Do you like the idea of going on an active holiday where you can have off-the-beaten track adventures in your own time and at your own pace? If so, then you might like to consider going on a walking, cycling, or cross-country skiing holiday.
To help inspire you, we’ve partnered with Headwater, who are the leading specialists in self-guided walking and cycling holidays since 1985. They’re experts in creating hand-crafted itineraries so you can discover the world on foot or by bike – and more recently by cross-country skiing too.
On a Headwater holiday, you can explore stunning scenery and picturesque towns and villages while immersing yourself in local culture and cuisine.
Plus, having recently launched an exciting range of new adventures for 2023 and 2024, there’s a holiday to suit every level of walker, cyclist, and cross-country skier, whether you fancy a staycation, a European break, or somewhere else far flung.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of 12 active holiday ideas – one for every month of the year.
Cross-country skiing at Venabu, Norway
Norway may be best-known for its fjords, but it’s also home to spectacular gorges, snow-capped peaks, and pretty fells and valleys.
Its pristine winter landscapes make central Norway a top choice for cross-country skiing – and it’s also sure to snow in January. Plus, this month, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights.
On this tour, you’ll stay in beautiful accommodation with panoramic views of the mountains and cross-country skiing on your doorstep. The friendly and relaxing atmosphere of this home-from-home resort also makes it a great option for solo travellers.
It’s traditional to travel on skis in these parts, and there’s a guided programme suitable for all levels. You can also try snowshoeing or tobogganing, go on a torch-lit, horse-drawn sleigh ride, or take the train to the nearby town of Lillehammer, where you can visit their museums and art galleries.
There’s plenty of delicious cuisine to be enjoyed too. You can dine on healthy yet hearty homemade Norwegian food – with good vegetarian options – while soaking in the picturesque mountain views.
Average daily maximum temperature of central Norway in January: -2C
Nip to Norway for cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing in Lapland, Finland
The spectacular Pallas-Yllastunturi National Park in the heart of Finnish Lapland officially has the cleanest air on the planet. Lying 200km north of the Arctic Circle, there’s a good chance of spotting the awe-inspiring Northern Lights here in February.
On this seven-night Headwater cross-country skiing trip, you’ll be staying in wooden cabins in the three-star family-run boutique resort of Yllas.
This is a snow-sure destination in the month of February and is every cross-country skier’s paradise, with over 300km of trails – some of which are lit up at night – that are suitable for all levels and abilities.
You could ski to the frozen lake of Akaslomopojarvi, explore the ancient forests, or pop into a skiers’ cafe for a pulla (sweet sticky bun) and a hot blueberry juice.
Also on offer are snowmobiling, husky sledding, snowshoeing, and fat biking. You can take the ski bus to the Snow Village (an ice hotel sculpted by artists) too – or if you have time, hop on a chair lift up Yllastunturi Fell, where you can soak in the views from Finland’s highest restaurant.
Average daily maximum temperature of Lapland in February: -6C
Glimpse the Northern Lights in Lapland
Walking in Puglia and Matera, Italy
If you like walking, March is the ideal time to pop to Puglia – otherwise known as ‘the heel of Italy’ – situated on the country’s southeastern tip.
This popular region has a magnificent coastline scattered with watchtowers, scenic landscapes, and a rich cultural heritage. Plus, there are fewer tourists this time of year, but the weather is pleasant enough for a stroll.
Headwater’s self-guided week-long walking trip takes you from the Baroque splendour of the city of Lecce (the Florence of the South), to the ancient rock churches and cave houses of Matera.
Walking at your own pace, you can explore the unique cone-shaped ‘trulli’ houses that are scattered in the wildflower meadows of Alberobello, or venture to the hilltop town of Ostuni, where whitewashed homes are surrounded by ancient olive groves. Then, you can make your way down to the beautiful Lido Morelli beach for some time in the sun.
There’s also plenty of opportunity to enjoy lingering lunches, savour mouthwatering local food and wine, and kick back at quaint hotels in lovely locations.
Average daily maximum temperature of Puglia in March: 14C
Pop to Puglia ahead of the crowds
Strolling through the cherry blossoms in Japan
Japan is famous for its incredible cherry blossoms which bloom each Spring. And, if this sensational sight is on your bucket-list, then it makes sense to visit the towns of Kyoto and Osaka in April, when the bloom here is at its most glorious.
