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WALKING TOURS TAKE YOU OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Today's classic walking tours take place in Switzerland or Britain, small countries dense with scenery and shelter. Tour companies have other offerings far off the beaten track. Here are some of those that are currently available in the United States and Europe.

The Wayfarers is a well-established British company whose season of guided tours this year extends from April 26 to Oct. 18. The tours take place in England, Scotland and Wales, and cost from $1,250 per person for six nights' lodging, all meals, luggage transport and shuttle service (for the weary). The company's U.S. agent is in Rhode Island.An energetic husband and wife in Sommerville, N.J., will personally lead six back-to-back walking tours in Switzerland and England from July 19 to Aug. 29. The cost of each six-day tour ranges from $995 to $1,094, including lodging and meals. The emphasis is leisure: Each tour includes a full day for pure sightseeing or snoozing. Wander Tours: (800) 282-1808.

Progressive Travels in Seattle is offering a new "luxury-laced" tour of Switzerland, with five departures between June 28 and Sept. 13. The price is $2,495 for seven days, with stays at the Carlton Hotel in St. Moritz and other upper-crust establishments. Trains, cable cars and lifts are liberally employed where the going is steep. Call (800) 245-2229.

New England Hiking Holidays, operated by a couple in New Hampshire, offers 50 walking tours ranging from two to eight days in New England, Maine, North Carolina, Colorado and Hawaii. Prices range from $100 to $150 a day per person for domestic tours. (The company also tours England and Switzerland.) A four-day tour off the coast of Maine, for example, costs $575 in the peak fall season.

Avenir Adventures of Utah has a new wrinkle on hikes into the Grand Canyon. The company has arranged to hike into the canyon via the Havasupai Indian Reservation, staying in the solar-powered village of Supai, accessible only by foot and horseback. Hikers fly from Las Vegas to the reservation, hike into the canyon (8 miles) for three days, then fly to the canyon's South Rim for a day of conventional sightseeing and return to Las Vegas. Cost for the six-day, five-night trip is $1,149 per person. Departure dates: May 2, Oct. 3, 17 and 31. Call (800) 537-4025.

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DESERT IN BLOOM: A nine-day trip to view the Arizona desert in bloom is being offered by Betchart Expeditions of Cupertino, Calif. The tour begins April 11 in Tucson and visits the Saguaro National Monument, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Madera Canyon, Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Sanctuary, a research station of the American Museum of Natural History and other sights. Travel is by 15-passenger van, with daily walks and optional hikes. Temperatures may sometimes reach the 90s. Price: $1,790 per person, double occupancy ($250 more for singles), excluding air fare to Tucson and including lodging and most meals. Betchart Expeditions: 21601 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino, Calif. 95014, (800) 252-4910.

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NEW VENEZUELAN TOURS: Lost World Adventures of Marietta, Ga., has two new land tours of Venezuela. The first is 12 days in duration and includes a journey into the Andes by foot, car, bike or horseback. It costs $1,390 per person, double occupancy, and includes lodging, guides and most meals, but not air fare to Caracas. The second tour lasts 15 days and includes visits to lodges in the Llanos grassland, the Amazonas jungle and the Kawaik high-altitude jungle, as well as a flight over Angel Falls. It costs $1,690 per person, double, excluding air fare to Caracas. Lost World Adventures, 1189 Autumn Ridge Drive, Marietta, Ga., (800) 999-0558.

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MEDITERRANEAN MUSIC: A seven-day musical cruise in the Mediterranean is being offered by Epirotiki Lines, leaving Venice May 16 and returning May 23.

It will be the company's third biennial "Music at Sea" cruise, and features the Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra of the Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival, plus such soloists as violist Adelheid Souchay, cellist Julius Berger, tenor Neil Mackie, flutist Peter-Lukas Graf and pianists Justus Franz, Janis Vakarellis, Bernd Glemser and Homero Francesch.

The vessel Odysseus will call at the Greek island of Itea for a tour of Delphi; at Kusadesi, Turkey, for a tour of Ephesus, and at the Greek isles of Delos and Mykonos.

Fares range from $1,750 to $2,750 per person. Epirotiki: 551 Fifth Ave., New York 10176.

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SOUTHWESTERN EUROPE: Special Expeditions is offering two 17-day cruises up and down the coasts of southwestern Europe. The sailings on the 80-passenger Polaris, with excursions on inflatable rubber launches, permit the exploration of coastal channels. Passengers will stop along France's Cote Basque for wine tastings at Paulliac, in Bordeaux's Gironde region and at St. Emilion, at the British isle of Guernsey, at Dartmouth and at historic ports in Spain and Portugal.

The cruises start at about $6,000 per passenger, double occupancy. Dates are April 24 to May 10 and Sept. 8-24. Air fare not included.

Special Expeditions: 720 Fifth Ave., New York 10019.

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FLORIADE: Travel Time of Chicago has arranged a seven-day tour of the Netherlands that will include a visit to Floriade, the horticultural exhibition held once every decade. The tour leaves twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday, from April 11 to Oct. 7, and costs $1,895 per person, double occupancy. The price includes seven nights' lodging at the Carlton Square Hotel in Amsterdam, 15 meals and visits to the usual sights: the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum and the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. Air fare is extra.

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BRITISH B&BS: Travelers' Tours U.K. is offering two-week tours of Britain that may appeal especially to those who want to see the British countryside without driving British roads. The tours are by chartered motor coach, with lodging in B&Bs en route. The 12 tours begin and end in London on various dates between April 20 and Sept. 21, and include three nights in Bath, two in Chester, three in York, three in Edinburgh and two in Windermere. The cost is about $700 per person, double occupancy, including daily breakfast. Travelers' Tours U.K.: 9 Pyrland Road, Richmond, Surry TW10 6JA, England.

- The Los Angeles Times is not responsible for changes in prices,

dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with airlines,

cruise lines, tour operators or travel agents.