Lifestyle Wanderlust the March 2024 issue

Star Treks

Great Destinations for Hiking
By Jonathan Hermann Posted on March 3, 2024

Whenever the hiking trails are dry and uncrowded.

1 granola bar = 10 Jelly Babies

Changes depending on the destination but always know how to say “hello” in the local language to greet other hikers.

Adventures by Disney, CIE Tours, G Adventures, Intrepid, Tauck

These life-changing, foot-blistering treks are the ones you read books about, whether it’s the mighty Appalachian Trail that connects awe-inspiring vistas from Mount Springer, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine, or the Hokkaido Nature Trail that wondrously winds through glaciers, forests and volcanic mountains for 2,849 miles in northern Japan.

For common travelers, though, we don’t have a week or two to spend exclusively on hiking, but we still want to earmark a good, vigorous, fresh-air-seeking walk into our sightseeing itinerary. It’s important to do so—hiking is a crucial invigorator of the human spirit, one that feeds our innate need to explore the unknown, push ourselves physically and mentally, and discover some of the last remote places in the world before someone builds a Starbucks there.

Here are some of the greatest destinations for hikers, the places that are inspiring to experience in myriad ways, and they just so happen to include exceptional day trips for those of us who wish to strap on a sturdy pair of Salomons. But let’s be honest here: this list is incomplete. Nearly every country in the world is full of great trails, but there are only so many pages in this magazine. So here I’ll focus on a handful of truly special hiking spaces—the true stars of the trekking world—that may or may not be on your radar.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy


Let’s start with the most obvious choice. While Italy’s unique boot shape creates nearly 5,000 miles of gorgeous coastline, the seven miles of the Amalfi Coast known as Cinque Terre are the cherries on top the tiramisu (note: never put cherries on tiramisu). Translated as “Five Lands,” Cinque Terre is a UNESCO-listed collection of five small villages packed with centuries-old pastel-painted houses and tucked in among cozy coves and dramatic cliffs overlooking the Gulf of Genoa.

With blinders on, you could power-hike the seven-mile Blue Trail connecting the villages in five hours, but to do so would deprive your eyes, your heart and your soul of the area’s unquestionable beauty. For this is a hike you never want to finish, choosing instead to savor each footfall and the spectacular view it provides.

Along the way, the villages beckon with appetizing aromas and pure Italian charisma. In Monterosso, the largest of the villages, you can kayak along secret coves that define the village. Your eyes will get a workout in Vernazza as they are constantly dazzled by the pastel-colored houses and the vibrant blue sea that greets you at every turn. In Corniglia, climb the 382 red-brick steps of the Lardarina staircase to quickly ascend from the rocky beach to the village. Manarola is the best spot to sip Sciacchetrà, the region’s famed wine, the grape vines of which surround the village. And in Riomaggiore, visit a 14th-century church and the crag-perched Castle of Riomaggiore in the morning before feasting on lobster ravioli at a seaside café.

Biddlecombe Cascades, Jatbula Trail, Northern Territory, Australia


Australia is gifted with a stunning mixture of terrains that attract hikers worldwide. From the rugged Australian Alps Walking Track weaving through Victoria’s High Country and the Jatbula Trail winding through the Katherine Gorge of the Northern Territory’s spectacular Nitmiluk National Park to Tasmania’s Overland Track, a 40-mile bushwalking trail through Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, the options are plentiful, breathtaking and worthy of the 15-hour plane ride.

But only one hike will take you around a living, breathing sacred site. Uluru, the 550-million-year-old sandstone monolith that surreally dominates the flat Red Centre of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, is the focal point of the indigenous Anangu people’s Dreaming story. To them, it is alive with ancient spirits and is the site of their most important ceremonies. The six-mile Uluru Base Walk not only circles the awestriking natural wonder but also allows you to gain valuable insights into one of the oldest cultures on Earth.

Climbing Mt. Fuji in Japan


While Japan’s massive cities garner most of the world’s attention, the country’s natural gifts deserve equal praise. The Japanese know this. They’ve spent centuries cultivating tranquil temples and serene Zen to maximize the appreciation of the natural world. This is most reflected in their concept of forest bathing—shinrin-yoku—the idea that spending time outdoors in natural, wooded areas can heal the mind, body and soul. Naturally, they have placed a great emphasis on hiking.

While the ancient island nation boasts some serious, time-consuming treks—such as the 55-mile Kumano Kodo trails that weave through the lush terrain of the Wakayama prefecture and the famous Shikoku Henro trail that connects 88 temples—day hikers can set their sights on something easier and loftier: none other than Mt. Fuji itself. The iconic mountain can be scaled via one of four pathways, with the most popular being the Yoshida Trail. The four-mile trail is not a walk in the park, but thankfully the good people of Japan have provided mountain huts and other amenities to assist your ascent. Typically, hikers break the journey into two parts, staying overnight at one of the huts, in order to watch the sun rise over the countryside. Only then can you appreciate why the nation is called “the land of the rising sun.”

