Unlike hiking, treks can be long and challenging. You’ll be walking for hours, or days at a time, through difficult terrain. You’ll likely be camping along the route, so you’ll need to be prepared to set up and take down your camp each morning and night. You may be among mountain ranges, which can see changeable and varying weather. You could be starting off somewhere nice and warm, but need to struggle through dirt, rain, wind and snow before you reach your final destination, so you need to be prepared for every situation. Treks are far from glamorous, but they’re well worth the effort, and can make for the most amazing experiences.
If you’re looking to get into trekking as a beginner, you should think about doing a few short hikes first, as the terrain tends to be a little kinder and more forgiving. It’s a good way to test out your equipment and find your feet before taking on a more challenging trek through the mountains. Look for relatively flat rocky trails, and get a map of the area beforehand so you know how far it is, and if the path is a loop or if you’ll have to backtrack (you can find lots of paths and detailed information about them online). It’s recommended to hike with someone, especially if you’re just starting out. But if you are going it alone, make sure you share your itinerary with friends and family so they can call for help if need be.
Once you feel confident and fit enough on your hikes, you will probably want to take the plunge and go on your first trek. When you’re first setting off, you may feel full of energy and want to power forward. But you will need to pace yourself, otherwise you might not have the energy to take on the full trail. Start slow and pick a pace you can maintain all day, you’ll be glad you saved your energy later. Most importantly, plan ahead and stay safe, and you’ll soon be going on longer and more challenging treks to some amazing parts of the world.
Here are just a few of the must-do treks around the world. It’s recommended to go on an organised trekking tour as a beginner so you’ll feel in safe hands with the professionals and will get the most out of your trip:
- Cumbria Way, England: Created by the local Ramblers Association in the 1970’s, the Cumbria Way starts in Ulverston near Morecambe Bay, runs through the Lake District and ends 76 miles away in Carlisle city centre. Heading across the county from north to south over nine days, you’ll take in the majestic lakes and breathtaking scenery, with stunning views of Coniston Fells. It’s the perfect trek for a beginner as although it takes a while, it’s not too difficult a walk and it’s best done slowly so you can take everything in. But if you're an experienced walker and want an adrenaline rush, you can attempt to climb Blencathra via Sharp Edge or Halls Fell Ridge. It’s not for the fainthearted, but well worth the challenge.
- The Inca Trail, Peru: This ancient trail has become one of the most famous treks in the world. Laid by hand by the Incas, it’s 43 kilometres long and leads from the Sacred Valley all the way to the iconic Machu Picchu, over 2,000 metres above sea level. The views are stunning and the memories are sure to last a lifetime. The most common trek is four days, so prepare for long days and possible altitude sickness.
- Kii Hanto, Japan: For over 1,200 years, emperors and pilgrims have walked the journey across these mountains, deemed inhabited by the gods. Considered one of the most sacred places in Japan, this three day trek over a whopping 70km will take you past ancient shrines and through dense forest with streams, rivers and waterfalls. The route overlooks the Pacific Ocean which lead to three sacred sites; Yoshin and Omine, Kumano Sanzan and Koyosan (linked by pilgrimage routes to the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto). If 70km sounds a bit too daunting then shorter treks are also available.
- Routeburn Track, New Zealand: Take in the stunning subalpine scenery of South Island on this three day trek over 32km. At the base of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, the trail passes through two national parks: Fiordland and Mt Aspiring. Highlights include the views from Harris Saddle (1255m) and atop Conical Hill from where you can see waves breaking on the distant beach. The tranquillity of the forest and meadows and the dramatic views of entire valleys and mountain ranges are reward for the steep climbs. Just be warned that you’ll need to book your spot in advance due to the tracks popularity.
- Everest Base Camp, Nepal: Once you become more experienced, one for your bucket list should be Mount Everest. It’s thought of the epitome of success for any mountaineer, and takes around 13 days (62km each way). Although you can explore the Himalayas without going all the way to the top of the world’s highest peak with the Everest Base Camp Trek.