There’s still time for an overseas summer walking adventure. Why not make it one of these?
Who wants to spend their time off snoozing on a beach when you could be striding over a mountain pass? Every year, more opportunities open up for adventurous walking trips overseas – flights are launched, new areas become accessible and local organisations create routes to encourage tourists to visit. We’ve picked out 16 treks, trails and walking holidays that have caught our eye this year.
This feature was first published in the April 2018 issue of The Great Outdoors.
1. Picos de Europa, Spain
Picos de Europa National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Nothing quite prepares you for seeing the Park’s most dramatic landscapes at first glance. The ravages of glacial tumult have left limestone monoliths and dramatically-carved peaks across the northern coast of Spain. The National Park, founded in 1918, crossed the Autonomous Communities of Asturias, Cantabria and Castile and León. The fauna is every bit as dramatic as the mountains with the Cantabrian brown bear, wolf, the Pyrenean chamois, eagle and vulture roaming the landscape. There are also many extensive cave systems. Pura Aventura (pura-aventura.com) offers guided trekking into the mountains on little-used paths.
2. Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Our neighbouring island’s diverse landscape remains often overlooked by walkers. Yet the wild Atlantic coast, the Galty Mountain range near Limerick, and the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks in County Kerry are worthy of any hillwalker’s attention. Bagging enthusiasts could also add the 13 Irish Furths (the cousins of the Munros: mountains over 3,000ft). The only mountain on that list not in Macgillycuddy’s Reeks is Mount Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula which, along with having the greatest name for anything, offers our pick of the country’s treks. The Dingle Way is a 179-km long footpath that circumnavigates the peninsula. Wilderness Ireland (wildernessireland.com) offers guided walks along it.
3. Adirondack Mountains, New York, USA
The USA holds unrivalled opportunities for the walker, from thru-hiking the great trails to world-renowned national parks. For 2018, we’ve picked out something different: the Adirondack Mountains in north-eastern New York state. They are often overlooked but wrongly – this range is home to 46 mountain peaks that are higher than 4,000ft, with Mount Marcy leading the charge at 5,344ft. Munro- baggers could even consider joining their New York cousins, the Adirondack Forty-Sixers club. A wealth of backpacking opportunities, broken up with stays in wooden lodges, also exist among the network of trails.
4. Salta, Argentina
It’s Patagonia that gets all the attention in South America. And understandably so; the ‘W Trek’ that takes in Torres del Paine follows a route around one of the world’s most beautiful spots. The ‘Patagonian Lake District’ shouldn’t be missed either. But we wanted to highlight a different area and experience. The north of Argentina has an Andean culture more in common with Bolivia and Peru. Its people are kind and open, the heart food (and wine) is sublime, and the lofty mountain scenery, with its kaleidoscopic hues and Incan relics, is rich in views and experiences. Argentina Trails (argentinatrails.com.ar) offers multi-day guided walks high into the Andes.
5. The Jordan Trail, Jordan
Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea canyons… the Jordan Trail, which officially opened last year, takes in the very best of this extraordinary country. Although the full 36-day, 400-mile trail from Um Qais to the Red Sea may be a bit of a stretch, the best sections can be picked out. Perhaps most surprising is the diversity it encompasses, from the green forests of the north, through the Great Rift Valley, to the desolate Dead Sea canyons. And as anyone who has been to Jordan will attest, Wadi Rum is one of the world’s most spectacular places. The brainchild of TGO contributor Tony Jordan and his partner Di Taylor, the trail’s success is also down to the Jordan Trail Association, who have brought to life a route focusing on culture as well as and scenery. Full information at jordantrail.org.
6. Sikkim, India
Hidden away between Nepal, China and Bhutan, the mountainous state of Sikkim is one of India’s best-kept secrets. It encompasses some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas – but with permits required to visit most areas, tourism has always been kept to a minimum. Now this former independent Buddhist kingdom is gradually becoming more accessible. A new area has opened up to the west of the state capital, Gangtok, granting foreigners access to the spectacular mountainous region around sacred Tosha Lake. Trek through cardamom crops, bamboo forests and flowering rhododendron bushes as you wind between the Himalayan peaks of Pandim, Jannu, Siniolchu and 8586m Kanchenjunga. KE Adventure Travel are organising a reconnaissance trek this autumn.
7. Borkomi-Kharagauli National Park, Georgia
Make the effort to discover little-visited Georgia and you’ll be rewarded ten-fold with the vast wilderness and truly unsurmountable hospitality – in our experience, Georgians are among the most generous people in the world. Borjomi- Kharagauli National Park is in the Lesser Caucasus, south-west of the charming capital of Tbilisi. The park, only inaugurated in 2001, is well set up for walkers with shelters, picnic spots, campsites and areas for campfires set up. There are 11 signposted trails through the park from short day walks to four-day traverses. It’s such a beautiful place, and the people are wonderful. borjomi-kharagauli-np.ge
8. Bibbulmun Track, Australia
Take advantage of a new direct Qantas flight between London and Perth to discover one of the world’s great long- distance trails. The 1,000km Bibbulmun Track stretches between the Perth Hills and Albany on Australia’s south coast, passing through the tingle forests, craggy coastlines and mist-shrouded valleys of Western Australia en route. With distances of up to 12 days between towns and multi-day stretches between access points, this is Australia at its wildest and most exciting. If you’re planning on completing the full trail end to end, allow up to eight weeks and avoid walking during the sweltering summer months.
