Some people want to hike Mount Everest or K2. But some of us would prefer a less rigorous, more leisurely gambol. For people who love the idea of a long walk through beautiful scenery – here are 10 great strolls of a lifetime.
Camino de Santiago, Spain
This ancient pilgrimage trail winds through some of the most picturesque scenery in Europe (and even Africa) depending on your chosen route, but the most popular by far is the way from France (so be prepared to be chatty). The route of the Santiago de Compostela will take you about a month (give or take a few days) with the traditional ending point at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
Best time to go: April to September
How to get there: From the US, the best bet is to fly to London or Paris and then catch a flight on to Biarritz, France. From there, you’ll have to take an airport bus to Bayonne and then the mountain train to St. Jean-Pied-De-Port, the starting line.
Lycian Way, Turkey
The first known walkway in Turkey is a beautiful coastal walk of more than 310 miles that winds from Oludeniz to Antalya. The walk is chock full of magnificent sea views and forested areas, with plenty of stop off points for sleeping (pensiones, private homes and camping are all amply available). The whole trip should take about a month.
Best time to go: Spring (from February to May) or Fall (September to November) will avoid the oppressive heat of the summer months.
How to get there: Fly to Istanbul and catch a cheap local flight ($60 or so) to Dalaman (a 2-hour public transport drive from Oludeniz). You can catch a flight back to Istanbul at the end of the journey in Antalya for under $100.
Great Ocean Walk, Australia
It can be tricky to plan a trip to Australia – there’s so much to do in nature and a lot of American tourists barely leave the big cities. The Great Ocean Walk is a fantastic way to get outside and see some of the country’s best countryside and wildlife (be ready to see kangaroos, kookaburras and koalas. The trail stretches from Apollo Bay to Glenample Homestead (at the world-famous 12 Apostles) along the southern coast of the continent in Victoria. You might want to break the walk up into into bite sized, day hike chunks (the whole thing is about 75 miles long and there are convenient camping spots every few hours).
Best time to go: Autumn (Especially March and April) for the most mild weather.
How to get there: Most people fly to Melbourne and then rent a car (2.5 hour drive), but you can also access the start point via train or public bus.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
Walking through Bryce’s Canyon’s “hoodoos” those twisty spires that make up the otherworldly landscape, is a walk of a lifetime, indeed. The colors of the hoodoos are some of the most spectacular on the continent. The adorably-named Fairytale Loop walk will take you all-day, but there are several day hikes as well as a few backcountry hikes and camping sites to consider. Permits are first-come first serve and must be obtained in person.
Best time to go: April to September. Keep in mind during these busier months, you’ll be sharing trails with pack animals.
How to get there: Fly to Salt Lake City and rent a car. You’ll be there in just under 4 hours.
The Great Wall of China
So anyway, the Great Wall of China stretches 4,000 miles and very few people undertake this epic (or foolhardy – depending who you talk to) walk. We wanted to include it because it’s simply a massive testament to human engineering and you should definitely take a walk on the wall at some point in your life, even if you don’t walk the entire thing. You can take a short walk on the wall from either Beijing or Shanghai or hire a local operator who does longer treks of 4-7 days.
Best time to go: March to November is going to give you great views. The winters can be harsh, but it’s still possible.
How to get there: Flights to to either Beijing or Shanghai will do the trick.
To call the Bagan temples of Myannmar a strenuous walk is quite a stretch, but we had to include it because it’s just that stunning of a place. You can wander around the ruins for hours and hours, but there aren’t official trails per se. Sometimes an amble is the best way to see a special place.
Best time to go: Bagan is hot, hot hot all year. Temperatures peak at a manageable 86 degrees from much of November to February.
How to get there: Flying is the easiest way. Fly into Yangon and then on to Bagan for around $400. Now if that sounds a little steep and you have the time, the overnight train from Yangon to Bagan is a much cheaper ticket (under $100) but it is “rustic,” to say the least).
Bruce Trail, Canada
The Bruce Trail is a 500-mile walk through some spectacular Canadian wilderness and the oldest and longest footpath in the country. You can start your hike along the Bruce Trail in Toronto (it’s about an hour’s drive outside the city if you’re not planning to do the whole thing) or at the official start at Niagara Falls. The official end is in Tobermory. You’ll get a patch for each section of the trail you complete if you join the Bruce Trail Conservancy and an official certificate of completion as well! Feel free to do it in one stretch – it’ll take about 30 days.
Best time to go: Summer, June to August is most reliably mild weather, though some people prefer the spring or fall to avoid the crowds.
How to get there: A flight to Toronto is probably the best entry point for most people.
Cotswolds Way, United Kingdom
This classic British wander –the 100-mile walk is described as “magical,” by one online guide (and a great length for long walks between villages and end-of-day pub stops. This may or may not be true, but it might make you want to channel your inner Heathcliff if you are a fan of the blustery moors in Wuthering Heights. We promise.
Best time to go: It’s England so there’s always a chance of rain but your best weather will be found May to September.
How to get there: You’ll want to get to Bath which is a 1.5-hour train ride from London (Paddington Station).
Inca Trail, Peru
We couldn’t really neglect adding the world-famous trek to Macchu Picchu into the mix. It will cost you around $350 USD (and that includes all of your meals, and camping costs) to make the trek, but it’s hard to imagine a more iconic walk to cross off your must-see list. The walk takes about 3-4 days to do (depending on the guides you book).
Best time to go: June to August will give you the best climbing conditions and weather over all (it’s also the most crowded).
How to get there: Most people fly to Cuzco and then take a 3-hour bus ride to the trek starting point (the trip is almost always included in your trek fee).
Shikoku Pilgrimage, Japan
We’ll call this the choice for the serious walking aficionado. The Shikoku Pilgrimage is one of the longest and oldest walks to undertake. If you decide to do the whole thing, the nearly 900-mile walk will take you on a beautiful walk through 88 Buddhist temples and about two months to complete. But if you’re interested in Japanese culture and history, it’s a wonderful introduction.
Best time to go: April and May in the spring and September and October in autumn are by far the best time to go for the mild weather.
How to get there: Most North American travelers will be accessing Shikoku Island from Tokyo. You can take a 1.5-hour flight, catch a train or bus (times vary) or even a ferry (19 hours).
If something a little more adventurous is in your future, check out this post for some more up-and-coming spots.