There’s nothing quite like a good trek. Stepping out into the great outdoors, feeling the ground beneath your feet, the sun – or rain – on your face, and the sounds of nature in your ears just can’t be beaten.
Hiking is a great way to explore a new place – you hear, feel and smell your surroundings in a way that's like no other. And the sense of achievement after ticking off a tough trek is something no tour bus can offer.
We’ve picked thirteen of our favourite treks around the world, all of which can be covered over multiple days, depending on ability. So whether your idea of a perfect trek is reaching Everest Base Camp or exploring Canada’s rugged backcountry, we’ve got you covered.
Here's the full list:
- The Inca Trail, Peru
- Everest Base Camp, Nepal
- GR20, Corsica
- The Pennine Way, England
- The Haute Route, France and Switzerland
- The Appalachian Trail, United States
- Routeburn Track, New Zealand
- Overland Track, Australia
- Long Range Traverse, Canada
- John Muir Trail, California, USA
- The Camino de Santiago, Spain
- The Zion Narrows, Utah, USA
- Trolltunga, Norway
- Travel epic: Trekking holidays for serious outdoors types
The Inca Trail, Peru
The sculpted terraces and granite buildings of Machu Picchu symbolise the might and ambition of the Incas. According to legend, these people emerged from the Island of the Sun on Lake Titicaca, and extended their power across the Andes to create the most powerful empire in the Americas. This former ceremonial site – Latin America's leading tourist icon and a Unesco World Heritage site – is best reached by foot, via the 43km-long Inca Trail.
The distance may appear on the slim side, but progress can be slow because the terrain is so tough, with plenty of steep ascents and descents. Hikers walk on the very stones the Incas laid six centuries ago as part of their walking route from Cusco to Machu Picchu, with magnificent mountain views to spur them on.
The highest point is Dead Woman’s Pass, at 4,200m – so you may need to chew on local coca leaves to ward off altitude sickness. The classic trail starts at the railway station known as Kilometre 88 before climbing steeply through cloud forest and culminating on the final day at the Sun Gate, overlooking Machu Picchu.
Time: 4 to 5 days
Everest Base Camp, Nepal
If you’re serious about trekking, it’s hard to beat the Himalayas of Nepal. Seeing the highest point on planet Earth is spectacular – and that’s what’s in store if you hike to Everest Base Camp, located a lofty 5,380 meters up. In the sixties, the trek to Base Camp – the starting point for intrepid climbers hoping to summit Everest – was an almost 300km round trip. Now, you can begin by flying into Lukla, a small town at 2,860 meters with a slanted airstrip that makes for a hair raising landing and take-off.
Though increasingly popular, this is still not without its risks. Many hikers suffer from altitude sickness and bronchitis. But the achievement of making it to Base Camp is hard to beat – not only do you get up close and personal with earth’s highest mountain, you also get to know the Sherpa people and visit ancient monasteries.
Distance: 130km (there and back)
Time: 12 to 14 days
Corsica is known for many things, from seafood and wine to its famous Polyphonic music, but sitting at the top of the list is its diverse range of natural landscapes. The GR20 trek covers 180km of the island's length, offering hikers a unique chance to travel across mountain ridges, deep valleys, dense forests and glacial lakes.
The route was created in 1972, linking Calenzana in the north with Conca in the south. It's one of the many popular GR long distance routes around Europe and is also classed as one of the most difficult, seeing around 12,000m of elevation gain from start to finish, as well as technical rocky ascents and a series of somewhat derelict wooden bridges.
If 15 days seems like too long, the central part of the route goes through the town of Vizzavona where a train station allows hikers to tick off just half of the route before heading home. And, if you're worried about getting lost in the vast Corsican landscape, the trail is very well signposted from start to finish.
Time: 11 to 15 days
The Pennine Way, England
Arguably England’s toughest walking route, the Pennine Way follows the mountainous ‘backbone of England’, from Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District to Kirk Yetholm on the Scottish border. It is also Britain’s oldest National Trail – and its creation in 1965 spawned another 14 long-distance walking, cycling and horse riding National Trails around the country.
Hikers get to glimpse the landscape changing as they follow the waymarked trails, crossing rusty-coloured fells, verdant valleys and and passing geological wonders, such as the glaciated landscape of High Cup Nick – where dolerite crags rim a great chasm near the Eden Valley. The toughest climb is Cross Fell, which at 893 meters is the highest point on the route. Expect a barren – though beautiful – landscape of red-tinted grass that inspired artists such as JMW Turner.
Time: 16 to 19 days
The Haute Route, France and Switzerland
There’s a high puff factor for this route, which crosses some of the highest and most beautiful country accessible to walkers anywhere in the Alps. The trail begins in the French ski resort of Chamonix and passes through the southern Valais to Zermatt in Switzerland – from the base of Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, two of the world’s most famous mountains. Hikers need to have a decent level of fitness, as most of the route involves “pass hopping” – there are 11 passes to negotiate, gaining more than 12,000 meters. But it’s worth the effort.
After climbing the Pigne d’Arolla at 3,796 meters, you’re rewarded with one of the best vantage points in all the European Alps. Hikers stay in high refuges along the way, and pass through everything from icy glaciers to green alpine meadows.
Time: 12 to 14 days
The Appalachian Trail, United States
Ticking off the entire length of the Appalachian Trail is no mean feat. It runs through 14 US states, two national parks, eight national forests, and crosses some of the highest peaks of the Appalachians. No wonder only one in four hikers who attempt the whole thing actually makes it. Running between Springer Mountain, Georgia and Mount Katahdin, Maine, it’s America’s longest hiking-only footpath, with an overall elevation gain equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 16 times.
