Hiking is one of the most exhilarating experiences in the world. Spending time with family and friends whilst you explore the exceptional wonders nature has to offer is one of the most rewarding ways to pass the time.
Whether you opt for well-trodden paths, enjoy the peace in a remote region or take an easy afternoon stroll to a waterfall, we have named ten walks that are among the best walking holidays in the world.
Taktsang Monastery, Paro, Bhutan
Bhutan is one of the lesser visited countries in the world — but it’s a walking paradise for hikers looking to discover new territory. Nestled in the awe-inspiring Himalayan mountain range, Bhutan boasts pristine walking trails bustling with unique wildlife and places of interest to target.
A prime example is the ancient Taktsang Monastery in Paro. Built in 1692, this charming Buddhist monastery is shrouded in folklore and myth which adds to the intrigue and history of this ancient trail.
Regarded as the holiest site in Bhutan, Taktsang Monastery is known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery due to a legend which depicts the Buddhist leader Guru Rimpoche riding on the back of a mystical tigress to reach the temple perched on top of the mountain 3,120m (10,240ft) above sea level.
The scenery along the trail is superb. With dramatic cliff faces and crooked crags give you plenty of photo opportunities. When you arrive at the temple, you will find the charming monastery constructed around a cave. It is said that numerous miracles have occurred here including mysterious flowers that magically appear floating in the air, only to disappear before touching the ground.
If you do plan to tackle this ascent, make an early start. The walk up takes five to six hours. You will want at least an hour or two to rest in the cafeteria and to look around the temple upon your arrival before starting the five-hour descent. Ideally, you should be setting off at daybreak.
Caldeirão trail, Corvo ,The Azores, Portugal
The Azores may not be a best-kept secret, but the pretty island archipelago scattered in the Atlantic off the coast of Portugal does not receive as many explorers as you might imagine considering its wealth of natural beauty.
Consisting of nine volcanic islands, you are spoilt for choice; the grand tour of Sunvil, the 700-metre high ridge of Sao Jorge and the largest island of São Miguel are among the favourites. But our pick of the bunch is the otherworldly Caldeirão trail on Corvo – the smallest of the islands on an extinct volcano.
The circular trail is a 4.8km hike which takes you through vibrant hillsides teeming with exotic wildlife and wonderful sights of the Atlantic weaving its way towards shore in the distance. And then you come to your highlight — the stunning collapsed crater of Caldeirão.
Local legend has it that from the starting viewpoint, the crater lake is a visual representation of the nine islands of the Azores. It’s certainly something special. Descend on trails dominated by peat moss, likely meeting some cattle, horses and goats, and then walk down to hike past the wetlands and lakes.
Sudurdalur / Egilsstadir, Eastern Iceland
The natural landscape of Iceland is by far some of the most stunning in the world. You don’t have to venture far outside the capital of Reykjavik before you are greeted by extraordinary scenery; ice sheets, steep valleys and thickly forested hills to name a few.
By all accounts, the eastern part of this fascinating island ranks among the most scenic — and provides hikers with a wealth of opportunities to discover what Iceland has to offer.
If you want to avoid the crowds, we recommend heading for Strútsfoss, a towering two-tiered waterfall on the Strútsá Stream. Hidden deep in the Villingadalur arm of Suðurdalur Valley the lower waterfall is 20m high and the upper waterfall is 100m, the tallest waterfall in Iceland.
The lower waterfall is a moderate climb which becomes significantly steeper to reach the upper territory. The climb expends a huge amount of energy but the rewards are worth it. Fortunately, the rest of the trail is pretty flat and easy to navigate so if you’re fit enough the climb won’t wear you out for the return leg.
An alternative to Strútsfoss, is the 1,833m ascent to the snow-capped peak of Snæfell. Here you will find extensive panoramas of Vatnajökull and Bárðarbunga together with wildlife including reindeer and pink-footed geese.
Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots, Banff National Park, Alberta Canada
Walking trails in the rugged Canadian Rockies bring you into contact with craggy snow-capped peaks, magical turquoise bubble pools and glacial lakes. But the trail from Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots is another experience altogether.
The moderate hike takes you through larch forests, alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers, and five pristine aquamarine pools before bringing you to a deep canyon filled with countless waterfalls. In the winter months when the waterfalls are iced over, walkers are treated to some of the most stunning sites nature has to offer.
Although the 12km hike is considered a moderate climb, you will be able to do more and see more if you’re wearing spikes. Some of the upper trails are quite steep and spikes reduce the risk of injury.
Adishi to Ushuna Waterfalls, Caucasus, Georgia
With approximately 85% of Georgia covered with mountainous terrain, you can imagine how spoilt trekkers visiting this part of the world are for walking trails. The best region to explore is Svaneti where you will find one of the best walking trails in the world — Adishi to Ushana waterfalls.
