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Explore Britain's Regional Cities on our NEW Range of Active Tours

Explore Britain's Regional Cities on our NEW Range of Active Tours

There's so much to do and see in the United Kingdom. When Samuel Johnson said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, he easily could have broadened his statement to the whole of Britain.
At UTracks, we don't need any more encouragement to explore Britain's walking trails and bike paths. You can already choose from over 60 active holidays, including 9 National Trail routes. 
However, we often get asked to extend trip itineraries to include days exploring nearby cities, such as Liverpool and Inverness.
Walkers follow Hadrian's Wall in Northern England |  <i>Mark Richards</i> Peacocks at Scone Palace |  <i>Kenny Lam</i> Meet the Beatles in Liverpool |  <i>Andy Edwards</i>
Including gateway cities in your trip provides an interesting contrast to the outdoor journey. From a practical point, it also makes it easier to get to the 'Day 1' start point of the tour as these regional hubs are very accessible from across Britain.
This demand has led to the creation of our NEW range of iconic trails coupled with gateway cities. You can now explore:
Plus, in each of these cities you can stay in premium accommodation, allowing you to explore the city streets feeling extra relaxed and recharged.
Keep reading to see what's special about these NEW active tours in the UK.
The open roads of Waskerley Way along the Coast to Coast cycle |  <i>Andrew Bain</i>

Explore Regional Cities

These destinations are great hubs of culture, food and history, and will contribute to the overall experience of the trail. During your day exploring a regional city you can follow our self-guided walking itinerary at your own pace and discover the many local attractions.


Embrace life as a Liverpudlian and visit Liverpool's city centre, including the iconic Waterfront (Albert Dock, Cunard Building, Liver Birds), Liverpool Museum, Tate Liverpool, St George’s Hall, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and the Western Approaches HQ (wartime tunnel complex). For soccer (football) fans, you could take a tour of Anfield (home of Liverpool Football Club) or take the ferry across the Mersey and see the U-Boat, a real German wartime submarine. 
In recent times Liverpool has been voted the best place to live and work in the UK and will host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest.
Waterfront with wooden ship in Liverpool |  <i>Rod Edwards</i> Explore the hometown of the Beatles in Liverpool Find Liverpool's cosmopolitan side


There are many interesting pockets to Newcastle, in the north-east of England. It is renowned for being Britain's industrial hub but it also has a more cosmopolitan side, with attractions including Newcastle Castle, Millennium Bridge and the Angel of the North statue. For soccer fans, a visit to St James Park, home of Newcastle United, is a must. 
Two more inescapable experiences of Newcastle is the popular brown ale and the distinct 'Geordie' accent.
Explore Newcastle by kayak |  <i>Michael Baister</i>


More a cosy town than a small city, the lovely Inverness is at the end of the Great Glen Way in Scotland. Take this opportunity to fully explore the Botanic Gardens, walk the riverside path and admire the castle on the cliff and cathedral. As an optional extra, you could take the Jacobean Cruise along the Caledonian Canal and a trip up to Culloden, which is the site of the final decisive battle in the Jacobite Rebellion or Uprising in 1745.   
Inverness Castle was built in the 11th Century |  <i>Kenny Lam</i> Traditional folk band playing music at a Scottish pub |  <i>Andrew Pickett</i> Shops and businesses in the centre of the City of Inverness |  <i>Kenny Lam</i>


In a former life, Perth was the capital of Scotland and a charming playground for kings and queens. This legacy can be seen today, with lavish architecture, well-tended gardens and a fascinating history. 
Start your day exploring the River Tay Public Art trail, which is themed around some of the most notable achievements of the city and its people. Then see Fair Maid’s House, one of the oldest buildings in Perth and now the international headquarters for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. 
Visit the Perth Art Gallery, which is one of the more photographed buildings due to its domed roof and striking external columns. It's also recommended to visit Scone Palace (taxi required), which was the crowning place of Scottish kings and was where Macbeth, Robert the Bruce and Charles II were once crowned. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens and peaceful woodlands. Inside you can see the State Rooms where Queen Victoria was entertained and you can admire the needlework skills of Mary Queen of Scots.
Perth’s Norrie Miller Park plays home to wildlife, gardens, walks and art |  <i>Kenny Lam</i> River Tay Public Art Trail in Perth |  <i>Kenny Lam</i> Scone Palace is an historic house near the city of Perth, Scotland |  <i>Kenny Lam</i>

Premium Accommodation

Indulge in deluxe accommodation on these special active tours. In the regional cities, you'll stay in premium hotels or boutique heritage villas that add an extra dimension to your overall experience. 
Once you hit the trails and back roads of rural Britain, the accommodation will naturally reflect the surroundings. When possible, your itinerary will place you in premium lodging compared to the standard tour.
Premium hotel in Liverpool Elegant guest house in Perth, Scotland Premium hotel in Newcastle, England

Iconic Trails

These new active tours follow some of the most popular walking routes in Britain. 

Coast to Coast

Devised by renowned walker and writer Alfred Wainwright in 1973, the Coast to Coast Walk is the most famous long-distance trail in the UK. At 315km or 195 miles, the Coast to Coast Walk uses a network of public footpaths tracks, permissive paths and access land to cross England’s huge variety of landscapes, terrain, villages and three unique national parks – the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
Walkers leaving Shap Abbey |  <i>John Millen</i>

Great Glen Way

Follow undulating forest tracks along the shores of Loch Ness and walk through a mixture of farmland, exposed high moorlands and woodland as you make your way to the capital of the Highlands, Inverness. Take the time to explore Urquhart Castle and you may even spot '"Nessie" in Loch Ness, keep an eye out!
> View the NEW Inverness and Great Glen Way Walk
Hiking along the Great Glen Way

Hadrian's Wall Path

Hadrian’s Wall stretches from the aptly named Wallsend in Newcastle Upon Tyne to the quaint village of Bowness-on-Solway in the west. The 84 mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path takes hikers across the rugged countryside of Northern England, following the world’s largest Roman artefact. 
Hiking Hadrian’s Wall is one of the best ways to explore this British cultural icon. Immerse yourself while walking in the history and cultural significance of this ancient relic and its forts, listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
> View the NEW Newcastle and Hadrian's Wall Path Walk
A crossing over Hadrian's Wall |  <i>John Millen</i>

Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park

> View the NEW Perth and Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Cycle

Explore 9 of Britain's National Trails

Explore 9 of Britain's National Trails

The United Kingdom is home to 16 National Trails, which are long-distance walking trails that showcase the finest landscapes in Britain. They are way-marked by an acorn, which is the symbol of the National Trails.
From chalky hiking paths along the seaside to surprisingly rugged hills in the heart of England, you'll find a wide range of active trips that will reward you with an unforgettable British experience. 
Here are 9 of Britain's premier trails to explore on a self-guided or small group tour. Which one will you complete first?

1. Hadrian's Wall Path

The wall near Sheild on the Wall
The 84 mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path takes hikers across the rugged countryside of Northern England, following the world’s largest Roman artefact, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Experience small towns and villages, as well as bigger cities, as you walk through the scenic variety of Northern England. Spend your nights in country B&Bs and sample traditional British food and drink as you walk in the footsteps of the Romans. 

