Whether you like teetering on mountain ridges or prefer a gentle jaunt along the beach, we’ve found the best wanders the Earth has to offer. Get your boots on…
Where? KM82-Machu Picchu, southern Peru
Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; some high passes; camping only
Independent? No – a guide is mandatory
Machu Picchu (Shutterstock)
The walk: This iconic tramp through the Andes is not all about arriving – though reaching the stone gate of Intipunku to see a misty sunrise over mountain-perched Machu Picchu is a fine finale. The journey there is testing but manageable, weaving via old Inca pathways, orchid-filled cloud-forest and some lung-busting passes, including 4,200m ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. There are also fascinating ruins en route, such as the clifftop guard-post at Sayacmarca and the sweeping terraces of Huinay Huayna.
Numbers on the trail are limited to 500 a day, including guides and porters, but camp stops (and their insalubrious loos) still get busy.
Like that? Try this... Choquequirao – a tough eight-day hike from Cachora to these lesser-known ruins, then on to Machu Picchu via a different path, is the offbeat Inca option.
More info: Find everything you need to know about taking on the Inca Trail in our travel guide or read about William Gray's experiences on the iconic trek. Alternatively, tackle the Choquequirao Trail like Alex Robinson did in 2008.
Where? Torres del Paine, Chile
Difficulty: *** Moderate-to-tough; wilderness conditions; refugios or camping; pricey supplies available
Torres del Paine National Park (Shutterstock)
The walk: It can be icy cold. It can be dripping wet. Winds can blast at over 100km an hour. But a circuit of Torres del Paine – taking in the Patagonian park’s gorgeous granite spires, creaking glaciers, mirror lakes and, possibly, pumas – is worth a bit of weather. The hiking isn’t too tough, and never exceeds 1,200m. The challenge is being out in this wilderness for so long – if you’re trekking independently, that’s a lot of stuff to carry, though supported options ease the burden, leaving you freer to look out for llama-like guanaco, calving ice and those classic Cuernos del Paine views. Or try the W (60km; 5-7 days), a shorter, only marginally less impressive version.
Like that? Try this... Mt Fitz Roy, Los Glaciares, Argentina – hop over the border for a four-day, 40km loop amid more dramatic Patagonian landscapes.
Where? Achupallas-Ingapirca, Ecuador
Difficulty: ** Moderate; up to 4,800m; wild camping
Ingapirca, Inca wall and town (Shutterstock)
The walk: Peru doesn’t have a monopoly on Inca trails – this trek follows part of the Latin civilisation’s Royal Road, which once linked Cusco and Quito; it ends at Ecuador’s own version of Machu Picchu: the castle-complex of Ingapirca. The trail leads over the Andean páramo, with high-altitude views across glaciated mountains and shimmering lagoons. There are a few Inca ruins en route, but little else – just you, your muleteer (a recommended extra) and the history-soaked highlands.
Like that? Try this... Around Cotopaxi – spend five days walking in the shadow of this perfectly conical 5,897m volcano.
Where? Capão-Guiné, Chapada Diamantina, Brazil
Difficulty: * Easy, with some steep sections; no facilities en route
Chapada Diamantina National Park (Shutterstock)
The walk: A contender for world’s best day walk? The route from Vale do Capão – a hip hangout for alternativos – to the village of Guiné packs in the best of the lush Chapada Diamantina. Here, Jurassic-style tabletop mountains loom like those in a Conan Doyle novel. The vegetation is rampant, the waterfalls plentiful, the high-plateau views sweeping and other people scarce. There are some tests – Bumbreaker Hill is a bit of a slog – but there are also cold beers waiting at the end.
Like that? Try this... Roraima, Venezuela – for more Lost World landscapes, a five-day trip up Venezuela’s iconic tepui is the ultimate challenge.
More info: Wanderlust's editor-in-chief Lyn Hughes argues her case for Chapada Diamantina being the best day walk in the world. If you're more intrigued by Roraima, take a look at Sarah Neale's experience walking the legendary landscapes.
