During the first world war, the Italian army constructed a system of metal steps, fixed cables, and ladders in the Dolomites, to enable troops to safely move around the high peaks that were the front line. Today the Via Ferrata allow walkers to take on precipitous routes without the need for climbing equipment and ropes, and are a great way for families to take their walking holidays to the next level.
Besides the beaches and Aztec ruins, Mexico offers ambitious trekkers the chance to get some high altitude experience without needing technical climbing skills, thanks to the gently sloping volcanoes that rise high above the central plains. At 5,746m, Pico de Orizaba is the biggest mountain in the country, and the third highest in all of North America, but it is achievable by any fit trekker.
Women who want to avoid the macho culture that sometimes accompanies trekking trips can join female-only holidays with Walking Women. The 2010 programme includes everything from a long weekend exploring the Quantock Hills to a fortnight trekking in the Himalayas. In April, there’s a week’s trip walking in the Alpujarras mountains in southern Spain. In high summer the pretty whitewashed villages can get busy with tourists clutching copies of Chris Stewart’s Driving Over Lemons, but in spring you’ll get a real glimpse of rural Spain.
The Annapurna region is renowned for its trekking possibilities, including the classic three-week Annapurna Circuit. Teahouses along the main routes offer food and basic lodging, so it’s easy to organise your own trips and you only need carry a sleeping bag. However, to get off the beaten track, you can join a unique trek in May next year led by Sir Chris Bonington. The trip marks the 50th anniversary of his successful first ascent of the 7,937m Annapurna II, and trekkers will follow a lesser-used route, reaching an altitude of 5,560m when they cross the Namun Bhanjyang pass.
If you want a walking trip that offers stunning views without tackling high mountains, consider Turkey’s Lycian Way. It stretches 500km from Fethiye to Antalya, following the coast on trails that used to be ancient trade routes and passing ruins and white sand beaches where you can cool off with a swim.