Walking and trekking holidays allow you to experience destinations at your own pace. Whether it’s culture, wildlife, scenery or mountains you’re after, our guide to walking and trekking trips reveals how to have it all
If God wanted us to walk, He would’ve given us… oh, hang on – He did. Those lumpy things on the end of your legs are good for more than just climbing the stairs onto planes.
And walking (hiking, trekking, call it what you will) is invariably more than just a way of getting exercise. It’s how you admire the best scenery, get close to wildlife, meet the locals on even terms, and – most importantly of all – justify that extra-huge portion of cake/paella/curry/tagine at the end of the day.
Well, first up, decide what you’re looking for in a hiking trip. If wildlife’s the thing, you don’t need to scale lofty peaks – an African walking safari, in Zambia or Tanzania perhaps, is the (big) cat’s whiskers.
Want ancient history? Try Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or a trek through Jordan to the rose-red city of Petra.
Meeting the locals? Try gentle hiking through India’s Himalayan foothills, or among the hilltribes of northern Vietnam. And don’t dismiss hut-to-hut hiking in Europe’s Alps (Austria, Switzerland, France) for fresh cheese platters and mountain bonhomie.
And for peak-baggers? Well, Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Toubkal (Morocco) and Aconcagua (Argentina) are all accessible without technical climbing skills. You just need a sound pair of boots and a bit of training, plus some good planning – pick the right season, suitable gear, and heed health advice to ensure a spectacular and safe hike.
Whether you’re looking for a life-changing challenge or just a day’s stroll, heading out on the trail provides a new perspective on any destination. So go on – stick the boot in.
Backpackers on top of a mountain (Shutterstock)
There's a whole world of walks out there and while you could just open an atlas and let your finger fall randomly on a spot on a page, a better place to start would be the walking and trekking recommendations from the Wanderlust team. All the big ones are there, like the Annapurna Circuit and the Inca Trail, but there a few left field choices too. For an even greater choice, swing by the list of 37 world-class walks put together by Sarah Baxter. No matter where you're heading in the world, you'll find a walk worth putting your boots on for.
Sarah has also compiled a list of 9 alternative treks for when you want to avoid the crowds and the clichés.
Walking and trekking recommendations – Wanderlust team
37 world class walks – Sarah Baxter
9 alternative treks – Sarah Baxter
A view point over the Great Rift Valley (Shutterstock)
Starting in the north, Sarah Baxter recommends Morocco’s Rif mountains, full of undiscovered treasures, yet less crowded than the more popular Atlas mountains to the south.
Ben Lerwill, on the other hand, suggests Kenya's Great Rift Valley. A new trail there links mud-and-thatch villages, shimmering lakes, flocks of flamingos, wildlife galore and around 25 million years of geological history.
For something completely different, Lyn Hughes says you can't beat a walking safari in Zambia's South Luangwa Valley. There's no better way to get up close and personal with nature.
Climb Mt Kilimanjaro guide – Wanderlust team
Africa's other roof: Mount Kenya – Sarah Baxter
Climbing Mount Toukbal, Morocco – Dan Linstead
Trekking in the Rif Mountains – Sarah Baxter
Walking in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley – Ben Lerwill
On a walking safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa Valley – Lyn Hughes
Trekking amongst the hilltribes of Northern Thailand has long been the staple of walking tours in this part of Asia. Vietnam, too, offers walking tours that take you into the heart of indigenous communities in the highlands. Nick Boulos, however, suggests heading to Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains, once a stronghold for Khmer Rouge fighters, but now welcoming trekkers in search of trails and wildlife-rich rainforest.
East Asia offers its fair share of spectacular trails too. Taiwan and Japan, while crowded, have pristine trails that offer respite for locals and visitors alike. And if you've ever fancied trekking China's Great Wall, Simon Lewis offers you both the easy and the difficult options.
South in Oceania, the Milford Track in New Zealand remains the premier trek in that neck of the woods. But for those looking for something a little different, New Zealand's doppelganger, Tasmania, offers up a host of spectacular walks too.
Ultimate hilltribe trekking guide, Thailand – Alex Robinson
A journey through Vietnam's Central Highlands – Claire Boobbyer
Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains – Nick Boulos
Taiwan’s most spectacular hiking trails – Wanderlust team
Hiking in Honshu – Sophie Campbell
8 ways to hike the Great Wall – Simon Lewis
Travel icon: Milford Sound, New Zealand – Darroch Donald
Top 6 walks in Tasmania – Wanderlust team
The Himalaya mountains are the heartland of trekking. And after the terrible earthquake that struck the region in early 2015, it needs your support more than ever. Malika Browne headed to the Buddhist kingdom of Mustang, one of the remotest parts of Nepal and found a world untouched by time and tourism. Phoebe Smith trekked to Everest Base Camp and beyond. While Jude Limburn headed up to the K2 Base Camp in Pakistan.
