14 Best Hikes in the World
For some nature lovers, the simplicity of lacing up a pair of hiking boots and heading off into remote country holds a strong appeal. The crisp fresh air, the solitude, and the stillness of the landscape are some of the things that motivate hikers to tackle treks and hiking trails around the globe.
Some of the most beautiful scenery in the world can only be reached by foot. And while many of the best treks in the world are multi-day journeys, some are day hikes that can be tackled by anyone in decent physical condition.
Popular hiking trails are found around the world, in various types of terrain, and some provide access to historical treasures. In the Himalayas, ancient walking trails connect villages and lead past the highest mountains in the world. In other parts of the world, treks will take you to ancient ruins, into deep canyons, along windswept coasts, or to dizzying heights.
For inspiration to help plan your next epic adventure, see our list of the best hikes in the world.
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1. Inca Trail, Peru
Descending from the Inca Trail into Machu Pichu at sunrise is one of life's great experiences. Not for the faint of heart, the Inca Trail is a 42-kilometer (26-mile) trek that takes you up over two 13,000-foot passes.
The trail follows the route the ancient Incas took over 650 years ago, and much of the original stonework is still in place. Along the way, you'll pass through two tunnels created by the Incas, the ancient ruin of Winay wayna, and many waterfalls.
This is a hard hike, usually done in four days in changeable weather. It can be hot and steamy, pouring rain, blazing sun, and occasionally cold. Be prepared for every weather eventuality. This is a popular route, and many hiking companies are available to choose from.
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2. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
The Annapurna Circuit trail is a 17-day, 205-kilometer, (108-mile) journey through some of the tallest peaks on the planet. The trail starts down in a steamy jungle and ascends well above the tree line.
You'll top out at 5,394 meters (17,770 feet) on the Thorung Pass, where the trail is surrounded by a dazzling panorama of mountains, all over 6,096 meters (20,000 feet).
Another highlight, which can be done as an option, is Poon Hill. Most people try to make it to the top for sunrise. From this vantage point, you'll be able to see eight of the 14 highest mountain peaks in the world.
The Annapurna Circuit is a popular hike, and it demands a high level of fitness. The days and distances are long, and coupled with the high elevation, it can be tough going for some. You may want to consider hiring porters for your backpack to make your trip much more enjoyable.
Accommodation along the trail is basic as is the food; however, the wide variety of people from around the world you meet are what make the evenings enjoyable.
Another shorter trail that still allows you to see some of the highlights is the Annapurna Panorama Trek. This three- to five-day trek starts from Pokhara and heads up to Ghorepani. Rise early and make your way up Poon Hill for an unforgettable view. Accommodation and food along this stretch are both very good.
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3. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Kilimanjaro is one of the most iconic sites in all of Africa, and the hike to the top is on many people's bucket list. In fact, around 30,000 people attempt this hike each year. Depending on the route, your chances of completing the trek are pretty good.
The view from the top across the surrounding landscape is spectacular, especially at sunrise when most hikers try to summit. The hike up to the top and back down generally takes about five or six days, depending on your level of fitness and acclimatization rate.
4. Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Up and down are probably the two best words to describe the Everest Base Camp hike (EBC). This 65-kilometer, one-way trail literally climbs a mountain ridge then drops down to a river, then climbs another mountain ridge as it makes its way to base camp.
The hike takes 12 to 14 days on average and is high - you will max out at 5,500 meters (18,044 feet). That said, most of the walking is done in the 3,500- to 4,500-meter (11,482 to 4,763 feet) range. The air up here is thin, and any exertion seems twice as hard.
Be aware that you do not see the peak of Mount Everest from Base Camp. You will, however, see it from various points on the trail when other massive mountains are not in the way. The hike is best done from March to May and September to December, when temperatures are moderate, and the skies are clear.
