Whether you’re looking for a Christmas escape or simply want to escape Christmas, Ramblers Walking Holidays (01707 331133, www.ramblersholidays.co.uk) offer an excellent selection of breaks from hiking through lush tropical rainforest on St Lucia to cruising around the Canaries on an island hopping walking holiday. Memories of the proverbial Christmas dinner will seem like light years away - here are a few ideas to whet an alternate appetite…
Exhaling after the departure of the summer tourists, Christmas sees a quieter aspect of island life on Crete, with almost deserted trails and a mild climate making it an ideal time to explore the dramatic gorges, rugged and wild coastline of Western Crete on foot. A two centre holiday, combining 2 – 5 hour walks with stops at local tavernas or dipping a toe in the water at one of the beautiful sandy beaches, it begins in the tranquil seaside town and ancient site of Kastelli, Kissamos. Here walks along trodden mule paths, dotted with white washed stone churches and archaeological remains lead to the wild and remote Gramvousa and Rodopou peninsulas and Polyrhinia, one of the chief settlements of ancient Crete where a hilltop acropolis gives wonderful views of the area.
The second part of this holiday is based at the picturesque harbour of Chania, where hiking opportunities along the coast, steep-sided coves and sandy beaches with crystal clear waters are complemented by ambles through olive and citrus groves in the foothills of the White Mountains. Along with superb walking, there’s time to enjoy the delicious local food and wines, as well as getting to know the locals who may have you join in a celebration or two of their own.
Ramblers Walking Holidays (01707 331133, www.ramblersholidays.co.uk) offer a 10 night Charming Crete holiday, departing on 18 December, from £1255pp, including flights, half-board accommodation with dinners at local tavernas and the services of a dedicated leader. https://www.ramblersholidays.co.uk/charming-crete
Not quite a million miles away from Christmas in the UK – although it may seem like it, Vietnam offers an exotic potpourri of magical landscapes and vibrant cities, with a street life of colourful floating markets, bustling vendors and friendly locals remaining at its heart.
Journeying from French colonial influenced Ho Chi Minh City in the south to the capital of Hanoi in the north, Vietnam Adventure combines waterways and walking on a memorable adventure. From wandering in the former French Hill station Da Lat – ‘the City of Eternal Spring’ and ascending Lang Bian Mountain to visiting World Heritage listed former 17th century trading port Hoi An with its enthralling ruined jungle temple complex and UNESCO site ‘My Son’, this is an epic Christmas journey. There’s even a cruise out amongst the 3000 extraordinary limestone island grottos and ‘stacks’ in Halong Bay
Smaller yet equally rewarding highlights not to be missed include tucking into some delicious freshly cooked Vietnamese street food delicacies, meeting the locals on walks through small traditional villages and taking a dip in the inviting waters off one of the beautiful coastal islands.
Ramblers Walking Holidays, 01707 331133, www.ramblersholidays.co.uk offer a 19 night Vietnam Adventure holiday departing on 13 December from £2799/person, including flights, half board accommodation, with meals taken in hotels and local restaurants, all local travel, transfers and entrance fees, five lunches, services of a dedicated leader and local English speaking guides throughout. https://www.ramblersholidays.co.uk/vietnam-adventure
With a warming average of 27°C in December and conjuring up azure seas, coral reef, white sandy beach and softly swaying palm trees, St Lucia - 27 miles long and 14 miles wide – is so much more. Distinguished by one of the Caribbean’s most incredible sights – the World Heritage listed volcanic cones of Petit Piton and Gros Piton, the island’s mountainous peaks, dramatic waterfalls, plantations, botanical gardens and lush tropical rainforest are most interestingly explored on one of the island’s many and varied hiking trails.
Covering wildlife spotting through the Descartier Forest, climbing to the summit of Gros Piton for 360° views of St Lucia’s oldest town Soufriere, Vieux Fort and the island of Saint Vincent, coastal walks along Pointe de Caille and to Cas-En-Bas and the ancient trade route from Forestiere to Barre de l’Isle, active days are well rewarded with wintersun swims in the sea, time meandering around the colourful and fragrant markets and enjoying the lively, yet laid back, Creole culture.
