Whether hiking through cloud-forest to arrive at dawn at one of the globe’s most revered archaeological sights or taking a 500-mile spiritual pilgrimage in northern Spain, all hikers will find something to inspire with these four unmissable trek tours from across the globe.
Starting in South America and ending almost 11 thousand miles away in the Nepalese Himalayas, they promise spellbinding scenery, lung-busting mountain passes and an incomparable sense of having overcome one of nature’s great challenges.
1. The Ultimate in South American Trek Tours: The Inca Trail, Peru
South America’s undisputed king of trek tours, the Inca Trail has become so popular that visitor numbers are limited to 500 daily – so make sure you book this hike in advance. Soaring passes as high as 13,700 ft. (4,200m) make this trek a real test of your lung capacity and altitude acclimatization, but the well-preserved Inca pathways through cloud-forest and the ultimate finale – sunrise over Machu Picchu – make this incredible hike more than worth the exertion.
Length: 28-miles (45km), four days.
When to go: Between May and October when Peru experiences its dry season is the best time to trek the Inca trail.
The bottom line: Alternative routes to Machu Picchu, including the Lares and Salkantay, have been gaining popularity, particularly as they’re frequented by far fewer hikers. That said, the Inca Trail is the ultimate of all the trek tours to reach this beautiful and mysterious citadel in the Peruvian Andes.
2. Patagonia’s Finest: Torres del Paine ‘O’ or Circuit Trek, Chile
Probably South America’s second most famous trek behind the Inca Trail, the ‘O’ or Circuit hike in Torres del Paine is a spellbinding way of exploring this emblematic national park. Visiting the park’s ‘heavyweight’ attractions, including the Paine Massif and panoramic vistas of epic Glacier Grey, it also passes around the northern edge of the iconic granite towers to appreciate lesser-visited and wilder landscapes.
Length: 93-miles (150 km), six to 10 days.
When to go: Most hikers visit Torres del Paine National Park between December and February when warmer weather is guaranteed. Consider trekking at the start or end of the season (November or March and April) to make the most of less footfall on the trail and calmer winds.
The bottom line: Although the ‘W’ hike around Torres del Paine National Park is a lot more popular with visitors, fewer other walkers and more splendid scenery on the ‘O’ make it the ultimate Torres del Paine trek.
3. A Spiritual Journey: El Camino de Santiago, Spain
For more than a thousand years, Catholics have trekked the Route of St. James or El Camino de Santiago as a way of honoring this saint. But while modern ‘pilgrims’ continue to traverse this epic path through the north of the Iberian Peninsula, for many it is less for religious purposes and more as a spiritual or personal challenge.
Considered one of the globe’s most spectacular trek tours, top sights include the UNESCO World Heritage cathedral in Burgos and the spectacular old town of Santiago de Compostela as the reward for those who successfully complete their pilgrimage.
Length: 500-miles (800 km), 30 days.
When to go: The months of May, June, September and October provide more pleasant weather for hiking than during the hotter summer months.
The bottom line: Easy to walk independently, this route is supported by excellent albergues along the route. These offer a chance to encounter other hikers from all across the globe, making this perhaps the most sociable of the trek tours upon this list.
4. The Globe’s Ulimate Hike: Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Few trek tours around the globe can compete with the prestige and the utter majesty of the hike to Everest Base Camp. Passing through landscapes resplendent with the highest peaks on earth (Lhotse, Lhotse Shar and, of course, Everest), the views along this trek are perhaps the most beautiful in the world. This is the ultimate trekking route for those with a penchant for spectacular mountain landscapes and hard-core trekkers looking to push their bodies to the extreme.
Length: 70-miles (110km), 12 days.
When to go: March and April, before the monsoon arrives, or during November when drier weather is to be expected are the best times to attempt this trek.
The bottom line: Reaching dizzying altitudes of 18,193 ft. (5,545m) at Kala Pattar, this is not for the faint-hearted. But the fact that you can claim to have hiked to the base of the highest mountain on the planet makes up for the challenges of this high-altitude trek.