Hiking is good for you – it’s so good, that even doctors prescribe it to boost patient health. But more importantly, a good hike is one of those activities that stick with you for a lifetime. After all, a good hike is one that brings you through a solid mix of terrain, with great views to cement a memory and change the way you perceive the world. From alpine trails to sweeping plains, I’ve found five life-changing hikes that will leave you breathless, and yearning for more.
1. Croagh Patrick, Ireland
Ireland is chock full of natural beauty, so it’s fitting that we being here. Croagh Patrick is the mountain where St. Patrick was said to have fasted and prayed for 40 days to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea.
During “Reek Sunday”, which falls on the last Sunday of July every year, over 25,000 people follow the footsteps of St. Patrick and ascend the mountain via a steep and rocky path, surrounded by magnificent views of Clew Bay and the surrounding south Mayo countryside on their way up.
When you reach the peak, a chapel awaits on top of the mountain. It’s one thing to attend mass; it’s entirely another to attend it at 750m above sea level.
2. The Hardergrat Trail, Switzerland
Switzerland is home to soaring mountain ridges, and the Hardergrat Trail is one of the most accessible trails to kick-start a love affair with the Swiss Alps. The ridge is low enough for a run through, but actually running this undulating trail will probably wipe out less experienced athletes.
The 19km-long Hardergrat ridge is a great place for a day hike, with spots like the Augstmatthorn that will take you all the way up to 1.5km above sea level.
3. Overland Track, Australia
The Tasmanian wilderness is one of the best nature has to offer, and nothing else will bring it out better than a five-day, 80km hike on the Overland Track. Compared to the rest of the trails on this list, the Overland Track is much easier.
The trail is boardwalked at certain locations, but doesn’t compromise on showing you the raw beauty of Tasmanian nature, taking you past Mt. Ossa, Tasmania’s tallest peak. Besides jagged peaks, you’ll encounter valleys, plains and waterfalls. Guides are available for first time walkers, complete with food drops and equipment.
4. Paine Circuit Trek, Chile
Most people would recognise outdoor brand Patagonia, but have you ever seen Patagonia? The Paine Circuit is a 120km-long hike that will take you through the beautiful wilderness that is Torres Del Paine National Park, a 2,500 sq km patch of Chilean hinterland. The Paine Circuit takes you through blue glaciers and flowing lakes, encircling the giant 8,000 to 10,000-foot natural stone structures called the Torres del Paine. The Paine Circuit is strenuous, even if you take the shorter “W” circuit, so beginners might want to hire a guide on this 10-day long walk in the Chilean highlands.
5. The Snowman Trek, Bhutan
The Snowman Trek might be the most challenging on this list of walks, but if this isn’t THE life-changing hike for you, then nothing else is. It’s not as popular as the Everest Base Camp trek, and that’s a great thing because you won’t end up hanging with accidental tourists.
The Snowman Trek, like the Paine Circuit, requires forward preparation for both gear and training. However, you can rest assure that all that effort will be worth it in the end. After all, The Snowman Trek is a walk through Bhutan, one of the most closely guarded kingdoms in the world.
The 25-day journey will show you exactly what the rest of the world is missing out on. Namely the majestic, high altitude Himalayan mountain ranges juxtaposed with solitary Buddhist monasteries and villages that have been around for hundreds of years. The Snowman Trek is more than just a walk – it’s a journey through the rare cultural and natural beauty that Bhutan possesses.