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There’s no slower, more connected way to travel than trekking. Overcoming obstacles binds walkers together and mobile trail communities flourish. Here are some of the most spectacular treks from around the world.
1. Kruger National Park — South Africa

Several trails weave through the 20,000 km Kruger National Park in the northeast of South Africa. Combine big cats with giant reptiles and you’ll understand why hiking is tightly controlled. Walking set routes with gun-toting guides will allow you relative safety.

Photo: jhull

2. Mt. Kenya National Park — Kenya

As Africa’s second highest peak, Mt. Kenya might be better known as a technical climbing destination. But eight hiking trails also run through the park, each with caretakers and huts. No climbing is required.

Four of the eight walks are staffed and accessible, but the remaining four require special permission from the Kenya Wildlife Service. This is a chance to move from fertile slopes through forest into the rare African alpine environment, then watch the sun rise over Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Photo: malfageme

3. Camino de Santiago de Compostela — Spain

If there’s one European walk to wander, it’s the rolling Way of St. James, a.k.a. “the Camino.” Pilgrims walk from wherever they want, finishing in Catholicism’s third most holy city (and scoring a free meal in the back of the five-star Parador Restaurant). The most popular route starts in the French Pyrenees, progressing through Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon, plus countless friendly Spanish villages. Learn 4 Lessons from the Camino.

4. Inca Trail – Peru

Macchu Pichu is an iconic and powerful image of South America and the once-powerful Inca Empire. What better way to discover it than approaching on a multi-day hike through forest valleys and steep ascents?

Once carefully guarded by Inca checkpoints, the path is now protected by government officials who check passports to ensure regulation numbers are kept and the environment isn’t further endangered. Like many of these treks, it’s imperative to book in advance. If you miss out or are looking for a lesser known alternative, try the Salkantay trail instead.

Photo: Hiro008

5. Torres del Paine National Park — Chile

Torres del Paine is home to spectacular multi-day walks through alpine terrain, including the popular four-day “W” track and 9 day circle route. The Patagonia webcam project will have you strapping your boots on before you know what hit you.

6. Pacific Crest Trail — Mexico, USA, Canada

Approximately 300 hikers a year attempt to through-hike this massive trek, starting in Mexico and hitting Canada before the winter snows make progress impossible. Countless more attempt anything from a day walk to several weeks of camping through harsh desert and snow-flaked mountains. Thank God for those trail angels!

Photo: Lawlesco

7. Appalachian Trail — USA

Running some 2,000 miles through 11 states, the Appalachian trail traverses not only the last pockets of wilderness in the Eastern US, but many historic sites and towns along the way. Shelters and a well-developed infrastructure exist along the entire route.

Most surprising is the entire subculture of AT through hikers that spills over into the surrounding towns. Hostels, restaurants, locals–oftentimes it seems like your through-hike (or section hike) is a ticket to this ongoing party.

8. Annapurna Sanctuary — Nepal

Like most popular routes in Nepal, the Annapurna Sanctuary is a “teahouse trek.” Trails pass through villages, each with its own lodging. Camping gear like heavy sleeping bags, tents, and cook stoves are not required on this trail. As a result, trekkers can get by with fairly light loads. Check here for a complete guide.

9. Mt. Fuji — Japan

Forget the expat slogan “Don’t climb Mt. Fuji.” There’s nothing more iconic than watching the sun rise from its slopes, and thousands attempt it each year. It’s not a difficult walk. Visible from parts of Tokyo, Mt. Fuji almost seems to be taunting travelers, challenging them to escape the neon jungle.

Photo: hadriaswad

10. Gunung Tahan – Malaysia

When I return to Malaysia, walking Gunung Tahan is high on my list. Malaysia’s highest mountain sits snugly in a forest-clad national park and is surrounded by several trails. The walk to the top takes approximately five days, but is considered the toughest trek in the region with steep climbs and tropical temperatures taking their toll on walkers.

