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18 December 2014 Last updated
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Seven wonder walks of the world

From Machu Picchu to New Zealand’s boiling mud pools, some of the world’s most amazing sights are best seen on foot, says Ellie Moss

By Ellie Moss
1 May 2012 | 12:00 am
  • This action-packed Inca trail adventure leaves no stone unturned in its exploration of the ancient Inca Empire.

    Source:Supplied picture Image 1 of 3
  • The Tongariro Alpine crossing on New Zealand’s North Island boasts dramatic vistas - the climbs can be steep, the terrain rocky (it’s volcanic, so wear sturdy boots) and the weather unpredictable, but the eye candy is worth it.

    Source:Supplied picture Image 2 of 3
  • The Lycian Way, Turkey’s first long-distance footpath, is a 509km marked path 'way-marked'm with red-white paint flashes every 100km.

    Source:Supplied picture Image 3 of 3

Fancy stepping off the beaten track? If you’re up for a real adventure, there’s a whole host of fantastic trekking opportunities all over the world that not only allow you to take in fabulous sights, but will keep you fit too. All you need is a bit of preparation. “Allow yourself plenty of time at the start to acclimatise since many treks around the world will take you to a much higher altitude than you’ll be used to, says Tom Hall, editor of www.lonelyplanet.com. “Three days of adjusting can make the difference between a successful trek and walking with a pounding headache,” says Tom. Start your preparation by choosing your ideal path from our seven wonder walks.

Ancient adventure: The Inca Trail
This action-packed adventure leaves no stone unturned in its exploration of the ancient Inca Empire. The 40km trip, which fuses spectacular scenery and history, is a trek into the Andes - think snow-capped peaks, tangled cloud forest, wild orchid, humming birds and Inca ruins that rise from the mist along the trail. The final reward is the amazing lost city of Machu Picchu on day five. From high desert platreaus to tropical Andean rainforests, the trail, which links a range of stunningly preserved Inca ruins, is a mountainous jungle hike that requires some fitness. Andean Treks (www.andeantreks.com) offers the four-day hike with the fifth day dedicated to exploring Machu Picchu, before returning you to Cuzco by train. The trek includes porters who carry your heavy stuff, cooks who prepare wholesome meals from fresh ingredients, as well as tents. This five-day tour departs every Sunday from Cuzco, $735 plus $95 trail fee. As the Peruvian government limits the number of people allowed on the Inca Trail to 500 per day, permits sell out quickly, so book your tour at least three months in advance.

Stay overnight at...The historic city of Cuzco, famed for its unique blend of Spanish and Inca cultures, is the best place to stay and explore before and after the hike. For a boutique experience , try the Casa San Blas, an 18th-century colonial style house, in the historic artisan’s quarter just a few blocks from the main square. From $110 per night, www.casasanblas.com. For more luxury, try Monasterio, an Orient-Express hotel converted from a monastery situated right on Cuzco Square. www.monasteriohotel.com
Other things to do... explore the historic city of Cuzco with a City Tour, a four-hour excursion offered by many local companies, taking in museums and architectural sites. Visit art museum Santa Catalina Convent and hang out in the artsy San Blas district.

Natural wonders: The Tongariro Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine crossing on New Zealand’s North Island, a four-hour drive from Auckland, is set within the Tongariro National Park, which has dual World Heritage status. Boasting dramatic vistas, the climbs can be steep, the terrain rocky (it’s volcanic, so wear sturdy boots) and the weather unpredictable, but the eye candy is worth it. Most people opt for the one-day crossing (19.4km) which will take you seven-to-nine hours, but there’s a 35km, three-day trek on the northern circuit which offers even more impressive sights, with natrural phenomena from boiling mud pools to craters and volcanic vents.

Stay overnight at... the National Park Village located at the base of Mount Ruapehu offers a variety of lodgings - try the Park Travellers’ Lodge (www.the-park.co.nz) which boasts mountain views, dining and a spa pool. Alternatively, opt for Whakapapa Village (www.whakapapa.net) which features cabins and tents, various bars and restaurants, plus a visitor centre.
Other things to do...Raft down the Whakapapa River or hire a mountain bike to explore for the rugged terrain in Tongariro National Park. Visit the movie locations of Lord of the Rings at Tongariro National Park with Wades Landing (email: wades.landing@xtra.co.nz) – from $125 for a three-hour trip. You’ll see Ithihen Camp with beautiful waterfalls and beech forests, walk through the cliffs and ravines of Emyn Muil and walk under Mount Doom. For more information, check out www.nzholidays.co.nz or www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz.

