I’m calling it: the age of fast-paced, tickbox, carbon intensive, hyper-commercialised tourism is no longer hip. Slow travel is the balm for our times, and trekking and walking holidays are as slow as it gets.

There’s something unique and evocative about travelling by foot, on a natural and human scale and unencumbered by timetables, schedules and itineraries. They say that the plane has made the world smaller, which must mean that hiking from place to place under your own steam makes the world infinitely larger. I know which one I prefer.

It’s also the most inclusive style of travel I can think of. You need no special equipment or skill, it’s (usually) affordable, it’s good for all ages, you don’t even need to be terribly fit – there are easy-going walking holidays virtually everywhere you look.

I’ve been trekking and hiking almost non-stop for most of the last ten years. This love affair with faraway landscapes and human connections has become my life’s work. ​Since 2016, I have trekked in four continents and 30 countries, writing about my adventures for some of the biggest publications and guidebooks in the English-speaking world.

In the following pages, my fellow travel journalists and I will explore some of the best treks, hikes and walking holidays on earth, along with our expert recommendations for planning your trip. Tighten up your laces, strap on your backpack and prepare to discover the understated thrill of slow travel.

The best places to go hiking and trekking

Our experts' top picks

Trying to choose the 'best' places to go hiking is a fool's errand. Nevertheless we asked our expert travel writers this impossible question – here are just a few of their favourites:

The world's best treks & walking holidays

Deservedly popular, but expect crowds

Best is subjective. Here are a smattering of the world's most popular treks and walking holidays. So long as you don't mind sharing the views you'll be happy with any of the following:

Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine Full Circuit

Rudolf Abraham
By Rudolf Abraham
  • Distance: Approx. 75 miles (120 km)
  • Duration: Eight to ten days
  • Start/end point: Amarga Lagoon ranger station
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Despite the huge number of visitors, and Chile’s insistence on building a large number of lodges as well as luxury hotels within the national park, I still consider this one of the most breathtakingly beautiful hikes on the planet.

If your hiking boots demand more, this is the trek for you. You’ll spend days with rivers, glaciers, mountains, and take in wild, rugged views which stretch out as far as you can see. The Full Circuit makes its way around the entire Paine Massif, taking in the same highlights as the W Trek – plus so much more.

Inca Trail

The Inca Trail

Heather Jasper
By Heather Jasper
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Duration: Four days
  • Max elevation: 4,215 metres (13,828 ft)
  • Accommodation: Camping
  • Start/end point: KM82 to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is easily the most famous of all the Peru treks. Since it first opened, it’s been included in every roundup of the world’s best trekking routes, and for good reason. There’s something profoundly magical about making this pilgrimage, as the Inca once did from Cusco to Machu Picchu.

Only on this classic route can you actually arrive at the famous ruins on foot. For any of the so-called alternative treks, the route will finish at a different point, and you’ll arrive in Machu Picchu via train to Aguas Calientes.

Although you’ll certainly see your share of stunning landscapes as you head from the mountains to the high jungle, this trek is particularly known for its stop-offs at numerous Inca sites along the way. While you’ll be sharing the path with a great number of other tourists, porters, cooks, and guides, you can still snatch some private moments to take in the scenery, not to mention the history, of the trail.

Annapurna Region

Annapurna Sanctuary trek

Stuart Butler
By Stuart Butler
  • Best trek for: Easy-going & comfortable trek
  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate
  • Trek duration: 10 days
  • Max. elevation: 4,130m
  • Accommodation: Comfortable trekking lodges
  • Start/end point: Naya Pul or Dhampus

Probably just beating Everest base camp for the title of most popular trek in Nepal, the Annapurna Sanctuary trek is a 10-day extravaganza of non-stop mountain vistas culminating in a great cirque of massive mountain peaks seven to eight kilometres high.

If you’re looking for a short, relatively easy and simple to organise trek that doesn’t venture too high (4,130m), and with unusually comfortable accommodation, then the Annapurna Sanctuary ticks all the boxes.

Santiago de Compostela

Camino Frances (Camino de Santiago)

Peter Elia
By Peter Elia
  • Best trek for: The world-famous pilgrimage walk
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trek duration: 30 to 40 days (or shorter segments)
  • Max. elevation: 1,522m
  • Accommodation: Camping, hostels, hotels
  • Start/end point: Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago De Compostela

Embarking on a pilgrimage is a unique trekking cultural and spiritual experience which brings people together from all over the world. At the heart of the modern pilgrimage lies Camino de Santiago, which is actually several different routes leading to Santiago de Compostela.