2. South West Coastal Path

Walking the Salt Path, or South West Coast Path, in England |  <i>Roy Curtis</i>
England’s longest and, many would say, finest, walking trail is the 1000km (630 miles) long South West Coast Path from Poole to Minehead, of which almost half is in Cornwall.

The scenery along the South West Coast Path is spectacular. There are expansive views that 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 trips along our favourite sections in Cornwall.

3. Offa's Dyke Path

Hiking Offa's Dyke |  <i>Claire Cox</i>
Crossing the border between England and Wales more than 10 times, the Offa’s Dyke National Trail path follows some of the finest scenery in both countries for 177 miles (285 km). Our walk follows the southern half of this trail from Chepstow to Knighton, (about half this walking distance in total). 
It is a journey packed with interest through patchworks of fields, over windswept ridges, across infant rivers, by ruined castles and into the old border market towns. Traditional farming methods have more or less remained intact and the hedgerows, oak woods and hay meadows form good wildlife habitats, home to buzzards and the rare Red Kite. You might even discover the even rarer Welsh Red Dragon!

4. Coast to Coast

Devised by renowned walker and writer Alfred Wainwright in 1973, the Coast to Coast Walk is the most famous long-distance trail in the UK. At 315km (195 miles), the Coast to Coast Walk uses a network of public footpaths tracks, permissive paths and access land to cross England’s huge variety of landscapes, terrain, villages and three unique national parks – the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

Starting in the tiny Cumbrian seaside village of St Bees, the trail climbs steeply into the Lake District National Park, home to spectacular lake and mountain scenery, before crossing classic rolling farmland, the Pennine Hills and the mystical cairns atop Nine Standards Rigg. Follow the beautiful River Swale to the historic market town of Richmond before leaving the Yorkshire Dales to cross the low-lying Vale of Mowbray and linking up with the North York Moors National Park. From here the trail undulates spectacularly before depositing you at Robin Hood's Bay.

As you make your way across the Coast to Coast trail on foot or by bike, enjoy staying in specially handpicked hotels, guesthouses and pubs, where you’ll come to appreciate just how much a full English breakfast will set you up for a long day of walking or cycling.

Because of the popularity of this trail, people often fall into the trap of thinking that it is easy. However, our trips on the Coast to Coast trail are amongst our most challenging but rewarding tours in Europe.

5. Cotswold Way

Cycling into Guiting Power |  <i>John Millen</i>

The Cotswolds is the epitome of the English countryside. It is no wonder that this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as rolling hills meet with quaint villages that are all preserved in a glorious state.

There is no better way to explore this stunning region of patchwork fields surrounded by dry-stone walls and acres of unspoilt woodland, than taking by part in some walks or biking in the Cotswolds. Meander through the countryside visiting postcard-perfect medieval villages that are all built in the honey-toned limestone that characterises this part of the British countryside. Churches and stately homes adorn this part of England, and there is nothing more rewarding than a walk in the Cotswolds.

6. Thames Path

Tower Bridge |  <i>John Millen</i>

Due to the Thames Path's proximity to London, some of the urban sections of the path are the busiest walks in Britain, yet in the rural sections, you may only see a few walkers, dog handlers and cyclists. There is a huge range of mixed scenery from quiet shady sections of river banks, meadows and parks, to highly built-up areas of towns and city. 
There is an amazing amount of history; the palaces such as Hampton Court and Syon Park; castles such as Windsor and the Tower of London; multiple bridges, each with their own history; wildlife reserves and as the backdrop to it all the life on the river, barges, yachts, powerboats, kayaks and paddle boards. The walking is generally easy and few of the days are too long that you could not pause at an attraction for an hour or two. The walk will help you to understand not only the Thames but also why it is the key to the history of London. 

7. Pennine Way

Hiking to the summit of Nine Standards Rigg |  <i>John Millen</i>

The Pennine Way, a mountain journey across the backbone of England, became the very first British National Trail on April 24th, 1965. It is a long, 268 mile (429 km) hike from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It crosses some of the finest upland landscapes in England, from the Peak District, through the Yorkshire Dales, across the North Pennines and over Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, through the Cheviots and down into Scotland.

Much of the walk is within the realms of 3 National Parks: Derbyshire, Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland. When it is not in these areas it is often darting across other very scenic areas, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Pennine Way is nearly always to be found on serious walkers' bucket lists. It is reckoned that only about 2,000 people a year do the Pennine Way walk. This may compare with 25,000 or more on the Coast to Coast! The walk can be split into two halves, or even smaller sections if required. We offer the Southern and Northern sections as well as the full route.

8. South Downs Way

Looking towards the Seven Sisters, South Downs Way
Stretching over a rare large area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in crowded Southern Britain, the South Downs Way walk generally follows the chalk (soft limestone) ridge just to the north of the popular seaside towns on the Sussex and Hampshire coast. Most of the route is ancient, made up of the old droving roads that took animals and goods between the market towns of the region. On the way ‘Dew Ponds’, ring forts, cross dykes and tumuli reflect a history stretching back into the mists of time.

The 100 mile (160km) South Downs Way is generally a leisurely paced walk enabling those who want, to spend a bit of extra time looking at some old churches, or dawdling by Cuckmere Haven, picnicking or pubbing up on some high down, or looking around lowland villages.

9. Cleveland Way

Hikers on the Cleveland Way |  <i>John Millen</i>
Hike the 110 mile (177km) Cleveland Way trail along the hilly coastline of the Yorkshire seaside. There is much to enjoy for those interested in history and for aficionados who wish to enjoy arguably the best fish ‘n’ chips in England at Whitby Bay! This is the second of the ‘National Trails’, dating from 1969 and is rooted in the North York Moors National Park and Yorkshire Heritage Coast. 
Along its length there are contrasts in walking between fields of quilted farmlands, forest patches, dramatic sandstone rock scarps, bleak moorlands and the highly eroded coastline, punctuated by beautiful little fishing villages, clinging to the cliffs. Apart from busy coastal towns such as Scarborough, it remains a tranquil area, bolstered and protected by the presence of the National Park of which about 80% of the walk occupies. 


Which National Trail of Britain do you want to explore? Let us know in the comments!
Watch: The Cotswold Way

Watch: The Cotswold Way

Explore the iconic English countryside: The Cotswold Way. This is an active holiday like no other that takes you through one of the most picturesque parts of England. The Cotswolds are made up of many towns and villages that are nestled along the countryside of central southwest England. The Cotswolds has a rich history that dates back to the Stone Age and its rural scenery, which has been designated an Area of Natural Beauty, makes it a must-see.   
Discover more about the stunning Cotswolds by watching this short video, which takes you along the beautiful English countryside, where they wander across lushes green hills, down cobblestone streets, lavender-filled fields and walk through gorgeous old villages.

