There’s something serene about viewing scenery just one step at a time. One foot in front of the other and onward you go. Everything going by at just a walking pace. The plants and animals going about their business with no heed to anyone. Caution goes to the wind and with every step you get closer to the end. The trail almost representing life’s path. With its winding bends and all the ups and downs and even the occasional pothole or upturned root trying to fool your feet. Here are my top trails from across the globe, some of which I hope to one day set my feet upon.

1. The Grand Italian Trails

Image Credit: Paolo Picciati

Image Credit: Paolo Picciati

Distance: 6,166 kilometers (3,830 miles)
Length: Roughly eight months or 240 days
Cost: *N/A

Some 3,830 miles long, this definitely is a ‘grand’ trail. Stretching all the way from Trieste in the far North East of Italy, across the Alpine Arc mountains. Then it continues down across the Apennine line into Sicily. Finally it ends in Santa Teresa Gallura, where the ancient city of Tibula (referenced by Ptolemy, author of the Almagest) once stood.

Created in 1995 as sort of a walking path for Italy, some parts are still unfinished. The relatively recent trails make for a long, roughly eight month hike, so prepare in kind. One of the best ways to see Italy by foot, from the snow capped mountains all the way to the local vineyards. Ironically, the ending of the trip (Tibula) was a common landing place for travelers in ancient times. Information on the trail seems scarce, so research is key for this trail. Check out Traildino and granditaliantrail.com for more info.

*Not only does information seem to be scarce on this trail, but also most sites link to 404 pages. It seems that any type of map is either hard to find or just not there. I imagine this would be a more of make your own sort of hike. That’s also why I left the cost as N/A, the information just does not seem to be around.

2.  The Snowman Trek

Image Credit: Douglas J. McLaughlin

Image Credit: Douglas J. McLaughlin

Distance: 328 kilometers (216 miles)
Length:25-30 days
Cost: ~ $9,000

Imagine setting foot into an isolated Buddhist kingdom to explore the rocky slopes and remote valleys of an untouched monarchy. That’s what the Snowman Trail is all about. Buddhist monasteries, small villages, and trekking your way under six mountain tops are all included. And I say included because you have to book a tour for this one. Or any part of Bhutan for that matter, per the government.

The kingdom sets a price to look at upon her beauty and apparently that price is $200 per day. Or $250 if the season is busy. To actually get into the country you need to have booked through a touring agency. You can look at all registered tour operators here.

This price includes (for 3 or more persons):

  • A minimum of 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star may require an additional premium).
  • All meals
  • A licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay
  • All internal transport (excluding internal flights)
  • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours

It also includes all taxes or other charges and a royalty fee which goes for the good of the citizens.

*After a quick email to the Tourism Council Bhutan, I was informed that there is a $40 surcharge for people traveling alone. Making it a $240 daily minimum fee for single travellers.

3. The Pacific Crest Trail

Image Credit: Samantha Levang

Image Credit: Samantha Levang

Distance: 4,279 kilometers (2,659 miles)
Length: Between four and six months (120-180 days)
Cost: ~$4,000-$6,000 ($1,000 per month)

“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.

It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.” – Cheryl Strayed

Basically the AT of the west coast, the Pacific Crest Trail runs from the very south of Cali all the way up to the province of British Columbia in Canada. A long trail by any stretch of the imagination, it’s not hard to wonder why Cheryl Strayed (the woman that the movie ‘Wild’ is based upon) strayed out into these wilds to see what it had to offer. What it does offer is lots of nature and not much else. But if you’re looking for that long hike to get back in tune with your wild side, then this is for you.

The official site does recommend to bring a companion on this one though. It’s a very isolated trail that takes a long time to finish and it’s not unknown that people have perished while hiking. Be careful out there.

4. The Israel National Trail

trails

Image Credit: Jotpe

Distance: 1,100 kilometers (680 miles)
Length: 45-60 days
Cost: $3,500-$4,500

Crossing the entire nation of Israel, beginning in the town of Dan in the very north and winding its way south all the way to the Red Sea. The navigation of the trail is quite easy for most parts as the trail is marked very well. Other sections may just require a bit of guessing, which definitely gives this trail an air of danger. Some other things to watch out for:

  • Caching water ahead of time when crossing stretches of desert
  • Acquiring a cell phone for emergency calls
  • Map or GPS for situations where the trail isn’t marked
  • Deciding which time of year to go (summer months hotter than most places)

According to recent statistics, only 4 out of 10 hikers ever complete this trail. The landmarks and biblical significance make the completion of the trails an even bigger feat. The biblical landmarks you will pass by are many and great. The sea of Galilee or the river Jordan are on the way as is: Nazareth, Jerusalem and Negev (the Israeli desert).
Many and more people are thru-hiking every year but the logistics are still a bit difficult. Be prepared and make sure to start in Spring to avoid the scorching heat.