Where? Scotts Head-Cabrits NP, Dominica
Difficulty: ** Moderate; some easy sections; guesthouses/homestays
The walk: The native Carib-Kalinago called Dominica ‘Waitukubuli’ (‘tall is her body’) after the island’s mountainous spine. Apt, then, that this coast-to-coast hike – the Caribbean’s first long-distance trail – bears that name, as it snakes across Dominica’s profusely green and volcanically craggy land. Split into 14 accessible sections, ranging from 7km to 15km, you can thru-walk or pick stages: maybe the hike up Morne Crabier (section 1), jaunts around high peaks and sulphurous pools (4), or the beach traverse to Fort Shirley (14). Expect sea breezes, mango trees and encounters with local Carib communities.
Like that? Try this... Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic – mount a three-day expedition up the highest peak in the Caribbean (3,087m).
More info: Dominica is the Caribbean's best island for walkers and nature lovers. Check out Mark Stratton's experiences here.
Where? Cuchamatanes Mountains, north-west Guatemala
Difficulty: ** Moderate; some tough climbs; remote; homestays en route
Independent? Not recommended
San Pedro village, Guatemala (Shutterstock)
The walk: Guatemala has many volcanoes to climb and lakes to amble around, but this hike across the remote Cuchamatanes is the top offbeat choice. Only four days long, it crosses three Mayan-language zones and reaches nearly 4,000m. You’ll traverse flower-covered plains, pine forest and barren plateaus, while viewpoints might afford glimpses of peaks erupting in the distance. Staying in homestays offers insight into local culture, too.
Like that? Try this... El Mirador, Guatemala – take a two-day hike into the jungle to find hidden Mayan ruins and few other tourists. Find out more here.
Where? Carachic-Batopilas, Copper Canyon, Mexico
Difficulty: **** Moderate-to-tough; some scree sections; hot; camping
Independent? Not recommended
Copper Canyon, North Mexico (Shutterstock)
The walk: In the 18th century, the Spanish forged a trail to access their silver mines, located deep in the Batopilas Canyon. Today that remote path is used only by local Tarahumara Indians (famed for their long-distance running prowess), a few plucky trekkers and their load-bearing burros. This is frontier territory, hiking via scree slopes, forested passes, cool pools and caves; there’s also the possibility of meeting Tarahumara farmers en route.
Like that? Try this... Pueblos Mancomunados, Oaxaca – explore the 100km of dramatic trails that weave between a clutch of Zapotec villages.
Want more info? If you'd prefer to relax than work up a sweat take a train across Copper Canyon.
Where? Eastern Cape, South Africa
Difficulty: *** Moderate; some tough bits; huts with flush loos and showers
Independent? Yes, though huts must be pre-booked
Tsitsikamma national park (Shutterstock)
The walk: South Africa’s first official hiking trail is a treat. The route, through gorges, fynbos and the Tsitsikamma mountains, is testing, but each night ends in an equipped hut, while a porterage service can lighten your load. Highlights include ocean views from Nature’s Valley, gazing into Bloukrans River Gorge and wildlife from bulbuls and goshawks to even leopards.
Like that? Try this... Otter Trail – tracing the East Cape coast, only 12 people are allowed on each section of this tough 42km hike each day.
More info: Wanderlust's editor-in-chief Lyn Hughes explores the twisting woodland paths, mountains, wildlife reserves and wild coastline of South Africa's Easter Cape.
Where? Northern Tanzania
Length: from 45km
Difficulty: **** Tough, due to high altitude; camping; huts on one route
Independent? No – a guide is compulsory
Large adult elephant with a snow covered Mount Kilimanjaro (Shutterstock)
The walk: Stand on the roof of Africa! As the continent’s highest peak (5,895m), and the world’s highest trekking summit, it’s a magnet for challenge-seekers. There are six routes: Machame (49km) is tough but dramatic; quieter Rongai (65km) allows for more acclimatisation and has a high success rate. Whichever you pick, altitude is the biggest concern, and sweat, tears, carbs and camaraderie are guaranteed.
Like that? Try this... Mount Kenya, Kenya – Africa’s second-highest (5,199m) is an easier, less-crowded and more wildlife-filled climb.
Want more info? Don't miss Wanderlust's Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro travel guide and tips on how to climb Kili safely.
Where? Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Difficulty: ** Moderate; some tough sections; camping; gîtes in villages
Independent? Possible, though guide highly recommended
The walk: The summit of North Africa’s highest peak is a relatively simple hike up from the Neltner Refuge. But much better to spend several days circuiting 4,167m Jebel Toubkal than to rush it. The surrounding High Atlas terrain is a mix of verdant valleys, Berber villages and stark mountainsides; some days include testing passes, but frequent stops to sip mint tea in the shade relieves the strain.
