Walking the World
Posted: Oct. 6, 2016
Walking — the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other — through a scenic location always lifts my spirits and puts a smile on my face. And I’m not alone. Everywhere I travel in the world, there is a growing enthusiasm for hiking, rambling, bush walking — call it what you will. Across the world, moving on foot is the most popular form of outdoor recreation.
It wasn’t until I lived in Munich that I began to think of walking as a sport. On weekends, my German friends would invite me to join them to spazieren gehen, or “go for a walk,” along the scenic roads and trails in the Alps. These vigorous walks were typically followed by a few biers in a cozy gasthaus. What’s not to love about that? Here are a few of my favorite walks:
During a recent visit to Germany, my husband and I, equipped with our hiking poles, headed directly to Oberstdorf, an adorable town in the southwest region of the country. This community, which sits in a valley surrounded by mountains, has a well-deserved reputation as a “hikers’ paradise.” Each route in the extensive network of trails that crisscross the slopes is well posted with colorful signs indicating the degree of difficulty, distance, and average time to reach the destination. We both appreciated that the area is sprinkled with rustic little cafés, so it isn’t necessary to carry much food or a lot of water.
One day, we hiked through a lush meadow past some very contented brown cows, then along a river to a chairlift. We jumped on the chairlift to take us up to another hiking trail that led to a beautiful alpine lake. Another time, we followed an easier path across a field of white wildflowers and past some old wooden farm buildings before climbing to a panoramic view of one of the highest ski jumps in the world.
We stayed at Hotel Filser, a spotless, four-star property that offers views of the surrounding mountains, an indoor pool, sauna, massage, and spa treatments. We loved the breakfast buffet that included typical Bavarian cured meats, hearty breads, and a salad bar. Our room was on the ground floor, and we still fondly reminisce about being woken each morning by the sound of cow bells as a local farmer and his herd walked past our open window. filserhotel.de/en
South Island, New Zealand
Just about 100 years ago, in an article that appeared in the London Spectator, the poet Blanche Baughan declared the Milford Track in New Zealand to be “the finest walk in the world.” That put the island nation on the map as a great walking destination — a reputation that has grown over the years.
I’ve walked the Milford and quite a few of the other incredibly scenic trails on the South Island. In our June issue, I wrote about the Queen Charlotte Track, but I also really like the nearby Abel Tasman Coast Track. One-day walks are possible here, but the whole trail is about 32 miles — done over three to five days. It’s possible to walk the track in either direction, take a water taxi part of the way, or kayak between different locations.
Beachfront lodges, like Torrent Bay and Meadowbank Homestead-Awaroa, are perched along the shoreline of Abel Tasman National Park. The lodges provide very comfortable accommodations, great meals, and some of the country’s best water views. Luggage can be moved from one place to the other by boat. abeltasman.co.nz
On Foot Holidays
The Brits are the “keenest ramblers” I’ve ever met. On the Queen Charlotte Walk earlier this year, we met a retired member of the British Army and his wife who nearly sprinted past walkers half their age.
So, it comes as no surprise that the best walking tour company I know of is based in England. On Foot Holidays organizes self-guided walking holidays all over Europe, including all planning along the route and booking accommodations. Walkers simply choose a location and indicate their level of fitness. The company arranges luggage transfers, provides maps and detailed instructions, and books lodging in boutique hotels, farms, and guesthouses along the way. Travelers are especially enthusiastic about their trips through the Dolomites region of Italy and Vikos Gorge in Greece, though the outfitter arranges trips in a number of countries.
I’m currently eyeing a Croatia itinerary that includes walking several car-less islands off the Dalmatian Coast. I haven’t started putting one foot in front of the other yet, but just reading the description already put a smile on my face. onfootholidays.co.uk ELIZABETH HANSEN
Oberstdorf: Photo courtesy of Helena Dell’Orletta, Michael Monschau for GNTO All other photography courtesy of ADAMS / HANSEN STOCK PHOTOS