As well as the fitness challenge, hikers face everything from technical scrambles up sheer cliff faces to isolation during the most remote stretches, plus potential threats from wildlife including black bears, poisonous snakes and disease-carrying ticks. There are around 250 shelters along the way where hikers can spend the night, protected from the elements and predators, while white blazes on tree trunks keep them from getting lost.
Time: 5 to 7 months
Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Dubbed ‘the ultimate alpine adventure’, the Routeburn Track meanders through lush meadows, pretty gardens and past shimmering tarns – with epic mountain views to boot. Located in the central South Island, the hike kicks off at the base of the Southern Alps, passing through two national parks, Fiordland and Mount Aspiring. Hikers (or ‘trampers’ in New Zealand lingo) go right past Earland Falls – the perfect place to pause for a natural shower – and the cascade of Routeburn Falls.
Other highlights include the spectacular vistas from Harris Saddle and Conical Hill, from where you can see waves breaking on the distant beach on a clear day. With views this good, it’s easy to see why this is such a popular hike, and you’ll need to book huts to stay in along the way well in advance during the Great Walks season (October to April).
Time: 2 to 4 days
Overland Track, Australia
Located in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, this is one of Australia’s most famous bushwalking tracks, taking hikers through some of the planet’s wildest and most beautiful natural terrain. Expect a vast range of landscapes including highland mountains, alpine lakes, rainforest and eucalyptus groves.
This is also an excellent place for wildlife watching, as animals including the wombat, platypus and, of course, the Tasmanian devil, call Australia’s southern island state home. The trail weaves its way from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair (Australia’s deepest natural freshwater lake) via a well-defined path (with boardwalks in parts). Those keen to explore more can veer off on numerous sidewalks towards waterfalls, valleys and summits including Mt Ossa (1,617m) – Tasmania’s highest.
Time: 5 to 6 days
Long Range Traverse, Canada
This unmarked and rugged backcountry route in Newfoundland is one of Canada’s best hikes. Starting from from Western Brook Pond, it leads hikers onto the Long Range Mountains and south towards Gros Morne Mountain before descending into Ferry Gulch, with a number of campsites along the way.
Navigation skills are key – hikers need a map and compass to stay on track through the impressive wilderness, populated mostly by caribou and moose. The payoff is peace and solitude, clean campsites and the joy of travelling under your own steam through a most incredible landscape: clear water sparkles from coastal fjords, granite cliffs tower overhead and tiny tracks lead to secret lakes. The final day culminates with the high point – the 807m-high Gros Morne Mountain, perched high above the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Time: 4 to 5 days
John Muir Trail, California, USA
Named after the legendary naturalist and hiker, John Muir, this epic American hike begins in the Yosemite National Park and follows the High Sierra mountain range to reach the highest point in the USA – Mount Whitney at 4,421m.
In terms of difficulty, this trail is one of the toughest, covering over 14,000 meters of elevation over the taxing 340km meters of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, John Muir Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, and King's Canyon National Park. Each day comprising of relentless descents and climbs over dozens of the highest mountains.
Although it may demand some major effort, hikers covering the trail are rewarded with some of the most spectacular views you'll find across the globe from enormous lakes and mountain peaks to incredible clear stargazing opportunities and beautiful sunrises.
For anyone hoping to attempt to hike the John Muir Trail, there's a great deal of planning involved, from applying for a permit and choosing the right time of year to altitude acclimatization and organizing re-supply locations along the route.
Time: 18 to 21 days
The Camino de Santiago, Spain
The Camino de Santiago (also known as Way of Saint James) is actually a network of trails comprised of a number of different long-distance routes. Each of those trails leads to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
Of all the varying options available the most popular among hikers is arguably the Camino Francés, a 780km trail that leads from Saint Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago.
Unlike some of the other treks mentioned, the Camino Francés is extremely well signposted meaning that the impressive route is a great option for those who want to enjoy the glorious scenery as opposed to navigation. That route takes would-be pilgrims through the Pyrenees mountains, across the majority of northern Spain and into the vibrant meadows of Galicia.
That signposting may make the planning easier but completing the full route is far from easy with hikers covering around 18,500 meters of elevation gain over the entirety of the pilgrimage. Taking on the hike in the summer months is also advised against due to the hot weather.
Time: 30 days
The Zion Narrows, USA
The Narrows is so named as it's the narrowest section of the Zion Canyon, a river gorge that runs through Zion National Park in southwest Utah.
The most famous aspect of the route is that the bulk of it takes place sandwiched between the enormous walls of the canyon, making it one of the most unique hiking experiences in the world. The trail effectively follows the Virgin River, and you can expect to have to walk through a fair amount of water as you cover the full 26km.
In comparison to some of the other walks in this guide it's by far one of the shortest in terms of distance. But if your focus is incredible scenery over mileage then it's a location that needs to be added to your wish list.
Time: 10-14 hours
When it comes to mythological levels of scenery and landscape you need to be setting your target on Norway. Trolltunga is by far the most highly praised of the country's long distance hikes offering some of the areas most awe-inspiring vistas.
Located in the famous Hardangerfjord area, the hike to Trolltunga, a word which means 'the troll's tongue' and describes a large pointed rock, is far from easy. The 28km takes in around 900m of ascent and you'll need most of the day to complete it. The weather in the region is also notably changeable, so ensuring that you're carrying the right kit is essential to taking on trail.
There's a reason people do it though: the route is dotted with famous landmarks including the Ringedal dam and mountain potholes – expect to spend a lot of the hike taking photos.
Time: 10-12 hours