Salkantay offers an alternative route to Machu Picchu

13 of the best treks in the world

Covering mountains, nations, coastlines and more, the best treks in the world are not for the faint-hearted

John Bills

Don’t let the dictionary fool you. A trek doesn’t necessarily need to be a long, arduous journey. Sometimes, a trek can be a long walk into a brave new world with the most beautiful views for inspiration. Yes, the word ‘long’ is ubiquitous, but these treks are about the journey and the things we learn along the way.

The best treks in the world are incredible experiences, covering all continents. All except Antarctica, although you can walk across that too, if you are up to the task. Maybe stick to these magnificent trails first, where every drop of sweat is earned and worth it. Just be sure to pack enough provisions. Oh, and wear the right shoes, please.

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Best treks in the world

1. Appalachian Trail

Long treks don’t come much more famous than the Appalachian Trail. The trail between Springer Mountain (Georgia) and Mount Katahdin (Maine) passes through a whopping 14 states and covers around 3,500km, making it one of the longest walking-only trails on the planet. Undertaking the whole thing is one heck of a task, although more than two million walkers take in part of it annually. Immortalised in Bill Bryson’s ‘A Walk in the Wood’, the Appalachian Trail is the big daddy of American treks.

2. Via Dinarica

One day, someone will organise a Pan-Balkan walking route that follows the old Tito Youth Relay of Yugoslavia, but the various Via Dinarica hikes are more than enough for now. This network of long-distance hikes covers much of the Dinaric Alps and is split into numerous routes, with the 1,260km White Trail the most popular. The trek starts in Slovenia and ends in Albania, taking in many of the region’s highest peaks.


3. Mount Elgon

What a beautiful trek this is. There are longer treks in Africa, and there are definitely more famous ones, but something about the six-day mountain trek to the top of Mount Elgon, on the border of Uganda and Kenya, really sparkles. The route is just about as lush as it gets, and the views from the top are spellbinding. It has the largest volcanic base in the world, although Mt Elgon hasn’t erupted for about ten million years. 

4. Wales Coast Path

In opening its coast path in 2012, Wales became the first nation on the planet to launch a dedicated route covering an entire country’s coastline. Wales is not a big nation (in terms of geography, obviously), but the walk from Queensferry to Chepstow is a fair old amble: 870 miles of rugged hills and darling seaside towns. The path is divided into eight sections, so you don’t necessarily have to do it all, but there is something extremely tempting about being able to say you have walked around an entire country. If the 870 miles aren’t enough, consider tagging the Offa’s Dyke path at the end, which traverses the border between Wales and England. 


5. Salkantay

Trekking to Machu Picchu is a rite of passage for visitors to South America, but the Salkantay trek allows hikers to visit the famous citadel via altogether-less-crowded circumstances. Salkantay is the highest peak in the Vilcabamba range and is a total stunner in its own right, and the five-day trek is a moderately difficult one that eschews famous sites in favour of gorgeous vistas. It is a win-win, really.

6. Pacific Crest Trail

The Appalachian Trail takes care of the east, but what of America’s wild west? The Pacific Crest Trail covers 4,270km of immensely scenic ground, from Campo in California up to Manning Park across the border in Canada’s British Columbia. It takes around six months to walk the whole thing, a mountainous task that hasn’t been completed by many. More people have climbed Everest, for reference.


7. Annapurna Circuit Trek

A whole host of routes await those looking to trek Nepal’s famous Annapurna Circuit. The Base Camp Trek usually takes between 15 and 20 days, taking you through tumbling terrain past charming villages and darling lodges. The views are endless and all-encompassing, and the circuit doubles up as a cultural trail. Pay your respects, pay attention and get trekking. 

8. Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc is a round-trip stroll that usually takes around 11 days, depending on health and ability. This isn’t an easy trek by any stretch of the imagination, but the views on offer make it worth putting one step in front of the other. Most walkers start in the Chamonix Valley, dipping into Italy and Switzerland before returning to France for the second half. 


9. Tiger’s Nest

The facts don’t tell the whole tale of the Tiger’s Nest trek in Bhutan. A moderate-to-difficult trail, the whole thing should take between three and five hours, depending on your pace and skill level. The awe-inspiring sight at the end of this trek transcends technical preparation and time. Primarily known as Paro Taktsang, this seventeenth-century monastery started life as a meditation cave many centuries earlier and is the most important jewel in this glittering crown.

10. Tiger Leaping Gorge

Another tiger-themed trek in Asia, China’s Tiger Leaping Gorge trek is one of the most beautiful and challenging in the country. It’ll take a couple of days and requires a lot of strength, skill and mental fortitude. A stroll up and down the Wall this is not. There is plenty to love along the way, from a view of Shangri-La to a beautiful vista over the Jinsha River Canyon. The whole thing covers around 22km.


11. Larapinta Trail

Australia has several stunning treks, from the wilds of the Heysen Trail to the lure of circumnavigating Fraser Island, but the extended Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory wins out. Covering 223km from east to west, the trail is a study in isolation from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder; a moderate to difficult walk that takes in an incredible range of Aboriginal sacred sites. Don’t do this one in the Aussie summer; unless you happen to be a camel.

12. W Trek

The most famous hiking route in the Torres del Paine, the W Trek, affords hardy walkers an incredible view of the famous granite towers that provide its moniker. Hiking the trail is a one-way ticket to the best that Chilean Patagonia offers, a veritable conveyor belt of stunning views and vistas that make every kilometre worth it. The relatively low altitude of the route makes it an accessible trek, with only a minimum hiking experience required. 


13. Atlas Mountains

The Atlas Mountains are just around the corner from magical Marrakech, but they might as well be in another dimension. The chaos of the city is a world away from the serenity of these mountains, and there’s no better way to clear your head than by trekking high into the sky. Some of the remote villages here are incredible time machines that transport you further from the hustle and bustle of the city, making an Atlas Mountains trek a must for any hiker in the area. Arrive in good shape and get ready for a three-day trek to the top of tranquillity. 

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