6 Impossibly Beautiful Hiking Destinations Around the World
With gazillions of unbelievable hiking trails across the globe, it’s easy to plan an unforgettable trip to the great outdoors. The trickiest part? Actually narrowing down the list to choose your next destination. To highlight some of the best hikes around the world, I focused on a few of my personal favorites, alongside several classics that top my bucket list.
Torres del Paine, Chile
On the far end of South America lies Patagonia, whose majestic snow-crested peaks, blue lakes, and dramatic glaciers make it a hiker’s paradise. Both the Chilean and Argentinean sides are well worth visiting, but if you’re exploring Chilean Patagonia, you can’t miss out on Torres del Paine National Park.
Most visitors to Torres del Paine come for the four-to-five-day W Trek, which, from what I hear, is an absolute must if you’re interested in multi-day treks. If you’re like me, though, and have limited time and supplies, there are some great options for day hikes. I opted for the Mirador Las Torres hike, one of the more challenging one-day options. The trail takes about six to seven hours round-trip with a few challengingly steep segments. However, it has quite possibly the best payoff in all of Torres del Paine, a close-up of the torres (towers) themselves looming over a turquoise lake.
Everest Base Camp, Nepal
While I can’t speak for it myself (as it’s still on my bucket list), from everything I hear, the multi-week Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal is one of the greatest adventures you can experience anywhere in the world. Climbing to an altitude of 5600 meters over a period of a week or two, this trek is a dream-come-true for those looking for an outdoors challenge unlike anything else.
Lodging along the trek provides meals and rest, and guides and porters can help navigate while making the journey a little easier. The area can get extremely cold in the winter and wet in the summer, so aim for a trip between March and May or September and November for the best conditions.
El Chaltén, Argentina
While Torres del Paine is Patagonia’s most popular trekking destination, the place I really fell in love with was El Chaltén on the Argentinean side of the region. This little village of just 1,627 inhabitants and a handful of lodging options is the perfect home base for low-key nature adventures.
El Chaltén offers plenty of day hikes with varying lengths and difficulty levels, all of which feature a diversity of landscapes and lead to remarkable views. And the best part is, unlike Torres del Paine, which requires a several-hour bus from the closest towns to the park entrance, most of El Chaltén’s trailheads begin right in the middle of town. And when you’re done for the day, be sure to stop by B&B Burger Joint for a beer and a bite.
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
New Zealand is peppered with stunning hikes everywhere you turn, and I could populate this entire list solely with recommendations from the real life Middle Earth. The hike that stood out to me the most in the month I spent exploring New Zealand, though, was a day trip to the South Island’s Franz Josef Glacier.
Glaciers can be found throughout New Zealand, but Franz Josef’s accessibility by bus and nearby accommodation options make it one of the more popular ones to visit. Sadly, climate change has diminished the glacier at an alarming rate over the past few decades, but it’s still a spectacular site. Catch views of the glacier along one of the area’s many short, easy trails, or challenge yourself to the five-and-a-half-hour round-trip Roberts Point Track. This culminates in beautiful views overlooking the glacier, although the trail’s serene woods were just as rewarding as the summit.
Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala
Guatemala was a country that exceeded my expectations at every turn, and my day trip to Pacaya Volcano was no exception. While there are several fantastic volcano-hiking options in the area, Pacaya’s proximity to the popular colonial town of Antigua and shorter, easier trail make it the perfect afternoon excursion. After a van transports you to the base of the volcano, it’s a fairly short (one to two hours each way) but steep hike to the peak. Or if you’re looking to rest your feet, you can choose to ascend on horseback.
Once at the top, you’ll find yourself looking out over the active volcanoes that dot the region, and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch one spewing ash. Don’t worry if you’re shrouded in fog upon arrival: we couldn’t see more than a few feet when I reached the top, but the clouds soon cleared, an otherworldly moment that left an absolutely jaw-dropping view.
Pacaya is an active volcano, although it’s innocuous enough that you won’t have to worry about any surprise eruptions. It does mean, however, that steam still rises from beneath the surface—and it’s hot enough to roast marshmallows, as most tour guides will demonstrate!
It’s been more than a decade since I last visited the amazing Yosemite National Park (although I’m making my triumphant return in March!), but I have many happy memories of childhood visits there, so I can vouch for it as one of the world’s greatest hiking destinations. The park offers over 800 miles of trails running through glacier-formed valleys, peaceful meadows, raging waterfalls, Giant Sequoia groves, and other spectacular sights.
Regardless of your fitness level or scenic interests, Yosemite will have something for you. This article has a handy flowchart for selecting a Yosemite hike. However, the park’s crowning jewel is the sheer granite formation, Half Dome, which can be summited within a day, or about ten to twelve hours round-trip. The final 400 feet require a climb up metal cables, a daunting feat for some but an exciting climax to the adventure for most. For all my visits to Yosemite, I’ve yet to attempt this hike, so fingers crossed I’ll get to experience it for myself on a future visit!
Though I’m far from being an expert hiker, the hikes I’ve accomplished around the world have provided some of my all-time favorite memories while showing me a different side of already-fascinating countries. Whether a low-key stroll or an intense, two-week trek is more your speed, wherever you go, be sure to get out and enjoy all that this beautiful Earth has to offer.