Dawn Over the Quiraing On the Isle of Skye Skye, Scotland, Uk
Those who really enjoy hiking, that blissfully peaceful outdoor activity, have plenty of incredible choices. However, we’re covering the ones that offer a truly unique experience. So here are seven of the best hikes on the planet, each with a combination of scenery and special extras that make them well worth going out of your way to enjoy.
1. Isle of Skye, Scotland
To visit Skye without experiencing the Quiraing seems unthinkable. The walk is under five kilometres return for the direct route, or about seven kilometres if you make it a circuit and include the summit above the Quiraing itself. It will allow you to look at the stunningly strange rock formations like the Prison or the Needle, as well as the amazing landscape below. Go on a bright and clear day for views of the Outer Hebrides and the Scottish mainland, or on a wet and windy day to feel your spine tingle as the clouds and mist swirl around you.
2. The Narrows, USA
The Narrows, the narrowest section of Zion Canyon in Zion National Park, Utah, is carved throughout the millennia by the Virgin River. It provides breathtaking scenery throughout the nearly 26-kilometre stretch as the gorge has walls around 305 metres and the river sometimes just six to nine metres wide. Most people start their hike from the Temple of Sinawava via the Riverside Walk and then walk upstream in the river before turning around and hiking back down to the Temple of Sinawava.
3. Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand
New Zealand is famous for its varied landscapes, and the Te Araroa links up close to 3,050 kilometres of coastal sand, alpine ridges and jungle bushwhacks traversing through national parks, rural farmland and past volcanoes. Divided into 160 tracks, Te Araroa, which is Maori for “The Long Pathway”, traverses the entire country, from Cape Regina at the tip of the North Island to Bluff on the toe of the South Island. A ferry ride takes you between the North and South Islands and each is a wonder in itself.
4. Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Unbeatable scenery, incredible people and a look at Everest or Chomolungma, meaning the "Goddess Mother of the World", are part of the highlights of this two-week trek. About 64 kilometres long, this is a bucket list trip available to people who don't have the ability or money to actually climb Everest. Simply viewing the peak is a must. Along the way, you can find guest houses, spend some time in Namche Bazaar to get to know the local culture and visit Pangboche’s famed Buddhist monastery, before topping out at 5,181 metres at the base camp.
5. Inca Trail, Peru
The world-renowned Inca Trail is popular for a reason. Peru offers some of the most beautiful South American mountainous scenery. While some see it as over-regulated and too popular, it is safe and easy to organise. The 43-kilometre trail manages to combine beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest, subtropical jungle and, of course, a stunning mix of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels in a three-night, four-day hike. Plus, at the end of the journey, you get to one of the most celebrated man-made destinations on Earth, Machu Picchu.
6. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Kilimanjaro is often called the world’s tallest walkable mountain, because it stands at 5,895 metres but you don’t need any climbing skills or equipment. However, it is still demanding. There are five routes to the top of the tallest free-standing mountain (technically a giant stratovolcano) in the world. What’s more, the highest point in Africa is not only one of the Seven Summits, but it also encompasses a wide variety of ecosystems, including tropical jungle, savannah and desert to montane forests, subalpine plants and the alpine zone above timberline. Plus you experience every climatic zone on the six-day, five-night trek.
7. Tour de Mont Blanc, France
Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak stands at nearly five metres. The 170-kilometre hike offers stunning views of the mountain and other Alp peaks, beautiful verdant valleys, blue alpine lakes and huge glaciers. The well-marked and maintained trails also take you past wild chamois and ibexes, allow you to climb iron ladders anchored to the mountains and enjoy the alpine charm of the French Alps. You can also pamper yourself at one of the refuges along the way or opt to take the cable cars and chair lifts at some points to take in all the beautiful scenery without having to be too hardcore.