The Camino Frances is the most popular route, spanning almost 500 miles (780 Km) from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago in Spain. It takes around four to five weeks to complete in full, but most people do it in shorter segments.

Need to know

For most Camino hikers, blisters are their biggest challenge. It's not just the trail's length but also the concrete roads along the way that contribute to this issue. I've often seen novice hikers making the mistake of not changing out of their hiking boots when walking on hard surfaces, leading to friction on the feet.

My top advice is to carry trainers (sneakers), and before starting each day, apply Vaseline to your feet, especially between the toes. I've tried and tested this method as an effective way to avoid blisters on long distance trails.


Tour Du Mont Blanc

Peter Elia
By Peter Elia
  • Best trek for: Europe's most famous mountain trail
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trek duration: 10 days
  • Max. elevation: 2,584m
  • Accommodation: Huts or camping
  • Start/end point: Chamonix circular

A world-class trek through the heart of the Alps in three countries, the Tour de Mont Blanc, is a baptism for many hikers. Steeped in history, Mont Blanc has tempted mountaineers from across the globe to scale this dramatic massif and breath in its astounding vistas.

The trail circumnavigates Mont Blanc (4,810m), spanning France, Italy, and Switzerland. Expect enthralling views, delicious food and an authentic Alpine experience. And the hiking is more varied than you may expect: you’ll be tackling impressive peaks, following roaring rivers and strolling through gentle valleys, sometimes all within the same day.

Need to know

Yes, it’s super-popular – you may well hit logjams on narrow paths up passes, and booking well in advance is essential – but, well, those views of Western Europe’s loftiest peak from all angles…

It's not mandatory to hike the entire circuit. You can, for example, choose to trek the southern part of the trail over four days if time or cost is a factor.

Another consideration is the short season. Like any other Alps destination, the hiking season is dictated by the length of the winter. So June could still have snow on the higher passes, and it's also possible for snow storms in September.

New Zealand

The Milford Track

Peter Elia
By Peter Elia
  • Best trek for: Alpine and Fjords Scenery
  • Difficulty: Mild
  • Trek duration: Four days
  • Max. elevation: 1,154m
  • Accommodation: Huts
  • Start/end point: Glade Wharf to Sandfly Point

One of New Zealand's ten official 'Great Walks', the Milford Track is a spectacular alpine and fjord trail which has been thrilling hikers for decades. This hike will certainly hit the spot if you love trails with a variety of scenery.

There is no shortage of breathtaking views along the 54 km track: deep valleys, mountain passes, stunning glaciers and New Zealand's highest waterfall, Sutherland Falls, with a total drop of 580 metres.

Need to know

The number of trekkers allowed on the Milford Trek is tightly regulated: you must book in advance, and spaces often sell out within minutes of going on sale. Camping is not permitted along the track, with a mandatory requirement to stay in each of the three huts along the trail. These must be booked in advance and you can not walk the route in the opposite direction.

You can hike the trail independently but you must bring all your supplies, including food, cooking equipment and other essentials for your four-day hike.

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro Lemosho route

Peter Elia
By Peter Elia
  • Best trek for: Summit Africa’s Highest Mountain
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trek duration: Seven to eight days
  • Max. elevation: 5,895m
  • Accommodation: Huts/Camping
  • Start point: Lemosho Glades

  • End point: Mweka Gate

Mount Kilimanjaro, also known as Kili, stands at a towering height of almost six vertical kilometres (equivalent to four miles) above the plains of northern Tanzania. Not only is it Africa's highest peak, but it also holds the distinction of being the largest standalone mountain in the world.

As one of the Seven Summits, which represent the highest mountains on each traditional continent, Kilimanjaro attracts adventurers and avid hikers from around the globe, making it a highly sought-after destination for those looking for the ultimate trekking challenge.

Need to know

According to Tanzania National Parks, around 50,000 trekkers set out to climb Kilimanjaro each year. This makes Kili one of the worlds most crowded mountain treks. Personally I’d recommend avoiding the well established hut to hut route of Marangu and go for the camping only trails such as Machame or Lemosho instead.

Around 15,000 trekkers fail to complete the ascent due to altitude sickness, other illnesses or injury. If you don’t like these odds or fancy a quieter alternative, I’d suggest East Africa’s other major peak, Mount Kenya.

