I have always been a keen if not dedicated walker and cruiser so when I saw the Ramblers Walking Holidays Trip to Madeira and the Canary Islands with Fred Olsen Cruises, I was quite excited.
This is such great concept as you go walking in a different port/ country every day and you come back to ship at night for all the amenities and pleasure of a cruise ship. All the walks are graded so you can choose one which fits your experience and fitness level.
Our first port of call was Funchal in Madeira where we had two walks on offer, this was true of all our visits as if the weather or conditions are bad in one, we can switch to one that is far better.
Indeed the mountains were wet and with a strong wind that day and we found ourselves instead walking some 5 miles around the staggeringly beautiful promontory of the Ponta de so Lourenco at the eastern end of the island with some of the most amazing coastal scenery I have ever encountered. Some four hours later after a stop for lunch and some of our party went up to climb the high promontory, we arrived back at the coach knowing we had completed a very good walk tired but very happy.
The first of our four walks in the Canary Islands in La Palma saw us in volcano country walking six miles in remote areas and climbing to look down into craters. This walk does need poles as the descent at the start of the path was on slippery volcanic paths and once or twice without them, I found the going precarious. The walk started at a visitor centre which gave you an excellent short film on the area and a welcome cup of coffee and a beer on our return!
Tenerife found us 2,400 metres above sea level and we found yourself walking in the collapsed volcanic caldera, into separate zones of climate and vegetation from pine forests to sweeping sand deserts.
It is advisable to find out what grade of walks are included in each holiday. I am not a regular walker and found the long gradual descent on our walk in Gran Caria quite difficult and I had to borrow a walking pole from someone to help me keep upright. Don’t get me wrong it was an amazing walk with stunning views of the coast, but I found it difficult in places and very tiring.
I must admire who ever makes up these itineraries for the trips as walks of 6 to 8 miles in stunning, wild country are complemented by city walks taken at a sedate pace with a local guide who explains everything as you walk around.
To me this is what theses cruises are all about. Small groups that really get under the skin of a place and comfortable easy walks that allow you to discover far more than you expect. These destinations came with the added benefit of a warm sun beating down on us with the fascinating lure of Spain and Portugal’s Atlantic islands plus how nice is it to swim in the pool and catch some rays 200 miles west of Africa?
Steve Newman was a guest of Ramblers Walking Holidays & Fred Olsen Cruises