About The Cotswold Way

The Cotswold Way is one of England's National Trails. It is a wonderful path that stretches 164km (102 miles) through the Cotswold region, some of which has been designated an Area of Natural Beauty. 
It is spread across five counties: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. This stretch of England dates back over 6000 years and has many historical sites and history from the Stone Age, Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Tudor, English Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. While exploring the Cotswold Way, you'll discover some iconic towns including Bourton on the water, Castle Comb and Bath. Each town is unique and has its own story.
The Cotswolds also has many traditional English pubs along the way where you can sample local foods and ales. It's also essential to try a cream tea (basically a cup of tea paired with a jam and cream scone). You'll also discover how beautiful the scenery is as you take in many beautiful fields, hills, streets, pathways, old buildings, churches and local farm life as you wander along the iconic Cotswolds. 
Hikers in Chipping Campden, Cotswolds |  <i>Tom McShane</i>

How to Explore the Cotswolds

UTracks offer both walking and cycling trips to the Cotswolds, ranging from 5 to 12 days.

Exploring the Cotswolds on a Walking Holiday

UTracks offers three different self-guided walking holidays in the Cotswolds depending on how long you fancy on visiting for. Staying in hotels, guest houses and B&Bs along the way, you will get the chance to put your feet up in some charming accommodations after a great day of walking the English countryside. A great benefit of our self-guided trips is the opportunity to walk at your own pace and discover this wonderful part of England. 
Our 12-day trip, the Cotswold Way, is a fan favourite because it completes the full length of the National Trail. It also allows you to spend the longest time in the Cotswolds so you'll naturally discover more. This tour starts in the village of Chipping Campden and finishes in beautiful Bath. 
Walking in the Cotswolds is a pleasant experience as the terrain is more hilly than mountainous and the climate is mild enough for England. You can expect to walk up to 22km per day on this moderate-graded trip.
On the trail around Selsley Common, Cotswolds Way |  <i>Tom McShane</i>

Explore the Cotswolds by Bike

Cycle through the heart of England on a 8-day self-guided holiday. With an introductory to moderate-rated cycle, this trip is perfect for anyone. You will pass many beautiful old churches, old English inns, cycle alongside rivers and fields. Start every morning with a traditional English breakfast (think sausages, bacon, eggs, baked beans) before you leave your accommodation which will either be a guesthouse or hotel nestled in a pretty little town.
Cycling into Guiting Power |  <i>John Millen</i>

Are you interested in exploring The Cotswolds? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.
Europe Cycling Tours for Senior Travellers

Europe Cycling Tours for Senior Travellers

UTracks' self-guided cycling tours offer senior travellers a wide variety of different countries, regions and cities to explore. From the beautiful inland provinces of France to the coast of Croatia, there are options that will suit everyone. Trips start from 5 days, but the memories last a lifetime.
In this article, we've highlighted 5 of the best cycling holidays in Europe for senior travellers. These have been chosen because they focus on gentle gradients through low-traffic destinations. Of course, our intention is not to box anyone in; you can view the full range of cycling tours in Europe here.
Following bike routes in Denmark |  <i>Michael Fiukowski & Sarah Moritz</i> Have fun while cycling Burgundy's bike paths Navigating on the Danube Cycle Path |  <i>Lilly Donkers</i>

Benefits of a Cycling Holiday with UTracks 

At UTracks, our bike tours are designed to offer all travellers unforgettable experiences, no matter what age or ability. 
Having said that, there are some advantages that will appeal to senior travellers wanting to cycle Europe. We provide: 
  • daily luggage transfers so you only ride with what you need for the day (water, light jacket, fruit); 
  • options to upgrade to an e-bike to make it easier to keep up with friends and family;
  • provide comfortable 2-3 star accommodation full of local character; 
  • give you peace of mind with 24-hour support and backup; 
  • self-guided tours give you the option to explore Europe your way. So you can cycle at your own pace and enjoy that delicious Italian coffee, French pastries or ice cold German beer whenever you want;
  • daily departures allow you to get started whenever you want, plus we offer flexible itineraries so you can add in that extra day to relax on the beach, explore ancient ruins or just need that extra day to reset;
  • if you're on a guided tour, the local guide will reveal cultural quirks not found in a guidebook. 

Top 5 Cycling Tours For Senior Travellers


1. Provence Backroads – France

Cycling in Provence, France |  <i>Ewen Bell</i>
Graded as an introductory cycle tour, this holiday explores Provence's most achievable bike paths while also highlighting some of the region's best hidden gems. Take in breathtaking scenery while also having plenty of opportunities to taste delicious French food and wines. 

2. Catalonia by Bike – Spain 

Bikes by the beach on Catalonia
Discover the remarkable landscape of Catalonia, which is ideally suited to cycle touring, where regular stops at medieval villages, ancient ruins and Mediterranean beaches are an essential part of the day. The pace is relaxed following flat to gently rolling terrain, from the green Catalonian countryside past fields of sunflowers and wheat, forests of pines and even rice fields into an ancient land inhabited by Iberians in pre-Roman times and once besieged by pirates.
This is an 8-day trip and features breakfasts in rural hotels, among other inclusions.

3. Cotswold by Bike – England

Cycling into Guiting Power |  <i>John Millen</i>
We may be biased, but we think this is the best way to explore the beautiful Cotswolds of England. 
This tour offers self-guided cycling through the heart of England, giving you the chance to see many historical sights and beautiful old buildings in the countryside. This trip is a crowd favourite, as evidenced by many great five-star reviews by our past travellers.

4. Bruges to Amsterdam Bike and Barge – Belgium and the Netherlands

Park your bike alongside a Dutch canal in Amsterdam |  <i>Koen Smilde</i>
Perfect for senior cyclists, this bike and barge trip offers endless flat trails to follow. It also gives you the chance to explore some of the most historic cities in Europe's Low Countries. Highlights include tasting strong beer from Belgium, feasting on sweet Belgian waffles, and sampling the rich and tasty cheese from the Netherlands. There are many benefits and reasons why this trip is a must do!

5. Back Roads to Venice – Italy

Cycling on Venice to Mantova |  <i>Guilio</i>
This Italian cycling trip is recommended for those who have reasonable fitness levels and like a bit of a challenge! Start by exploring the beautiful inland roads of the Veneto region, cycling through vineyards and down old country roads full of fields with many different colours, flowers and farm life. While you won't want your trip to end, the final destination is a true beauty - the magical city of Venice! 

View Backroads to Venice

Have you been on a cycling holiday in Europe before? Where did you go? Share your travel memories in the comment section below.
Hotel Alternatives to Bike and Barge Holidays

Hotel-Based Alternatives to Bike and Barge Holidays

Bike and barge holidays are always in high demand and frequently sell out during peak season. 
However, if you missed your preferred bike and barge travel dates, there are still great options for you to enjoy an amazing cycling holiday in Europe. 
Instead, browse our hotel-based cycling tours as an alternative. The below hotel-based trips follow a close itinerary to their barge counterparts and offer similar unforgettable experiences.
Saint Benezet bridge over the Rhone River in Avignon, France |  <i>Rachel Imber</i>

Highlights of Provence by Bike

> Similar to the Provence Bike & Barge tour
Provence is blessed with fertile, lush valleys, the Mediterranean coast, ancient and medieval cultural centres, the scent of herbs and the Provençal lifestyle. Its unique light and intensive colours have attracted countless painters such as van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse and Chagall. 
Besides this wonderful and varied landscape, Provence offers rich history, art and architecture. Discover architectural masterworks such as the Papal Palace in Avignon (world heritage), the Arena in Arles and the Pont du Gard (world heritage), as well as the Greek-Roman excavation sites of Glanum and medieval Les Baux in the Alpilles. 
Cycling through the Camargue, the protected moor landscape in the Rhône delta, is another highlight - its famous pink flamingos and white horses are hallmarks of the landscape.
Cycling the Valli di Comacchio lagoons in northern Italy.

