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Sue Cycles the Champagne Trails of France

Sue Cycles the Champagne Trails of France

What a destination Sue chose for a holiday with her gal pals - the vineyards, fine food and rolling hills of the Champagne region of France! Read on to learn more about the highlights of this self-guided cycling tour and perhaps become inspired yourself.
 
The rolling hills of France's Champagne region |  <i>Fernand Champagne</i>
 
 
It all started as a plan to tick off bucket list item, a visit to Paris’s Roland Garros and the very stylish, French Open Tennis Championships, with my sister and 3 tennis-loving girlfriends.  We’d bonded over regular visits to the tennis in Melbourne and a plan was hatched to create a tennis-watching ‘girls away trip’.  
 
Obligatory photo in front of the Eiffel Tower |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
We didn’t want to travel all the way from Australia to Paris just for a week of tennis so the question was how to fill a week or so before or after the French Open?  
 
UTracks’ ‘Champagne Trails’ self-guided cycle ticked all the boxes for us, the start in Reims,  just a 45 mins TGV train ride from Paris; a self-guided cycle over undulating country-side with a sprinkle of charming townships; world-renowned champagne houses and caves and a sumptuous choice of food and wine offerings.  
 
What’s not to like?
 
French vineyard at sunset |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
The French Open starts mid-May so the timing is perfect for a pre-cycle active week, enjoying glorious baby-blue skies and moderate temperatures.  
 
Crisp Spring mornings warming to the middle twenties afternoons were ideal for sightseeing and a spin down paved cycle-ways and undulating country laneways.  
 
Highlights of cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
Our Champagne cycle starts in the city of Reims (pronounced ‘Rance’ with a distinctly rolled ‘R’) in northeastern France, the unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-growing region.  
 
It is definitely worth staying an extra night or two pre-cycle to see the magnificent Cathedrale Notre-Dame, a grand cathedral of stained glass windows and Gothic portals, hosting the coronation of French kings for over 1,000 years.  
 
Of course, no visit to Reims is complete without saluting a glass or two at one of the many champagne houses headquartered there, followed by a leisurely lunch at an outdoor bistro on one of the city’s expansive boulevards.
 
The home of Taittinger Champagne |  <i>Sue Marr</i>

Our bikes are delivered to our Reims hotel so we have the chance to check seat heights and gears on a light spin around the block.  The e-bike batteries are fully charged so we are ready to go the next morning after a hearty breakfast of juice, baguette, croissants, cheese, ham, boiled eggs and copious cups of coffee.  
 
Typical French breakfast |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Art imitating the French lifestyle |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Highlights of cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
For this trip, I’ve chosen a standard bike but is more than adequate for experienced riders for the flat to undulating journey.  My novice-cyclist companions are very happy with their chosen e-bikes and slip easily into cruise mode, finding them comfortable, sturdy and stable.  
 
As our luggage is transferred to each overnight stay, all we need to carry with us are a few useful items to get us through the day such as water, snacks, a jacket and phones/camera.  We invested in gel bike seats (thanks Aldi) and carried our own helmets – although the latter were offered locally if we wanted them.  We dressed in light layers so we could easily adjust as the days cycling and sunshine warmed us.
 
Cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
The first day’s cycle takes us south along the paved cycle path of the Reims canal, heading south towards the Montagne de Reims natural park, through rural villages to Ay and then to Epernay for an overnight stay.  
 
Champagne houses in Epernay
 
The magnificent house of Moet and Chandon is headquartered here so make sure you plan ahead and book a tour of the underground cellars as these are very popular and sell out well ahead, especially on weekends.  
 
If you happen to miss out on a tour, you can still visit for a champagne tasting in the outdoor courtyard or to find a treasure or two in the gift shop.  It is well worth a visit just to see the beautifully restored building with stunning chandelier, stone floors and lovely gardens.  
 
The Mumm vineyards |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Mumm Champagne on display |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Cyclist finding a leafy backdrop for a photo |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
The Champagne houses of Pommery and Mumm should also be added to your visit list, the outdoor courtyard at Mumm is especially comfortable for a sip and relax.  
 
The home of Mumm champagne |  <i>Sue Marr</i>

The smell of French home-cooking from a local bistro or fresh-baked baguettes from a small boulangerie usually decided our coffee and lunch stops each day.  The panniers fitted to our bikes come in very handy when we have an impromptu visit to a local champagne house, courtesy of the Bistro owner’s friendship with the wine maker’s family.  
 
A highlight of our self-guided cycle was that we were free to follow our noses and set our own schedule with the freedom to experience these special, random moments.
 
Taking a break from cycling for bubbles |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
Our next cycle day takes us through the beautiful Marne Valley, cycling along the undulating ‘veloroute’ and country roads, through vineyards and fields of waving wheat, framed by charming villages.  
 
Scenes from cycling France's Champagne Trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
Be sure to plan your day around cycle times between villages to take advantage of rest stops with coffee and pastries from exquisite local boulangeries.  These tend to close in the middle of the day, especially early in the season.  Champagne house tasting rooms close for tours and tastings between 12 noon and 5pm so again, if visits are part of your day’s activity, check ahead for opening hours to avoid disappointment.  
 
Bistros in the larger towns are generally open for lunch and dinner without a break and offer daily specials on a blackboard menu on the front door.  For a simple picnic lunch, visit a market or boulangerie early in the day to stock up on provisions as there are an abundance of beautiful parks and rest stops along the way.
 
Delicious French pastries |  <i>Sue Marr</i>

Our overnight stay in the small village of Reuilly Sauvigny was an absolute highlight of our Champagne visit.  
 
The Auberge Le Relais is a small guesthouse with a renowned restaurant serving lunch and dinner.  We’re told by a departing lunch guest that they had driven from Epernay just to experience the chef’s degustation lunch and congratulated us on choosing such an ideal location for our overnight stay.  Thanks UTracks!  
 
The Auberge has only 7 rooms but they are very modern and well-appointed with glorious views of the valley through waving willow trees.  So picturesque, so tranquil and so many shades of green, it was a picture post card of loveliness.
 
Highlights of cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
It was nice to have a break from cycling to wander through the small village, visiting the local church and the manicured cemetery.  
 
After a short rest to luxuriate in our beautiful rooms, there was time for a glass of bubbles before we were invited to enjoy an incredible, seemingly endless degustation menu, each course presented with theatrical flair by our young waiter, delighting in our ecstatic ‘ooohs and aaahs’.  
 
After a long day in the saddle and a memorable meal, it was time to check the e-bike batteries were sufficiently topped up before succumbing to the delightful tiredness induced by exercise, great food and conversation.
 
Oyster in France |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Enjoying champagne in France |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Oysters in France |  <i>Sue Marr</i>

 
The next day’s cycle included a visit to the beautiful Orbais l’Abbaye and the Chateau de Montmort Lucy enroute to the charming town of Vertus with lots of dining options and the inevitable choice of champagne house visits on offer.  There’s also an aquatic centre just outside the town if you feel the need for a swim.  
 
Highlights of cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Charming wall fronts in France |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Art imitating the French lifestyle |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
The final day’s ride undulates through vineyards and small villages with plenty of options for rest stops to enjoy the valley views.  There are a host of Grand Cru champagne houses to visit or to just to admire the decorative gardens and trimmed hedges along the way.  
 
Cycling the Champagne trails of France |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
Spring gardens are in full bloom with roses in abundance in multiple hues so if ever there was an excuse to stop and smell the roses on our way to Epernay, the Champagne Trails cycle is definitely the trip to choose!  
 
As the perfect exclamation point to a fantastic trip, Epernay is hosting a weekend market showcasing the best of the local food and wine producers, so all in all, wonderful timing and an ideal ending to an enjoyable week in the Champagne capital of the world.
 
Scenes from cycling France's Champagne Trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
 
Do you wish you were with Sue on her girls trip in France? We're certainly inspired! Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
 
  
Meet Anthony, our in-house Francophile

Meet Anthony, our in-house Francophile

Get to know Anthony, a key member of UTracks Australia's reservations team. When he's not managing bookings and planning active holidays for travellers throughout Europe, he's likely dreaming of all things French. Learn more about Anthony's passion for France in this interview and perhaps feel inspired to visit the Land of Wine and Cheese.
 
 
Anthony at the Chateau de Chambord |  <i>Anthony Boutoubia</i>
 

Why do you like France? What motivates you?


I’ve been a big fan of history for as long as I can remember, and France was the first place in Europe that I visited in my early teens where I was truly blown away – I was seeing in real life the things I’d only read about. Visiting the Louvre for the first time was transformative for me. This trip planted the seed which really began to sprout when I went onto university and started studying the French language. Throughout the process of learning the language I began to really immerse myself in aspects of the culture; food, film, history – and going there several times more recently has led me to fall in love with both its natural and built beauty. 

