Health Declaration Form

- On joining a boat based or group guided holiday you will be required to complete a health declaration form. If you are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 you will be unable to join the tour. 

- Guides, crew and/or hotel staff will usually be required to complete a health declaration and questioned daily about their health.

Hotel Gosauerhof entrance in Gosau, Austria

When boarding or checking in at hotels

- You may be allocated a fixed time for embarkation or check-in to avoid queues. 

- Your luggage which is handled by third parties will be disinfected (handles). 

- Room keys / key cards will be disinfected before being handed over. 

- Markers will be provided at reception to ensure social distancing. 

a deluxe room at a Chateau Hotel in the Loire
 

General hygiene in accommodation

- Where it is not possible to maintain a 1.5 metre distance between people, we ask that you wear a mask. Many boat operators will require you and the crew to wear a mask in common areas except when seated for dining.  

- Hand sanitizer stations will be set up throughout the hotel and on board boats. You will be encouraged to regularly handwash / sanitise throughout your stay.  

- High touch areas will be cleaned / disinfected regularly through the day with a log kept.  

- Rooms / cabins will be thoroughly sanitised between guests. For longer stays when staff/crew enter your cabin / room, they will wear a mask and take all precautions to maintain strict hygiene practices including disposal of cleaning wipes and gloves after each room / cabin has been cleaned, hand sanitizing between cleans etc. to avoid cross contamination. 

- On our alpine walks when staying in mountain refuges/ gites, you will now need to bring a light weight sleeping bag and pillow. Pillows and blankets will no longer be provided by the hosts. 

- In refuge dormitory rooms, only members of the same group will be accommodated in each room. 

- Standing areas in bars will not be available.  

- Drinks and snacks will be individual and not shared. 

- Whilst live music may be provided with appropriate social distancing in place, dancing will not be allowed. Board games, magazines and library facilities will not be available.

Cycling in the Dalmatian Islands |  <i>Tim Charody</i>

Meals

- Meals will be served to you and not provided as a buffet (including breakfast). 

- Only travellers sharing the same room or cabin and household will be permitted to sit together during mealtimes, except for our small group guided trips where members of the travelling group will be seated together.  

- Two sittings may be required in the dining room in order to ensure social distancing is maintained.  

- There will be no shared items such as table spices or butter pots.

Cycling past the palace in Palanga, Lithuania |  <i>Andrew Bain</i>

Bike Handovers

- All bikes will be provided with disinfected seats and handles. 

- Staff handing over bikes will wear face masks and gloves

Cog train in Austria |  <i>Huggett</i>

Public Transport

- Many countries are requiring people to wear facemasks on public transport and in shops. For the most current information, please refer to the individual countries’ health advice. 

- As capacity may be limited on buses and trains you will need to allow plenty of time to travel to your destination.  

- Bookings are required on longer journeys (outside urban areas).

The Louvre in Paris |  <i>Maurice Subervie</i>

Visiting tourist sites

- Most tourist sites will require advance purchase tickets for a set date and time. 

- As numbers are limited it is advisable to book well in advance.

The restaurant of the Cisterna Hotel

Dining out

- Bookings will be required for many restaurants. 

- You may need to supply contact details to restaurants and some bars and shops on entering. 

- Seating will be limited in order to comply with local social distancing guidelines. Seating in some restaurants may only be available outside.

Walking in the Auvergne in Autumn |  <i>Sue Badyari</i>

The above information represents examples of what procedures are likely to be in place for your trip whilst the virus remains. These will be dependent on the country and region of travel, local health authority advice and current conditions and may be adapted and changed over the months depending on these factors.  

As a traveller, we recommend you also take your own precautions at this time including:

• using a face mask when social distancing is difficult, 
• regular handwashing of at least 30 seconds, 
• avoiding touching your face and 
• ensuring that you respect social distancing requirements. 

Such precautions are likely familiar already if you are out and about in your neighbourhood, visiting shopping centres and/or taking public transport.

We appreciate that some of these new procedures may seem overwhelming, however it is important to remember that for the majority of the time, as you are walking or cycling during the day, the pleasures of active travel and exploring will not be compromised. There may also be some silver linings including reduced crowding of tourist sites and genuine warmth from locals happy to see travellers returning.  

