Often the best way to see a country is on foot, interacting with locals and reaching remote vantage points for far-reaching views. But certain destinations lend themselves to walking more than others; according to global travellers, these five destinations offer the world’s best hiking opportunities, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro.*
Hike through Myanmar's Shan Hills to the bewitching Lake Inle
The hill station of Kalaw in Myanmar is the starting point of the 3-day, 60km trek to Lake Inle, a bewitching, shallow lake where tangerine sunset scenes are characterised by silhouettes of fishermen standing on long, wooden boats. These fishermen use a technique found nowhere else in the world – balancing on one leg, they cast nets over the lake while wrapping their other leg around an oar to propel themselves forward – elegantly gliding across the water in wide-leg Burmese fisherman trousers and conical hats. Acquire a guide from a local trekking company in Kalaw to traverse Myanmar’s Shan Hills, where the mellow scenery features hazy pine forest, rice terraces, sesame fields and villages of rickety bamboo houses. The indisputable highlight of this whole experience has to be the hospitality of the locals – note their beaming smiles and cheeks painted golden with the bark of the thanaka tree (to protect skin from the sun). Most arranged treks include nights spent in village homestays but you can check into Kalaw Vista B&B before you set off.
Nallathanniya, Sri Lanka
At the top of conical mountain, Adam's Peak, the sunrises are quite something
The Sri Lankan village of Nallathanniya is known as the starting point for the popular climb up Adam’s Peak. This conical mountain’s summit holds sacred meaning for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians, and it also offers some of the island’s finest views – especially at sunrise. Look out over cloud forested hill country to the east, the Indian Ocean stretching towards the horizon to the west, and admire the shadow cast by the mountain on a sunny day. While the hike uphill isn’t complex, it is arduous, taking between two to four hours to ascend almost 6000 stone steps. But there are some alternative routes to the top, with gentler inclines. Not to mention lots of local delicacies to fuel up on – think coconut and chicken curry, and poppadoms with mango chutney. Rest up the night before at Queensark, an accommodation that’s just a 5-minute walk from the start of the hike.
Hike past waterfalls, moss-covered rocks and luminescent green ferns in Slovakia
The village of Hrabušice is surrounded by world-class hikes suitable for almost any age or experience level, being a springboard to the Slovak Paradise or Slovak Karst national parks. The latter is a nature reserve that’s known for its network of over 1,000 subterranean caves and abysses but it’s the landscape above ground that we’re here for; located in a verdant corner of southeast Slovakia, the park contains moody karst mountain and spruce forest scenery, as well as the Háj waterfalls (or Hájske in Slovak). These waterfalls are frequently visited in winter when freezing temperatures turn them into a spectacle of icy stalactites but during the summer hiking season, their moss-covered rocks and luminescent green ferns make the scene equally resplendent. You’ll find 500km of trails in the area to choose from but hiking through the Zadielska Valley (the deepest gorge in Slovakia) is – understandably – a particularly popular option, with a quiet creek running through it that spills off into countless cascades. Base yourself in the wooden cabin of Penzion-Ranc u Trapera.
Palas de Rei, Spain
Head to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago, arguably Europe’s most famous ancient pilgrimage
This small Galician town can be found on the final stretch of the Camino de Santiago, arguably Europe’s most famous ancient pilgrimage. The Camino is a well-trodden trail that leads to Santiago de Compostela, a cathedral city believed to be the final resting place of the apostle St James. However, the majority of those attempting the route aren’t here for religious reasons; a hiking holiday along the Camino brings with it bucolic scenery, exceptional local tapas like polbo á feira (octopus drizzled with olive oil, rock salt and smoked Spanish paprika) and a strong social aspect – people walk side by side and tend to befriend fellow pilgrims. It also affords the opportunity to stay in albergues, B&B-style hostels often found in old farmhouses. Break up the route into two one-day treks, following the well-marked path between the towns of Portomarin and Arzúa. Stay overnight en route in Palas de Rei at Casa Blanco, a stone country house just outside of town.
Hrensko, Czech Republic
Discover the Pravčická brána, the largest natural sandstone archway in Europe
From the little, half-timbered village of Hrensko on the Elbe River, numerous hikes lead off in various directions through the Czech Republic’s Bohemian Switzerland National Park. One of the most naturally beautiful and suitable-for-all-ages routes is the 20km-loop that starts and ends close to the village and takes about six hours. The main attraction of the trail is probably the Pravčická brána, the largest natural sandstone archway in Europe and a truly imposing monument that spans nearly 30 metres and has starred in films including 2005’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Along the way, you’ll encounter misty gorges, crystalline creeks, stepping stones for children to play on, and short but leisurely boat rides on the Kamenice River. U Fořta offers accommodation within the national park.
**The data scientists at Booking.com looked at the highest-rated destinations (each having a minimum of 100 endorsements) for ‘hiking’.