Highlights along the way include Namchee Bazaar, the Everest View Hotel (highest hotel in the world), and the Tengboche Monastery. Accommodation along the trail is basic but comfortable and readily available. This is a well-trodden path, and you can likely find your way on your own or, if you prefer, with one of the many outfitters.
5. W Circuit, Torres Del Paine NP, Chile
Located down at the southernmost region of Chile, the W Circuit in Torres Del Paine National Park, is one of the world's most famous hikes. Easily identifiable by the jagged towers of rock and glacial lakes, this rugged and remote region draws hikers from around the world.
Improvements in the trail and services over the past few years have made the trail more accessible - you no longer need to carry your own gear. The hike generally takes between four and six days, and the main season is December to February. Reservations are required for accommodations and camping (free at CONCAF) within the park.
Weather in Patagonia is erratic and changeable. Be prepared for rain, snow, sun, and, of course, lots of wind.
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6. Samaria Gorge, Greece
The Samaria Gorge hike is the best hike on the island of Crete and one of Crete's top attractions. Starting in pine forests, this one-way hike descends through a narrow valley, eventually ending at the Libyan Sea. The hike is just over 16 kilometers in length, and you'll drop over 1,500 meters.
The first part of the hike is the steepest, where you'll descend a long series of switchbacks for about an hour before reaching the stream responsible for this incredible gorge. At this point, the trail levels out, and the remaining 13 or so kilometers are a relatively easy stroll. Around halfway through the hike, you'll come to the most famous place on the trail: a narrow gap where the sheer walls of the gorge are only a few meters apart and 300 meters high.
Eventually, you'll emerge at the small town of Agia Roumeli. The black sand beach here is perfect for a refreshing swim. After cooling off, grab a snack or a cold drink from one of the many shops nearby while you wait for your boat ride back to civilization.
7. Cinque Terre Hike, Italy
Long regarded as one of the most beautiful hikes in Italy, the Cinque Terre hike is an easy day hike between villages perched on the rugged seashore mountains. Strolling along this ancient route with the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea below will make you forget about the effort expended.
The best way to walk the Cinque Terre hike is to start at Monterosso and end at Riomaggiore. Take your time and stop for a mid-morning cappuccino and biscotti, follow it up with a bit more walking before you stop for a delightful lunch. Tear yourself away from the view at your lunch spot and walk for a while longer until you feel the need for an afternoon espresso.
If you base yourself in La Spezia, you can walk the trail and then take the train back to your hotel. A daily pass is required to walk the trail, and you can buy it at the ticket booths along the trail. The best deal is to buy a combined train and trail day pass.
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8. Milford Track, New Zealand
The Milford Track is a 53-kilometer (33-mile) epic trek on New Zealand's South Island that takes in some of the finest scenery the country has to offer. Over five days, you'll pass by innumerable waterfalls, including Sutherland Falls, New Zealand's highest.
Cold, clear alpine lakes; beautiful meadows; glaciers; and towering mountain peaks take their turn amazing you as you stroll along each day. Accommodation is in basic alpine huts or in more comfortable private lodges, both of which need to be booked well in advance.
This area of New Zealand has changeable weather, and it can be very wet. The area gets an astounding nine meters (30 feet) of rain each year.
9. Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon NP, USA
As you peer over the Grand Canyon rim, you'll see a hiking trail snaking its way down the cliffside across a wide plain and then dropping off again towards the Colorado River. What you are viewing is the world-famous Bright Angel Trail.
This trail is 25 kilometers (15.6 miles) long and drops 1,340 meters (4,380 feet) from the south canyon rim to the water's edge at the Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground. The views along the trail across and down the canyon are spectacular, and many people do portions of the trail as a day hike. The park service recommends going no farther than Indian Springs if this is your plan.
Bright Angel Trail is extremely well maintained and easy to follow, just watch out for the frequent mule trains sharing the route with you. Reservations for the campground and the Phantom Ranch lodge must be made well in advance and need to be confirmed two days prior to your arrival date.
