Putting a “world’s most” list together of anything is subjective. And so our list of the world’s most iconic walks probably doesn’t the gamut of iconic trails that have been left out the sense of justice they deserve.
Basically, everyone could probably draw up a unique list of the world’s most iconic walks. We feel that if you are going to spend days in the wilderness, the world’s most iconic walks should excite, inspire and enthral.
So here goes.
John Muir Trail, USA
Boasting 13,000-foot and 14,000-foot peaks, lakes in the thousands, mesmerising canyons and soaring granite cliffs, the Yosemites is regarded as the “finest mountain scenery in the United States”. And that’s why the John Muir trail is among the most iconic walks in the world.
The trail is named after the 19th naturalist who is said to have arrived in San Francisco in 1868 searching for “any place that is wild”. Muir’s epic 211-mile journey winding through the Sierra Nevada mountain range resulted in the formation of the JMT trail and takes you through the soaring walls of Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia.
On average, the trail takes a little over 109 hours to complete and is considered moderate.
Virgin Narrows, USA
The Narrows is an awe-inspiring gorge formed from Navajo sandstone eroded over time and sculpted into incredible rock formations along the Zion Canyon. With its looming thousand-foot walls, the Narrows is an open-air museum of surreal fluted and whorled rock.
Much of this iconic trek through Zion National Park is in the Virgin River. Be prepared to get your feet wet because there are no dry trails. The “out-and-back” day trip starts from the Temple of Sinawava along the Riverside Walk and then upstream before turning back to hike down to the Temple of Sinawava.
The walk is regarded as moderate but the difficulty depends on how high the water is — which changes from day to day depending on the amount of rainfall and snowmelt. Before heading out to Zion National Park check the weather forecast to make sure there will not be any rain. The Narrows is prone to flash flooding. During storms, the water level can rise in a matter of minutes.
Great Wall of China, China
The Great Wall of China is not only one of the New Seven Wonders of the World but remains to this day a feat in engineering. Stretching from the Gobi Desert to the east coast, the wall officially measures 21,196.18 km and takes about 442 days to complete in its entirety — around 17 months.
The building of the wall is thought to have begun as far back as the 7th century BCE and was originally a string of integrated defence systems, beacon towers, barriers, barracks, garrison stations and fortresses. It was unified into the wall we know today by China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, around 220 BCE.
Walking the wall in its entirely is obliviously not an option for most people, but there are plenty of 7-9 treks organised by travel companies. Some of the most popular stretches of the wall are Badaling, Mutianyu which takes about three hours. Jinshanling and Simatai are accessible from Beijing and take about five hours.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Standing at a gargantuan 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa. When you think about that, you automatically assume this is going to be one hell of a hike. But it’s actually relatively straightforward.
To make the point, children aged 10 are permitted to climb Kilimanjaro. The path has even been completed by people in their 60 and 70’s, paraplegics in wheelchairs and the blind. The trail is entirely a pathway so does not require any mountaineering or climbing experience. The toughest test is to battling the cold and dealing with altitude sickness.
There are seven trails to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The most common trail is Uhuru Peak. The other routes are Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Northern Circuit and Umbwe. It’s also advisable to go with an organised group. Allow between 7 and 11 days to get up and down the mountain.
The Inca Trail, Peru
Since Machu Picchu was named one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Inca Trail has become one of the most famous walks on the planet. For that reason alone, it surely deserves to be named among the list of the world’s most iconic walks. Whilst most visitors to the iconic Inca settlement arrive by train and bus, walking the Inca Trail is an entirely awe-inspiring journey that delivers a hugely rewarding finale — your first glimpse of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. That first glimpse will take your breath away, but the climb along the Inca Trail is not for the faint-hearted.
The narrow Inca pathways that weave through the Andean Mountains of Peru can be quite hair-raising and lung-busting in parts. But the scenery through lush countryside, majestic valleys and ethereal mist-filled forests is undoubtedly incredible.
To access the Inca Trail, you need a permit. However, because of the popularity of Machu Picchu, the trail is limited to 500 people a day. No matter what season you visit, it is recommended to book your permit in advance. There are also six different paths which range in difficulty level — so check them out before you book.
