Do you like the idea of exploring idyllic, off-the-beaten-track destinations in your own time and at your own pace? If you enjoy being active on holiday, but the hustle and bustle of a city break isn’t for you, then you might want to consider going on a relaxed walking or cycling holiday.
Exploring doesn’t have to be hectic and exhausting. Instead, picture cycling through beautiful, diverse scenery, or hiking through pretty villages and towns soaking up the local culture.
If that sounds appealing, you may want to check out Headwater, who’ve been curating award-winning walking and cycling holidays since 1985. Their tailor-made tours are the perfect balance of active and relaxing, featuring stunning locations, breathtaking routes, and hand-picked hotels. You can spend days touring historic towns, trekking through dazzling countryside, or visiting beautiful beaches; and evenings enjoying delicious dinners in your characterful accommodation.
Whether you’re thinking about a staycation, a European break or a holiday across the pond, there’s a Headwater holiday to suit everyone – and after a successful 2022, Headwater is launching an exciting new range of trips for 2023. So, to get you inspired, here are eight active holidays in Europe, America, and Canada to plan for next year.
1. Walking in the Valais Matterhorn, Switzerland
Switzerland is famous throughout the world for its breathtaking alpine scenery. Home to towering mountains, roaring waterfalls, wildflower valleys, and turquoise lakes, the scenery here is impossibly beautiful – and exploring by foot means you can make the most of the diverse landscape. So if you enjoy hiking, why not think about walking Switzerland’s Valais Matterhorn region?
During this seven-night tour, you’ll stay in the historic town of Brig and the quaint mountain village of Saas-Fee, which make ideal bases from which to explore the area. Sprawled across the heart of the Alps, Valais is home to over 8,000km of trails, so whether you want challenging mountain treks or leisurely valley walks, you’ll have plenty of choice.
Your walks will take you right up to many of Valais’ most celebrated sights, from the Great Aletsch Glacier to the golden statue of the Madonna, right on the Italian/Swiss border. During your hikes, you’ll be able to admire gorgeous views of the hulking Matterhorn from some of the best vantage points in all of Zermatt – and the views of the valleys, forests, and meadows are just as impressive!
There’ll be plenty of time for relaxation, whether you want to unwind in the thermal spa resort of Leukerbad or explore characterful mountain towns and villages. You’ll also have a good chance of spotting local wildlife, from ibex goats, with their enormous horns, to cute marmots. A wonderful chance to experience the unique beauty of the legendary Matterhorn.
Enjoy the Valais Matterhorn region on foot
2. Cycling in Valencia and the Costa del Azahar, Spain
If you like the idea of exploring a beautiful, sandy coastline in an exotic setting, you might want to think about heading to Spain’s Costa del Azahar. This seven-night cycling break is an opportunity to see the best of Eastern Spain – from vibrant cities and seaside towns to dramatic natural parks and sparkling Mediterranean Sea.
For the first two nights, you’ll stay in Valencia, where you can explore the historic centre, admire the Romanesque, Baroque, and Gothic architecture, and take in the sensational views from the top of the Miguelete tower. From the city, you’ll cycle to the Albufera wetlands, a peaceful lagoon that’s home to more than 300 species of bird, before taking time to relax on the region’s wild beaches.
Then, it’s time to head inland. You’ll cycle through remote inland valleys, along winding country lanes, over rugged mountain paths, and past pristine beaches. You’ll get to explore the Sierra de Irta Marine Park, the charming towns of Peniscola, Mora de Rubielos, and El Grao de Castellon, and enjoy a dip in the restorative thermal waters of Montanejos.
With the option to do lots of leisurely cycling, soak up the local culture, wander through historic towns, and enjoy some peaceful solitude on secluded beaches – this is a break that strikes the perfect balance between activity, exploration, and relaxation. And of course, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sample the mouthwatering local cuisine. This is the birthplace of paella, after all!
See the best of Valencia and Costa de Azahar
3. Walking in Mont Blanc, France and Italy
If you’re more drawn to mountains than the coast, then a walking tour in France’s dramatic Mont Blanc region might be for you. Famous for its snow-capped mountains, gleaming glaciers, rolling valleys, and mirror-like lakes, this part of the Alps is also home to one of the oldest treks in the world, Tour du Mont Blanc.