Like that? Try this... M’goun Massif – a five-day expedition around Morocco’s lesser-hiked but still lofty mountain is an offbeat alternative.
Want more info? Dan Linstead huffed-and-puffed his way to the top of Toubkal in 2011. Check out his experience on the Moroccan mountain here.
Difficulty: *** Moderate-to-tough; camping
Independent? No – trails are not clearly marked
Simien Mountains, Ethiopia (Shutterstock)
The walk: Trekking in Ethiopia’s World Heritage-listed highlands might yield sightings of gelada baboons, walia ibex, possibly even a rare Simien fox – but few other trekkers. This is offbeat African hiking, across rugged volcanic escarpments seemingly untouched by time. Routes vary, but often include a summit attempt on Ras Dashen (4,620m), the country’s highest peak, and stops at village mud-huts to drink coffee like a local.
Like that? Try this... Mountains of the Moon, Uganda – try a challenging hut-to-hut hike in the oft-overlooked Rwenzoris.
Want more info? Find out more about Ethiopia's northern highlands and mountains.
Where? Bomerano-Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy
Difficulty: * Mostly easy; short
Amalfi Coast, Italy (Shutterstock)
The walk: The Path of the Gods traces one of the Amalfi Coast’s most handsome sections. Following old mule trails, it skirts vineyards and rolls over valleysides cloaked in holm oak and heather, offering views down the cliffs to the Med beyond. The ‘alto’ route has most drama; a lower route can be shortened at tiny Nocelle (perched 440m-up) by catching the bus to pretty Positano below.
Like that? Try this... Sentiero Azzurro, Cinque Terre – the Blue Trail between Liguria’s five coastal villages is a compact Italian classic.
Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; plentiful refuges; villages accessible from several points
Independent? Yes; many guided trips available
Mont Blanc (Shutterstock)
The walk: No need to haul yourself up 4,810m Mont Blanc – arguably, the best way to experience Western Europe’s highest peak is to walk in its shadow on this classic trail that nips into three nations and brims with Alpine charm and history. It’s also high on creature comforts, dotted with refuges (providing hot, homecooked meals) so you don’t have to carry camping kit. There are stiff climbs, some steep ladders and snow is always possible, but plentiful accommodation choices mean you can tackle it at your own pace.
Like that? Try this... Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route – a tough two-week, 180km adventure that showcases the best of the high Alps.
More info: Wanderlust's Sarah Baxter attempted the ascent of Mont Blanc. See how she got on here.
Where? St Jean Pied de Port-Santiago de Compostella, France/Spain
Length: about 800km
Difficulty: *** Long but moderate if paced; albergues; villages
Pyrenees, on the Way of St. James (Shutterstock)
The walk: The Camino isn’t a walk, it’s a state of mind. Some see it as a spiritual undertaking, others as a physical test; for some it’s all about the camaraderie at the albergues (pilgrim hostels). Whether you’re there for the highlights of northern Spain – León’s cathedral, delicious grilled octopus – or some higher goal, there’s nothing else quite like it.
Like that? Try this... Portuguese Road – there are many ways to Santiago; try the 230km camino from Porto.
You don't have to walk the Camino, Jaime Gill cycled it and on a budget less than £250.
Where? Landmannalaugar-Thórsmörk, Iceland
Difficulty: ** Moderate, though very weather dependent; six huts en route, with dorms, tent pitches, toilets, showers but no food
Independent? Possible, but guide recommended
Volcanoes create a bizarre landscape of rhyolite rocks (Shutterstock)
The walk: Iceland’s most iconic walk is a rainbow-coloured romp through some of the country’s best bits. Peaks come in reds, yellows, greens and purples; blinding-white glaciers creak, hot springs burble, lakes and rivers glitter. The trekking season is short (mid-June to early September), so the trail can get busy, but the wonderful weirdness of Iceland’s geothermal geography is more than compensation.
Like that? Try this... Borgarfjörður Eystri – this inlet in eastern Iceland is riddled with walking trails and elvish legends.
Want more info? Clare Wilson explains where else to hike in East Iceland.
