As we become accustomed to coexisting with the pandemic and living in the “new normal”, countries around the world are slowly but surely re-opening their borders. Once again, it is becoming possible to gaze up at the Eiffel Tower or navigate through a labyrinth-like network of narrow streets in Naples.
However, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of venturing off to a new country or city. This is understandable.
Hiking Trips as a Social Distanced Travel Option
Traveling right now is not without its risks. The virus has not gone away. Booking a vacation in the corona-era means having to take additional safety measures and precautions.
A safer alternative? Book a hiking trip amongst nature.
You don’t have to venture far to find a stunning hiking trail that is practically in your own backyard. More than likely, your home country is home to a plethora of beautiful places that you have never previously taken the time to explore. Alternatively, the emergence of “air travel corridors” allows travelers to venture to countries with a low risk of coronavirus.
The Best Hikes Around the World
The best hikes around the world is a subjective term. Are you looking for day hikes or goliath, multi-day adventures? Are you looking for routes that take you along picturesque coastal paths, or do you prefer rugged treks that take you to deserts and environments that push your boundaries?
A selection of the best hikes around the world for the 2020/21 travel season is discussed below.
Everest Base Camp
The Everest Base Camp trek is one of the most physically challenging, yet rewarding hikes in the world. The camp is perched on the Khumbu Glacier, at the bottom of Mount Everest.
Following the trail leads you through spectacular nature, past quaint Sherpa villages and gompas (monasteries). The kind, welcoming Sherpa people that you meet along your journey are just as wonderful as catching a glimpse at the world’s tallest mountain in itself.
Travelers often compare the hike to Everest Base Camp with the ascent to the Peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. Everest Base camp sits at an altitude of 5600 meters. It takes nine days to complete the route, and there are several rest points along the way. This makes it easy to acclimatize.
The majority of the trek passes through the UNESCO protected Sagarmatha National Park. Snow leopards, Himalayan tahr, musk deer, and other majestic animals call this area home.
The Simien Mountains
The Simien Mountains are a UNESCO protected world heritage site. They are, undoubtedly, one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Africa.
Hiking the Simien Mountains is tough yet worthwhile. Travelers pass through a range of jagged landscapes – along a craggy plateau, past gullies, and pinnacles. Every aspect of the trek and the scenery is spectacular – from the lush green plains that sit beneath you, to the beautiful animals that call the Simien home.
If you are lucky, you may see a group of gelada baboons frolicking in the woodland, or a Walia Ibex relaxing on a ledge. There are various routes that weave through the Simien Mountains.
You can venture here for a day hike, or as part of a long, multi-day adventure.
Hikes in Ireland
There are a plethora of beautiful places to go hiking in Ireland – whether you venture to the north or southern part of the country. The Ring of Kerry in Southern Ireland is arguably one of the most famous routes. It is far more than just a driving trail.
The road follows the coastal contours of Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula. The circuit extends over 111 miles and it takes approximately 3.5 hours to drive the entire distance. However, the most rewarding option is, of course, to hike the length of the route, or to self-drive and make several stops along the way
Experienced hikers can invest in the assistance of a Mountain Guide and conquer some of the more challenging landscapes in the area – Carrauntoohil is Ireland’s highest mountain. the mountains of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and the Gap of Dunloe are equally worthy of your time.
Back in Northern Ireland, the Divis Ridge Trail and the Giant’s Causeway are Irish hiking trails that need to be added to your radar.
Banff National Park
Turquoise glacial lakes, charming mountain towns, and scenic driving trails combine to make Banff National Park one of the best places to hike in Canada. It is easy to drive from Calgary to Banff.
Banff was established in 1885, making it Canada’s oldest national park. You should dedicate at least two days to visiting Banff if you plan on covering any real amount of ground in the park.
Ideally, you would dedicate five days to exploring Banff and nearby Lake Louise. That way you can follow a range of hiking trails and organize other activities during your time in the park such as canoeing, camping, etc.
The Camino De Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage route that leads through the Spanish mainland to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Once upon a time, most of the hikers on this trail were devout Catholics.
Today, the Camino has become one of the most popular hiking trails in Europe. There are various routes with starting points scattered all over France.
