Some of the world’s most beautiful sights are only reachable by foot. And for many people, hiking is not just a physical activity, but one for the mind and heart too. From hiking through ancient trails to tracing the steps of a Japanese poet, here are some of the most beautiful hikes to put on your bucket list.
1. Inca Trail, Peru
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the greatest hike in South America. Not for the faint-hearted, be prepared for lots of ascending and descending on this journey. The trail is a 42 kilometre hike that takes 4 days, through the route that the ancient Incas took over 650 years ago. Many of the original stonework still remains, and you’ll see ancient tunnels, ruins, mountains and waterfalls. However, the real reward is passing through the Sun Gate, and seeing that first magical sight of Machu Picchu.
2. Everest Base Camp, Nepal
For those that dream big, the Everest Base Camp trail gives you a glimpse of the highest summit on Earth. This 65-kilometer hike takes you up two mountain ridges over 14 days to reach Everest Base Camp. Most of the hiking is done between 3,500 to 4,500 meter altitude. The air up here is thin, which makes physical exertion feel twice as hard. But contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be at a marathoner level of fitness. In general, if you can hike five to six hours a day with a day pack, you should be good to go! The bigger concern here is acclimatizing to the altitude, which has less to do with fitness, and more to do with your pace.
3. Appalachian Trail, United States
The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, ranging across 14 states from Maine to Georgia. Going through two national parks, eight national forests and some of the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, this hike is an undertaking, either for those with lots of vacation time (so jealous!), or those just looking to do a small part of the classic route. There are campsites and the path is well-marked, which means you can do this hike without a guide.
4. The Basho Wayfarer, Japan
Japan is home to many trails and hiking routes that take you through cities and temples. But one that stands out retraces the path of famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho, as he wrote Oku no Hosomichi over 300 years ago. The six-day trek starts in Sendai and works its way through some of the breathtaking sights in the northern Tohoku region. Think UNESCO World Heritage Site, temples and forests that change colour according to seasons. Is it any wonder that this is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful hikes in the world? Make sure to book a stay along the way at a traditional ryokan, enjoy hot onsen, and imagine life during Basho’s time.
5. Jinshanling section, Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a manmade marvel. Though only small sections of the official 21,196 kilometres remain, that doesn’t stop the throngs of visitors. Most people visit the Beijing, Badaling or Mutianyu sections of the wall, making it a less-than-ideal experience. Those seeking a quieter hike should head to the Jinshanling section, about 130 kilometres northeast of Beijing. There are multiple hiking routes here, each with differing lengths of 1.5 to six hours. If you’re looking for a more immersive experience, there are also camping sites at the foot of the mountain.
6. Torres del Paine W Circuit, Chile
W Circuit in Torres Del Paine National Park is one of the world’s most beautiful hikes. The rugged region and its jagged towers of rock and glacial lakes draws in hikers from all over the world. The hike takes between four to six days, and over the years improvements have been made to make the trail more accessible. You can make reservations for accommodations and camping, and you no longer need to carry your own gear. However, the weather in Patagonia has a mind of its own, so come prepared for sun, rain, snow, and lots of wind.
7. The Great Ocean Walk, Australia
Yes, you can not only see one of Australia’s most renowned sights on a road trip, you can also experience it with a hike. Starting at Apollo Bay and finishing at Gibson Steps, the 8-day 100 kilometre hike lets you see the richness of Australia’s flora and fauna. Not to mention breathtaking cliff views! Of course, you also have the option of shorter or guided hikes, and this page is extremely useful for planning your route. There are also lots of accommodation and food options along the way, making this one of the most friendly hikes for beginners.