It is a cliché to say that the world is becoming a smaller place – indeed, it is easier to visit the most far-flung destinations than it has ever been, and it does not have to cost the earth. Who, for example, would have believed 20 years ago that you could contemplate visiting Brisbane on a budget?
It is one thing to jump off a plane, check into a hotel, spend an afternoon visiting the tourist hotspots and then report back to your jealous friends on social media from the local Irish bar. It is quite another to truly appreciate the natural beauty of a faraway land and all its unique characteristics.The only way to do so is to start hiking the local trails. Yet strangely, even the keenest hikers often restrict themselves to doing so in their native country.
Exploring in a foreign land
Why hikers are so reluctant to push themselves toexplore overseas is something of a mystery. Could it be concern over too much physical exertion in an unfamiliar climate? Worries about getting lost in a strange land? Or perhaps it is the fear of sustaining an injury and being unable to summon help and being unsure about the medical support that would be available.
In reality, as long as you take some sensible precautions, such as a fully charged GPS, good quality and worn-in hiking boots and some knee sleeves as added protection for the ligaments in the knee, you are no more likely to have a problem overseas than you would anywhere else.
So, download your maps, charge up your phone and equip yourself with a basic phrase book. Here are four of the best hiking trails on the planet.
Dana to Petra
Rated by no less a body than National Geographic as one of the world’s best hikes, this 47-mile route takes you from Jordan’s largest nature reserve to the ancient city of Petra. First-time visitors who might feel worried about hiking through a desert in the Middle East can take advantage of the many organized walks that can be arranged through the local tourist agencies. These typically include Bedouin-style overnight accommodation and meals – they will even arrange for someone else to carry your rucksack for you! Best of all, you can choose to do it in anything from four to nine days, depending on the time you have available and your level of fitness, so it is a trek that anyone can enjoy.
The Inca Trail
Is this Peruvian classic the most famous adventure hike in the world? The trail is either 51 or 55 miles long, depending on which of the two starting points you choose, and most hikers complete it in four days. Many find the early stages a little disappointing, due to the host of settlements that have sprung up either side of the trail, built on selling provisions, souvenirs and just about anything else to the 500 hikers who pass daily. However, these are soon left behind as you start the serious ascent through Dead Woman’s pass and enter the forest canopy that covers most of the walk. Note that you will need a permit to get on your way, and most travel agents recommend buying at least six months in advance.
Everest Base Camp
If there is any walk more famous than the Inca Trail, this is it. While ascending Everest is beyond the scope of a hike, the walk to base camp is within the capability of hardcore hikers. The journey takes around two weeks and covers approximately 80 miles. This is one hike that you do not want to take on independently. Book through one of the many travel agents, and they will include all the permits, flights and accommodation that you need.
This King of Trails crosses 270 miles of Sweden’s unique and spectacular landscape, from Hemavan in the south to Abisko at the northern end. It passes through the Vindelfjällen Nature Reserve, which is one of the largest protected areas in all of Europe. Due to Sweden’s harsh winters, this is a trek where you need to think carefully about your timing. In mid-summer the terrain is undemanding and the weather is pleasant. In winter months, there is a ski trail that follows an almost identical route.
Around the world on foot
Four trails on four continents, and these are only the beginning. From here, who knows where the path will take you? Happy travels!