We mostly cover trips in the United States, but we all know there are plenty of amazing places to explore beyond our borders. From the towering Himalayas to the loch-filled Scottish Highlands, the world is full of natural wonders to discover.
Many hikers have a “bucket list” of trips they would like to take. Usually, at least one of these is a journey of epic proportions, like the ones on today's list. Thinking about adding one of these trips to your own list? Read on for some inspiration!
Featured Photo: Sunrise over Mt. Kilimanjaro (photo by Diana Robinson)
West Highland Way (Scotland)
Scotland is known for its dramatic coastlines, lochs (lakes), and pastoral beauty. Located in the heart of the Highlands is the 96-mile West Highland Way. Rated as moderate to difficult, it takes about a week for most to complete. This route gives you a taste of much of the Scottish terrain. Meander through forests, sweeping moorlands, past numerous lochs, and climb up hills and steep mountainsides. Specific highlights include Loch Lomond, Ben Nevis (UK's highest mountain), Conic Hill, Glen Orchy, Rannoch Moor, Glencoe, and the Mamore Mountains.
Many people choose to travel south to north. This gives you time to build up to the harder parts in the northern end. Many campsites are along the way. But, you can wild camp if that is more your style.
If you don't have a week to spare, the trail can be broken up into day hikes. Take your pick of which areas seem the most picturesque.
Kepler Track (New Zealand)
New Zealand has no shortage of natural beauty. (Just look at some of the scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies!) One of the best long-distance trails there is the Kepler Track. Located on the south end of the southern island, it runs for 37 miles. It has been rated as moderate to difficult, but is well-marked.
The circuitous track offers breath-taking alpine views from ridgelines, glistening lakes, and verdant valleys. This mountain hike will have you feeling like you're walking on top of the world!
Being in the southern hemisphere, October through April is the best time to plan your trip. Only those with excellent navigational and river crossing skills and alpine experience should attempt it the rest of the year. You will need a “ticket” (backcountry permit) and to book campsites in advance. New Zealand is known for its backcountry huts and this trail has several.
For more details on this amazing trail, check out our full write-up.
Kamikochi-Yari-Hotaka Circuit (Japan)
There is no doubting the beauty of the European Alps. But have you heard of the Japanese Alps? The Kamikochi-Yari-Hotaka Circuit is one of the best ways to see these craggy, dramatic mountains. This 21-mile trail takes you on 3 days of epic adventure in the northern end of this range. The hike isn't easy, but affords unforgettable views of steep valleys and towering peaks. Specific highlights include Mt.Yarigatake, Mt. Okuhotaka-dake, and the vertigo-inducing Daikiretto. The latter features steep drops on either side. In any other country, it would be considered technical climbing. But, all kinds of assistance have been installed, such as ladders, bridges, and chains, to make it passable without needing major climbing gear. In other words, if you have a fear of heights, you might want to pass on this section!
That said, many find it worthwhile to summit the 3rd and 5th tallest mountains in the country. (Both are over 9,000ft high.) Plus, there are some alternate routes you can take to avoid the scariest parts. Huts are available along the route. But, if you're more about the tent life, you can pitch them nearby as well.
Torres del Paine “O” Circuit (Chile)
The Torres del Paine “O” Circuit is one of the most well-known hikes in the Patagonia region. Located in southern Chile, this circuitous track is 81 miles. On average, it takes about 7 days to complete. And, it is surprisingly moderate for this mountainous area.
If you're not already familiar, Patagonia features some of the most stunning scenery in South America, if not the world. The trail boasts tons of features, including entrancing glaciers and fjords, dazzling alpine lakes, and, of course, pronounced peaks. More specifically, there is Curenos del Paine, John Gardener Pass, Glacier Grey, and the Southern Patagonia Ice Field to look forward to.
This route is a bit different in that it has refugios and campsites for tent campers. Take your pick of one or the other or make the best of both!
We've written a detailed post on this circuit, so be sure to check it out here for more details!
Tour du Mont Blanc (France, Italy, Switzerland)
No backpacking bucket list would be complete without the Tour du Mont Blanc. Make sure you have plenty of vacation days saved up. This loop trail is a difficult 105 miles and takes 9-11 days to complete.
