Paul Scott Mower once said, “There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country…” If you’ve ever contemplated going abroad to find your next trail, here are 3 classic hikes to consider.
New Zealand’s Milford Track: The best known “track” through New Zealand’s beautiful fjords, this 32.9 miles (53 km) easy 4-day hike, starts at Glade Wharf (Lake Te Anau), winds over Mackinnon Pass and ends at Sandfly Point (Milford Sound). The scenery includes rainforests, alpine meadows and waterfalls at every turn, including the worlds third highest, the 3-leap Sutherland Falls. With its ethereal, dream-like scenery, some have described this hike akin to “walking through a Lord of the Rings movie.”
Milford track is highly regulated for tourism and restricted to a one-way route during summer season. All hikers (independent or guided) are required complete the track in 3 nights/ 4 days and stay in the designated commune-styled huts along the way. Day-specific reservations and trail permits are required
Peru’s Inca Trail: This 30 mile trail attract hikers from all over the world seeking to walk the ancient, ruin-studded path to the sacred site of Machu Picchu. The trail meanders over high passes, offering breathtaking views of glaciated mountains and lush green valleys of cloud forest. Along the trail, you’ll pass early Inca stonework and abandoned outposts and villages until you reach the trail’s end at Machu Picchu. There you’ll pass into the sacred site through the Sun Gate, just as the Incas did centuries ago. This walk involves considerable climbing (at altitudes up to 14,000 feet), especially during the first half of the trail, and takes about 4 days.
Most trips start at the 88km mark (also known as (Qoriwayrachina) on the Cuzco to Machu Picchu rail line. Due to over-use (and abuse), the Peru’s government no longer allows independent hikers on the trail. You are now required to go with a licensed tour operator and reservations need to be filed with the government 30 days before your arrival.
China’s Great Wall: Hiking sections of China’s Great Wall is a fantastic way to see and experience some of China’s most significant and best-known sites. For centuries, the 4,163 mile long wall served several dynasties as an efficient military defense. Now, with a history spanning over 2,000 years, many of the Great Wall’s sections are in ruins or have completely disappeared. Still, depending on where you start your trek, you’ll pass through rugged mountain scenery, areas of unforgiving desert and glimpse traditional Chinese culture in a way most tourists will never experience.
Unless you have a friend in China that can round up all the difficult to obtain, but necessary permits, you’ll need to hire a guide or tour company that specializes in hiking sections of the wall. Many Chinese tour companies include wall hiking in combination with other sightseeing tours or offer the opportunity to hike several sections over the course of a few days or weeks. In any case, each step along this ancient monument will be a hike back through China’s history.