“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” The words of Henry David Thoreau, a man who knew more than a thing or two about the value of the great outdoors to the human condition. It’s no secret that Thoreau was a firm believer in the merits of donning a pair of hiking boots and getting lost in the wilds.
Hiking through nature in all its guises can do wonders for the body, the mind, and the soul. Plus, every hiking experience is different. No two excursions, even in the same environment, will ever be the same. Seasons, weather conditions, and even the company you keep can change the whole experience dramatically. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of the world’s most spectacular and memorable hiking experiences to inspire even the most jaded of minds.
Iceland’s Vatnajökull Glacier hike
Iceland, a land of fire and ice, and home to some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. Vatnajökull glacier, situated in the island’s southeast is regarded as being the largest glacier in Europe with an area of almost 3,127 square miles (8,100 square kilometers) and holds the tallest peak in the country, along with a host of active volcanoes. It may not sound enticing but Vatnajökull glacier is the perfect location for an inspirational hiking experience.
In the company of a highly-experienced local guide, hikers make their way to the foot of the glacier and follow a twisting path until you reach the tongue of the glacier. Once there it’s time to don your helmet and specialist crampons and make your way onto the ice which will give you the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime hike atop up to 1,500 feet of glistening virgin blue ice. If the weather conditions are just right, you may even have the chance to walk on the ice of a frozen waterfall as it streams down from the mountain’s peaks towards the sea below. This really is a unique experience hiking trail and one that is guaranteed to fill you with moments guaranteed to live in the memory for a long time to come.
Greece’s dramatic Agali Gorge
Sunshine, beaches, and azure blue seas are usually the first thoughts when Greece crops up in conversation. But the rugged beauty of Greece’s many islands also lends its name to being an adventure and outdoors lover’s paradise. The island of Evia, the country’s second-largest, and within driving distance of the capital, Athens calls anyone with a lust for walks and hikes in truly wild and beautiful places.
Yes, the island does boast a plethora of beaches, but it’s the rugged mountainous interior that steals the show. Dramatic mountains, cascading rivers, and wild forests make Evia a place of real escape. The Agali Gorge is the crown jewel for hikers and those who wish to lose themselves in nature. In the company of a professional guide, you will hike one of the most memorable routes in this part of the world. Throughout this amazing experience watch the landscape change as you ease your way through lowlands, steep-walled canyons and finally up into the high meadows and coniferous treeline. This is the perfect way to offset the excesses of the nearby east coast beaches of the Aegean, and an experience you’ll be sure never to forget.
Hiking Ecuador’s Cotapaxi National Park
One of the most amazing things to adore about Ecuador is that you are never far from stunningly beautiful natural landscapes. On this day trip hiking tour to Cotopaxi National Park, from the nearby capital of Quito, your senses are sure to be captivated by every turn on the famous Avenida de Los Volcanes (Volcano Avenue) – one of the highlights of the whole country and the entire Andes mountain range.
Starting your hike in the national park from the Limpiopungo Lagoon your trek will take you up to the Jose Rivas refuge. The refuge is located at approximately 15,780 feet above sea-level and comes with some of the most incredible vistas on the planet. In the hands of a professional local guide, you will also learn about the history, geography, geology, volcanic activity, flora, and fauna of this incredible wild space. If the conditions are just right, your guide may decide to further the adventure by venturing farther towards the spectacular mountain glaciers. Regardless of whether glaciers are included in your itinerary or not this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is sure to fuel your personal library of stories for years to come. After the gentle descent down from the national park’s mountains, you will be more than ready to be transported by to Quito and the waiting appeal of a delicious Ecuadorian lunch.
Colombia’s La Chorrera & El Chiflón Waterfall hiking trip
Keeping our hiking experiences in South America, this time we suggest a diversion to the Colombian capital, Bogata as a base for your next adventure. Bogota is famed for its frenetic pace of life, however just 45 minutes from downtown you can find the peace and quiet you desire in the beautifully forested countryside, framed by background views of the high Andes. Your first destination will be a high-altitude walk (a reasonably decent level of fitness is expected) to the waterfall of El Chiflon. While somewhat of an arduous mountain hike the reward of a refreshing swim in a crystal clear pool at the waterfall’s base is more than worth the effort.
After taking a moment for a break and a light snack, it’s time to venture once more back into the forests for the short hike to the next spectacular site, La Chorrera, at almost 600 meters the highest waterfall in Columbia. Before reaching the plunging cascades of La Chorrera you’ll be sure to hear the thunder of her waters even from a distance. Along with the spectacle of these two incredible waterfalls, you will saunter through landscapes of rich diversity, mahogany trees, juniper, cedar, and fields of beautiful orchids. There is nothing peaks your appetite like a hike in the thin air of the high mountains. After your exertions, your hosts will return you to your vehicle and a short journey to La Candelaria for a lunch of delicious, and welcome traditional Colombian cuisine.
VIP Beijing tour and Great Wall hiking experience
Built to exclude invading armies the Great Wall of China is ready to welcome you to a two-tier combined experience of both history and hiking. First up on this exclusive VIP tour are visits to Tiananmen Square, one of the largest public squares anywhere in the world, and offering you a view of the gigantic portrait of Chairman Mao which hangs from the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Next on your double-barreled itinerary is a visit to the Forbidden City, the home of the Chinese government and politics for over half a century. This is followed by visits to ten hand-picked sites where you, as part of this luxury VIP tour, can skip the ever-present lines and queues.
Following a traditional lunch, you will drive to the legendary Mutianyu, a uniquely preserved section of the Great Wall where you will begin your discovery of a grand section of the Wall. To save time a cable car will be laid on to ferry you to the starting point for your hike between the 14th and 23rd watchtowers, also known as the ‘Golden Route’, thus avoiding the multiple sets of stairs and long lines. This is a truly unforgettable way to see one of the great wonders of the world in both comfort and luxury. This really is the trip and experience of a lifetime.
Linas Ceikas is CEO and Founder of Tinggly. Tinggly is an experiential gift company offering you the chance to give unique experience gifts in lieu of material possessions, ideal for all discerning travel-lovers.