9. Alpe Adria Trail, Austria, Slovenia and Italy
Europe’s newest long-distance hiking route is a 750km epic that connects Austria, Slovenia and Italy. It begins at the foot of 3,798m Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak, and ends near Trieste in Italy. Take some time out to complete the full trail in 43 stages of around 20km – or walk the more manageable Tour of the Three Nations, a 123km circuit that covers some of the route’s major highlights. The landscape is consistently spectacular – think glaciers, rivers, lakes and gorges interspersed with alpine wildflower meadows, waterfalls and gothic churches. Expect good signposting, moderate terrain and plenty of comfortable stopover points along the route.
10. Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador
Ecuador’s most popular national park recently reopened to the public after more than two years of closure. A period of intense volcanic activity has kept walkers away from 5,897m Cotopaxi and its pristine surroundings – this year, though, the volcano has been declared safe and open for climbing. Some of the highest volcanoes on earth can be found here, at the northern end of the Andean chain. KE Adventure Travel offers a trek which takes in the summit of Cotopaxi as well as the Cuicocha crater lake and the glaciers of Cayambe. Top it off by climbing Chimborazo, its summit the furthest point from the centre of the Earth.
11. Camino Portugues, Portugal
In May, Cicerone Press published a new guidebook to this ancient pilgrimage route, which meanders for 600km between Lisbon in Portugal and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It takes around a month to accomplish the full journey, which passes through four UNESCO sites and takes in a scenic kaleidoscope of terraced fields, vineyards and Moorish towns. Highlights include the Knights Templar Castle at Tomar and the beautiful old town of Porto. There are several variants of the Camino Portugues, but all converge on the alleged burial place of St James in the Catedral de Santiago – an important holy site since 1211.
12. Transcaucasian Trail, the Caucasus
When it’s complete, the TCT will span more than 3,000km between the Black Sea in the west and the Caspian Sea in the east. The trail has been in development since 2015, but this year the Transcaucasian Trail Association are encouraging walkers to participate in fundraising treks to try out newly developed sections of the route. Spend a week exploring Armenia’s Dilijan National Park and the monasteries of Tavush province, or take a longer ten-day journey through the wildflower meadows and glacial peaks of Upper Svaneti in Georgia. Both treks follow routes newly honed by teams of dedicated volunteers. Visit transcaucasiantrail.org for more information.
13. Vancouver Island, Canada
Any trip to Vancouver Island is an adventure, whether it’s a ferry across the Salish Sea – where orcas are usually spotted – or a float plane into Vancouver Harbour. The 219-mile-long island is dotted with quiet towns and friendly villages. There are rugged shorelines, green forest and huge mountains with the Golden Hinde clocking in at 7,201ft. The 47-mile West Coast Trail is perhaps the best-known route, and according to some, one of the most challenging anywhere in North America. Cliffs, beaches, suspension bridges, peaks, this has it all. You’ll need to make reservations and have experience of backpacking. For details, see hellobc.com.
14. Via Dinarica, Balkans
For a few years now, the Balkans have been talked about in hushed tones. It took a long time for the region to recover after the turmoil of the 1990s, but now this area, rich with mountainous scenery, ancient pathways and cultural sites, is open for the world. One trail we’ve featured in the magazine before is the spectacular Via Dinarica (via-dinarica.org), which is now almost entirely waymarked. This trans-Balkans route extends for 1,930km, traversing Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia across the Dinarica Alps and Shar Mountains. Guided options include the new Undiscovered Balkans – Bosnia and Herzegovina trek by KE Adventure Travel, which summits the highest mountain on the Via Dinarica trail as well as visiting Dubrovnik and Sarajevo.
15. Karnischer Höhenweg, Alps
Tracing the lofty ridge of the Carnic Alps, the Karnischer Höhenweg is a stunning 169km high-altitude trek along the Austrian-Italian border. It follows the historical WWI front line and signs of conflict mark every stage of the route. The scenery is jaw-dropping throughout, with sweeping vistas across to the Dolomites in the south and the Hohe Tauern in the north. Bag a grand total of 30 summits – including 2,689m Großer Kinigat Mountain – breaking your journey at a series of welcoming mountain refuges. The trail can only be walked in the summer months. Cicerone Press brought out the first English-language guidebook in June.
16. Hoga Kusten Trail, Sweden
The ‘High Coast Trail’ on the Swedish ‘Höga Kusten’ is a 127km trek through a wild and largely unsettled landscape of flat-topped mountains, deep forests, lakes and coastal inlets. With a start at Hornöberget, you’ll follow yellow trail blazes through a unique wilderness as you journey to your finish at Örnsköldsvik. The trail is typically walked in 13 stages as you pass through this extraordinary, UNESCO-listed landscape. While this is a wild walk, you are served along the way with free open shelters to spend the night in and the opportunity to pass through small settlements to refuel.
Header image: Picos de Europa © Pura Adventura