At present, I am motivated by the desire to explore further; I have seen quite a bit of France but each time I visit I find there is so much more I want to see – I don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon!
 
Visit world-famous art at the Louvre in Paris
 

Which trip in France are you most keen to experience?


At the moment I’m actually most excited by our new Atlantic Coast Cycle from La Rochelle to Bordeaux. La Rochelle is a city of great historical significance with its Vieux Port, and I love the idea of cycling through amazing beachscapes before getting into some of the best wine country in the world. It fills a couple of gaps in my France-wide journey, and I’m always happy to end up in Bordeaux for some delicious Sauternes tasting.
 
Self guided cycle way from Bordeaux to Biarritz
 

What have been the main highlights of your travels in France?
 

Its so hard to distil highlights down to a few moments, but focusing on my recurring themes of history and beauty, I’d say my top three highlights were Mont Saint Michel, Carcassonne, and the Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley. It just so happens that we offer different itineraries that each visit these places!
 
Walkers near Mont Saint Michel
 

Can you describe your favourite food and drinks in France?
 

I find French food so consistently impressive, so I always eat well when I’m there!
 
In terms of a favourite, I do love some escargot (make sure you dunk the bread into the persillade!), but the humble croissant is always a winner, especially at the local boulangeries. 
 
Escargot, Paris |  <i>Rachel Imber</i>
 
For a drink, in France, how could I not say wine? I have visited all of the major wine regions in France and been consistently blown away by the dedication and quality. The best thing about it as well is that it’s so much easier to find a decent well priced glass or bottle from the local Cave (wine shop). Look out for the prestigious Chateauneuf-du-Pape if you’re a fan of grenache, and a glass of Sauternes with dessert is an experience not to be missed.  
 
Underground wine tasting in St Emilion, France |  <i>Deb Wilkinson</i>
 

What surprises you the most about France?
 

Every time I go to France I am surprised by the sheer diversity present around the country. Each of the regions feels very distinct with its own charm, food, way of life, etc. Just means it’s very easy to go back again and again! 
 
Taking it all in on the GR70 in France
 

What was your favourite town? Why? 
 

Probably Vienne, south of Lyon. Its Roman ruins were snow-covered and it made the whole place look just like a fairytale. 
 
Otherwise, Saint-Emilion near Bordeaux gets an honourable mention for its medieval charm and incredible wine industry.  
 
St Emilion, Bordeaux
 

Do you have any favourite destinations in France for standout views, mountains, flowers, lakes or wildlife?
 

Definitely Annecy in the alps near Switzerland and Mont Blanc. Situated on the eponymous Lake Annecy, this place is a postcard picture come to life. I visited last in winter, and 
even then the gloomy days were elevated by the lake and surrounding mountains’ natural beauty. 
 
Enjoy cycling around Lake Annecy in France |  <i>B. Becker/Auvergne Rhône Alpes Tourism</i>
 

Can you share advice for other travellers going to France?
 

My biggest piece of advice would be to always start with a ‘bonjour’ or a ‘bonsoir’ depending on the time of day. 
 
The French have an (erroneous) reputation for being rude or snobby, but my experience was that this is far from the truth. If you begin with a simple bonjour, you will find that the people will open right up to you and be very willing to listen and help. More often than not as I was going along in my rusty French, they would helpfully switch to English, and be more than happy to assist as much as they could. 
 
Flower Market  - Aix en Provence
 
 
 
Are you a fellow Francophile? What do you love about France? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
 
  
Why I Loved Hiking the Dolomites

Why I Loved Hiking the Dolomites

Avid outdoors enthusiast, Allie Peden, reflects on her hike in Italy's spectacular Dolomite mountain range. She and a friend joined a small group of hikers on the Dolomite Guided Walk, which was led by the expert local guide, Madeline.
 
If we could sum up her experience in a word, it would be DRAMATIC! But read on to get the full picture from Allie.
 
Hiking in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 

Why did you choose to walk the Dolomites? 

Ever since doing UTracks' Mont Blanc Guided in 2018 I’d been dreaming of another big bucket list alpine walk. I thought the Dolomites Guided Walk seemed very different to the French, Swiss and Italian Alps that I’d walked through on Mont Blanc. What interested me was the craggy moonscape-like rock formations & fascinating World War I history. 

Hiking in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 

How did you prepare for your trip?

I knew from previous Alpine hikes in Europe and Nepal that I’m guilty of not doing enough stair/step training. I did my usual training walks but also added the step master at the gym. Who knew step master could be fun - a 30 minute Netflix episode really makes the time fly!

I also added weights to a day pack which I took on my morning dog walks. While on the Dolomites Guided Walk, you only need to carry a day pack with the essentials that you need for the day (lunch, raincoat, water, etc), I found that training with extra weight meant the longer walks felt like a breeze.  
 
Hiking in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 

What was the accommodation like in the Dolomites? 

I really loved the accommodation on this walk. Each nights stop was charming but just the right amount of rustic. My favourite accommodation was the Refugio Giussani Huitte at 2600m. The views were stunning and décor inside was quirky. 
 
Alpine hut in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 
Another favourite was the Hotel Sennes, which has beautiful decks upstairs as well as by the restaurant, where we could relax, take in the afternoon sun and the views. The food at Sennes was also incredible!
 
Accommodation in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 

What was the scenery you walked through like?

I think the best way to describe the Dolomites scenery would be DRAMATIC. The Dolomites have a wild rugged look but the every changing colours of the rock is what’s most special. Due to the high concentration of calcium and magnesium carbonate in the rock during sunrise and sunset the mountain tops colour from orange to pink to in the end purple. We would sit out watching the colours change until the last of the light, it was stunning!
 
Hiking in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 

What was the local cuisine like? Can you describe your favourite food and drink? 

After a long days walking the group was usually straight to showers, change and then a nice cold beer or Italian wine, while chatting about our day and fantasising about the dinner to come. In the Dolomites you get to try foods very different to your typical Italian dishes as the regions cuisine is influenced by their German & Austrian neighbours. 
 
Afternoon drink with a view |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 
A few favourites that I tried were "Casunziei" (ravioli stuffed with pumpkin or spinach), potato gnocchi with smoked cottage cheese or pumpkin, canederli (balls of bread, like dumplings with speck & cheese), and a hearty barley soup that was the perfect entrée on a cool evening. Most places we stayed at offered menus and in true Italian style we got to choose our primo, secondo and dolce (desert). After dinner those who were brave enough would try the local distilled spirit called Grappa, which is unique to Italy. 
 
Dinner with a view in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 
 

How challenging did you find the Dolomites trail?

The trail was challenging, but in a way that left you feeling accomplished and stronger each day. On two days we had options for additional peaks, or relaxing, and another day there was an option to shorten the walk. 
 
Our guide Madeline was great at assessing the weather coming in to determine the best options for the days walks. What I did find most challenging about the trip was the actual rock and scree underfoot. Walking poles helped with balance and going downhill on these tricky stages.
 
Hiking in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 

What surprised you the most about your trip? 

I was most surprised by the amount of people visiting the region of the Dolomites. While seeing the Tre Cime was a special experience and highlight for me, I also really valued the time with our group on the more remote trails that we visit on the UTracks walk. I was also blown away by many of the incredible mountain ranges we traversed, it’s not only about the well known Tre Cime di Lavaredo!

Group photo in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>

Can you share advice for other travellers thinking about hiking the Dolomites? 

Do it!
 
Hiking in the Dolomites |  <i>Allie Peden</i>
 

 
 

 
Have you been to the Dolomites before? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comment section below.
 
 
  
 
Camino 2025 Price Lock!

Camino 2025 Price Lock!

The Camino de Santiago is one of the world's greatest trails and is at the top of many serious active travellers' 'to do' list. 
 
Now, for a limited time, you can lock in your 2025 UTracks Camino tour at 2024 prices! Choose from the iconic Camino de Santiago in Spain, see Portugal on the popular Portuguese Camino, or find more Camino routes below. This price lock applies to most self-guided Camino tours in Spain and Portugal. But you best be quick to book - this price lock will not last forever!
 
 
These self-guided Camino tours all include:
 
✔️ Daily luggage transfers; so you can enjoy pack-free walking
✔️ Comfortable private accommodation; so you can reflect and recharge
✔️ 24/7 English-speaking ground support + expert local team; for peace of mind
✔️ Delicious breakfasts and select dinners*; the best way to sample Spanish cuisine
✔️ Pilgrim's Passport; to receive your finishers certificate
✔️ Information pack; including route notes and professional advice
* most Camino tours include dinners, see trip page for details.
 
Below you'll find some of the fantastic 2025 Camino experiences to inspire you. Don't forget: beat the price rise and book your 2025 Camino tour now. 
 
