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1. Camino de Santiago, Spain
Originating in the ninth century when Pelayo (a religious hermit) followed a shining star to find the tomb of the apostle Saint James, the Camino de Santiago became extremely popular in the 11th and 12th centuries. Today the path attracts hundreds of modern-day pilgrims in search of spirituality and mindfulness. Marked by yellow arrows and scallop shells, the passage takes you through rustic countryside, medieval castles, Roman bridges, monasteries, fishing villages and sandy coves. While there are myriad paths or “caminos” to Santiago, you’ll find the most trodden is Camino Frances. Over the course of five weeks, the trail will lead you from France through to the Pyrenees at Roncesvalles and then westwards for 775km of territory spanning Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon and Galicia. Although Camino Frances is the most popular, it’s definitely not the only one. If you’re pressed for time and looking for a quicker jaunt, Macs Adventure offers a five-night journey covering the Camino Finisterre, whose 88km may not trace the entire pilgrimage but which does include incredible beaches along the way. Do as the pilgrims did and bring back a Galician scallop shell as proof of your journey.
2. Ausangate Trek, Peru
While best known for Machu Picchu, Peru’s Vinicunca mountain is vying for the top spot. Aptly nicknamed “Rainbow Mountain”, the candy-striped peaks boast shades of pastel lavender, russet red, golden yellow and pale turquoise. This technicolour dreamland is notoriously difficult to reach and the six- to seven-day trek is not one for beginners, as altitude changes quickly. If you’re up for it, the trail doesn’t disappoint. The Ausangate Trail is a 69km route running through some of the most spectacular terrains in the Andes, taking you by glacial lakes, camel-herder villages and hot springs. Unlike the Inca Trail, Ausangate doesn’t require a permit and is relatively quiet throughout. While it’s possible to embark on the trail yourself, Alpaca Expeditions offers a four-day guided tour with all food included, as well as a porter on horse to carry the majority of your gear and a knowledgeable local guide.
3. Lapland, Sweden
The Kungsleden, or The King’s Way, is a 450km footpath in Lapland, north Sweden. Winding through four National Parks and crossing the Arctic Circle, the walk affords exposure to some of the most spectacularly diverse wilderness in Europe. Starting at Hemavan in the south, Kungsleden stretches through woodland and Arctic tundra before finishing on the shores of Tornetrask Lake at Abisko. On your trek, you’ll encounter huge birch forests abundant in blooming flowers and verdant meadows stretching up to skies of endless blue. Dramatic glacier-clad mountain passes including Sweden’s highest, Kebnekaise (also ascendable if you’re feeling up for it), are not to be sniffed at (it’s probably the altitude) either. Along the way, you may also meet Sweden’s indigenous Sámi people – traditional reindeer herders who have a fascinating culture of their own, distinct from modern Sweden. The walk is doable for beginners and the path is well marked for guide-free expeditions. Macs Adventure offer an eight-day, self-guided walk which takes care of mountain cabins and camping sites for you.
4. Las Alpujarras, Spain
Camino de Santiago may be southern Spain’s most revered walk, but the region’s GR7 route offers a more tranquil experience without making concessions on scenery. While the entire path traces 1900km from Spain’s southern tip to the Pyrenees before continuing as the E4 footpath all the way onwards to Greece, many of the sections are doable in as little as a week. Our favourite passage runs from Valor through to the canyons of Las Alpujarras, a region of tiny white villages clinging to the southern flanks of Spain’s highest mountains. By day, roam above wispy clouds, looking out onto Spanish farmland, pastures and olive groves, before descending for languid nights in Las Alpujarras villages. The last refuge of the Moors in Spain, Las Alpujarras boasts a unique culture that holds onto its Islamic heritage in its stunning architecture and artisan crafts. For tour-guide options, look to Mac’s Adventures and Rambler’s Walking Holidays.
5. The Great Ocean Walk, Australia
Australia is home to some first-class treks, perhaps the most revered being The Great Ocean Walk. Aptly named, the trail follows the iconic coastline of the Great Ocean Road, beginning at the seaside village of Apollo Bay and hugging the rugged coast for 100km until finally reaching its end destination, the Twelve Apostles (a collection of limestone stacks just off the shore). No matter your fitness levels, the journey is manageable, walking 10km a day over a course of eight consecutive days, with limited huffing and puffing to detract from your incredible surroundings. Highlights include kangaroo-inhabited eucalyptus forests, camping under the stars at Blanket Bay, whale spotting, the Cape Otway Lighthouse and, of course, spectacular vistas atop the cliff line. Before your trip, we suggest downloading an audio guide for stories of Aboriginal history and heritage to add some depth to your walk.
6. Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage, Japan
A far cry from the bright billboards and VR cafés of Tokyo, the ancient Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage offers a wildly different Japanese landscape. Located in the south of rural Kyoto, the trail is a series of interlinked ancient pilgrimage routes that lead to Kumano, a sacred Buddhist site. Since being named a World Heritage Site in 2004, the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage has been walked by thousands of people searching for spirituality. You’ll sleep in a mix of hotels, inns and temples and sampling traditional Japanese cuisine. Expect walks through fragrant cedar and cypress forests, stone-house villages, hot springs, tea bush terraces and mikan orange trees, all enshrouded in a poignant silence broken only by birdsong overhead. There are a variety of routes are available meaning there’s one for you no matter your fitness level or number of available days. Inside Japan Tours offer a range of guided routes you can choose from.
7. Amalfi Coast, Italy
The cliff-side houses and kingfisher-blue waters of the Amalfi Coast are a mainstay on any Pinterest travel inspo board and walking the coast is an unexpectedly delightful way to experience the area’s charm. Above the flurry of tourists and Vespas, the Path of the Gods is a 13km winding route over sheer cliffs with see it to believe it views. If you’re looking for a multi-day trip, On Foot Holidays offer five- to seven-day routes that take you on mountainside paths and wind along the coast by way of Praiano, through the cobbled alleys of Positano and onto the bustle of Sorrento. Walking is broken up with meals of fresh sea bass on the waterfront, glasses of Italian wine in cliffside tavernas and refreshing dips in isolated coves away from the crowds.
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