If you’re looking for a holiday idea and want to get away from the tourist traps, it’s well worth considering trekking vacations. The power of your own two legs can take you to amazing places and show you views only a few people ever get to see. They might take a little more planning and preparation than a week lying on the beach somewhere but the rewards can be incredible.
The first thing to do is decide whether you want to join an organized trek or plan your own. There are plenty of good reasons to sign up with a trekking company, particularly if you don’t have a lot of hiking experience. They’ll figure out the route, arrange accommodation or campsites along the way, and may also transport your baggage for you, so there is no need to carry heavy camping gear on your back. A big backpack can feel like a real burden, especially for those people whose knees aren’t quite what they used to be.
On the other hand, making your own way along a trail means you can choose exactly where you want to go, pick your own pace, and enjoy a little self-reliance. There’s nothing quite like roaming a beautiful wilderness area carrying everything you need on your own back. You won’t have to shop, get into a car, or do anything but breathe deeply and enjoy your surroundings. And of course, many of the carbon costs associated with supported trekking vacations when you camp and carry the gear.
Even if you have hiking experience, it’s a good idea to do a little training before starting a long distance route, but don’t see that as a bad thing. Looking forward to a fantastic hiking vacation can provide extra motivation to lose a few pounds, improve fitness, and get out and explore state and national parks in your local area.
Start with low level, shorter routes and work your way up to longer and more challenging ones. If you’re buying equipment rather than renting it (every hiker should have their own boots at the very least), look upon practice hikes as a chance to test the gear. Aim to spend at least one full day in the woods or the hills before leaving, carrying everything you’re going to take on the trek. That way there will be no surprises when you get to the trailhead on the first day.
No matter where you live there is probably a long distance footpath not too far away- hiking nearby can give you a whole new appreciation for your home as well as being a cheap and very green option- but if you want to go somewhere more exotic, here are a handful of the world’s best big trails:
Offa’s Dyke Path, UK – 177 miles
This waymarked trail follows the old border between England and Wales for most of its length. It starts on the south coast of Wales near Chepstow, winds through ancient woodlands and past castles and ruined chapels, up into the rolling green hills of the Brecon Beacons, and eventually finishes with spectacular mountain views before dropping back down to the sea at Prestatyn. It’s possible to stop every night of trekking vacations in this part of the world at a comfy B&B.
The Inca Trail, Peru – 35 miles
Jungle wildlife, incredible views, and the fascinating ruins of Machu Picchu- this route packs a lot into a relatively short length. At its highest point the Inca Trail is more than 4000m above sea level so hikers do need to acclimatize before starting. Most people take about four days to complete it.
The Appalachian Trail, USA – 2180 miles
The AT is no longer the lengthiest trail in America but it’s one of the oldest and most loved. It runs all the way from Georgia to Maine and takes in some of the best hiking in no less than 12 other states. Walking every mile is a huge challenge and most hikers pick short, scenic sections from that take anything from a day to a week. Virginia’s Blue Ridge, Delaware Water Gap, and Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness are considered highlights but there are plenty more.
The Wilderness Coast Walk, Australia – 63 miles
One of the trekking vacations and trails that winds through true wild country. That means carrying your own food and water and being fully prepared for any eventuality. There are no shops and no roads, and you’ll need to arrange a boat to take you to the starting point. It’s not an easy walk but the rewards are ample- unspoiled, empty beaches, dolphins cruising in the surf, and the kind of peace and quiet that’s all too rare.
Jess Spate is an experienced long distance trekker. She has completed several complete trails (including the Wilderness Coast Walk) and hiked sections from many more. When at home she writes for an American hiking gear store