Backroads to Venice

> Similar to the Veneto Bike & Barge tour
This enchanting journey takes you through the historic Veneto region of north-east Italy. Taking in the splendid cities of Trento, Verona and Vicenza you'll have time to appreciate the architectural and cultural delights specific to each. 
Starting from the mountains around Bolzano, passing the beauty of Lake Garda and winding through pretty meadows and orchards you'll head east to the lovely town of Mestre, located on the doorstep of Venice.
Walkers along Scotland's Caledonian Canal |  <i>John Millen</i>

Hike the Great Glen Way

Opened in April 2002, this long distance walking trail travels right through the very heart of Scotland. From Fort William to Inverness you'll discover the highlights that make this area such a magnet for walkers. 
Pass by the foot of Ben Nevis (1344m), the highest mountain in the UK. Follow undulating forest tracks along the shores of Loch Ness and walk through a mixture of farmland, exposed high moorlands and woodland as you make your way to the capital of the Highlands, Inverness. 
Along the route you will also encounter the forts and castles scattered along the way that lay witness to Scotland's turbulent past, from the Iron Age to the Jacobite Rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charlie who was finally defeated at the Battle of Culloden.
Cycling along the canal in Zierikzee in the province of Zeeland

Amsterdam to Bruges Cycle Tour

When it comes to self-guided cycling holidays the cities and countryside of the Netherlands and Belgium are ideal for this flexible style of travel. 
Starting in the dynamic city of Amsterdam, where you should allow time to explore its many fine museums, you'll ride south to the Green Heart of the country, through some of the most picturesque, well preserved and evocative towns of the Netherlands and Flanders including the cheese capital of Gouda and the fortified town of Willemstad. 
The ride will also see you take in the famous Kinderdijk windmills, polders and nature reserves en-route to the Belgium city of Bruges, the pearl of the Flanders region.
Follow quiet trails through Champagne vineyards |  <i>Ubaldo Bitumi</i>

Champagne Trails Cycle Tour

> Similar to the Champagne & Paris by Bike & Barge tour
Known throughout the world for its celebratory drink, the Champagne region is just under two hours by train from Paris. Exploring the 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. The cycle route begins in the capital of Champagne, Epernay, where you can visit the underground cellars of Moët and Chandon, before discovering the quintessential scenery of the Marne valley. 
With time in Reims and the surrounding vineyards, there is ample reward for your cycling effort as you pedal between villages and wine cellars. Overnight stays in specially hand picked hotels where you can sample the excellent local cuisine.
Explore the old town of Ghent on an active holiday with UTracks

Paris to Amsterdam Cycle Tour

> Similar to the Paris to Bruges by Bike & Barge tour
Cycle your way from the 'City of Lights', Paris, to the canals of Amsterdam on this diverse self-guided cycling trip traversing three countries. 
Pedalling on a combination of dedicated cycle ways along canals and rivers, sleepy country lanes and urban cycle friendly roads, this is a relaxed ride where you can focus entirely on the changing scenery, flavours and languages as you make your way from France through Belgium and finally to The Netherlands. 
The trip is ideal for those who revel in city experiences, but also enjoy activity. Combine time at the museums and world famous buildings of Paris and Amsterdam with visits to Gouda, famous for its cheese, Antwerp, and the medieval architecture of Ghent. 
Your time in the saddle will be well rewarded in each country as you ride through changing landscapes and lifestyles, from beautiful French villages with their local food and wine, to Belgium's beer and chocolate and of course The Netherlands' iconic Kinderdijk windmills.

Hiking the Ladders on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Hiking the Ladders on the Tour du Mont Blanc

When discussing the Tour du Mont Blanc, a common topic we receive questions about is navigating the ladders on the trail. Travellers want to know how much of a challenge the ladders are, if it's possible to avoid ladders on the Tour du Mont Blanc by taking an alternative route, and ultimately whether they have the ability to manage the ladders.
In this article, we will answer these questions so you can be aware of what to expect and can hike the Tour du Mont Blanc with confidence.
The ladders of the Tour du Mont Blanc The ladders of the Tour du Mont Blanc The ladders of the Tour du Mont Blanc

"Are there ladders on the Tour du Mont Blanc trail?"

On the Tour du Mont Blanc, the route taken between Lac Blanc and Tre le Champ may include short parts on a series of 9 ladders. The purpose of the ladders is to ascend a sloping rock section. These ladders are considered safe but do require care.

The eventual views are well worth the effort! You should have your cameras at the ready as you are afforded a fabulous view out over the Mont Blanc chain: you will be able to take some impressive pictures of “La Verte”, the Drus and the Needles of Chamonix.
Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i>

"Will my guide choose to hike the route with ladders?"

The only UTracks Tour du Mont Blanc guided trip that encounters ladders is on the Mont Blanc Encompassed hike, which is a 10-day guided hiking tour. 
On this trip on day 9, the group will walk between Lac Blanc and Tre le Champ. The guide will use their discretion to determine which route will be taken, i.e. whether the ladders will be used or not. This decision will be based on the group's collective ability and the weather conditions. One of the benefits of having a professional guide while walking the Tour du Mont Blanc is that they can make expert decisions such as this.
On UTracks' self-guided Tour du Mont Blanc hiking tours, you will have the option of choosing which trail to walk.
Group posing at the Italian-French border in the Alps |  <i>Ryan Graham</i>

"Is there a way to avoid the ladders on the Tour du Mont Blanc?"

Yes, there is a longer route along the Col des Montets trail which does not involve ladders. 
Trekking mountain side trails as we explore the Alps |  <i>Erin Williams</i>

"How challenging is it to climb the ladders on the Tour du Mont Blanc trail?" 

The Tour du Mont Blanc is graded as a trip that is 'moderate to challenging' and people need to able to walk around 5-9 hours per day, between 8 and 15km and maximum ascents/descents of 1700 metres per day. In general, if you have the fitness to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc then navigating the ladders is achievable. It is mainly an issue if you suffer from vertigo or a fear of heights.
The ladders of the Tour du Mont Blanc The ladders of the Tour du Mont Blanc The ladders of the Tour du Mont Blanc

If you have any more questions about managing the ladders on the Tour du Mont Blanc please contact us for more information.