The 170km path winds around the Mont Blanc massif and crosses through France and Italy – and during this seven-night tour, you’ll be staying in alpine resorts in both countries. The first four nights will be spent in Chamonix, a French town that’s known as one of the adventure capitals of the world, while the last three nights will be spent in Courmayeur, a traditional Italian resort.
Your walks will take you through some of the most spectacular alpine scenery imaginable. The trail winds through dappled woodland, pretty mountain villages, and meadows teeming with wildflowers, and as you walk the soaring summits of the Alps will unfold around you. This is a holiday where you’ll want to have a camera on you at all times!
You’ll trek across the Aiguilles Rouges massif, through the glacial valley of Refuge Miage, and past the Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier – to name just three of the sites you’ll see. When you’re not stretching your legs, you can unwind in cosy resort towns, relax in spas and wellness centres, and make the most of traditional alpine hospitality.
Trek through Mont Blanc
4. Cycling Maine’s coast and national parks, USA
The American state of Maine is known for its spectacular coastal scenery, elegant lighthouses, upmarket towns and sumptuous seaside cuisine. If this sounds tempting to you, then why not think about cycling Maine’s coast and national parks? Spanning almost 400 miles, cycling is definitely the best way to see as much of this gorgeous state as possible.
During this seven-night break you’ll be staying in six New England inns dotted along the coastline, giving you the chance to explore many lovely towns, from the artistic village of Rockland to the picturesque town of Camden. You’ll cycle through incredibly diverse scenery, from craggy coastline paths to rustic carriage roads, and trails that weave through charming waterfront towns.
You’ll also cycle through Acadia National Park, where you can climb Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the North Atlantic coast, and enjoy ferry rides across the stunning Schoodic Peninsula. You’ll be able to admire jaw-dropping views throughout the week, from craggy islands to historic lighthouses, and lush forests to rolling hills.
You’ll have plenty of time to soak up the laidback New England ambience – and feast on its famous cuisine! Maine’s lobster and smoked salmon are second-to-none, as are its fresh blueberries and whimsically-titled ‘whoopie pie’. Because you’ll be visiting so many places, you’ll be able to dive deep into Maine culture and discover just what makes it so unique.
Explore Maine by bike
5. Walking in the Tyrolean Mountains, Austria
Boasting deep, mysterious lakes, imposing mountains, alpine pastures, and roaring waterfalls, the Austrian Alps is one of the most magnetically beautiful destinations in the world. During this six-night walking holiday, you won’t only be able to enjoy trekking through colourful meadows and dramatic gorges, but you’ll also get to stay in the exclusive winter sports resort of Kitzbuhel.
Though it might be most famous as the home of the legendary World Cup ski race Hahnenkamm, Kitzbuhel has plenty of history, luxury, and culture to offer too. You’ll have ample time to wander around the town’s medieval centre, as well as relax in your comfortable 4-star hotel. But with so much natural beauty around you, you’ll probably be itching to explore.
There’s so much to see and do in this wonderful region you’ll be spoiled for choice – though you can look forward to cable car rides up soaring summits, hikes through desolate and romantic ravines, riverside walks to pretty villages, and strolls through colourful flower gardens. You’ll also get the chance to enjoy a spot of wild swimming in deep turquoise and emerald-green lakes.
You can go on your own pilgrimage, following in the footsteps of the pilgrims who once trekked the Tyrolean Way of St. James – and on this ancient route, you’ll be able to admire 360-degree mountain vistas from historic chapels. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also get to head down one of the world’s most feared downhill ski runs, The Streif. Although thankfully, you’ll be on foot, not skis!
Hike the Tyrolean Alps
6. Cycling in the Valais Matterhorn, Switzerland
If the walking tour of the Valais Matterhorn sounded appealing but you prefer cycling over walking, then you’re in luck – because you can also tour this dazzling region by bike. Exploring the Valais Matterhorn on two wheels means you’re able to cover far more ground, so if you’re keen to see as much as you possibly can it’s a wise choice. Perfect for adventure lovers, this seven-night tour is simply unforgettable.
Because you’ll be staying at a different hotel each night, you’ll be able to explore seven different alpine towns, all of which have their own appeal. Each location offers something special, whether it’s a sleek wellness centre, a historic town centre, natural thermal spas and springs, or uninterrupted views of the Matterhorn.