Photo: Timmy Toucan

11. Milford Track – New Zealand

You can’t round up the world’s best treks without mentioning the Milford Track deep in the South Island of New Zealand. Described as the finest walk in the world, this strictly-controlled hike is best done in the southern summer as winter rains make it dangerous to attempt.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION

Keen on doing some serious walking? Check out a few of Matador’s trekking guides: Trekking Torres del Paine, Trekking the Annapurna Sanctuary, Sarawak: Trekking in the Kelabit Highlands or How To Trek the Inca Trail.

GOODS:

Trekking + Exploring Parks + Wilderness


 

About The Author

Craig Martin

Podcaster and writer Craig Martin has been traveling full-time in Europe since leaving Auckland, New Zealand in February 2006. With a degree in Media Studies and English plus a penchant for Coleridge, he's currently homeless in Europe. Craig podcasts at the Indie Travel Podcast and regularly blogs at Our Crazy Travels along with his wife Linda.

  • Enduring Wanderlust

    Nice post, Craig. With the constant debate about the environment it's nice to read about some beautiful locations that remain in tact. Did the Macchu Pichu treks last year and really enjoyed them. It's definately getting a little too crowded on the trails of many of these sites. Though Macchu Pichu is closed for a month. I hope the governments of each country work to preserve the sites with the tourist dollars coming in. ~Gennaro

  • Markus

    Gunung Tahan is not the highest mountain in Malaysia, Mt Kinabalu is almost twice as high, Other than that, I think the better title for the article would have been "The most popular treks". For example, Annapurna is hardly the most spectacular trek in the Himalayas.. but of course it is one of the more accessible ones.

  • Craig

    @Gennaro: overuse of these areas is becoming much more of a problem as development and deforestation removes other options. I also hope a true balance can be found between current needs and long-term preservation.

  • Tim Patterson

    ya know, i tend to agree…these would all be spectacular, but they're pretty well known. including fuji-san is a case in point.

  • Rhackseung Yoon

    Hi, Markus, Agree with you. Please give me the list of the most SPECTACULAR treks of the world in your opinion ? I eagerly want to know from you. Rhackseung

  • Markus

    I dont claim to be an authority either to list the most spectacular treks of the world. But for example, trekking in Northern Pakistan is absolutely incredible and certainly more so than the Annapurna or Everest trek. Within 3 days distance from the road, you can go to Nanga Parbat basecamp. Or go to K2 basecamp which is a serious 3 week trek. In contrast to Nepal, Pakistan is currently almost empty of tourists, even though security in the Northern part is quite ok.

  • Rhackseung Yoon

    Hi, Markus, Thanks for your coment. Do youmean the SnowLake or Baltoro Glacier trek ? Rhackseung

  • http://www.gobackpacking.com Dave

    These are definitely some great trekking spots – I’m lucky to have gone on a morning game walk (and come face to face with a few bachelor buffalo) in Kruger Park, and spend days on the Annapurna Sanctuary trek.

    “Approximately 300 hikers a year attempt to through-hike this massive trek”

    I didn’t realize so few people attempt it each year. I met an Aussie who completed it over about 3 months. I knew it was an impressive feat, especially when he talked about having to carry XX gallons of water through the desert sections in the southwest, but now that I know so few manage each year, I’m even more impressed!

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  • Ikmal

    Hi Craig,

    Gunung Tahan is not the highest peak in Malaysia. That would be Gunung Kinabalu, in Sabah. Gunung Tahan maybe the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia. In terms of lenght, Tahan is much longer than Kinabalu. Definitely harder too. But I can vouched the scenery atop Kinabalu is one your just cannot forget.

The Inca Trail is a very realistic goal, even for inexperienced hikers.
We went to the Badlands and Yellowstone, but it was Glacier that captured us.
Everybody else strode around confidently. They had their own saddlebags.
Some places have a way of making you feel really, really small.
Megan Hill lays down the trek to the Sahale Glacier.
Spending time in Denendeh, the power and energy of the land is difficult to ignore.
We achieved the ultimate goal of trekking: to feel close to nature.
The roads in this part of the Nepal are like paper cuts on the lip of a cliff.
The region has been off limits to all but the hardiest trekkers.
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