Friday, July 18, 2014

Patagonia - There's no rush to reach the ends of the earth

He who rushes, wastes time, goes the old Patagonian proverb.

And there is no rushing Patagonia.

A remote paradise at the ends of the earth, this vast region is one of the world's most stunning areas of unspoiled wilderness.

Hiking in the Argentinian borderlands along the spine of the Andes offers an unbeatable opportunity to absorb the stunning views of lakes, mountains and glaciers.

The silence of the steppes and the sheer, magical emptiness is the perfect place to hike with an expert local guide and Walk manager who specialise in taking guests off the beaten track on foot, giving them a rich cultural experience of the region, including its people, food and traditions.

Walk in the footsteps of the early settlers and meet the gauchos who still work the land on remote ranches.

In the midst of the Los Glaciares National Park cruise to almost touching distance of the great Perito Moreno glacier where great ice boulders break away with a crack and a roar.

Watch out for guanacos and hares, condors and flamingoes, maybe even a puma.

Spend a day close to nature at the Peninsula de las Colonias, wildlife trekking and helping prepare a campfire lunch.

And talking of lunch, Patagonia offers regional specialties that are hard to match anywhere else in the world.

The region is most known for its tender lamb (cordero), roasted slowly over an open flame - of the asado, or barbecue.

Another local delicacy is wild boar (jabalí), which, while not native to Patagonia, is today one of its most important meats. And, of course, diners will want to enjoy venison (ciervo) as well as Patagonia's fresh seafood options, including trout, king crab and salmon.

And whatever you do, don't forget the Lemon Pie at La Leona, an isolated inn once the refuge of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!

And if you are heading to the ends of the earth, don't miss the opportunity to  to extend the trip and stay in vibrant Buenos Aires, enjoy a relaxing stay at a traditional estancia or hike in the Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia.

Find out more about this once in a lifetime vacation on our website

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Camino de Santiago - where the spirit is in the walking

Breathe deeply, stride out, follow the scallop shells - and be prepared for a life-changing experience.

To hike the Camino de Santiago is to join in one of the great walking experiences anywhere in the world.

From kings to paupers, for more than 1,000 years, countless pilgrims have followed this route across the 'top' of Spain.

The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain owes its origin to the discovery, in what is now Galicia, of the tomb of the Apostle James the Great sometime early in the 9th century.

Whatever the reasons for undertaking this special journey to the 'field of stars', the spirit is in the walking - and in the walkers stepping out alongside, each taking it at his or her own pace.

The medieval villages, soaring Romanesque cathedrals, intimate chapels and sanctuaries and peaceful hills and valleys make friends out of strangers, united for mile upon mile or for a few hours or days by their shared goal.

Set off from Burgos, the ancient capital of Castile, dominated by one of Europe's great Gothic cathedrals.

On the way, visit Leon, founded by the Romans and later cross the longest pilgrim bridge in Spain to Astorga with its medieval cathedral and Gaudi's extraordinary Bishop's Palace.

Pass the night in a high mountain village and travel on to Cruz de Hierro, adding a stone to the mountain left by passing pilgrims ove generations.

A lonely track leads to Ponferrada, with its 12th-century Templar Castle built to defend the pilgrims from the Moors. 

From there walk beside mountain streams to the perfectly preserved hilltop village of O'Cebreiro, with its pallozas, oval stone huts with conical straw roofs.

The first glimpse of the towers of Santiago still has the power to thrill even a modern-day pilgrim.

The huge Praza de Obradoiro frames the magnificent cathedral in the heart of the old Baroque city.

Attend the pilgrims' mass there and, before leaving, make sure a scallop shell is tucked in to a bag or pocket, just like the pilgrims of yesteryear.

Our 2015 Walk along highlights of the Camino departs on 23 May. Find out more here

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Landscape Photographer in Tuscany and Umbria

In June, we sent photographer Stephen Banks (from our PR company Watershed) to Italy. He spent three days with Lesley, our Walk Leader in Classic Tuscany, and then joined Wayfarers on their Walk through Tuscany and Umbria. We caught up with him, back home in England, to see what he thought of his first trip to Italy.