There’s plenty to appeal to foodies too. If you love wine, you’ll be able to visit many wine-growing villages – as Valais is responsible for around 40% of Switzerland’s wine production! You can tour the vineyards of the Rhône Valley, stop off for tastings, and then treat yourself to iconic sweet treats, like the famous cream cake in the town of Moosalp!
And of course, there’ll be plenty of cycling. You can follow exhilarating single trails along the Rhône and Nanztal Valleys, pedal across challenging slopes and through sun-speckled forests, and admire mesmerising views of mountains, meadows, and glaciers. This a fabulous tour that will allow you to discover the charm, history, and culture of this inimitable region.
Tour the Valais Matterhorn by bike
7. Walking British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, Canada
Perhaps you’d like to lose yourself in nature, spot incredible wildlife, and enjoy lots of hiking while you’re at it. If so, then a walking holiday on Canada’s Sunshine Coast is worthy of a place on your travel list. This corner of British Columbia is only accessible by plane or boat, so if you’re looking for a real wilderness experience, away from throngs of tourists, you won’t be disappointed!
You’ll begin in the coastal town of Gibsons, where you’ll spend the first two nights in a luxury hotel. Here you can hike through verdant valleys and mossy canyons; tour thundering waterfalls and alpine lakes; and trek along the Mount Elphinstone Summit Trail, which takes you over one of the area’s highest peaks. After, you can reward yourself with some pampering at your spa hotel.
For the next two days, you’ll be based in Madeira Park, where you’ll be staying in a tranquil waterside resort and spa. There are all kinds of hikes you can do around here, from forest lake loops to scenic beach walks, and if you want to rest your legs there’s plenty of culture too. You can visit protected archaeological sites, immerse yourself in the local arts scene, and feast upon fresh produce.
Then you’ll move onto Powell River, where you’ll spend the next three nights in a gorgeous wooden chalet. From here you can swim in lakes, hike up mountains, visit waterfalls, or simply enjoy gentle strolls through ancient forests and past sweeping ocean vistas. You may even be lucky enough to spot black bears, cougars, and wolves! A wilderness experience like no other.
Go off-the-beaten track on the Sunshine Coast
8. Walking in the Stubai Valley, Austria
Another alpine experience that might appeal to you – particularly if you’re looking for something a little less strenuous – is a walking holiday in Austria’s Stubai Valley. This seven-night break will take you deep into the Tyrol region, which is known as the ‘Heart of the Alps’, and here you’ll enjoy lots of gentle walking without compromising on views.
You’ll be staying in the same accommodation for the whole week – a 4-star hotel in the picture-postcard village of Neustift im Stubaital – so you’ll really be able to relax and unwind. Located in a green valley and circled by forested slopes, Neustift is one of the prettiest villages in Tyrol, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding mountain landscape.
You can enjoy gentle yet invigorating walks along the River Ruetz, trek up the rocky Elferspitze, and hike across the 1,000-year-old Stubai Glacier. After, you can recharge in Austria’s highest mountain restaurant, where you can marvel at the magnificent mountain views from the summit platform, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful viewing platforms in the world.
If you fancy something more laidback, you’ll be spoiled for choice. There’s a pool, jacuzzi, and sauna in your hotel, and the village of Neustift is home to plenty of excellent restaurants. If you want to explore by yourself, you can use the cable cars to visit other mountain villages, where you can enjoy the hearty cuisine and unrivalled hospitality this region is so famous for.
Marvel at the mountains in Stubai Valley
Whether you’re drawn to the Canadian coastline, the towering Alps, sunny Spain, or wonderful Wales, we hope this article has inspired you. Finding the right balance between relaxation and adventure can be tricky, but these holidays allow you to discover the beauty and culture of each destination while getting plenty of exercise, and enjoying lots of leisure time too.
What makes these Headwater tours so special is that they’re self-guided, which means you can go at your own pace. If you’d like a break from walking or cycling, you can find a pretty spot, put your feet up and admire the views – and if you feel like taking it easy, you can skip an excursion and spend the day relaxing instead.
Headwater has years of experience creating tailor-made tours, and they’re experts in selecting boutique accommodation, fascinating destinations, and spellbinding routes. So now the world has opened up to us again, why not ring in the new year by embracing your sense of adventure, and treating yourself to a walking or cycling holiday you won’t forget?
Explore all Headwater Holidays
Have you been on a walking or cycling holiday before – or are you tempted by any of these trips? We’d love to hear about your travel experiences and plans in the comments below.