What are the walks like?

Distance or length of walks

Our walk routes vary greatly in length, from 2 kilometers (about 1.5 miles) to 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles). We believe terrain, setting, and points of interest should determine walk distance. Walks on a given day are often conducted in segments; for example, we might walk 4 kilometers in one setting and 5 kilometers in another. This approach tends to add diversity and increase the quality of the route.

A route shorter than the official route of the day may be available. However, when it is, walkers will not necessarily have the company or supervision of a WAI tour leader; both WAI guides are required to manage (one guide leading and the other in the rear “sweeping”) the featured route of the day.

Walk pace

We generally walk at an average pace of about 3 kilometers (2 miles) per hour, assuming it’s a venue that does not involve commentary by our guide. Travelers should be comfortable walking 10 kilometers (6 miles) of flat, level trail in about 2.5 hours. In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at the relaxed but steady pace listed above, plus allowing time for commentary by our guide, picture-taking, or bathroom stops.

Enjoyment of this travel experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that travelers make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion.

Difficulty of the walks

WAI uses a walk difficulty measurement system originally developed by the American Volkssport Association (AVA). This system contains a numeric indicator for incline and an alpha indicator for terrain as follows:

Incline

1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from starting point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from starting point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from starting point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from starting point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from starting point: more than 3500 feet.

Terrain

A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky/rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.

How walks are conducted

Guided walks: Most walks in international destinations are conducted as guided walks. Generally one WAI guide will be the lead guide, along with a local guide, and a second WAI guide will be at the back of the group “sweeping.” WAI guides use an “accordion” concept of managing a guided walk. We let the accordion (the group) get stretched out to some degree to allow walkers to walk at their own pace, but we monitor how stretched the group becomes and stop occasionally to let gaps shrink, or to hear commentary by our local guide.

Self-guided walks: Some walks have been developed for travelers to walk on their own. The advantage of a self-guided walk is that travelers may allocate time to various stops or points of interest without consideration of the group pace. Walk maps and directions are provided for these trails. In these cases, the group will be given a time and place to rendezvous, and travelers may either walk together in small groups, or stay with the guide team.

Take a break: Of course, none of the walks are mandatory and we encourage travelers to pace themselves. Take a day off or do a partial walk as necessary. Just let the guide know your needs, and we’ll help you make adjustments.