Discovering a new destination doesn’t get much better than getting out and exploring on foot. Here are five destinations perfect for wanderlust walks, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or prefer a more leisurely pace.
What makes a better walk than one surrounded by free-flowing streams and fragrant flowers?
Levadas were built in Madeira in the 16th century to allow farmers to irrigate the farmlands and to provide general access to water for the islanders. The levadas here were particularly difficult to build due to the mountainous nature of the island, and 25 miles of tunnels had to be dug out to facilitate the channels.
There are numerous levada routes to be enjoyed, but Camino Do Pináculo e Folhadal is particularly special.
Following the water canals of Serra and Norte, you are afforded glorious views of the São Vicente Valley, and the lush and abundant Laurissilva Forest. It is considered a difficult walk, so if you’re not an experienced hiker, find a gentle pace and keep well prepared with essential clothing and supplies to stay hydrated.
The municipal path which used to channel water between the north and south of the island is marked by tunnels carved out of rock, and paths made from stone. When you reach your summit at Pináculo, the Ribeira Brava Valley will be laid out before you like an elaborate green carpet.
The levada is dotted with beautiful plants in spring, including Madeiran orchids and Canary buttercups, as well as chrysanthemums and geraniums, while a cluster of Lily of the Valley trees mark the end of your expedition, finishing at the last tunnel at Folhadal.
If you would prefer not to go solo, Nature Meetings offer a number of guided walks on Madeira. The Rural Traditions guided tour allows you to learn about life in times gone by, and treasure the views of the vineyards, terraces and glorious blues of the ocean on Levada do Norte.
After a day spent exploring the levadas, head back south to Funchal to toast a day well spent in the mountains.
For something extra special, Chris’ Place offers a fabulous fine-dining experience - without the fine-dining price tag. With a sumptuous three-course meal for just €40 per person, and cleverly constructed amuse-bouche offerings, all presented on kooky crockery, it’s a hallmark for the perfect end to your adventures.
When to go: Visit during spring for the finest shows of colour.
Duration of the walk: Experienced hikers should allow approximately two hours for the levada walks.
Bulgaria boasts some of Europe’s finest scenes for walking in, with alpine forests, lush hills, glacial lakes and impressive summits to be admired from every possible vantage point.
Bansko is home to the majestic Pirin Mountains and RCI-affiliated resort the Balkan Jewel Resort & Spa (DB70), in nearby Razlog, offers a number of walking and hiking trails for all levels.
The Pirin Mountains are the highest in Bulgaria, and part of UNESCO’S World Heritage Sites, and there are many different lakes and areas of the mountains to discover.
Wherever you choose to explore, look out for the rare Pirin poppy, as well as the elusive chamois or capercaillie grazing on the hilltops and mountainsides.
Trails are well marked and huts dotted along the way are great rest stops to refuel, or even take a nap, with bunk beds provided for recharging your batteries! Tevno Ezero Mountain shelter is on the eastern side of Tevno Lake and the views are superb.
You start out at Bansko for this trail, but getting here is seven hours along the mountain trail, so it’s definitely a hike for experienced mountain walkers - and it's best to set off at the crack of dawn if you want to make it back in time for dinner.
After a long day out in the mountains, an authentic three-course meal at the Balkan Jewel resort, featuring slow-cooked meats with spices, would be an irresistible end to your day.
Mountain walks sound a little too challenging? There are many other paths to explore. After some rest and relaxation at your resort, visit the capital Sofia to explore the city’s landmarks with Greek architecture, Ottoman mosques, Roman artefacts and Soviet influence all laid out in a smorgasbord of impressive sights.
The laidback, youthful city is often overlooked by travellers looking for ski and beach, but it’s worth including on your activities list.
Allow a few hours to explore the contrasting sights, a clash which creates a heady mix and you will not know where to look first. St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the symbol of the city, resembling something of a concrete birthday cake with layers of domes.
