Long-distance walking -- once the only way to travel -- is tempting a growing number of fans. It's a wonderful way to see the countryside up close, both in this country and abroad. A number of tour organizers have put together walking holidays that vary from easily paced hikes from inn to elegant inn to arduous treks in the high Himalayas. Among the possibilities:
Back roads of Sicily: From Enna, the crag-top city in the center of the island, it's a 10-day hike along Roman and medieval roads and paths to the Mediterranean coast at Cefalu`. You stay in small inns in ancient villages, and a van carries the luggage. The land-only cost is $1,240 per person. Departures Sept. 10, Sept. 24, Oct. 8, Oct. 22. The Alternative Travel Group Ltd., 1-3 George St., Oxford, OX1 2AZ, England, (011-44) 865-251195.
Inns of Japan: On this two-week trip, the pathways wind through Japan's North Alps, ending each day at a traditional inn. You sleep on futons in tatami-matted rooms, bathe in a hot tub and dine on local foods. Land-only price: $1,680 per person. Departures July 25, Sept. 19, Oct. 3. Guides for All Seasons, Box 97, Carnelian Bay, Calif. 95711, (800) 457-4574.
Hut hopping in the Alps: You won't actually scale the Swiss Alps yourself, but this strenuous nine-day hike takes you above 9,000 feet for grand views. You stay in four hotels, a country inn and five remote mountain huts. Land-only price: $1,255. Departure Aug. 3. Europeds, 883 Sinex Ave., Pacific Grove, Calif. 93950, (408) 372-1173.
Border castles of Wales: A six-day hike into history, you explore a now-tranquil corner of Wales that once saw the bloody clash of armies. Lodging is in village hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns. Departures Aug. 9, Sept. 13. Land-only price: about $825 (with luggage van). The Wayfarers, 307 91st St., Apt. 4-R, New York, N.Y. 10128, (212) 369-4322.
California's Sequoias: Of moderate difficulty, this week-long backpacking holiday explores beautiful Sequoia National Park. The route passes through a wilderness grove of giant sequoias, dips into five alpine lake basins and twice crosses the Great Western Divide. You tote personal items and a share of the food and camping gear. Everyone pitches in on meals. The cost from the trail head is $210 per person. Departure Aug. 7. Sierra Club Outing Department,730 Polk St., San Francisco,Calif. 94109, (415) 776-2211.
Swiss lakes and meadows:On this nine-day walk in the Bernese Oberland, everyone sets his or her own pace. With map in hand, you follow well-marked trails from village to village. Meanwhile,a van transports the luggage, and a fine inn awaits. Land-only cost: $1,425. Departures Aug. 1, Sept. 5. Butterfield & Robinson, 70 Bond St., Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario, M5B 1X3, Canada, (800) 387-1147.