5. The Sultan’s Trail

trails

Image Credit: Pixabay

Distance: 2,200 kilometers (1,400 miles)
Length: 90-120 days
Cost:~$3,500-$4,500

The sultan’s trail, so named after sultan Suleyman I, has you roaming through nine countries. Starting in Vienna, Austria and then coasting through the other eight countries of: Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and finally ending in Turkey. It follows the footsteps of the twice-failed conquests of Suleyman I. Both times he made the trek to Vienna and both times he was defeated. The trail representing those failed conquests now sends a message of peace. The trip begins in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the center of Vienna, where the church bells are made from melted down Ottoman cannons. It’s a trail not unlike the Camino Frances where your feet do the talking and set the tone for the long hike. Eventually the story of the sultan is revealed:

A conquest lasting many years saw the sultan finally inch his way to Vienna in late September of 1529. His forces were considerably fatigued from war and even the weak walls of the city managed to keep him out. He tried once again in 1532 but only made it back to Hungary before deciding to take an 11 year break. Finally, at the age of 60 he tried once more only to die on the battlefield in 1566, only a few days from Vienna.

Interestingly, your trip routes all the way backwards from whence he had come, your feet finally taking you to his resting place in Turkey. The small tomb is almost hidden from sight behind the Suleymaniye mosque inside of Istanbul. A fitting end to times gone past and the failures of great men before us. Taking a lesson from the sultan maybe we should all learn to forge on, even if the odds are never in our favor.

6. The Bibbulmun Track

trails

Image Credit: Photographs by Gnangarra…commons.wikimedia.org

Distance: 1,003.1 kilometers (623.3 miles)
Length: 6-8 weeks (42-56 days)
Cost: ~$3,500-$4,000

Looking to lose yourself in the outback? Well, look no further than the Bibbulmun track. Gathering it’s namesake from the Noongar people, an indigenous lot from south-western Australia. The track is well signed with an image of a rainbow serpent of the Aboriginal dreaming.

trails

Image Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

The sound of didgeridoo in your head as you meander down a trail with a childlike sense of wonder. Every step further and you’ll soon be finished. Whether you stay in the comfort of towns or camp out like a true bush-whacker, there isn’t a wrong way to walk. And that’s key with every trail, there is no right or wrong answers. With the Bibbulmun track, you may just experience Noongar culture along the way, or at the very least witness the beautiful flora and fauna that every day will bring. Just let the serpent guide your way and you’ll be sure to have an adventure.

Water, essential, life-saving water… Careful on this track as water is in short supply especially in the summer months. There are tanks that collect rain water along the way but they are in no way treated. The official website recommends to treat all water along the trail.

The best times to walk the trail are:

  • April to May (fall)
  • June to August (winter)
  • September to November (spring)

Avoiding summer weather is important. Sometimes there is no town for several days, or limited access to certain areas (heritage sites). So, as always, prepare in kind. Check out bibbulmuntrack.org.au for more info.

7. The Great Himalaya Trail

trails

Image Credit: Samir Thapa

Distance: ~1,480-1,700 kilometers (~880-1056 miles)
Length: 60-90 days
Cost: N/A

The Himalayas… flourishing some of the highest mountain tops and hiking trails in the world. It’s no wonder altitude sickness pills are sold on every corner of Kathmandu. This trail takes you from end to end in Nepal, from the base camp of Everest to Humla, the Tibetan borderland. A set of trails to literally take your breath away, wonders never cease upon it. From spending the night in a friendly yak herders tent to viewing snow capped peaks from your sleeping bag, it has a striking boldness from any angle. In a word: daring.

Dangerous as well. The trails are highly apt to have spontaneous storms and making shelter quick is paramount. The planning stage of this trip may well be longer than the trip itself. Permits, guides, and other amenities will have to be carefully considered. Check out east2westnepal.org to read about the first solo GHT hike.

8. The Way of St. James

trails

My own photograph on St. James walking in to Roncevalles.

Distance: 867 kilometers (540 miles)
Length: 30-45 days
Cost: $1,500-$2,000*

A pilgrimage dating back to almost a thousand years, this is a very popular trail even today. Arguably even the most popular trail, it’s probably also the most cheaply accomplished. The donation hostels, cheap food and the zero cost of just walking make this a very accommodating trail to the budgeting traveler. I have written an extensive budget for the Way of St. James that you can view here.

Some people dislike the trail because of all the people that stampede to the end every year. I, for one, loved the daily social interaction of the hike. Yes, sometimes you will be walking next to highways or through cities but that just makes it all the more interesting. A lot more, you will be walking near abandoned ruins or an ancient church. Perhaps you may even walk on an ancient Roman road. There may be other great ways to see Spain but this is my favorite thus far.

Alright guys, that wraps up my top 8 trails I’d like to complete. So, I’ll just leave you with this quote:

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

-Tmoney out.