You know you've had a successful trip when you end up with more than 1,500 images with which you're pleased! Walking through ancient towns, with churches and castles, through stunning landscapes in the sunshine - I was spoiled for choice!

The first thing that struck me was the size of the landscapes. I knew Italy was a relatively small country, but when you're standing on top of the town hall in Montepulciano, for instance, and you see a vast expanse of countryside, penned in by mountainous peaks, and a huge sky above, you realise what a joy it is to photograph!

Both Walks were equally enjoyable, but very different. In Classic Tuscany, the expanses of rolling hills and cypress trees overwhelm the senses, whereas in Tuscany and Umbria, you get more of a variety. Mountains, forests, fields, pastures, olive plantations and vineyards, ancient towns, monuments and cathedrals, hermitages, monasteries and a famous author's house!

Both Walks have equal merits for someone new to Italy, like myself. And, considering the heat (touching 100°F at times), the going was relatively easy and I didn't feel tired at any point.

Particular highlights for me were seeing the Chapel of the Madonna of Vitaleta and the views from La Foce on the Classic Tuscany Walk, then Cortona (particularly getting up at 5am to photograph the sunrise), the walk atop Monte Subasio towards Assisi and the food at our final hotel in Tuscany and Umbria, the Castello di Spaltenna. Wonderful!

Anybody remotely interested in landscape photography should go on either the Classic Tuscany Walk, or the Tuscany and Umbria Walk.

Keep an eye on the Wayfarers Facebook page and YouTube channel, as we've been assured there are plenty of little tastes of Tuscany and Umbria to be added soon. Stephen took hundreds of video clips, along with his photographs.

Click the link to find out more about our September Walk in Tuscany and Umbria.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sicily - the sweet legacy of a collision of cultures

Marvellous Sicily - it's Italy, but perhaps not quite as we know it!

Centuries of warring by Greeks, Arabs, Romans and Bourbons have put an indelible stamp on the sun-baked island off the 'toe' of Italy.

Hiking in Sicily is the perfect way to discover the wonderful mixture of culture and antiquity that makes this, the largest island in the Mediterranean, a crossroads of Mediterranean culture.

And our Wayfarers on the recent Walks in Eastern and Western Sicily grabbed some pictures to give the real flavor of the place.

And when we say flavor, we mean all that's great about Italian food, with a lot more besides. A sweet tooth is almost a legal requirement in this land of sweetmeats and these pastries are just a sample of the treats - which are highly likely to appear on our well-deserved breaks.

But start walking to burn off some of those calories and discover Greek temples, Baroque palazzos, and Norman churches, with thousands of years of history laid out in front of us.

And when it comes to natural wonders here they are aplenty, from the smoking volcanic craters of Mount Etna to the still relatively undiscovered, but stunning beaches of the southern coast.

Book now for our next Eastern Sicily Walk,  departing in October. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Zealand - a fantasy landscape on the other side of the world

Say 'kia ora' to New Zealand and discover a far-away land with the warmest of welcomes and truly spectacular landscapes. 

And don't be disconcerted if the traditional Maori greeting is accompanied by 'hongi' - when you touch your nose and forehead to that of your new acquaintance - it's considered the equivalent of a formal handshake! 

New Zealand's South Island offers wonderful hiking along sapphire blue seas, incredible mountains and lush rainforests.

It's no accident that the country was picked as prime locations for The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia movies - the scenery is truly fantastic.

From the gorgeous coastal panorama of the Marlborough Sounds where Captain Cook stepped ashore in 1770, to the cooler drama of the southern alps, the view changes almost by the minute.

Visit the rainforest of the Paparoa National Park and see the weird limestone formations of the Pancake Rocks where columns of water shoot skyward from rocks that resemble giant stacks of hotcakes.

Enticed by the prospect of a glimpse of a secret glow-worm grotto? It's all part of the itinerary!

Emerge from the verdant forest and hike to the edge of the Fox Glacier where a frozen sea of turquoise ice seems to descend toward you.

Then escape into nature at its best along the shores of Lake Wanaka, which offers some of the best hiking in New Zealand.