 
Walking the vibrant Camino Trail |  <i>Rob Mills</i> UTracks team member Sophie Shaw Pilgrims hiking through rural villages along the Camino Frances in Spain |  <i>Gesine Cheung</i>
 

Camino Frances | Spain

The Camino Francés is the most popular route to Santiago, with over 60% of pilgrims walking a section of this trail. It offers a more complete Camino experience by passing a multitude of churches and famous towns, such as Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and Leon, as well as a variety of landscapes from the mountains of the Pyrenees to the Rioja wine fields, the vast meseta and the rolling green hills of Galicia. The last section of 115km, from Sarria to Santiago, is the most well known and travelled.
 
> Sarria to Santiago route (most popular!)
 
Pilgrims crossing the Pyrenees near Roncesvalles |  <i>Gesine Cheung</i>
 

Camino del Norte / Northern Camino | Spain

The Northern Camino route starts in Irun near the French border and joins the French route at Arzua. Our walk begins in the chic, gastronomic San Sebastian (Donastia in Basque) and follows the Camino Norte through picturesque fishing villages and fertile valleys to the bustling city of Bilbao, home to the iconic Guggenheim Museum, before continuing along the dramatic coastline through the Asturias region and on to Santiago de Compostela.
 
 
Pilgrims on the Camino del Norte, Spain |  <i>Andreas Holland</i>
 

Camino Portuguese | Portugal

The Camino Portuguese provides walkers and cyclists with a quieter, and flatter, experience. However, do not mistake the absence of travellers for a lack of interesting sights! The traditional Camino Portuguese route, the Portuguese Way, is beautiful and packed with history, taking you through World Heritage-listed Coimbra, Portugal’s early medieval capital famous for its 13th century university, and rural regions that you may otherwise never experience on a tour of Portugal.
 
 
Pilgrims walking the coastal way of the Portuguese Camino |  <i>John Parker</i>
 

Cycle the Camino | Spain & Portugal

For more than a millennium, the Camino de Santiago has been well trodden by hiking boots, horse hoofs and more recently, bike tyres, by people travelling on one of the many routes in Spain, France and Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, home of the tomb of the apostle St James.
 
 
Exploring the colourful Spanish Camino by bike.
 

More Camino Trails | Spain

One of the best things about the Camino de Santiago is that there are a multitude of trails to explore! So if you loved your first experience, likely on one of the more popular sections, there are plenty of alternative routes to discover. Check out some of these Camino routes in Spain or get in touch with our team of experts to find the most suitable trip for you.
 
 
The iconic Santiago de Compostela as seen from the Camino de Invierno (Winter Way). |  <i>Adolfo Enríquez</i>
 

Camino 2025 Price Lock: Terms and Conditions

> The Camino 2025 Price Lock Offer is valid only on Camino trips marked 'Special Offer' on utracks.com
> The offer is valid for new bookings with trip deposits paid between 25 March 2024 to 31 May 2024
> Offer expires on 5pm, 31 May, 2024
> The promotion is valid on most self-guided Camino trips in Portugal and Spain departing between 01 January 2025 and 31 December 2025
> The offer is subject to your chosen trip being available
> The offer cannot be redeemed as cash
> All standard booking conditions apply
> Quote CAMINO2025LOCK when booking
> UTracks reserves the right to extend or shorten the Camino Price Lock
 
 

 
 
Which Camino trail do you want to explore in 2025? Let us know in the comment section below.
 
  
 
 
St Francis Way Explained

The St Francis Way Explained

The St Francis Way is an Italian Camino route inspired by the life of St Francis of Assisi, one of the most revered religious figures in history. The trail begins in Florence, with its rich Renaissance heritage, winds through the typical landscape of eastern Tuscany and Umbria - shady forests, orchards, fields, vineyards and olive groves - to Lazio and finally the Eternal City, Rome. 
 
The full St Francis Way takes 32 days to complete; however, you can walk shorter stages that range between 6-8 days on a self-guided tour. It is also possible to customise your itinerary with UTracks.
 
The St Francis Way is the ideal walk for those seeking a more spiritual and authentic pilgrim trail. Read on for more information about this wonderful Camino in Italy.
 
Walking the St Francis Way in Italy |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>

 

Who was St Francis of Assisi?

Saint Francis of Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon, and preacher. He lived in the late 12th and early 13th centuries (1182 – 1226). 
 
He is renowned for his dedication to poverty, humility, and simplicity, as well as his deep love for nature and animals. St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order and the Women's Order of St. Clare, both of which embraced a life of poverty and service to others. 
 
He is remembered for his devotion to Christ and his teachings on compassion, peace, and caring for the less fortunate. St. Francis is also famous for receiving the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, making him one of the most revered and beloved saints in Christian history.
 
St Francis of Assisi |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 

What is the St Francis Way trail like?

 
It is best to think of the St Francis Way as a collection of shorter pilgrimages that combine to tell the story of the patron saint of ecology's life. Discover traces of his passage, such as Franciscan hermitages, chapels and crosses.
 
The rolling landscapes of Umbria are a feature of the St Francis Way camino route
 
As you walk through dense ancient forests, orchards, olive groves and lush fields of produce, regularly passing hermitages, chapels and crosses dedicated to the saint, it’s not hard to imagine St Francis and the thousands of walkers and pilgrims after him wandering along this unique, spiritual and scenic Camino path.

The most picturesque section traverses eastern Tuscany and northern Umbria, the ‘green heart’ of Italy, through dense ancient forests, orchards, vineyards, olive groves, medieval hilltop villages and chapels and crosses dedicated to St Francis.
 
Walking the St Francis Way in Italy |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i> Walking the St Francis Way in Italy |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i> The St Francis Way is a spiritual experience |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>

 

How to walk the St Francis Way

 
The full St Francis Way takes 32 days to complete; however, you can walk shorter stages that range between 6-8 days on a self-guided tour. There are 7 St Francis Way itineraries to choose from with UTracks plus it is also possible to customise your itinerary.
 

Stage 1: Florence to Chiusi

From the Tuscan capital Florence with its magnificent artistic and architectural heritage, discover traces of St Francis' passage including Franciscan hermitages, chapels and crosses as you walk east and through the National Park of Foreste Casentinesi to Chiusi della Verna.
 
 
View over Florence in Italy
 

Stage 2: Chiusi to Città di Castello

 
Apart from the spiritual side of this walk, there are numerous drawcards along the way such as Chiusi with its charming location and Franciscan monastery, the medieval hamlet of Anghiari and the culinary delights which await each evening. Crossing from the Arno to the Tiber river valleys, with hill top castles dotting the landscape and evidence of St Francis and his journey from church to chapels, there are also opportunities to view birdlife such as Montagu's Harrier and Moorhen.
 
 

Stage 3: Città di Castello to Assisi

 
Highlights of this stage include Gubbio and Assisi, two ancient towns full of history, and the many small, authentic medieval villages that dot the undulating hills. Following a well signposted trail, there will be opportunities to sample great local cheese, salami, truffles and wines and stay in characterful, specially chosen hotels and agriturismi as you make your way to Assisi set on the western slopes of Mt Subasio and birthplace of St Francis.
 
 
The charming town of Gubbio, a highlight on the St Francis Way camino route
 

Stage 4: Assisi to Spoleto

 
The section between Assisi and Spoleto is a highly-rated traveller favourite. 
 
"A relaxing, but also interesting and energizing week walking mainly along quiet tracks through lovely countryside and historic villages. Walking was nearly all up or down with minimal flat, so excellent exercise. Accommodations were varied, but all nice and with friendly welcomes. We're bound to do another walk like this again." C. Lamb; Assisi to Spoleto stage.
 
 
Sunset view over Assisi |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 

Stage 4: Spoleto to Rieti

 
Discover the hidden wonders of Umbria along this segment of the St. Francis Way. From the idyllic Piediluco Lake, beloved by artists and poets, to the rugged peaks of the Apennine mountains, each natural sight resonates with the spiritual essence that captivated St. Francis during his journey through these lands. Medieval hilltop villages offer further enchantment, perfect for exploration at day's end. Indulge in the local cuisine, featuring delicacies like Spoleto's black truffles and trail-produced salami and wine, rewarding your walking endeavors. As you approach Rieti and its surrounding Holy Valley, St. Francis's enduring influence leaves an indelible mark on the landscape.
 
 

Stage 5: Rieti to Rome

 
During this final section of the Way of St Francis 'Camino' route, explore a less known, beautiful part of Italy, the Sabina, an area in Lazio characterized by green hills and enchanting hamlets, and guarded by imposing castles. En route, sample excellent local produce and soak up the warm hospitality of family-run accommodation. The final day takes you into the heart of Rome, with all its sights and brimming with atmosphere, a fitting end to your Italian Camino.
 
 

Full St Francis Way

 
Over 32 days, experience the full St Francis Way and don't miss a step!
 