Svaneti is home to a bustling local market and the second-highest arch dam in the world. Surrounded by stunning green hills, The Enguri Dam spans a massive 271.5m. So there are incredible sights to see before you even hit the trail.
Starting from the ancient village of Adishi, this stunning trail is a challenging hike and best suited for fit and experienced climbers. The route takes you through grassy meadows and thick forests to the soaring mountain face at the foot of Mount Ushba.
Along the way, you will be enthralled by the mighty glaciers that slide down the valleys toward mesmerising inky-blue lakes and careering rivers the remote indigenous communities rely on for their water supply.
If the Adishi Glacier doesn’t take your breath away, the stunning Ushba waterfalls will. Comprised of palaezoic granite, the captivating slopes of Adishi offer stunning viewpoints all the way to Rhododendron pass.
As you return through the Chkhutnieri pass ice sure to check out the of history in Ushguli, a settlement at 2000m which is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in all of Europe.
Sarek National Park, Sweden
Nestled in the Jokkmokk Municipality of Swedish Lapland, the great wilderness of Sarek National Park is the oldest national park in Europe. But the landscape is so remote it’s ironically known to the locals as the last frontier.
Sarek is ruggedly stunning. Six of its thirteen peaks stand over 2,000m and are surrounded by around 100 glaciers which are accessed by traipsing through trailless terrain which brings you into contact with a diverse range of scenery.
Visitors to northern Sweden should go prepared with suitable clothing to purchase appropriate walking gear once they are there. As the local saying goes: ‘Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder’ (There is no bad weather, there are only bad clothes). The weather is unpredictable, so be sure to consult with the park rangers before heading out.
Shikoku Island, Japan
The 88 temples that adorn the pleasant natural environment of Japan’s Shikoku islands are a popular pilgrimage that (we feel) has to be included in any list of best walking holidays in the world. The trail links the 88 temples the historical Buddha is said to have journeyed through to reach enlightenment and Nirvana.
Completing the trail is no mean feat. The 1200km walk typically takes six to eight days. You could aim to do it in seven and deviate each day to one of the seven chakras. To help ease the load, your luggage is forwarded to your intended destination so you don’t have to carry a heavy backpack.
You will find this a blessing as you venture through the peaceful countryside and lush forests where you can engage in the ancient Japanese tradition of forest bathing (shrinrin-yoku), where you will benefit from the restorative qualities of Mother Nature.
Tour Du Mont Blanc, France, Switzerland and Italy
Circling the stunning climes of Mont Blanc Massif is a 170 km trek that takes you along the awe-inspiring walking trails of three giants of Europe; France, Switzerland and Italy. The Tour du Mont Blanc is widely regarded as a European classic.
It has to be said that the rugged trails you encounter win the Tour du Mont Blanc are not for the faint of heart. Some of the descents are dizzying so you need a head for heights and the ascents can be overwhelmingly strenuous for some climbers.
However, the rewards of mountain vistas, shimmering blue lakes, fairytale forests and breathtaking glaciers are worth the effort. You will need at least a week to cover the 170km trail. It can be joined from multiple starting parts including Courmayeur, Les Houches, Chamonix, Les Contamines, St Gervais, Chapieux, Orsières (Champex, La Fouly) and Trient Trient.
Mānoa Falls Trail, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
The islands of Hawaii are right up there when it comes to unmissable walking holidays. Boasting some of the planet’s most impressive scenery, the sheer mountain faces carpeted in emerald green and pristine white sand beaches are a hike’s paradise.
And that’s before you reach your destination on the various trails such as lava-spurting volcanoes and gushing waterfalls. Among the best walking trails in Hawaii is a steady walk through a tropical rainforest on the island of Oahu.
When you see the images of this paradise, you would think it is a remote otherworldly region of the archipelago, but it’s surprisingly located just 15 minutes outside the busy capital of Honolulu.
Not only that, Mānoa waterfalls is an easy roundtrip of just 1.6 miles. Anybody can do it. And why wouldn’t you? You will be greeted with lush forest terrain and verdant views of Manoa Valley, an experience that will make you feel you are on a different planet.
Whilst the Mānoa waterfall only stands at 150 feet, it seems much higher when you’re standing beneath it. Staring up at the endless flow of pure natural water, you can’t see the top of the ridge and it seems as though the colossal waterfall reaches heaven.
Simien Mountains, Ethiopia
Ethiopia has some of the best trekking routes on the vast continent of Africa. Chief among the walking trails in this unspoiled part of the world is the Simien Mountains National Park — and a remote treasure chest of hiking trails in the northern climes of the country.
You can easily spend a fortnight in the Simien Mountain range. There are several places to stay including nine camps and two basic lodges, both of which give you plenty of access to the large network of crisscrossing walking trails.
It’s difficult to choose the best walking trail in the Simien Mountains, all of which provide spectacular vistas of Raw Dashen, Ethopia’s highest peak. In the park, keep a look for Gelada monkeys and the elusive Simien fox, both of which are native inhabitants of Ethiopia.
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