Where? Fethiye-Antalya, Turkey
Difficulty: **** Moderate-tough; some easy sections; camping, village houses and pensions en route
Independent? Yes; many guided trips available
Lycian Way (Shutterstock)
The walk: The Lycian Way, Turkey’s first long-distance trail, flanks the hilly coast of the Tekke Peninsula. It’s rich in history – dotted with Byzantine monasteries, Greek temples and Roman ruins; it’s riddled with coves, caves and brilliant beaches; and it’s infused with the scent of wild strawberries, juniper and pine. Camping is possible, but best is to stay in guesthouses, to meet the locals who call this handsome coastline home.
Like that? Try this... St Paul Trail – Follow in the saint’s footsteps for 500km, from Perge, near Antalya, to Yalvac, close to Lake Egirdir.
Want more info? If you don't want to tramp you way around, you can swim the Lycian Way. Alternatively, follow in the footsteps of David Atkinson and walk the St Paul Trail.
Where? Schynige Platte-First, Switzerland
Difficulty: ** Moderate but short; huts en route; train/cablecar at ends
Hiking in the Bernese Oberland (Shutterstock)
The walk: This well-marked route is potted Swiss perfection. Accessed by 19th-century cog railway from Wilderswil, it offers views over blue-turquoise lakes Thun and Brienz to one side, the amassed peaks of the Bernese Oberland on the other. Green, curving valleys, dramatic ridge walking, a 2,680m-high mountain lodge (a good refreshment stop) and mirror lakes are added extras. A scenic cablecar from First to Grindelwald even saves the walk back down to the valley floor.
Like that? Try this... Matterhorn Circuit – for a longer Swiss stroll, try the tough but magnificent 145km route around the iconic mountain.
Where? Milngavie-Fort William, Scotland
Difficulty: ** Moderate, though it’s weather dependent; camping, bothies, hostels and
B&Bs en route
Independent? Yes; many guided trips available
The end of The West Highland Way (Shutterstock)
The walk: From just outside Glasgow to the UK’s highest peak, the West Highland Way is the perfect Scottish primer. Utilising many old pathways – from drovers’ roads to disused railway lines – it crosses pastoral lowlands, skirts Loch Lomond and negotiates bleakly beautiful Rannoch Moor before delving into great glens and finishing beneath 1,344m Ben Nevis – a summit of which provides the ultimate finale.
Like that? Try this... East Highland Way – extend your Scottish soiree by picking up this 132km trail, which links Fort William to Aviemore.
Where? Pachena Bay-Gordon River, Vancouver Island, Canada
Difficulty: **** Tough; tidal/river crossings; wild camping; no shelters or facilities
Independent? Yes – but permits/booking essential
View on the rocky shoreline of Tofino, Vancouver Island (Shutterstock)
The walk: Don’t underestimate the WCT: it might be in lovely, well-developed Canada, but it’s a wild prospect. Along its glorious Pacific-battered route, there are no settlements, ferry ports, shelters or shops – you must be entirely self-sufficient. There are also rivers to ford, gullies to cross, ladders to climb, bears to avoid and inclement weather to contend with. But the rewards are many: this is North America at its most pristine, where the trail runs via old-growth forest, untouched beaches, caves, coves, cliffs and incredible sunsets. Watch out for whales, sea lions and wolves, too.
Like that? Try this... Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Vancouver Island – this 47km WCT alternative is still spectacular, but easier, more accessible and permit-free.
Where? Springer Mountain, GA-Mt Katahdin, ME, USA
Difficulty: ***** Varied – challenging thru-hike, but some easy sections; long; camping; basic shelters en route;intermittent access to hotels
Appalachian Trail (Shutterstock)
The walk: First, some stats: the Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states; its total elevation gain equals 16 Mt Everests; around 2,000 people try to thru-hike the whole lot each year – one in four succeeds. Luckily, it’s easy to simply sample this back-country behemoth – appalachiantrail.org offers suggestions, from easy two-milers to multi-day trips. In general, Maryland and West Virginia offer the gentlest hikes; New Hampshire and Maine the toughest.
Like that? Try this... Florida Trail – trace sections of this 2,250km path, which spans the state from Gulf Islands National Seashore to Big Cypress NP.