Have you experienced the ladders of the Tour du Mont Blanc? If so let us know about your experience in the comment section below.
Watch: Exploring the Lycian Way in Turkey

Watch: Exploring the Lycian Way in Turkey

Get off the beaten track and explore Turkey's first long-distance walking trail: the Lycian Way. It has everything you'd want in a fantastic walking holiday: fascinating culture, delicious food, welcoming locals, and splendid views of mountains and beaches at every turn of the trail.
Discover more about the Lycian Way by watching a short film of some friends hiking the trail and learning about the different guided and self-guided hiking trips, and cycling holidays, on offer.
Coastal walk in the Cirali region of Turkey

About the Lycian Way

Between Fethiye and Antalya along Southern Turkey's Tekke Peninsula, or Lycia as it is historically known, is one of the country's first waymarked trails, the 509km Lycian Way. This mountainous route encompasses spectacular coastal views, archaeological treasures dating back to the 8th century BCE and interesting villages with their unique Lycian flavour. 
While walking the Lycian Way, you'll discover sections of the route with well-preserved Greek and Roman cities, a Lycian necropolis lost in vegetation and the remains of the immersed city of Kekova. You'll also traverse rugged mountain trails, meet the gracious local people, sample culinary specialties and swim in the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Hiker enjoying the view of Cape Gelidonia lighthouse and the 'Five Islands' |  <i>Lilly Donkers</i>

Watch a hiking trip along the Lycian Way

In the below video you can watch Mustafa and some friends hike the Lycian Way.  They encounter amazing sea views and gorgeous pine-covered mountains, and have a wonderful time. Please note that they are walking the trail independently, so are carrying their packs and camping along the route, both of which do not happen on a UTracks trip.

How to explore the Lycian Way

There are three ways to walk the Lycian Way and two ways to cycle the Lycian Way with UTracks.

Lycian Way Walk with a Local Guide

"This was my first UTracks trip and I am 71 years old. Our guide, Tuna, was very good; he taught me how to trek and I did not fall again; Tuna is a trained, licensed, guide, knowledgeable re history, both ancient and modern, and geography. 
I enjoyed all the accommodations which were small and local, especially the pension in Adrasan near the Chimerae. Food was wonderful, all local, traditional and lots of it. Our fellow trekkers were very congenial. To sum up, I got to see Turkey, with local Turkish people, not tourists. And great value for my money. Thanks a lot."
Lycian Way Coastal Walk

Lycian Way Coastal Route Walk

Discover the beach trails of the Lycian Way on this sun-drenched path. This walk stretches between Yukari Beycik and Adrasan. The start/end point is the attractive city of Antalya with its shaded palm-lined boulevards and lively marina.
Walker makes her way between Tekirova and Cirali |  <i>Lilly Donkers</i>

Lycian Way West Walk

This route begins in Kayakoy and concludes in the village of Gelemis/Patara on the western side of the Tekke Peninsula.
Resting at ruins on the Lycian Way |  <i>Lilly Donkers</i>

Lycian Way Coastal Cycle: Fethiye to Adrasan

As you cycle, you can appreciate the legacies of the Lycians who 2000 years ago settled between Fethiye and Antalya. Time out in the coastal towns of Kas and Andrasan to relax at the beach and absorb this unique pocket of the coast ensures a perfect balance between activity, sightseeing and resting.
Cycling is an ideal way to explore the viewpoints and small coves along the Lycian Coast of Turkey

Rhodes & the Lycian Way Coastal Cycle

Extend your cycle in Turkey by adding the history and idyllic landscapes of the Greek Island of Rhodes, the largest island in the Dodecanese, where ancient ruins intermingle with atmospheric towns and the clear blue waters will entice you as you cycle the coastline. 
Pedalling along the empty stretches of Fethiye Beach in Turkey

Are you interested in exploring Turkey's Lycian Way? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.
Europe's Best Cycling Holidays for 2023

Europe's Best Cycling Holidays for 2023

Where in Europe will you explore by bike in 2023? 
There are so many fabulous cycling destinations to choose from, from leisurely riding along the Rhine River to the challenging gradients of England's Coast to Coast, the beer-focused bike trails of Bavaria and Belgium or completing a pilgrimage by bike along the Camino Portuguese.
Discover our predictions for the best cycling holidays in Europe in 2023 that are sure to get your wheels rolling. Share where is at the top of your list in the comment section below.

1. Ancient Venetian Empire by Bike | Italy, Slovenia & Croatia

Gondola on Grand Canal in Venice |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
Explore three countries by bike in one week, cycling between Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. The history of the Republic of Venice provides the background to the entire trip. From the canal city of Venice, pass beaches, simple fishing villages and grand palaces as you make your way along the coastline and to the plain of Friuli. 
Ancient Roman towns and numerous castles are dotted on the route to the lively harbour city of Trieste. With two border crossings to cycle through, the journey ends on the beautiful Croatian coastline in the town of Porec. Staying in specially chosen hotels in the historic centres or along the coastline, this cycle journey offers a perfect combination of historic towns and seaside landscapes.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Review of the Ancient Venetian Empire by Bike Tour

"My husband and I rode on a self-guided bicycle trip on a tandem bike. We have done a lot of touring by bicycle on our own but this trip was very special for us. 
The route was very beautiful and easy. The app for the route worked well. The accommodations were very nice, even with rain it felt safe on mostly cycle paths that had good surfaces. The food at all the breakfasts was scrumptious, varied and plenty to fuel your day's ride! 
We had very good and professional communications from the staff, especially Ed who helped us solve a small problem. I would recommend this to anyone. Thanks for the great ride!"

2. Highlights of the Rioja by Bike | Spain

Vineyard in Rioja, a region known for its gastronomic riches
Bordered by mountains with the Ebro River running through the middle, the Rioja region in northern Spain has a micro climate ideal for viticulture. For more than two centuries its wine industry has developed to become world renowned, principally for its classic bold reds. In tandem, the development of gourmet cuisine has resulted in award winning restaurants housed in countryside estates and medieval villages dotted throughout the region. 
This exceptional journey by bike is ideally suited to lovers of wine and Spanish cuisine, with opportunities to sample regional produce at cellar doors and at the evening meal. During the cycle day explore charming villages and small castles, view religious art in monasteries and churches and cycle the quiet country roads along the banks of the Ebro and on the Camino de Santiago. Evenings are spent in specially handpicked hotels brimming with character.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Review of the Highlights of the Rioja by Bike Tour

"This holiday was almost everything I expected - charming villages, lovely hotels, beautiful scenery, friendly helpful people. The helpful local organiser was understanding and rearranged the itinerary to make it an enjoyable week in the Rioja."

3. French Way of St James by Bike | France

Visit the village of Conques on the Way of St James
Cycle the full length of the Way of St James in France from the Haute Loire to the rugged mountains of the Pyrenees. The pilgrimage route to Santiago has been travelled for over 1000 years by foot, donkey and more recently by bike. Offering an incredible diversity of scenery and passing through some of the prettiest villages in France, this is an epic cycling route with a spiritual theme. 
This journey, along the Via Podensis, the French Way of St James, takes pilgrims from Le Puy en Velay to the Pyrenees at St Jean Pied de Port, passing a multitude of churches and monasteries, resembling a travelling museum of Romanesque art. With some steep climbs, followed by fast descents, this trip is ideally suited to fit cyclists keen to extend their experience to an iconic route. At night your hosts in the guesthouses and small hotels will ensure that you are well-fed and immersed in their particular region with its culinary specialties.

4. Beer Lover's Cycling | Belgium & Germany

Cyclists on the Bavarian Beer Trail |  <i>Andrew Bain</i>
For beer lovers around the world, Europe is a must-visit pilgrimage destination to pay respects to the golden ale. From Germany to the UK, the Netherlands to the Czech Republic, there are many distinct varieties of beers to sample and breweries to explore and a bike trip is a fantastic way to experience them.

