5 Epic Hikes Worth Getting Fit for
Published 30 March 2016
So you’ve been working out, pounding the pavements, walking to work and taking the stairs instead of the lift. You’ve developed a taste for egg white omelettes and sacrificed your daily latte in favour of a strange sludge-like protein shake. Congratulations, you’re ready to take on a hiking challenge! But which one? We’ve chosen five of our favourites to help you decide.
Be warned: a degree of physical fitness is required to complete these hikes, but we assure you the sense of achievement and scenery along the way will make your aching muscles and the pain you’ve put yourself through worthwhile.
Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia
More of a challenge than it first appears, Kinabalu’s summit trail begins in the lush jungles of the Bornean rainforest, but becomes barren and rocky once you pass the treeline. Trekkers stay halfway up the mountain in a basic but warm rest camp, before rising at silly o’clock for the final push to the top in time for sunrise. The last few hundred metres are very steep, with fixed ropes required to haul yourself to the peak.
Length: 5.5 miles
Maximum altitude: 4,095 metres
Minimum time required: Two days
Challenges: Hiking at night, steep gradient
When: January to mid October
Insider tip: It’s not over when you reach the summit. Speaking from experience, the decent is the hardest part – we could barely walk the next day!
Climb Mount Kinabalu with Round the World Experts’ Best of Borneo Journey (coming soon)
Inca Trail, Peru
Follow in the footsteps of an ancient civilisation on the world-famous Inca Trail, a stone pathway through the Andes leading to the mountaintop settlement of Machu Picchu. Nothing quite prepares you for your first glimpse of the crumbling ruins, looming out of the mist, surrounded by dramatic peaks, and all the more satisfying because you walked there yourself.
Length: 26 miles
Maximum altitude: 4,200 metres
Minimum time required: Four days
Challenges: High altitude, heat
When: March to January
Insider tip: Book as far in advance as you can – Inca Trail permits are limited to 500 per day and often sell out months beforehand. If you miss out, don’t despair, alternative (and some say better) treks to Machu Picchu are available.
W Circuit, Chile
This excellent hike through Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park is made up of three sections, the Grey Glacier, the French Valley and the Base of the Towers. The route is shaped like a W, hence the name, and is usually walked from west to east, finishing with the undeniable highlight of the Torres themselves, looming majestically over a green glacial lake.
Length: 44 miles
Maximum altitude: 1,200 metres
Minimum time required: Five days
Challenges: Snow, ice, wind, rain
When: September to June
Insider tip: Camping might be cheaper but believe me, when I hiked to the Grey Glacier with my husband in a blizzard, we were very glad to return to a warm and cosy refugio, with a hot meal, wood-burning stove and comfy bed.
Chat to your Round the World Experts consultant about adding the Torres del Paine into your Chile Journey
Abel Tasman Coast Track, New Zealand
Tramping is a big thing in New Zealand and this is one of the best tracks in the country. Walk from bay to cove, delve into lush, bird-filled forests, cross golden sands and paddle in crystal clear lagoons. Accommodation ranges from basic camping to upmarket lodges, so take your pick. Don’t forget to stop for a break at Tonga Island, where you can snorkel the azure waters and keep an eye out for penguins.
Length: 32 miles
Maximum altitude: 200 metres
Minimum time required: Three days
Challenges: Tides, mud
Insider tip: Keep an eye on tide times – you’ll cross various estuaries en route, which may involve a lengthy wait for the water to retreat if you don’t time it right.
Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Unless you are Ranulph Fiennes, this epic hike is pretty much the closest you’ll get to Everest. Trek through snowy mountain passes, glacial valleys and discover the most breathtaking scenery in the world. You’ll stay in Nepalese teahouses and learn the ways of the Sherpa, who are genetically adapted to live in the high Himalayan altitudes.
Length: 38.6 miles
Maximum altitude: 5,545 metres
Minimum time required: 12 days
Challenges: Altitude, snow, ice, cold
When: March to May and September to December
Insider tip: Use suncream. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you wont get sunburnt, and the UV effects are magnified by the snow.
Chat to your Round the World Experts consultant about adding Nepal to your Journey