 
Pilgrim walking into St Peters in Rome |  <i>Tim Charody</i>
 
 

What is the food and drink like on the St Francis Way?

 
Enroute, you can sample excellent local and regional culinary delights from Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio.
 
Umbrian specialties like truffles, wild mushrooms, and cured meats highlight the region's rustic flavors, while Tuscan classics such as ribollita and bistecca alla fiorentina showcase the heartiness and simplicity of the cuisine. 
 
Spoil yourself while walking in Italy |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i> Delicious truffle and pasta in Italy |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i> Apertivo hour in Italy |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
Pilgrims can also enjoy a variety of local wines, including Sangiovese and Montepulciano, alongside simple yet satisfying meals prepared with care by local establishments. 
 
 

How hard is it to walk the St Francis Way?

 
All stages of the St Francis Way are graded at a moderate level. The paths are well defined and clearly marked. The whole itinerary is mainly on paths and gravel roads (strade bianche), and some sections on asphalted road. 
 
Walkers on the route from La Verna to Caprese Michelangelo
 
You should be able to walk for up to 23km per day although there are some options to shorten walks. The day's walks range from 8km to 23km with most around 15-18km. The walks may in part be during hot sun on stony tracks. 
 
The Tuscan and Lazio landscape of rolling hills (although sometimes steep and long), olive groves and vineyards, are traversed each walking day. A good level of fitness is required and prior experience is advisable. 
 
As with all of our trips, it is important that you are well prepared. We suggest that you undertake regular exercise – swimming, cycling, and jogging, three to four times a week for three months prior to your departure.
 
Beautiful landscapes of Italy |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 

Accommodation on the St Francis Way

UTracks handpicks agriturismos and guest houses that complement the surroundings.
 
A farmstay is part of the experience when walking in Tuscany |  <i>Tim Charody</i>
 
Agriturismos are rustic 'farm stay' accommodations, commonly located in Italy, and nestled within independently operated working farms. You'll delight in delectable local flavours served by your hospitable hosts during meal times.

Guesthouses, or bed and breakfasts, are elected for their uncomplicated charm and authentic local vibe. The chosen B&Bs offer cleanliness, comfort, and the added warmth of hosts who enhance your overall experience.
 
Cosy accommodation in Italy. |  <i>Sue Badyari</i>
 

Reviews of the St Francis Way

"The Way of St Francis Pilgrimage is a fantastic journey. The navigation maps and app were invaluable in helping me with the route. The accommodation UTracks organised was fantastic overall." M. Chalain; Full St Francis Way.
 
"It was a fabulous way to see the country - a leisurely, engaging pace. The accommodation was often of very high quality and we loved seeing the region in our walking shoes." J. Hart; Assisi to Spoleto stage.
 
Beautiful landscapes of Italy |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 
"Beautiful, pleasant days, but keep in mind, there are a lot of hard rough surfaces to hike on which can be very hard on even healthy feet. Lodging was more than we expected, especially the Agritourismo we stayed at." J. Butler; Città di Castello to Assisi stage.
 
"Our trip in Umbria was really spectacular. The route and organisation made the trip really successful and we loved seeing the small villages and countryside of Italy this way." M. Austin; Assisi to Spoleto stage.
 
Walking the St Francis Way in Italy |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 
"Excellent information about all aspects of the trip given in advance. The app and printed route directions in particular were very useful, which made navigation easy. Accommodation was varied, interesting and always satisfactory and the luggage transfer took place on time and without any hitches. Terrain was more mountainous and wooded than we'd expected, but very enjoyable." G. Waters; Florence to Chiusi stage.
 
 

 

Find your St Francis Way walk

 
 
 

 
Are you inspired to walk the St Francis Way? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
 
  
 
The Way, My Way: Camino Film New Trailer

The Way, My Way: Camino Film New Trailer

The Australian director and writer, Bill Bennett, has released the first trailer of his new film: The Way, My Way. The movie is based on the bestselling book of the same name, which is about Bill's personal experiences from walking the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain.
 
Continue to watch the trailer, read a synopsis and director's statement; plus discover how you can experience the iconic Camino yourself.
 

Tickets now on Sale!

Come along to our special screenings of the wonderful new Camino film: 'The Way, My Way', and join other Camino enthusiasts and active travellers. Available in select Australian cities only (sorry to those who miss out!). Special price for UTracks Active Travel Community members of just $12! 
 
> Brisbane - Buy tickets - Tuesday, 21 May - SOLD OUT
> Canberra - Buy tickets - Tuesday, 21 May - FINAL TICKETS
> Melbourne - Buy tickets - Wednesday, 22 May - FINAL TICKETS
> Perth - Buy tickets - Tuesday, 21 May - SOLD OUT
> Sydney - Buy tickets - Wednesday, 22 May - SOLD OUT
 
This film is also screening in normal cinemas in Australia and New Zealand.
 

The Way, My Way: Watch the Trailer

 
 
 

The Way, My Way: Film Synopsis

 
The Way, My Way is the charming and captivating true story of a stubborn and amusingly self-centred Australian man who decides to walk the 800 kilometre-long Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route through Spain. He doesn’t know why he’s doing it, but one step at a time it will change him and his outlook on life forever. 
 
Based on Bill Bennett’s best selling memoir of the same name, The Way, My Way has been described by Camino elder statesman Johnnie Walker as the most authentic film ever made about the Camino.
 
The scallop shell can be found all along the Camino |  <i>Gesine Cheung</i>
 

The Way, My Way: Directors Statement


I really didn’t want to make this film. I didn´t want to make a film about myself; about my failings, about my suffering, about my stubbornness and fixed myopic opinions. But there were some around me who’d read my book, The Way, My Way, and it had impacted deeply on their lives.  They’d laughed and cried through the reading of the book, and they were certain it would make a terrific film.

I didn´t agree.
I couldn´t see it. 

But finally they convinced me to take a swing at writing the screenplay. 

Some seven years later, and after more than forty drafts of the script, I finally found a way to tell my story. I detached myself from myself and wrote the script about that man over there – not me – that stupid horrible man over there who, under certain lighting conditions and with the right wardrobe, might look a bit like me. 

I’d found a way in to telling my story,  
It wasn’t really about me.
Ha! 

Once I had a screenplay I was happy with, I then turned my mind as to how best to make this damn film. How do you make a movie on the Camino and make it real? Make it authentic? Not make it some Hollywood star-driven artificial confection. 

I decided the only way to tell my story truthfully was to shoot with a very small crew and use the real pilgrims I’d walked with ten years earlier. I’d stayed in touch with them – we’d become lifelong friends – and so they agreed to come on board this crazy adventure! 

I wanted to be small enough and nimble enough to work within the ebb and flow of the Camino. To become invisible. Only by doing that could I, as a filmmaker, respond to light, to shifts in weather, to the pulsating electric current that is the Camino. 

My carefully crafted screenplay had to become malleable in my pursuit of authenticity. I wanted to capture the real Camino. I wanted an audience of pilgrims watching this film to say at the end: Yes, finally, a true depiction of what it´s like to walk the Camino. If the film elicited that kind of reaction from a Camino audience, then I would regard the film a success.

With the pilgrims, they never saw the script. I kept it from them. I wanted their responses to be true to what was happening in any given scene. I didn´t want them feeling obliged to give me a performance. In fact, I didn´t want a performance at all. I wanted the truth of the situation, whatever that might be, moment to moment.  

The pilgrims proved to be stellar. If they´d been highly trained professional actors I couldn´t have asked for more from them. But – with the decision to cast the real pilgrims, that one decision then dictated so many other major creative decisions for me as a director. The shooting style, the editing style, the tone of the movie, the staging and blocking of scenes – even what gear we should use – cameras and lenses and how best to record location sound, all these creative decisions were made on the basis that we were using the real pilgrims. I called them “the actuals,” as against “the actors.” 

The “actuals” set the benchmark. They held the truth. They held the authenticity. The professional actors had to step up to the pilgrim´s benchmark. They had to find their own truth – just as we all had to, all of us standing behind the cameras as well. 

Now having almost completed post production, I feel I’ve achieved what I set out to do – to make a truly authentic film about a man, dogged in his views and amusingly self-centered, who ultimately undergoes a fundamental shift in character and outlook, just through walking the Camino.

Bill Bennett,
Writer/Director/Producer
 
The shells and arrows that mark the Way can be found everywhere on the Camino |  <i>Sue Finn</i>
 

The Way, My Way: About the Book

 
“I’d never done anything crazy like this before – a pilgrimage walk. I was not a hiker, and I wasn’t a Catholic. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I was a Christian. On the last government census when I had to state my religion, I'd said I was a Buddhist, mainly because they’ve had such a hard time in Tibet I felt they needed my statistical support.

I was also not an adventure traveller. For me, adventure travel was flying coach. All this backpacking and wearing of heavy boots and flying off to France to walk ancient pilgrimage routes was a new experience, and not one that made me feel entirely comfortable.”

