Park by the signpost on the road between San Juan de Beleno and Viego, and discover this spectacular 10 km walk in the Ponga National Park, northern Spain. My friend and I went in September and we walked through a carpet of purple crocuses and exuberant thistles. We saw no-one apart from some old men in a hut who offered us water, unless vultures, choughs and the odd goat count. If you make the summit you’ll see the sea - we didn’t as the final ascent is vertiginous - but the far reaching views of endless rolling green hills beneath us as we gradually ascended the mountain ridge make this the most memorable afternoon’s walk I’ve ever done.
To me, the 105 mile Tour du Mont Blanc encompasses all that is great in the 'great outdoors' - from the majesty of the spiring mountains to the fresh sweet smell of the alpine ﬂora, the piercing blue still glacial lakes beneath the grandiose glaciers, the gushing torrents racing to the deafening waterfalls, the loud whistle of the invisible marmot juxtaposed with the silent grazing of the charming ibex - the ancient past that time has not forgotten. The TMB really is to reach the sublime; what isn't there to love?
This is an energetic trek taking in the best of the French, Italian and Swiss alps, crossing three high mountain passes, sleeping in a variety of remote mountain huts such as Lac Blanc, Rifugio Elisabetta and Refugio Bonatti to boutique guest-houses in the busy towns of Chamonix and Courmayeur. Be ﬂexible and organise your own trek using the cicerone guide written by Kevin Reynolds - he became a bit of a hero to us. Then to top it off, why not paraglide from the Aiguille du midi - I thoroughly recommend it.
Cicerone Guide: www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/532
Google map: bit.ly/JkliOu
A selection of the numerous mountain huts:
Information for the Aiguille du Midi:
From the small town of Kobarid you can follow the amazingly aqua marine glacial river Soča up stream to find the Kozjak waterfall tucked away. It's uphill through the forest and crosses some WW2 trenches from the Italian front, as well as some small churches and a BRILLIANT Indiana Jones-esque swing bridge. If you take the circular route back to the town you walk through alpine fields which have lots of brightly coloured bee hives and some nice cows. This is in the Triglav National Park so you are surrounded by the 89000ft Julian Alps. Back in Kobarid you can get a cheap pint in one of the little pubs there. It's ace!
The Alpine Pass Route is a 14 day walking trip from one side of Switzerland to the other. It starts on the eastern boarder and finishes at Lake Geneva. In between you walk some of the most stunningly beautiful and spectacular scenery in Europe. As the name suggests you walk an alpine pass each day (occasionally two) but each evening you end up at a town, village or hamlet so you don't need to use mountain huts. We walked the path in September and we only booked one night's accommodation in advance, the rest of the time you could just turn up and find somewhere with no problem. Cicerone Press publish a guide by Kev Reynolds.
From Sargans to Lake Geneva via Grindelwald.
The “Lac Blanc”, at an altitude of 2500m, is at the heart of the National Park La Vanoise and is situated near Pralognan. Leave your car at “Pont de la Pêche”. The climb to the lake takes up to 3 hours and you’ll need a further 2h30 for the return journey. While walking, enjoy the beautiful mountains around you and the colourful flora. If you’re lucky, you might see marmots, ibexes and chamois. The “Lac Blanc” is quite a sight: a deposit of minerals gives it a strange milky colour. The slopes down the lake are an ideal setting for a picnic.
You can’t help but be aware of the warmth and safety of Nice, a city where you can enjoy that rare freedom of being able to walk around at night with no fear of people as you thrill to the festival atmosphere of street musicians and street theatre in Place Rossetti, or getting lost down the many small streets with their abundance of interesting shops.
Superficially, Nice can seem like an expensive city, but it does not have to be as there is plenty to see and do for free. One of the most fulfilling things you can do here – and a great way to take in the feel and the atmosphere of this beautiful city – is to just walk around taking photographs. There is joy to be found here in every corner: relaxing in Jardin Botanique on a tree-shaded park bench to stay cool in the midday sun; or people watching from one of the many authentic cafes in true Gallic style! Just grab a coffee and a freshly prepared sandwich, then sit back on Promenade des Anglais and simply watch the world go by.
An opportunity to get right up close to Mont Blanc- Europe’s highest mountain.