While you can cover off the sights in a few hours, try not to rush and take time to look deeper into the detail.
Sofia is a quirky place, with buildings decorated with subtle details - and some not so! Street poles are turned into blooming art, random mosaics adorn buildings, and even electric boxes are given an arty makeover here.
A place that’s not on everyone’s radar - Bulgaria is one to add to the bucket list, offering the perfect blend of city sights and mountain magic.
When to visit: Hiking season starts in June/July depending on how harsh winter has been. Check before you travel.
Duration of the walk: Allow a whole day to complete the Tevno trail and six hours to explore Sofia.
Magnificent architecture, golden sands and a great food scene - what’s not to love about Málaga?
One of those timeless destinations that never wears thin, the best way to experience the city for the first time, or as a returning guest, is to get out on a walking tour.
A city with variety, there is a walking tour to suit your interests here, with art, history architecture and culture being just some of the themed options available.
A walking and tapas tour is a great option to delve into local culture and discover some hidden secrets along the way.
The We Love Málaga tour allows you to devour some of the region’s best tapas treats in the Old Town. A licenced guide will take you to some off the beaten path favourites, while teaching you all you need to know about Spanish wines and cuisine.
Stop off at the Mercado Central food market to experience the hum of activity and colourful fresh produce in the region. At €65 per person the comprehensive tour from traditional tavern to modern eatery is worth every last euro.
Combine a few elements into one with a history and food tour including the popular Alcazaba Fortress, the Roman Theatre and cathedral. Unearth tales from 3,000 years back, and taste Spanish culture in the traditional cuisine.
Discover the coast with the most, with a coastal walking tour from the port in Huelin to Guadalhorce Nature Reserve. Start out on the walkway next to the port and work your way towards the wider seafront. Follow the coast and take in the sights of the Old Tobacco Factory, and three chimney stacks which nod at the city’s industrial past (the one nearest the beach was built in 1923, and was once the tallest building in Spain).
From its industrious beginnings to its cultural sights today, keep your eyes peeled for interesting sculptures along the route. Espetero, or the man who grills sardines, is a quirky creation, but for more of a fix, head slightly off route for Parque del Oeste, which features dozens of art installations.
Back towards the beach, look out for quaint mosaics with fish motifs and an image of Virgen del Carmen - the patron saint of fishermen. If you stop for refreshments during your wanders, you’ll spot some of the seafront bars displaying the emblem.
Taking the children along? The play park further up the beach is a great spot to stop and admire the views while the little ones play on pirate ships and zip lines.
Past the beach, you will finish up at the nature reserve where an entrance on your right leads you to a number of bird hides. Quietly wait and watch out for colourful heron, flamingo and osprey to appear and forage out on the lake.
Can’t walk any further? From the nature reserve, head for the Guadalmar district and board the number 5 bus back into central Málaga.
When to go: Year-round.
Duration of the walk: Allow three to four hours for each tour.
Adventure in Malta and Gozo
The islands of Malta and Gozo are made for outdoor adventure, owing to the milder weather, and lush and verdant landscapes.
You can mix and match your vistas here, and choose from dramatic cliffs along the Mediterranean coast or the secluded historic sites of the Palaces of the Knights.
Noteworthy day hikes on Malta include Mellieħa, Dingli, Għar Lapsi, Fawwara and Wardija, and if you’re around the south coast, the various fishing villages and Delimara Point are the best regions to explore.
But if you’re looking for a holiday with a time stood still experience, catch a 20-minute ferry ride from Cirkewwa Harbour in the north of the island, over to Gozo. It is excellent walking country and perfect if you just want some serenity while you wander.
Of course you can go it alone, but when you arrive in the southern port of Mgarr, we recommend you catch the bus to Għasri to save your feet for later.
The Gordan Lighthouse is outside Għasri, just 30 minutes from the centre of the village. The lighthouse has guided vessels since the 1850s and helped defend the Maltese islands during World War Two, its radars anticipating enemy attacks. It remains in use today by the armed forces and broadcast services, as well as being used for environmental studies.
