The W Trek, Chile and Argentina
What will I see? Soaring, snow-capped mountains, ancient glaciers, condors and the camel’s cousin, the guanaco. The trail follows a W-shape as it weaves around the imposing Torres del Paine massif.
How hard is it? You’ve got to do some prep. The one-way walk is 80km long, with several short, tough bursts. Most people take five days to do the W, either east-west or west-east. Try these hiking poles to feel less fatigued)
Unforgettable moment The first glimpse of the Torres, the three granite spires that jut kilometres into the big skies above, is memorable. Plus you may spot a puma.
In a group or going solo? Well signposted, with refugios (basic accommodation) and campsites along the path, many people go self-guided, especially in the peak season, January-March. Alternatively, you can use a guide, and add horse riding, kayaking and nature safaris to the adventure, with stays at eco-lodges around the Torres Del Paine National Park: try the Tierra or Explora lodges.
Find out more Intrepid Travel’s 10-day Patagonia Trekking tour from Santiago to Buenos Aires includes four days’ guided trekking on the W trail, including a trek to the best lookout, at Mirador las Torres, camping along the way. Costs from $4,830, intrepidtravel.com.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
What will I see? Sweet villages in pastel colours cling to the edge of cliffs that plunge into the Mediterranean Sea below. Following cobblestone paths and forest tracks, discover the villages of this historical coastline.
How hard is it? The rating is “leisurely” but you need to be reasonably fit and have decent knees, as there are a lot of stairs leading up and down the cliffs, so your calf muscles do feel it. The famous Path of the Gods has 1700 steps from Bomerano, about 650m above sea level, down to the beach at Positano.
Unforgettable moment Walking into the mouth of Mt Vesuvius is both terrifying and exultant, because there are no railings as you walk into the crater of the volcano. It’s eerily quiet, with just the wind, steam, smoke and the heat. Classed as an active volcano, its last eruption was in 1940.
In a group or going solo? Best in a group dynamic, to recap at the end of the day with a big dinner at a family-owned hotel.
Find out more Exodus Travel’s most popular tours are on the Amalfi Coast, where it offers five self-guided and guided walks. Their eight-day Highlights of the Amalfi Coast costs from $2,255, includes transfers and most meals, 1300 131 564, exodustravels.com.
Kumano Kodo, Japan
What will I see? Kumano Kodo refers to a network of pilgrim trails on the Kii Peninsula, in Japan’s leading hiking region. Stay in ryokans serving Kaiseki (traditional dinners) and explore the Shinto, Buddhist and animistic origins of the spiritual walk, which is twinned with the world’s other most famous pilgrim route, the Camino de Santiago.
How hard is it? Following cobblestone paths, woodland trails and some paved roads, walkers can take a gentle two-night stroll, a four-night intermediate walk or advanced five-night trek. There are various points where you can hop on a bus, or do a full, eight-hour walk, to that night’s accommodation. “You can dip in and out, taking shortcuts to spiritual enlightenment,” says Harry Sargent of Inside Japan.
Unforgettable moment? “Spotting the five-tiered Nachi Taisha pagoda at the end of the trail, with Japan’s tallest waterfall behind it, I felt I’d earned it,” Harry says. Bathing in hot springs and staying in traditional Japanese accommodation, there’s a sense of rural serenity only a few hours from Osaka and Kyoto.
In a group or going solo? Either. The trails are signposted in English, and are accessible year-round.
Find out more Inside Japan offers many itineraries, including a four-night, self-guided walk from $1,813 a person. Self-guided walkers can also opt to meet with a guide for a briefing at the beginning of the trip, (07) 3186 8800, insidejapantours.com.
Learn about the Dreamtime
Larapinta trail, Northern Territory
What will I see? The 223km desert walk follows Tjoritja, the West MacDonnell National Park in the MacDonnell Ranges, from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder, and takes 14 to 20 days to complete. However, there are single and multi-day options.
How hard is it? With five to seven hours of walking daily, the full route is rated moderate to challenging; shorter treks are rated introductory to moderate.
Unforgettable moment Sunrise at the trail’s highest point, Mount Sonder, and a Welcome to Country at Angkerle Atwatye (Standley Chasm) from the traditional owners of the land.
In a group or going solo? Be as independent as you like on this walk with wilderness camping. Commercial hiking was pioneered back in 1995 by World Expeditions, which has constructed four award-winning, sustainable campsites on the trail, with hot showers and safari tents, and a bush-tucker experience that taps into the trail’s indigenous flora. (Looking for a good hiking pack? We like this one)
Find out more World Expeditions’ brand, Australian Walking Holidays, has a six-day Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort, from $2,795, where your pack is transported ahead to each night’s accommodation. There are also three, nine and 12-day guided and self-guided tours available, including an annual art-based trip, as well as women’s-only departures, australianwalking holidays.com, larapintatrail.com.au.
