It may be tempting to hang up your hiking gear until spring, but you don’t have to abandon the great outdoors just yet.
From the guaranteed sunshine on the Canary Islands, to the unparalleled beauty of the Scottish Highlands, we’re shining the light on 5 top destinations that are ripe for exploring on a winter hiking holiday – so you can keep your adventurous spirit alive all year long!
1. New Zealand
New Zealand’s summer runs from December through to February, making it a perfect winter hiking destination. One trail not to be missed is the Queen Charlotte Track, that runs between the Queen Charlotte Sound and the Kenepuru Sound on the South Island.
Catering for all abilities, the track offers various routes to marvel at the clear blue waters, mountains and lush green forests along the way. Whether you opt to go-it-alone or join an organised walking holiday, you’ll find plenty of lodges and guest houses on route, as well as transport services to ship luggage from Point A to Point B – so you don’t have to carry it with you all the way. There are also water cruises and excursions showcasing the natural beauty spots in a different way – if you fancy giving your feet a rest.
2. The Canary Islands
With their volcanic landscapes, beautiful coastlines and all-year-round sunshine, the Canaries are a hiker’s paradise, especially for those who prefer fair weather when they’re walking. Whether you fancy tackling the summit of Mount Teide on Tenerife or rambling through the eerie barren stretches of Guitaza on Lanzarote, the Canary Islands have a fantastic array of hiking trails for you to explore.
On foot, there are unrivalled opportunities to experience these wondrous archipelagoes up close – uncovering volcanic cones, caves and lunar landscapes, as well as beautiful beaches, tropical plant life and amazing wildlife. Beyond hiking, visitors can see the islands from a different perspective, with boat tours and cultural sights, or enjoy some relaxation with sandy beaches and poolside BBQs – making it easy to combine an active holiday with a little rest and relaxation.
If you’re looking to get off the beaten track and immerse yourself in nature, then the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, the African continent could be just the perfect place for a magical winter walking trip. Situated in Africa’s highest mountain range at 16,000 feet, also known as the Mountains of the Moon, these mountains provide a truly unique walking destination.
Best visited between December and March, you can witness epic glaciers, grazing elephants and breathtaking landscapes as you hit the hiking paths. You can even tap into local knowledge with additional wildlife tours to make your trip even more memorable and make use of various accommodation options in Kampala, Fort Portal and Kilembe – with hostels, hotels and guest houses ready to welcome walkers after a long day.
Steeped in history and folklore, as well as home to some dramatic countryside that includes the Highlands, Scotland is prime picking for a winter walking holiday. Its steep ascents, rocky terrain and changeable weather are sure to get the adrenalin pumping. Walking the Highlands isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the challenge and unparalleled beauty will make it more than worthwhile.
While the Highlands may not be one of the world’s highest ranges, the Munro Hills still offer 283 hilltops that climb over 3,000 ft. Amongst these natural beauties is Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles.
For the most adventurous amongst you, the quickest recorded completion time of all 283 peaks is 39 days, 9 hours and 6 minutes. For the more cautious amongst you, explore these historical hills at a more leisurely pace – with plenty of local guest houses, B&Bs and holiday cottages for rent, you can enjoy a wee dram in front of the fire, ready for another day’s hiking.
5. The Alps
The mother of all winter holiday destinations, Europe’s highest and most extensive mountain range stretches approximately 1,200 kilometres across 8 countries.
Amongst the most popular Alpine climbs are those in the Chamonix valley, offering unrivalled panoramic views of the stunning Alpine valley and neighbouring mountains. Boasting 138 hikes ranging from family routes to those suited for the most experienced of hikers, Chamonix offers the chance to really get some altitude and properly explore the adventurer within you. With all the routes well sign-posted, you’ll spend less time staring down at your map and compass and more time taking in the simply stunning scenery the region has to offer, from the excitement of skiers flying down mountains to the awe-inspiring peak of Mont Blanc.
With so many amazing winter walking destinations to whet your appetite, it’s time to rethink packing away your hiking boots for the winter. Whether you choose to stay in a villa in Lanzarote, a wooden cottage in Scotland or a tent under the stars, we hope you’ll find plenty of inspiration to keep walking this winter.
This guest blog was written by Nick Ball, who works for Optima Villas, providers of luxury villas in Lanzarote.