For those who like to walk: five epic treks
Grab a backpack and head off on one of these amazing treks around the world ranging from one day to a few weeks.
1. Crossing a country on foot
The late Alfred Wainwright, England’s best-loved fell walker once wrote that a walk without a goal is like life without ambition – aimless wandering. The 196-mile Coast to Coast Walk across northern England certainly has a goal, which is to cross an island, to go as far as you can on foot, and to gaze over another ocean. The countryside traversed is astonishingly beautiful and varied – accompanying the walker on a roller-coaster of three spectacular national parks. Traditionally, the walk is completed west to east (starting at St. Bees Head and finishing at Robin Hood’s Bay) and taking about 10–14 days.
2. Tramping with volcanoes
With its collection of active volcanoes, the World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park on New Zealand’s North Island is breath-taking, and the 19.4-km Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverses this surreal landscape dominated by three volcanoes: Mt Ruapehu (2797m), the highest and most active; Mt Tongariro (1968m), the oldest but still considered active; and the much younger Mt Ngauruhoe (2291m). Features of this classic day-walk (taking around 7–9 hours) include several volcanic craters, hot springs, glacial valleys, turquoise-coloured lakes, and lava flows.
3. Hiking with Buddhas
The 70-km circular Lantau Trail, starting and finishing in Mui Wo on Lantau Island, encompasses the wild and magnificent Ngong Ping Plateau (a sparsely populated region except for a few isolated Buddhist monasteries) and the glorious southern coastline. The Lantau Trail is divided into 12 well-marked stages that take about 3–5 days to complete, and each stage is also suitable for leisurely day walks. The most famous landmark is the 34-metre-high Tian Tan Buddha, one of the world’s tallest outdoor bronze seated Buddhas.
4. The road to Santiago
Every year, millions of “pilgrims” from around the globe take part in a famous Spanish journey. Starting in St. Jean Pied de Port in France, the 780-km Camino de Santiago (Pilgrim’s Way) employs walking trails, farm tracks, and minor roads to cross northern Spain. The Camino weaves through the provinces of Navarra with its sweeping plains of wheat; La Rioja, a land of vineyards and wine; Castilla y Leon with its ancient castles; the verdant hills of Galicia and finally to the finishing line at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Days merge into weeks of following the familiar yellow arrows and scallop shell signs that point the way, then seeking shelter in pilgrim’s hostels (refugios) each night.
5. Climbing the serpent’s back
“The bones of nature laid bare,” was how the famous Australian artist Hans Heysen described the rugged saw-toothed ridges of South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. A network of walking trails weave throughout the Flinders Ranges National Park to deep-red gorges, along dry creek beds lined with majestic red gums and across old station properties. One highlight is the challenging 19-km circular hike to the summit of the Flinders Ranges highest mountain, St. Mary Peak taking about 9 hours. Looking out over Wilpena Pound from the summit is inspiring – a 35-km ringed circumference of jagged outcrops and arguably the best vista in South Australia.
Text and photos Andrew Marshall