Go tell it to the mountain
Join Liz Bird as she scales some of the world’s elevated escapes, from whitewater rafting to wild camping
Join Liz Bird as she scales some of the world’s elevated escapes, from whitewater rafting to wild camping
Craggy coastal mountains, archaeological gems including Pompeii and picturesque towns are hallmarks of the Amalfi
region. This seven-night trip includes four guided walks of two
to three hours each, including the Path of the Gods, with
panoramic views. The trail runs from Agerola to the pink-hued
Positano, passing lemon groves, vineyards and hillside villages
including Nocelle, a perfect picnic spot. Partially buried in an
eruption almost 2,000 years ago, Pompeii is not to be missed,
with a hike to the smouldering summit of Vesuvius. Other day
trips include peaceful clifftop Ravello, for elegant terraced
gardens, impressive gelato and a hands-on visit to a mozzarella
factory; and Capri by boat, for snorkelling and a walk along the
Via Tragara overlooking the island’s iconic Faraglioni rocks.
When the snow melts and the skiers depart for the close season, the swish ski resort of Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland transforms itself into an adventure playground for adults and children alike. Mountain bikers can tackle a 140km network of trails that vary in difficulty from simple to challenging, wending their way through rolling hills, dense forest and Alpine flower meadows. Guided bike rides can be arranged for guests staying in the stylish, newly renovated Huus Hotel, which offers a diverse programme of free activities that take in the best of the area’s scenery. Take your pick from canyoning, river-rafting on the Saane and Simme rivers, climbing lessons or the High Ropes Park where the towering trees of the Obersimmental connect cable bridges, rope ladders, zip wires and tightrope walks. More gentle pursuits include stand-up paddleboarding across still-as-glass lakes and guided nature trails.
Dramatic, jaw-dropping scenery, largely unspoilt and much
of it inaccessible by foot – the Norwegian fjords are ripe for
exploration. After an overnight stay in Bergen or Voss,
depending on your flight, you’ll be whisked through the
Stalheim Gorge to the fjord-side Viking village of Gudvangen.
From here, pick up kayaks to paddle down Nærøyfjord fjord, a
Unesco World Heritage Site, perfect for seal spotting. In the
evening, enjoy a waterside barbecue before wild camping under the stars. Next day, don your walking boots to scale up
to 1,000m for a spectacular view of the fjord below. Be prepared to rough it with a
composting toilet and no showers, but for an adventure like this, who cares? On the fourth day, kayak north to remote villages and drink from pure waterfalls. Even in summer months with only three hours’ darkness it can get chilly, so take cool-weather gear. All equipment, including wetsuits, sleeping bags, camp cooking equipment and tents are provided.
Ride Barb Arabian horses through the foothills and higher echelons of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, taking in pine, oak and cedar forests, Berber villages and glassy lakes. You’ll need to be relatively fit and basic riding experience will help as there are opportunities to trot and canter. Meet the rest of your group (maximum ten) during an overnight stay at the Terres d’Amanar resort, a 45-minute drive from Marrakech, where you’ll be introduced to your trusty steeds before a ride briefing and equipment check. The first day begins with a gentle three and a half-hour ride to Tatult where you’ll camp. Day three encompasses some of the trip’s most dramatic views towards the Amizmiz Valley and Takerkoust Lake on a five and a half-hour ride. On day six you’ll reach Tizi N’Addi at 3,100m and enjoy some of the most beautiful views of the High Atlas range and 4,167m Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. Camping is in comfortable two-person tents. Foam mattresses are supplied but you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag.
The beauty of this holiday is that you choose from a host of mountain activities in or near France’s Ecrins National Park; base your choice on how charged with adrenaline you feel. Run off a mountain with a parachute strapped to your back and paraglide your way to the feet of the Alps, scale the rocks on a via ferrata (protected route with ladders and ropes for climbing) or tackle Europe’s longest Tyrolean zip wire at 130km per hour. Once you’ve chosen your accommodation, from back-to-basics camping to luxury farmhouse B&Bs and hotels, you are given nine ‘points’ to use on a huge selection of activities, arranged before arrival. We love the sound of a natural toboggan that ends with a plunge into crystal-clear waters, whitewater rafting, or an afternoon canyoning with the family as you work out the best route to take. Other accommodation options are bedding down in a treehouse or mountain chalet. Less active pursuits including lake swimming and sightseeing in places such as La Grave, one of France’s most beautiful mountain villages.
