There are great places to hike all over the world, but a few spots stand out as truly iconic hiking trails. Trekkers who want real challenges and memorable experiences may not be able to find that within a short distance from their homes, but if people are willing to travel for an adventure then they can be rewarded with memories that will last a lifetime.
Here’s five top hikes that merit the flight from the UK.
1. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Hiking enthusiasts don’t have to face Everest to enjoy an unbelievable experience in Nepal. The Annapurna Circuit offers stunning views of mountain peaks, Sherpa villages and greenery that merit spending the full three weeks to complete the circuit.
A string of lodges are set up for trekkers to stay in, while visitors can see Buddhist temples and meet friendly locals. The trail has some of the most brilliant scenery in the world, but it pays to take it slowly for fear of altitude sickness: the trail caps out at the Thorong La pass, which stands over 5400m above sea level.
2. Camino de Santiago, Spain
The Camino de Santiago, which roughly translates as the Walk of St. James, leads to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. The routes have been used since medieval times by religious people performing a pilgrimage, and today pilgrims gather from around the world to complete the route. Although there are several trails, the primary route is Camino Francés (the French Way), an 800km trail that begins in the Pyrenean town of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Over 20,000 pilgrims took this path last year.
3. Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is one of the wonders of the world and can provide some incredibly rewarding hiking — particularly if you eschew the most-touristed stretches close to Beijing. The trail boasts spectacular views and, as the isolation grows, an incredible sense of space.
Hikers should be prepared for steep inclines and stepping on moving stones. There are few places to get supplies, so packing snacks and water is essential. For the ultimate experience, start at Jianshanling and head all the way to the Yellow Sea at Laolongtou, in Shanhaiguan.
4. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Few people are motivated and brave enough to climb to the very top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but most hikers can make it up what is frequently referred to as the world’s tallest walk able mountain. At almost 6,000 metres, the trail to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is not without challenge — and altitude sickness is, of course, a real risk.
But there are a variety of trails, and each offer unique challenges, progressing through different climate zones on the route to the top — with the ultimate reward of an icy wonderland within spitting distance of the Equator. While rock climbing gear and expertise is not needed, the trail requires reasonable fitness, and it’s worth taking more than the typical six days to avoid altitude sickness.
5. Baltoro Glacier & K2, Pakistan
If Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t quite challenging enough, hikers can travel through the icy corridor from the Baltoro Glacier up to K2 — well, its base camp, at least. At an elevation of 8,611 metres, K2 is the second-highest mountain in the world, and the journey up to base camp shows trekkers gorgeous scenery unmatched anywhere else.
Unlike at Mount Kilimanjaro, the trail to K2 starts out cold and takes trekkers past icy rivers, through a glacier, and up enormous mountains during the 15-day trip. The nearby glaciers offer additional hiking for folk who like challenges and own crampons.
Be aware, however, that most governments currently advise against travel to this part of Pakistan, so this is one adventure that may have to wait until the nation settles down.
Travelling to these iconic places may not be as simple as hopping into a motor-car and driving somewhere close, but the effort it takes to plan a trip makes the experience more worthwhile. Cheapflights.co.uk can help travellers find the best deals to get to the hiking destination of their choice.