The pilgrims’ walk
Camino De Santiago, Spain
What will I see? Tree-lined paths and quiet country roads lead to amazing views over the mountains and valleys, and through historic villages. The Camino is not only about what you will see, but the experience and the overwhelming sense of accomplishment at the conclusion of the journey.
How hard is it? The full, 830km Camino de Santiago takes about five weeks to walk. You can do sections or take an alternative route to the cathedral in the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela, where the apostle Saint James is said to be buried. UTracks’ walking consultant Jaclyn Lofts suggests the 610km Portuguese Way from Lisbon to Santiago, or the shorter 119km Camino Inglés (the English Way), from Ferrol to Santiago, as alternatives to the main route.
Unforgettable moment You can walk any section of the Camino, but arriving in Santiago is a significant part of the story. “It resonates with people to arrive on foot, like pilgrims in times gone by,” Jaclyn says.
In a group or going solo? The well-marked trail always has other walkers and local people ready to help, so self-guided walking is fine. “There’s a supportive environment I haven’t experienced anywhere else from fellow walkers and cyclists, and the people from the local towns make you feel welcome and cared for,” Jaclyn adds.
Find out more UTracks has 39 guided and self-guided Camino tours, from the five-day The Way of St James (Le Puy to Aumont), from $860, to the 41-day Full Camino del Norte, from Irun, from $6,390, and includes baggage transportation between your hotels, 1300 303 368, utracks.com.
Spot humpback whales
Three Capes Track, Tasmania
What will I see? There’s plenty to inspire awe on one of Australia’s newest multi-day hikes: the highest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere at Cape Pillar, spiky echidnas and, in spring and autumn, humpback whales travelling to and from Antarctica, says Gail MacCallum of Tasmanian hiking gear and food provider Three Capes Gear & Gourmet.
How hard is it? Designed as an introduction to multi-day walking, the 46km trail starts at Port Arthur and has proved very popular with families in the school holidays.
Unforgettable moment “It’s got to be Day 3,” says Gail. “With Tasman Island in front of you, you can see the sweep of the coastline where you’ve come from, and all three capes. Standing, uncaged, in that space that you’ve got to on your own legs, it’s a pretty amazing experience.”
In a group or going solo? Designed as a self-guided, self-catered, waymarked track, it’s either paved, banked gravel or broad boardwalks that allow two walkers side-by-side. The accommodation is in new, beautifully designed eco-huts that sleep four or eight to a room, with gas stoves, board games, libraries and yoga mats, and a host ranger at each hut who can brief on terrain and weather. September to April is the busiest time, when numbers are restricted to 48 walkers starting the one-way trail each day, in staggered departures.
Find out more An adult pass to hike the track costs $495, threecapestrack.com.au. You can hire hiking gear and buy prepacked meals from $70 for three days’ food, or go luxe and add cocktails, cheeses and meals, such as beef cheek, in vac-sealed bags,
(03) 6234 4918, email 3capesgearandgourmet.com.au.
See koalas in the wild
Great Ocean Walk, Victoria
What will I see? The 12 Apostles, Cape Otway Lighthouse, forests of colourful mountain ash and the dramatic Shipwreck Coast.
How hard is it? “Overall, it’s a moderate walk,” says Marie Killeen, Auswalk’s head guide, who has walked it end-to-end around 50 times over the past decade. The section from Melanesia Beach to Moonlight Head is the toughest day, with lots of ups and downs, but, according to Marie, it’s the length of the Great Ocean Walk, at 104km, that sets the challenge.
Unforgettable moment? “From clifftops overlooking the powerful ocean, then walking through mountain ash forests, the walk changes from morning to afternoon,” Marie says. Seeing koalas in the section from Shelly Beach to Blanket Bay is fantastic too, she adds.
In a group or going solo? A well signposted walk from east to west, with not too many offshoots, this is the most malleable of trails, and can be broken up into day walks that attract plenty of weekend walkers, who camp or stay at luxury lodges, or even lighthouses, on the way. Guides teach the indigenous culture and the botany of the region, but sometimes, it’s not about chatting but enjoying the quiet, Marie says.
Find out more at greatoceanwalk.com.au. Auswalk offers guided and self-guided walks from four to eight days covering sections or the entire length of the walk, (03) 9597 9767, auswalk.com.au.