Our backs might be covered in an inch-thick layer of sweat, our heels might be blistering and we might want nothing more than to plonk down on the couch and never move again, but there really is no feeling quite as satisfying as reaching the summit after a difficult hike.
Of all the worldly treks, the 2-week journey to Everest Base Camp is one of the most renowned, and one of the more difficult, especially for those who struggle to acclimatize to the altitude. However, it’s time to shed some light on the plethora of alternative options, each beautiful and challenging in their own right. Grab the hiking poles, lace up the boots, fill up the water bottles, and let’s dive in.
8 Inca Trail, Peru
While the ancient hidden city of Machu Picchu might get all the traveler attention, the 4-day on-foot journey to reach it is arguably just as, if not more, impressive. Distance-wise, it’s not awfully challenging, spanning a total of 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the starting point to the World Wonder.
The main challenge that hikers will contend with is the altitude, which can make even the fittest, most experienced journeymen well short of breath. For that reason, plenty of visitors spend a few days hanging out in the city of Cusco for acclimatization purposes, which itself sits 3,339 meters above sea level.
7 Yam Lyam, Israel
Boasting a trail that spans from the country’s west at the Mediterranean Sea all the way east over to the Sea of Galilee, the picturesque Yam Lyam (translated to ‘sea to sea’) is one of the most popular hikes in Israel. It welcomes thousands of trekkers every year, both locals and tourists, who walk (usually east to west) the 89km trail.
The path is relatively flat along the journey, climaxing at 1,200 meters above sea level midway through, before descending back down to negative 400 meters at the Sea of Galilee. Depending on how fast you walk, the trip can take anywhere from three to five days. Trust us, compared to Everest Base Camp, this is not that hard...
6 The Overland Track, Australia
Nestled down in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park (try saying that ten times fast), down in the often-forgotten state of Tasmania, the Overland Track takes hikers on a 40-mile (65-kilometer) journey through the stunning Aussie wilderness. It’s typically a six-day trek, starting in Waldheim and finishing over at Australia’s deepest natural lake – Lake St Clair.
Along the journey, the path shows off the natural beauty of the Tassie wilderness, with plenty of flowing waterfalls, inviting rainforest, impressive cliffs and a handful of lookouts. Don’t forget that you are in Australia, so keep a keen eye out for the slithering snakes (especially in the long grass).
5 Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
Next stop on our adventurous journey around the world, we’re heading deep into the lush Colombian jungle. The hike to Ciudad Perdida - also known as the Lost City - ascends close to 4,000 feet through humid and sticky rainforest, spread across anywhere from five to seven days. During the journey, those adventurous souls brave enough to tackle the trip will weave through narrow passageways and up steep, uneven paths.
Depending on the time of year and whether you’re trekking in the wet season or dry season, be prepared to have to wade through rivers. While they’re typically only knee-deep, after significant rainfall, hikers can easily find themselves struggling against chest-high currents.
4 Paine Circuit Trek, Torres del Paine, Chile
As Patagonia’s most famous hike, the 75-mile Paine Circuit Trek welcomes plenty of avid adventure enthusiasts from across the globe, all eager to catch a first-hand glimpse at the stunning marvel that is the Torres del Paine National Park.
The hike takes roughly a week to complete, but there’s so much beauty along the way that you’ll wish it was longer. That being said, it’s certainly not child’s play - the hike traverses steep uphill climbs (sometimes bordering on 90-degree inclines) and a number of icy river crossings, so make sure to wear proper hiking shoes along the way.
3 The Plank Walk, Mount Huashan, China
For our next stop on this trek around the world, we’re heading over to the Shaanxi province of China, where we’ll come across the notorious Plank Walk. While this hike comes nowhere close to the distance or physical strain of Everest Base Camp, it deserves a mention purely based on the mental challenge - that’s putting it nicely, actually, it’s darn terrifying!
It’s often dubbed as one of the world’s most dangerous hikes, and justifiably so, simply due to its narrow walkways and vertigo-inducing height of over 7,000 feet (2.15km). Mount Huashan is for the daring, there’s no doubt about that.
2 Laugavegurinn/Fimmvorduhals Pass, Iceland
Over the last handful of years, Iceland’s tourism industry has well and truly exploded, and for the most part, it’s due to the nation’s incredible untouched landscapes. Along with its supreme view of the Northern Lights, its black sand beaches, and natural hot springs (like the infamous Blue Lagoon), the European island also offers some phenomenal hiking opportunities.
One of its most revered is the 34-mile Laugavegurinn/Fimmvorduhals Pass, which takes roughly four days from start to finish. With its volcanic valleys, scattered waterfalls, mountaintops, and green countryside, it’s certainly beautiful. However, don’t take that for granted - it’s by no means easy.
1 Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
We’re finishing off our worldly trekking journey with a stop in the good ol’ USA. This hike is the shortest on the list, and while the majority of the 14-mile hike is merely a moderate incline that, at worst, will make adventurers a little short on breath, a seriously tough challenge awaits.
The last 400 feet is when a few hikers start getting a major case of the heebie-jeebies. 90% of the trek is done, and now the only thing standing in between them and that sweet feeling of completion is a monolithic granite peak - Half Dome. There’s no safety equipment and no railings to catch you should things go awry, just two metal cables to grip onto while ascending almost vertically.