Where? Yosemite Valley-Mt Whitney, California, USA
Difficulty: **** Moderate-tough; camping; self-sufficiency required; long
Independent? Possible, but advance booking and permits are required
Yosemite Valley (Shutterstock)
The walk: It’s fitting that the man who spearheaded the national parks movement should have such a world-class wilderness-traversing trail named after him. Muir loved Yosemite, where this backcountry adventure starts; the route then wends further into the Sierra Nevada, where highlights include meadows strewn with wildflowers, remote Evolution Lake and the pretty pools at Rae. En route there are a few re-supply stops (including the hot springs at Red’s Meadows Resort), but mostly it’s just you, the mountains and the bears.
Like that? Try this... Pacific Crest Trail, USA – the John Muir forms just part of this massive 4,240km journey from the Mexican to the Canadian border.
Where? Chamberlain’s Ranch-Temple of Sinawava, Zion NP, Utah, USA
Difficulty: *** Moderate but short; camping; all waste must be packed out
Independent? Possible, but guide recommended and permits required
Zion NP (Shutterstock)
The walk: Breathe in for this squeeze down one of southwest USA’s most dramatic slot canyons. This is Indiana Jones-style stuff: sheer, twisting sandstone walls tufted by hanging gardens soar up from the boulder-strewn riverbed – which forms your wet-n-wild walking trail through Zion’s canyons. Good water-shoes and neoprene socks are essential; you may need to swim short sections. But keep an eye on the weather before you start as flash floods are lethal here. Go with a guide for the safest trip.
Like that? Try this... Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Utah-Arizona) our cover star this issue. Set off from Wire Pass trailhead to check out the weird and wonderful rock formations such as The Wave.
Where? Mount Robson, British Columbia, Canada
Difficulty: ** Moderate but short; campsites with bear lockers and pit toilets
Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia (Shutterstock)
The walk: This out-and-back hike towards the Canadian Rockies’ highest peak (3,954m Mt Robson) is a stunner: gaining nearly 800m in 23km, it traverses the Valley of a Thousand Falls – via reflective pools, suspension bridges and squeaking marmots – to Berg Lake, where ice-chunks from massive Berg Glacier calve into the aquamarine water. Doable as a long day-hike, there are campgrounds en route for those who want to linger; for even better hiking, use the camp at the lake as a base for forays into the surrounding wilds.
Like that? Try this... Mount Assiniboine, British Columbia/ Alberta – spend six days hiking around ‘Canada’s Matterhorn’.
Where? Southern Jordan
Days: 3-5 days
Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; camping; wild
Independent? No – a guide is compulsory
Dana National Park, Jordan (Shutterstock)
The walk: The ‘Inca Trail of the Middle East’ wends from the wildlife-filled forests of Dana Nature Reserve to the rock-hewn ‘lost’ city of Petra, with some truly intoxicating desert in between. It’s not waymarked – this is a directional route along a range of old mule tracks, rather than a set path, hence the need for a guide. But it’s full of atmosphere and drama: rolling hills, scorching wadis, rich sandstone mountains, Bedouin-style camping and access to Petra via its little-known back door.
Like that? Try this... Wadi Rum – follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia with spectral overnight hikes in the Jordanian desert.
Difficulty: ** Moderate; camps; guesthouses
Independent? No – many trails are not clearly marked
Mount Sinai in the morning (Shutterstock)
The walk: Many a traveller hauls themselves up 2,285m Mount Sinai for sunrise, a two- to three-hour hike in the dark from St Catherine’s Monastery. However, the entire peninsula is scored with old pilgrim paths and mule tracks that could occupy several days. You can summit Mount Saint Catherine (2,641m), Sinai’s highest peak; hike into El Shegg Gorge to bathe in nearby pools; or climb to the ruined Ottoman castle on Mount Abbas Pasha. Throughout, the desert terrain is wild, and rich in biblical and Bedouin intrigue.
Like that? Try this... White Desert – camp and hike out amid the weird chalk formations of Egypt’s Western Desert, on the fringes of the Sahara.
Where? Lake Te Anau-Milford Sound, South Island, NZ
Difficulty: ** Moderate; huts with bunks, cookers and flush loos
Independent? Yes, but reservations required
Lake Te Anau (Shutterstock)
The walk: Awesome and oh-so popular – the toughest thing about this four-day Fiordland tramp (aside from scaling 1,154m Mackinnon Pass) is booking a place on it. Only 40 independent walkers a day are permitted to hit the trail, which passes mossy rainforest, tumbling falls and high peaks en route to marvellous Milford Sound. Book ahead, pack all your supplies and prepare to be rained on and blown away.