And so Bill Bennett, an Australian based film director, set off on an 800 kilometre walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, not sure why he was doing it, and not feeling entirely comfortable. His discomfort increased markedly a few days later when his knee gave out – so the rest of the walk was a “pain management pilgrimage.”

But he kept his sense of humour, and his memoir is at times hilarious but also deeply moving, and insightful. In the vein of Bill Bryson and Eric Newby, The Way, My Way takes you on a unique spiritual journey, and gives you a hearty laugh along the way.
 
 
Walking along the Camino de Santiago trail in Galicia |  <i>@timcharody</i>
 

 
 
>> The Way, My Way is screening in Australian and New Zealand cinemas from May 16. 
 

Watch UTracks' Camino Film

 
 
 

Find your own Camino journey

Keen to experience the Camino de Santiago yourself? Browse our top-rated self-guided small group tours or get in touch with one of our expert team members.
 
 
 

Tickets now on Sale!

Come along to our exclusive private screening of the wonderful new Camino film: 'The Way, My Way', and join other Camino enthusiasts and active travellers. Available in select Australian cities only (sorry to those who miss out!). Special price for UTracks Active Travel Community members of just $12! 
 
> Brisbane - Buy tickets - Tuesday, 21 May - SOLD OUT
> Canberra - Buy tickets - Tuesday, 21 May - FINAL TICKETS
> Melbourne - Buy tickets - Wednesday, 22 May - FINAL TICKETS
> Perth - Buy tickets - Tuesday, 21 May - SOLD OUT
> Sydney - Buy tickets - Wednesday, 22 May - SOLD OUT
 

 
Are you excited for The Way, My Way? Have you read the book? Let us know in the comment section below!
 
   
The 24 Best Trips to Explore in 2024

The 24 Best Trips to Explore in 2024

The active travel masterminds at UTracks have put their heads together to compile the greatest walking and cycling holidays to take in 2024. 
 
From visiting European Capitals of Culture, to navigating the Olympics, to perennial favourites, you can find the best active trips that are on trend in 2024.
 
Of course, this list is not exhaustive and there are plenty of amazing European journeys that don't feature on our list. If possible, our 2024 must-travel list would contain at least 450 trips (i.e. the complete range of UTracks tours) and be in a fully randomised order! Alternatively, you can see what were the most popular tours of 2023.
 
Read on to discover the 24 best trips to explore in 2024.
 

24. Champagne Trails Cycle

French vineyard at sunset |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
With the 2024 Olympics being held in Paris, the world's attention is on France. The Champagne region is just under two hours by train from Paris. Exploring this region by bike reveals so much more to Champagne than endless vineyards. There are forests, interspersed with quiet trails along the Marne River, leading to charming villages. 
 
Spend time in Reims and the surrounding vineyards, with ample rewards for your cycling effort as you pedal between villages and wine cellars. The cycle route ends in the capital of Champagne, Epernay, where you can visit the underground cellars of Moët and Chandon.
 
 
 

23. Hike the Dolomites

Hiking the Dolomites |  <i>Gus Cheung</i>
 
The Dolomites are amongst the most striking of all European mountains. Although not exceptionally high (the highest peak is Marmolada at 3342m), they rise in steep limestone spires, coloured in weathered hues of rose, yellow, white and grey.

Below the peaks bright green meadows come alive with wild flowers all summer, while the lower valleys are full of orchards, vineyards and a chequerboard of cultivated fields. Enjoy one of the most spectacular walking holidays in all of Italy on a guided or self-guided walk.
 
 
 

22. Explore Provence

View over Châteauneuf-du-Pape in Provence |  <i>Kylie Martin</i>
 
With its rich history, relaxed pace and sublime landscapes painted in a brilliant palette, Provence has been seducing artists, authors, walkers and cyclists for centuries.
 
Postcard-perfect scenes abound—sloping vineyards, sunny olive groves and lavender-strewn meadows, ruined Roman cities, medieval castles and busy market towns, the foothills of the Alpilles, hilltop villages of the Luberon, and glitzy beaches of the French Riviera. Provence is a fabulous destination for a walking or cycling holiday.
 
 
 

21. Romania Cycle Explorer

Cyclist on the Danube Delta quiet side road
 
The Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania's hills are known as a mysterious and spectacular land, made famous by Bram Stoker's legend of Dracula. 

Whilst the legends of Transylvania are an enticing reason to visit this fascinating region, cycling through untouched villages and soaking up the friendly atmosphere will be the lasting legacy on this inspiring journey by bike. In the evening stay in small comfortable guesthouses and feast on local cuisine, soaking up the unique culture of the region.
 
 
 

20. Camino Norte (Northern Camino)

Never walk alone on the Camino del Norte |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>
 
'El Camino del Norte' originates from the 9th Century and was one of the original Camino routes for pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela. The Northern Way follows the northern coast of Spain through dynamic cities such San Sebastian, Santander and Bilbao.

Given its coastal route, the Camino Norte is also referred to as the “Ruta de la Costa”. It provides a cooler option in summer and is quieter than the more famous Camino Frances route.
 
 
 

19. Isle of Arran Coastal Way Walk

Discover the Machrie Moor Standing Stones on the Isle of Arran
 
Discover the historically rich wine growing region of Moselle on this fascinating ride following the Moselle Bike Path from Trier to Koblenz. This ride is mainly on paved roads and dedicated bike trails, which makes it much easier to enjoy the many cultural highlights and regional delights to be found along the Moselle River. This is a perfect introductory tour to self-guided cycling in Europe.
 
 
 

18. Explore Turkey's Lycian Coast

Group photo on the Lycian Way |  <i>Egemen Cakir</i>
 
Known for its captivating beauty and rich historical significance, the Lycian Coast offers a unique and unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Stretching along the southwestern part of Turkey, the Lycian Coast is a treasure trove of scenic landscapes, ancient ruins, and charming coastal villages. Lace up your hiking boots or fill your bike panniers and set off on a journey that will take you through a tapestry of turquoise waters, rugged mountains, and lush green valleys.
 
 
 

17. Cycle Austria - Slovakia - Hungary

Meeting local farm animals on the Danube Cycle Path, Hungary |  <i>Lilly Donkers</i>
 
Wind your way from the elegant city of Vienna along the Danube Cycle Path. Crossing the Austria - Slovak border the cycle route passes vineyards on the slopes of the Little Carpathian Mountains into the capital, Bratislava. Using quiet country roads this itinerary continues into Hungary where you will pedal through numerous delightful towns. 
 
Explore the Baroque city of Györ and visit the unusual artist village of Szentendre and its outlying island before heading to Budapest on this magnificent self-guided, hotel-based cycle tour.
 
 
 

16. Highlights of the Sörmland Trail

Exploring the Sörmland Trail in Sweden |  <i>Lina Östling</i>
 
On this trip, sample the highlights of the southern section of the Sörmland Trail, a 1000 kilometre long lowland hiking trail extending from Stockholm south to Nyköping and beyond. 

 There are opportunities to swim at beaches along the Bråviken coastline, spot a variety of bird species in the unspoiled forests and stop for picnics beside glistening lakes. To truly appreciate the local culture, stay in handpicked eclectic B&Bs and guesthouses and embrace the warm character of the region through its genuine hospitality and classic Swedish cuisine.
 
 
 

15. Kvarner Bay Bike & Boat

Relaxing on the sundeck in Kvarner Bay
 
Countless islands in crystal clear water, deeply fissured cliffs, picturesque beaches and numerous small bays are the typical features of Croatia's stunning Kvarner Bay in the northern Adriatic. 

Spend a week discovering the landscape and people of this unique island world by bike, independently and with the aid of knowledgeable tour guides. Based on a deluxe motor yacht, our floating accommodation, discover the charm of the Adriatic. 
 
 
 
 

14. Piedmont Explorer Walk

Walking through the vines in Piedmont |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 
For true connoisseurs of mouth-watering food, truffles and fabulous wines, the Italian region of Piedmont is a foodie's paradise. Situated between the Alps and the Apennine mountains, the Langhe region is naturally blessed with fertile lands that produce the Tuber Magnatum - a prized white truffle - as well as some of Italy's most prestigious red wines: the Barolo and Barbera.

This walking trip along the quiet footpaths in Piedmont will allow you to discover a tantalizing array of local specialties including gourmet cheeses, pastries and chocolates that are appreciated the world over. 

While the food is worth a visit alone, the walking can also be described as mouth-watering. Hike amidst a magnificent landscape of rolling hills dotted with small picturesque villages, elegant castles and feudal towers. On a clear day the views of the snow-capped Alps can be enjoyed while walking through the delightful vineyards and hazelnut forests.
 
