20 ALTA VIA 1
The 150km AV1 is the easiest of the Dolomites high routes, yet gives walkers an outstanding introduction to the region. With numerous highlights, including the 2,750m Monte Lagazuoi, there are optional via ferrata sections along the route for adventurous hikers and a good network of rifugios to stay and eat in.
19 OVERLAND TRACK
Running 65km from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, the Overland Track is completed in 6-7 days and takes in a variety of scenery including mountains, rainforest, rivers and alpine plains. There are huts along the route but hikers are controlled in summer so it’s essential to get an Overland Pass.
18 MERA PEAK
One of Nepal’s most famous trekking peaks, Mera Peak at 6,476m blurs the line between trekking and mountaineering (requiring the use of fixed ropes as well as ice axe and crampons) yet for successful summiters it offers one of the most spectacular viewpoints in all the Himalaya.
17 JOHN MUIR TRAIL
The John Muir Trail begins with a multi-day hike to Mt Whitney, from where it winds its way over two hundred miles to Yosemite Valley. Along the way the trail climbs over 3,000- 4,000m passes, wanders beneath high alpine peaks and traverses beautiful meadows and forested river valleys.
16 ROUTEBURN TRACK
Linking the Mount Aspiring National Park and Fjordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island, the Routeburn Track is only a short trek (typically taking three days) yet packs in the scenery with spectacular peaks, waterfalls and lakes. The trek can be walked either way and there are several huts and campsites along the way.
15 HAUTE ROUTE
The classic long-distance route from Chamonix to Zermatt is steeped in mountaineering legend, having first been walked by British climbers at the end of the 19th century. The highlight of the trek is the approach to Zermatt where you take in the instantly recognisable Matterhorn and marvel at the scale of the mountain and its tumbling glaciers.
The famous Laugavegur trek in southwest Iceland runs 55km south from the hot springs area of Landmannalaugar to the glacial valley of Thórsmörk. Hot springs, lava fields and glaciers punctuate the route, while the craters of Fimmvörduháls Volcano provide the perfect finale.
13 WEST HIGHLAND WAY
Scotland’s first, and most popular long-distance trail stretches 151km from Glasgow to Fort William, taking in the Campsie Fells, Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor, Loch Leven and Glen Nevis before arriving in Fort William after (typically) 6-7 days.
12 HUAYHUASH CIRCUIT
The Cordillera Huayhuash is one of the most scenic ranges in the Peruvian Andes. It was a region that attracted worldwide attention following Joe Simpson’s graphic account of his ascent of Siula Grande in his book ‘Touching the Void’.
11 TOUBKAL MASSIF
The Toubkal massif is a popular trekking destination, with most treks climaxing with an ascent of North Africa’s highest peak, Jebel Toubkal (4,167m). On a clear day the panoramic views from the top of Mt Toubkal are truly spectacular and it is possible to look out over the Sahara to the south.
Sweden’s own super-trail runs 440km from Abisko in the north to Hemavan in the south, through one of Europe’s largest remaining wilderness areas. The trail is well-marked and maintained, with huts situated at convenient points along the route and plank walkways placed in marshy areas. In winter the Kungsleden is used as a ski trail.
9 ANNAPURNA SANCTUARY AND BASE CAMP
Annapurna is the only region to feature twice in our top 10 treks, and Annapurna 1 is coincidentally the 10th highest peak in the world at 8,091m. This classic trek ascends through villages and terraced farmland to the alpine environments found at the higher elevations around base camp. Access to the Annapurna Sanctuary is via a narrow pass between the peaks of Hiunchuli and Machapuchare and once trekkers reach the oval-shaped plateau sitting at an altitude of over 4,000m, they are surrounded by the peaks of the Annapurna range, many of them over 7,000m.
Corsica has not only some of the best beaches in Europe, but some of its most beautiful mountains too. Although often described as ‘Europe’s toughest trek’, the GR20 is a well-marked trail with regular refuges to stay in or camp outside, and is a great testing ground for backpackers who want to ‘go it alone’. While undoubtedly containing harder sections where scrambling is required (Cirque de la Solitude), there are plenty of easier hiking days too. Typically hikers take about two weeks to trek the GR20 (usually north to south) but a popular option is to split the route and do the north and south sections over two trips. There are many possible side trips along the way, including the climb to the summit of Monte Cinto (2,706m), Corsica’s highest peak.
