Recent decades have seen an increase in the pace of life, paralleled by enhanced awareness of the need for healthful pursuits to counter the tension and so spa treatments have become a popular choice. As a result The Wayfarers has sought out superior venues around the world for incorporation into some of its most attractive walking vacations.
The following are especially suited for spa lovers, with accommodations at great spa hotels in Switzerland, Italy and England, and optional spa treatments.
Switzerland’s Alps and Lakes
Snow-capped peaks, mountain lakes and pine forests set the scene for this beautiful walk in Switzerland, timed for high summer when the lush pasture land is ablaze with wildflowers and sunlight bounces off the crystalline waters. Moderate walking through meadows and woods also incorporates the occasional challenge of mountain slopes, covering 7 to 11 miles a day on this nine-day/eight-night vacation. A spectacular train ride climbs to 4,000 feet between the Bernese Oberland’s towering peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau; and the Altels and Rinderhorn form the backdrop for a thrilling cable-car ride. A hike to Kleine Scheidegg takes walkers to an elevation of 6,200 feet, then down to the base of the Eiger North Face. Cheese making and alpenhorn demonstrations make fascinating stops, and a visit to Lucerne, with its famous wooden bridges and medieval lanes, features a trip on a lake steamer. Gondola lake rides offer an attractive option, with a different take on the view; photographers should pack lots of film.
Overnight stays are in Saanen, Kandersteg, Grindelwald, and Weggis. In Saanen, set against spectacular Alpine views, the hotel Steigenberger Gstaad-Saanen features indoor and outdoor pools plus a luxuriant spa with baths, sauna center, steam grotto, fitness area, and a massage and beauty studio. www.steigenberger.ch
In Grindelwald, the Hotel Kirchbühl offers wellness and spa treatments with the added dynamic of mountain and glacier views from a grandly elevated location. The spa has a Turkish bath, perfect for soothing weary limbs. Additional features include sauna, Whirlpool and a solarium. www.kirchbuehl.ch. Offered June 24 - July 2, July 22 - 30, and August 19 - 27, the walk is priced at US $3,595 per person, based on double occupancy, with a single supplement of $450. Recommended for an extended stay are the resorts of Lucerne, Montreux and Gstaad with their lively summer music festivals.
The Romance of Italy
The spa at Hotel Terme dei Medici is a standout on this romantic walk in Tuscany. The seven-day/six-night Pathways to Tuscany ventures through landscape covered by farms, forest, vineyards and olive groves, with cypress-lined pathways and byways dating from Roman times. This exclusive resort is built around a 17th-century portico, amid hot springs in the spa town of San Casciano dei Bagni. The on-site Fonteverde Spa Centre is a multi-functional complex offering seven pools, a holistic center and a beauty center. Treatments include shiatsu, Ayurvedic massage, reflexology and Dhara. www.fonteverdespa.com
Covering 9 to 10 miles / day, the walk includes overnight stays in Montalcino, San Casciano dei Bagni, Rocco d’Orcia and Pienza, and offers a moderate pace. Dates are May 28 - June 3, June 18 - 24, September 3 - 9, September 24 - 30, and October 15 - 21, with a price of US $3,125 per person, based on double occupancy, single supplement of $395. A visit to Florence or Umbria can easily be planned before or after.
Walking the English Countryside
The eight-day/seven-night Coast to Coast walk across northern England maintains a vigorous pace, covering 12 to 15 miles a day through hills and dales, lakeshores and moors, with some moderate climbs. Total distance is 85 miles, starting at the Irish Sea and crossing the glorious Lake District. The route continues through the valleys and villages of the Yorkshire Dales and the haunting North Yorkshire moors to the North Sea coast. Medieval castles en route invite walkers deep into British history. Highlights include a visit to the great Abbey at Rievaulx, a ride on the steam-hauled Moors Railway, and lunch at the Black Sheep Brewery.
Accommodations are in Newby Bridge, Grasmere, Crook, East Witton, Masham, Helmsley and Dunsley (near Whitby). At Swinton Park Hotel, on 200 acres in Masham, the spa is a peaceful conservatory bathed in warm natural light with lush tropical vegetation. A Jacuzzi pool is set in its own deck, with a relaxation zone at ground level and the sauna and shower recessed into the outer wall. Massages are given in private treatment rooms and include aromatherapy, Swedish, deep tissue and remedial. www.swintonpark.com
Dates are May 27 - June 3, June 17 - 24, August 26 - September 2, September 9 - 16, and September 23 - 30. The rate is US $3,395 per person, based on double occupancy, single supplement of $450. Before or after extensions include the Lake District and/or Yorkshire, or a trip north to Edinburgh or the Scottish Borders.
Swinton Park Hotel also features in Yorkshire Moors & Dales, a 7 - 10 miles-per-day walk that explores the lush landscape made famous in the books of James Herriott. Overnight stays are in Markington, Ripon, Masham, East Witton and Richmond. Offered June 11 - 17, July 2 - 8 and October 8 - 14, the walk is priced at US $2,895 per person, based on double occupancy, with a single supplement of $395. A post-walk visit to York is highly recommended to visit buildings that date back to the Romans and the Vikings.
In the romantic heart of England, walkers on A Cotswold Way explore rolling meadows topped by stone escarpments, sleepy villages with thatched roofs, and friendly pubs. Overnights are at Cheltenham, Broadway, Chipping Campden and Lower Slaughter. Two nights at the Lygon Arms in Broadway offer an opportunity to enjoy this historic hotel’s spa with a suite of beauty rooms with a full range of massage and body treatments. A heated indoor pool is designed with a roof that opens to the skies in sunny weather. www.broadway-cotswolds.co.uk/lygon.html
The pace is moderate, covering 9 - 10 miles a day on this six-day/five-night walk. Dates are June 11 - 16, October 8 - 13 and October 22 - 27; the rate is US $2,850 per person, based on double occupancy, with a single supplement of $350. The great spires and quadrangles of Oxford and the Roman and Regency structures of Bath inspire before/after extensions to the trip.