You can expect all that beautiful alpine landscapes offer: Glaciers, rolling meadows, mountain passes, rushing rivers, and the bluest lakes you've ever seen. Major highlights include Mont Blanc (Western Europe's tallest peak), Col de la Seigne, Vallee Blanche, Val Veni, and Grand Col Ferret. Aside from the natural beauty, this region is overflowing with history and quaint villages.
Speaking of, the trail passes through 17 towns and many smaller villages. Between this and the trail's large amount of huts, you have plenty of options for bedding down. Of course, you always have the option to “rough it” too.
West Coast Trail (Canada)
There are so many great hikes in Canada, it's hard to choose just one. Located on scenic Vancouver Island is one of the most popular ones. (And for good reason!) This trail is for the truly adventurous and experienced. The West Coast Trail takes you on a very difficult 47-mile route along the rugged coastline. It takes most people 6-8 days to complete.
This backpacking route gives a taste of all the unique terrain this area of Canada has to offer. Originally used as a way to rescue shipwreck survivors, you will find plenty of river crossings, temperate rainforests, sprawling beaches, and intriguing rock formations. Tsusiat Falls is worth spending some extra time at. You'll also come across small caves in the cliffs and concealed pocket coves. With the incoming tides and many streams along the way, be sure to know how to read and use a tide chart!
Love spotting wildlife on your outdoor excursions? You're very likely to spot a bear or two and evidence of wolves. But, if you're lucky, you may spot some whales, sea lions, and other marine animals too. Keep a lookout for those shipwreck remains as well.
Limited permits are given out for this route each year. Be sure to plan ahead! For more details on this trip, check out our full write-up.
Lemosho Route (Tanzania)
Mt.Kilimanjaro is the largest freestanding mountain in the world. It is a stark contrast to the surrounding savanna. Over 19,000ft high, it's easy to see why this is one of the world's most iconic mountains.
While that's a lot of elevation gain to reach the top, the Lemosho Route is not as arduous as you would expect. In fact, it was created to lessen the elevation gains. Plus, it gives you more time to acclimate, helping to avoid altitude sickness.
It's 42 miles in length and takes most hikers about a week to finish. (It is a point-to-point trail, so you will have to arrange for transportation at the end.) It's also a good idea to plan your trip for the dry months. The wet season can be intense in Africa.
Aside from being easier, the Lemosho Route is also touted as the most scenic way to summit this dormant volcano. The four different habitat types you'll pass through also keep things interesting. Other highlights include the Shira Plateau (the former third peak before collapsing), Barranco Valley, Lava Tower, and the Southern Ice Field.
Everest Base Camp (Nepal)
Reaching the summit of Mt.Everest is at the top (pun intended) of all serious climbers' bucket lists. Hiking to its base camp is just as popular amongst backpackers.
The trek is 80 miles, taking most adventurers 12-14 days to complete. Several of these days are used for acclimation. That said, it's still a good idea to train beforehand, especially in higher elevations. (Base camp is 16,000ft above sea level.) With so much use, the trail is straightforward. But, you can also go with a guide service to ease some of your worries.
The path to Everest base camp provides some of the most amazing vistas in the world. Kalapathar is an especially awesome viewpoint. The area is dotted with glaciers, moraines, icefalls, rivers, and even some forests. Be sure to take time to enjoy the sherpa villages and other historical features too. The Buddhist Tengboche monastery is the world's biggest and oldest. A stop at the Hillary museum is worthwhile too.
What trips are on your backpacking bucket list? Have you done any of the ones on our list? We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below!
Looking for more international hikes? Check out these full write-ups on the blog!
Hike of the Week: Milford Track
Hike of the Week: Barker Hut Overnight
Hike of the Week: Sunshine Village to Mount Assiniboine
For even more amazing backpacking trips visit The Trailhead, our interactive hike map. It contains a curated list of dozens of hikes, each with a detailed write-up.
Finally, check out our comprehensive list of backpacking articles that cover just about everything there is to know about backpacking. If you're just starting out, our Backpacking 101 section covers all the basics. If you already have a few trips under your belt, you can find more advanced topics covered in our Expert Articles.
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