23 of the world’s best hiking trails
(CNN) — From a multi-day trek tracing the routes of a Japanese poet, to a classic clamber in the Argentinian Lake District, there are thousands of incredible trails that allow us to get up close to nature.
Walking boots and waterproof coats at the ready — here are 23 of the best hiking trails in the world.
1. Pennine Way, United Kingdom
The entire walk takes around three weeks, passing over wild moorland east of Manchester and through the picture postcard Yorkshire Dales, before crossing the ancient border of Hadrian’s Wall and on toward Scotland.
One for outdoor fanatics, camping enthusiasts and anyone who can handle the vagaries of great British weather.
2. Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Rather than following a single path, the Camino, also known as the Way of St. James, is actually a series of different pilgrimage routes, all ending at the shrine of the apostle St. James in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
The most popular modern route follows a line across northern Spain from the French Pyrenees.
While some choose to stay at monasteries along the way, plenty of operators offer hotel stays and luggage transfers.
3. Appalachian Trail, United States
The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine.
Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto/Getty Images
It runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, passing through some of the most remote country in the United States.
That means it’s an undertaking, either for those with endless vacation allowance, or walkers looking to do a small chunk of a classic route.
4. The Basho Wayfarer, Japan
Japan boasts numerous ancient trails, connecting temples and cities. This self-guided trip follows a route taken by the poet Matsuo Basho over 300 years ago.
The six-day trek starts in Sendai and works its way through the northern Tohoku region, passing through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hiraizumi and along the ancient Dewa Kaido path, with its beech and cherry forests, before heading into the mountains of Natagiri-toge and finishing at the temple of Yamadera.
5. Refugio Frey and Cerro Catedral, Argentina
But for those with limited time, it’s hard to beat the one-day trek to Refugio Frey and Cerro Catedral.
A bus to Villa Catedral drops at the start of a wide, well-marked path, which winds its way into the Andes, passing through woods before emerging above the tree line into a world of spectacular, soaring peaks. Intrepid visitors can stay at Refugio Frey, either in the hut or camping in its grounds.
6. Mount Toubkal, Morocco
A hike to North Africa’s highest peak is a challenging, but rewarding task.
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North Africa’s highest peak at 4,167 meters (13,671 feet), a hike to the top of Mount Toubkal isn’t for the faint-hearted.
The path upwards rises from the village of Imlil, passing over a dry river bed before rising sharply through the shrine at Sidi Chamharouch and on towards a large mountain hut.
After overnighting here, hikers strap on crampons and set off up the snowfield to the summit, where the Atlas Mountains open out and the views are relentless.
7. Great Wall of China, Jinshanling section
Walking the Great Wall at the tourist hotspot of Badaling can be a stressful experience, with crowds and hawkers making it almost unbearable.
Jinshanling, situated 87 miles northeast of Beijing, offers the perfect chance to explore a steep, winding and relatively unscathed section of this true Chinese icon.
The route through to the wall at Simatai is closed, but the back and forth trip along this section makes for a strenuous workout, with truly amazing views.
Bear in mind China is currently closed to international leisure tourists, but tours and transfers are still available for those in the country.
8. Dragon’s Back, Hong Kong
Easily reached by bus from downtown Hong Kong, the path begins in a shady tree tunnel on the Shek O Road, before scaling Shek O Peak, with vistas over white sandy beaches, lush hills and tropical islands. The route ends at the beach at Big Wave Bay, its warm waters perfect for a post-hike dip.
9. The Dingle Way, Ireland
Stretching 111 miles, The Dingle Way is a circular path that offers the best way to get under the skin of wild County Kerry in Ireland’s south west.
Starting in the town of Tralee, the clockwise path follows narrow roads, known as boreens, taking in the wide sweep of sand at Inch Strand, passing along the clifftops outside Dingle town and heading around the edge of Mount Brandon, the highest peak on the Dingle Peninsula.
10. Tergo La Trek, Bhutan
The relative inaccessibility of Bhutan and need for tourist passes means its trails are unspoiled and ripe for exploration. Tergo-La Trek, in the Haa Valley, is one of the country’s lesser known routes.
Yak herders’ camps and distant villages add to the sense of being in another world.