Coastal path: The Lycian Way, Turkey
Winding along the coastal area between Antalya and Cape Geldonya in Southern Turkey, the Lycian Way, Turkey’s first long-distance footpath, is a 509km marked path ‘way-marked’ with red-white paint flashes every 100km. As you trek the path, you’ll be treated to views of the dramatic rocky coastline of the Med and native flora and fauna within shaded pine forests. You’ll be able to explore peaceful coves, visit remote villages, see historical landmarks such as ancient ruins from the Lycian and Roman periods, and swim in the turquoise sea. There are small hotels along the way for overnight stays. With plenty of ascents and descents involved, it’s considered a medium to hard work and is best attempted in the spring or autumn months when it’s cooler. Seven-day walking tours with overnight stays in traditional Turkish pensions start at 525 pounds - visit
www.exodus.co.uk or www.madadventure.com.

Stay overnight at... Base yourself in Ocavik, the a coastal town that’s the starting point of The Lycian Way (a two-hour drive from Dalaman airport). The Greenland Hotel is set on a hillside at the entrance to Ovacik Village. There’s a huge swimming pool, kids playground and pool and bikes and horses are for hire. From here, you can climb The Lyican Way to the summit of Baba Dag, at an altitude of 1,975m, and then on to Faralya Village.

Other things to do...Take a 4km Dolmus (mini bus) ride to Olu deniz beach, a beautiful lagoon and official ‘blue flag beach’ and is famous for its paragliding due to the incredible panoramic mountain views. Or travel 35km south to Patara beach, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world - for $1.50, you get access to the beach, the ancient site of Patara with its many excavated examples of Roman masonry, and Patara National Park.

And four more...

Alpine chic: Tour de Mont Blanc
This 170km hike is one of the most popular long-distance walks in Europe, starting and finishing in Les Houches, near Chamonix and circling the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mont Blanc. Following well-marked and maintained trails through the Alps in France, Italy and Switzerland, its circular route is normally walked in a counter-clockwise direction in seven-to-ten days, taking in some spectacular views of Mont Blanc, as well as stunning blue alpine lakes, impressive glaciers, alpine villages and summer meadows. You also get to sample the culture and flavours of three different countries. Two points on the trail reach 2,584m, so a good level of fitness is required. There’s lots of accommodation along the way including basic huts, but plan your walk and book rooms in advance as it gets busy. Visit www.discoveradventure.com.

Dream climb: Everest Base Camp
This is one for the bucket list. Climbing to Everest’s base camp is no mean feat – you need to be physically and mentally prepared for a trek like this – but the feeling of achievement you’ll be rewarded with is priceless. The three-week hike takes in some amazing scenery and reaches dizzying heights of 5,545m at Kala Patthar. cclimatising to the altitude can be hard work and isn’t for the faint-hearted. Book in advance and plan a training regime that will have you fit and ready for anything. Visit www.adventurealternative.com.

The big one: Mount Kilimanjaro
The Mount Kilimanjaro trek is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that takes you to 5,895m, the highest point in Africa. Although it’s a trek rather than climb, a good level of fitness is required as it’s classed as ‘difficult’. There are several routes to the top of this famous giant, but many cite the 55km round-trip Machame trail, which takes six-to-seven days, as the standout experience. The journey will take you through cloud forests and
the dry Shira Plateau, and boasts a high success rate. Visit
www.privatekilimanjaro.com

One for charity: Transylvanian Trek
Why not make it doubly rewarding by walking for a cause? Dubai-based charity Gulf For Good offers challenging charity holidays – many are treks, climbs or hikes – while raising funds for children’s charities. The next challenge, The Transylvanian Trek, takes place from August 17-24: you hike for five days across high plateaus, through deep gorges, forests, secluded valleys and mountain villages as you journey through the Carpathian Mountains exploring medieval Transylvania. You’ll get to see Bran Castle (known as Dracula’s Castle) and the medieval town of Brasov, before a final walking tour of Bucharest. Along the way, you’ll stay in local hotels and mountain huts and you’ll visit the charity to see the wonderful work they do for Romanian orphans. Dh2,200 registration fee, plus Dh15,000 sponsorship, including flights, accommodation, food and water. Visit www.gulf4good.org
 

By Ellie Moss

By Ellie Moss