Do you spend your days staring out the window, wishing you could wander around in nature instead? Is wearing muddy shoes a point of pride for you? Would you rather spend your summer outdoors, hiking through the wilderness? A hiking tour abroad can offer you the chance to spend time outside while getting up close and personal with local wildlife, plants, and communities. Whether you’re interested in observing penguins for a conservation project or want to challenge yourself on a high-altitude mountain trek, a hiking trip abroad is the perfect way to immerse yourself in a new environment.
Hiking is simply going outside and putting one foot in front of the other, but what really makes it special is the location. Why settle for a day hike around the same neighborhood pond when you can hike somewhere new and spectacular? Imagine walking through the humid Central American rainforest, taking in six shades of green while monkey calls echo in your ears. Or if you’d rather, picture a steep path of black, basalt stone fragments leading you toward a still-active volcano. Hiking trips abroad aren’t your average kind of adventures.
Costa Rica offers travelers a wealth of options for outdoor exploration. The country contains one of the highest densities of species in the world and 25 percent of its land is protected from development. You’ll have the opportunity to help with conservation projects (such as monitoring sea turtles or collecting data on monkeys) and to explore the immense biodiversity of the rainforest. On your hikes, you’re likely to spot monkeys swinging through the branches and toucans calling out from above. Be sure to look down too, at the leaf-cutter ants marching in pulsing lines across the forest floor. Any hiking in Costa Rica is guaranteed to bring you closer to nature and awe you with its colorful diversity.
For travelers who are interested in animal conservation, hiking in South Africa can be the perfect opportunity; this vast country at the southern tip of Africa is home to a variety of wildlife, and is especially rich in plant diversity. Different regions offer hikers a range of experiences, from exploring ancient forests and wetlands to spotting whales and dolphins along the coast. Travelers can also expect to spot giraffes, elephants, and lions while on safari, or help maintain game reserves while learning about endangered species.
If climbing up steep mountains is more your style, check out hiking adventures in Ecuador. This South American country has it all: towering Andean peaks, tropical rainforests, and the incredible biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands. Hike up an old Incan trail at 14,000 feet and camp out under the stars, trek up an active volcano, or float down an Amazonian river while spotting rare birds. Hiking in Ecuador will challenge you physically and provide breathtaking experiences in return.
Hiking Trips Abroad
While each hiking trip is different, you will no doubt spend a lot of time outside on any hiking adventure you choose. Some hiking trips incorporate outdoor adventure with conservation work or cultural excursions, while others focus exclusively on outdoor experiences, filling your time with hiking, camping, and rafting activities. Either way, plan on getting muddy, wet, and suntanned while having the adventure of a lifetime!
Many hiking adventures are paired with conservation projects, which can teach you about local flora and fauna while aiding the environment. Some project options include monitoring nesting sea turtles, surveying penguin populations, or maintaining African game reservations. During these hiking trips, you’ll often be provided basic accommodations at a guest house or lodge near the project site. Conservation-based programs often have varying lengths, so you can stay a couple of weeks or several months depending on interest.
If you’re more interested in learning about the local culture, some hiking trips offer participants a chance to contribute to community service projects, take language lessons, or go on cultural excursions. Stay with a host family in a rural village, help construct a community center, or trek on horseback with indigenous nomadic riders, you can have it all while hiking abroad. And don’t worry, your cultural experiences will be interspersed with outdoor activities to ensure you get a chance to explore your new surroundings.
Other hiking tours abroad are designed purely to get you outside and get the adrenaline flowing. If that’s your intention, you’ll have hiking opportunities that include white water rafting, volcano climbing, scuba diving, or zip lining, depending on your location. You’ll most often travel around the country with a small group of participants, and stay in hotels, hostels, or tents. The majority of cultural and outdoor-specific hiking trips last from two to four weeks, but some will be longer depending on the itinerary.
Tips & Advice for Hiking Abroad
Hiking trips are incredible opportunities to learn about a country’s natural resources, but they’re even better when you take time to prepare for them. If you’ve already spent some time outdoors hiking or camping, you know that advance preparation can make or break a trip. Follow these tips to ensure your hiking adventure abroad starts off on the right foot:
Get in Shape. Some hiking trips are more strenuous than others, but any type of hiking will require physical activity. Taking some practice hikes or walks before your trip will help acclimate your body to the rigors of hiking trails. For those who will be embarking on high altitude hiking trips, any athletic conditioning you can do prior to departure will make the trek more enjoyable.
Carry Good Gear. Having the appropriate gear in your pack will put you on the right path for an energizing hiking adventure. Without advance planning, you’re likely to encounter blistered feet, soaked clothing, and itchy bug bites. Take some time to think about what you’ll need on the hiking trail and consult with your program provider to make sure you’re adequately prepared. Waterproof layers, well-fitting shoes, and sun protection are a must, so be sure to budget for supplies before hitting the trail.
Get the Timing Right. If hiking through a muddy forest during rainy season or camping in the winter doesn’t sound like much fun, be sure to check the weather of your intended destination. Some countries are great to visit year-round, but if you’re planning to spend a lot of time outside, it’s good to be familiar with the weather patterns before you arrive. Remember that seasons south of the equator are the opposite from the north, and countries around the equator may have rainy or dry seasons at different points throughout the year.
Benefits & Challenges
Enjoy the Outdoors. Scientists have proven that spending time outdoors reduces stress and boosts well-being. Why not get an extra dose of happiness while you travel abroad by spending time hiking? Combine outdoor adventures, learning about other cultures, and taking in new sights, and you just may reach nirvana before returning home!
Feel Accomplished. Hiking tours are the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself. Spending a lot of time outdoors in an unfamiliar environment can sometimes be stressful, but returning home with stories of triumph is always an ego boost. Whether you sleep outside despite the creepy crawlies nearby or make it to the top of a monstrous peak to take in the view, you’ll be glad you did it, even if it made you a bit uncomfortable at first.
Understand the Risks. Most hiking trips abroad take place in remote locations where assistance and supplies are limited. Make sure that you’re comfortable with the fact that help might be a day or two away. Additionally, ensure you’re in good health before embarking on a strenuous hiking trip or choose a program with a more relaxed pace. The good news is that hiking tours are available for hikers of all abilities.
Choosing to spend your time abroad outdoors is sure to reward you! With each dusty step, you’ll be leaving footprints on the ground and a lasting impression in your heart. After having traveled across a new country the way ancient explorers did, you’ll gain strength you didn’t know you had and an appreciation for the intricate ways humans interact with their environment. Use this knowledge to make the world a better place, one small step at a time.