For me, winter walking falls broadly into two categories: walking in frost and snow, or warm walking in Mediterranean and sub-tropical environments. I was only introduced to the concept of walking in snow
three years ago and I have to admit, I was blown away by the experience – the satisfying crunch of my boots in the thick snow, and the Narnia-style landscape.
But having lived in the Canary Islands
for 17 years, my real passion still lies in warm winter walking when I can lace up the boots and discover a world of beauty way beyond the coastal resorts.
Escape the cold
There are few greater pleasures in travel than climbing the steps of an aircraft in bitter cold beneath leaden clouds, and descending them to feel the warm sunshine on your face beneath blue skies.
Average winter daytime temperatures of 18 C to 20 C in the Mediterranean, and 20 C to 23 C in the Canary Islands, provide the perfect conditions for a winter walking holiday – not too hot and certainly not cold. It’s the ideal time to expend energy and reap the rewards that come with excellent walking.
Uncover the best bits of destinations
In the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, the intense heat of high summer days forbids all but the shortest of walks, such as from your sun lounger to the pool or sea. But when those temperatures subside, that’s the time to take to the tracks and trails, discovering worlds of beauty that lie far above the beaches, and below the radar of summer visitors.
Expand your daylight hours
By the time the winter solstice arrives in Britain, daylight hours are down to a measly 7½hrs per day, with sunset at 15:50. The further south you travel, the more winter daylight hours you gain, with Southern Spain and the Med providing an extra 2hrs on average, and the Canary Islands not seeing sunset until 18:12 at earliest, almost 2½hrs later than the UK.
Lose the crowds
Outside of summer, destinations are generally considerably quieter. Opt for the shoulder seasons of September/October or April/May and you may also benefit from better prices and greater availability.
Taking to the hills and mountains leaves most visitors even further behind. Winter walking on islands such as Tenerife
, Gran Canaria
can mean enjoying extraordinary landscapes which are frequently devoid of other people. Go a step further with a winter walking holiday on Gozo
or El Hierro
, or visit La Graciosa
off the coast of Lanzarote, and you’ll find even more alone-time on the paths.
But you don’t have to go to an island to escape the crowds in winter, you only have to go a few miles inland from busy beaches into Algarve’s Coast & Hills
or Alicante’s Secret Mountains
to find an abundance of beauty and tranquillity.
Enjoy more greenery
By the end of summer, landscapes can be scorched and dry. The first winter rains bring new growth, green shoots, and life returning to the earth. Winter brings the heady scent of orange blossom, a cornucopia of wild fruits and berries, and pale pink clouds of almond blossom.
In climates such as the Canary Islands, there is no real winter and therefore no season when growth stops. All that’s needed is the first rainfall for life to spring back into bloom, coating coasts and hillsides in colour.
If sunshine, warmth, more daylight, fewer visitors, and some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery devoid of crowds are not tempting enough, there’s also new wines, roasting chestnuts, livestock fairs… maybe I should have gone for ten top reasons to book a winter walking holiday.