Last autumn, I was on Jeju island, South Korea to attend the first ever World Trail Conference. Trail experts from around the world shared interesting information about their trails, stirring my interest in traipsing these trails. I’ve barely covered any of them, but after talking to these trail experts, I’m pretty sure I’ll be walking them sometime in the near future. Meanwhile, as I plot my plans to walk them, here’s a list of the most well-known trails around the world.
1. Camino de Santiago, Spain
The Camino de Santiago, or St James Way, is the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried. With over a thousand years of history, this is one of the most important Christian pilgrimage routes in the world. Today, it draws walkers from around the world – not just for religious purpose. There are a few routes to choose from, with the most popular being the 800km-long Northern Trail: starting from Paris and crossing from east to west of Spain.
2. Great Ocean Road, Australia
The Great Ocean Walk stretches 104-km along the southeastern coast of Australia in the Victoria region. From trekking through dense forests to traipsing the edge of coastal cliffs, the walk traverses a wide variety of coastal landscapes. Some of the highlights of the walk include the iconic 12 Apostles, the beautiful and serene Johanna Beach, picnic heaven of Apollo Bay and Cape Otway where koala bears are plentiful. The walk can be done independently – before setting off, it’s best to stock up on camping gear and Australian travel insurance.
3. Bruce Trail, Canada
As the oldest and longest trail in Canada, the Bruce Trail follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It runs for 850km from Niagara to Tobermory, with side trails extending out to 250km. There are many waterfalls, streams and rivers along the Bruce trail, expect to see a myriad of plant and wildlife. Niagara Falls, by far the most famous watercourse in the area, can be reached by a side trail of the Bruce Trail.
Flickr photo by Derek KP
4. John Muir Trail, USA
Running 358km through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the John Muir Trail reveals the wild and primeval nature of North America. The trail starts from the Yosemite National Park and ends at the summit of Mount Whitney. Along the way, you’ll pass through the Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park. The trail was named for naturalist John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club. The best time to visit is from July to September, though snow may still linger on the higher passes.
5. Shikoku Pilgrimage, Japan
With 1,200 years of history, the Shikoku Pilgrimage (or Shikoku O-Henro) runs through 88 temples and 200 bangais along the coast of Shikoku. The trail not only puts your determination to the test, but also gives a peek into Japan’s history and tradition. As one of the longest trails in this list, it runs for over 1,400km and can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to complete. There are a number of shorter imitative trails in Japan, such as the 150km circuit on the island of Shōdoshima, a 3km course in Ninna-ji, Kyoto and a route on the Chita Peninsula.
6. Jeju Olle Trail, South Korea
As a newly-developed trekking course on the Jeju island, the Jeju Olle is made up of 22 courses covering a total of 347km in length. The beautiful isle’s craggy coastline is lined with emerald bays and lapping beaches, while further inland hills are studded with oreums (dormant volcanoes), ensconced waterfalls and green prairies. On average, each Jeju Olle Trail is 10-18 kilometers in length and each offers a different side of Jeju. These quick shifts in topography allow walkers to enjoy farmland and forests, grasses and palm trees, fresh water ponds and ocean vistas, waterfalls and cliffs, often all on a single journey.
7. Cotswolds Way, UK
Cotswolds Way is the most famous trail in the United Kingdom, running from Chipping Campden in the north to the city of Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The course is 162-km long, passing through picturesque villages and scenic views, such as those at the meanders of the River Severn and the Forest of Dean. The distinctive shape of May Hill and the long spine of Malvern Hills can also be seen during much of the route. Some of the higlights of the trail include the Somerset Monument, the majestic Broadway Tower and the site of the Battle of Lansdowne.
Flickr photo by Chen Zhao
*All photos uncredited are taken by myself. They cannot be used without permission.