Like that? Try this... Kepler Track – this easy, accessible and less-crowded 60km loop takes a different route from Te Anau.
Want more? Find out everything you need to know on your trip to New Zealand's Milford Sound here.
Where? Ronny Creek-Lake St Clair, Tasmania, Australia
Difficulty: ** Moderate; basic huts, tent platforms
Independent? Yes; guided options are available (including a ‘posh’ version using private huts)
Cradle Mountain (Shutterstock)
The walk: Starting from Cradle Mountain and passing wizened rainforest, glacier-gouged valleys, towering eucalypts and golden moorland, this classic sums up the Tassie wilderness. As well as the standard 65km, there are side-trips to waterfalls and lookouts. At Lake Sinclair, finish with a ferry ride, or extend your trip by walking an extra 17.5km around its shore.
Like that? Try this... Maria Island – saunter in style on a luxurious four-day guided hike across Tassie’s pristine east-coast isle.
Want more info? Jasper Winn treks the Overland track and makes the most of the spectacular scenery and unusual wildlife. Find out more about hiking across Maria Island here.
Where? Tongariro NP, North Island, NZ
Difficulty: * Easy-medium; steep sections; short; no facilities
Emerald Lakes, Tongariro National Park (Shutterstock)
The walk: Often touted as the world’s best day walk, this yomp across eerie Tongariro is a magical mix of sulphurous pools, red craters, totara trees, Maori legend and – since the Lord of the Rings movies – Mount Doom. There are some significant ups, but it’s a straightforward undertaking (unless the weather comes in). To add extra interest – and lose the crowds – spend three days completing the 34km hut-to-hut Northern Circuit: the Crossing, supersized.
Like that? Try this... Lake Waikaremoana Track – this 46km Great Walk explores North Island’s lesser-visited Te Urewera NP, rich in Maori history.
Where? Alice Springs-Mt Sonder, NT, Australia
Difficulty: **** Tough; some stages easier; camping; self-sufficiency required
Independent? Yes; guided options available (including a ‘posh’ version using semipermanent camps)
Glen Helen Waterhole (Shutterstock)
The walk: Australia has many trails but this is perhaps the most quintessentially ‘Oz’: starting from the Red Centre capital of Alice, it goes bush along the spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges, incorporating red rocks and desert, deep gorges, cooling creeks, termite mounds and star-filled skies; the climax is Alamy a climb of 1,380m Mt Sonder for a panoramic overview. It’s broken into 12 sections, and each trailhead is vehicle-accessible making short forays easy to arrange. Only the fit and well-prepared should attempt the lot alone.
Like that? Try this... Bibbulmun Track, WA – nearly 1,000km of brilliant bushwalking, from Kalamunda to Albany.
Where? Owers Corner-Kokoda, Papua New Guinea
Difficulty: **** Tough; humid; jungle camps, homestays, villages en route
Independent? No – guide and permit required
Dirt road, Papua New Guinea (Shutterstock)
The walk: In 1942, this jungle trail was the site of fierce fighting between Japanese and Australian troops; today it’s filled with hikers battling humidity, bugs and torrential rain. This isn’t a comfortable undertaking, involving steep, slippery ascents, raging rivers and sticky conditions, but pay-offs include fascinating Second World War history, tribal encounters and Technicolor birds of paradise.
Like that? Try this... Black Cat Track, Morobe Province – launched in 2003 as the ‘new’ Kokoda, this five-day trail from Wau is said to be even tougher!
Where? Near Kanchenjunga Base Camp-Hilsa, Tibetan border, Nepal
Difficulty: ***** Challenging, long; camping
Independent? No – hire a guide
Hiking in Himalaya mountains (Shutterstock)
The walk: First thing first: don’t panic! This mammoth hike across the Nepalese Himalaya is formed of ten connecting sections (two/three weeks each), so the less gung-ho can still have a go at a bit of it. Also, there’s a ‘cultural’ version (1,500km), which uses gentler, lower altitude trails, and where small guesthouses offer a warm namaste each night. For planning info, see thegreathimalayatrail.org.
