The broader term ‘walking tour’ can encompass different formats. There’s trekking, usually in exotic locations where all the requisite baggage, such as camping gear and food is carried by porters, so the trekker is free to enjoy the experience. There’s country walking, usually done in a country location, maybe involving walking from one inn to the next over several days or staying in one place and walking out from there. There are short walks, usually in a city, to experience a certain area or district, like the popular ‘ghost’ or ‘haunted’ tours. And then there’s hiking and backpacking which usually has a physical fitness aspect as well as a travel aspect. There are so many different tours to choose from, you can opt for one with as much or as little difficulty as you want.
The walking tour is still much more popular in Europe than the United States, but it’s a growing field with many tour operators to choose from. The Wayfarer’s started in 1984 as a small group of friends and family walking primarily in England. Today, they conduct tours to many other countries, as well as England where they offer a popular Downton Abbey tour. Classic Journeys, founded in 1995, offers destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and both North and South America. One of their specialties is the culinary tour, which includes cooking lessons as well as visits to markets, bakers and vineyards. Walking Adventures, International takes the traveler on an adventure that involves walking blended with motorcoach transportaion (as well as other forms) to get up close and personal with culture and history. They offer a wide variety of destinations including all 50 states. This is just a very small sampling of what’s out there.
Of course there’s always the self-guided tour. If you have a specific area you want to explore, you can use maps and guide books to put together your own itinerary. Most of the popular travel guides like Fodor’s and Frommer’s include walking tours in their guides. The Travel Neighborhood has a great selection books from lots of different areas. See below for just a few.
A walking tour brings you into such intimate contact with your surroundings, there’s no better way to really get to know a place than to explore it one step at a time. It’s been many years since my sister and I went on a nighttime walking tour of haunted places in Waterford, Ireland. But I still remember the smell of cold cement, the eeriness of the shadows and the hushed voices and nervous laughter of our companions.