I’ve just completed my last trek of this trip and wanted to share my top 7 with you (I wanted to go with 5, but I couldn’t decide which 2 to cut!). It’s a dynamic list which no doubt will change as I do more and more treks but some of these will be tough to beat!
Personally, there’s something special about being out in the middle of nowhere, disconnected from the world and walking through remarkable landscapes. It affords me the chance to think, to make decisions and also a rare chance to just switch off and be.
The 7 treks below aren’t in any form of order, they are all special in their own right.
Annapurna circuit, Nepal
15 days, 160 km’s
I did the Annapurna Circuit in a previous trip in 2013 and it remains one of my all time favorite treks. The Himalayas are home to some extraordinary mountains and hidden within the massif is this circuit.
There are 3 main reasons why this circuit will always be one of my favourites:
- The beauty of it all – over 15 days, you will pass through a number of villages located in some of the most remote parts of the world. When you aren’t passing through small patches of civilization, you’re in the middle of the Himalayas, surrounded by some of the world’s tallest mountains, all snow capped and imposing. The highlight of the circuit is passing through the Thorung La pass, a pass located 5,416 m above sea level. The climb is made worthwhile when you see the views from above the clouds.
- The people – passing through small villages and sleeping in tea houses along the circuit afford you the opportunity to meet the local occupants who are amongst the friendliest, warmest people I’ve met to this day. This made the trek even more incredible.
- It’s not easy. Whilst you’ll be acclimatising gently over the days preceding the Thorung La Pass, altitude makes this trek difficult and some of the ascents are pretty intense.
I wrote a piece about the Annapurna Circuit a while back, you can read it here.
Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru
10 days, 120 km’s
Located in the Andes, Cordillera Huayhuash is a range of remote mountains located in what felt like the middle of nowhere. It’s a camping trek where you’ll spend most of your time above 4,000m which gives you a chance to discover numerous high altitude turquoise lakes and landscapes you wouldn’t ordinarily see at a more palatable altitude.
You’ll cover a fair amount of distance and conquer a mountain pass every day, some of which are above 5,000m. A trek is made enjoyable by the people you’re trekking with and I was fortunate to be trekking with a great group. We spent most days solving the world’s problems or just talking rubbish. It was super.
You can read more about my experience and see my photo blog from Cordillera Huayhuash here.
Torres Del Paine, Chilean Patagonia
5 days, 100 km’s
Trekking the W Circuit of Torres Del Paine was incredible as the circuit condenses such a variety of different landscapes into the 5 days. Whilst many treks will either consist of only lakes or mountains, this one has glaciers, mountains, lakes and an almost alien-like landscape in parts.
The trek is also customizable so you can trek it in whatever manner suits you (west to east/east to west, duration, type of accommodation, etc). It also isn’t difficult (with the exception of the final stretch to the Torres). You do cover a decent distance, however, and the days can get long. Patagonia also has extreme weather and you can easily experience 4 seasons in one day. I remember walking through light rain and snow one morning but the afternoon was clear, warm and blustery.
You can read my guide and photo blog here.
Mount Kinabalu, Sabah – Malaysian Borneo
2 days, 14 km’s
Technically not a trek as the goal of this was to summit Mount Kinabalu. It entailed a steep climb to a base camp on the mountain on day one, followed by a final ascent the following day to watch the sunrise from above the clouds. Thereafter, you’ll return to base camp for breakfast and then descend to the bottom of the mountain.
It must be said that this is not an easy summit. You spend an entire day going up, ascending almost 2 km’s and then descend the same way the following day. My knees were buggered by the time I got back to my hostel in Kota Kinabalu. Having said this, it was one of the most beautiful and rewarding climbs I’ve done. The sunrise was something that will render you speechless and the sheer rock face at the top of Mount Kinabalu is stark and sits above the clouds, almost looking like a dragon’s back – it was incredible and worth the pain and suffering that ensued over the following 2 days!
You can see my photo blog from Mount Kinabalu here.
Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador
4 days, 35 kms
The Quilotoa loop is a 4 day trek that will take you through a rural part of Ecuador whilst passing through mountainous valleys and small villages. The highlight of the loop is ending at the crater lake of the Quilotoa Volcano – a gigantic crater lake created when the volcano imploded. The sheer size of the lake is something special.
During the loop, you’ll stay in lodges located in towns that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the loop. Some of these lodges are better than others but overall, the experience is a unique one.
You can read more about my experience on the Quilotoa Loop here.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
2 days, 30 kms
This is more of a country walk than a trek but it’s one you have to do if you’re in Myanmar. Located between the villages of Kalaw and Nyaungshwe, the 2 day trek will take you through small villages and farms in the countryside of the Shan province of Myanmar.
I enjoyed this walk immensely as Myanmar is yet to experience the tourist explosion that the rest of South East Asia has experienced. You’ll be rewarded with small authentic villages and farms being tended to by subsistence farmers. You’ll spend the evening in a local homestay, which is as basic as you get but so homely. I remember spending most of the evening drinking beer with a new mate, Sebastian, and talking nonsense – the next day the man who owned the homestay couldn’t believe we had drunk so much, which really was not a lot at all by Western standards. I just loved his innocence about it!
The trek ends with a boat ride across Inle Lake to the town of Nyaungshwe.
You can check out my photo blog from the walk here.
Batad Rice Terraces, Banaue, Philippines
3 days, 35 km’s
The Batad Rice Terraces are deserving of their UNESCO world heritage status and are a must see if you’re in the Philippines.
This trek starts from the town of Banaue, a terrible 12 hour bus ride from Manila, and meanders through the mountains surrounding the small town. You’ll hike through rice paddies that seem impossibly mounted onto the side of mountains for the better part of 3 days and will spend the night in small lodges in some of the bigger farming communities (by bigger, I really mean there are more than 2 houses – still so tiny!).
The reward for the trek is arriving at the famous rice terraces – just acres of green rice paddies on either side of the steep mountains. It is hard to believe that they’re so old yet in such manicured condition. You need to see it to believe that they really exist.
You can read about this hike here.
It’s ridiculous really – the more treks I do, the more I discover new ones I want to do. The benefit of meeting so many travelers on this trip is they have great suggestions for treks and hikes I’ve never even heard of, so as much as the bucket list is being tended to, I feel it’s also growing just as quickly!