Break out the hiking boots and slap on the sunscreen because it’s time for an outdoor and adventure trip. One of the best ways to discover a foreign country is to walk the land, sleep under the stars, admire the natural beauty and swap smiles with locals in far-off villages. These 10 classic treks are for serious walkers. All of them require a sturdy pair of lungs, fit legs and a good amount of preparation. However, if you choose to go on any of these trails then you will be rewarded with experiences that last a lifetime. Here are 10 of our favorite hikes around the world.
INCA TRAIL, PERU
This 33 kilometer (20mi) ancient trail was laid by the Incas and is currently traversed by thousands each year. The trail leads from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu winding its way up and down and around the mountains, taking three high passes en route. Views of white-tipped mountains and high cloud forest combine with the magic of walking from one cliff-hugging ruin to the next – understandably making this South America’s most famous trail.
THE SNOWMAN TREK
Trekking this route is not for the faint of heart, or lungs. This high-altitude ball-buster crosses 11 passes over 14,000 feet along the Tibet-Bhutan border. Along the way you’ll visit magical Buddhist monasteries clinging to the sides of cliffs and pass through secluded villages full of windblown smiles. It takes about 24 days to complete, and the window of perfect weather is very small, mainly in October.
This demanding 15- day (168km, 104mi) slog through Corsica is legendary for the diversity of landscapes it traverses. There are forests, granite moonscapes, windswept craters, glacial lakes, torrents, peat bogs, maquis, snow-capped peaks, plains and névés (stretches of ice formed from snow). But it doesn’t come easy: the path is rocky and sometimes steep, and includes rickety bridges and slippery rock faces – all part of the fun. Created in 1972, the GR20 links Calenzana, in the Balagne, with Conca, north of Porto Vecchio.
PAYS DOGON, MALI
‘The land of the Dogon people’ is one of Africa’s most breathtaking regions. A trek here can last anywhere between two and 10 days, and takes in the soaring cliffs of the Bandiagara escarpment inlaid with old abandoned cliff dwellings. Dogon villages dot the cliffs and are an extraordinary highlight of the journey. The Dogon are known for their masked stilt dancers, intricately carved doors and pueblo-like dwellings built into the side of the escarpment.
EVEREST BASE CAMP, NEPAL
Reaching a height of 5,545m (18,193ft) at Kala Pattar, this three-week trek is extremely popular with those who want to be able to say, ‘I’ve been to the base of the world’s highest mountain’. The difficult trek passes undeniably spectacular scenery and is trafficked by Sherpa people of the Solu Khumbu. The heights reached during this trek are literally dizzying until you acclimatise to the altitude, and the continuous cutting across valleys certainly has its ups and downs.
This stunner is the Mercedes of the trekking world; you’ll get to gaze upon some of the world’s most famous peaks, Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. The trail’s name means “high route,” and it takes about 12 days to hike the 111 miles from the Chamonix valley in France to Zermatt, Switzerland. Brush up on your French; it’ll help to communicate in the small villages along the way.
OVERLAND TRACK, AUSTRALIA
Tasmania’s prehistoriclooking wilderness is most accessible on the 80km (50mi, five- to six-day) Overland Track. Snaking its way between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair (Australia’s deepest natural freshwater lake), the well-defined path (boardwalked in parts) passes craggy mountains, beautiful lakes and tarns, extensive forests and moorlands. Those who want more can take numerous side walks leading to waterfalls, valleys and still more summits including Mt Ossa (1,617m, 5,305ft) – Tassie’s highest.
See the stunning subalpine scenery of New Zealand’s South Island surrounding this medium three-day (32km, 20mi) track. At the base of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, the track passes through two national parks: Fiordland and Mt Aspiring. Highlights include the views from Harris Saddle and atop Conical Hill – from where you can see waves breaking on the distant beach. The main challenge for this popular hike is actually securing a place among the limited numbers who are allowed on the track at any time.
Fewer folk trek on the Indian side of the world’s greatest mountain range. So, if isolation’s your thing try trekking in Himachal Pradesh. Hardcore hikers can try teetering along the mountain tops for 24 days from Spiti to Ladakh. This extremely remote and challenging walk follows ancient trade routes. The bleak high-altitude desert terrain inspired Rudyard Kipling to exclaim, ‘Surely the gods live here; this is no place for men’.
BALTORO GLACIER, PAKISTAN
This corridor of ice leads to the colossal peak of K2 (8,611m, 28,251ft), the world’s second-highest peak. This incomparable trek traverses some of the most humbling scenery on the planet. What begins following icy rivers boldly goes to the guts of the glacier before leading to the granite pyramidal mountains including Paiju (6,610m, 21,686ft), Uli Biaho (6,417m, 21,053ft), Great Trango Tower (6,286m, 20,623ft) and ultimately K2. If the 15 days doesn’t floor you, take side trips to more moraine-covered glaciers.