One of the best ways to explore a country is on foot, so strap on your shoe-barus! Whether it is conquering a mountain, passing through remote villages, or getting deeper into jungle, hiking is guaranteed to make you feel like a bonafide explorer. Whether it’s a staggering mountain pass or a meandering route through rolling hills, the best hiking trails in the world are begging to be explored regardless of your experience or fitness level.
The best hikes in the world take into account the culture, scenery, and climate of the country where they are located. The best places to hike in the world offer unique and enriching experiences that go far beyond just traipsing around the countryside. If you’re trying to plan a trip based on the best hikes, read ahead for some advice on where you can find the best hiking trails in the world.
Well, duh. Peru is famous for its hiking – and for good reason. The world’s longest mountain range, the Andes, runs the length of Peru. The most famous Andean hike in Peru is the route to Machu Picchu. The Machu Picchu trail offers hikers an opportunity to explore ancient ruins while being challenged by highly mountainous terrain, ending with a breathtaking view. While this trail has a relatively mild climate, hikers should be cautious of the rainy season between October and April.
Peru’s hiking trails don’t stop at Machu Picchu, though: the Cordillera Blanca is a string of mountains riddled with some of the best hiking trails in the world. Trails in Peru take you through deep valleys and up to dizzyingly high peaks. The Santa Cruz trek out of Huaraz will take you on a hiking trail past lakes being fed by glaciers: you will get to hear the ethereal sound of massive chunks of ice breaking off and slipping into the water.
Although France is painted as all Champs-Elysees, museums, and robust cheeses, the French Alps are home to some of the best hikes in the world. The dramatic and varied scenery, combined with a distinctive (and completely irresistible) culture, add up to hiking routes that are magnifique! The southeast Alps is one of the best hiking destinations in France. Snowy terrain and giant river systems offer a challenge to hikers who enjoy a thrill, while elsewhere in France classic rolling countryside allows for gentler walks.
Throughout France, hiking trails branch off from small villages, giving hikers a chance to explore a country that has been at the center of art and culture for centuries. Almost everywhere you go in France you will find hiking trails mapped out; major routes are called Grandes Randonnees (GR) and smaller paths are called Petites Randonnees (PR). The starting points for these hiking trails are typically not too far from a boulangerie with all of the mouth-watering nourishment you will need for your excursion.
3. New Zealand
Kiwis (New Zealanders, not the fruit) are an adventurous and outdoorsy bunch, and in New Zealand, hiking is practically a national pastime. When you touch down in the Middle Earth-esque landscapes, it’s not hard to see why. Between the two main islands, you will find some of the best hikes in the world. Hikers can see mountains, forests, lakes, waterfalls, and national parks. There are even plenty of hot pools and geysers spitting out of the ground just to spice things up.
New Zealand has an extensive network of the best hiking trails in the world, which are typically clearly marked and well-maintained. There are Department of Conservation (DOC) huts scattered along the trails, so you can plan expeditions of one, two, three nights or more.
Though the climate is generally mild, snow is common on the South Island between June and October. Some areas of the country are also very remote, so hikers should be cautious about safety and plan accordingly. When planning for your hikes, be sure to take in some Maori culture, and try to learn the pronunciation for some of the Maori names for places, native birds, and native plants (try out Murihiku, Piwakawaka, and Harakeke for size!).
The United States is vast, and between the east and west coasts you will find wildly different cultures and climates. This makes it hard to generalize about the kind of hiking trails you can find here: you simply have to explore the many notable hiking opportunities for yourself!
There are 58 national parks in the U.S., and every single one of them is worthy of visiting in its own right. Some of the more famous names include Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon. Those looking for mountainous terrain may want to explore the Rockies in Colorado, while hikers searching for a colder, more scenic route might want to travel to Alaska for their hikes.
Where you end up depends on what you want to see. Desert? Glaciers? Abundant wildlife? Ancient forest? Not a problem. From California to Maine, hikers can find any hiking route, climate, and culture they can imagine in the United States.
While most people wouldn’t think of Andorra as an amazing hiking destination, it has many unique features that make it one of the best places to hike in the world. Chiefly among these is its small size: hikers can traverse the entire country, a mere 180 square miles, in a single hike! Caves, forests, and mountains offer hikers a chance to explore the rich scenery of this highly elevated country.
What really makes Andorra one of the best places to hike in the world is its under-the-radar status: tucked away between France and Spain, lots of people don’t even know this country exists, let alone that you can hike there. This means you won’t have to share your hiking trails with many other visitors, and you can enjoy the natural beauty in complete tranquility.
Lace up your boots & go!
When your itchy feet and your wanderlusting heart conspire, there is really no alternative but to seek out an amazing hike abroad. So strap on your boots, throw on your backpack, and go forth to discover why these countries are home to the best hikes in the world.