Great Ocean Walk, Australia
The Great Ocean Walk through the rolling grassy landscape of Victoria is regarded as Australia’s premier long-distance walking trail. With 104 km of beautifully maintained trails, the route meanders along the dramatic coastline between Apollo Bay and the landmark Twelve Apostles.
Renowned for its wealth of natural beauty, the Great Ocean Walk brings you into contact with golden sand beaches, turquoise waters, fragrant eucalyptus forests and hardy bonsai-like coastal shrubs, undulating farmland, historical interest points and abundant wildlife including curious Kangaroos.
If you want to complete the walk in one go, set aside 7 or 8 days. You can also enjoy day hikes along the various stretches. Check out this complete guide for more information.
Tsitsikamma Trail, South Africa
The Tsitsikamma Trail is South Africa’s first official hiking trail. With 62.3km of varying landscape to explore, this walk takes you on a journey through extensive indigenous forest, mountain fynbos, ancient river gorges and abundant rivers.
Although this can be a testing 6-day haul, your guide, together with the overnight huts stationed at each section start/end means you will survive without any drama. The only fright and delight you may have is to catch sight of wild animals roaming their natural habitats. The route starts from the caravan park in Nature’s Valleys and brings you out at Tsitsikamma. There are short one-day hikes of around 3.4km a day. The first porterage at Kalander is popular because you can enjoy beach activities including beach bats, swimming in the lagoon and sunbathing.
Bruce Trail, Canada
Boasting over 900 km of trail paths and a further 450 km of side trails, the Bruce Trail provides multiple opportunities to explore the incredible natural beauty of the Niagara Escarpment on foot – one of Canada’s irreplaceable natural wonders.
As a matter of fact, the Bruce Trail is described as “more than just a footpath” because it plays a crucial role in protecting and preserving the Niagara Escarpment. 400 million years ago, this land was submerged under a tropical sea and you can still see layers of embossed, fossilized coral shielding dolomite and limestone. It’s here that you’ll find geological treasures such as the Grotto, Overhanging Point and Devil’s Monument.
The wealth of diverse landscapes, unique geology, and biological treasures you will find along Bruce Trail includes cobble beaches, open meadows, waterfalls, rocky crevices, old-growth forests, and awe-inspiring views of incredible turquoise and ultramarine blue waters from a stunning 200-foot cliff.
Camino de Santiago, France and Spain
The Camino de Santiago between France and Spain is one of the most famous pilgrimage routes in the world. The quaint Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela is said to be where the body of the martyr St. James is buried. During the Middle Ages, the Camino millions of people move around Europe.
Starting from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, the 800km stretch to Santiago de Compostela takes you through the alluring countryside and charming villages. It takes around 2 weeks to complete in its entirety. The most popular stretch of the Camino is the path from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela, across the region of Galicia.
Anybody that walks over 100 continuous kilometres of the Camino de Santiago is entitled to the Compostela – a certificate written in Latin. Historically, the Compostela guaranteed followers of St. James a pardon for their sins.
Lycian Way, Turkey
The Lycian Way is arguably one of the most interesting routes on the planet — which is why it makes our list of the world’s most iconic walking trails. The 509 km trail links 18 ancient cities along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey from Fethiye to Antalya.
Ironically, despite the close proximity of the 18 cities, the path was only established in 1990. It has since become one of the most visited long-distance trekking routes in Europe. Although the walk is not technically difficult, you do need to be in good physical condition and have a head for heights.
The best times of year to tred the Lycian Way are either in April and May, or September and October. June to August are scorchingly hot and temperatures can reach over 40 degrees Celsius. Given there is not a great deal of shelter, the blistering heat of the sun can be overbearing.
Download the Sweatcoin app
If you’re preparing for a lying-distant walk, don’t set off without downloading the Sweatcoin app directly to your smartphone. The app features a built-in pedometer which counts your steps and converts them into a digital currency (SWC) that can be used to purchase goods from over 300 retailers.
So what are you waiting for? Download the sweatcoin app and earn financial rewards for your endeavours. With the Sweatcoin app, you can buy yourself a treat when you return from walking the world’s most iconic walking trails.