From the lunar landscapes of Tanzania and Utah to the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland and New Zealand, these are the very best day walks in the world. So grab your hiking boots and read on...
— Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa-based photographer
Heavenly and hellish, the symmetrical volcanic cone of 2,878m Ol Doinyo Lengai – ‘Mountain of God’ in Maasai – is an active adventure in more ways than one: the volcano rumbles and periodically spits out rocks and lava – taking local advice is a must, as is an experienced guide and a pre-dawn start. Ngare Sero village, at the base, is within touching distance of flamingo-friendly Lake Natron. On the climb itself expect wonderful photo opportunities plus the adrenalin buzz of peering down on the crater’s glowing lava fields (from a safe distance) and, clouds permitting, views stretching to the horizons.
Length: 10km, 7-10 hours return
Difficulty: 4/5 Steep climb to an active crater
Gran Cratere, Vulcano, Aeolian Islands, Italy – an easy climb to the lip of a rumbling crater.
— Brian Bloomfield, Ramblers Holidays tour leader in the Alps
Traditional wooden chocolate-box chalets, meadows strewn with Alpine flowers, some of the world’s most iconic peaks – the paths of the Jungfrau region tick all the boxes. This high-level route is both achievable and dramatic: starting with the cog railway ride up to Schynige Platte from Wilderswil, the walk traverses meadows, passes, karst outcrops and the 2,680m Faulhorn. But it’s the views that dazzle: the Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch duck into view intermittently from behind the peaks to the south, while the sharp summit of the Schreckhorn is reflected in the still Bachsee.
Length: 15km, 5-6 hours
Difficulty: 3/5 Long, gradual ascent
A day on the Stubai circuit, Austrian Tirol – use Neustift as a base for walks along the high route.
— Gillian Price, author of the guide Walking on the Amalfi Coast (Cicerone)
You might dream of exploring the Amalfi Coast’s pastel-hued cliffside settlements in an open-top classic car... but to enjoy the vistas in peace, take to the ‘Path of the Gods’. Leading past soaring cliffs, tiny shrines and cypress groves between the charming fishing settlements of Praiano and Positano (above), this walk burns enough calories to justify that extra-large tiramisu at the end.
Length: 12km, 5 hours
Difficulty: 3/5 Undulating, rocky path with steep drops
South West Coast Path, England – many stretches make fine day hikes, but the section between Boscastle and Tintagel (or on to Port Isaac for the energetic) is hard to top for coastal beauty.
— Rudolf Abraham, author of Torres del Paine (Cicerone)
This trek will make you want to walk further – perhaps the multi-day ‘W’ or full circuit treks, both of which offer deeper insights into the varied geography, flora and fauna in the park (as well as the notoriously fickle climate). But the main raison d’être for this relatively gentle in-and-out walk is to savour views of those pinnacles – the three-plus-a-bit jagged teeth rearing up at the back of a huge cirque.
Length: 19km, 4.5-6 hours
Difficulty: 2/5 Not a hard trek, but weather can turn in an instant
Hooker Valley Track, New Zealand – for views up towards Aoraki/Mt Cook.
— Bryn Thomas, author of Trekking in the Annapurna Region (Trailblazer Guides)
Like mountains? You’ll love the Nepal Himalaya, with a panoply of hiking opportunities. You could take on the three-week Annapurna Circuit. But you don’t have to. From Pokhara a brisk stroll either up Gyarjati, or from Naudanda along the ridge, brings you to the crest of Sarangkot. Though itself a relatively lowly 1,592m, the panoramic vistas from the top are little short of transcendental: peer left to gasp at Dhaulagiri (8,167m), right across to Annapurna II (7,937m), and due north at the perfect pyramid of Machhapuchhare (6,997m), the ‘Fishtail’ mountain. If you’re captivated by the views and fancy a special dawn performance, there are guesthouses in Sarangkot village, or drop back down to the lake along a path on the southerly hillside.
Length: Depends on route, but around 7km up, 4-5 hours return
Difficulty: 2/5 The haul up to the top can be breathtaking, but it’s not a tough trek
Plain of Six Glaciers, Lake Louise, Canada – four or five hours leading away from the crowds to views of mountains and glaciers.