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10. West Coast Trail, Canada
Located along Vancouver Island's wild Pacific Coast, the West Coast Trail is one of the most spectacular maritime hikes in Canada. The trail is 75 kilometers (46 miles) long and was originally designed as a lifesaving trail for ships that foundered in the treacherous seas just offshore. The trail takes six to eight days to complete.
This is a true wilderness experience. Dense rain forest lines one side of the trail, with the deep blue ocean on the other. To say this is an adventure hike might be understating things a bit: plan for wading through fast-flowing rivers, climbing over 100 ladders with your fully loaded backpack, and traversing extensive muddy stretches.
You'll need to be prepared for every weather eventuality: rain, wind, fog, and hopefully sun. Plan well in advance, and note that trail bookings are required and tend to fill quickly. A shorter three- to five-day option is to start at the Nitinaht Village trailhead, this cuts off a few days but still gives you the West Coast Trail experience.
11. Tour du Mont Blanc, Europe
One of the more luxurious hikes in the world is the Tour du Mont Blanc. The 170-kilometer (106-mile) trail traverses France, Switzerland, and Italy and is usually completed in 11 or 12 days. The scenery along the trail is spectacular as you ascend and descend around the Mont Blanc massif.
Along the way, you'll pass through wide valleys, expansive meadows, and rhododendron forests, and you'll crest high Alpine passes. You'll also stroll through delightful Alpine villages. Plan your trip carefully, options exist to take cable cars up and down to avoid strenuous ascents and descents.
Considering the trail passes through Italy and France, you'll find that the food along the trail is very good, and the accommodations are comfortable. The trail is well marked, and it is easy to make your own way along the route.
Should you wish to have an escorted experience, many tour outfitters offer trips at varying levels of cost and comfort, and they will transport your luggage for you.
12. Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, USA
The awe-inspiring Half Dome granite outcrop in Yosemite National Park has been drawing hikers for well over 100 years. This 23-kilometer (17-mile) day hike via Mist Trail is tough. You'll ascend nearly 1,500 meters, (4,800 feet) on your way to the top. Count on a 10- to 12-hour round trip.
The rewarding views from the top and the sense of accomplishment are worth all the effort. You'll have 360-degree views out over the surrounding mountains. However, the view from the top is not the only reward, you'll also pass by Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls along the way.
The last portion of the trail is a vertical grunt up across bald granite. Fortunately, the park service has provided cables and wooden slats across the trail to stop people from tumbling off. They have also prepared a video on the Half Dome hike to help hikers determine if this is an undertaking they want to tackle.
Note that hiking permits are required and are issued on a lottery system in March. Only 300 hikers are allowed per day via this system, and 50 per day on a first-come, first-served basis.
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13. Angels Landing, Zion NP, USA
The dizzying heights and narrow ledges of Angels Landing in Zion National Park make this a trail for only the bravest hikers. Although the hike is not long at roughly eight kilometers, (five miles) round trip, or particularly tough, with an elevation gain of approximately 457 meters (1,500 feet), conquering this hike is more of a mental battle than anything else.
The final stretch to the lookout is on a long narrow spine of rock, and it's here you gain a third of the total elevation of the entire hike. One of the iconic spots along this area is the Step of Faith, an extremely narrow section of the trail with a large step and long vertical drop-offs on both sides.
The trail can be very busy in the summer months and especially on weekends. The best time to do the hike is either spring or fall - temperatures are more moderate and the crowds thinner.
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14. Puez-Odle Altopiano, Italy
Located high in the Italian Dolomite range, the Puez-Odle hike takes in some of the best scenery of the region. You don't need to do the entire hike: the views right from the start are amazing. The trail starts at the top of the Dantercepies cable car and runs for approximately 15.5 kilometers (nine miles).
The trail is wide and easy to follow, and you'll see the Sassolungo massif and the amazing Sella Towers. Hiking the Puez-Oldle is very civilized: along the way are refugios and restaurants, where cold drinks and good food are served.