Two people with backpacks hiking towards a mountain.

Travelers rely on planes, trains, and automobiles to get to most of their destinations. But if you ask us, there’s no better way to familiarize yourself with a place than to see it on foot.

As fun as urban adventures are, getting out in the backcountry can really give you a whole new perspective on a country. It’s also a great opportunity to disconnect from our ever-present screens and get back in touch with our bodies, our surroundings and ourselves.

Whether you’re tough enough for a multi-day trek through the rugged countryside or just looking for a nice afternoon stroll with some serious views, here are some absolutely can’t-miss hikes to add to your travel bucket list.

1. The Camino de Santiago — Spain

Also known as the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela— or its UNESCO World Heritage designation, the Routes of Santiago de Compostela—this world-renowned trail isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s more than a single trail: it’s a whole network branching throughout western Europe, spanning thousands of miles.

Perhaps the most famous section of the Camino de Santiago runs parallel to the northern border of Spain, winding up at the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. (That is: the object all the pilgrims who walk the trail are pilgrimage-ing to.) The cathedral is said to house the earthly remains of Saint James, and even if you’re not religious, walking through the stunning Spanish countryside for days on end is sure to be a spiritual experience.

You can take on as much or as little of the Camino as you desire, but the most popular section runs about 500 miles from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago. If you aren’t an avid outdoorsperson, however, don’t despair: many tour companies offer guided Camino adventures, where you’ll have the benefit of expert help and the opportunity to make some like-minded new friends.

2. Mueller Hut — New Zealand

You’re breathless and sore, winded from gaining more than 3,000 feet in elevation over the course of a five-mile trek. But the view from the top is more than worth it… and you’ve even got a soft place to lay your head for the night before you make the trip back down. (Not to mention one of the darkest, starriest skies you’ve ever seen.)

The Mueller Hut Route is one of the most famous hikes on the South Island of New Zealand, and for good reason; although it’s certainly not easy, it’s also just a single day’s trip, and it’s nice not to have to tote your own accommodations. You’ll definitely want to make your reservations for the hut itself as far in advance as possible, however. And if you’re not in the best shape of your life, you may want to train a bit before you take this hike on!

3. The Fairy Pools — Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Fairy Pools are the kind of hiking destination that pulls all sorts of travelers in like a magnet—whether or not they consider themselves “outdoorsy.” And it’s easy to see why. The way is short, the terrain is relatively easy to navigate and the views are, in a word, stunning.

AllTrails reviewers call their experience “magical,” “gorgeous” and “luminous,” just to scrape a few adjectives off the top. Of course, given this destination’s popularity, it’s definitely going to be crowded, so aim for early in the morning (or chance the weather during shoulder season) for the best chance of stranger-free Insta shots.

4. Doi Suthep Monk Trail — Thailand

Chiang Mai is already a hot destination, especially amongst young backpackers and remote nomads. If you’re looking for an easy day hike to take between coffee-shop work sessions, consider this quick out-and-back that leads to a beautiful hidden temple by way of forested paths and waterfalls. 

At less than four miles round-trip and about 2,000 feet of elevation gain, Doi Suthep Monk Trail isn’t exactly demanding, though it will make for a nice workout. But given the lush greenery and strips of orange monks’ robes that mark the way up, chances are you’ll forget you’re sweating at all — especially once you arrive at the Wat Pha Lat temple, midway along the journey.

The trail continues on for a second, more challenging half before arriving at the top of the mountain, where you’ll find the better-known Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. However, this second leg of the journey is considerably steeper and also isn’t as well-marked as the first, so proceed with caution… and consider joining a guided tour group instead! 

What are your favorite hikes and backpacking trips? Let us know in the comments below!


About The Author

Jamie Cattanach is a full-time freelance writer whose work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post and other outlets. Having done a fair amount of international travel, these days she wanders around the U.S. in a 17-foot Casita travel trailer she calls home. Head to to learn more.

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