Whether you like teetering on mountain ridges or prefer a gentle jaunt along the beach, we’ve found the best wanders the Earth has to offer. Get your boots on…
Latin America & Caribbean
1. Inca Trail
Where? KM82-Machu Picchu, southern Peru
Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; some high passes; camping only
Independent? No – a guide is mandatory
The walk: This iconic tramp through the Andes is not all about arriving – though reaching the stone gate of Intipunku to see a misty sunrise over mountain-perched Machu Picchu is a fine finale. The journey there is testing but manageable, weaving via old Inca pathways, orchid-filled cloud-forest and some lung-busting passes, including 4,200m ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. There are also fascinating ruins en route, such as the clifftop guard-post at Sayacmarca and the sweeping terraces of Huinay Huayna.
Numbers on the trail are limited to 500 a day, including guides and porters, but camp stops (and their insalubrious loos) still get busy.
Like that? Try this… Choquequirao – a tough eight-day hike from Cachora to these lesser-known ruins, then on to Machu Picchu via a different path, is the offbeat Inca option.
2. El Circuito
Where? Torres del Paine, Chile
Difficulty: *** Moderate-to-tough; wilderness conditions; refugios or camping; pricey supplies available
The walk: It can be icy cold. It can be dripping wet. Winds can blast at over 100km an hour. But a circuit of Torres del Paine – taking in the Patagonian park’s gorgeous granite spires, creaking glaciers, mirror lakes and, possibly, pumas – is worth a bit of weather. The hiking isn’t too tough, and never exceeds 1,200m. The challenge is being out in this wilderness for so long – if you’re trekking independently, that’s a lot of stuff to carry, though supported options ease the burden, leaving you freer to look out for llama-like guanaco, calving ice and those classic Cuernos del Paine views. Or try the W (60km; 5-7 days), a shorter, only marginally less impressive version.
Like that? Try this… Mt Fitz Roy, Los Glaciares, Argentina – hop over the border for a four-day, 40km loop amid more dramatic Patagonian landscapes.