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile


Chile’s recently completed Ruta de los Parques—aka the Route of Parks—stretches 1,740 miles from Puerto Montt in the country’s Lake District to Cape Horn in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. That’s a third of the entire country. What’s more impressive is the number of national parks the trail connects, hence the Route of Parks name—17 in all. And these aren’t your garden-variety parks either, thanks to the volcanoes, rainforests, glaciers and the soaring peaks of the Andes they contain.

Hiking highlights include the 28 glaciers of Laguna San Rafael National Park, home to the 1,600-square-mile Northern Patagonian Ice Field that extends over the highest mountain in the Southern Andes, blanketing the surrounding plains, and Torres del Paine National Park, which receives 17 hours of daylight during the summer months, just enough time for you to soak in the serene glacial lakes, towering granite pillars and plummeting waterfalls. Conquering the entire route would be a Herculean task, but it’s a joy to sample a few sections by car. Along the way, the friendliness of the Chilean people and the laid-back culture of this gorgeous country will surprise you.

Lakes of Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Ireland


With an artistically chiseled coastline that amazes at every bend of the Wild Atlantic Way along with an endless expanse of emerald hills punctuated with Celtic ruins, Ireland is an ideal destination to explore on foot. Hiking along bubbling streams, cutting through verdant pine forests, tracing rock-strewn shores past ancient huts, and stepping onto the surreal limestone flats of the Burren truly connects you with the Irish culture. Plus, there’s a pint of Guinness to revive you at the end of every day.

The country was made for day tripping thanks to its Indiana-like size, so anyone staying in Dublin for a week can easily venture out in a rental car for an unforgettable hike. Prime targets include the Wicklow Way, which stretches roughly 79 miles through the Wicklow Mountains; the Muckross House, a 19th-century estate set in Killarney National Park, where you can trek lakeside past meandering cows and under ancient bridges to discover 65-foot-high Torc Waterfall; and the Ring of Kerry, a jaw-dropping route along the Iveragh Peninsula where hikers will often outpace the bus-loaded tourists stuck in traffic.

Whichever section of Ireland—or Italy, Australia, Japan and beyond—you hike, you’ll often find that breaking away from jam-packed city centers to experience the wild splendor of a country is the best way to sense its real identity, its true nature. And that is, after all, one of the main reasons we travel.

One of the best things about traveling to new destinations is trying local foods. Surprisingly, you can continue this exciting practice when hiking internationally. While many American hikers tend to go with tried-and-true trail mix or a sturdy protein bar, trekkers in other countries often pack other morsels in their bags. Here are a few to look out for the next time you find yourself hiking in foreign lands.

Erdnussflips (Germany) > These puffed corn cheese curls sprayed with a spicy peanut sauce are lightweight and delicious.

Onigiri (Japan) > This popular rice ball, found in convenience stores around the country, comes in a variety of flavors, including tuna mayo, salted salmon and pickled plum.

Biltong (South Africa) > Kin to beef jerky, biltong is a wildly popular snack made of dried, cured meat that is marinated with vinegar, pepper, cloves and coriander and air dried.

Tostado (Ecuador) > Similar to corn nuts, tostados are dried maize fried with onions, garlic and pork fat, then covered in salt.

Jelly Babies (United Kingdom) > Candy is a popular hiking treat around the globe, especially in the United Kingdom where Jelly Babies—a softer, juicier gummy bear—reign supreme.


Cruising and hiking surprisingly go hand in hand. On a port day, when most of the passengers either head straight to the closest beach or souvenir shop, adventurers take advantage of the day with a trail-seeking shore excursion that delves deeper into a destination. Here are five popular ports where a great hike is on the itinerary.

Barcelona, Spain > Strolling through the 42 acres of Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but if you have more time, nothing beats hiking along the serrated mountains of Montserrat, home of the famous Montserrat Monastery.

Roseau, Dominica > Nicknamed “nature island,” this island is home to some of the best hiking in the Caribbean, especially on the coast-to-coast Waitukubuli National Trail that covers 115 miles and takes you to a rainforest-shrouded volcano and the 206-foot-wide Boiling Lake.

Juneau, Alaska > With more hiking trails than roads, Juneau has a lot to offer hikers. The star of the region is the mighty Mendenhall Glacier, trails to which will put you in prime position to watch black bears searching the surging waters for salmon suppers.

Kauai, Hawaii > The 11-mile Kalalau Trail is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful hikes you’ll ever take, bringing you along the beaches of the Na¯ Pali Coast and up close to the towering 300-foot-tall Hanaka¯pı¯‘ai waterfall.

Auckland, New Zealand > While most passengers here will hike swiftly to the closest winery (and who can blame them), those looking to stretch their legs a bit can climb the nearby dormant volcano of Mt. Eden to discover breathtaking views and Maori cultural insights.

Ship at port in Juneau, Alaska

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