Discover the best of Bavaria and Belgium's beer scene with two dedicated bike tours for beer lovers. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Review of the Bavarian Beer Trail Cycle Tour

"This self-guided cycle holiday in Bavaria was exactly what I hoped for. An experience in Europe which felt unique to myself, but had all the hallmarks of a well thought out and executed holiday. I left feeling as though it was me exploring the country and experiences. 
The pre-trip and trip notes made me feel comfortable in my journey and with the freedom of the self-guided tour meant that I could really "let go" and just enjoy myself. The hotels all knew about the trip I was on and that made it easier when it came to checking in and providing them with my bags for the luggage transfer, again, great that it was something else I didn't need to worry about. Highly recommended!" 
> View the Belgium Beer Cycle

5. Cycling the Coast to Coast | England

Cycling the magical paths of Rowrah along the Coast to Coast in England |  <i>Andrew Bain</i>
Unlike the iconic walking trail, this route is called the “C2C,” literally “Sea to Sea,” to differentiate it from the “Coast to Coast” walk, which covers an altogether different route and embraces different scenery. 
The ‘C2C’ stretches from the harbour at Whitehaven on the Irish Sea to the Abbey and castle at Tynemouth on the shores of the North Sea. The original route ended in Sunderland, but the alternative Tynemouth ending is somewhat more satisfying. The ride is 142 miles long. It is a great way to see northern England and how the landscape changes sometimes abruptly, and then more gently as you cycle along. 
There is so much to see, the Cumbrian Lakes and Fells, the bleak Pennines, beautiful Dales, towns and villages of all sizes. Along the way you should find plenty of time to visit tea shops, pubs and interesting historical and industrial sites. There are some quite big hills as well, but nothing that could be classed as Alpine! the weather of course can do anything, but you will generally be pedalling with the wind at your back.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Review of the Coast to Coast Cyclist's Tour

"Having all the planning details for this trip worked out for by UTracks was well worth it. We thoroughly enjoyed the route, the choice of places we stayed at, and having our bags seamlessly transported from one place to the next."

6. Island Hopping | Croatia & Greece

If you like cycling in a warm climate, eating delicious cuisine and admiring sparkling sea views, then your next bike holiday should be on a Mediterranean island. There is a range of stunning Mediterranean islands to explore by bike, including Sardinia, Corsica, Rhodes and the many islands of Croatia and Greece.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Review of the Croatia Bike & Sail Tour

"The Croatian Cycle and Sail was the highlight of our European vacation. The team on Romantica were amazing, friendly and so inclusive. The other guests have become life long friends and the islands we visited were magical. We were so happy with the size of the cabin, the meals provided and the amazing places we visited." 

7. Basel to Ticino Cycle | Switzerland

Cycling the Gotthard Pass Switzerland |  <i>@jessielphoto /</i>
Switzerland's north to south cycle route connects two of the most beautiful cities of Switzerland. From the French border city of Basel the route crosses the Jura mountains to the charming lakeside city of Lucerne. The next stage takes you through central Switzerland and into the alps. 
A highlight of the cycle is the massive 2155 vertical metre descent from the historic Gotthard pass with its series of switchbacks making for a quick descent. Passing by the castles of Bellinzona you reach the sparkling waters of Lake Lugano nestled between Lake Maggiore and Lake Como on the Italian border. Lugano is a fitting end to the trip where you can dip your toes in the cool lake and marvel at the dramatic scenery surrounding the city. There is so much to love about this expansive route showcasing Switzerland's finest treasures.

8. France by Bike & Barge | France

MS Provence on the Rhone River with Lyon providing a beautiful backdrop
From the romantic, world-famous city of Paris you can cycle and cruise to Bruges or to the Champagne region, with plenty of local sights and flavours along the way. Take in the grandeur of Burgundy's waterways, which are packed with incredible food, handsome architecture and some of rural France’s prettiest scenery. Or cycle down quiet country lanes in Provence and the Seine Valley, stopping to visit intriguing relics and sample the beautiful wines and cuisine of the region.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Review of the Provence Bike & Barge Tour

"We really enjoyed our trip on the L'Estello. The crew (Christian, Stephi and Rosa) were fantastic and looked after all our needs. The meals on board were outstanding, with a different theme each evening. With all meals provided, we didn't have to worry about anything but riding and sleeping! 
Our outstanding guides, Wiro and Marco, lead us through some beautiful and historic locations in the Provence region, including the Camargue, Les Baux (with the amazing Cathedrale des Images) and the Pont du Gard. They also knew all the best stops for coffee and beer! They ensured we stayed together as a group by asking different riders to act as sweepers and as point guards on corners so that no one was left behind or missed a turn. They even turned on a fireworks display on our first night (well, it was Bastille Day!).
We had a great group of fellow travellers, from many different countries and with varying levels of cycling experience and ability, but no-one was out of place. We struck up friendships with many of them, sharing stories of other adventures. We plan to take another bike and boat trip on our next visit to Europe."

9. Denmark

Soaking up the views of Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark. |  <i>Mark Gray</i>
Denmark is well known for its cutting edge design, stylish locals and gorgeous capital city, but perhaps lesser-known to foreigners is Denmark’s natural beauty. With its idyllic scenery, gentle terrain and serious bike culture, this is one country perfectly suited to a cycling holiday. Join one of our exciting Berlin to Copenhagen by Bike self-guided departures and get a taste of beautiful Denmark, at your own pace.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Review of the Berlin to Copenhagen Cycling Tour

"An excellent experience and holiday with good bikes. The scenery was magnificent, the towns were varied and interesting and the accommodation better than expected. The grading was correct and the cycling not too arduous."

10. Treasures of the Baltics | Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

Cycling on the Curonian Spit |  <i>Gesine Cheung</i>
While Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia share the same Baltic coastline, the contrasting unique characters of these three countries will become evident as you follow this incredibly scenic cycling route from Vilnius to Tallinn. 
From the three capitals - Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn - 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. 
Discover the island castle at Trakai, enter the previously off-limits Curonian Spit, a wild pre-historic sand dune peninsula, and marvel at the pilgrimage sight of thousands of crosses of every size and design imaginable at the Hill of Crosses in northern Lithuania. Crossing into Latvia, dip your toes in the Baltic Sea at the white sandy beaches of Jurmula and on the island of Saaremaa, visit Latvia's oldest Church and pay homage at a bicycle museum before heading into Estonia. We'll stop at Saaremaa, famous for its Bishop's Castle, before reaching the Estonian capital of Tallinn, where the trip concludes.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Review of the Treasures of the Baltics Guided Cycle Tour

"We had a lovely time on the Treasures of the Baltic trip! Our guide (Romas) was extremely knowledgeable about the history of all 3 countries as well as facts and information on many subjects! He and our driver (Valdas) were excellent and very professional! 
The cities (Vilnius, Riga & Tallin are each lovely and different so this added to the enjoyment of our travels! The landscape in between the cities is similar but there was variety in the places we stopped as we travelled. This is a unique part of Europe with its poignant and long history of being conquered by many countries! We very much enjoyed learning about the history and visiting a part of Europe we hadn’t seen before!"

