Ultimate Hiking Trips Around the World

Nature can be the best medicine. Study after study has shown that it’s simply better for us to be surrounded by wildflowers and trees than by computers and stressed-out coworkers.

Consider a long hiking trip the shot straight into heart: the highest dosage there is. But not everyone wants a prescription whose side effects include sleeping in pop tents, squatting on the ground and shivering through sub-zero nights.

These nine trips—some along well-known routes and others one of a kind—deliver all the benefits of a strong nature immersion with none of the uncomfortable drawbacks. (Disclosure: Several of these companies have hosted me as a writer.)

Mountain Travel Sobek

Tour du Mont-Blanc

The Tour du Mont-Blanc

This is about as good as slack-packing gets: a trip around one of the world’s most famous mountains rather than up it. That means challenging, beautiful climbs and descents every day—but never above where the air gets cold or overly thin—and the best of European comforts every night. While there are multiple trails for each leg of the journey, the various routes put guests in a different village in France, Switzerland or Italy each night, where they can stay in three- or four-star hotels, eat and drink in local restaurants, and pack a gourmet picnic for the following day. (I managed to eat cheese three meals a day during my trip.) Because the inns tend to book up well in advance, it’s wise to book through a tour operator.

Explora

Explora Travesia

High-Desert Argentina and Chile with Explora

Explora is best known for its high-luxury adventure lodges in Chile and Peru, but for those who really want to get remote, the company offers several travesías, or journeys, that are done largely by foot. Among them is this nine-day route, which can go from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta or be done in reverse. Either way, it was designed to show guests the differences in geology, flora and fauna, and weather across the altiplano: the Atacama Desert, the Andes, the Calchaquíes Valleys and the colonial town of Cachi. During the trek, guests overnight in luxury camps set up in shipping containers, ancient cabins and a simple guesthouse, and they begin or conclude at Explora’s posh lodge in the Atacama.

Mountain Travel Sobek

Hajducka Vrata, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina & Montenegro with Mountain Travel Sobek

Eastern Europe is becoming the new Western Europe, and as the first North American travel company to offer hiking trips to Bosnia and Montenegro, Mountain Travel Sobek argues that the Dinaric Alps are Europe’s best-kept secret. More than 400 miles of limestone peaks span six countries along the Adriatic. This challenging ten-day trek connects guests with the former Yugoslavia’s  ancient Silk Road history, recent turbulent past, vibrant cultures, stunning national parks and Europe’s deepest canyon—no mass tourism in sight.

GeoEx

Central Bhutan

Central Bhutan with GeoEx

The typical Bhutan itinerary hopscotches around the country’s major settlements. But GeoEx—one of the first U.S. tour operators to offer trips to the kingdom and still a specialist in the destination—takes clients deeper into the untouched wilderness and culture of the country’s central mountains. Part of a longer itinerary, the five-day, horse-supported trek leads through hidden valleys and past monasteries to the ancestral village of one of GeoEx’s longtime Bhutanese friends. The camps have walk-in tents, Thermarest mattresses, sit-down toilets, shower tents and excellent staffs to cook dinners over campfires and, at one camp, roast stones for hot baths.

Mountain Lodges of Peru

The Lares Adventure

The Sacred Valley with Mountain Lodges of Peru

The word is out on the Salkantay Trail—the (somewhat) less crowded, equally stunning alternative to following the Inca Trail through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. Launched some ten years ago, Mountain Lodges of Peru upended the usual pop-tent camping situation by building highly luxurious lodges—think private hot tubs on the terraces—along their own, slightly different route. That seven-day tour remains the locally owned, preservation-minded company’s flagship, but it recently launched a shorter, easier alternative called the Lares Adventure, which caters to guests who want to encounter the indigenous culture rather than commit to hours of strenuous hiking every day (or who want an option other than walking in case the weather is bad).

Ann Abel

The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route

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The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage with Walk Japan

One of only two UNESCO-registered pilgrimage routes in the world (the other is the famous Camino de Santiago in Spain), this series of ancient trails traces 1,000 years of Buddhist history on the forested, misty Kii Peninsula. It encompasses Koyasan, Kumano and the Ise shrine, places where Buddhism originated in Japan in the 6th century. The nature is punctuated with active monasteries, hushed temples and Shintro shrines, and massive torii gates in the fields. There’s an overwhelming amount of spirituality and history to take in along with the cypress trees and plunging waterfalls, but Walk Japan demystifies it for Western hikers. The guides are Western academics who have lived in Japan for years, and the comfortable accommodations include temples, onsen hot spring resorts and traditional Japanese inns.

Fantastico Sur

The W in Patagonia

The W in Patagonia with Fantástico Sur

So called for the letter shape it traces on a map, the W is a five-day trek that wends its way through Torres del Paine national park in the far south of Chile. It passes vast glaciers (including the Grey Glacier), vibrant blue lakes, mountain peaks, the Francés Valley and the base of the famous towers of the park. Plenty of people backpack it solo, but for those who like a little more luxury, the local operator Fantástico Sur organizes guided group treks and puts guests up in comfortable-enough refugios with made-up bunk beds in dorm rooms and decent plumbing. To go all out, combine the trip with a few days at the five-star Tierra Patagonia to explore other parts of the park.

Dolomite Mountains

Alta Via 1

Alta Via 1 with Dolomite Mountains

Few European trekking destinations are as mythic as the Dolomites, the high, craggy pinnacles of northeastern Italy. The Alta Via is said to offer the “best of the best” of the mountains’ thousands of trails, with challenging terrain, endlessly changing landscapes and lively “huts” that reflect the best of Alpine Italian hospitality. Of the eight Alta Via routes, number 1 is the most iconic. (With the operator Dolomite Mountains the overnights are in fact in charming alpine lodges with private bedrooms and mostly private bathrooms, whatever they want to call them.) The nine-day trip begins in the Südtirol and winds south through the Fanes area, Lagazuoi and other Cortina mountains, Pelmo, Civetta, Moiazza and the Dolomiti Bellunesi—with some outstanding food and wine along the way.

Paragon Guides

Vail to Aspen

Vail to Aspen with Paragon Guides

This five-day llama trek through the Colorado Rockies combines crystalline skies, meadows lush with wildflowers and rugged ridges with comfortable overnights at the three of the historic 10th Mountain Division huts—whose builders and re-builders include the father of the founder of Paragon Guides—and the Diamond J Guest Ranch. Built in the 1980s, the huts commemorate the Army veterans who trained at nearby Camp Hale during World War II before being shipped out to Italy, where they fell in love with hut-to-hut hiking culture. This trip uses three of the most comfortable, with shared and private bedrooms, woodstoves and guides who cook hearty dinners

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