 
 

13. Walk Ireland's Wicklow Way

Crossing a bridge to Enniskerry on the Wicklow Way |  <i>Melodie Theberge</i>
 
The Wicklow Way is Ireland's oldest waymarked trail, pioneered by a famous hill walker, J.B Malone over 40 years ago and reveals some of Irelands finest views; Powerscourt Waterfall, Luggala, Loch Dan, Glenmalure and historical Glendalough. 

The trail extends from Marlay Park in Dublin to Clonegal on the borders of Wicklow and Carlow covering a distance of 127 kilometres (79 miles). The way winds through the Wicklow Mountains, one of the country's most spectacular upland areas. The advantage of walking south to north means you will finish your walk in Dublin. 
 
 
 

12. Cycle the Baltics

Cycling past the palace in Palanga, Lithuania |  <i>Andrew Bain</i>
 
The Estonian student city of Tartu is one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2024 and is just a short trip from Tallinn, where the Treasures of the Baltics Cycle tour concludes. 
 
Discover the contrasting characters of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on this scenic self guided cycle route from Tallinn to Vilnius. While these three countries share the same Baltic coastline, their cultural differences will become apparent as you pedal at your own pace between the three capitals - Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn - and the many small villages that have changed little over time. 
 
Following low traffic roads and dedicated cycle paths, the trip will showcase the diverse cultures, World Heritage sites and largely flat landscapes that make travelling in this region so different to anywhere else in Europe.
 
 
 

11. Camino Portuguese: Coastal Way

Pilgrims walking the coastal way of the Portuguese Camino |  <i>John Parker</i>
 
The Portuguese Coastal Route is one of the quieter Camino paths and it offers a wealth of history. From the town of Viana do Castelo, not far from the city of Porto, the journey travels north through small hamlets, past eucalyptus and pine woods, over ancient bridges and along stunning coastal scenery. 
 
 
 

10. Walk the South West Coast Path

The colourful seaside setting in Mevagissey |  <i>Nick Fewings</i>
 
You can now explore 9 sections of the South West Coast Path with UTracks, as we've added another 3 tours to our repertoire for 2024. The scenery along the South West Coast Path is spectacular. There are expansive views which highlight an enormous wealth of coastal scenery. From rugged cliffs to sandy beaches, from sleepy coves to marsh, capes and headlands.

The South West Coast region is very much a holiday county with beaches, famous Cornish pasties, pirates, shipwrecks and the roaring sea. It has been voted Britain’s favourite holiday region and for many good reasons. UTracks offers a number of week-long, self guided South West Coast Path walking holidays along our favourite sections in Cornwall.
 
 
 

9. Classic Holland Cycle

Travel the Dutch countryside the way the locals do |  <i>NBTC</i>
 
If you're looking for the quintessential Dutch cycling experience, look no further. This self guided cycling trip in The Netherlands combines several all-time favourite cities; Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden, Delft and Gouda, each unique and brimming with typical old world Dutch character. 

The ride is perfect for a first time cycle trip or for those looking to slow down the pace. Each day's cycling distance is relatively short, allowing you time to explore out of the saddle and take in the highlights of each city or linger en route over a cheese tasting or coffee. Between the cities, the cycling route meanders through the quiet Dutch countryside, where you will encounter polders, windmills, fields of flowers (in the spring time), lakes and rivers. The itinerary really does provide a week long experience of the classic Dutch cultural and countryside gems.
 
 
 

8. Slower-Paced Rambler Walks

A senior person hiking in Switzerland |  <i>Julita</i>
 
Taking extra time to slow down and enjoy being in the moment is on trend for 2024, which is why our rambler walks are so popular. 
 
A rambler walking tour includes extra days in an itinerary. This allows trails to be more accessible and achievable for walkers. There are many reasons to choose a rambler walking holiday. The extra days allows more time for tired limbs to recover. The distances walked each day are shortened as they're spread over more days. Or, if you simply want to slow down and smell the roses, a rambler hike lets you do just that.

At UTracks, we offer rambler options on famous routes such as the Camino de Santiago, Tour du Mont Blanc, and England's Coast to Coast. However, it is possible to customise any tour with extra days to create your own rambler tour - just speak with our staff.
 
 
 

7. Canal du Midi Cycle

Cycling along the Canal du Midi |  <i>C.G. Deschamps</i>
 
The Canal du Midi was built by Pierre Paul Riquet in the 17th century, overcoming great obstacles to connect the Mediterranean with the Atlantic through the Garonne Canal. The best way to appreciate all facets of the canal is by bike. 
 
Stretching 240km from Toulouse to Sète, the canal travels through a landscape rich in architectural and cultural treasures. Discover the legends of the Cathars as you cycle to Carcassonne, one of Europe's most impressive medieval cities. Immerse yourself in the pretty tree lined canal scenery and the culinary delights of small villages. At day's end your luggage awaits you in a range of specially chosen family run hotels and with the relaxed pace of the cycling there will be time for sightseeing or soaking up the atmosphere in a local café.
 
 
 

6. Camino de Santiago: Sarria to Santiago

 
With over 130,000 pilgrims starting their Camino from Sarria in 2023, there is no doubt that this will continue to be a very popular launch point for the Camino de Santiago! 
 
This final stage of the famous Camino pilgrimage route offers the chance for time-starved travellers to walk the final 115kms into Santiago and gain a wonderful appreciation of the historic significance of the route. The gates of Galicia lead on to the fabled Santiago de Compostela with its famous cathedral, the site of the tomb of St James.
 
 

5. Ionian Islands Bike & Sail

Loving the Ionian Islands Bike & Sail |  <i>L. Balding</i>
 
In the Ionian sea off the west coast of Greece and beyond the southern tip of the Peloponnese lie the idyllic Ionian Islands, the perfect setting for a cruising and cycling adventure. Travelling from Corfu, this journey leads you to some of the less visited regions in Greece. 
 
Discover the famous island of Ithaca, said to have been the home of Odysseus, the unforgettable green bird sanctuary island of Lefkas, mountainous Kefalonia, and the beautiful olive woods of the small island of Paxos. Cruising from island to island, we'll spend plenty of time ashore exploring fishing villages and historic sites by bike or just relaxing and enjoying the authentic Greek hospitality.
 
 
 

4. Rota Vicentina: the Fishermen's Trail

Today we will follow the coast on the Rota Vicentina |  <i>John Millen</i>
 
The Rota Vicentina is a long-distance footpath which opened in 2013 and represents a successful eco-tourism initiative to develop low impact tourism in a relatively untouched region of Portugal.

Explore the Alentejo region, a contrasting landscape of wild beauty, where tourists rarely visit despite endless beaches and authentic fishing villages. Following this dramatic coast where wildflowers and butterflies keep company with just a handful of hikers, there is ample opportunity to take a swim or a rest break overlooking the endless ocean. In the evening, enjoy carefully handpicked accommodation where your hosts take pride in the cuisine and culture of the region and where delicious seafood and delectable wine is standard.
 
 
 

3. Mont Blanc Guided Walk

 
The historic Tour du Mont Blanc is easily one of the most spectacular walks of the world. Brimming with incredible vistas from high mountain passes, lush valleys and highway sized glaciers, alpine scenery does not get much better than this. Joining an international group led by a bilingual mountain guide, the emphasis is on full immersion into the sublime mountain culture, with overnights in cosy mountain refuges or charming village gîtes.
 
 
 

2. The Islands of the Mediterranean (Walk or Cycle)

Walking on an empty beach in Corsica |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 
With season 2 of the White Lotus TV show propelling Sicily to the top of everyone's must-visit lists, the islands of the Mediterranean have never been more keenly desired by travellers. But it's not just Sicily you can explore; discover Corsica, Sardinia, Madeira, the Canary Islands, plus the many islands of Greece, Croatia and Turkey.
 
 
 

1. Discover Austria's Spectacular Salzkammergut Region

Hiking and biking in Austria |  <i>Markus Berger</i>
 
Do your senses a favour and go on a walking or cycling tour in Austria's beautiful Salzkammergut region. 
 
Salzkammergut is a playground for fans of the great outdoors. Located in the northern region of Austria, Salzkammergut is full of hiking trails and cycling paths that highlight the stunning lakes, mountains, and postcard-perfect villages of the area. Salzkammergut is known as the Austrian Lakes District. The town of Bad Ischl, the gateway to the Salzkammergut, is one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2024.

The name of Salzkammergut translates to 'Salt Chamber Possessions' in English, which comes from the regions mining heritage. Ever since the Iron Age, miners have been toiling inside the mountains and extracting from the large deposits of salt. Before refrigeration, salt was an essential commodity for foods and therefore brought a lot of wealth to Austria.
 
