Best Treks in the World
The best treks in the world are no walks in the park, but they’re sure to challenge you physically and mentally, stretching your limit and amplifying your view of a country. If you have a deep yearning to go deep into the backroads of a country, these treks make for an incredible journey beyond travel.
I’m no expert at trekking but from my past experiences traveling in South America, Asia and Africa, I’ve learned that trekking not only pushes you beyond your boundaries but also shows you the raw and rugged beauty of the backcountry. So without further ado, here are the 10 best treks in the world (based on research):
1. Inca Trail – Peru
To get to Macchu Picchu – the world famous archaeological site in Peru – many people opt for the 3 or 4-day trek that brings them through sacred ancient sites, rocky paths, and imposing mountain passes. Lauded as the best trek in the world, this was said to be the same route that the royal Incas used to take to weave through the Andean mountains.
The trek usually starts from Cuzco and costs around US$350, including all meals, porters and camping facilities. Views of white-tipped mountains and high cloud forest combine with the magic of walking from one cliff-hugging ruin to the next – understandably making this the most famous trek in South America.
There are high chances of getting altitude sickness as you’ll be trekking above 3,000m most of the time, so pack some Diamox and go slow. Some say chewing coca leaves help too.
Distance: 43km ~ 4 days
Best time to go: May to September
How to: Join Intrepid Travel’s 21-day Essential Peru tour which includes the Inca Trail
2. Kilimanjaro – Tanzania
At 5,895m (19,340 ft), Africa’s highest mountain can be a beast to conquer. Climbing Kilimanjaro will bring you through virtually every ecosystem possible — glacier, snowfields, deserts, alpine moorland, savannah, and tropical jungle — so make sure you’re prepared for the variety of climate and terrain. The diversity in the landscapes is what makes this one of the best treks in the world. There are six routes in total: with Machame and Marangu routes being the most popular.
Although Mount Kilimanjaro is known as a “walk-up” mountain, you should not underestimate its risks. The overall statistics show that less than half of all climbers reach the summit. For those who conquer it, the Kilimanjaro trek is often the highlight for many travelers in East Africa. For more details, refer to this excellent post on everything you need to know before a Kilimanjaro trek.
Distance: range from 51-72km ~ 5-8 days
Best time to go: September to March
How to: Choose from G Adventures’ Kilimanjaro treks and add on a game drive or two.
Flickr photo by Matt Kieffer
3. Tour du Mont Blanc – France, Italy and Switzerland
The imposing Tour du Mont Blanc is a high-altitude trail that goes anti-clockwise from France to Italy to Switzerland, then back into France for a climactic ascent to the beautiful Lac Blanc. The trek, affectionately known as TMB, is 170km long with 10,000m of ascent (that’s 1km more than climbing Everest from sea level) and is usually trekked in 11 daily stages.
This challenging circuit will reward you with jawdropping views of glaciers, tumbling valleys and, of course, Mont Blanc itself. Refuge life is also one of the fun elements of this trek and most trekkers spend the night in refuges that dot the route. Most are great and some are stupendous. What they lack in space and comfort, they make up for with food, booze, company, locations and sunsets.
Distance: 170km ~ 8 days
Best time to go: June to September
How to: Join other like-minded people on G Adventures’ 10-Day Mont Blanc Trek.
Flickr image by Simonsimages
4. Everest Base Camp Trek – Nepal
Home to the highest peak in the world, Nepal is the best place to go for trekking enthusiasts. There are numerous trekking routes to explore the Himalayas – the most popular being Everest Base Camp Trek. This classic trek is suitable for amateurs and beginners, although there’s a certain amount risk is still involved. Many trekkers suffer from altitude sickness and bronchitis.
Dubbed by some as “the steps to heaven,” every bend in the trek provides a photo opportunity. Expect beautiful forests, Sherpa villages, glacial moraines and snow-covered glaciers. EBC is named as one of the best treks in the world, and for good reason. It will bring you literally to the top of the world. After setting eyes on Everest, you won’t look at our planet the same way again.
Distance: 62km ~ 13 days
Best time to go: August to November
How to: Book this 15-day Everest Base Camp trek to experience the adventure with other trekkers.
5. W Circuit – Torres del Paine, Chile
The Torres del Paine National Park is located in Chile’s Patagonia region, between the Andes Mountain Range and the Patagonian steppes. It’s best known for its soaring mountains, electric-blue icebergs that cleave from glaciers and golden pampas (lowlands) that shelter rare wildlife such as llama-like guanacos. The three granite towers from which the park takes its name and the horn-shaped peaks called Cuernos del Paine are some of its most iconic sites.
