My first experience of multi-day mountain hiking was in Nepal, where we spent eight days hiking around some of the highest mountains on earth, to Annapurna Base camp near Pokhara. I was completely in awe and instantly fell in love with the feeling of being in the midst of such wonderful scenery with so few people – it sparked off my passion for walking the best hikes in the world.
At sunset, the mountains turn to hues of yellow, orange, red, pink and back to yellow. You’re in paradise, otherwise known as Annapurna Base Camp.
During this trek, the days are tough with lots of hills and thousands of steps, often with long descents after each pass, which is slightly demoralising as you know you have to climb higher later! But very little compares to the stunning views that reward you at Annapurna Base camp after 6 days of trekking.
Imagine standing in a glacial bowl at 4,100m, where the sides are made up of nine ice-capped Himalayan peaks, six of which are over 7,000m. Having set off under moonlight and clear starlight, you’ll get to see the sun rising over the mountains. You clamber up a snow-covered slope gaining another 500m in altitude, slipping and sliding over the ice, snow and rocks. Two previously hidden peaks and glaciers come into view. Resting on a rock, you survey this breath-taking scene… The sun is beating down and reflecting off the pure white snow and all you can hear is bird song and the occasional cracking of a glacier. Later, cloud formations swirl around the peaks, appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye. At sunset, the mountains turn into hues of yellow, orange, red, pink and back to yellow. You’re in paradise, otherwise known as Annapurna Base Camp.
During my trek, the nights were spent in small tea houses owned by locals. We would swap tales with travellers and revive ourselves with hot soup and food to get ready for the early start the following morning. Along the route locals greet you with ‘Namaste!’ and children enjoy racing you up the steps - they usually win! The people of Nepal really are so welcoming and meeting them was a highlight of my trip - it is still my favourite country in the world.
September to November and March to May are the best seasons and you can also do the classic Everest Base camp treks in another region of Nepal.
We did the base camp trek, which takes 5-8 days but if you want to extend this, try the 10 or 15 day Annapurna Sanctuary trek and these G Adventures tours.
A great add-on package is The Last Resort, where we did Grade 4+ white water rafting, the second highest bungee jump in the world and canyoning (abseiling/clambering down waterfalls). Nepal also has some of the best multi-day rafting trips in the world.
Emei Shan is one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China and with monasteries and temples dotted along the path, you can even spend the night in one of these.
A highlight of this trek is the spectacular sunrise and sunset that rewards you when you reach the top. There is a road to the top, so a lot of Chinese tourists take this option to avoid the strenuous 2-3 day trek. The trek itself is steep with thousands of steps and your legs will definitely be sore on the descent, which is worse for muscles but easier on the cardio system!
For us, the trek was even more magical as we did it in mid-winter so no-one else was crazy enough to be doing it. The scenery quickly changed from green trees and stone steps to a truly magical winter wonderland and snow paradise. After days and days in overpopulated Chinese cities, we were both completely taken aback with the enchanted nature of the place and enjoyed every single step (and there were thousands!).
This is a beautiful two-day trek near Lijiang in Southern China, winding its way above the Yangtze River cutting through a dramatic gorge.
It’s relatively easy with not too much by way of ascent, however the narrow path drops off steeply in parts and the winds occasionally threatened to blow us off the edge. You can see the point where, according to legend, a tiger reputedly escaped capture by jumping across the gorge – hence the name.
The classic Wild China tour not only takes in Emei Shan and Tiger Leaping Gorge, but also includes many of the main highlights of China as well. It runs from March to October.
This trek is a tough but very satisfying 5-day hike through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in northern Colombia.
When I did the trek, we walked through beautiful jungle covered hills, crossed chest-deep rivers whilst carrying your bags over our heads, used ropes to help keep our balance, scrambled over slippery paths through cascading waterfalls and got to wash off the mud at the end of a hot sticky day!
We finally encountered the magical Lost City after scaling 1,267 steps to the ancient Tayrona ruins. Spectacularly located amongst the mountains (and surprisingly large), we wandered around hearing the history of the place that was built around 600AD. There are no buildings remaining, but you can see the foundations – just don’t expect Machu Picchu-style ruins. You can also chat and have some photos with the friendly armed soldiers(!) who were there to protect us from would-be kidnappers.
A highlight of this trek is that there are very few tourists at any time of the year. In terms of the best times to visit - the river is lower in the dry season (December to March) but much of the adventure comes from crossing the river many times where it is high!
I recommend staying in the lovely small beach village of Taganga instead of the bigger town of Santa Marta. Definitely head to stunning Tayrona National park at the end for some much needed R’n’R with jungle fringed white sand beaches dotted huge boulders.
Fancy boarding down an active volcano? Cerro Negro, near Leon in Nicaragua is a brisk 60-minute trek past steaming vents and strong sulphuric gas fumes. You can see evidence of old lava flows and toboggan down on a wooden plank of wood in a much swifter 45 seconds at up to 80mph. Dangerous? Perhaps - but what an adrenaline rush!
Isla de Ometepe is an island straight from a mystical story. Rising out of Lago de Nicaragua it comprises two large volcanoes joined by old lava flows. It is a beautiful island with lots of fauna and flora and hundreds of different walking trails with so much to do. You can climb the smaller dormant volcano, Maderas, up a steep and very slippery, muddy trail past many howler monkeys. The taller of the two volcanoes, Concepcion, is still active and last erupted in 1957.
There are so many opportunities to be active in Canada – you could hike, bike, raft or kayak – it’s an adventurer’s playground. The Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff National Parks is advertised as one of the greatest roads in the world and I would agree having cycled through this area.
You could join a tour or we can help to arrange a self-drive itinerary with a car or campervan. Make sure you give yourself time to do the many short walks just off the road (usually less than a kilometre). There are limitless walks to do in Banff, Jasper and the neighbouring national parks as well as on Vancouver Island.
For some ideas, see these tours and June to September is the time to visit (unless you want to ski).
If you’d like to plan some of the best hikes into your trip, I can recommend options to suit you and tailor-make your entire trip, from flights and transfers, to accommodation, tours and treks. To start planning – contact Chris.