7 TORRES DEL PAINE
Rightly considered to be one of the great trekking regions of the world, the Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia is a majestic world full of granite peaks, hanging glaciers and glacial lakes. The park is named after the three granite towers that form the centrepiece of the area and stretch up to 2,500m above sea level. The two main trekking routes are the ‘W’, which takes in the highlights of the park and can be done in 4-5 days, and the circular ‘O’ route that takes around 8-9 days.
6 GOKYO LAKES AND CHO LA
The Gokyo Lakes region at the head of the Dudh Kosi Valley provides a great alternative to the popular Everest Base Camp trek – a more tranquil trek through the Sherpa heartland that affords ample time for acclimatisation and the optional ascent of Gokyo Ri (5,357m), where you gain superb views of Everest as well as the 8,000m peaks of Lhotse, Makalu and Cho Oyu in Tibet. The lakes themselves form the world’s highest freshwater lake system, the largest of the six lakes being Thonak Cho. Gokyo village (4,790m) lies on the eastern shore of Dudh Pokhari in what must be one of the world’s most picturesque settings.
The highest mountain in Africa, and one of the Seven Summits, is a dormant volcano that has three volcanic cones – Kibo, Shira and Mawenzi – the highest point being Uhuru Peak on Kibo’s crater rim at 5,895m. There are seven official ascent and descent routes on Kilimanjaro – Machame, Lemosho, Marangu, Mweka, Rongai, Shira, and Umbwe – and succes via any of these routes requires good fitness and an itinerary that allows enough days to acclimatise. The mountain is a popular choice for charity challenges and is many people’s first taste of overseas trekking, however because of this and the problems caused by altitude it has a lower success rate than perhaps it should.
4 INCA TRAIL
The classic trek is considered by many to be one of the great short treks of the world, and is a superb introduction to trekking in the Andes. Ascending the jungle trails and cloud forest, trekkers can appreciate how the panorama of Andean peaks would have inspired the Inca people as they make their way to the ‘lost city’ of Machu Picchu. Because of the popularity of the main trail, alternative trails to Choquequirao (another fantastic ancient citadel) and the sacred glaciated mountain of Salkantay have increased in popularity in recent times.
3 TOUR DU MONT BLANC
The TMB is proof that you don’t have to travel to the Greater Ranges to find trekking of the highest order. Circling Mont Blanc and giving views of the great mountain from many angles, the Tour du Mont Blanc provides walkers with the opportunity to sample the culture and flavour of three different countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. Starting and ending in Chamonix, the route takes in high passes, alpine villages and glaciers, with nights spent either in huts or under canvas.
2 ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT
The classic Himalayan trek in central Nepal is still popular today, despite a roadbuilding programme in the region that has impinged on the trail in places. Starting in the lush green foothills of the Annapurna range, there is a dramatic change as you cross the Thorong La, at 5,400m the highest pass of the trek. Once on the Tibetan Plateau, a stark and rugged landscape, the culture is predominantly Buddhist. The trek gives views of Manaslu, Dhaulagiri and Machhapuchhre, as well as the Annapurnas, and usually takes 15-20 days with accommodation being teahouses and lodges.
1 EVEREST BASE CAMP
It just had to be, didn’t it? The world’s highest mountain is not just a dream destination for mountaineers, but for trekkers too who want to get up close and personal with the 8,848m peak. Forget all the negative press about Everest and rejoice in the region in which it resides and the people that inhabit it. After flying into the airstrip at Lukla (or avoid the notorious flight by trekking for five days through the foothills from Jiri), the trail leads through the famous villages of Namche Bazaar and Khumjung which are steeped in the renowned Sherpa culture. The trek continues to Dingboche via the Thyangboche monastery, where a rest is usually taken before continuing the trek to the Khumbu Glacier. The three-week trek can include an ascent of Kala Pattar (5,545m) if you choose, which gives breathtaking views of Everest, before going to Base Camp itself – the site of so much climbing history and, in recent times, tragedy too. The trek to Everest Base Camp is popular for a reason, and those who make the pilgrimage to Sagarmatha will have an experience that will stay with them for the rest of their life. For some, it will prove to be the start of a lifelong love affair with Nepal and its people.