Beach vacations are great for R&R – but if you long for adventure, strap on your boots and head to the hiking trails of the world. More than a physical challenge, trekking trips offer a unique perspective of local cultures, profound immersion in nature, and opportunities to meet intriguing travel companions.
Is the little voice in your head saying go? Embark on an expedition along one of the world’s great hiking trails.
5 Incomparable Hiking Trails to Explore
1. New Zealand: Routeburn Track
One of the nine ‘Great Walks’ in the Land of the Long White Cloud, the Routeburn Track showcases all the nature beauty that makes New Zealand so epic. Located in the southwestern portion of the South Island, this well-maintained trail connects two national parks: Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park. Hike alongside glittering mountain lakes, snow-capped peaks, and enormous valleys carved by ancient glaciers. "Trampers" stay in simple huts along the track and launch their expeditions from Queenstown, a gorgeous resort town on Lake Wakatipu. Movie to watch: Lord of the Rings
2. Peru: The Other Inca Trails
The classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is wildly popular; so much so that the Peruvian government has limited hiking permits to 500 per day. But the mountains around this Wonder of the World are ribboned with hiking trails that provide a less crowded, more off-the-beaten-path experience. The Lares Route passes through Andean villages where farmers and herders live as they have for centuries. The Choquequirao Route runs through a mystical cloud forest and stunning mountain passes, while the Salcantay Route offers a mule-assisted trek alongside the Inca’s most sacred mountain. All end with a breathtakingly beautiful train ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. Movie to watch: The Motorcycle Diaries
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3. Spain: Camino de Santiago
For 1,000 years, wanderers have followed this pilgrimage route through the far northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula. Comprised of many different trails, the journey is marked by scallop shells and winds along dramatic coastal cliffs. There are long days of flat walking as well as steep climbs, and you can collect customized stamps at ancient churches and pilgrims’ lodges that you pass along the way. Movie to watch: The Way
4. Nepal: Annapurna Sanctuary
Hiking trails to Everest Base camp get all the attention, but Annapurna is preferred by trekkers seeking a more cultural experience. It’s also lower in altitude than the Everest region, which makes it much safer for travelers. And there’s no shortage of soaring mountain scenery, with 14 peaks over 7,000 meters tall including the arrow-topped Machapuchare. Hikers pass through lush forests of rhododendrons and quiet villages with terraced rice fields. Treks begin at the gateway city of Pokhara, a charming lakeside town known for yoga and adventure sports. Movie to watch: Everest
5. Chile: Torres del Paine Circuit Trek in Patagonia
Named for its iconic towering peaks that jut up from a brilliant blue landscape, this national park on the tip of South America offers otherworldly mountain scenery. Hundreds of trails pass by teal streams and turquoise lakes dotted with azure icebergs. Condors soar overhead in bright blue skies and there’s always a pisco sour waiting at the end of the day. The Circuit Trek provides a total immersion in Patagonia’s wild nature, from hanging glaciers to deep-green forests. Movie to watch: 180° South
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