Grand Balcon Nord 6.5 km – allow three hours.
Chamonix in the French Alps is one of the best known centres for walking in the summer and rightly so.
One of the most spectacular yet easiest walks is the Grand Balcon Nord which has you strolling through a veritable rock garden at 2000 metres and even offers the possibility of meeting a marmot or two.
From Chamonix take the Aiguille cable car to the half way point at Plan de l’Aiguille which is the starting point for your route - although it is spectacular, and literally breathtaking, due to the altitude, to take the cable car right to the top station – and then start your walk on the return journey.
The well signposted rocky mountain trail undulates north east, meandering through miniature rhododendrons, gentian and azaleas, with stunning views down to Chamonix and over the narrow valley to Plan Praz and La Flegere standing at 1877m - this is the Grand Balcon Sud and another fine walk affording views over Mont Blanc and Les Aiguilles (the needles).
As you reach the junction of the path to Montenvers mountain railway you can take the route directly there or turn right and zig zag easily up the extra 150m to grab great views of the stunning pinnacles of the Aiguille Vert at 4122m, Les Drus and the Mer de Glace (sea of ice).
Catch the picturesque little train from Montenvers back down to Chamonix. Remember to check what time the last train and cable car operate as it’s a long walk down!
This walk can be done in reverse and an early start will give you the opportunity to watch the sun come up from behind Les Aiguilles.
The small town called Èze will make you feel like being on a movie set. Located only 12 kilometres away from Nice, Èze is situated very high (430 metres above sea level) and offers panoramic views on the French Riviera. It is also overlooking on outlet of the Fragonard perfume factory. The medieval village is car-free and very charming especially because of its adorable street signs. The small alleys and beautiful flowers everywhere attract many tourists looking for a romantic holiday in a town that could be the set of an old Disney movie. There is easy access to Nice (bus) and Èze is very close to Monaco and Italy as well. Èze is definitely worth a visit, because it is a village that can (and will once you have been there) easily appear in your dreams.
Google map: bit.ly/IvQ1pu
A perfect day out from Marseille or Aix-en-Provence is a trip to the beach followed by ice cream. But these aren't just any beaches and ice creams. The bay of local choice is the little fishing village of Carry-le-Rouet, 20 miles from Marseille. Happily spend a day on the beach, nestled at the bottom of burnt orange cliffs, with the garigue and pine trees providing a pretty backdrop or a great place for a shady stroll. When the sun becomes too much, head for the hilltop town of Miramas le Vieux and the most amazing ice cream parlour, Le Quillé, to enjoy the warmth, views and flavours of Provence.
Le Quillé, Chemin de Miramas Vieux à Lunard, 13140 Miramas, France
+33 (0)4 90 50 18 18
Google map: bit.ly/HKdYip
Le Rhul is a three-star hotel located on a bend off corniche Kennedy (the beautiful road that goes along Marseille's Mediterranean coast line). It's not the most modern or best hotel you will go to, but it probably has one of the best views of any three star hotel in the world. The rooms also have a lot of character (not that you will be looking anywhere but out of your window). This was a real treat for a budget traveler like me, and I would never have expected getting a view like this on the coast of France without selling one of my limbs. Some of the best photos I took while traveling through the south of France were from my tiny balcony at this hotel.
Jimbaran Bay is famous for its many seafood cafes. Bawang Merah restaurant is at the northernmost section of Jimbaran beach and therefore offers a unique view over the bay, amazing! We dined at a table on the beach, enjoyed our grilled seafood and the magnificent sunset there. An unforgettable dinner next to the ocean.
Kelan Beach at Jimbaran Bay, Kelan 80361
Take an easy and must do day out from the urban bustle of Naples. Buy a 180 minute biglietti ticket at Naples Central station and take a train south to the university port of Salerno. Outside the station change on to a SITA blue line bus to underrated Maiori, remembering to sit on the left hand side. Hold tight as the bus winds its way along the coast with each bend offering a different breathtaking panorama. Get off at Maiori, the only town along this coast with a promenade and beach. Take a swim in the warm waters or sit under a shading palm, sipping a fizzing local wine. Walk along to the harbour and take a 10 minute water bus around the headland into Amalfi town - a jaw dropping way to arrive, plus it avoids any local traffic jams. Spend some time exploring the moped friendly alleys, the churches and soaking up the atmosphere. Continue by taking a 15 minute bus into the mountain above and the quiet hill town of Ravello. Relax in a garden bar before descending, on foot, down through fragrant lemon groves to ancient Minori below. From here take the bus back to Salerno and onwards to Naples. How much fun in one day can be bought for under 20 euro?
