With its spectacular coastline and its endless swells of emerald hills scattered with ancient ruins, Ireland was made to be explored on foot. Hit the trails in four of Ireland’s most scenic spots: the Wicklow Mountains, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, and the Aran Islands. Follow the Wicklow Way just south of Dublin to beautiful Glendalough, hiking along clear streams that cut through the fresh pine forest. Then travel to County Kerry and spend three days walking and cycling among Ireland’s highest mountains, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. Trace the rocky shores of the Dingle Peninsula past fishing villages and age-old beehive huts, and end your adventure among the surreal limestone flats of the Aran Islands of Inishmore. Discover early Christian monasteries, enigmatic stone circles and Celtic forts, medieval manors, and Ireland’s lively culture along the way.
Arrive in Dublin and transfer to our hotel, located in the city’s historic center. The remainder of the day is free to relax or explore the city. Hit the streets on foot, visit the Guinness Storehouse, or view the illuminated manuscript known as the Book of Kells. Tonight, gather at the hotel for a trip briefing with your group leader followed by a welcome dinner.
Roxford Lodge (D)
Spend the morning exploring the vast gardens of Powerscourt House, a country estate dating back to 1300. Then set out along the beautiful Wicklow Way, which stretches about 79 miles through the Wicklow Mountains. Hike through lush pine forests before descending to magical Glendalough—Gaelic for “the valley of two lakes”—a monastic site established by the 6th-century hermit St. Kevin. (10 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Glendalough Hotel (B,L,D)
Follow the Wicklow Way south, ascending out of Glendalough along the wooded slopes of Mullacor Mountain (2,156 feet). Take in fantastic views of Lugnaquillia Mountain, the highest mountain outside of County Kerry. The trail winds down into Glenmalure, Ireland’s longest glacially formed valley. From here, a short drive brings us to the Vale of Avoca, where Ireland’s gold rush began in 1796. Enjoy free time to wander through the town of Avoca and visit the Avoca Handweavers mill, established in 1723. (9 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Glendalough Hotel (B,L,D)
Travel southwest to the Rock of Cashel, an important site in Irish mythology. Packed within age-old ramparts, a cathedral, a chapel, a tower, a choral hall, and a scattering of high crosses exemplify the best of Ireland's medieval art and architecture. Continue to Killarney, arriving in the afternoon. Set out on a walking tour; taking in the gardens of Muckross House, a 19th-century estate perched between two lakes; and visit Ross Castle, site of strong resistance to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars. Tonight, we'll explore the lively town centre to enjoy some traditional music or even some Irish step dancing. (3 miles hiking, 2 hours)
Killarney Plaza Hotel & Spa (B,L,D)
We have several options for exploring the Gap of Dunloe, a narrow valley that splits the Purple Mountain massif from Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. Hit the seven-mile trail on foot or ride through the gap in a jaunting car—a horse-drawn carriage—passing between sheer rock faces and skirting mirror-like lakes. Then return to Killarney by boat. Or hop on a mountain bike and follow a 30-plus-mile circuit through the Gap of Dunloe and around Killarney’s lakes. Enjoy an evening on your own to get to know the town. (7 miles hiking, 3 hours; or 30+ miles biking, 3 hours)
Killarney Plaza Hotel & Spa (B,L)
Set out on the trails of the idyllic Ring of Kerry. Stop along the way to watch a sheepdog demonstration and visit ancient sites including early Christian monasteries and Iron Age forts. Or head out for a more challenging climb up Ireland's highest peak, Carrauntoohill (3,415 feet). Starting the shores of Lough Acoose, ascend Caher Mountain (3,284 feet) and follow the Caher Ridge to the summit of Carrauntoohill, where the views are some of the best in Ireland. Descend to the Kerry Way for the last leg of the hike. Late this afternoon, transfer to the nearby Dingle Peninsula. (10-12 miles hiking, 6 hours; or 11 miles, 8 hours for the Carrauntoohill climb)
Dingle Benners Hotel (B,L,D)
Windswept green hills, a rocky coastline, and a wealth of archaeological sites make the Dingle Peninsula one of Ireland's greatest treasures. Set out on the Dingle Way, a spectacular trail that traces the coast. As we hike from Ventry to near Ballydavid, observe ancient beehive huts; the remains of the stone fort of Dun an Oir; and the Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian church built of unmortared stone. (11 miles hiking, 6 hours)
Dingle Benners Hotel (B,L,D)
This morning, explore the nearby area with a local geologist and naturalist. After lunch, we leave the pretty fishing village of Dingle and transfer to the charming city of Galway, stopping along the way to see the enigmatic Ballintaggart Ogham Stones, nine oval stones-some etched with symbols or inscriptions- that may mark an ancient burial site. (3 miles hiking, 2 hours)
Hotel Meyrick (B,L)
Take the ferry to the Aran Islands, part of the Gaeltacht, where Gaelic is still the lingua franca. On the island of Inishmore, hike up to Dun Aengus, a mysterious ring fort perched on the edge of cliffs that drop 300 feet to the ocean. Explore the island by bicycle or guided minibus. Late this afternoon, take the ferry back to Galway, where we’ll enjoy a final dinner together. (2 miles hiking, 1 hour)
Hotel Meyrick (B,L,D)
After breakfast, transfer to Shannon Airport or return to Dublin for your flight home.
National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $500. Airfare is not included. Round-trip economy air between New York and Dublin, and return from Shannon, is estimated from $1,050.
GROUP SIZE: 6–16
See special terms and conditions for this adventure.
Trips rated MODERATE typically have 3-6 hours of activity per day, with hikes up to 10 miles on rolling or mountainous terrain with some steep ascents/descents and uneven trails at altitudes of up to 8,000 feet. Itineraries with kayaking will have 3-7 miles of paddling per day.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.