Trains, planes and automobiles may get you to your destination. But, sometimes, the only way to truly appreciate a place is to get out on foot and explore. That way, you get to enjoy the best that Mother Nature has to offer, away from the maddening crowds, in places you simply can’t get to any other way.
Walking festivals give you the opportunity to get out with a guide who knows the area inside out, taking you to beauty spots you might never have discovered by yourself, and allowing you to join with like-minded travellers. Here are just a few of the best walking festivals which take place he world:
Crazy Horse Volksmarch
Sometimes, you want to walk in glorious isolation. But, sometimes, swapping solitude for the solidarity provided by fellow walkers makes for an uplifting experience. The annual Crazy Horse Volksmarch, usually in the first full weekend in June, is the most popular organised hike in the US. Up to 15,000 walkers make the 10k journey up to the world’s largest mountain carving in progress in the southern Black Hill of South Dakota. Hikers follow the dirt trails up to the turning point on the arm of the Crazy Horse, directly in front of the nine-storey-high face. Camping is available at nearby at Custer Crazy Horse Campground with easy access Black Hills attractions and views over the town of Custer.
North Devon & Exmoor
Part desolate wilderness, part well-farmed rolling green fields, dotted with chocolate-box pretty villages and culminating in dramatic cliffs and sandy coves, North Devon and Exmoor are home to some of the most beautiful and varied walking spots in the UK. Taking place from April 26 to May 5, the North Devon and Exmoor Walking festival starts around Ilfracombe with its tiny bays and windswept headlands, before moving along the coast to Lynton, Lynmouth and Porlock, finishing in the area surrounding Dunster, with its historic castle, white-washed houses and meandering river. Accommodation is available on the beach at Croyde, a 20-minute drive away from Ilfracombe.
Winter walking in Willingen
Walking in the Great Oudoors isn’t just a summer pastime, as the German Winter Walking Festival in Willingen proves. Taking place in January, the event is a joint initiative from the town of Willingen and the local mountain society, and was set up in response to the growing trend for winter walking. Organisers wanted to offer something new, and to highlight the benefits for mind and body of getting out and exercising in the crisp winter air. As well as walks, the festival programme includes cross-country skiing, horse-drawn sleigh rides and curling. A range of accommodation is available in Willingen itself via the tourist board’s website.
The Canary Islands have a lot going for them when it comes to walking, being home not just to spectacular scenery, but enjoying warm, mild weather throughout the year. Taking place from October 4 to 11, is the Gran Canaria Walking Festival. The event generally includes five different walks, varying in length and difficulty. You get up into the mountains, seeing Gran Canaria’s cave houses in Acusa and stopping for lunch in the typical Canarian village of Artenara, with its important archaeological sites. The festival is organised by the Association of Rural Accommodation of Gran Canaria to promote the natural wonders of the Island and rural accommodation near the walk’s routes can be booked via their website.
In the land of Oz
While Australia may not be the first country you think of when it comes to walking, given its vast size, there are a select band of people who have walked across its entire breadth. But, if you don’t want to go to such record-breaking extremes, the Canberra Walking Festival takes place on March 28 to 30, offering four walking events over the three days. Walkers choose their own challenge, from the 5km guided walk designed for children and over 75s to a full marathon. A walk around the stunning Lake Burley Griffin is one of the highlights. The association’s website lists nearby accommodation options.
Wherever in the world you choose to walk, and whatever distance you cover, there’s nothing like a bracing hike, breathing in fresh country or sea air, to make you feel truly alive.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.