(01707 331133, www.ramblersholidays.co.uk) offer a 16 day St Lucia: An Island Paradise holiday departing on 16 December 2016 from £3,330 including flights, half board accommodation, with dinner taken at hotels and local restaurants, local transport and guide. https://www.ramblersholidays.co.uk/st-lucia-an-island-paradise
Magic of the Canaries – Cruise & Walk
Island hopping around the Canary Islands at Christmas is perfect for catching the winter sun and enjoying superb mountain walks in an ideal climate away from the crowds. Taking in the mountains, volcanoes and gorges of the Canaries, this cruise, on board Fred.Olsen’s Balmoral, also calls in at the Portuguese ports of Madeira and Lisbon and North Africa’s Casablanca where a meander around the ancient streets of the medina brings to life images from the classic film.
Combining raw volcanic landscapes, with a mixture of forested slopes and high-level trails, highlights include La Palma’s spectacular Ruta de los Volcanes with breath-taking views of its 120 volcanoes; dramatic cliff top walks on the stark volcanic island of Lanzarote and hiking through fragrant pine woods, barrancos and small hamlets on Gran Canaria – a ‘mini continent’ with its mixture of climates and terrains. The beautiful desert-like terrain in Tenerife’s Canadas National Park, mountainous Madeiran countryside, La Gomera’s stunning ridges and the narrow cobbled streets of Lisbon’s old town districts of Belém and Alfama also make for great walking. Combined with all the luxuries of a top quality cruise, with a few Christmas surprises thrown in, any over indulgences are easily walked off on daily excursions.
Ramblers Walking Holidays (01707386767, www.cruiseandwalk.co.uk) offer a Cruise and Walk Magic of the Canaries 18 day holiday departing on 20 December 2016 from £2355/person. Price includes onboard meals, a tour guide led walking programme, local guides, tips to restaurant staff on ships and full onboard entertainment. https://www.ramblersholidays.co.uk/magic-of-the-canaries
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Ramblers Walking Holidays is one of two new holiday brands from RWH Travel (formerly known as Ramblers Worldwide Holidays), the experts in guided walking adventures. Celebrating its 70th Anniversary this year, with the launch of two new programmes, other brands within the group include the newly launched Chapters Experience Holidays – memorable experiential holidays around the world; Adagio Holidays – leisurely walking and cultural holidays at a gentle pace; Load Off Your Back – a self-guided UK walking programme and Cruise and Walk – Walking Holidays in association with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines.
For its walking holidays the company is the proud holder of Which? Recommended Provider status – ie companies which are highly rated by Which? Members and reach the exacting standards of Which? Researchers.
*Each of the Ramblers Walking Holidays has been graded to help clients choose their preferredpace, with categories ranging from Grade 1-3/Leisurely (usually two hours walking); to Grade 4-6/Moderate (a combination of full and half day walks); and Grade 7-9/Challenging (full day walks where stamina is key).
To help clients choose the type of walking holiday that will appeal to their interest, Ramblers Walking Holidays also uses symbols that depict the main interest on the walks. Categories include:Pioneer; Continuous Walks; Flora & Walking Holidays; Bird Watching & Walking; Lifestyle, Culture & Natural History; Hutting; Rail & Walk; Sightseeing.
The company’s mission is to generate funds for walking charities by the provision of outstanding outdoor activity holidays worldwide.
With its not-for-profit philosophy, the company contributes monies to the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust which supports walking related and environmental projects in the UK. The company also funds Heart & Sole - an initiative managed by company staff, with the aim of reaching into the heart of the communities visited both in the UK and overseas.
RWH Travel also runs The Walking Partnership - an initiative which champions walking at the 'grass roots' level by providing funding and support to walking groups and clubs throughout the UK.
Ramblers Walking Holidays is the Walking Holiday Partner of the Ramblers, Britain’s walking charity which drove the recent Big Pathwatch project, and has been pioneering and championing walking and ‘rights of way’ for over 70 years across England, Scotland and Wales.
Customers travelling on all holidays operated by RWH Travel are fully protected via the company’s membership of ABTA & ATOL.RWH Travel is also a member of AITO.