If you have any further questions, please get in touch with our friendly team of travel experts.


> With our Worry-Free Booking Guarantee, you can enjoy flexible booking conditions for your travels in 2021, so if your trip doesn't work out, we'll make sure you don't lose out. Click here for the full details

  

European Summer 2020: Tour Reviews

European Summer 2020: Tour Reviews

 
With autumn slowly creeping across Europe we can farewell one of the most unusual summer seasons in European history. While there are still plenty of places to explore during the fall season, we're using this article to reflect on how people fared while walking and cycling Europe's trails.
 
It's no secret that travelling during 2020 is a different experience. We've enacted Covid-19 safety measures on all of our tours which includes health declaration forms, social distancing requirements, rigorous hygiene standards and current advice from government health officials. Learn more about our health guidelines here.
 
If you've been unable to travel during 2020 we can only imagine how itchy your feet are. With our worry-free booking guarantee you can plan your 20201 travels with peace of mind. The flexible booking conditions for tours in 2021 allow you to book with confidence because if the trip doesn't work out, you won't lose out. Click here for the full details.
 
Bridge over the River Greta |  <i>John Millen</i>
 
 

Camino: Sarria to Santiago self guided walking tour

 
 
"I would not call it a group tour, it was a self-walking Camino De Compostela trip. We could not enjoyed it more. Although, it was anticipated to be the busiest month for Camino, especially this part from Sarria to Santiago, last 115 km, it was truly not. Due to the pandemic, it was much less people on the road and in the villages that we were passing through. UTracks was extremely efficient with preparing all documentation ahead of time and communicating every details to make our preparation very smooth. 

When we arrived at the starting point, package with all materials was already awaiting us. From the begging to the end point, we were invisibly guided daily with detailed maps and narratives, providing not only information for major stop points on the road, but various detours. We had not experienced any issues with hotels, luggage pick-up and delivery or eating arrangements. 

It was not an easy time as you have to follow the rules, such as wearing masks when entering populated places or resting points, keeping social distancing. But I would say, everyone was playing their roles to the script and we had not experienced any special discomfort or inconvenience. 

It was a great value for the price. Also hotels were very basic, service was impeccable and if you want a higher-end hotels, it should be a different price. We got upgrades in two places and were very happy about it. 

I would definitely continue to work with UTracks in our future travels. Hight recommend this company. Thank you for making our trip memorable and giving us an incredible experience. 
 
Viktoriya and Paul"
 
> Viktoriya and Paul travelled on the self guided Camino: Sarria to Santiago tour in August 2020. Learn more about why walking the Camino de Santiago in 2021 during a Jacobean Holy Year is even more meaningful.
 
Pilgrims walking the Camino in Spain |  <i>Sue Finn</i>
 

> Cycle the Alentejo to the Algarve Tour, Portugal

 
 
"Our holiday was booked at the last minute and the location was changed due to quarantine restrictions. UTracks were great at sorting this out for us. I loved the cycling and the opportunity to see the Portugese countryside. It's a lovely holiday if you don't want to lie on the beach everyday. I recommend UTracks and hope to take another of their holidays soon."
 
> Frances did the Cycle the Alentejo to the Algarve self guided tour in Portugal in August, 2020. 
 
The wonderful coastline of the western Algarve
 

Hadrians Wall Hike self guided hiking tour

 
 
"Hadrian's Walk Hike.

My son and I walked the entire 84 miles from Newcastle to Carlisle during the pandemic period and had no issues at all. 

Trek was absolutely stunning once we got out of Newcastle with fantastic views along the entire route and  B&Bs provided a cooked breakfast plus packed lunch if we wanted. 

I would absolutely recommend this trek."
 
> Pravin walked the 8 day Hadrians Walk Hike in August, 2020. There's also a 10 day version if you'd like to have more time to smell the roses along the way.
 