Toubkal National Park

Mount (Jebel) Toubkal Circuit trek

Stephen Lioy
By Stephen Lioy
  • Best hike for: Toubkal the quiet way
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trek duration: Six days
  • Max. elevation: 4,167m
  • Accommodation: Trekking refuges & homestay
  • Start / end point: Imlil

The basic Jebel (Mount) Toubkal trek is typically marketed as a two day itinerary from Imil (or three days if departing from & returning to Marrakech). You’ll do two days of heavy hiking to reach Toubkal Base Camp. On the second morning you’ll make a pre-dawn push to catch sunrise from the summit, then turn around and descend 2,500 metres all the way back down. It’s rushed, gruelling and busy. A far more relaxed trek is the Toubkal Circuit, which is typically done in six days with the final ascent saved for last. If you’ve got the time I’d strongly recommend doing it the slow way.



Peter Elia
By Peter Elia
  • Best trek for: Considered the toughest hike in Europe
  • Difficulty: Demanding
  • Trek duration: 11 to 16 days
  • Max. elevation: 2,141m
  • Accommodation: Hut to hut
  • Start/end point: Calenzana to Conca

The GR20 is a beautiful 112-mile (180km) trek traversing the Mediterranean Island of Corsica from north to south. The trail is separated into 16 sections and winds along the jagged granite spine of Corsica's mountainous centre.

Expect to be put through your paces – crossing rugged terrain and taking on narrow ridges. But the scenery is the perfect distraction, with jagged peaks, sparkling rivers and rustic Corsican villages all in view.

Need to know

The problematic, rocky northern part begins in Calenzana and ends in Vizzavona. In this section, you must tackle constant steep ascents and plunging descents. So hiking this route is not recommended for those with knee problems.

In contrast, the southern segment, spanning from Vizzavona to Conca, is less demanding, though not as visually stunning as the northern section. You can choose to hike either one of the two parts or completely go for it and hike from Calenzana to Conca.


Laugavegur Trail

Peter Elia
By Peter Elia
  • Best trek for: A surreal landscape experience
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
  • Trek duration: Four days
  • Max. elevation: 1,059m
  • Accommodation: Huts or camping
  • Start/end point: Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork

Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice, and nowhere is this more accurate than the Laugavegur Trail. This otherworldly hike begins in Landmannalaugar, a geothermal haven globally known for its bubbling hot springs and colourful rhyolite mountains.

Continuing en route brings you an array of natural wonders, from impressive glaciers to vast lava fields, and the 55km journey ends in Thorsmork, a mesmerising valley named after the Norse deity of thunder, Thor.

Need to know

Personally, when walking I love to see a tree or two – something Iceland is famously short of. What it does have is an austere, ethereal, often stark and otherworldly beauty epitomised on this short but dramatic trek.

The trail is accessible from June to early September. Conveniently, there are daily bus services from Reykjavik (which takes around four hours) to the trailhead locations of Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork.

The huts offer sleeping accommodation, kitchens and showers but must be booked beforehand. Laugavegur is one of Europe's most popular hikes, attracting around 10,000 visitors in its short season. I’d recommend avoiding the peak summer holiday period if you can, it’ll certainly make the trip more enjoyable.


The John Muir Trail

Peter Elia
By Peter Elia
  • Best trek for: A physical challenge through extraordinary backcountry
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trek duration: 18 to 21 days
  • Max. elevation: 4,421m
  • Accommodation: Camping
  • Start/end point: Happy Isles to Whitney Portal

One of the USA's epic treks, the John Muir Trail (JMT) is a 211 miles (339 km) hike in California's Sierra Nevada. The trail passes through several national parks, including Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia national parks, finishing with a sublime summit hike on Mount Whitney.

This golden nugget of a trail is known for its dramatic landscape. Upon each alpine pass, the eyes are treated to mountain ranges extending in all directions, filled in by meadows and serene lakes.

Need to know

JMT will challenge most hikers, both mentally and physically. The trail is known for its tricky logistic, unforgiving terrain, unpredictable weather, and fire conditions. In addition, you must obtain trekking permits in advance.

Resupplying on the JMT is more complex and expensive than most linear treks. It requires pre-planning and parcel drops to designated campsites. I advise all but the most intrepid to do it with an organised operator who will take care of the logistics on your behalf.


Peaks of the Balkans

Rudolf Abraham
By Rudolf Abraham
  • Distance: 192km
  • Duration: 10 days
  • Start/end points: Plav or Vusanje (Montenegro), Theth or Valbona (Albania), Rekë e Allagës (Kosovo)
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Suitable for: Fit hikers with a sense of adventure

The Peaks of the Balkans is an 192km trans-border trek through the Prokletije Mountains, which form the boundary between Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania.