Which cycling trip is your #1 for 2023? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Need more active travel inspiration?

Traveller Tale: Beautiful Cycling Days in the Dordogne

Traveller Tale: Beautiful Cycling Days in the Dordogne

Ferne-Marie and her three friends chose the Dordogne, in France, for their first cycling holiday and they had an absolutely fabulous experience. 
Read on to discover all the incredible sights and sounds of the Dordogne that they experienced while on the Highlights of the Dordogne by Bike tour.
Cycling through the forests of the Dordogne |  <i>Rob Mills</i>
This was my first bike tour and what a beautiful adventure it was! 
We are a group of four good friends and though one of us was an experienced cyclist, we all chose e-bikes for our self guided tour of the Dordogne. 
The region is quite magical with storybook castles to visit and many "belle villages", delicious food and wine, rolling green hills laced with sparkling rivers. 
It's also famous for its foie gras, fromage de chevre, walnuts, chesnuts and truffles. Though I'm not a fan of fois gras. 
La Roque Gageac, Dordogne |  <i>Tourism d' Aquitaine</i>
Highlights were Day 1 from Souillac to Sarlat. In superb weather, beautiful blue sky and 33 degrees we cycled along quiet country roads, along the Route de la Noix (Nut Route). After a mid morning coffee stop at Saint - Julien - de - Lampon, we reached a dedicated bike cycle path at Grolejac. 
Spinning along the bike path above a tiny village, one of us smelt coffee and food. We cycled down and found a great pub restaurant dining on an excellent lunch and avoiding the house speciality, salad de gezier (geese gizzards). 
The bike path ended on the outskirts of Sarlat, with very busy roads, round abouts and traffic, a little scary for a novice cyclist. I fell onto some gravel skinning my knee and shin and hurting my pride. A visit to a local pharmacy using my French language skills and my leg was all patched up. 
Cycling near Sarlat |  <i>Rob Mills</i>
Day 2 was also a fabulous ride up to the Castle of Domme. 
Although in the morning when we were leaving Sarlat, I found it very heavy going as I had no power from my battery. We called the help line and got a call back from the French team and after going through a checklist, the problem was solved and I was back in the saddle with full battery power, which was much needed on the steep climb up to Domme. 
Cycling out of Domme |  <i>Rob Mills</i>
We arrived at Domme just before midday. The restaurants were just about to open and we enjoyed another delicious lunch and wine at a table overlooking the stunning views of the valley and river below. After leaving Domme we enjoyed free-wheeling down the steep hillside and a ride to the "belle village" of Le Roc de Gagneau. 
While there were many restaurants and bars open, they would only serve a full meal, so we left le Roc de Gagneau thirsty with a long steep ride back to Sarlat. Thank God for e-bikes and our bottles of water! 
View of the Dordogne Valley from Domme |  <i>Rob Mills</i>
Another highlight was the next day's ride through rolling green hills to Chateau de Beynac, a medieval castle perched majestically above the Dordogne river. The ride continued to Les Eyzies taking us down dirt tracks between maize fields. 
Due to forecast rain on Day 4, two of us rested in our very comfortable hotel in Les Eyzies, whilst two rode out to visit one of the pre-historic caves. Visits to these caves need to pre-booked and our friendly host at the Hotel Cro Magnon booked the tickets, the day we arrived. 
Chateau de Belcastel, Dordogne
For me the best day was Day 5, cycling in quiet, pretty countryside, past the amazing troglodyte Roque St Christophe.
 We stopped for a coffee and cake overlooking the rock and river. A picnic lunch by the river in another belle village, Saint - Leon-sur Vezere and a visit to Chateau de Losse before we cycled to our hotel in Montignac. That evening the weather was perfect and we walked into Montignac for a dinner overlooking the river Vezere. 
Beautiful local foods at this day market in Sarlat |  <i>Jon Millen</i>
The final day is the longest ride at 50km. While we had coffee and enjoyed the Sunday markets in Saint-Genies, when we arrived at the main town it was still too early for cafes and restaurants to serve lunch, so we pushed on. As it was Sunday, most places we rode through were closed and my battery died a couple of kilometres outside Souillac. 

Ferne-Marie's Top Advice for Cycling in the Dordogne 

  • Adjustable gel bike seats and padded bike shorts are invaluable (your bottom will thank you!).
  • Phone the friendly staff at the first hotel in Souillac to pre-book a taxi pick up from the train station. It's a reasonable walk, especially if you have a lot of luggage. 
  • Water bottles and a rain jacket are also necessary.
  • Practice riding on the roads in traffic, if you are a novice cyclist, like me. 
  • Because our phone had been stolen in Paris, we did not have GPS and relied on paper maps. Overall directions were good, but trying to find the correct routes out of Sarlat were a little difficult. 
  • Cafes and restaurants are not open for lunch every day and only for a few hours in the French countryside, so pack a picnic. Check the trip notes carefully!
Picnic at Chateau Fenelon, Dordogne |  <i>Rob Mills</i>

A huge merci beau coup to Ferne-Marie for sharing her Traveller Tale from Dordogne!

If you would like to experience this gorgeous cycling region for yourself view UTracks' comprehensive tours below.

> View the Highlights of the Dordogne self-guided cycle
> View all active holidays in the Dordogne
> View all active holidays in France

Is exploring the Dordogne region on your bucket list, or have you already experienced the area? Let us know in the comment section below.

Exploring Andalucia's Hidden Gems on a Walking Holiday

Exploring Andalucia's Hidden Gems on a Walking Holiday

David recently finished a hiking trip in Andalucia, where he and his family explored the Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena. He shared what he liked most about this off-the-beaten-track region of Spain: the jamon, or ham. 
Read his recommendation below, plus a further investigation into this delicious jamon with an interview with Lucy and Angel, a couple who call the Sierra de Aracena home and also enjoy the famous meat.
Over to you, David.
Walk through wild countryside in Andalucia near Ronda |  <i>Allie Peden</i>

David's summary of the Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena walking trip

Due to work, November was the only time available and we wanted to go to Europe to see our daughter, who now lives there and wanted to explore Southern Europe. We'd already been to Cyprus and Morocco (with World Expeditions) so we looked at Spain
The countryside we walked through was nothing like what I have seen in Australia. The autumn colours were gorgeous. We did not know that falling leaves could make so much noise. Back home, we do not have the volume of deciduous trees that allow you to appreciate the experience.
Alcazar, Seville, Spain |  <i>Julia Xiao</i>
The highlight was the jamon (ham) tour, which was one of the best investments we have done. The guide was brilliant with her explanation and the jamon was nothing like I have tasted! As a keen foodie, it was actually a visit to the Iberian ham producer that had sold us on the trip. 

Hint to other travellers, while it might seem expensive, it is the best value thing we did in Europe. The recommended tour is 'Eiriz Jamones & Embutidos De Bellota' in Corteconcepcion. This is the same town where the world's most expensive leg of ham was sold - for USD$14,000. Do not miss it!
Jamon y novia at the Boqueria Market in Spain |  <i>Tony Henshaw</i>

My last piece of advice is that in this part of Spain, most shops and places close around 2 or 3pm. So you need to time your eating habits before this or wait until they all open again at 8pm.



