Hiking is a wonderful way to explore unique places, stunning landscapes, and hidden treasures, all while stretching your lungs and legs! In hiking, there is something magical about reaching the top of a climb and discovering a well-earned new perspective. Hiking is healing, and there are some amazing hiking destinations around the world. Here are my top five picks for outdoor hiking:
Uluru, Alice Springs
From impressive rock formations, infinite vistas and soaring domes to deep crevices and rock art paintings, walking around Uluru gives every visitor the chance to discover hidden gems. Take in this serene and ancient landscape and feel the echoes of time reverberate through the desert.
With plenty of walks to choose from, including a leisurely Uluru base walk or exploring the steep domes of Kata Tijuta, there are options for a family day out to a more challenging adventure. For those looking for an extended trek, why not embark on the seven-day guided hike that takes you from Uluru and nearby Kata Tjuta to the majestic Kings Canyon, and on to the ancient salt lakes of Lake Amadeus?
There is no accommodation inside the national park, but there are plenty of options at the nearby Ayers Rock Resort. The resort also has a supermarket, plenty of restaurants, and even a day spa to massage away those sore muscles. I recommend staying in the Desert Gardens Hotel for a unique yet still luxurious stay.
From fine dining under the night sky to family-friendly budget options, the resort also has a wonderful selection of eateries. I recommend the Sounds of Silence dining experience for an exclusive outdoor feast overlooking Uluru, or for seasonal Aussie dishes; Tali Wiru is best, where excellent food is paired with premium Aussie wines.
Machu Picchu, Peru
This is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, and over 1.2 million people visit each year. It really is an incredible sight to behold. As well as the extremely popular and world-famous Inca Trail, there are a number of alternative trekking options for the hike to Machu Picchu. The Salkantay trail, which walkers can trek unguided, is one of the more difficult and longer ways to the ancient site, but tough trekking equals terrific views, especially at the top of the Culebras. Meanwhile the Inca Jungle Trek; which includes downhill mountain biking, zip trekking and white-water rafting, is great for the adventure seeker. For those just wanting to take on the final climb of 1,600 stairs straight to the ruins can board the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and climb from there.
The best time to hike to Machu Picchu is March to April and October to November. It is much dryer and warmer and these months are at the edges of the high season, so you may find it easier to avoid crowds.
One of the best things about this trek is the chance to try local and traditional dishes along the way. Some trails, such as the Inca Jungle Trek, offer cacao and coffee tasting experiences, and even the chance to taste Guinea pig; one of Peru’s delicacies. Wash down your dinner each night with a well-deserved cold Cusqueña beer, as you reflect on your progress with your fellow hikers. In Aguas Calientes try Julian Restaurant or Full House for exquisite traditional dishes such as alpaca steak and Peruvian ceviche.
Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
Walk from coast to coast alongside the UNESCO World Heritage site and take in the wild and beautiful landscapes of Northumberland National Park. Walk through a quintessentially British landscape of rolling hills, and medieval castles, and revel in the simple beauty of this wonderful region. The trail is clearly marked and features plenty of friendly villages eager to welcome weary walkers, so you can enjoy the challenge of the walk with the promise of home comforts.
It’s best to walk Hadrian’s Wall when it’s dry, so between May and October, but you’re liable to be rained on anyway, so ensure that you have proper gear. The unpredictable British weather doesn’t leave much room for certainty.
Using a walking tour company is a good option because they transport your luggage to the next stop so you can just carry a day pack, but it does mean that you have a longer walk after you leave the trail.
Yellowstone National Park, USA
Yellowstone National Park is one of America’s most beautiful wilderness areas. The park stretches more than 2.2 million acres and has more than 900 miles (1,449 km) of hiking trails. With hundreds of trails to choose from, Yellowstone has routes for the extremely experienced hiker like Avalanche Peak or the North Rim Trail, to those seeking a family adventure
Trekking in Yellowstone Park will reward you with awe-inspiring views, as you take in some of the most exquisite scenery the country has to offer.
The park is covered in plenty of snow during the winter and it tends to stay through the spring and early summer. I would recommend visiting in the late summer or early autumn, when the weather is warm in the day, and cool at night.
For those wanting to take thru-hikes, or if you just simply love camping, there are over 300 campsites in Yellowstone’s backcountry, where you can sleep under the stars and immerse yourself in the wilderness. If you are just venturing into the park for a day-hike there are several accommodation options in and around the park. I like West Yellowstone Lodgings on the Montana side of the park for breath-taking scenery in a remote location. Canyon Village and Old Faithful are also great but remember to book well in advance to guarantee your place.
For long hikes, I recommend bringing a packed lunch and plenty of snacks to keep you fuelled along the way. Fill up on a hearty breakfast at M66 Grill at Canyon Lodge, or why not treat yourself to something fancy post-hike and enjoy luxury dining alongside striking views at Grant Village Lakehouse?
Reaching Antarctica is more challenging than other destinations and requires booking a guided excursion. Due to harsh conditions, it also requires a great deal of training beforehand. Despite the challenges, the unparalleled and surreal beauty of Antarctica is why it comes out as number one in my top pick of hiking destinations. Explore this unbelievable landscape on a pair of cross-country skis, as you pull your gear behind you in a pulka.
Experience the majestic and dreamlike vistas of frozen sea ice waves, startling blue ice caves, and perhaps even the occasional research unit. The lack of distinctive guiding features such as rivers or trees, and a dangerous and foreign environment, means it is essential you are led by a guide.
It is best to book your expedition to Antarctica during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, which falls within the months of November to March, when the weather is kindest but be aware that the sun never sets and your body clock will struggle to adjust.
Of course, accommodation options in this environment are limited, and what is on offer is extremely basic, (this is a trip for the hardy hiker!).
You will need to carry high calorie meals in your pack, as there are no five-star restaurants here. I recommend stocking up on freeze-dried food before you arrive and asking your guide to help with this. Remember that everything that comes with you on your excursion must also leave with you. Take only memories and leave only footprints!
A good hike is a way of challenging your fitness and reconnecting with nature and your hiking partner. The opportunity for relaxation and the feeling of accomplishment is priceless!