Hallstatt Salzkammergut |  <i>Pigneter</i> Enjoy gorgeous views while cycling around Lake Hallstatt in Austria |  <i>Martin Steinthaler</i> Trekking round Dachstein massif |  <i>Florian Sonntag</i>

The Salzkammergut region is also steeped in history. Across many of the villages, the wells still exist and is where people still do their washing. Many of the inhabitants speak their own dialect. Other local time-honoured traditions are still celebrated today, such as Austrian folk music, and wearing a Dirndl (dress with apron) and the Lederhose (leather trousers).
 

Salzkammergut Cycling Tours

 
 
 

Salzkammergut Walking Tours

 
 
 

 
Where is your #1 most-sought trail to explore in 2024? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
 
 
   
Self-Guided Camino Tours 2024

Self Guided Camino Tours 2024

Start planning your Camino de Santiago pilgrimage for 2024

 
If you're yet to experience the joy of the Camino de Santiago, it's time to make 2024 the year you finally walk the Camino de Santiago. All self-guided Camino tours are available to book so you can start planning your 2024 Camino de Santiago pilgrimage now.
 

Self Guided Camino Destinations for 2024

Autumn leaves along the Camino trail as we hike towards Roncesvalles |  <i>Scott Kirchner</i> Hiker relaxing before we get back on the Camino Trail |  <i>Scott Kirchner</i> Walking through Spain along the iconic Camino Trail |  <i>Scott Kirchner</i>

Camino de Santiago (Spain)

The classic pilgrimage trail, one of Europe's most famous walking paths. The Camino de Santiago includes various routes, such as the Camino Frances, Camino Primitivo, Camino Ingles (English Way), the Camino del Norte, and the new Camino de Invierno (Winter Way).
 
 
Arriving in Santiago de Compostela on the final day |  <i>Sue Finn</i>
 

Camino Portuguese (Portugal)

This stunning Camino route takes you through Portugal before coming into Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Choose between the Portuguese Coastal Way or the in-land Portuguese Way.
 
 
Walking the vibrant Camino Trail |  <i>Rob Mills</i>
 

French Way of St James (France)

Arguably the most beautiful of all the Camino routes, the French Way of St James blends the superb cuisine and landscape of France with the joy of walking the Camino.
 
 
Exploring the streets of Conques |  <i>Rob Mills</i>
 

Cycling the Camino de Santiago

UTracks offers a multitude of cycling options along the Camino de Santiago, the French Way of St James as well as the Portuguese Road, or Camino Portuguese. 
 
 
Self guided cyclist making her way on the Portuguese Camino tour from Porto to Santiago de Compostela |  <i>Pat Rochon</i>
 

Via Francigena (Italy)

One of the world’s most rewarding walking trails, the historic Via Francigena is an ancient road and pilgrim’s route stretching more than a thousand kilometres through France, Switzerland and Italy, finishing up in the Eternal City of Rome.
 
 
Pilgrims making their way towards Rome on the Via Francigena
 

St Francis Way (Italy)

The St Francis Way is an Italian Camino route inspired by the life of St Francis of Assisi. It links Florence to Rome and is perfect for those looking to absorb Tuscany and Umbria, otherwise known as the Green Heart of Italy.
 
 
Pilgrim walking into St Peters in Rome at the end of the Via Francigena |  <i>Tim Charody</i>
 
 

 

More Camino Information

 
Which Camino trail is on the top of your must-do list for 2024? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
 
 
Top 23 Active Tours of 2023

Top 23 Active Tours of 2023

2023 has been a huge year for active travel. From exploring Europe's hidden trails, to journeying along islands in the Mediterranean, to finally completing famous routes (Tour du Mont Blanc, Camino de Santiago and the Coast to Coast!), UTracks Travellers have been busy making unforgettable memories across Europe.
 
Discover what were the 23 most popular walking and cycling holidays in Europe for 2023 below. Hopefully you'll find some travel inspiration for 2024, otherwise you can browse over 450 active holidays in UTracks' comprehensive range.
 
 

23. West Highland Way

Cottage at Blackrock Cottage, Scotland
 
The best way to discover Scotland is along this  self-guided, 150km / 92-mile national long-distance trail through the southwestern part of the Scottish Highlands. Choose from an 8 or 10 day itinerary.
 
 
 

22. Treasures of the Baltic by Bike

Cycling on the Curonian Spit |  <i>Gesine Cheung</i>
 
Explore the three Baltic nations: Estonia, Lithuania & Latvia, from the capital cities of Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, to the many small villages that have changed little over time, this guided cycling experience along low traffic roads and dedicated cycle paths will showcase the diverse cultures, World Heritage sites and mainly flat landscapes that make travelling in this region so different to anywhere else in Europe.
 
 
 

21. Blue Danube Cycle to Vienna in Comfort

Cycling from Vienna to Graz
 
Follow the winding route of the Danube and discover the lively history of one of Europe's most important rivers. Cycle past Austrian castles, Benedictine monasteries and ancestral vineyards en route to Vienna, while staying in deluxe accommodation.
 
 
 

20. Scotland by Bike & Boat

Cycle by the water's edge in Scotland
 
Scotland's Inner Hebrides are known for their spectacular landscapes still largely untouched by mass tourism. Travelling by bike and boat, explore the island of Mull and the Morvern Peninsula, before making your way to the Isle of Jura, which is known for its rich stock of red deer and its world-famous whiskey distillery. Nights aboard your floating hotel, a two-masted sailing boat with a comfortable dining and lounge area and cabins with ensuite, are a time for relaxation amongst a group of like-minded cyclists.
 
 
 

19. Moselle Bike Path

Relaxing on the Moselle Bike Path |  <i>Ferienland Cochem Tourism</i>
 
Discover the historically rich wine growing region of Moselle on this fascinating ride following the Moselle Bike Path from Trier to Koblenz. This ride is mainly on paved roads and dedicated bike trails, which makes it much easier to enjoy the many cultural highlights and regional delights to be found along the Moselle River. This is a perfect introductory tour to self-guided cycling in Europe.
 
 
 

18. Full Spanish Camino

Rocky trail underfoot as we hike towards Roncesvalles on the Camino |  <i>Scott Kirchner</i>
 
This trip offers a chance to walk the entire length of the Spanish Camino, from St Jean Pied de Port in France, across the Pyrenees and onwards to Santiago. The entire trip can be done over a month, or you can break it down further as this itinerary comprises of our separate self guided walks along the Camino in the Pyrenees, to Logroño, Burgos, Leon and Santiago de Compostela.
 
 
 

17. Via Francigena: Best of Tuscany

San Gimignano and the surrounding Tuscan landscape |  <i>Tim Charody</i>
 
On this section of the iconic pilgrimage trail to Rome, combine well-known towns including Siena and San Gimignano, with charming hamlets such as San Miniato, to discover the very best of the Tuscan Via Francigena in a single week. 
 
 
 

16. Coast to Coast Classic Walk

Hikers descending into Grasmere |  <i>John Millen</i>
 
Rollup, rollup for Alfred Wainwright’s masterpiece! This is the quintessential English hill walking and long-distance trail experience that Wainwright, deviser of the route, described as "one of the world's great walks". Follow the classic itinerary as he intended it: 190+ miles traversing 3 national parks and a lot of interesting landscapes, old towns and of course public houses in between.
 
 
 

15. Alsace by Bike

Cycling in Alsace
 
One of the most picturesque regions of France, Alsace is also one of the most cycle-friendly. Designated bike paths and quiet country backroads provide a perfect passage along the Rhine, passing Hansel and Gretel style houses overlooked by imposing medieval castles.
 
 
 
 

14. Transylvania Castles & Mountains Walk

walking past simple farmhouses in Transylvania |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 
Explore some of Romania's most stunning mountain landscapes and soak up the unique culture of Transylvania on this inspiring self guided walk. Whilst the legends of Transylvania are an enticing reason to visit this region, the walking opportunities and the friendly atmosphere created by your hosts in the rural pensions guarantee this will be a unique and diverse adventure.
 
 
 

13. Provence Back Roads Cycle

The pleasing smell of lavender is everywhere in Provence |  <i>Kylie Martin</i>
 
To really appreciate the countryside the ideal means of travel through the region is by bike. Fields of lavender and poppies, old olive groves and vine covered hills, orchards brimming with fruit and crumbling farmhouses are characteristic of the landscape. Explore historic relics from prehistoric to Roman times, and take your time to soak up the sights and sample the wine and produce of the Cotes du Rhone and greater Provence. 
 
 
 

12. Puglia Guided Walk

Walking in Puglia
 
This guided walking trip combines time discovering archeological and architectural treasures with hiking through valleys and along coastal paths surrounded by landscapes of red earth, olive groves and vineyards. See the unique dry stone cottages known as trulli in intriguing Alberobello and the cave houses known as Sassi in Matera. Explore the enchanting maze of narrow streets in the 'white city' Ostuni, the seaside village of Otranto facing the Adriatic and visit the elegant Baroque city of Lecce.
 
