We’ve all seen towering mountain ranges, sweeping lakeside meadows and snow-covered forests. However, for most of us, these views come from our computer’s desktop screensaver.
For others, breathtaking scenery comes only after eight days of gruelling hiking up slippery trails. But the good news is, hiking holidays don’t have to be difficult.
Below we explore six of the world’s best hikes, with something for casual sightseers and serious adventurers alike.
Trails for the casual hiker
It’s not only the super-fit and fearless who can enjoy a great hiking experience overseas. These three hikes are bursting with natural beauty, without the threat of busting your back.
1. Gleninchaquin Park, Ireland
Gleninchaquin Park in Ireland’s Kerry County is a postcard-perfect oasis of green. Its sweeping valley of lush meadows and gentle slopes is believed to have been formed by glaciation around 70,000 years ago.
Today, Gleninchaquin Park is a popular destination for hikers who prefer a gentle stroll to a daring climb. Grazing sheep, bubbling streams and a picturesque waterfall make each of Gleninchaquin’s six walks a nature-lover’s fantasy.
There are even remains of ancient cooking sites along Gleninchaquin’s stream, revealing early settlement in the area.
2. Mount Takao, Japan
There’s no shortage of natural beauty to see in Japan, and with its gibbering monkeys and lush greenery, Mount Takao is no different. Just an hour from Tokyo, Mount Takao is a popular day trip for outdoor enthusiasts escaping the hustle and bustle of the city.
At its summit, Mount Takao boasts a serene Buddhist Shrine. Taking in the serene beauty here is the perfect way to rest your legs before beginning the descent.
Takao’s longest trail is a relatively short 16 kilometres, making it achievable to the more casual hikers among us. However, you won’t be climbing its gentle paved ascent alone - more than two and a half million tourists climb Mount Takao each year.
You may not be in danger of falling from a slippery mountainside on this easy hike, but the mass of distracted walkers means petty theft isn’t unheard of. Keep your bag in sight at all times; losing all of your hard-earned holiday snaps on your camera is an easy way to spoil a holiday.
3. Lower Yosemite Falls, U.S.A
Any serious nature lover will have Yosemite National Park high on their bucket list. However, you don’t have to be a serious hiker to enjoy its spectacular surrounds.
The Lower Yosemite Falls trail takes less than three kilometres from Yosemite Village, and ends at the fifth tallest waterfall in the world. According to The Yosemite National Park website, the waterfall is ten times taller than Niagra Falls and nearly twice as tall as the Empire State Building.
There are a number of great accommodation options in Yosemite Village, and several other easy ascents like the Lower Falls trail.
Trails for the serious hiker
For travellers with a few more miles under their belts, these three hiking trails will challenge and enchant. Proceed with caution; these trails aren’t for the faint of heart.
1. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mount Kilimanjaro is called the ’Roof of Africa’ for good reason. Rising almost 6,000 metres above sea level, Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak on the continent.
It’s an unforgiving and gruelling hike, so it’s almost surprising that climbing to Kilimanjaro’s summit is so popular among both experienced climbers and first-timers.
If you’re thinking about seeing Africa from the roof, these quick Kilimanjaro statistics will give you a good idea of what you’re up against:
- More than 35,000 tourists attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro each year. Only half succeed.
- Between three and seven climbers die each year on the Kilimanjaro trail.
- Most successful ascents to the summit take 8 days, because climbers take the time to adapt and acclimatise to the demanding environment and altitude.
Booking with a licensed and experienced tour operator is essential to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. Research tour operators thoroughly and be honest with your physical fitness before pushing yourself to the extremes on a mountain side.
2. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru
Peru’s famous Inca Trail is as scenic as it is challenging. The trail winds its way through the sweeping Andes mountain range, ending at the mountaintop ruins of Inca citadel, Machu Picchu.
However, reaching Machu Picchu is no easy feat. The hikers brave enough to take on the four to five-day Inca Trail are rewarded with the breathtaking views of mountainsides, cloud-forests, dense jungle and of course, historic Inca ruins. While there are shorter trails open to hikers, the ‘Classic Trail’ is by far the most popular.
History buffs and nature-lovers alike will be awestruck by the calm beauty of the Incan ruins dotting the trail. And if they don’t excite the senses, the unbelievable beauty of Machu Picchu never fails to take a traveller’s breath away (if they have any left!).
Walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is wildly popular with travellers from around the world. However, the Peruvian government has wisely limited foot traffic on the trail (much of which is actually original Incan construction), to preserve its condition. Hikers must obtain a permit before climbing the Inca Trail, and these sell out quickly.
If you’re interested in tackling what is one of the most stunning outdoor experiences in the world, we recommend you seek a licensed tour operator who will secure your permit and ensure you climb the trail safely.
It’s easy to be swept away by the fascinating beauty of the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, however like other hikes on this list, it isn’t an activity to be taken lightly. In addition to being incredibly physically demanding, the Inca Trail presents somewhat hidden dangers.
In early 2016, a German tourist fell to his death while posing for a photo at Machu Picchu. According to the Washington Post, the 51-year-old man stepped over a security cordon into a restricted area, slipped from a ledge and fell 130 feet.
Unfortunately, accidents like these are common. In fact, one day earlier a Korean man fell to his death on another trail in northern Peru.
Always follow the instructions of guides, stay within any marked boundaries and enjoy the scenery from within the allowed areas.
3. Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim, U.S.A
The Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the United States’ finest natural attractions. Almost five million tourists visit the Grand Canyon each year, however those who have hiked the rim-to-rim trail say the real beauty lies beyond the souvenir shops at the lookouts.
The Grand Canyon rim-to-rim trail begins at the North Rim, descends 6,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon, snakes along the stunning Colorado River before a leg-burning ascent up the South Rim.
Some trails in the area can be achieved in one day, however the National Park Service urges hikers to consider the risks of pushing the limits. “The difference between a great adventure in Grand Canyon and a trip to the hospital (or worse) is up to YOU,” their website reads.
According to the National Park Service, over 250 hikers need to be rescued from the canyon each year. They offer great ‘Hike Smart’ guides for both summer and winter adventures, which outline the bare necessities of staying safe during a Grand Canyon Adventure.
Dehydration, exhaustion and sunburn aren’t the only dangers that can easily ruin a Grand Canyon hike; the area is home to six species of rattlesnake. We know first-hand how rattlesnakes can quickly put an end to outdoor adventures. One of our customers was bitten during a camping trip in Wyoming, US, needing immediate hospitalisation and anti-venom.
Again, being over-researched and over-prepared for your hiking trip will give you the best chance to soak in the scenery without seeing the inside of an ambulance.
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