Seeing a Country in 10 Miles a Day

When you’re visiting a big city for the first time, particularly a national capital, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to see everything. We have travel friends who swear by the hop on, hop off tourist buses. Other wanderers prefer to follow a guide who knows the lay of the land. Our favorite method of exploring a new place? Walk 10 miles.

Not every city is walkable, but in a metropolitan area, 10 miles (16 km) gives you a pretty good radius of sights to cover. And the formula for planning the route is entirely up to you. 

Step One: Pick your priorities.
Are you in the mood for historical artifacts? Gardens? Museums? Restaurants? Religious sites? Street art? A little bit of everything? Put it on the list. Think of this as brainstorming: not everything may make it on your itinerary, but don’t limit yourself just yet.

Not sure what there is to see in a certain locale? We use a variety of sources to get our lists started, including Nomad Mania, TripAdvisor, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Nomad Mania includes lists of all sorts of things to see and do around the world, such as the State Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg, Russia. Why would you want to visit, you ask? Mental Floss tells you: “The former Winter Palace, where Russia’s tsars once resided, is today the museum’s main building. It’s reportedly been home to cats for hundreds of years, beginning in 1745 when Empress Elisabeth issued a call for ‘the finest cats of Kazan’ to help rid the building of mice … The Hermitage cats are [now] tended to by a team of full-time volunteers, managed by their own press secretary. They’re also adoptable.”

Step Two: Map it out.
Google Maps is your friend for this step. Type your first destination in the search bar, then click “Directions.” Add your starting point, such as your hotel or Airbnb address, then click “Add Destination” for your second point of interest. Keep doing this until you have up to 10 stops on your itinerary. Then, using the map, drag and drop the order of your stops until you have a route that flows without overlapping or circling back unnecessarily. 

Some things will be too far out of your route or beyond comfortable walking distance. Save those for another day. Using the map, you’ll also find new points of interest on or near your route that are convenient to add. We’ve found some of our most unexpectedly interesting stops this way. 

It also doesn’t have to be exactly 10 miles. A couple more, a couple less — it’s all based on what you want to see and experience. 

Our walking route on a visit to Istanbul, Turkey, was only 8.3 miles but included everything we wanted to see that particular day

Step Three: Be prepared.
Since you’re walking for 10 miles, you’ll need to take into account comfortable clothing and footwear, weather supplies (e.g. sunscreen, poncho, scarf), water, and snacks as well as camera and video gear to record the adventure.

We take the estimated walking time for the route, which is automatically supplied by Google when you switch to pedestrian mode, and take into consideration how much time we think we’ll spend touring individual spots. Google gives recommendations for this based on how long others have spent there. We also add time for meals and then tack on another hour or so to make sure we can get back to our accommodations at a reasonable time. 

Our global wifi from Skyroam has unlimited data, so it’s simple to use Google Maps on our phones and follow our route as we walk. It even reroutes us if we take detours along the way. But in the few countries where Skyroam doesn’t work, we open the Google Maps app on our phones before we leave our accommodations and then update it when we encounter wifi throughout the day. You can text or email the original route to yourself and edit stops as necessary. The maps still work by satellite when you’re offline, but the turn-by-turn directions won’t follow your every move.

Check out our first Ten Miles a Day post from Tbilisi, Georgia!