Like that? Try this... Mustang – with access restricted to only a handful of groups each season, treks here are special indeed.
Where? North of Beijing, China
Length: 5,000km in total; various short sections possible
Days: 1-12 (a section)
Difficulty: ** Easy-moderate; steep, uneven sections; homestays
Independent? Yes; many guided options available
Great Wall of China in Summer (Shutterstock)
The walk: It’s tough to walk the entire Great Wall – not just because it’s a really long way but, in places, its route is ill-defined. However, stringing together a series of day-hikes in the Beijing region – around the less touristy areas of Jiankou, Mutianyu, Gubeikou and Jinshanling – is a good alternative, combining watchtowers, vertiginous steps and mountain views.
Like that? Try this... Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan – From Lijiang, spend three-four days hiking this dramatic canyon.
Want more info? Don't miss Wanderlust's Great Wall of China travel guide for inspiration and advice.
Where? Paro-Dodena, Bhutan
Difficulty: **** Fairly tough; high altitudes; camping, no facilities
Independent? No – guide mandatory
Tashichhoedzong monastery (Shutterstock)
The walk: This exclusive yet manageable Himalayan adventure is a Bhutanese classic. Join yak herders – but few hikers – walking in the shadow of 7,326m Chomolhari (Jomolhari). The trail leads past colourful dzongs (monasteries) and thick forest, over lofty passes (topping out at 4,900m Nyile La) and maybe even past the footprints of rare snow leopards.
Like that? Try this... Merak Sakten – spend five/six days looping around the culturally distinct villages of eastern Bhutan.
Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough;remote; monasteries and camping
Independent? No – permits/guides required
Mount Kailash, Tibet (Shutterstock)
The walk: A circumambulation of Kailash won’t just test your legs, it will sort your karma: Buddhists, Böns, Hindus and Jains all believe that a lifetime’s sins can be expunged by completing a circuit (kora) of the unmistakable 6,714m mountain. Kailash is in a remote spot – just getting there (via sacred Lake Manasarovar) is an adventure. On trek, you’ll crest a 5,600m pass, visit monasteries and meet the Tibetan pilgrims who are walking for their souls.
Like that? Try this... Everest’s Kangshung Face – a tough trek to view the mightiest Himalaya peak’s little-visited Tibetan side.
Where? Hong Kong
Difficulty: * Mostly easy; some tougher sections; good facilities
Lantau Island Giant Buddha (Shutterstock)
The walk: Only a short train or ferry hop from the hubbub of Hong Kong Island, this circular trail on nearby Lantau is a breath of bucolic air. Starting/finishing at Mui Wo, the route feels far from the metropolis, taking in temples, beaches, fishing villages and gardens. Divided into 12 sections, it’s easy to pick and chose a suitable section.
Like that? Try this... MacLehose Trail – this 100km trek traverses Hong Kong’s New Territories for more alternative city views.
Where? Manebhanjan-Rimbik, Sikkim, India
Difficulty: ** Moderate; teahouses
Independent? Possible, but guide recommended
Singalila Range (Shutterstock)
The walk: From Sandakphu, the 3,636m zenith of this route near the tea terraces of Darjeeling, you can look out over the world’s highest peaks: Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Everest. As you trek between teahouses, you’ll stop en route to admire Hindu temples, prayer wheels and red pandas. Each night, curries, Sikkimese beers and warm welcomes await.
Like that? Try this... Markha Valley, Ladakh – tale a seven-day hike in ‘little Tibet’, for views of the Karakoram and Himalaya.
Where? Besisahar-Naya Pul, Nepal
Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; teahouses
Independent? Possible, but local guides/sherpas recommended
Tibetan Flags at Annapurna Base Camp (Shutterstock)
The walk: Although it weaves amid remote, spectacular mountains, this is no wilderness adventure. Dubbed the ‘teahouse trek’, you’ll interact and stay with the varied ethnic groups that live here. As well as high passes (peaking at 5,416m Thorong La), lonely stupas, lush paddies and barren moonscapes, there are yak herders, reviving hot springs and guesthouses serving curry and cake. Options abound too: cut the trek in half by flying into/out of midway Jomsom. Or take alternative side trails to avoid walking by the new road.
Like that? Try this... Everest Base Camp – Nepal’s other classic, a 14-day out-and-back from Lukla.