11. Tahoe Rim Trail, United States
A 165-mile loop around the Tahoe Rim Basin, this iconic trail was established in 1981 and is regarded as one of the finest hikes in the United States.
Intrepid travelers can pack a tent and get back to nature on an 11-day jaunt, best undertaken between July and September.
12. Armenia and the Silk Road
Easily overlooked, Armenia has some of the best walking trails in Europe.
13. Lechweg Trail, Austria and Germany
Starting in the Bavarian town of Fussen, this nine-day route follows the Lechweg river to its source in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg.
Passing the royal castles of a King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Germany as well as crystal clear lakes, the trail heads through the Tiroler Lech National Park, a protected area with lush meadows, turquoise water and ibex at every turn.
14. Indus Valley, Himalaya, India
While a Himalayan trek is always going to be magical, this remote three-day jaunt in the Indus Valley takes some beating.
Phu translates as summer pastures, meaning this lush ground makes for pleasant walking while staring at the surrounding peaks and glaciers.
The trip includes stops at local tea houses, with dome tents pitched each evening for a comfortable night’s sleep.
15. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest boasts many of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.
Sanctuary Retreats Gorilla Forest Camp
Wildlife walks don’t come more fascinating than a trip into Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where you can get up close and personal with the area’s mountain gorilla population.
Groups are typically limited to eight people.
16. West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island
Canada’s wilderness and sheer scale mean it’s blessed with some truly astounding hiking trails.
The hike involves scaling ladders, wading through rivers and battling along muddy tracks, but with the bonus of being able to camp out in spectacular open country.
Although self-guided, walkers need to reserve a place on the trail at the start of the year, with spaces severely limited.
17. Percorsi Occitani, Maira Valley, Italy
A network of ancient pathways through the Cottian Alps, a walk in the Percorsi Occitani is like stepping back in time.
Many locals still speak the Occitan language, while the remoteness of the Maira Valley makes it one of the most unspoiled corners of northern Italy.
Linking hamlets and villages, this nine-day self-guided route scales some of the area’s more challenging hills, dipping into green valleys, with stays at traditional mountain refuges.
18. Lares and Royal Inca Trail, Peru
The Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu is unquestionably one of South America’s greatest treks.
It can also feel overrun at times, which is where this excellent alternative comes in.
Once over, hikers can then catch a train to the Inca Trail, completing the final stretch through the cloud forest and into the famous ruins.
19. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity is best explored in the high cloud forests of Monteverde.
The reserve has a series of well-marked paths ideal for those keen on an easy stroll with the chance to see the area’s striking bird life and flora up close without having to pack for a multi-day hike. Orchids, ferns and mosses abound, with the chance of seeing a brightly colored quetzal flying high above the trees.
20. The Lycian Way, Turkey
The Lycian Way overlooks the Turquoise Coast.
Diego Cupolo/NurPhoto/Getty Images
Covering 300 miles around the coast of southern Turkey from Fethiye to Antalya, the Lycian Way gives walkers a chance to explore the former kingdom of Lycia.
Passing through the ancient town of Sidyma and the ghost town of Kaya, the route cleaves to the water, with the chance of a cooling dip after a long day’s walk.
The route is well-marked and can be followed without a guide.
21. The Balkans, Montenegro and Albania
While the Alps is renowned for classic European hikes, the Balkans’ beautiful mountains make for an excellent alternative for those who’d rather hike away from the crowds.
Kucki Kom, one of Montenegro’s most arresting peaks at 2,487 meters, is worth the trip alone, with the scramble to the top rewarded with huge views of the Komovi Mountains.
22. Cloud Forest trek, Laos
A challenging trek through the rare cloud forests of northern Laos.
Facebook/Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area
This multi-day guided trip to the summit of Phou Louey, Laos’ third highest mountain, also includes overnight stays in bamboo huts and time spent watching wildlife at the Poung Nied Salt Lick.
23. Cape to Cape Track, Western Australia
The Cape to Cape Track stretches over 76 miles of Western Australia’s coast.
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Starting at the lighthouse at Cape Naturaliste and finishing 76 miles away at the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin, the most south westerly point in mainland Australia, this track is the ultimate way to see some of the finest scenery in Australia.
Hikers can camp along the route or arrange accommodation via the Friends of the Cape to Cape Track.