Take a walk back through history along Hadrian's Wall, England
 
 

Mont Blanc Family Adventure

 
"The mont blanc family adventure tour was trully awesome! Amongst very pretty nature, mules, group full of positivity and very accomodating friendly guide! We worried a little if we had sufficient fitness level before the trip, but the group pace accomodated for all levels and of course animal needs. 
 
One of a kind experience, totally inspired to do one more with utracks next year in a different location. Particular thanks to the trip advisers who helped with booking and preparation (the prep guide document was trully helpful) and of course our guide Fred!"
 
> View the Mont Blanc Family Adventure that starts in Italy and concludes in France. There's also a reverse trip from France to Italy.
 
Walking in the Alps around Mont Blanc
 

We can't wait to resume exploring Europe either. Take a look at our worry-free booking guarantee which allows you to book trips with confidence in 2021. With our flexible booking conditions, if the trip doesn't work out, you won't lose out.
  
How I've Kept Active During Covid: Jaclyn's Story

How I've Kept Active During Covid: Jaclyn's Story

 
This year has certainly been full of highs and lows, but as always it helps to look on the bright side of life. In this article, Jaclyn from the UTracks team in Australia does just that as she shares what's been keeping her active during Covid and reveals what she's missing most about Europe.
 
 

1. How have you been keeping active during Covid?

I bought a National Parks pass for the first time so have been getting out and about in my local area for day walks and just blown away with how many different walks there are and how incredibly beautiful it all is. Bouddi National Park has been a highlight.
 
Walking Girrakool loop track, Brisbane Water National Park |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 

2. What else have you been doing to cope during Covid?

I am used to being busy so working part-time has been quite an adjustment. I am cooking all the time including pickling & fermenting. I play around with watercolours. I read a lot. I am drying and pressing flowers for my Christmas gifts and (hopefully) get-togethers with friends. 
 
Home cooked Italian food |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 

3. Have you been doing any regional travel?

A road trip into western NSW turned up all sorts of treasures including tracing my family history around Tamworth. Hiking in the Warrambungles is now up there as one of my favourite walks anywhere in Australia.
 
Walking the Grand High Tops Circuit |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 

4.    Have you completed any goals or upskilled - or failed?

I’ve leant a lot about using Zoom!

I have started a garden bed & am studying permaculture online – fingers and toes crossed for some homegrown veggies in the months ahead.

I failed at keeping up my Kayla Itsines fitness app & have some extra ‘covid kilos’. A walk or cycle in Europe is usually my midyear trip (& winter escape) so I would build fitness in the lead up to the trip and come back feeling energised and inspired to keep fit, so I really missed that this year.
 
Growing seedlings |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 

5.    What have you been missing most about Europe?

Oh my, everything. I miss sitting in a piazza people watching. I miss big old wonky cobblestone paths under my feet. I miss hearing the language being spoken especially the fast and impassioned conversations you hear in Italy and Spain. I miss long days - I love how it doesn’t get dark until 10pm in the European high summer. 
 
And don’t even get me started on the food – there is absolutely nothing that compares to French bread and pastries. Or grilled meats & fish with all the salads and sides in Greece or Italy, my love – all the pastas, flavour packed tomatoes, cannoli, fresh sardines, prosciutto, gelato.
 
Enjoying fresh pasta in Mazzorbo, Italy
 

6.    Where’s the next Europe trip?

Italy, always Italy. I am Italy obsessed. I was booked to walk the Way of St Francis through Umbria in June so I will get back to that as soon as I can. Sardinia is now firmly on the list too. Also Corsica in France and Cyprus. *Editors note: so everywhere in Europe really :) 

Assisi
 

7.    Any books/films you can recommend?

My way of coping when my trip to Italy was not possible was to buy & read cookbooks about Italy. Then I had a very long Italian lunch (with 2 guests as was permitted at the time) to celebrate/commiserate the day I was due to fly out to Florence to start my two month, long service leave travels through Italy.
 
Italian cookbooks |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 

8.    Anything good come out of Covid?

That’s a really hard question. It’s been an unimaginable event with so much loss and hardship but strangely yes there are some good things, mostly in terms of perspective, support and appreciation.