For something a little more civilised, Martin Symington recommends trekking in Darjeeling. Just the right level of challenge and a nice hot cuppa waiting at the end of each day.
Nearing Nirvana in Nepal – Malika Browne
Everest: Base Camp and beyond – Phoebe Smith
Climbing to K2 Base Camp, Pakistan – Jude Limburn
Trekking in Darjeeling – Martin Symington
It could be argued that Europe is where trekking began. Indeed, Sarah Baxter hiked through Switzerland, following in the footsteps of Miss Jemima Morrell, an intrepid lady who joined Thomas Cook’s first escorted tour of Switzerland – an epic trip of high peaks and high adventure – in 1863.
Phoebe Smith headed to Austria, not only walking in the Tirolean Alps but staying in the mountains too – with a comfy bed, a hot meal and warming schnaps for around €20 a night. Closer to home, she tackled the North Norfolk Walk, discovering untouched nature only miles from classic British seaside piers.
Europe offers up more exotic options too. Trekking in Albania has a real frontier feel, says Jeremy Head. While Clare Wilson recommends Iceland's magical east, where other-worldy landscapes mix with strongly-held beliefs in fairies.
Hiking back in time in Switzerland – Sarah Baxter
Walking in the Tirolean Alps, Austria – Phoebe Smith
Great British Escape: North Norfolk Walk – Phoebe Smith
Trekking in Albania – Jeremy Head
Where to hike in magical east Iceland – Clare Wilson
Zion National Park, USA (Shutterstock)
In North America, the iconic Grand Canyon offers trekkers any number of challenges. And in Central America, Mark Stratton proves that it is possible to traverse the entire length of Costa Rica by manpower. But it is Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail that hold the greatest allure to trekkers heading to the Americas. Here are seven different ways to fulfil this iconic travel experience.
Of course, there are other treks in South America. You could hike the Cordillera Blanca in Peru like Hilary Bradt. Or pepper your walk with a little horse riding and wine tasting like Sarah Gilbert did in Mendoza, Argentina. We've also put together a list of South America's 12 best walks... that aren't the Inca Trail.
Hiking in the Grand Canyon – Andrew Thomas
Crossing Costa Rica by manpower – Mark Stratton
Top 7 ways to reach Machu Picchu – Wanderlust team
Trekking in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru – Hilary Bradt
Hike, sip and ride in Mendoza, Argentina – Sarah Gilbert
South America’s 12 best walks… that aren’t the Inca Trail – Wanderlust team
Tibetan Flags at Annapurna Base Camp (Shutterstock)
OK. You've decided where to go trekking. Now you need specialist advice from trekking experts. Wanderlust Guide of the Year finalist, Deana Zabaldo, offers five tips for trekking in Nepal that supplements our own tips for trekking in the Himalaya and advice for the Annapurna circuit. Tim Shearman offers 6 tips for trekking in the Andes.
5 tips for trekking in Nepal – Deana Zabaldo
Annapurna circuit advice – Wanderlust team
Tips for hiking the Himalaya – Wanderlust team
6 tips for trekking in the Andes – Tom Shearman
How to succeed at the Three Peaks challenge – Alex Kendall
The 10 commandments of trekking etiquette – Amy Turner
Testing out walking boots (Shutterstock)
Whether you’re meandering down easy trails, traversing Alpine paths or climbing mountains, a good pair of boots are essential to keep your feet in good walking order throughout your adventures. The Wanderlust team have put together this handy guide to help you buy the right pair for you.
Phoebe Smith has put together a kit list for trekkers heading to Everest Base Camp. Nomad Travel have tips of what to pack when you're hiking the Inca Trail.
Traveller’s guide to: Walking boots – Wanderlust team
Everest Base Camp Kit List – Phoebe Smith
What to pack when you’re hiking the Inca Trail in Peru – Nomad Travel
Tsitsikamma National Park (Shutterstock)
Ready to start planning your trip? Our Walking and Trekking Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by our A-Z of Walking and Trekking Experiences for both inspiration and practical advice. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news about walking and trekking too.
If you have a particular question about walking and trekking, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about walking and trekking. The answer to yours might already be there.
Walking and trekking travel guide – Wanderlust team
A-Z of walking and trekking experiences – Wanderlust team
Mont Blanc, Switzerland (Shutterstock)
Here's a selection of tours offered by our partners. From the Inca Trail and Himalayan adventures to treks in off-the-beaten-track destinations, there's something to suit every budget and level of fitness.
Main image: Hiking in Himalaya mountains (Shutterstock)