If you enjoy hiking, you might like to take a walking holiday along Japan’s Kumano Kodo trail. You’ll follow in the footsteps of bygone pilgrims on this ancient route, which weaves through mystical mountains.
Along the way, you’ll visit sacred shrines, bathe in thermal hot springs, and enjoy expansive views over the Pacific Ocean. Plus, while staying in traditional ryokans and minshuku guesthouses, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in Japanese culture.
Average daily maximum temperature in Japan in April: 19C.
Walk among the cherry blossoms in Japan
Walking in the Picos de Europa, Spain
With majestic limestone peaks, a wealth of wildlife, and traditional mountain villages, the Picos de Europa in northern Spain is an incredible place for hiking. And if you go in May, you’ll walk through lush, green forested valleys and meadows covered with wildflowers.
Spending seven nights in a friendly family-run boutique hotel with panoramic views near Arenas de Cabrales, on this Headwater tour you can choose from an array of day walks in these remarkable, but little-known, magical mountains.
Walking at your own pace (with a day or two off to relax if you fancy), you can soak in the spectacular scenery of this area known as ‘Green Spain’ and sample delicious local food – including the region’s famous blue cheese, queso cabrales. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a brown bear, Iberian wolf, or golden eagle as you walk.
Average daily maximum temperature of Picos de Europa in May: 16C.
Admire nature in the mountains of Green Spain
Walking the landscapes of the Luberon, France
The timeless landscape of Provence, with its charming natural light and lavender-scented summers have inspired generations of poets, painters, and writers.
If you’d like to delight your senses with a walk in the Luberon National Park, June is an ideal time to visit, as this is when the lavender fields are at their loveliest.
Headwater’s eight-night walking holiday takes in the lush Provencal countryside – heady with the gorgeous scents of lavender, wild herbs, and pine in summer. Passing through vineyards and olive groves, you’ll stop at the striking ochre cliffs of Roussillon and enjoy superb views of Mont Ventoux.
You’ll also stay in characterful, quality hotels with sparkling swimming pools. Prepare to tuck into hearty Provencal cuisine and enjoy the region’s famous rosé wines.
Average daily maximum temperature of Provence in June: 27C.
Follow in the footsteps of artists in Provence
Walking Canada’s Sunshine Coast
Why not celebrate Canada Day on the 1st July by walking along British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast?
Exploring on foot is one of the best ways to discover this captivating coastline, which is only accessible by plane or boat. With inlets set against a backdrop of rugged mountains and lush forests that are home to black bears, cougars, and wolves – this eight-night holiday is the perfect opportunity to connect with nature.
Starting in Vancouver, you’ll enjoy a number of varied walks in spectacular scenery ranging from fern-filled valleys and powerful waterfalls to mossy canyons and alpine lakes. There’s also a high mountain trail with sweeping views over the deep fjord of Howe Sound.
Plus, you’ll stay in serene waterfront retreats that have paddle boards or kayaks available if you fancy exploring the rivers at your own pace.
Average daily maximum temperature of Canada in July: 17C.
Walk in the wild on Canada’s Sunshine Coast
Walks around Mont Blanc, France
One of oldest and most popular hiking routes in the world, the Tour du Mont Blanc, is a magnificent long-distance trail that passes gigantic glaciers, snow-capped summits, and mirrored lakes throughout the French, Swiss and Italian Alps.
On this short four-night break with Headwater, you’ll stay in the bustling town of Chamonix, which offers easy access to some of the most beautiful sections of the Mont Blanc trail. This walk is best done in the warmer summer months – when it’s painted with a myriad of colours and more trails that allow you to reach untouched areas.
Staying in 3-star hotels (with an optional upgrade to 4-star), you’ll experience traditional alpine hospitality, with good access to transport – including the mountain buses, which are known to be more reliable in August.
Average daily maximum temperature of Chamonix in August: 22C.
Marvel at majestic Mont Blanc in summer
Cycle through the heart of Veneto, Italy
Most people know of Veneto’s capital, Venice, but the rest of this famous wine-producing area is largely undiscovered.
During this self-guided holiday, you’ll cycle circular routes along a valley crisscrossed with quiet country lanes in the heart of the enchanting Venetian countryside. Picture yourself picnicking by a tranquil wooded lake, visiting pretty villages, and cycling through vineyards on the rolling plains.