Rugged, wild and remote, the trail covers high mountain passes, secluded lakes and lush valleys. Accommodation and meals are provided by a scattering of village guesthouses, where the genuine warmth and hospitality is just as memorable as the jaw-dropping scenery.

From Vusanje, on the edge of Prokletije National Park in Montenegro, the route follows the Ropojana Valley, passing a seasonal lake and crossing into Albania.

A long, steady climb leads to the Pejë Pass, before dropping steeply to the village of Theth, set among lush orchards. From Theth, the route leads over the Valbona Pass, with stunning views on both sides, descending the Valbona Valley to Valbona.

Designed with a section of road-walking beyond Valbona, which most people skip with a short transfer, it’s more rewarding to ascend to the Prosllopit Pass.

The trail crosses back into Montenegro below the summit of Maja Kolata, the highest peak in Montenegro (by a smidgen), before returning to Albania.

Descending to Çeremi village, a long day leads to the summer settlement of Dobërdol, surrounded by high pastures beneath the tripartite border between Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo.

A steep climb from Dobërdol is followed by more border-hopping and broad, airy ridges, before dropping down to Milishevc in Kosovo.

The trail leads over another pass, following a less well marked route, down to Rugova Gorge. From Rekë e Allages, on the northern side of the gorge, the route leads to Drelaj, sometimes with a short transfer back onto the border ridge.

After a long descent to Babino Polje in Montenegro, the trail heads up to Lake Hrid, then down to Plav, the only place on the route remotely approaching the size of a town.

Following a 4WD track back up into the mountains, the trail crosses Vrh Bora, with spectacular views of the peaks above the Ropojana Valley, before looping back down to Vusanje.

Need to know

Obtaining a cross-border permit is mandatory for this route – you can apply for this yourself, but it’s more straightforward to get a local agency to do it for a small fee.

The trekking season is May to October – outside these months you can expect heavy snowfall, Alpine winter conditions and no visible trail.


Southwest Coast Path

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall
  • Distance: 630 miles/1,014km
  • Duration: 30 – 60 days, or shorter sections
  • Start point: Minehead, Somerset
  • End point: Poole, Dorset
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous, with repeated climbs and descents
  • Suitable for: There’s a small scenic section for everyone but the whole route is for those with time and stamina.

This is without doubt my favourite long-distance walk in the UK.

This world-class 630-mile route skirts the shoreline from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset but there are hundreds of other routes, from the 600 miles of trails in Exmoor National Park to circular day-walks like the National Trust routes around Cheddar Gorge or Avebury. It’s well served by organised walking holiday companies, but do book ahead if you’re coming in summer.

The coastal path is generally well signed and maintained, there is a wide selection of places to eat and stay, and a huge selection of sights, attractions and viewpoints on every stretch. And for the less experienced walker there is another great attraction: it’s almost impossible to get lost on the South West Coast Path.

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum

Peter Elia
By Peter Elia
  • Best trek for: For desert hiking and Bedouin hospitality
  • Difficulty: Mild
  • Trek duration: Two to seven days
  • Accommodation: Camping
  • Start/end point: Various

Rising from the desert plains, the orange sandstone rocks and mountains of Wadi Rum provide a backdrop to this most Martian of landscapes. Not only can you follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia but experience a different way of life through the eyes of the Bedouin tribes who have lived in these lands for centuries.

It is possible to trek Wadi Rum without a guide but having local knowledge can allow hikers to go off-trail and discover gems that would otherwise appear hidden or time-consuming to locate.

Need to know

My favourite Wadi Rum highlights include a scramble to the top of Lawrence's Spring, walking through the colourful Canyon of Al Mahama and seeking out rock bridges with natural arches, which will have you reaching for your camera.

These sites can be packed with holidaymakers at certain times of the day, often on a one-day jeep excursion. However, the crowds can be avoided by taking a multi-day trekking tour and seeing these magnificent structures on foot.

Trekking & walking holidays

Everything you wish you'd known before you booked

What’s the difference between trekking, hiking and walking holidays?

The travel industry likes its jargon and labels, and even something as simple as walking from A to B isn’t immune. Here’s a breakdown on what the different labels mean, and how different trip types are typically marketed:

Hiking is fairly self-explanatory; this is usually a vigorous walk somewhere outdoors where the walking itself is the point of the activity. The “hiking” label is normally applied to a single day activity and your overall trip might consist of one or more day hikes, interspersed with other activities. This is sometimes included in the “adventure travel” category but it’s often fairly easy-going.

