Any serious trekker or backpacker is going to have their own version of the world’s top trekking destinations. My choices are based on experience, reading, chatting with fellow hikers and what’s still on my wish list. In my mind the treks have to offer great beauty and at least three days worth of walking. Here’s my version of 12 of the world’s top trekking destinations
North America Trekking Destinations
West Coast Trail in British Columbia
The West Coast Trail is a physically demanding 75 kilometre hike stretching from Port Renfrew in the south to Bamfield in the north along the west coast of Vancouver Island. If you’re lucky enough to have sun for the entire hike then this is a glorious introduction to temperate rain forests and the stunning beaches of Canada’s west coast. In rain it’s a tough slog through mud. Ideally allow six – eight days.
Chilkoot Trail in Alaska and British Columbia
The Chilkoot Trail begins on tidewater in Alaska and climbs up and over mountains in British Columbia. It presents a unique backpacking opportunity, as this is a trail rich with history. It was the main trail used in the famous Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800’s. An international crowd of literally tens of thousands, fuelled by dreams of riches, used the Chilkoot Trail to chase the gold in the Yukon. Most suffered incredible hardship, many never even made it and only a few got rich. Today on the trail you’ll find plenty of reminders of their epic journey. You’ll also enjoy fantastic scenery, picturesque campsites and an international border at the top of the pass. Allow four – five days.
South America Trekking Destinations
Cordillera Blanca (Alpamayo Circuit) in Peru
The trek through Peru’s Cordillera Blanca takes you within walking distance of Alpamayo, a spectacular mountain called by some the most beautiful on earth. It’s a remote trek and all food must be taken with you. Donkeys and a donkey driver can be engaged for nominal fee at the trailhead. You reach altitudes of over 15,000 feet and cross many passes so acclimatization is important. Hike in June, July and August when it’s consistently sunny but be prepared for bone chilling nights. Allow 8-10 days.
Paine Circuit in Chile
Torres del Paine down in southern Chile offers a 5-10 day hike (depending on which version you do) through an area of soaring granite peaks, lakes, glaciers and forests. UNESCO world heritage status has been conferred upon the park because of its unique landscape and ecosystem. The area is known for its fierce winds (in excess of 100 mph) and uncertain weather. Hike between the months of October to April for long hours of daylight.
Europe Trekking Destinations
Tour of Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland
The hiker’s Tour of Mont Blanc is a 168 kilometre loop tour around the base of Mount Blanc which is the highest peak in western Europe at 4,810 m or 15,782 feet tall. Hikers usually begin just outside of Chamonix, France if they’re hiking the traditional counter clockwise direction or they start in Champex, Switzerland if it’s the clockwise direction they’re doing. No matter what, you hike through three countries – France, Italy and Switzerland over a 9-11 day period.
Alta Via 2 in Italy
The Alta Via 2 takes you through the stunning scenery of the Italian Dolomites and begins just south of the Austrian border. It’s a 75 kilometre trek that usually takes 6-8 days. If you’re challenged by exposure then this hike might not be for you especially on the sections known as the Via Ferrata -the road with irons. You have the option of staying in mountain huts rather than camping and much of the food can be purchased along the way.
West Highland Way in Scotland
The West Highland Way is Scotland’s first official and now famous long distance walk. It stretches 95 miles (152 kilometres) from Milngavie in the south to Fort William in the north. You can enjoy some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery on this walk – including the views from Conic Hill and Devil’s Staircase, desolate walking across Rannoch Moor and plenty of Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond views. It’s a five to eight day trek and best done between May and early October.
Africa Trekking Destinations
Toubkal Circuit in Morocco
The Toubkal Circuit is primarily a summer trek through the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Spectacular scenery is the order of the day – from the Tichka Plateau through to gorges, forest and remote Berber villages. Allow about two weeks, and a day or two more if you plan to climb Mount Toubkal.
Australia and New Zealand Trekking Destinations
Overland Track in Tasmania
I did this trek well before it was discovered by the mainstream backpacking crowd (30 years ago) and what a stunning trek it was complete with wallabies at nighttime at the huts. Go prepared for inclement weather and lots of hiking in mud. You’ll pass by spectacular Cradle Mountain, numerous lakes and interesting vegetation. Allow 5-7 days to complete the 73 kilometres. Our Hiking Blog, an Australian blog offers an ebook on how to hike the Overland Track. I guess it’s a lot more complicated now.
The Milford Track in New Zealand
I don’t think flying over the Milford Track counts but because I did do that I know that there is superlative mountain and fjord scenery on offer. It’s one of New Zealand’s most popular treks, taking on average four days to trek 53 kilometres. Hike through temperate rain forests and through groves of beech trees. Book well in advance as the walk is highly regulated and the huts fill quickly.
Asia Trekking Destinations
Although the trek sees throngs of hikers you can’t help but be wowed at some of the highest mountains on the planet. Drop dead gorgeous mountain scenery and the Sherpa culture conspire to make this a winning two week trek. It’s been cleaned up considerably in the last few years too. You’ll also get the chance to visit a Buddhist Monastery in the middle of the Himalayas.
Snowman Trek in Bhutan
You’re going to need a month to do the Snowman Trek and to allow a few days for rests. Plus you’ll have to hike with a tour company. What you get in return is a hike through a pristine landscape of rhododendron forests and big mountain scenery plus the chance to pass through small villages and Buddhist monasteries.
Further reading that might be of interest include:
- Donkeys for Rent: How we Hiked the Cordillera Blanc in Peru
- What’s the better hike? – The Kerry Way or the Dingle Way in Ireland?
- Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc: Itinerary and Where to Stay
Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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