Our team have learned to adapt to a new style of working with online systems and meetings and even with the enormous challenges of the past six months we all still love travel & the industry & really look forward to seeing our travellers return to Europe.

On a personal level, my entire family live in WA & so I haven’t seen them since February, I will no longer be taking for granted the freedom to get on a plane and visit them or fly my mum over to stay with me.

I definitely have an appreciation of how fortunate I am & to make the most of every opportunity as life and the world is more unpredictable than I ever thought. Travel has become a largely affordable luxury that so many of us enjoy, it was such a shock to have that taken away so suddenly. It’s made my travel wish list bigger & my desire stronger.
 
Map reading in the vines in Bordeaux |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 


We can't wait to resume exploring Europe either. Take a look at our worry-free booking guarantee which allows you to book trips with confidence in 2021. With our flexible booking conditions, if the trip doesn't work out, you won't lose out.

  
Croatia Thanks You

Croatia Thanks Travellers for Visiting

 
Croatia thanks UK and European travellers for choosing to visit the country, situated along the Mediterranean Sea, during the COVID-19 pandemic in summer 2020. UTracks travellers from the UK and Europe have visited Croatia last summer when the window of travel opportunity allowed. 
 
 
The campaign also talked about the most popular destinations in Croatia per country and we're excited to see Hvar, Split and Dubrovnik topping the list for UK travellers. These are exactly some of the highlights on our boat-based holidays in the country. Other popular destinations among Europeans were Porec and Rovinj. If you're keen to learn more about these places or want to organise your visit, contact our team to discuss your options. 
 
Walk around Roman ruins in Split, Croatia Viewpoint in Dubrovnik, Croatia Equipment used on our Croatia Bike and Sail trip |  <i>Rob Keating</i>
 
On our final 50km day of cycling on the lavender island of Hvar, I was given the opportunity to try an e-bike, and now I can’t recommend them enough! - read Rob's full trip review
 
"With this campaign, we would like to thank all foreign guests who, despite the prescribed epidemiological measures and travel protocols, have shown their confidence in Croatia during this challenging and unpredictable year. Our goal is [...] to let everyone know that they are also welcome in Croatia next year," said the Director of CNTB Kristjan Stanicic.
 

Want to visit Croatia in 2021? 

You'll be pleased to learn that we have relaxed booking conditions for 2020 & 2021 to make travel as flexible as possible for you. As always, there are only so many beds available on our boats and 2021 is promising to become a busy season in Europe. Secure your spot now to avoid disappointment - book with confidence
 
 
Thank You for visiting Croatia
 
Watch: A Superb Cinque Terre Holiday

Watch: A Superb Cinque Terre Holiday

 
The Cinque Terre is one of Italy's most popular travel destinations, and it's well-deserving of this honour. In this article we'll describe what the Cinque Terre is and showcase a video of a Cinque Terre holiday from the Australian TV show Getaway.
 

A Brief Introduction About the Cinque Terre

 
The Cinque Terre is in the Liguria region, and it translates to 'five lands'. The Cinque Terre is a series of five small fishing villages dug into the cliffs where the Apennine mountains meet the Mediterranean coastline. 

Each village has retained its character and traditions from earlier times, impressively perched between the rocky shoreline and the steep terraced hills. The extensive network of walking trails connecting the villages pass through olive groves and terraced vineyards, with sweeping views of the vast expanse of the Mediterranean below.
 
Cinque Terre vineyard terraces Cinque Terre, Italy |  <i>Steve O'Donoghue</i> Looking down on the town of Corniglia |  <i>Philip Wyndham</i>
 

Cinque Terre Holiday Video

 
In this video, Australian TV presenter Jules discovers the beauty of the Cinque Terre. He learns about the local vineyards, the remarkable hillside terraces, and walks the fabled Street of Love between Manarola and Ria Maggiore. 
 
My favourite part has to be the persistent musician who constantly serenades him throughout the video.
 
Please do note that this video was filmed in 2011, so the filming quality is outdated, although we can assure you that in real life the views are a high definition spectacle! Plus some details may be dated (it's actually more affordable these days!). If you have any queries feel free to contact us.
 


