Of the multitude of ways we humans have of getting from A to B these days, our own two feet surely remains one of the best. It might be the slowest way of getting around, but it's one of the most rewarding. Instead of speeding through life, walking or tramping lets you experience the world at a pace that enables you to appreciate what's around you. Wandering through new environments and marvelling at unfamiliar landscapes is cathartic for the soul, and the constant movement keeps those positive endorphins flowing through your body in a way you won't get on a coach or bus tour.
Here in New Zealand we're blessed with beautiful tramping tracks and walking trails, but there are a few places that might just rival our own country when it comes to incredible walks.
So put on your walking shoes or your hiking boots and get ready to plan a trip to one of these destinations perfect for exploring on your own two feet. They'll offer you gentle strolls, adventurous rambles and challenging hikes.
With its abundance of deadly wildlife and sweltering temperatures, Australia might not be the first place you'd think of going to when planning a walking holiday. But with slightly cooler climes and beautiful landscape, Tasmania offers a splendid backdrop for walkers. You might choose to wander through old-growth rainforest on a bush walk by the iconic Cradle Mountain. More intrepid types might want to summit the mountain itself, or attempt a longer walk of several days like the Tasmanian Overland Track or the Three Capes Track. Wherever you walk, you'll find a variety of breathtaking scenery, from lush forests to glacial lakes and rugged mountain peaks. And of course once you've finished walking about there's plenty of Tasmanian wine and cheese to reward yourself with!
2. Cinque Terre
These seaside villages along the stunning Italian Riviera are on many a bucket list. But instead of just turning up and touring from one to the next, make it a real journey and walk from one to the next. It will be an experience you won't forget in a hurry. The 11km Blue Trail connects Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare. You can walk the entire distance in about five hours, but we'd recommend taking your time and breaking up your journey with stays in villages along the way. Some sections of the trail are slightly more challenging than others but you can always choose to take the train for some sections if you're getting too tired. Either way you'll be rewarded with some of the more stunning coastal landscapes you'll ever see in your life.
The Edmund Hillarys among us might want to attempt the tough Everest Base Camp trek, but Nepal offers many hikes for those who prefer to stick to a lower altitude, or who might be travelling with kids in tow. You'll still get the dramatic views of the Himalayas - just from a distance! The four-five day Poon Hill Trek offers a sunrise over the Annapurna Himalaya range that will blow you away. The Langtang Valley and Manaslu offer gorgeous views of valleys with dramatic peaks in the background. And of course there's the Annapurna Circuit Trek, said to be a more scenic alternative to the Everest Base Camp option.
If it's alpine scenery you're after, then look no further than the Swiss Alps for some of the most beautiful walks in the world. This region has over 65,000km of marked walking and hiking trails. Spend the day hiking amidst sparkling glacial lakes, flowery meadows and snow-capped peaks, then rest your weary head in a remote alpine hut. There are trails for every level of fitness, spanning from a couple of hours to day hikes and walks that'll take you a couple of weeks.
5. Northern Ireland
The Causeway Coast Way in Northern Ireland is a definite trail to add to your bucket list. This wild coastline serves up incredible geological formations and historical sites aplenty. The trail starts in Cushendall and finishes in Portstewart. Along the way, you'll have the chance to explore UNESCO World Heritage site the Giant's Causeway. This area of interlocking basalt columns was caused by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, but when you're there it's easy to get swept away in the magic of the place and start to believe the legends that it was created by Finn McCool. Also along the Causeway Coast Way you'll find the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge (don't attempt if you're afraid of heights!) and Dunluce Castle. If that's not enough for you, you can keep going and complete the longer Ulster Way walking trail - a 1,000km circuit of Northern Ireland!
The USA is filled with some amazing places to go exploring on foot, including many beautiful national parks. We've put Oregon on this list for its diversity of scenery - whether you're after coastal views, green forests or mountains, you'll be able to find them in this part of the world. As the song goes, "don't go chasing waterfalls", but we're going to ignore that advice and suggest you visit Silver Falls. Not far from Portland, this state park hosts some beautiful waterfall hikes, like the one-day Trail of the Ten Falls. Head to Mt Hood for alpine meadows and mountain peaks or to the Owyhee Canyonlands for more wild west scenery. You can also attempt the epic Oregon Coast Trail, or a section of it, for something more challenging if you have time on your hands.
You'll definitely want to prepare properly for a trip to this remote region of South America, but the rewards will be beyond anything you could imagine. The landscapes here are dramatic as any you'll see anywhere in the world, with unique wildlife added to the mix. There's a whole host of day walks as well as longer multi-day treks you can choose from in Torres del Paine National Park or Glacier National Park.
8. Norway's fjords
Norway's fjords are perfect for cruisers, but from May to October they also make the perfect backdrop for walking. There are several iconic hikes in the region that you can do even without a crazy high level of fitness. The Preikestolen ("Pulpit Rock") hike is a day hike in the Lysefjord with a view at the top that will truly make you feel as though you're at the top of the world. Make sure you take a dip in one of the alpine pools while you're still hot and sweaty from the uphill climb - even in summer we don't reckon you'll be able to stay under for long! Trolltunga ("The Troll's Tongue") is another famous hike you might want to attempt. It'll take you about ten hours to complete but you won't regret the journey. These two hikes are very popular in summer and can get a bit crowded, so if you'd prefer to avoid the hordes check out some of these alternatives:
- Segla: This breathtaking hike is located on the island of Senja in northern Norway. The panoramic views of Mefjord from the top are worth the strenuous climb (we promise).
- Himakånå: A much shorter alternative to the long Trolltunga hike.
- Trollpikken: We'll let you Google this one, as we're not sure we can translate what this name means here without getting in some sort of trouble. It's a unique shape for sure!
Many visitors to the UK skip over Wales, but make sure you make it out to Snowdonia National Park for a stroll through ice age landscapes and sites of mythical significance. Along the trail of Dinas Emrys and the Llyn Ogwen circular walk you'll pass through sites that are said to have connections to Merlin and King Arthur's knights. The three-hour Cwm Idwal trail has iconic rock formations and crystal clear waters. Or, get inspired in South Snowdonia along the Dolmelynllyn Estate walk where you can explore the remnants of an old gold mine. For those wanting more of a challenge, the national park has plenty of mountain summits to climb, including the highest peak in Wales, Yr Wyddfa (Mt Snowdon).
10. Kumano Kodo
The Kumano Kodo is a network of World Heritage-listed ancient pilgrimage trails in Japan's Kii Peninsula. Apart from the more well-known Santiago de Compostela trail in Spain and France, it's the only pilgrimage route to be given World Heritage status. It was once reserved only for emperors and samurai, but now anyone can wander along the paths on their own spiritual journey. With an extensive series of trails and no set start and end point, you can choose your own adventure and wander at will. Along the way you'll encounter giant trees, ancient shrines, remote villages and the country's tallest waterfall. The trails are lined with ryokan and minshuku (guesthouses and family-run inns) where you can stay the night and receive some authentic Japanese hospitality.
Want to plan your next walking or hiking holiday? These destinations are just the tip of the iceberg - our expert travel consultants have many more hidden gems for your feet to discover. Simply find your nearest World Travellers store to get in touch.