When travel companies talk about “trekking” they usually mean multi-day trips, where you’re moving from place to place by foot. In other words, several days of hiking stitched together into a longer-distance journey. This involves more operational logistics such as overnight accommodation (camping, walking huts, or hotels), meals, potentially porters, and transport to/from the start and finish points.

(Trekking becomes mountaineering when it involves some technical climbing skill and equipment, and it becomes backpacking when you’re self-supported and carrying all your own gear.)

“Walking holidays” are somewhere between the two, and can take different formats. A centre-based walking holiday simply means staying in fixed locations and doing different day hikes. An inn-to-inn or long-distance walking holiday means hiking from place to place and staying in different accommodation each night. It usually includes baggage transfer so you don’t need to carry your main luggage with you each day. When a trip is sold as a “walking holiday” rather than a “trek” it will typically (but not always!) be easier-going, more accessible, and have more options to be customised.

Complicating matters further, different parts of the world tend to use different labels, and it often boils down to how “exotic” (a term we don’t really like) the destination appears to Western travellers. You’re more likely to do a walking holiday in the UK or Europe, and a trek in Nepal or Peru. Make of that what you will.

What are the main difficulty and ability levels?

There’s no universal standard, as conditions vary so widely from place to place. For the purposes of our guides, we try to stick to the following categories: easy, mild, moderate, and strenuous. What that means in each location will vary. An “easy” trek in Nepal might be harder than the most “strenuous” walking holiday in England.

Variables include the elevation gain (daily or overall), the overall distance covered, the daily distances, the duration (in hours or days), likely weather conditions and the altitude. Good trekking companies don’t want you having a bad time – or worse, getting hurt – so they’ll give you good advice on what’s suitable for you and your group.

What is a self guided walking holiday?

You’re probably more familiar with the traditional guided tour, where you’re escorted by a tour leader either in your own private party or in a small group of fellow travellers assembled by the tour operator. Most trekking tours are organised along these lines, particularly in major trekking destinations such as Nepal, Peru, Morocco and so on.

But in other parts of the world, notably in the UK and Europe, organised “self guided” walking holidays are more common. This is where a travel company will plan your itinerary, organise your accommodation and daily baggage transfer, provide you with maps and route notes, and leave you to your own devices. It’s popular in Europe because travel and communication is generally easier, the footpaths are well mapped and waymarked, and it’s usually much cheaper than a fully guided tour.

If you don’t fancy that level of independence you can of course find plenty of guided walking holidays in the UK and Europe, although at significantly higher cost.

What special equipment will I need?

Despite what the outdoors retailers would have you believe, aside from some good footwear, a backpack, and weather-appropriate clothing, there’s no special equipment required for a trekking or walking holiday.

For mountain hiking, boots with ankle support and rugged soles are required. Leather is better than fabric in these conditions, although they need plenty of wearing-in before you depart. Fabric boots are fine for lower-level or warm-weather walks preferably with a Gore-Tex or similar breathable waterproof lining. Good socks are also essential: merino wool is best, for socks as well as T-shirt base layers, reducing odour and remaining comfortable and warm when wet.

If you’re carrying your own luggage between overnight stops, choose a hiking-specific rucksack with good hip and shoulder support. If you’re on a supported trek that includes luggage transfers, take a soft-sided duffle bag and a 30–35L daypack. Whichever backpack you choose, ensure it takes a hydration bladder – on most trails you’ll drink at least 2L of water each day. A water filter or purification tablets is useful for filling bottles from mountain streams.

Lightweight, adjustable, packable walking poles are handy, particularly if you’re carrying a large pack or undertaking steep or extended descents; flick-lock extension systems tend to be more robust than twist-lock. A breathable waterproof jacket is essential in most destinations, particularly in mountain regions where weather can change rapidly, along with a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a basic first-aid kit for treating blisters, cuts, sprains and stings.

Pro Tip

Peter Elia
By Peter Elia

The dreaded blister can seriously ruin your walking holiday. A tried and tested method to avoid them is to rub some Vaseline onto your feet each morning, especially between the toes!

In this guide

About the author

Trekking, Hiking & Walking Holidays

Peter Elia

Peter is a travel journalist and photographer who travels the globe searching for compelling stories from the paths less travelled. He writes on trekking and hiking for many publications, including BBC Travel, Lonely Planet, The Independent and The Guardian.

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