 

If you are yet to experience the Cinque Terre on an active holiday you need to add it to your trip wish list. UTracks offers a variety of affordable walking options.
 
> Portofino and the Cinque Terre Guided Walk. 7 day walk with a local guide.
 
 

Have you travelled to the Cinque Terre? What were your thoughts of your experience? Let us know in the comment section.
 
  
Hidden Gems of Europe: 7 Destinations Worth Exploring

Hidden Gems of Europe: 7 Destinations Worth Exploring

 
Parts of Europe may be heaving with tourists in the summer months, however, there are still places where you can avoid the crowds if you are looking for a peaceful active break.

We've uncovered seven trips to some of the lesser known – yet just as beautiful – parts of Europe. From Spain to Romania, you'll find top destinations for a walking or cycling tour that's like unearthing a hidden travel gem.
 

Zagoria Villages, Greece 

Trekking in Zagoria
 
There is more to Greece than its world famous islands: little known by international visitors, the traditional complex of the Zagoria Villages, in the northwestern corner of the country, covers an unspoilt, remote region of the Pindos mountains. Treasures of vernacular architecture, many of these historic, late 18th century stone-built villages are within what is today a designated conservation area. Immerse yourself in nature in a landscape that brims with dramatic wilderness of striking peaks, deep chasms and extensive natural forests. The trip includes a traverse of the virtually virgin Vikos Gorge, which has been listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the deepest canyon in the world (in proportion to its width).

•    Zagoria: The Secret Villages self-guided walking tour
 

Cilento, Italy

Agropoli |  <i>John Millen</i>
 
Concentrating on Cilento, Italy’s largest National Park, this short walking break is designed to appeal to anyone who wants to experience ‘the other side of Amalfi’:  the less known Cilentan Coast is the natural extension of the Amalfi Coast, on the Gulf of Salerno’s southern shore. A place which in many ways exists in its own time warp, little visited Cilento remains largely ‘undisturbed’ by the 21st century, with rocky ridges, richly scented pinewoods and centuries-old olive trees interspersed with quaint fishing villages, mediaeval farm houses and traditional water mills. Staying in an ancient convent, you will enjoy quiet and remote walking in a stunning, yet less known, pocket of Italy, which in Roman Times was known as Campania Felix – or ‘happy land’! 

•    Cilento Coast and Mountain self-guided walking tour
•    Cilento and Amalfi Highlights self-guided walking tour
 

Ticino, Switzerland

Cycling alone one of the many beautiful lakes in Ticino
 
Experience the Italian side of Switzerland on a centre-based trip that is suitable even for novice cyclists! Ticino, the country’s southernmost canton, is the only canton where Italian is the sole official language and represents the bulk of the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland. The beautiful palm tree lined lakes lakes of Maggiore and Lugano are within easy reach from the comfort of your spa hotel, while the mix of daily excursions will see you being surrounded by snowy peaks and glaciers, admiring the spectacular Swiss mountainscapes. The medieval city of Bellinzona, the region’s capital, is known for its three UNESCO-protected castles, while the peaceful Botanical Gardens on the easily accessible island of Brissago are home to over 1,600 plant species.

•    Ticino Lakes Cycle tour

 

Sierra de Tramontana, Spain

Walkers heading round the coast to Cala Codolar |  <i>John Millen</i>
 
Spain welcomed 82 million visitors, a record figure which made it the second most-visited country in the world – but there are still places where you can beat the crowds: away from Majorca’s burgeoning coastal resorts, the majestic Sierra de Tramontana is a massif of limestone peaks tumbling to the turquoise waters. Following parts of the restored Pilgrims’ Way, venture forth on a series of hikes through shady forests, olive groves and ancient farmsteads, visiting tiny sun-drenched beaches along the way. The first three nights are spent at Santuari de Lluc monastery, the island’s most important pilgrimage site. You can attend the choral singing in its church, which takes place on most evenings, while from your bedroom window you will listen to the sound of nightingales.

