Travel: walking holidays
Explore new places and ramp up your fitness at the same time on a walking holiday.
Whether it’s a month-long trek from Mexico to Canada or a day trip on the Riesling Trail in South Australia’s Clare Valley, walking holidays offer a real change in pace – and plenty of health benefits.
Sharon Brown admits she was no veteran hiker when, at 58, she decided to tackle the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage from France to Spain. In fact she wasn’t even a regular walker. But she says the 800 kilometre route to the shrine of Saint James the Apostle – which she walked over 40 days – was the experience of a lifetime, so much so that she’s been back twice to do it again.
“You just put your backpack on and all you have to think about is putting one foot in front of the other. You eat when and where you want, you stop to sleep when you’ve had enough. There’s no pressure. It’s your own journey.” And, Sharon adds there was no problem with fitness. “You go at your own pace and just get fitter each day.”
You don’t have to go far from home
All the evidence shows she’s right. Walking for just 30 minutes a day or more can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 30 per cent, and delivers a host of other physical and mental health benefits. And don’t let winter put you off, says Victoria Walks’ Ben Rossiter. “Walking outdoors in winter helps to keep bones strong, improves your mood, burns calories and is a great way to get your daily dose of vitamin D,” he says.
Pack your bags
There’s a smorgasbord of walking holidays and trips on offer around the world – long treks across continents or short hops across valleys – to suit any age, level of fitness or interest. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Clare Valley Riesling Trail, South Australia
Wander along the old railway line past vineyards and farmlands in this world-renowned wine area. At 33 kilometres, it’s ideal for walkers and cyclists of all levels, and also accommodates wheelchairs and prams.
Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Walk stunning coastal tracks and ancient rainforest trails on a trek that suits all levels of fitness, stretching 104 kilometres from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles.
Larapinta Trail, Northern Territory
Camp out under a sea of stars on this 223 kilometre trail through the heart of central Australia, along the backbone of the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Hadrian’s Wall Path, UK
Walk coast to coast across England, close to the remains of Hadrian’s Wall, built by the Romans on the northern border of their ancient empire. Now recognised as a World Heritage site, the 135 kilometre walk traces history every step of the way.
Pacific Crest Trail, USA
Cross the 4,265 kilometres from Mexico to Canada through desert, forests and the Sierra Nevada as the legendary trail winds its way through California, Oregon and Washington. Travel just a few stages or do the whole walk in a season.
Walk for wellbeing
There are plenty of benefits to regular walking:
- improved cardiovascular (heart) and pulmonary (lung) fitness
- feeling more energetic
- increased muscle strength and endurance
- losing weight, reducing body fat and increasing muscle tone
- reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke
- better management of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
- reducing joint and muscular stiffness and pain
- strengthening bones and improving balance
- improving mood and sleep.