Listing the world’s best hikes is just about impossible. For one thing you’d have to go on all of the ones worth consideration to make any such list worthwhile, and that is just about impossible in and of itself. For another, “best” is subjective. Some people like long, grueling hikes. Some prefer short day hikes. Some like cityscapes, some like open country, and some like the most beautiful backdrops they can find.
For these reasons, this isn’t an attempt to put together any definitive ranking of the best hikes in the world. But particularly from the standpoints of travel, adventure, and scenery, these are a few that would undoubtedly make a list of the most extraordinary hikes on this great green Earth of ours.
Cinque Terre in Italy is one of the most famously beautiful coastal areas on the planet. Typically, we associate it with colorful villages, pretty views, and celebrity stars. And with good reason it’s been labeled before as the most magnificent part of Italy, even if tourist crowds have changed its atmosphere a little bit. We don’t talk as much about what it’s like to hike along this famous coastline, however, and that’s just what Sentiero Azzuro facilitates. It’s essentially a winding, partially hillside trail that connects five villages along Cinque Terre and makes for some of the most picturesque walking you can do anywhere.
Possibly the most famous hike in the world, the Inca Trail shouldn’t be missed if your goal is to experience the extraordinary. It of course leads to the fascinating ancient settlement of Machu Picchu, and thus has a fascinating history behind it. From what we know, the Inca Trail was actually a route of pilgrimage for the ancient Incas in the 1400s. Because they believed the mountains themselves to be holy, the act of hiking up to Macchu Picchu was quite literally a religious experience. It may not quite be that for the average hiker, but it certainly feels close given the sensational surroundings and almost unbelievable final destination.
Tongariro Northern Circuit
It’s almost a cliché at this point that parts of New Zealand can look like the surface of another planet. There’s a reason it’s a popular spot for film production - most notably the Peter Jackson adaptations of The Lord Of The Rings. But the Tongariro Northern Circuit gives you a real taste for what people mean when they say these things about New Zealand. There may not be another hike on Earth that so makes you feel like you’ve left it altogether.
The Great Wall Hike
As with the Inca Trail, history is part of the allure here. Among world wonders and famous landmarks it actually has one of the most fascinating blends of stories behind it. As the story goes, the wall was conceived to stop northern raiders from invading the land and built during the Qin Dynasty only to run into funding issues. It was saved by a nation-wide lottery, and has since been reconstructed numerous times, at least in part. It’s kind of crazy to think that this is the chain of events that’s led to the wall as we know it today. As you may imagine there are several ways to hike either alongside or on top of the wall, though we’d recommend the Jinshanling to Simatai route - a popular one-day hike with some of the prettiest scenery available.
Pacific Crest Trail
It would be a shame to make up a list like this without including the U.S. Pacific Coast, which truly has some of the most impressive natural scenery in the world. It’s a vast coast with several beautiful areas alongside it, but the Pacific Crest Trail is its most famous with good reason. The full trail actually takes months to complete and incorporates over five national parks, so this is a trail for ambitious hikers with time on their hands. But if anything that just makes it more appealing to the true adventurers!