•    Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries self-guided walking tour
 

Rila Mountains, Bulgaria

 
Rila monastery
 
Calling all keen walkers seeking an alternative mountain experience, in a country that simply teems with history and beautiful natural landscapes. The Balkans may be often overlooked as a holiday destination but, if you are looking for an active holiday off the tourist radar, Bulgaria is a welcoming place that combines natural beauty and rich culture with warm hospitality and friendly locals. Head to the southwestern part of the country and you will find yourself surrounded by rugged peaks and deep valleys. The chain of Seven Rila glacial lakes (each is named according to its shape!) is the jewel of the Rila Mountains. Starting at 2,100m, the lakes are found at differing altitudes and appear like large footprints leading up the mountain. 

•    Bulgaria on foot guided walking tour
 

Transylvania, Romania 

Walkers enjoying the view in the mountains of Romania
 
Take the roads less travelled this summer and pedal back in time in one of Europe’s most underrated countries: Romania. Following quiet country roads to remote areas, over nine days this trip gets you off the beaten track to meet shepherds watching over their sheep herds, visit the country’s oldest flour mill powered by water (and with a fascinating history from the communism era!) and explore the ruins of the Cistercian monastery, where visitors often have the chance to meet the pastor and listen to his beautiful stories. The Saxons arrived here in the 11th century to guard the strategic passes and littered through the region are relics of a rich history, with medieval citadels, fortresses and fortified churches. 

•    Romania Cycle Explorer bike tour
 

Istria, Croatia

 
The beautiful town of Pula on the Istrian Peninsula, Croatia
 
Despite Croatia’s rising popularity, the lesser known Istria peninsula remains one of Europe’s best kept secrets. Discover beautiful hilltop medieval towns and lush green valleys as you immerse yourself in the history and culture of a region that has been inhabited since the 11th century BC.  The trip follows parts of the Parenzana Trail, walking through pristine forests and meadows, rolling vineyards and fragrant olive groves. Stops include Groznjan (the so-called ‘town of artists’), Hum (officially the smallest town in the world), as well as the cobblestone town of Motovun. The trip culminates with a hike to the summit of Mount Vojak, Istria’s highest peak, for sweeping views over the Bay of Trieste, the Julian Alps and the Adriatic islands.
 
 

 
Have you already found these hidden gems? What did you think? Or do you have your own secret destination that we should add to this list? Let us know in the comment section below.
 
  
 
 
Amazing Cycling Holidays of Italy's Coast and Islands

Amazing Cycling Holidays of Italy's Coast and Islands

There are more UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy than in any other country in the world, but we're more than happy to simply spend our vacation exploring the exquisite beaches, coastline and islands of Italy. Like most travellers, we're extremely fond of the islands of Sicily, Venice and Sardinia, as well as the glorious coastline of the Italian Riviera.
 
If exploring Italy's coast and islands on foot is more your thing, check out our article of top Italian walking tours.

Take a look at these self-guided and guided cycling tours of Italy's coast and islands. The hardest part is to decide which bike trip to do!
 
 

Sicily

 

Cycle Sicily 

Cycling the backroads in Sicily
 
A stunning cycle that concentrates on southeast Sicily. Starting at the hilltop town of Caltagirone, where you can climb its celebrated 142-step decorated ceramic staircase, over a week you will immerse in Sicily’s history, culture and unspoilt coastline, before the trip concludes in Syracuse, the birthplace of Archimedes. Previously under Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Swabian, Angevin and Spanish rule, the city is now home to a fascinating mix of people and outstanding monuments, some of which remain still in use, such as the Greek Theatre.

> View the Cycling in Sicily bike tour

 

Sardinia

Cycling in Sardinia

Cycling along the quiet roads of Sardinia
 
A relaxed trip that follows Sardinia’s southern coastline by bike, with a range of cycle options for kids and adults such as trailers and electric bikes. Even children under 2 can join thanks to baby seats on their parents’ bicycles! Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean so, even in the winter, there is plenty to see and do: pedal through small fishing villages, past lagoons packed with pink flamingos and ruins dating back to the Phoenician and Roman civilisations; explore the Genoese island of San Pietro; wander through Mediterranean vineyards and centuries-old olive groves; and take in the spectacular views of dramatic cliffs and white sandy beaches!
 

