Five inspiring global self-guided walking holidays
In the age of Fitbit and smart watches attributing calories to every step we take, the pleasure of walking should not be forgotten. Here are five walks that will inspire while you respire. On Foot Holidays, which organises self-guided walking holidays in Europe and the UK, says there are myriad benefits to getting from A to B under your own steam and at your own pace, from keeping fit to allowing for a much more intimate experience of a destination and its inhabitants.   It’s also affordable, eco-conscious and pretty inspiring. With this in mind, here are a few journeys worth getting your legs pumping and your heart beating. 1. Porto to Santiago de Compostela The celebrated El Camino is a network of pilgrim trails in Europe, all coming together at the tomb of St James in north-west Spain. One of the most popular routes is the Camino Francés from St Jean-Pied-de-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago 780 kilometres away. [caption id="attachment_43005" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Walking the pilgrimage Cammino de Santiago de Compostela - Spain.[/caption] 2. Costa Rica This sprawling Central American nation is a nature-lover’s dream come true, so walking in these parts presents plenty of scope for wildlife spotting and lots of variety in the landscape, from dense, close rainforests to jutting mountains, volcanoes and ethereal cloud forests. Read more about Costa Rica's wild beauty here...  [caption id="attachment_43008" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Costa Rican rainforest[/caption] 3. The Swiss Alps Switzerland is a paradise for walkers, with all that lovely fresh air and an outdoorsy focus. Check out itineraries in the Bernese Oberland to get the best of everything: stunning scenery, picture-postcard towns, and pristine natural surroundings. 22 more things to in Switzerland... [caption id="attachment_43007" align="alignleft" width="1000"] A hike through the Swiss Alps. Specifically Zinal, Val d'Anniviers, Canton of Valais.[/caption] 4. The Garden Route Stretching 300 kilometres from Mossel Bay in South Africa’s north to Plettenberg Bay in the east, this journey takes in an incredibly diverse landscape, from the rugged coastline dotted with lovely beaches, to inland mountains, to lakes and lagoons, and forests teaming with wildlife. [caption id="attachment_43009" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Tremendous Robbberg nature reserve coastline at Plettenberg bay South Africa[/caption] 5. The Amalfi Coast With soaring mountains, picturesque fishing villages, secret swimming spots and ample opportunity to sample pasta and vino, walking the coastline from Amalfi to Sorrento, taking in the towns of Ravello, Praiano and Positano, is an ultimate Italian experience. You can cheat and catch a bus or two if you are strapped for time. [caption id="attachment_43006" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Sea view from Capri mountains, Italy[/caption] In Europe and ready for a faster pace? see Cycling Amsterdam: a bespoke biker’s guide. More tips for Keeping fit on your travels
Costa Rican wilderness
Top 10 Costa Rican wildernesses
With so many world-class natural wonders, it can be hard to know where to begin in Costa Rica. Here’s our pick of its greatest parks. 1. Arenal Volcano National Park This national park, home to its namesake the Arenal Volcano, is a picturesque wilderness of a black stone volcano being overtaken by lush green vegetation.   Emerging from the top of the volcano is a waft of white smoke, bleeding into the clouds above, representative of the fact that this is Costa Rica’s most active volcano. [caption id="attachment_45826" align="alignleft" width="600"] Beautiful Turquoise water of Rio Celeste Waterfall[/caption] Not only known for its volcanic monument, the Arenal Volcano National Park hosts the La Fortuna waterfall and hot springs, which are worth a trek through the jungle for – we promise! 2. Ballena Marine National Park From an aerial perspective, this diverse ecosystem, comprised of jungle and ocean, forms the shape of a whale’s tail as the sand bridge leads to a small curved island off the coast. [caption id="attachment_45832" align="alignleft" width="600"] Uvita Beach, Marino Ballena National Park[/caption] Ironically, this beach is renowned for being on the migration route for the Humpback whale, where they can be spotted off the shore.   With marine iguana’s sunbaking on the sand, a mass of mangrove forests to explore and a plethora of fish to spot, as you snorkel the shallows, there is so much to see and do at the Marino Ballena National Park. 3. Cahuita National Park Where the wilderness meets the ocean, this National Park looks like a beach from Pirates of the Caribbean – white sand, trees meeting the shore and completely deserted.   The perfect spot for a swim, a sunbake or a surf, this is one of Costa Rica’s greatest secrets. Head to the Puerto Vargas for great snorkelling or venture inland to the Jaguar Rescue Centre, where you can take a tour of the facilities and see some sloths, jaguars and toucans up close. 