Long distance trekking has become a major tourism draw to many places, as stories of successful journeys wow readers of popular books like “Wild” by Cherly Strayed or “The Pilgrimage” by Paulo Coelho. If you’re in shape and want a real adventure, these can be some of the most amazing experiences of a lifetime. Here are some top recommendations.
1. United States
While often derided as the home of the most obese people of the world, the US has amazing national parks and wilderness areas, along with some fantastic long-distance routes. The Appalachian Trail is about 3500 km and runs from Georgia to Maine and offers a unique perspective on regions of the country that are rarely visited by domestic or foreign tourists. The Pacific Coast Trail runs 4826 km, all the way from the Mexican to Canadian borders through California, Oregon, and Washington. East of this spectacular route and roughly parallel is the Continental Divide Trail, which takes in 5000 km across five states. It includes much of Glacier National Park in northwest Montana—perhaps some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.
There are over 43 long distance routes in Ireland that make up the system of National Waymarked Trails. In total, they cover 4000 km of beautiful terrain and endless opportunities for individual exploration. The unique Irish landscape is a fantastic place to lose oneself and truly enjoy nature. While wilderness is the primary draw, there are also a variety of historical paths that are modeled after the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain (another very worthy trek to look into). These shorter pilgrim paths are worth following for the wealth of medieval history that they follow and traditional villages that they counter. Take a Dover ferry to get started.
Trekking in the Himalaya is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences imaginable. You don’t have to be an expert mountain climber to take part in the Annapurna Circuit. While much shorter than the other options listed here (about 230 km), it takes in stunning scenery at some incredibly high mountain passes and around some of the world’s tallest mountains. Culture is another unique draw, as the friendliness of Nepalese villagers, guides, and porters is unparalleled. Highly recommended for anyone, especially as it requires less preparation logistically and physically than longer treks but offers a similar sense of awe.
El Sendero de Chile covers the entire length of this very long continent. In total, it makes up over 9,700 km and is way, WAY off the beaten path. It was designed in cooperation from the government and local communities as a method by which the environment could be protected, tribes could be linked, and tourist money could be brought to impoverished areas without destroying their cultural character. It is one of the most ambitious projects in the world, and while still under development in parts, offers a totally unique way to see the landscape. This is the way to see the Andes.
Wherever you go, you may find there are infinite choices for furthering your health. Long distance trekking can be an extreme undertaking, but it is an incredible experience.