Why you should care
Because your hiking boots will love these off-the-beaten-track treks.
There’s nothing like the feeling when it comes, when you’re winded and sweating and ready to give up — it hits you hard. Accomplishment.
That feeling comes as a result of your continuing to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes it washes over you at the summit of a mountain that took hours to climb. Sometimes it arrives after a short but perilous trek, perhaps with reindeer as companions, to a one-of-a-kind natural wonder, or after a dayslong journey down an ancient path. Sometimes it accompanies you when you leap out of your comfort zone and into a faraway place steeped in history.
Whatever gets your hiking heart pumping, read on. We’ve gathered some of the most interesting walks from around the world — from Bolivia to Ireland to Nepal and beyond.
Sure you can pay to see the iconic Cliffs of Moher along with the tour bus crowds. But why wouldn’t you take a path much less traveled … and free? A 14-mile hike between the surfing town of Lahinch and the village of Doolin, known for its pubs featuring traditional Irish music, is the first leg of the Burren Way, a 76-mile trail. The stretch has incredible scenery and, most notably, goes past a turnoff for the cliffs — meaning you can see the same stunning views but without the tourist hordes. Then have a drink in Doolin at the end. Sorted.
The Himalayas aren’t the only hiking game in Nepal. The half-day Kathmandu Valley trek from Telkot to Nagarkot is safer than Everest and offers better insight into day-to-day life in rural Nepal than any Himalayan jaunt. The compact hike also offers stunning views and the opportunity to get up close with nature. Don’t be fooled, though: The hike may be short, but with a 1,500-foot incline at an altitude of over 7,100 feet, it’s challenging, and it means you’ll sweat buckets. Of accomplishment.
If you’re wondering why you should head to roughly 70 degrees north on the globe to hike to Alta Canyon in Norway, it all has to do with the stunning scenery that awaits. After a nearly tree-free (and crowd-free) trek over a section of the Finnmarksvidda plateau, you’ll be met with a shockingly verdant view of a canyon below — one cut through by one of the world’s most famous rivers among intrepid anglers. It’s a 7-mile geological marvel. Come prepared for unpredictable weather and other potential dangers, and also for reindeer and eagle sightings.
Nestled deep in Myanmar’s northern Shan State, a melting pot of the country’s many ethnic minorities, Hsipaw is the starting point for an unforgettable two-day hike. Along your journey you’ll encounter woodlands and a series of dramatic valleys — tea trees planted with military precision in rows as far as the eye can see — as well as Palaung villages, tea plantations and wild rainforests largely cut off from the outside world. Don’t embark on the journey alone, though. As a matter of fact, you can’t.
Want a much cheaper, less crowded alternative to the Inca Trail? The Choro Trail, on the outskirts of Bolivia’s capital, also travels ancient Inca paths — and you just might have the route to yourself. Over three days and 34 miles, you’ll descend — yes, it’s mostly downhill — from 16,000 to 4,000 feet on mostly paved paths, passing through little-changed ancient communities, and experience a dazzling illustration of the impact of altitude on climate, vegetation and the human psyche. There are cloud forests and waterfalls too. We’re in!