 
 

11. Camino Portuguese: Coastal Way

Highlights of the Camino Portuguese |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
 
The Portuguese Coastal Route is one of the quieter Camino paths and it offers a wealth of history. From the town of Viana do Castelo, not far from the city of Porto, the journey travels north through small hamlets, past eucalyptus and pine woods, over ancient bridges and along stunning coastal scenery. 
 
 
 

10. Cycle Puglia

Cyclist looking at the Grotto Diavolo at the heel of Italy |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 
Explore some of Romania's most stunning mountain landscapes and soak up the unique culture of Transylvania on this inspiring self guided walk. Whilst the legends of Transylvania are an enticing reason to visit this region, the walking opportunities and the friendly atmosphere created by your hosts in the rural pensions guarantee this will be a unique and diverse adventure.
 
 
 

9. Lake Constance Circuit by Bike

Cycling trip along Lake Constance in Germany |  <i>Dagmar Schwelle</i>
 
Lake Constance is bordered by three countries - Germany, Switzerland and Austria - and sits at the northern foot of the Alps. On this circular cycle around the lake, visit the medieval towns of Constance, Stein, Meersburg and Lindau all while enjoying the amazing landscape of the lake against the backdrop of the Alps. 
 
 
 

8. Provence by Bike & Boat

The L'Estello barge docked in Provence, France
 
Cycle through a revolving landscape from the wilderness of the Camargue where wild horses roam, to scenes of picturesque Provençal villages and vineyards that inspired Van Gogh and the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean. Relax on board the barge after each day's cycle and enjoy the views on the bank of the Rhone as you soak up the hospitality of the crew.
 
 
 

7. Croatia Bike & Sail

 
Southern Dalmatia encompasses a stunning chain of islands stretching from Solta to Mljet, and this unique cycling trip captures the highlights with an ideal balance of activity, culture and relaxation. Experience the beautiful island of Korcula with its picturesque old town and the lavender island of Hvar with its Venetian architecture. Aboard the comfortably appointed motor yacht, there is ample time between cycles to swim in the azure waters and soak up the ambience of seaside towns.
 
 
 

6. Camino de Santiago: Sarria to Santiago

 
This final stage of the famous Camino pilgrimage route offers the chance for time-starved travellers to walk the final 115kms into Santiago and gain a wonderful appreciation of the historic significance of the route. The gates of Galicia lead on to the fabled Santiago de Compostela with its famous cathedral, the site of the tomb of St James.
 
 
 

5. Food Lovers Spanish Camino

Group photo on the Food Lover's Spanish Camino |  <i>Cindy McKee</i>
 
This unique approach to a classic pilgrimage route combines a passion for good food and produce, with the incredible history of the trail crossing northern Spain. With fully supported day walks on the best sections of the pilgrimage trail paths, including the original route from Oviedo, the essence of the pilgrimage is retained. 
 
The walking is combined with cooking demonstrations and numerous samplings of the local cuisine from the heart of Spanish modern cuisine in the Basque region to the small rural villages on the Camino, as the pilgrimage is commonly called. In the company of a local gastronomic expert, there will be many insights into the local culinary scene, two Michelin Star restaurant dining experiences.
 
 
 

4. Walking in the Dordogne

Following the route notes while walking in the Dordogne |  <i>Ann Beniusis</i>
 
A region full of elegant stone houses and medieval castles, the Dordogne boasts stunning scenery with a combination of villages, forests and farmland. With marvellous food and colourful markets (particularly Sarlat) you will discover the specialities of the region including mushrooms, walnuts, chestnuts, truffles and strawberries.
 
 
 

3. Mont Blanc Guided Walk

Reflections on the Tour du Mont Blanc |  <i>Kyle Kreis</i>
 
The historic Tour du Mont Blanc is easily one of the most spectacular walks of the world. Brimming with incredible vistas from high mountain passes, lush valleys and highway sized glaciers, alpine scenery does not get much better than this. Joining an international group led by a bilingual mountain guide, the emphasis is on full immersion into the sublime mountain culture, with overnights in cosy mountain refuges or charming village gîtes.
 
 
 

2. Coast to Coast Rambler Walk

 
The Rambler version of the Coast to Coast has an 18-day, self guided itinerary. It is a relaxed-pace option with 16 days of walking. It is ideal for those with more time or who want to break up the longer days of the original 2-week tour. Watch this video to get a sense of what it's like on this marvellous trip.
 
 
 

1. Best of the Camino

Arriving in Santiago de Compostela |  <i>Peggy Leal</i>
 
The Camino de Santiago, or Compostela Trail, has for centuries represented an important pilgrimage route from France, across the Pyrenees and the north of Spain to the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela. 
 
Following the most interesting sections from Roncesvalles in Spain through famous pilgrimage cities such as Leon and Pamplona, the landscapes change daily from mountain trails to forests and open plains. 
 
The Best of the Camino was exactly that - The Best!! Our guide, Hector, was excellent - he clearly loved walking the Camino and had a great way of involving us in the history of, and cities along, The Way. Between Hector and our bus driver, Sergio, we were well looked. I could not recommend this trip more highly - I have travelled a fair amount over the years and this was a highlight - 10 out of 10. A bucket list trip that met and exceeded expectations. Thank you Hector and Sergio. 
 
With the camaraderie of a small group and local guide, the trip is fully supported throughout. At night stay in atmospheric towns in a selection of hand picked hotels where the local flavours are introduced by your hosts. This carefully crafted itinerary is a firm favourite with our travellers who are always impressed with the quality of extra touches which make this trip so special.
 
 
 

 
How many of the Top 23 trips of 2023 have you been on? What was your pick of #1 of 2023? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
 
 
   
Alpine Hiking & Mont Blanc Tours in Europe 2024

Alpine Hiking & Mont Blanc Tours in Europe 2024

 
Discover Europe's magnificent mountain range, the Alps, on an extraordinary hiking tour in 2024. Whether standing on a valley floor, or crossing a panoramic pass, the magnitude and beauty of this unspoilt region will definitely leave an impression on you.

There is a high demand for alpine hiking tours in 2024 and this means that if you would like to reserve private accommodation we need to hear from you as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. We have released our 2024 trip dates for guided and self-guided alpine hiking holidays in Europe. Find the right walking tour for you below or browse our full range.
 

Tour du Mont Blanc hiking tours 2024

2024 is all about the classic trips that have been lingering on our travel bucket lists. And you can't get more iconic than the Tour du Mont Blanc. There are two obvious trips to accomplish this hike: the Mont Blanc Guided Walk and the self guided Mont Blanc Classic. However, because our ideology at UTracks is all about exploring Europe your way, we also have a comprehensive range of Mont Blanc trips that vary on length, grade, and itinerary, so click here to browse all eleven of our Mont Blanc hikes. 
 
 
 

Alpine hiking tours in Italy 2024

Admire the dramatic spires of the Dolomites in northern Italy on our guided Dolomites Walk, or enjoy the independence of a self-guided Dolomites Walk. For something different, experience the guided Gran Paradiso Adventure Walk, with views to Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn ranges from the high passes and lookouts encountered. Rugged valleys carpeted in wildflowers, rocky snow covered passes and glacial lakes are typical of these alpine paradises.
 
Besides these tours, there are trips that explore the Apuane Alps, Monte Rosa, the Via Ferrata, and more. Take a look at all alpine hiking tours in Italy here
 
 
Trekking in the Dolomites |  <i>Jaclyn Lofts</i>
 

Alpine hiking tours in Switzerland 2024

Switzerland is a fantastic place to experience fresh mountain air. The Swiss have a fascinating alpine culture to discover. One highly rated tour is the Panorama of the Swiss Alps, a centre-based trip in Meiringen. Meiringen is the perfect centre for walking holidays for all grades (plus you only have to unpack your bag once!). There are over 300km of well-marked footpaths, which range from gentle strolls to high ridges and even glacier exploring. In spring you can follow the melting snows into meadows of glorious Alpine flowers. In summer the high ridges and rugged glacial scenery become accessible. In autumn the landscape is painted with a riot of colour as the first frosts come. The potential for walking is limitless.
 
 
Walking back down to Meiringen
 

Alpine hiking tours in Austria 2024

The Dachstein massif, southeast of Salzburg, is a small mountain range with dozens of peaks of 2500m or more, typified by its series of glaciers and sharp descents to the valley floor, the limestone mountain contains some of the largest caves in Austria. Take in the awesome views of ice fields and alpine meadows, limestone peaks and dramatic lakes as you trek this exhilarating circuit.
 
 
Taking a break from the trail in the Dachstein Alps
 
Want more? See all 40+ of our alpine hiking tours below, including destinations such as France and Germany.
 
 

 
Will you be embarking on a hiking tour in Europe's Alps during 2024? Let us know where you plan on exploring in the comment section below.
  
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