1) Annapurna Base Camp Trek (Nepal)
Location: Pokhara, Nepal
Length: 7 – 10 days return
Highest Altitude: 14,107 feet
Distance: ~75 miles
The trail begins in the beautiful city by the lake with a view of the Himalayas, Pokhara. The trail is considered to be one of the most diverse in Nepal, even more so than the Everest Base Camp trail. You start walking through a lush green forest, going up and down valleys, crossing several massive suspension bridges and through the bamboo forest. Pace yourself past the avalanche-prone valley and eventually, you will be surrounded by several 26,000-foot-high peaks of the Himalayas.
Nothing will make you feel accomplished and humbled at the same time as conquering the Annapurna Base Camp trail and still being towered by not one but several higher ones. It’s even more intimidating to know that one of the mountains surrounding you at the base camp, the Annapurna, is one of the least climbed and the deadliest out of all the 26,000-foot peaks with the highest fatality rate at 40.8%. That feeling of accomplishment will be with you for several months to come after.
2) Ala Kul Trek (Kyrgyzstan)
Location: Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Length: 2 – 4 days return
Highest Altitude: 11,600 feet
Distance: ~33 miles
For such a small off-the-beaten-path country, Kyrgyzstan has a lot to offer for nature lovers with stunning canyons, pristine alpine lakes and plenty of hiking trails, all tucked away in the unexplored mountain range of Central Asia. One of that trail is the Ala Kul trail, a two to four-day hike that starts from the city of Karakol. This route will take you through one of the most stunning forests rich with vegetation and wildlife, then you get to camp under the stars at Ala Kul Lake. The best way to end this three-day hiking trip is to make your way down to Altyn Arashan, where you can soak in a nice natural hot spring.
The highlight of this trek though is the Ala Kul Lake. You will have to hike along the side of a mountain passing the lake to the 11,600-foot-high pass and from there, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of this alpine lake and the mountains behind it.
3) Grand Balcon Sud and Lac Blanc Trails (France)
Location: Chamonix, France
Length: 8 – 10 hours return
Highest Altitude: 7,716 feet
Distance: ~9.3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate but Long
The French Alps offer hikers plenty of opportunities to get lost in nature for a few hours with several trails for both single and multi-day hikers. One of the best single-day hikes is a combination of the Grand Balcon Sud trail and the Lac Blanc trail. The Grand Balcon Sud trail will take you up and along the side of the mountain overlooking the city of Chamonix and Mont Blanc. Throughout the trail, you will be rewarded with the beautiful jagged peaks on your right and colorful vegetation and wildlife on your left. If you are lucky, you might be able to witness the Chamois.
Towards the end of the Grand Balcon Sud trail, you can continue on the Lac Blanc trail to see the White Lake where the magic of this trail is. If the weather is calm enough when you arrive at the lake, you will be rewarded with a perfect reflection of the French Alps on the lake. It was quite a sight to behold.
4) Santa Cruz Trek (Peru)
Location: Huaraz, Peru
Length: 3 – 4 days return
Highest Altitude: 15,583 feet
Distance: ~22.3 miles
Huaraz in the north of Peru is one of our favorite places on Earth. When people come to Peru, they always head for the south for the Inca trail and call it a day. What they don’t realize is that the true beauty of Peruvian mountains lies in the North, in Huaraz.
The Cordillera Blanca mountain range through a beautiful canyon, stunning valleys and a pristine blue lake that serves as a great spot for camping. You will pass through one of the most beautiful sceneries you will ever see in your life, sleep under the shadow of the towering Taulliraju mountain and be rewarded with a panoramic view of the mountain at its highest point of Punta Union Pass.
5) Routeburn Track (New Zealand)
Location: Te Anau, New Zealand
Length: 3 – 4 days return
Highest Altitude: 4,117 feet
Distance: ~20 miles
The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s best great walks and for good reasons. The trail is located in the beautiful South Island starting near Te Anau and ends near Queenstown.
The trail will take you to the Key Summit on your first day, back down to sleep by the MacKenzie Lake, passing through the valley along the exposed Hollyford Face with expansive views over the Darran Mountains. Then it’s up to the Harris Saddle Shelter before coming down to Routeburn Falls Hut for your last night.
Your last day will be a casual walk down through the stunning beech forest, with a view of the Humboldt Mountains and ending at Routeburn Flats Hut. The Routeburn Track sure is an action-packed trail for you to do in New Zealand.
6) Tongariro Crossing (New Zealand)
Location: Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Length: 5 – 7 hrs return
Highest Altitude: 3,674 feet – 7,516 feet
Distance: ~ 12 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Another great trail in New Zealand is the Tongariro Crossing trail, located in the North Island of the country near Lake Taupo. Like most trails in New Zealand, the Tongariro Crossing trail has a well-paced climb with a casual walk up and steep parts all scattered throughout equally.
Starting from the Mangatepopo Valley, you will go through a series of gradual and steep climbs until you reach the saddle between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe. From here you can take a side trip to go up Mount Ngauruhoe or to Mount Doom for Lord of the Rings fan. The trip will take two extra hours to do so but you will get a stunning view of the crossing in one whole swoop.
