10 of the best hiking trails in the world

From the epic Pacific Crest Trail to Nepal's breathtakingly-beautiful Annapurna Circuit, our local experts share the best hiking trails to pack your bags for
Grey glacier, Torres del Paine National park, Chile.
Grey Glacier, Torres del Paine National park, Chile. Photo: Shutterstock

1. Otter Trail, South Africa

The Otter Trail is easily one of the most famous hiking trails in South Africa, if not the world. This 27-mile pathway runs along the east coast of the Cape within Tsitsikamma National Park. The trail is broken up into a recommended 5-day itinerary with no day's distance measuring more than 13.8km. There are also a number of picturesque camps and beach-side cabins along the route. Fahranaaz, our local expert for South Africa, can assist with creating your trekking itinerary and stopovers along the Otter Trail. Submit a trip request today to begin organising your hiking holiday

The trail is steep and challenging in places, but the views (which are simply outstanding) make it worth the sweat and effort. Massive, forested mountains, hidden caves, and rushing waterfalls are waiting to be discovered on the journey. At higher elevations, the ocean vistas will have your jaw on the ground.

2. Annapurna Circuit Trek, Nepal

The Annapurna Circuit is an iconic trail amongst trekkers. Taking around 20 days and covering up to 230km (depending on where/whether transportation is used at all) it is an impressive feat. With river crossings, rickety suspension bridges, mountainscapes and sky-high peaks, the scenery is dramatic and sublime. 

For those with less time to trek, Insight Guides' 12-day A Taste of the Annapurna holiday is ideal. The suggested itinerary includes a 7-night hike around the Annapurna, including a sunrise at the iconic Poon Hill, stayovers in teahouses and a restorative stop at Tatopani Hot Springs. Remember, the itinerary can be amended to suit your interests and requirements; simply get in touch with local expert Mark to discuss your holiday ideas today. 

In addition, a TIMS permit card is required to access some parts of Nepal. To learn more about this and other traveller essentials, read our list of Nepal travel tips.

3.The Cinque Terre, Italy

The sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea provide the backdrop for this gorgeous Italian trek. The Cinque Terre (or "The Five Lands") is made up of a collection of different, centuries-old villages, each more lovely than the next. They include: Manarola, Riomaggiore, Monterosso, Vernazza and Corniglia. The architecture is a vibrant mish-mash of pastels and brightly-coloured hues, creating pops of colour tucked into the rugged mountainsides. To trek the Cinque Terre is to stumble upon seaside cliffs, winding paths, and Italian eateries serving up some of the freshest seafood in the region. 

Teresa, our local expert for Italy, can plan, organise and book your walk along the Cinque Terre from start to finish. Submit a trip request today to being planning your next big adventure. 

Colorful village Vernazza and ocean coast in Cinque Terre. Photo: ShutterstockColourful village Vernazza and the dramatic coastline along the Cinque Terre. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Pacific Crest Trail, US

Given the fact that the US park system boasts over 18,000 miles of trails, it's bound to have some hiking gems. The Pacific Crest Trail (known simply as the PCT) is perhaps its most famous – partially thanks to the hit book-turned-movie Wild, in which author Cheryl Strayed walked more than 1,000 miles in solitude from Southern California all the way up to the Bridge of the Gods at the Washington-Oregon border. But the truth is that the PCT was attracting serious hikers long before Hollywood made it cool. The full scenic path covers the length of the West Coast, from Canada to Mexico. According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, it's a rugged, remote and sometimes dangerous path that shouldn't be approached lightly.

5. The Sky Walk at Monteverde Park, Costa Rica

Ready to immerse yourself in the Costa Rican rainforest? If so, give the Sky Walk in Monteverde Park a whirl. Hanging bridges and natural trails converge on this scenic jungle adventure, which brings visitors high above Monteverde's enchanting cloud forest. One of these bridges even stretches a staggering 984 feet. These paths and walkways provide close encounters with native plant life and rainforest creatures. Round out your day with a spot of zip-lining; Monteverde has plenty of heart-pumping opportunities on offer.

Check out local expert Alain's suggested tours of Costa Rica to experience the activities above or review our favourite hikes around the country here

6. Laugavegurinn, Iceland

Snow and ice and volcanoes – oh, my! The Laugavegurinn Trail isn't for the faint of heart. The 34-mile trek is dotted with patches of icy caverns, glaciers, and mind-bending rhyolite mountains that pop with splashes of blues and reds. As Lindsay from the Frugal Frolicker puts it: "This is not a trek for wildlife spotting or tree-hugging – nope, just wide open landscapes that seem to have sprung from another world." The real reason this trek stands out is for its wildly varying terrain and ecosystems.

Towers at sunrise, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Photo: ShutterstockTowers at sunrise, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Photo: Shutterstock

7. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

One of the most beloved and popular trails on the planet, the three-to-five-day Inca Trail is a wonder to behold. Steeped in history, you'll catch ancient ruins, rugged mountain landscapes, and sacred Inca treasures at every turn of this 26-mile hike. The journey concludes with the ultimate pay-off; the astounding Inca refuge that is Machu Picchu. The trek itself is loaded with archaeological gems. Discover them for yourself on Insight Guides' Peru: Into the Incan Empire holiday

8. Sierra Negra, the Galápagos Islands

Isabela is the largest island in the Galápagos archipelago; a 60-mile long, seahorse-shaped destination brimming with giant tortoises and active volcanoes. Sierra Negra is one of five volcanoes on the island. It's also home to one of the best hiking trails in the world, featuring a tremendous caldera with a stunning six-mile wide diameter. The highlight here is trekking across lava fields while taking in the archipelago's famous plant life. Overall, this hike is ideal for soaking up some truly unique geological wonders, like natural thermal vents. Add it to any of Amanda's itineraries (our local expert for Ecuador and the Galápagos) to experience this incredible trek on your holiday. 

9. The Appalachian Trail, US

The Appalachian Trail is a hiker's delight, spanning over 2,000 miles across craggy, verdant woodland. And, as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy points out, it's actually the longest hiking-only footpath on earth. It passes through 14 states (stretching all the way from Georgia up to Maine), and attracts a whopping three million visitors each year. Forested, rugged and woodsy, it's an American treasure that's usually tackled in short day trips or multi-day adventures.

10. Grey Glacier Trail, Chile

Chile's Torres del Paine park (aka Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) is an utterly magnificent destination for nature lovers. When it comes to hiking in wild Patagonia, Grey Glacier Trail is the ultimate spot. According to Atlas and Boots, the 7.5-mile trek translates to a little over five hours on the trail. It follows a northwesterly direction heading toward Grey Glacier, with surreal Lago de Grey at your side. The view from the summit is an icy marvel, which is why this one's considered one of the best hiking trails around. Make it your trail to trek on Days 11 or 12 of our Wild Patagonia holiday. Alternatively, talk to our local expert for Chile (Florencia) today to plan your Chile trip from scratch. 

Taking a hiking holiday: how to get started

Insight Guides can help you with holidays in over 100 destinations worldwide, from ancient ruins in Peru to pretty coastlines in Italy. If you’re looking to take your own hiking trip, get in touch. We’ll pair you with the best local expert for your chosen destination, who can plan, organise and book your entire trip for you, from start to finish. What are you waiting for? Submit a trip request today

This article was originally published on July 16th, 2016.