From UK favorites to international icons, and from one-week hikes to month-long ultra-walks, these are some of the world’s greatest multi-day routes worldwide.
THE KERRY WAY, Ireland
The entire south-west coast of Ireland is considered wild, but the Inveragh Peninsula is something else altogether. Its coastline is torn ragged by the Atlantic on three sides while inland lies Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, a mountain range where the 1038m Carrauntoohil and Black Valley, a place so remote that in 1978 it was the last part of Ireland to be connected to electricity, are located. All this is experienced by the 214km Kerry Way, which leads across the peninsula in a circular lap from Killarney.
THE PENNINE WAY, England
Half a century ago, the opening of this trail after decades of campaigning proved to be the kickstarter for the establishment of Britain’s now widespread national trails network. Running north between Edale and Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders, the 412km trail traces the backbone of England, leading through the peat moors of the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, Brontë Country and Northumberland National Park.
OFFA’S DYKE PATH, Wales
This is one of the best introductions to long-distance hiking that can be had in Britain. Much of the 284km trail along the Welsh border follows the visible remains of an 18th century dyke said to have been built by King Offa of Mercia. The trail passes through the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park, and links with three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs): Shropshire Hills, the Wye Valley, and Clwydian Range.
This trail is regarded by many people as the most difficult long-distance trail in Europe. The 180km traverse of the Mediterranean island of Corsica is a hike that’s on most long-distance hikers’ to-do lists. In Corsican, it’s called Fra li monti, which literally means “Across the mountains”—indicating the nature of the walk if ever there was one. Highlights of the trail include the granite cliffs of Aiguilles de Bavella, the turquoise glacial lakes, and many scrambling sections.
THE ALTA VIA 1, Italy
There are numerous “High Routes” leading through the Italian Dolomites but this one is recognized by many as the classic. It runs for 150km from Lago di Brajes to Belluno, along the way weaving between rosy-hued, cathedral spire-like peaks, passing First World War battlefields and giving the chance to try-out some via ferrata sections. Every night one will find the refugios (mountain huts) packed with walkers sharing their tales from the day.
TOUR DU MONT BLANC, Alps
The Tour is arguably the best way of seeing Mont Blanc without actually climbing it. The 168km circular trail skirts the 4810m peak’s base, sticking with its wonderful green-filled valley rather than going high to its grey rock and snow-covered reaches above. This is a hike that most people will be able to take on due to its easy terrain and wealth of accommodation, so rather than pushing too hard you should simply breathe in the surroundings.
WALKER’S HAUTE ROUTE, Alps
This 180km “High Route” through the Alps between Chamonix and Zermatt crosses glaciers including the Mont Durand and the 7.7km-long Otemma, with stunning views of peaks including Mont Blanc and the iconic Matterhorn. However, you should expect to work hard; it’s considered a much tougher trek than the Tour du Mont Blanc, accumulating a whopping 12,000m of ascent. Established in the late 19th century by the English Alpine Club, this is an enduring classic.
CAMINO DE SANTIAGO, Spain
Thousands of people take on this trail to Santiago de Compostela every year, but surprisingly there were more people treading it in the Middle Ages. From the French border to the far western reach of Spain, it originated as a pilgrimage to the shrine of St James. Many of the “peregrinos” walking it today will make the journey for simple enjoyment, simply as a chance to see the landscape that gave inspiration to Ernest Hemingway and to see the cities like León, Burgos, and Pamplona. Along the route, accommodation comes in the form of basic hostels that are exclusive to the hikers—places in which a large sense of camaraderie or “Camino Spirit” is fostered. While there are numerous “Ways” to Santiago, the best-liked is the French Way which is 732.5km and will take about a month to walk.
THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL, US
This 338km trail is considered one of the most wonderful backpacking routes on the planet. It gets its name from the legendary Scotland-born environmentalist who was instrumental in the establishment of America’s national parks. Therefore, it’s no coincidence that its path runs through five of them: including Sequoia, Yosemite (considered by many as America’s finest), and, of course, John Muir National Park. With an almost continual elevation of around 2400m or above, you will enjoy endless panoramas of the Sierra Nevada with its rivers, lakes, canyons, and cliffs.
THE KOKODA TRACK, Papua New Guinea
The Kokoda Track is well-known to Australians as the route where one of the nation’s bloodiest battles was fought—a successful last stand against the Japanese to prevent them from invading Australia itself. Nowadays, as well as remaining as a relic to that Second World War battle, the 96km route creates a chance to explore one of the wildest places on the planet, crossing through deep rainforest full of massively diverse wildlife. Porters might be required for this trek as it’s a tough environment, but at the same time, it’s one that would offer one of the greatest of escapes.
TORRES DEL PAINE, Chile
South America‘s last hurrah before disappearing into the cobalt ocean, Torres del Paine is a rugged wilderness of vast lakes, chiselled mountains, dense forests, and dramatic glaciers. The most common hiking trail is called the “W” route, which can be completed in about five days and features a scenic highlight on every single one of them: the “Horns of Paine” on day one, followed by Lake Nordenskjold, Valle Frances, the bergy brilliance of Lago Grey and Glacier Grey, and a finishing hike back out along Lago Grey. Nevertheless, you can avoid doubling back by deciding for the 100km “Circuit” instead—essentially the W plus a four-to-five day hike over the Park’s boggy backside, which leads you past glaciers calving into unbelievably small lakes. The hike undoubtedly has its sloggy sections, but it’s certainly worth the stunning scenery.