You’ll be staying on a delightful family-run agriturismo (farm) in Villaganzerla for the week, dining on genuine farm-to-fork produce and drinking local wine in true Italian comfort and style. And when you feel like a change of pace, you can always soak up some culture on a day trip to Veneto’s famous capital, Venice, or to the towns of Verona, Padua, and Vicenza.
How about visiting during vendemmia (the grape harvest) in September, where you can pick grapes with your hosts and get an authentic taste of Italian country living?
Average daily maximum temperature of Veneto in September: 25C.
Visit Veneto during vendemmia
Gourmet walking in Burgundy’s vineyards, France
This gourmet walking holiday is a feast for all your senses – and it’s even more magical in October when you can stroll through vineyards painted with the colours of autumn.
The vine-clad hills in burnished gold and flame-red provide a wonderful setting for this six-night holiday, where you’ll walk between the gastronomic and wine capitals of Dijon and Beaune.
Designed with foodies in mind, on this self-guided walking break you can hunt for truffles, taste local cheeses, and enjoy a wine tasting at the majestic Chateau Clos Vougeot – one of Burgundy’s most famous sights.
On strolls between hotels on country lanes, through vineyards, and woodland trails, you’ll get the chance to sample fine wines in 13th-century cellars, have lunch in world-renowned medieval Nuits-St-Georges, and taste local dishes like beef bourguignon.
Average daily maximum temperature of Burgundy in October: 16C.
Experience the magic of Burgundy
Islands of Bermuda walk
American writer Mark Twain once said, “You go to heaven if you want. I’d rather stay here in Bermuda”. Famed for its picturesque turquoise bays, sugary pink sands, and coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, Bermuda is a pocket-sized paradise.
As the cold winter months begin to bite, why not escape to this sunsoaked heaven that’s alive with colourful flowers? Bermuda is made up of a small collection of eight islands that form the fish hook-shaped mainland – which makes it a great place to explore on foot.
Walking on the gentle traffic-free trails you’ll visit stunning sea grottos and picturesque British colonial towns. There’ll also be chances to spot tree frogs and one of Bermuda’s larger land birds – the kiskadee flycatcher. A particular highlight is the spectacular South Shore Trail, where sea turtles and humpback whales play offshore.
During this seven-night holiday, you’ll be based at a resort that has three beaches that offer plenty of relaxation at the end of a day’s walking.
Average daily maximum temperature of Bermuda in November: 24C.
Revel in the tropical colours of Bermuda
Discovering the Maltese islands
The mild, sunny winters of the unspoilt Mediterranean islands of Gozo and Malta make an ideal location for a December walking holiday.
With dramatic coastlines, colourful fishing villages, and beautiful beaches sloping down to Mediterranean waters, Malta offers excellent coastal walks. One of the most awe-inspiring walks is around Malta’s ‘fish tail’, which passes some of the area’s historic coastal watchtowers.
During the first four nights of this Headwater walking holiday, you’ll stay in a contemporary boutique hotel near Malta’s capital, Valletta – the smallest capital in Europe. And, here, there’s plenty of time to explore its captivating architecture, narrow streets, and ancient city walls.
Travelling by ferry, the last three nights are spent on tiny, rugged Gozo, with some areas only accessible on foot. Your walks will take you around the impressive coastline – with spectacular views over salt pans, Fungus Rock, and the Inland Sea – until you reach a pocket-sized harbour with colourful houses and a beautiful ochre-coloured bay.
Average daily maximum temperature of Malta in December: 17C.
Explore two Mediterranean islands on foot
Whether you’re drawn to cherry blossom season in Japan, the sun-kissed shores of Bermuda, or fancy cycling the secret corners of Italy during the wine harvest, we hope these active holidays have inspired you.
The fact that holidays with Headwater are self-guided means you can explore independently, in your own time and at your own pace. On their itineraries, you can choose to tackle their recommended walking and cycling routes, enjoy an optional activity, or take advantage of your hotel spas and amenities if you fancy a break.
Headwater also has decades of experience in creating tailor-made holidays, which means you can expect spot-on destinations, spectacular routes, and special accommodations. So, if you’re thinking about travelling this year, why not treat yourself to an unforgettable walking, cycling, or cross-country skiing holiday?