Perched on the end of its own promontory off the from the unspoilt Gargano Peninsula, this ramshackle eaterie faces the sea on three sides. The real draw is its awesomely fresh fish, some of which is caught from the restaurant’s own trabucco, a Puglian contraption that drops nets into the teeming waters below. Ask the friendly staff for specials off the menu.
Lovely, welcoming bargainous B&B (45-90 euro per night) clinging to the hillside above Taormina. Huge balconies overlooking the bay and Giardini-Naxos. Reward yourself after climbing back up the hill after dinner with a bottle of wine and fireworks; more often than not there is of course Etna or be there on 8 September when man-made fireworks are let off all evening to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The Zingaro Nature Reserve Sicily is only a short bus journey from the idyllic coastal village Scopello. You have to pay a small fee to enter the reserve, but once you are in, you are free to explore some Italy's most unspoiled beaches.
The beaches are stunning small coves with crystal clear water and stunning views of the surrounding nature reserve. The clear water is fantastic for snorkelling, and diving around the national park is thought to be excellent due to the nature reserve status of the area.
The best time to go is early in the morning. You'll have a cove all to yourself. Paradise! The beaches of Zingaro are the most beautiful I have ever seen. Cars are not allowed within the reserve, but the nearest cove is only fifteen-twenty mins by foot. The park stretches for seven km, so you're spoilt for choice to discover beautiful beaches. If you want to escape the crowds of Sicily's resorts, head to Zingaro!
The reserve stretches between San Vito Lo Capo and Scopello. Palermo is only an hour away by car, but you can rent villas in the vicinity and the beautiful village of Scopello is a short journey away. Scopello has a number of B&Bs and hotels, and some great restaurants. It has a family atmosphere, but the gorgeous location makes for a great romantic trip away, too.
We wanted to hire scooters but realising we didn't have the required driving licence, decided to hire a small motor boat instead. This was an amazingly affordable and relaxing way to explore the beautiful Amalfi coastline. With no prior experience of sailing the hire process was extremely simple and the boat very easy to maneuver. We found a lovely spot to drop our anchor and sat sunbathing with complete privacy, making the occasional dive into the wonderfully clear blue water to cool down. There were several hire companies in the Amalfi harbour, very easy to find and organise. This was the highlight of our three week trip to Italy.
Atrani perches on a viaduct, wide enough to be a small park. From the balustrade at the back of it you can see straight down to the town’s piazza. Around the piazza the houses cram, piled on each other, a dense mass threaded by passages and arches and many flights of steps — but no streets, except one. Walk through the nearby tunnel and you’ll emerge in another town, the larger and more famous, Amalfi!
Google map: bit.ly/Ik7oik
The short walk from the train station to the beach takes you past a variety of shops, restaurants and beautiful architecture. On arriving at the beach you will find at least three miles of golden sand propped up by many hip and trendy bar/restaurants. A day trip to Viareggio complemented our stay at the stunning nearby city of Lucca, which is easily accessed only 40 minutes away by train.
Google map: bit.ly/HKzSNa
An historic path that links five picturesque farming and fishing villages perched on rock outcrops rising out of the sea. Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are virtually unapproachable by road which makes the walk even more breathtaking. However for the faint of heart access can also be achieved by rail and sea, the latter of which gives wonderful views of the villages and interlinking paths. These steep paths perch above the sea on one side and the land, cultivated with terraces, on the other. A profusion of olive groves, vines, lemon trees, wild herbs and beautiful Mediterranean flowers greet the traveller at every unexpected turn of the path. Try the two hour walk from Monterosso to Vernazza at a gentle pace, lunch at Gianni Franzi with a bottle of the local Cinque Terre white wine and the boat trip back for an unforgettable day out. Best times to visit are Spring and Autumn for the better weather and fewer tourists.
Between Genoa and La Spezia in Liguria. Airport at Genoa and train links to all five villages from there.
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