One of the best ways to discover a foreign country is to walk the land, sleep under the stars, admire the natural beauty and swap smiles with locals in far-off villages. Here are 8 of our favorite hikes around the world.
1.Kungsleden (The King’s Trail)
Northern Sweden is absolute heaven during the summer months and this 275-mile trail will treat you to vast, untouched wilderness and endless sunshine (bring eye patches to sleep!). The trek starts in the village of Abisko in the north and ends in Hemavan farther south, with plenty of rustic huts along the way for shelter. Kungsleden runs through four national parks and a nature reserve, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see some of Santa’s reindeer.
2.Camino de Santiago
The Way of St. James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times and is now a super highway of hikers from all over the world. The trail stretches from the Pyrenees in France, across the top of Spain and finishes in Santiago de Compostela, a distance of about 500 miles. This is a very social trek and can be crowded during the summer months, so if you’re looking for solitude, try going in the off-season. Here’s some added incentive: There’s a fuente de vino, a fully functional fountain of wine along the route, cheers!
This stunner is the Mercedes of the trekking world; you’ll get to gaze upon some of the world’s most famous peaks, Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. The trail’s name means “high route,” and it takes about 12 days to hike the 111 miles from the Chamonix valley in France to Zermatt, Switzerland. Brush up on your French; it’ll help to communicate in the small villages along the way.
Africa may not be on the top of most people’s list of places to hike, but this hidden gem is sure to please your inner Indiana Jones. This trail is set in the plains of West Africa and passes through the majestic Bandiagara Escarpment and abandoned cliff dwellings (very similar looking to Mesa Verde). The exotic natural beauty of the area will surely please your eyes, but the warm people will make the most lasting impression.
5.Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The section of the Inca Trail (there are thousands of miles of Inca Trail) that leads to Machu Picchu is one of the most traveled routes in the world, and for good reason — it’s strikingly beautiful. There’s a mix of everything on this relatively short walk, ranging from the snow-capped Andes to luscious tropical jungle. On day five of your trek you pass through the majestic Sun Gate, and your eyes are bombarded by the most beautiful view you’ve ever seen — the ancient city of Machu Picchu (hopefully not covered in clouds).
6.Sentiero Azzurro (The Blue Trail)
If you’re looking for mind-blowing beauty and a manageable trail for the whole family, this is the one. The Blue Trail connects the five villages of Cinque Terre and can be completed in a day. The route hugs the rocky coastline and passes through pictureperfect vineyards and the coziest little villages you’ve ever laid eyes on. At the end of the day, your neck, not legs, will be the most sore body part due to the constant distraction from beauty in every direction.
7.West Highland Way
Walking through the Scottish Highlands on this 96-mile trail will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the movie Braveheart, minus the battleaxes. If you like the color green, you’ll be seeing lots of it here; this route passes through the incredibly picturesque and romantic Scottish landscape. The weather is always unpredictable, even in summer months, so make sure to pack plenty of warm-weather and rain gear.
8.The Snowman Trek
Trekking this route is not for the faint of heart, or lungs. This high-altitude ball-buster crosses 11 passes over 14,000 feet along the Tibet-Bhutan border. Along the way you’ll visit magical Buddhist monasteries clinging to the sides of cliffs and pass through secluded villages full of windblown smiles.