— Rudolf Abraham, author of the forthcoming Trekking in Eastern Turkey (Cicerone)
The ‘fairy’ chimneys, troglodyte dwellings and tuff peaks around Göreme grab the headlines, but there’s more to Cappadocia. The red-walled gorge between Ihlara village and Selime blends natural beauty with historical curiosities – the churches carved into the cliffs north of Ihlara, many with fascinating painted frescoes depicting biblical scenes, and ancient rock-hewn Selime Monastery. Away from Ihlara, crowds thin to allow appreciation of the peaceful greenery and birdlife. With several entry and exit points into the gorge, and lunch options at Belisirma, it’s an easy walk with wonderful pay-offs.
Length: 15km, 7-8 hours
Difficulty: 2/5 Can get hot in the middle of the day
Petra through the ‘back entrance’ – walk from Little Petra to its bigger sibling via the Monastery: a quite different perspective on the ‘rose red city’.
Tasmania’s Overland Track is an 80km ramble past dolerite crags, through rainforest and moors, and alongside sparkling lakes and waterfalls – an iconic and challenging multi-day trek. The beauty of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Claire National Park, backdrop for the track, is that it’s not just for tough trekkers –many of the classic views are easily accessible from either end. Postcard-friendly vistas of Cradle Mountain itself are revealed from various angles on short walks from the northern park entrance. The 6km circuit of Dove Lake offers the views, plus chances of spotting wildlife including wallabies, wombats, quolls and –if you’re lucky – Tasmanian devils. Add on the climb up Cradle Mountain itself and you have a near-perfect Aussie day.
Length: Varies depending on route, but plan for 12km and 8-10 hours
Difficulty: 2/5 for circuit, 4/5 for summit climb
Half Dome hike, Yosemite NP, USA – the first day of the 350km John Muir Trail climbs to the shoulder of Yosemite’s trademark dome.
— Jackie Peers, photographer and hiking guide with Walk Hong Kong
For most visitors, walking in Hong Kong means the stroll between air-con subway and air-con shop. But hundreds of kms of paths – including four long-distance trails – lace the territory, making it easy to escape the urbanity. The path running along the Dragon’s Back – an undulating ridge at the south-east of Hong Kong Island – is part of the 50km Hong Kong Trail, but a fine day walk in its own right; it’s been dubbed ‘Asia’s favourite hike’. Looping up through woodland, the path breaks into open ground on the ridge, revealing views of bays, beaches, villages and the South China Sea.
Length: 4.5km, 2-3 hours – but can be extended
Difficulty: 2/5 Not long and not high but undulating, and can be hot
High Line Park, New York – get an alternative perspective on the Big Apple from this elevated park walkway.
— William Mackesy, founder of Walkopedia.net, online treasury of global walks
In a land renowned for its Great Walks (capital letters intended), it’s a bold claim to label one hike ‘New Zealand’s best day walk’ – even the world’s best, according to some commentators – but that tag has been bestowed on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, itself essentially one stage of the four-day Northern Circuit.
One for cone rangers, its all about the volcanoes: the track hauls up to the saddle between Mt Ngauruhoe (2,291m) and Mt Tongariro (1,967m), for views (on a clear day) across to Mt Taranaki, way to the west. Continuing through the Middle-Earth landscape, you pass stinky geothermal springs, vividly coloured Red Crater and the Emerald and Blue Lakes until, heading north, Lake Taupo may be visible.
Length: 17km, 7-8 hours
Difficulty: 3/5 or 4/5, depending on weather – it’s a testing day with steep climbs; cloud, wind and rain can make it much harder
Mt Bromo, Java, Indonesia – a relatively comfortable hike across a massive caldera followed by a straightforward climb up the crater slopes.
— Greg Ward, author of the Rough Guide to Southwest USA
This walk involves scenery typical of Canyonlands National Park, in which it lies – for example, the stretch from the trailhead across slickrock and into the canyon. But the main draw is at the bottom: Horseshoe Canyon, an incredible open-air rock art exhibition where pictographs of strangely shaped figures were painted many millennia ago.
Length: 10.5km, 5 hours
Difficulty: 2/5 Relatively mild ascent and descent, but gets hot around midday
The Barrk Sandstone Bushwalk in Kakadu National Park, Australia – for Aboriginal art.
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