The best mini-adventures on foot

Leigh, our Social Media guru, recently made it to Machu Picchu after tackling the Inca Trail – a four-day trek through the lush, challenging Peruvian Andes. With fabulous views across varying scenery, high passes to test the legs and a stunning collection of Incan remains en route, it’s a trail that packs so much into its relatively short duration. So where else to trek if you’re short on time but long on adventure? Take a walk through our recommendations.

Walking the Great Wall

Where? No prizes for guessing which wall we’re talking about. China’s icon makes for a great week or so walking, the Yangshan Mountains rising in folds around you as you negotiate remote stretches of the great structure. Local farmstays in mountain villages adds to the feeling that you’re exploring not just a different place, but a different time.

Why? The area north and west of Beijing is home to some stunning scenery, and it really pays to get beyond the Great Wall day-trippers – travel a little further out and you can have sections of the wall to yourself – around Jinshanling is particularly impressive. And the views of the walls snaking its way of hills and through valleys are endlessly spellbinding.

When? Our Walking the Great Wall tour gets you there. An 8-day trip, with five days spent exploring the Wall. Avoid the turn of the year, when the cold really bites around these parts – anytime between late March and early November is ideal.

Annapurna Adventure

Where? For magnificent scenery, you can’t really go wrong in Nepal. But it can be a challenge to pack in a trek that gets you among some of the natural highlights into just a few days. Annapurna is the place to head. Cut out time by flying to and from Pokhara, then don your walking boots for trails through surprisingly varied, always arresting scenery.

Why? Nepal’s foothills are all beautiful forests of oak and rhododendron, sunsets over sparkling glaciers, and varying trails that pass through quaint villages. Climbing to the ridgeline above Deurali for views over three 8000-metre mountains is one of the most sensational moments in all the Himalaya. In other words, the perfect mix of a workout for the legs and many a rest stop with inspiring views.

When? Avoid June, July and August and any time is great to be in the Himalaya. Have a look at our Annapurna Adventure tour.

Tour du Mont Blanc

Where? In many ways this is Europe’s Big Walk: a circumnavigation of the continent’s most revered mountain, with many an up-and-down as you traverse the stunning ridges, high passes and grand valleys of the heart of the Alps.

Why? Six days of walking, three countries, with half a dozen great cols to tackle and many a stunning moment en route – this is a trek that packs in spectacle at every turn, from the high alpine fields of wildflowers to the pinnacle of Mont Blanc reflected in the calm waters of Lac Blanc on your final day’s trekking.

Where? Go during the European winter and you’ll be skiing around these parts. Stick to the summer – the snow has receded from the high passes by mid to late June. More details available here.

Cradle Mountain

Where? It may be the baby of the bunch, but a walk up Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain is a wonderful one-day workout. The ragged, jagged crown of dolerite columns that sweep up Cradle’s north face is an iconic, inspiring sight, and getting up close to the peak is an Australian must-do.

Why? It’s simply one of the finest hill-walks in Australia, but it’s not all about the peak. The Cradle Plateau is a beautiful expanse, and walks here get you among both the world’s purest air and Australia’s finest alpine environment, from buttongrass moors to serene pencil pine forests and highland heaths, where wallabies make their home, and echidna and wombats can be spotted.

When? Autumn is particularly beautiful around these parts (we have a May departure on our Cradle Mountain & the Tarkine tour) or go anytime around late spring or early summer.

Torres del Paine Trek

Where? Chile’s glorious south, where giant granite fingers rise from earth and walkers are treated to a parade of glacier-fed lakes, wild windswept expanses and sheltered forests.

Why? A day or two may give you a flavour of the pride of Chile, the Torres del Paine National Park, but spending a few days on the trail is the way to really let its vast and rugged splendour really soak in. Treks to parts of the park like the Grey Glacier and French Valley take a bit of time and effort, but reward all who make the journey with some of the finest trekking in Latin America.  

When? The Patagonian summer is really the only practical time to visit. Any time between December and March, the wind has settled (a little), the snow has melted from the trails, the longer light makes for spectacular sunsets. And, as a bonus, our trek also heads across the border to Argentina, to spend a day at the Perito Moreno Glacier, including a glacier trek.   

What and where are your favourite active mini-breaks? Drop us a comment below or get in touch on Twitter or Facebook. You can find our contacts list here or contact us by email.

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