From the saddle, you will have to go through the South Crater before climbing again to the Red Crater. You will be able to see two lakes from up there, one in emerald green and the other in pristine blue. When you pass all the lakes, you will then have to zigzag your way past Ketetahi Shelter and down to the end of the trails.
The scenery is so diverse, it will have you thinking you were trekking for several days instead of five to seven hours.
7) Mount Rinjani (Indonesia)
Location: Lombok, Indonesia
Length: 2 – 4 days return
Highest Altitude: 12,224 feet
Distance: ~ 21 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
It is possibly one of the toughest hikes, not because of the trail itself but due to the conditions. Hiking while suffering from good poisoning is not an ideal situation, to say the least.
That said, it is one of the best hikes you can do in Southeast Asia and you will be rewarded with a view of a volcano on an island inside a mountain on another island. Yes, that is indeed what you will see from the 12,224-foot-high summit of Mt Rinjani. The view is definitely better at sunrise when the shadow of the Mt Rinjani will be slowly receding from the volcano.
You will spend four days climbing up the ridge of the volcano, sleep under the stars, wake up early for a push to the summit and then down to the lake before climbing up again to another ridge and down, ending your trip. There is nothing more painful and rewarding at the same time than to climb up a volcano on a forever falling volcanic ash and then get to see a volcano on an island in a volcano on an island.
8) The Schwarzsee and Hornlihutte Trails (Switzerland)
Location: Zermatt, Switzerland
Length: 8 – 10 hrs return
Highest Altitude: 1,695 feet
Distance: ~15 miles
Difficulty: Moderate but Long
This is a combination of two trails that will get you the closest to the famous Matterhorn peak in Zermatt, Switzerland. The first part of the trail starts from the city of Zermatt and as you follow your way up the gondola line, you will arrive at Schwarzsee Lake where you can rest, have coffee at the mountain hut and continue your way up to the Hornlihutte. This is the exact location where one of the first climbers set off for their first ascent on the famous mountain in 1865.
You will go through a small traditional village before climbing up through the forest out into the exposed area at the Schwarzsee Lake. The landscape will become more rugged and rocky as you make your way up to the Hornlihutte mountain hut. If you decided to take an alternate route back via the Glacier trail, you will also be able to admire the mountain from the bottom of the glacier looking up.
At the end of the Glacier trail, you will arrive at the Trockener Steg Lake where you can see the Matterhorn’s east face reflected off a body of water. There is no better way to see the Matterhorn than to hike this trail.
9) Laguna de Los Tres trail (Argentina)
Location: El Chalten, Argentina
Length: 7 – 11 hrs return or 2 days
Highest Altitude: 3,871 feet
Distance: ~7.7 miles
Of course, Patagonia has to be on the list, but maybe this might not be the trail you are expecting. There are plenty of hiking opportunities in Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, but the one we like the most is the Laguna de Los Tres trail on the Argentinian side, starting from the quiet town of El Chalten.
This trail is our favorite because unlike the Torres del Paine and W Trek in Chile, the experience of hiking the trail is not ruined by the massive crowds that come with the peak season and has been plaguing those trails. Laguna de Los Tres trail is a little less crowded, but offers you a similar experience as the trail will take you up close to the 3 famous landmarks of Patagonia, Mount Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot and Cerro Torre.
The trail is relatively easy compared to the other ones listed here with the majority of the trail pretty flat with two steep climbs at the beginning and at the end. You will pass through beautiful native woodland along the side of a mountain, coming across vast glaciers, frozen lakes, and a few granite spires. As you continue on, you will pass through two camps where the last camp, Campamento Poincenot, is where you can stay overnight should you decide to extend the trip to two days. If you do so, we would recommend you go up to the Laguna de Los Tres as early as you can for the sunrise.
At the end of the trail, you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the impressive cobalt blue lake and icebergs of Laguna de Los Tres in the background. Over the icebergs, look up and stare at the looming spires of Fitzroy and its neighbors in awe and realize how fortunate you are to be able to see such beauty with your own eyes.
10) Laguna 69 (Peru)
Location: Huaraz, Peru
Length: 6 hrs return
Highest Altitude: 15,000 feet
Distance: ~7.4 miles
Last but not the least, we are back in Huaraz again for another of my favorite trail, the Laguna 69 trail. This time, it only requires a day to complete but you will be rewarded with such diverse scenery and plenty of photogenic mountains that you might forget you are doing a day hike. The trail begins slowly climbing through the valleys with several steep climbs along the way. Halfway through the trail, you will find a great spot by an alpine lake for a lunch stop before continuing on through a vast grassland. Push through the small granite path and head into the heart of the mountain, where you will find a pristine blue glacier lake tucked away in between snowy mountains.
The moment you start to approach the lake, you will see a bright blue color, like nothing you have ever seen in nature. That’s when you will realize that you have finally reach Laguna 69. There is no mistaking it, the technicolor from the melted glacier is out of this world.
Nature has a way of rewarding you if you try hard enough and that is what I feel about hiking. The harder you work for it, the more rewarding it is. The mountain tests you, makes you lose your ego and you humbly appreciate both your own physical condition and the wild beauty of the world. We encourage you to go out there, get your hands dirty and start climbing.