In Iceland, nature “is at your fingertips, rather than maintained behind a guardrail”, says Robert Hull in The Guardian. There are few of the usual ropes, warning signs, gift shops and visitor centres to distract you from the landscape, which provides a sense of “remoteness and beautiful melancholy that keeps me coming back to Iceland”. The Westfjords in northwest Iceland, “population zero”, is a perfect spot to try, away from the more fashionable hangouts of Reykjavik and the “golden triangle” of tourist hot spots.
There is little there bar hiking trails and the odd summer holiday home, and “wilderness is easy to find”. The “huge, mesmeric and foreboding” landscapes are dotted with captivating hikes up thundering waterfalls, outdoor geothermal pools for bathing and remote fishing villages. This is Iceland is at its best.
Walking with bears in Canada
“There’s nothing like the risk of a mauling to add frisson to a countryside hike,” says James Litston in the Evening Standard. He took a hike in bear country in Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada, equipped with bear spray (a “pepper-based deterrent that’s essential for wilderness hiking”).
Set at the confluence of two rivers in a valley flanked by mountains, the town of Golden is a good base for exploring the park. It’s a “laid-back place” and the starting point for numerous trails. The area also offers adventure experiences such as mountain biking, riding white-water rapids, and spotting wolves and mule deer on a “photo safari”.
Fine dining in the Italian Alps
The Dolomites mountain range (pictured above) in northeastern Italy is “a thriving tourist destination combining the best of Italy and Austria”, says Jason Cowley in Spears magazine. Cowley stayed in the village of San Cassiano in Badia, South Tyrol, a perfect base for gentle mountain hikes and fine dining. He followed in the footsteps of the “region’s most celebrated alpinist” and guide, Diego Zanesco, whose pace is “far from demanding”. Zanesco is much in demand and his guided walks full of fascinating local detail.
The mountains are “like a pharmacy”, he says, pointing out wild flowers and medicinal herbs ranging from arnica to bistort. The Dolomites are now a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Rosa Alpina hotel is a perfect base for exploring, offering “sophisticated service” that is never “stuffy or precious”. The hotel’s restaurant serves fresh fish, pasta and pizza and has an excellent wine list, while for fine dining there is also the two Michelin-starred St Hubertus, one of the most renowned eateries in the north of Italy. The dishes there are “extraordinarily delicate” and rich in flavour, and the atmosphere calm. Children are not “merely welcomed but joyfully embraced”.
Deserted coastline in Margaret River
Margaret River, a three-hour drive south of Perth in the west of Australia, is a “superb walking destination”, says Nigel Tisdall in The Daily Telegraph. The Cape to Cape Track walkabout runs down the length of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National park, “an undulating coastal wilderness featuring world-class surf breaks, huge limestone caves and inland forests of karri… and red gum trees”. Done independently, the walk takes about a week and demands “good planning, camping gear and stamina”.
Alternatively, it can be done with local operator Walk into Luxury. Either way, you’ll have the coast pretty much to yourself. The Injidup Spa Retreat en route is great for recharging. Each room has a private plunge pool, “spa treatments are focused on feet and meals are paired with fine wines”. The walk will also serve as a fine introduction to Margaret River’s foodie scene. Cape Lodgeserves a four-course menu including local marron and venison. But the high point was a private dinner at Injidup by Tim Whitty, “whose company Kitchen Takeovers does just that”.