The longest, and most popular is the “French way”. This 769km pathway takes hikers from St John Pied a Port at the French border, through the Pyrenees and the La Rioja wine region, before ending at the Santiago de Compostela. Another popular trail is the Portuguese way which starts in nearby Porto, Portugal.
It is possible to attempt complete or entire Camino trails. Most travelers obtain “pilgrim’s passports”. These little booklets are stamped in every town or village and are then exchanged for a pilgrim certificate. You are required to hike at least 100km if you wish to receive this certificate.
The Otter Trail
The Otter Trail is one of South Africa’s oldest and most iconic hikes. It follows the breathtaking coastline that connects the Storms River Mouth and Nature’s Valley.
One thing to note about the Otter Trail: visitor numbers are limited. It can be tricky to obtain a permit. You must make reservations in advance, so the Otter Trail isn’t an option for an impromptu, spontaneous trekking adventure.
The multi-day trek does not require the use of any specific equipment. However, it is still challenging. Hikers should be a good level of fitness as there are some steep climbs, tricky descents, and walk-through river crossings.
Toronto Hiking Trails
Stunning Canadian hiking trails are not restricted to the central and western parts of the country. Ontario, too, has its fair share of stunning routes among nature.
The Ontario capital of Toronto may appear to be a bustling megalopolis. However, scratch beneath the surface and you will find a range of routes that weave through the nearby parks and woodlands. Locals can advise you on the best places to hike in Toronto.
The Rouge Urban National Park was Canada’s first urban national park. It extends from Toronto’s Scarborough district to the nearby cities of Pickering and Markham. Wetlands, forests, old logging routes, and the ruins of old European settlements are scattered throughout this sprawling expanse.
Zion National Park, Utah
Visiting Zion National Park is one of the best outdoor adventures in the US. The park sits in southwestern Utah and provides a perfect place for camping outdoors beneath a canopy of stars.
The hiking trails at Zion range from day-hikes that are suitable for the whole family, to multi-day challenges. Weeping Rock is one of the shortest single-day routes. However, it is also one of the most crowded.
Angel’s Landing is notorious as being one of Zion’s trickiest routes. The trek’s heights and vertigo-inducing paths are not for the faint-hearted.
The final section of the hike involves scaling a narrow ridge and ascending chain-assisted sections. Views from the top of Angel’s Landing are spectacular, but this route is better reserved for intermediate-level hikers.
Zion National Park is a wonderful place to visit as part of a wider Utah itinerary. Some of the best waterfalls in Utah are encapsulated within the park, or situated on its outskirts.
The route to Archangel falls is beautiful. However, it does require an element of swimming, scrambling through tunnels and climbing over boulders so it is not the easiest route.
Lake Tahoe is a wonderful stopping point on any USA road trip. The lake is a stunning place to visit, regardless of the season. During the winter months, it is a breathtaking spot for renting a cozy cabin, skiing, and cooking s’ mores over an open fire.
Summer is arguably the best season for hiking in Lake Tahoe. The hikes in the area range in difficulty. Everyone from experienced hikers to novice trekkers will find a route that suits them.
The Mount Tallac trail is one of the most difficult Tahoe routes. However, for your efforts, you are rewarded with magnificent panoramas over the area. Alpine lakes dotted along the trail make the perfect spot to rest and break up your journey.
Cuicocha Lake, Ecuador
If you are looking for a light and easy day hike in South America, Cuicocha Lake in Ecuador is it. It is easy to visit Cuicocha Lake from Otavalo.
The entire trail spans over 14km and takes approximately 5 hours to complete. There are some steady inclines. However, anyone with a generally good level of physical fitness should not encounter any major difficulties.
Cuicocha Lake is well signposted. There is little possibility to get lost, making it a great choice, even for solo trekkers. You have spectacular views of the lake along the entirety of the trail.
Organizing a Hiking Trip for 2020/21
Researching your chosen hiking route thoroughly will stop you from wondering what to pack for a day hike, or how to adequately prepare. Most of the hiking trails discussed here do not require the use of crampons or any specific technical equipment.
However, you should ensure that you pack appropriately for the season, purchase comfortable footwear, and wear in your hiking shoes prior to traveling.
Despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the landscape of travel in the medium term, one positive that has come out of the situation is people’s increased appreciation in nature, the great outdoors, and realizing the importance of mother nature’s biggest gift to us: the environment around us.