Italian Riviera

Cycle Nice to Genoa

Cycle along the coastline from Nice in France to Genoa in Italy
 
Follow coastal cycling paths along the Mediterranean, smell the sea air and experience a quieter side of the bustling Riviera. Starting in Nice, the capital of Côte d’Azur, you will explore the iconic Monte Carlo before crossing the border for a swim at the cove of Spiaggetta dei Balzi Rossi and a visit at the ceramics and porcelain hub of Albisola. The trip finishes at the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and one of Italy’s most understated cities: Genoa.
 
 

Venice

Ancient Venetian Empire by Bike 

Venice and the iconic gondoloas
 
Explore three countries in one week on a cycling journey that offers the perfect combination of historic towns and seaside landscapes. From the canal city of Venice, pass peaceful fishing villages and grand palaces on your way to the little-visited plain of Friuli in northeastern Italy. With two border crossings to cycle through (Slovenia and Croatia), the journey ends in the Adriatic town of Porec, known for its Euphrasian Basilica, one of Europe’s finest intact examples of Byzantine art.
 
 
 
Have you decided which cycling tour you'd like to go on? Let us know in the comment section below. Don't forget to share this article with your cycling partner too!
 
  

 
Walking Tours of Italy’s Coast & Islands

Walking Tours of Italy’s Coast & Islands

 
Italy needs no introduction to holidaymakers: not only does it consistently rank among the top five most popular destinations worldwide for international arrivals, but it has also recently emerged as the most photographed country on Instagram, with more than 87 million posts containing the #Italy hashtag – and the figure keeps rising. 
 
We're guessing that a great chunk of these photos are taken by the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean, which attracts travellers like a magnet. From Sardinia to the Amalfi Coast, Sicily to the Cinque Terre, the waters around Italy are truly mesmerising.
 
If you're anything like us, you need to be more active than simply lying on a beach. In that case, we've collected our best walking holidays of Italy's incredible coast and islands so you can become immersed in the Italian la dolce vita lifestyle. Prefer cycling? Take a look at these amazing cycling holidays of Italy's coastline and islands.
 

Sicily

Volcanoes of Sicily

Climbing the volcano of Stromboli, Sicily
 
A chance to get close to the impressive volcanoes of Stromboli, where fiery lava explodes regularly from its crater, and Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Find out more about the long volcanic activity (over a period of 260,000 years!) in Sicily and the Aeolian Archipelago, to the north of the island, with opportunities in between to bathe in therapeutic hot mud, relax on the black beaches, explore on foot its winding coastline and take in panoramic views across the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.
 
> View the Volcanoes of Sicily hiking tour
 

Amalfi

Classic Amalfi Coast

'Walk of the Gods', between Agerola and Positano |  <i>Sue Badyari</i>
 
Few trips in Italy take in such a diverse combination of iconic highlights, making it impossible to escape the hordes of crowds that head to ‘Nastro Azzurro’ (Blue Ribbon) in the summer months... but come in March and you will have the Amalfi Coast just to yourself.
 
 

Sardinia

 

A Saunter in Sardinia

The picturesque island of Sardinia, Italy
 
The weather in Sardinia in September is still warm and pleasant, with the lower humidity making outdoor activities much more enjoyable. Explore secluded bays and ancient watchtowers, swim through rock arches and watch the sunset turn the cliffs to shades of yellow and pink.
 
 

Cinque Terre

 

Portofino and the Cinque Terre Guided Walk

The stunning Cinque Terre coastline
 
This self guided hiking trip that follows one of the most spectacular parts of the Italian coast, from the Portofino peninsula close to Genoa to the colourful seaside town of Porto Venere, on the edge of the Gulf of Poets. Walk through steeply terraced vineyards and fragrant olive groves, visit small monasteries and enjoy the quiet trails high above the iconic colourful villages collectively known as Cinque Terre. Away from the main tourist footpaths, the route promises spectacular views of the emerald blue Mediterranean Sea.
 
 

 
 
Are you feeling like you need to visit an Italian beach, pronto? Let us know which walking tour of Italy's coast and islands you have your eye on in the comment section below.
 
  
 
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