Lucy and Ángel Interview

We were curious about the local ham so we spoke with Lucy and Angel, a couple living in Andalusia.  

Lucy and Ángel run and own the guesthouse in the Sierra de Aracena that is the start to the Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena walking holiday. It is a wonderful base for hiking near Seville, in an area that is dotted with tiny white-washed villages and a network of 70-plus-year-old walking paths. 

We sat down with the couple to talk about their love for Andalusia, the best regional food and their favourite places of the Sierra de Aracena.

Exploring the landscapes near Seville

Can you tell us about yourself and how you ended up in the Sierra de Aracena?

We are Lucy and Ángel an Anglo-Spanish couple that met in the USA almost 30 years ago, when we coincided on a working holiday at a family-run hotel in upstate New York. The seed was sown!

We lived together in Sevilla, Ángel’s home city, for over 10 years. Both teachers, we loved to escape and discover Spain whenever we could – usually on a motorbike. Trips to the Alpujarras, Sierra Norte de Sevilla, Galicia, Leon, Murcía, Jaen, Ronda, Cadiz coastline and Portugal were all memorable explorations. 

However, the place we kept going back to was the Sierra de Aracena in Huelva. We fell in love with the tiny village (750 inhabitants) of Alájar; its narrow-cobbled streets, the lack of mainstream tourism, the friendliness of the people, the great walking and the mild climate all concluded to us taking over the business and setting up home at the original Posada de Alájar in 2004. In 2006 our family was completed with our amazing daughter.

Ángel always says I am not here for him but for the jamón and the gambas (prawns), which I sometimes find hard to dispute! We love the feeling of being part of a community, where everyone knows each other and even when life does get a bit difficult you can get out and go talk to the pigs!


Mairena |  <i>David Ilsley</i>

What are your 3 most favourite places in the Sierra de Aracena?

We chose Alájar, so we really are very biased about our favourite place! La Posada de San Marcos is somewhere very close to our hearts. We have set up this accommodation with sustainability at the forefront and it is a favourite for us. We are proud of the fact that our carbon footprint is minimal and enjoy explaining to our visitors how everything works in terms of eg. (water) recycling, building materials like sheep wool, and renewable energy. Every little bit helps - as they say! 

The Peña de Arias Montano is a very special place with a spiritual pull and views all the way down to the coast. Aracena is our main town, it’s a bustling market town that covers most of everyone’s needs and boasts the Caves of Wonder (Gruta de las Maravillas), an amazing set of caves that are well worth a visit.

Walking in Spain's Sierra de Aracena

What is a typical dish for people to try when visiting the Sierra de Aracena?

The most important ingredient of the area is the Iberian ham. The Iberian pig is endemic to this area and has been farmed free-range for centuries. On a walk, you will see many roaming around the hillsides under the holm and cork oaks eating as many acorns as possible. The acorns and the air from the sierra in the drying process give the ham a unique flavour.

The fresh meat is also amazing – nothing like regular pork. The noble cuts were sold to those who could afford to eat such delicacies meaning that the locals were left with the poorer cuts and therefore have developed lots of dishes based on pulses, locally grown vegetables and the wild mushrooms found in abundance given the right weather, so there is plenty for the vegetarian too.

Food of Sierra de Aracena   

What is special about walking in this part of Andalusia?

Less than 90 minutes from the sophisticated city of Sevilla it feels like time has stopped still in La Sierra de Aracena. We like to call it our secret sierra with a greenness more likely to be found in the north of Spain and the warmth of the Andalusian sun then on a trip hiking near Seville. There is an amazing variety of flora and the area has recently been designated a starlight dark sky destination.

Hiking near Seville

Walking is still not a pastime in this area, it used to be a necessity and the paths between the villages show you a way and pace of life that has been lost in most parts of Europe. Walkers are surprised at how few people they actually see on the trails, which helps you feel you are discovering the area and then you come across a lovely traditional village or hamlet.

The Andalusians are happy to stop and chat and try hard to communicate, it amazes them that people are fascinated by something that is second nature to them and are even envious of what they have here.

Exploring the mountains near Ronda on foot is the ideal way to soak in the wild landscapes |  <i>Allie Peden</i>

What kind of people should go for self guided walking trips in Andalusia?

The walking is quite easy, there are no major climbs. We do recommend to wear boots as the once cobbled paths have now become quite stony in places. You never feel completely alone while walking as there are plenty of animals along the route and there is usually a small hamlet or village just in time for refreshment! Just 1,5 hours away from Seville, the walking route starts in Alájar and makes a circuit around the sierra. 

Hikers will be sleeping in other lovely whitewashed, cobblestone-paved villages and return to our accommodation for the final night, which is lovely for us as we can greet you back ‘home’ and hear your stories.



A huge thanks to David, as well as Angel and Lucy, for sharing their Traveller Tales from Andalusia!

If you would like to experience this region for yourself then view UTracks' comprehensive tours below.

> View the Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena
> View all tours in Andalusia
> View all active holidays in Spain

Is exploring Andalucia on your bucket list, or have you already experienced this area? Let us know in the comment section below.


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<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/HUM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Humac Challenge"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Huma Charity Challenge</div>
Huma enables those with adventurous spirits to challenge themselves and make a difference for a cause close to their heart. Travel, fundraise and meet life-long friends on one of Huma's meaningful and unique challenges around the world.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TAS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Tasmania Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Tasmanian Expeditions</div>
Tasmanian Expeditions is the most experienced operator of treks and adventure travel holidays in Tasmania. We own and operate the most comprehensive range of adventure holidays available across Tasmania's varied landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/UTX-new.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Utracks"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>UTracks</div>
UTracks are the active European holiday specialists. Whether you prefer cycling or walking, 2-star or 4-star, small groups or self guided, land, river or sea – UTracks can help you to explore Europe exactly the way you want.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WYA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions Schools"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions Schools</div>
World Expeditions Schools is our specialist division dedicated to organising tailor made overseas school group adventures. Specialists in Service Learning projects, choose from more destinations than any other school group provider.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/YOM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Yomads"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Yomads</div>
Yomads offers adventures for the 20s and 30s on six continents. Designed as a way to bring young and likeminded travellers together, Yomads caters to those interested in lightly structured and active trips that allow freedom to roam and explore.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ACT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Cycle Tours"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Cycle Tours</div>
Australian Cycle Tours specialises in high quality self guided and guided cycling experiences in a selection of the most beautiful regions in Australia.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WEX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions</div>
The pioneers of original, worldwide adventure travel holidays since 1975
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TJX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Trail Journeys"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Trail Journeys</div>
Self-guided cycling experts on New Zealand's Otago Rail Trail and more
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/BMAC.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Blue Mountains Adventure Company"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Blue Mountains Adventure Company</div>
The original Blue Mountains canyoning, hiking, climbing and abseiling experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GWNZ.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Walks of New Zealand"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Walks of New Zealand</div>
Explore New Zealand's most spectacular wilderness regions with the self-guided hiking experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/NAA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="North America Active"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>North America Active</div>
USA Canada hiking & cycling tour specialists, choose from self-guided or guided trips