Photo: © JULIA KUZNETSOVA – DREAMSTIME.COM
WHAT DO BREATHING in the delicate perfume of alpine rock jasmine on an early-morning hike in the Swiss Alps, discovering a Parisian patisserie in the back streets of Hanoi and weaving through secret shortcuts to uncover Chicago’s underground pedway system have in common? They can all be done only on foot.
Exploring a destination by foot is a great way to gain a new perspective of a town, soaking in the sights, sounds, smells and scenery at your own pace. Guided walking tours amplify those sensations by providing an intimate look into the intricacies that make a destination so distinct, often providing a focus on art, architecture, history, food or nature.
Walking tour operators range from local guides booked through sites like Tours by Locals and Viator to expert guides booked through Context Travel. All the guides with Context Travel have a Ph.D. or equivalent certification in their respective fields for the tours they lead. Context leads private and semi-private tours in 50-plus destinations around the world covering a variety of interests. Explore the Louvre with an expert art historian on the three-hour Louvre Museum Tour: Crash Course, and walk the streets with a food writer or chef in search of Saint-Germain-des-Prés’ most beloved chocolates and macrons on the 2.5-hour Paris Pastries and Chocolates Tour. The company also offers more exclusive tours, like the After Hours Vatican Museum Visit and the Exclusive Early Morning Tower of London tour.
Many hotels provide private walking tour access for guests, like the complimentary neighborhood tours offered at all Triumph Hotels within New York City, including the Evelyn Hotel, The Frederick Hotel, The Iroquois Hotel New York, Hotel Edison, Hotel Belleclaire and the Washington Jefferson Hotel. The Cambrian Hotel, a member of Design Hotels, in Adelboden, Switzerland, gives guests direct access to the region’s top hiking guides, who create customized trips for guests with either simple hikes or more demanding routes with climbing sections.
Hyatt Hotels recently launched a program aimed at promoting well-being for its guests with a range of local experiences, many of which involve some truly unique walking tours. The experiences can either earn World of Hyatt loyalty points or members can use already accumulated World of Hyatt loyalty points to book adventures. These might include foraging alongside a naturalist in the mountains of Southern California, heading underground to navigate and explore the Chicago Pedway or taking a meditative hike through the Redwood Forest with a certified yoga instructor.
Unlike zipping through a city on a train or in a car, walking tours allow guests the chance to slow down and view the details, people and stories that bring a destination to life; just make sure to wear comfy shoes!