Admire the views and make the most of the photo opportunities and cool breezes before setting off on a 50-minute scenic walk via Ta’ Pinu to visit the village of Ta’ Dbieġi. Explore their craft markets filled with hand-blown glass creations, bobbin lace and jewellery amongst other traditional crafts.
If you’re mightily hungry or want a light bite, opt for Cup Cake Café which serves everything from a traditional Gozo salad to a mammoth Angus beef burger.
Meanwhile Kafe' San Gorg is a great place to sit in the piazza and people watch over a latte and pastry.
Once you’ve refuelled, it’s time to explore the historic sites. Key attractions include the ruins of the Citadel - a partly restored city with a fascinating history, and St. George’s Basilica - a serene church with a stunning façade.
From here you can pick up the number 25 bus back to the port (last bus is at approximately 11pm). And ferries run virtually around the clock, so you can really make the most of a day on Gozo, before returning to Malta.
When to go: Visit from November to May after the long hot summer, when the vivid fields burst with fragrant wild iris, myrtle and fennel - it’s a feast for the senses.
Duration of the walk: Allow a full day with travel and stops
Tenerife is of course a walker’s paradise owing to its numerous mountains and lunar-like landscapes. Hire a car to make the most of your expeditions.
A favourite route is the Pine Forests, starting at La Lajas. The Arona Ifonche walk is also very popular, not only for being an easy route but because of the reward of stunning views.
Take the TF-51 to Arona, and a sign for ‘Ayuntamiento de Arona - Roque del Imoque’ marks the start of the walk. Observe a full panorama of Costa Adeje, from Puerto Colon to Callao Salvaje, as well as old abandoned Guanche houses and caves from a time gone by. And on a clear day you’ll spot neighbouring island, La Gomera.
Two hours in, and you’ll find yourself between the two peaks, Roque de Imoque and Roque de Los Brazos, near the small village of Ifonche. Stop by one of the Canarian bars for a rest and some refreshments, before making the shorter journey back to your car.
The Barranco del Infierno (Hell’s Gorge) in southwest Tenerife does sound quite intimidating. And while you will need some good hiking footwear, it’s worth it, if only for the views from above.
Starting at Calle de los Molinos in Adeje, the old pastoral trail includes look-out points, an old mill and ravine. As the altitude ranges from 100 to 1,300 metres, you may want to pack some cold weather gear.
As you ascend the trail you will be mesmerised by the variety of vegetation, from jasmine to thickets of forest, and with hawks, eagles and raven circling above, it’s a haven for spotting nature at its finest.
The route ends with a spectacular climax: the 200-metre waterfalls - and the tallest in Tenerife. You’ll be transfixed by the views, so be sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks to stop off for a while before heading back to ground level.
Open from 8am until 2.30pm, you’ll need to pre-book as only 300 hikers are permitted to walk the route each day.
When to visit: Year-round, but can be better to visit during cooler months if you plan to walk or hike.
Duration of the walk: Allow four hours for each walking route.
Visit the RCI Directory of Resorts to see where you could be staying in these countries on your walking holiday. RCI-affiliated resorts benefit from prime locations, so great for getting out and about. In Madeira there are 26 resorts signed up the RCI Exchange Holiday programme, 53 in Malaga, 18 in Malta and 61 in Tenerife. Click on the link below to view the world of RCI-affiliated resorts.
If you own timeshare and would like it to take you further afield than your home resort, then you need to be able to exchange it for another week in a fresh holiday destination. With more than 4,300 resorts signed up to its Exchange Holiday programme, RCI is able to offer its members the largest choice of holiday options of any holiday exchange company. Let your timeshare do what it was intended to do - widen your holiday horizons - by becoming a member of RCI today. Joining RCI is very simple. Click on the button below and see for yourself.