From the summit of Mount Iron the 360 degree views of the Minaret Peaks, Mount Aspiring and the Otago plains unfold below.

Don't miss the opportunity to chat to a sheep farmer at Mount Earnshaw, whose family was one of the original European settlers in Otago.

In Arrowtown, a former gold-mining community, a shady river track meanders through the township and traveling further south to Queenstown, the aptly named Sunshine Valley walk follows Lake Wakatipu's shores.

For more information on this unmissable and unforgettable adventure in the southern hemisphere, click here 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Czech Republic - three capitals tell Europe's rich history

Prague - the Czech republic's vibrant capital of a hundred spires - has had a reputation over centuries as one of Europe's most beguiling cities.

From beautiful Renaissance gardens to mysterious Gothic monasteries and Baroque cathedrals more than a thousand years of architecture stands witness to a proud and complex history.

So where better to form the keystone of our Crossroads of Europe Tour - two back-to-back Walks taking in three European capitals.

The award-winning Vienna to Prague Walk and the Prague to Dresden Walk offer Wayfarers a unique and fascinating insight into an unspoiled region.

Vienna's refined elegance contrasts with Prague as a beautiful and buzzing capital whilst Dresden, once called 'Venice on the Elbe', offers outstanding art collections and music.

Leaving the Austrian capital of Vienna, hike through pine forests, traditional villages and wildflower meadows.

Sample the Czech specialty - carp - washed down with local wines and beers - on the way to unspoiled Renaissance towns including Mikulov, Telc, Slavonice and UNESCO Heritage Site Cesky Krumlov.

A visit to Prague, the Walks' mid-point isn't complete without exploring the old town and seeing the city's famous astronomical clock.

Then it's on towards Dresden, capital of German Saxony, just the far side of the Czech border.

Traditional villages line our route to Prebischtor, the longest natural stone bridge in Europe. Deep and lovely gorges are passable only by boat, skippered by a local boatman.

The stunning sandstone rocks and towers of Czech and German "Switzerland" inspired Romantics including Goethe, Hans Christian Andersen, CD Friedrich and Wagner.

A cruise on the River Elbe means journey's end is near, with a day spent in Dresden, once dubbed the 'Jewel Box' for its architectural riches.

Book the whole journey from Vienna to Prague and Prague to Dresden, for a very special price for two very special Walks. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Alsace, Pembrokeshire and Slovenia on a plate

A day’s hiking in glorious countryside is guaranteed to create a healthy appetite and our Walks feature the very best in local produce, beers and wines.
As the French would say what could be more ‘conviviale’ than sitting with old friends and new at a table in Alsace, experiencing the distinctive local cuisine? 
The Walk follows part of the celebrated Alsace Route de Vins, through vineyards of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer grapes. After lunch in a typical local auberge, don’t miss the opportunity to taste the local Munster cheese.
In Wales, Pembrokeshire has been described as ‘a natural larder’ when it comes to the variety, quality and taste of its produce.
Fertile soil and a mild climate produce top quality beef and lamb, delicious dairy products, farm-fresh vegetables and sumptuous soft fruits, not forgetting plenty of local, traditionally brewed beers, while its spectacular coastline guarantees a feast from the sea.
There is an old Slovenian proverb that ‘love comes through the stomach’. The meeting place for gastronomic influences from the Mediterranean, the Alps and the Balkans, Slovenia is the place for fresh ingredients, tasty and succulent vegetables, salami sausages and smoked hams, savory white polenta, rich herbs and wild shoots.
Call Judy or Nancy in our Newport office to find out more about these special Walks on 1-800-249-4620.

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Tel: +44 (0)1242 620 871UK

From the lush islands of Britain to the shores of the New World, The Wayfarers continue to create new paths for the walking enthusiasts. The unique Walks that began in 1984 in England now span Europe, the United States and New Zealand with invigorating itineraries, new destinations and distinctive ways of experiencing the special culture of life in the country. New walks include Pentillie Castle, The Dolomites, Sicily: Agrigento, Marsale & the Isle of Mozia.