John Carter, long time presenter of TV's ‘Wish You Were Here' programme and seasoned globetrotter explores some exciting new short and long haul guided walking destinations across the globe.
I learned the hard way that it is never wise to base your travel plans on a unique event, no matter how spectacular and "unmissable" that event may be. It happened some years ago when I travelled with a TV crew to Siena in Italy, for the specific purpose of filming the Palio - the horse race around the Piazza del Campo.
It was to be the highlight of our film with its action, colour, noise and excitement. Unfortunately torrential rain caused the whole thing to be postponed and our grand plan - not to mention what would have been the best sequence in the entire film - disappeared down the city's storm drains.
That memory of everything going disastrously awry was triggered when I spotted a super holiday to Siena and Florence which is featured in the latest collection of holidays from Ramblers Worldwide. Sensibly, the organisers have avoided the high summer, when the city is extremely crowded, with or without the horse race, and provide their clients with the opportunity to see it at the turn of the year when its medieval attractions are on show for the Celebration of Christmas and the New Year.
Combining Siena with Florence and its peerless Renaissance art and architecture is something of a master stroke. And to do so in an 11 day holiday from £1,029 holiday is even better. This means that, for a shade over £93.50 a day, you get your return flights, transfers, and the services of an experienced group leader as well as breakfast and accommodation in your hotels, and dinners taken in those hotels or in local restaurants. If you've not already made plans for Christmas, think about the holiday scheduled for December 23rd. Or, looking farther ahead, the departure on March 6th, 2014.
I've just returned from a short trip to Italy, about which I hope to write on a later date, and was pleased to see that my favourite destination in that country is also featured in the new programme.
Venice is incomparable, and no words of mine could do it justice, for those words inevitably slide into cliches about its canals and bridges, its grand houses and churches with their forlorn air of neglect and past glories. Though it may seem an unlikely destination for a rambling holiday, its true delights can only be appreciated by those who have the time and inclination to walk around it - all the more so from late afternoon when the day-trippers have departed.
As with many of their arrangements, RWH offer bed and breakfast accommodation with evening meals (which are also included in the price of the holiday) either taken in the hotel or in nearby restaurants, of which Venice has a huge selection. The cost, which also includes return flights and the services of a group leader. is £969 for a week, departing on November 23rd or December 20th.
Yet, despite my ‘Homage to Europe', I'm sorely tempted to stretch a leg futurely to participate in some tantalising guided walking holidays including, Burma and The High Andes spanning Argentina and Chile.
Particularly appealing is a 16 day holiday in Burma which is only just opening up to tourists after years of isolation. What I would love to savour is the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon; the temples and pagodas of Bagan; a boat trip on the Elephant River to the Arakan Golden Buddha (Burma's oldest); Mandalay Hill with its stunning views and Inle Lake. The cost is £3,450 per person including return flights, transfers, full board accommodation and services of a dedicated tour leader, which ain't half bad! Departing 8 March 2014.
Also in my sights for 2014 is a 17 day holiday exploring the fascinating microcosm of South America - embracing everything from the Andean peaks at Paso de Jama to the abundant wine valleys around Cafayate. Particularly looking forward to seeing volcanoes, salt flats and geysers at San Pedro de Atacama; ‘Altiplano' - the high plains at the top of the world; the old colonial city of Salta; Cafayate - home to some of Argentina's finest wines and Purmamarca and the perfect place to relax after a punishing but enjoyable schedule! The price for this adventure is from £3,700 per person includes return flights, transfers, half board accommodation, some lunches and the services of a dedicated tour leader. Departures 17 May and 16 August 2014.
Other new offerings within the operator's portfolio are a mouth-watering selection - Switzerland, Austria and the Balearic Islands also feature in the European list. And, farther afield, an 11 day holiday combines Moscow and St. Petersburg from £1,895.
If you haven't yet made any plans for holidays later this year, or, indeed, in 2014, this new selection is a good place to start.