Seeing the world under your own power makes for a particular adventure, writes Sarah Pollok.
I have always dreamed of embarking on a great walk. Fuelled by stories like Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" or "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson and not at all hindered by a hatred of insects, tents and camp food, I fantasise about sitting atop mountains, decked out in Icebreaker and thinking wise thoughts. So, if you're planning to undertake a great walk, or just dream of it like me, here are 10 of the world's best.
1. Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Time needed: 3 days
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One of the best and right in our backyard, the Routeburn Track is one adventure every Kiwi hiker should know. Traversing both Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks, this South island trail takes you through 32km of rugged backcountry, mountain lakes and 1300 dizzying metres up Harris Saddle. Clocking in around three days and two nights, spent in New Zealand's classic DoC huts, its perfect for a rewarding long weekend.
2. Appalachian Trail, USA
Time needed: 5-7 Months
Reaching more than 14 different states and 3500km, the Appalachian Trail (or the A.T. for those in the know) is easily one of the most infamous in this list. Although it holds the record as the world's longest hiking-only trail, if the portly and unprepared Bill Bryson can walk it and live to write about the tale, so can you. Otherwise, if the pride of being a 'thru-hiker' is no match for the physically gruelling trek, simply join for a few weeks or days and take in the best of the American outdoors.
3. Mt Sinai, Egypt
Time needed: 5 Hours
Not a fan of spending 25 days in the wilderness? No need to fret, Egypt's spectacular Mt Sinai proves you don't need to be a hardcore explorer to enjoy a breathtaking view. Beginning at the monastery of St Catherine, the gentle three-hour ascent takes you to the site where it's said the Ten Commandments were created. After taking in the view, and a decent amount of pictures to prove you reached the top, you'll descend the other side of the mountain, following the steep Steps of Penitence.
4. Snowman Trek, Bhutan
Time needed: 25+ Days
Nepal's Mt Everest may get all the attention, but if you don't want to join the crowds of tourists at base camp, Bhutan's Snowman Trek is the way to go. Known as one of the hardest trails on the planet, it has beaten many a seasoned climber with its erratic weather conditions and sheer summits. Located in the Himalayan outback and at the top of many wish lists, the 320km trail traverses 11 passes, most measuring 16,000 feet high. Along with ice picks, helmets, and crampons, you'll also need an expert guide.
5. Inca Trail, Peru
Time needed: 4 days
It may be referred to as the Lost City, but the hilltop citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru remains the most popular attraction in the country, with a world-class trail to match. Winding around the mountain ridges just north of Cusco, the Inca Trail runs 33km up to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Although the climb requires a tour operator and a strong stomach against altitude sickness, the popularity of the trail lead to a daily cap of 200 people in 2018, making for a more serene experience.
6. Hadrian's Wall, England
Time needed: 4 days
England is full of astoundingly old things, and when it comes to great walks, it's no different.
Constructed in AD122 at the command of Roman Emperor Hadrian, Hadrian's Wall stretches the width of England from Western Cumbria to Eastern Wallsend. Much of the 120km way is now ruins, but the beaten trail remains. Decorated with spectacular views of the British countryside, ancient ruins and more than a few cosy pubs, it's a perfect way to take a step back in time.
7. Camino de Santiago, Spain
Time needed: 1 month
The Camino de Santiago goes by several names (The Camino, The Way of Saint James or simply The Way), this famous pilgrimage needs no introduction. Born from the route taken by Christian pilgrims visiting the tomb of St James in the middle ages, the Camino continues to be loved and walked by those seeking spiritual growth or breakthrough. Although the route has many different start points, the longest travels 780km to where all paths eventually culminate; the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwest Spain.
8. GR20, Corsica, France
Time needed: 15 days
Despite not needing climbing expertise to tackle the 180km GR20, you do need thighs of steel and plenty of determination. Created in 1972 by some crazy Frenchmen determined to see the best of the island, the trail cuts Corsica Island from north to south in a challenging 15-day adventure. Those crazy enough to weather the muddy bogs, steep rocky terrain and suspicious swing bridges are treated to legendary views of lush forest, vivid glaciers, and dramatic cliff formations.
9. Paparoa Track, West Coast, New Zealand
Time needed: 2-3 days
New Zealand certainly isn't lacking in world-class walks, however, those who have tackled all the classics can rejoice on December 1 when a new trail is added to the ranks. The Paparoa Track will guide walkers across the Paparoa Range, through snow-capped mountains, subtropical rainforests, dramatic limestone landscapes and exceptional summit views. Following the historic routes made by gold miners, adventurers can walk the 55km one way, or race a mountain bike along the grade 4 track.
10. Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina
Time needed: 6 days
Make sure you pack that spare Patagonia puffer when you embark on the Patagonian Fitz Roy hike in Argentina. The trek treats climbers to all the glory of an alpine adventure, with gigantic glaciers, snowy mountains and frozen lakes. Although the mighty Fitz Roy stands 3400m high, the six-day loop-trail takes you to a peak height of 1400m as you traverse through various base camps in the area. Hungry for higher heights? Grab yourself some professional climbing gear and a guide and you're good to go.
11. Lycian Way, Turkey
Time needed: 29 Days
Along the Turkan coast, from Ovacik to Antalya, runs 540km of what is rumoured to be Turkey's first and most worn trail. However, the Lycian Way (called Likya Yolu in Turkish) may have been walked by Romans as far back as the Byzantine era, but was only officially waymarked by historian Kate Clow just 20 years ago. Hugging the coast, this 29-day trek shows off the best of the Mediterranean, cutting between ancient ruins, rustic villages and sweeping ocean views. So If you want to spend days walking in solitude and evenings in lively seaside towns, this is the trail for you.