For rocky peaks, lush valleys and over 100 sparkling lakes,
the Carpathian Tatra Mountains bordering Slovakia and
Poland offer more affordable hiking and climbing trails less
trodden than those of the French and Swiss Alps. This
seven-night trip from Mountain Paradise includes five to seven
hours of moderate hiking per day, with climbs of between
400m and 1,000m, traversing waterfalls, gorges and meadows,
leading up to mountain huts for food and rest. Highlights of the
trip include walking through the Sucha Bela Gorge where you
climb a series of ladders beside waterfalls before visiting the
ruins of a 13th-century Carthusian monastery. Look out for
golden eagles, marmot squirrels and chamois goat-antelopes
along the way. At the end of each day you’ll return to the
four-star Grand Hotel Praha in Vysokeé Tatry where you can
refresh yourself in the spa, or relax in the outdoor infinity pool
with dramatic sweeping panoramas across the valley.
Get a true taste of the Wild West where the whole clan can play cowboy with campfires, cookouts and trail rides on a dude ranch near Cody in the American Rockies. Stay just 42 kilometres from Yellowstone National Park, in one of nine cabins at family-run Rimrock Dude Ranch, named after the nearby ridge where you can enjoy an all-day ride with experienced wranglers. Events includes whitewater rafting and a visit to the Nite Rodeo in Cody –a high-energy, authentic rodeo with bulls, broncos and cowboys, plus kid-friendly events such as the calf scramble. Cody is also home to the excellent Buffalo Bill Center of the West, where you can learn how cowboys and Indians lived. A tour of Yellowstone with its geysers and hot springs is also included. The ranch offers all meals, a weekly barbecue, pool, hot tub and two rides a day (for novice and experienced riders).
Tramping – or going on long-distance walks, to you and me – is a popular pastime in New Zealand, where endless trails showcase the country’s spectacular scenery. The longest, Te Araroa – loosely translated as ‘The Long Pathway’ – stretches 3,000km from the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. Fortunately, it is split into 160 treks, varying from easy to challenging with plenty to accommodate less-accomplished hikers who simply want to appreciate the natural beauty of their surroundings. The 19km Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a one-day hike through the volcanic landscapes of the North Island, passing through rugged lava fields and the nerve-racking crater, Devil’s Staircase, rising 1,400m to 1,600m above sea level. You reap the rewards when reaching the multi-cratered active volcano Mount Tongariro, with its bright Emerald Lakes, hissing vents and views of Mount Ngauruhoe, known as ‘Doom Mountain’ in Lord of the Rings. The nearby Skotel Alpine Resort offers dorms, private rooms or small cabins – a well-located base to explore other trails including the Taranaki Falls and Tama Lakes walks, and many other recognisable locations featured in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.
You can channel Batman as you reach speeds of up to 160km
per hour hurtling 1.6km across a disused slate quarry in
Snowdonia. Zip Wire Velocity – the world’s fastest – is not for
the faint-hearted, so you may want to build up to it via the
Little Zipper (up to 72km per hour). Then, as soon as you’ve
regained your breath, bundle into an off-roader for a bumpy
ride around North Wales. The locale is now called Zip World
Penrhyn Quarry – just one of many industrial heritage sites the
Welsh have reinvented with aplomb. Once the world’s largest
quarry, it has been transformed into a cavernous trampolining
playground that suits all ages. But, of course, you can’t visit
Snowdonia and not tackle Wales’ highest mountain, Snowdon.
There are six main tracks – ranging in difficulty from easy to
challenging – that reach the 1,085m summit. The easiest is the
Llanberis Path which follows the route of the Mountain
Railway. Our favourite, though, is The Snowdon Ranger Path,
which starts from the youth hostel of the same name on the
road between Caernarfon and Beddgelert and combines
scrambling with narrow mountain paths. Whichever you
choose, you’ll be rewarded with views of ice-scoured cirques,
sculpted narrow crests and vertiginous cliffs. There’s even a
café in the visitor centre at the summit serving Welsh whiskies
and beer. If you don’t fancy the walk back down after a few
celebratory ales, you can always take the Mountain Railway
back to the village of Llanberis and its stellar local pubs.
This part of Derbyshire has long drawn climbers and walkers from across the globe, who ramble and abseil their way around and up its diverse and beautiful landscapes. Options and grades are plentiful, from Dovedale’s fantastical formations and the craggy ridges of The Roaches to the steep plateau crest of Stanage Edge. Get to grips with basics on a three-night break with the chance to scale the Peak District’s highest summit, 636m Kinder Scout – a five- to seven-hour stint depending on your level of fitness. Other local activities include mountain biking up a gorge and ghyll scrambling, involving climbing waterfalls, sliding down rocks and swimming in natural pools. Retire to Castleton Youth Hostel, a newly restored Gothic mansion in 13 hectares of parkland, where nearby Cave Dale provides a spectacular view of the ruins of 11th-century Peveril Castle, founded by one of William the Conqueror’s knights. For more laid-back pursuits, visit the Georgian spa town of Buxton, stately home Chatsworth House, known as ‘The Palace of the Peak’ or Bakewell, the town famed for its cherry and almond tarts.
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