The best way to explore this region is on the W Circuit. A 100km, 5-day trek that will bring you through the Ascencio, Frances Valleys and Grey Glacier. You can also opt for the longer O Trek that includes the “W” trail, with the addition of the backside of the mountain to make it a long loop.
Distance: 100km ~ 4-6 days
Best time to go: December to March
How to: Travel with Intrepid on this 10-day Patagonia Trekking trip that includes the W Trek.
Flickr photo by Christopher
6. Routeburn Track – New Zealand
The Southern Alps is an easy hop away from New Zealand’s adventure hub, Queenstown. Known as the best trek in New Zealand, the Routeburn Track traverses wild and scenic mountain country. It runs between the Hollyford and Dart Valleys at the base of the Southern Alps. Passing through two national parks – Fiordland and Mount Aspiring on the South Island of New Zealand – the trail leads you through a variety of landscapes.
From mountainous peaks to pristine lakes and cascading waterfalls, it’s an inspiring way to get deep into the back country. Undoubtedly, you’ll be seeing the best that New Zealand has to offer while enjoying peace and tranquility away from the crowd and technology. Prepare to get back to basics, camp and sleep under the starry skies every night.
Distance: 32km ~ 1-5 days
Best time to go: October to April
How to: Join G Adventures’ New Zealand South Island Multisport tour that includes part of the Routeburn Track.
Flickr photo by David Grant
7. John Muir Trail – California, USA
This long-distance trail – named after the famous naturalist John Muir – runs 340km in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. Between the northern end of Yosemite Valley and the southern summit of Mount Whitney, it passes through Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park.
The vast majority of the John Muir Trail is situated within designated wilderness and lies almost entirely at or above 8,000 feet (2,400 m) in elevation. The trail has been described as America’s most famous trail and one of the best treks in the world by numerous publications. A permit is required to hike the trail, so obtain one from the national park before you start your trek.
Distance: 340km ~ 3 weeks
Best time to go: July to September
How to: Plan your own trip here or join this 22-day trek with Grand American Adventures.
8. Overland Track – Tasmania, Australia
The prehistoric-looking wilderness in Tasmania is most accessible on the 80km (50mi, five- to six-day) Overland Track. Snaking its way between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair (Australia’s deepest natural freshwater lake), the well-defined path (boardwalked in parts) passes craggy mountains, beautiful lakes and tarns, extensive forests and moorlands all in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Those who want more can take numerous side walks leading to waterfalls, valleys and still more summits including Mt Ossa (1,617m, 5,305ft) – the tallest mountain in Tasmania. This is easily the most famous trek in Australia, and something that every trekker in Australia attempt at least once in their lifetime.
Distance: 65km ~ 6 days
Best time to go: October to May
How to: Tas Walking Co offers a series of guides Overland Track adventures throughout the year.
9. K2 – Pakistan
This corridor of ice leads to the colossal peak of K2 (8,611m, 28,251ft), the world’s second-highest peak after Everest. K2 is known as the Savage Mountain due to the extreme difficulty of ascent. It has the second-highest fatality rate among the world’s highest peaks, so don’t even think of attempting this if you don’t have the experience or fitness level required.
The trek begins by traversing along icy rivers then boldly continues to the guts of the glacier before leading to the granite pyramidal mountains including Paiju (6,610m, 21,686ft), Uli Biaho (6,417m, 21,053ft), Great Trango Tower (6,286m, 20,623ft) and ultimately K2. This is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Distance: 9km ~ 15 days
Best time to go: June to August
How to: Adventure Peaks runs a 24-day K2 Base Camp Trek.
Flickr image by Stefanos Nikologianis
10. The Snowman Trek – Bhutan
The Snowman Trek is considered one of the best treks in the world, and also the most difficult. It’s therefore suitable for experienced and determined trekkers only. This high-altitude ball-buster crosses 11 passes over 14,000 feet along the Tibet-Bhutan border. Along the way you’ll visit magical Buddhist monasteries clinging to the sides of cliffs and pass through secluded villages full of windblown smiles.
If you can walk up and down steep mountainsides for between six and eight hours a day, and adapt to the altitude, then you will love this unique journey. Bhutan is a special country with outstanding landscapes and rich, traditional heritage that few countries can rival. To journey through the country on foot will be an even more special experience. Bhutan is an expensive country to visit, as the government has stipulated a mandatory minimum tourist tariff of US$200/day, so be prepared to fork out quite a bit for the Snowman Trek.
Distance: 328km ~ 24 days
Best time to go: October
How to: Book the 30-day Himalayan Expeditions Snowman Trek to challenge yourself and see Bhutan’s culture.
Did we miss out on any spectacular trek? Which do you think are the best treks in the world?
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