Health

Walking holidays

Keep your cardio routine and your waistline in check by embarking on one of these calorie-busting getaways

A week of margaritas on the beach can be fun – but not if you arrive back home feeling bloated and sluggish. Why not plan your holiday around physical activity rather than just lounging by the water or staring out a tour bus window? “A walking holiday energizes you,” says Lisa Dedus, manager of Active Journeys, a Toronto-based travel agency that offers walking trips to over 20 countries. “At the end of the day you feel like you’ve earned the right to a good meal and a glass of wine.” And once you’re home, it’s satisfying to know that you maintained your exercise program, she adds. Here are four different ways you can work walking into your next vacation.

Take a self-guided tour

Self-guided tours are ideal for adventurous, independent travellers who prefer to see the sights at their own pace and not be tied to a schedule, says Dedus. Her company’s self-guided tours provide walkers with up-to-date maps, route notes and suggestions for meal stops. It also pre-books all the accommodations and even transfers the luggage from inn to inn.

“It sounds rather grand not having to carry your bags,” laughs Eileen Simons, who has walked in England’s Lake District, France and Turkey. “But in the height of the summer heat, it was wonderful to just carry just a daypack with water and food.” Her tour also offered weary walkers the option of taking the baggage taxi to the next inn for a more restful day.

Go for a guided tour

Travelling with a guide who has a good knowledge of local history and customs can result in a rich experience, says Dedus. “They also take care of all the details so you can relax and enjoy in the beauty of the country,” she adds. If you’re interested in more-contemplative walking, do what Dedus does on guided trips: walk at the back of the group and enjoy the excursion without all the chatter.

Choose hotels near walking paths

Retired nurse Peggy Jesson takes a holiday almost every year and always chooses hotels with access to pedestrian paths in walking-friendly cities. When she spent four weeks in France, each day included a 30-minute walk to the next town on a paved path alongside the Mediterranean. She would stop for a glass of wine at a café and explore the shops before walking back to her hotel. On another holiday in Croatia, each day started with a brisk five kilometre walk along the Adriatic Sea. “The daily walk let us chat with locals, enjoy the sea air and keep up our exercise routines.”

Sign up for a marathon

Lynne Kerr says that marathoning combined with post-race exploring on foot is her favourite way to discover a new city. While racing in places like Iceland, Ottawa and Orlando, she was able to strike up conversations with local and international walkers while taking in the scenery. These types of experiences just aren’t afforded to bus-bound tourists. “Now the only holidays I’m ready to consider are ones that involve lots of activity,” says Kerr. “I can meet my friends and family on the beach later.”