5 Tips for walking holidays without the crowds

Richard Mellor 30 November -0001

Walking’s so much nicer when you have the summit / viewpoint / picnic spot all to yourself, don’t you think? Here are five tips for some ambling alone-time:


Mont Blanc Switzerland
Mont Blanc Switzerland

The most obvious route to hikerly solitude is walking outside of peak times. For domestic trots, this means avoiding the Pennines Way or Seven Sisters on busy bank-holiday weekends, ideally going during the week. For famous European treks like the Camino del Rey, GR20 or Tour du Mont Blanc, consult publicholidays.eu and generally aim to depart during months not named July or August—it’ll likely be energy-sappingly hot at those times making any ascent very sweaty and draining. Try to travel in April or early May, a zesty time of spring flowers and moderate temperatures.


As the day is dawning

French Pyrenees
The French Pyrenees

If you must walk in a peak period, head off as early as possible each morning and leave the masses to their cappuccinos and croissants. On a classic A-to-B trek, e.g. between one of the Cinque Terre villages in Italy, or a chunk of the Grande Randonnée across the French Pyrenees – this should ensure that you’ll have the first section to yourself, and that it probably won’t be until after halfway that you pass anyone going in the opposite direction. Such blissful isolation trumps the claims of any pain au chocolat.


Take the long route

Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro

Many famous walks, especially ascents, come with various options. There are seven different ways to climb Snowdon, for instance, and at least six separate routes up Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Always, some are busy—on Snowdon, most people take the Llanberis Path—and some are much less so. In the Rhine Gorge, the majority of predictable perambulators follow low-lying tracks close to the river; plot a higher course and you’ll have far fewer guten tags to utter, plus better views of the river and its fairytale castles to boot.


Get better, do harder

Scottish Highlands
Scottish Highlands

Often those less-crowded routes—such as Kilimanjaro’s Umbwe Route, or the Watkin Path up Snowdon—are less crowded because they are harder, more technical, or provide a rapid ascent. Ditto some of the Scottish Highlands’ hardest circuit; epics on which the weather can change in a second and competent orienteering skills are vital. Most walkers, not up to the task, wisely resist these challenges. But if you can become more skillful and experienced, no end of seclusion awaits.


Go somewhere far-flung

Rila Mountains Bulgaria
Bulgaria's Rila Mountains

Alternatively, just go walking where others do not, somewhere largely undiscovered or not yet on its tourism game. Try Greenland: with climate change causing more greenery and warmer climes, overland hiking is taking off on the Arctic island’s south. Bulgaria’s Rila Mountains and the Curonian Spit in Lithuania are little-visited but beautiful tramping hotspots. Or, in our own Lake District, few ramblers leave the central spine from Keswick to Windermere, leaving summits like Grey Crag and High Pike as true hidden gems. Just don’t tell anyone else, okay?