4. Cocos Island National Park 600km off the coast of Costa Rica, Coco’s Island is the largest uninhabited island in the world. Spanning across almost 24 square kilometres, this lush green island was the inspiration for the fictitious Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park, and the Island that marooned Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. [caption id="attachment_45827" align="alignleft" width="600"] The waters of Cocos Island National Park[/caption] Scuba diving on the rim of the island, spotting hammerhead sharks, dolphins and rays in the depths of the ocean and waterfall hopping on land are just two of the many activities on this glorious island.   Consider staying on-board a charter vessel, with many companies offering multiple night stays to allow for proper exploration of the island. 5. Corcovado National Park The pristine waters and lush green jungle of the Corcovado National Park are not even its best features. Boasting one of the world’s most biodiverse landscapes, head over to this marvel for some serious wildlife spotting. Expect to see a few monkeys (including the spider monkey), sea turtles, lizards, a squirrel or two, the two and three toed sloths, toucans, scarlet macaws and anteaters. [caption id="attachment_45828" align="alignleft" width="600"] Corcovado National Park in the Puntarenas Province[/caption] Also, home to the endangered Jaguar, it is wise (and safest) to book a day tour to the island from the neighbouring town of Drake Bay, where you can also set yourself up in a luxury eco lodge for your stay. 6. Irazú Volcanic National Park Irazu, meaning “thunder and earthquake mountain” in the Indigenous dialect, represents the 11360ft volcano that sits perched high within the park. Currently inactive, the volcano can be climbed by visitors, who want to see the moon-like-craters that exist on its surface and to look down on the clouds from atop its peak. [caption id="attachment_45829" align="alignleft" width="600"] Irazú Volcanic National Park is an incredible natural phenomenon[/caption] The main crater, a favourite for tourists, is now home to a bright green lake that spans 300m. 7. Manuel Antonio Park Another park, sporting rainforest, wildlife and pristine beaches, this is one of Costa Rica’s most frequented spots. With easy access to the park, and an array of activities and perfect sunbaking beaches, this is the perfect spot to centre yourself in Costa Rica. [caption id="attachment_45830" align="alignleft" width="600"] Expect white sand and warm water at Manuel Antonio National Park[/caption] A less traditional activity, and certainly a thrilling one, is a tour through the Damas Island estuary. You can reach the estruary via car, boat or, my favourite, Kayak from the main beach. With a guided tour offering travel through the rainforest on intricate waterways, this is the best way to spot wildlife. Expect sloths, snakes, crocodiles and monkeys. 8. Poás Volcano National Park Home to another volcano, this park has a glorious “Hot Lake” poised in a crater, and boasts amazing views from the top of the volcano. [caption id="attachment_45831" align="alignleft" width="600"] Poas Volcano has one of the largest craters in the world[/caption] Within the vicinity of the park is also the famous Laguna Botos cloud forest, that must not be missed. Characterised by a constant cloud cover that settles on the rainforest, the humid and moist environment, creates a lush green oasis – always shrouded in an ominous fog. 9. Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park This national park, while famous for its volcano, is also renowned for its hot springs, mud pots and waterfalls. Hiking is encouraged, with a variety of hiking tracks, of varied difficulty, offered to visitors.   The mud pots, positioned along most of the trails, can be heard bubbling with geothermal energy from meters away and are something reminiscent of an episode of the Land Before Time. Head to the glorious La Cangreja waterfall to cool off along your hike, or to the Rio Negro hot springs to rejuvenate. To enhance your trip to this national park, consider a horseback or zip line tour, or the opportunity to go tubing down the many rivers. And that's a dare... 10. Tortuguero National Park Wildlife central, you can spot a plethora of animals, insects and birds at this thriving Costa Rican wilderness. [caption id="attachment_45833" align="alignleft" width="600"] White Faced Capuchin Monkey Family in Tortuguero National Park[/caption] Visit between July and October to witness the turtle eggs on the beach. Once laid, the eggs incubate in the warm sand for 7-10 weeks, so if you time your trip right, you might be lucky enough to catch the turtles hatching from their eggs and racing to the sea.      
A rainbow-billed toucan is a vibrant sight in the jungle.
Costa Rica – the Garden of Eden
One of the world’s great wildlife destinations, Costa Rica is on par with the great parks of East Africa finds Mark Eveleigh, as he treks into the jungle in search of some of the region’s most dramatic creatures.
Welcome to the jungle - an aerial of Lapa Rios Ecolodge.
Costa Rica’s best eco-friendly stays
Costa Rica is a slow burn destination filled with incredible beaches, exotic animals and outstanding eco accommodation. Tansy Harcourt tests the credentials of three green hotels.