Last week, we talked about the great hikes of North America. This week, the blog continues with the great hikes in the rest of the world. There are many more gorgeous trails around the world than the ones I've listed below. Many trails were crossed off because they didn't meet my arbitrary criteria of what constitutes a 'Great Hike'. In case you forgot these are: should include not only spectacular scenery and historical significance, but be long – really long – say, 1,000 miles or so long; and have a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet – we're having difficulty acclimating to higher altitudes these days.
Several others were eliminated because - let's get real here - there wasn't much likelihood that we could actually complete them. What was left was six pretty cool trails. Take a look ...
Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand. We spent the better part of two years sailing around the entirety of New Zealand, and we both loved the fantastic people and the gorgeous scenery we found there. The Te Araroa Trail extends 1,894 miles from Cape Reinga at the northern tip of the north island to Bluff at the bottom of the south island. It has a lot to be said for it: the scenery is spectacular; there are no poisonous snakes or spiders nor any dangerous beasties to worry about; since it's in the southern hemisphere, the best time to hike it is during our North American winter; and, for the most part, we can understand the language. We saw much of New Zealand during our time there, but hiking the Te Araroa would give us a chance to see those parts we missed.
Via Francigena Pilgrim Route, Europe. The Via Francigena is a 1,056 mile medieval pilgrim route that starts in Canterbury England, crosses the Channel to France and Switzerland, and ends in Rome. Wow! In 990 AD, Archbishop Sigeric, also known as Sigeric the Serious, traveled the route to be ordained by Pope John XV. On his return, he kept a journal for future pilgrims, detailing the walking route and noting all the stopping places. His journal is still considered the most authoritative guide to the walk. The route is well-marked, and there are hotels, hostels or sanctuaries available all along it. What a great, scenic and historic hike this one would be.
Sentiero Italia – The Grand Italian Trail. This is a fairly new trail that stretches the entire length of Italy starting at the border with Slovenia, through the Italian Alps and all the way south to the island of Sardinia. The total length is 3,800 miles. While the northern sections through the Alps are fairly well-marked, the sections down through the central part of Italy are quite difficult to follow. Camp sites are allowed and even necessary in the Alps, but camping is banned in the central and southern sections, so hikers must stay in hotels and hostels. The trail promises magnificent mountain vistas, incredible history, and awesome art and culture.
Greater Patagonia Trail (GPT). The GPT is an 1,865 mile Chilean trail and is the longest trekking trail in South America, starting just south of Santiago and extending down into southern Patagonia. It traverses everything from semi-deserts in the north to high plateaus and glaciers in the south. Because much of it is in remote areas, the logistics and provisioning are more difficult than most of the other trails on the list. Spanish is the spoken language, which Marcie is (or used to be) quite fluent in, and I could sort of bungle my way through.
Hokkaido Nature Trail, Japan. Japan has five of the world's longest nature trails – pretty amazing for a country that is smaller than California. The longest of these trails is the Hokkaido Nature Trail, extending 2,849 miles on the country's least developed main island, Hokkaido, in the north. The trail passes through an amazing variety of landscapes, from coastal lowlands to forests, glaciers and volcanoes. The island is cool in the summer and snowy in the winter. In my reading, it appears not many westerners traverse the trail. Language might be a problem.
Via Dinarica Trail. This trail is 1,240 miles long and passes through the Dinaric Alps and Sharr Mountain Range in the western Baltics. It starts in Slovenia and passes through Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. It boggles my mind thinking of all the new cultures and the little known countries we'd experience, not to mention all those interesting people we'd meet. The hike is spectacular and passes through some of the least spoiled and less traveled areas on the continent. Twenty years ago, this hike would have been all but impossible because Yugoslavia was in the midst of a bloody civil war. Before undertaking it, there would be a number of things to be researched, like what border permits and visas are required, currencies, and the languages spoken.
Between the North American trails and the trails in the rest of the world, I've come up with a short list of 14 that would be truly 'Great Hikes' and which might remotely be doable by Marcie and me. This is going to be a tough decision – each and every one of them would be a genuinely fabulous hike. I probably spent as much time daydreaming about each of these trails as I did writing about them.
Marcie and I will be discussing the pros and cons of the various trails over the next few months. Depending on how we fare on the Thames Path in September and on our backpacking foray in October, we may eliminate some (or all – perish the thought) of the trails, and then, hopefully, narrow the list down to one (or two). I'm sure you're dying to see how it plays out. Me, too!