Top 10 tough walks

For many long distance walkers, the tougher or longer the better, especially if the route covers a wide variety of terrain. The most iconic walks vary both topographically and geographically and stretch you physically and mentally, going into landscapes that are only accessible on foot. Then there are climbs, with plenty of iconic summits out there to please the peak seekers.

But it is the journey through these landscapes that really attracts the serious walker, with overnights under canvas, in hiking huts, remote lodges or homestays. You’ll often walk with guides from the local communities, generating income for them and helping you gain a greater understanding of local culture and their love of landscape. Here are ten of our tough trekking trails. They may have challenging moments, but they’ll also take you across some of the world’s most terrific trekking terrain.

1. Everest Base Camp

You may have heard of this one. It’s the Oscar of the trekking world, following in the footsteps of super skilled sherpas and mountaineers, you trek slowly from Lukla to Base Camp, which is over halfway up Everest at 5,364m, with some serious acclimatising to manage along the way.

When to go: September to November and February to May
Our top selling trip: Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal
See all our trips: Everest Base Camp holidays
Read more: Everest Base Camp travel guide and High altitude trekking guide

2. Mont Blanc Circuit

Also known as the Tour de Mont Blanc or TMB, this is considered by many to be Europe’s finest long distance hiking trail. Passing through France, Italy and Switzerland, the TMB covers 170km of trails at the massif’s lower levels. It may be well-established but it’s pretty hard core: you’ll trek as high as 2537 metres, carrying your own bags from mountain hut to mountain hut. Most trips start in the Chamonix Valley in France.

When to go: June to September
Our top selling trip: Mont Blanc Circuit walking holiday
See all our trips: Walking holidays in france
Read more: Walking in France and Mont Blanc Travel Guide

3. Kumano Kodo, Japan

This week-long walking trip follows one of the ancient routes along the Kumano Kodo, the classic Japan pilgrimage trail. Taking in two of the three main shrines, the Nakahechi section of the Kumano Kodo ascends into the mountains, with some steep ascents and descents involved. But the views are spectacular, the mountains are good for the soul, and at the end of every day there is a traditional ryokan waiting to invite you in.

When to go: All year-round
Our top selling trip: Kumano Kodo Trail walking holiday in Japan
See all our trips: Pilgrimage walks
Read more: Pilgrimage walks and Japan walking holidays travel guide

4. Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea

100km of trekking at its most tropical, through rainforests and mountain trails of Papua New Guinea, where local guides and porters help you take on this extraordinary route through dense forest and over rivers. During WW2 this was the terrain of a very bloody battle between the Japanese and the Allied Forces.

When to go: April to October
Our top selling trip: Kokoda Track trekking holiday, Papua New Guinea
Read more: Papua New Guinea travel guide and The Kokoda Track

5. GR20 Walking Trail, Corsica, France

This 200km long trek takes a good week to complete and is considered by many passionate promeneurs to be the toughest walk in France, as you stay in mountain huts and cross the island’s interior of granite mountains, snow-capped peaks, dramatic gorges, pine forests, plateaus and plains.

When to go: May/June and September
Our top selling trip: Grande Randonnée walking holiday in Corsica, France
See all our trips: Walking holidays in Corsica
Read more: Corsica Travel Guide and Walking Holidays in France

6. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

This possibly wins the circumnavigation award, covering 125km and taking 16-25 days to complete. You’ll pass through valleys, alpine forest and subtropical jungles but the jewel in the crown is the Annapurna mother massif in the middle. The cultural trail through Nepalese and Tibetan villages is as uplifting as the natural one.

When to go: September to May
Our top selling trip: Annapurna Circuit trekking holiday
See all our trips: Annapurna Circuit holidays
Read more: Annapurna Circuit travel guide and Trekking in Nepal travel guide

7. Accursed Mountains, Albania

The accursed Albanian Alps are one of Europe’s best-kept secrets when it comes to wilderness hiking, with footpaths and old mule trails leading through towering Theth and Valbona National Parks, past Arapit (the “Albanian Matterhorn”) and across dramatic landscapes, including alpine meadows, valleys and remote villages.

When to go: May to September
Our top selling trip: Tailor made Albanian Alps walking holiday
See all our trips: Albania walking holidays
Read more: Albanian Alps walking guide

8. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world (5,895 m) takes between five and nine days. The climb is challenging; you need time to acclimatise to the altitude, you’ll stay in mountain huts or tents, and you’ll need to be reasonably fit to cope with the relentless ascent. But the rewards are high: being able to see the curvature of the earth from its dizzying summit, and going for a safari afterwards as a reward for your amazing achievement.

When to go: July to September
Our top selling trip: Kilimanjaro charity trek, Tanzania
See all our trips: Kilimanjaro holidays
Read more: Kilimanjaro travel guide

9. Inca Trail, Peru

High in the Andes, the Inca Trail is a high-altitude battle against slippery rocks, steep ascents and erratic weather – yet its mystical appeal draws thousands to hike it every year. It takes three to five days or walking between five and seven hours a day to reach Machu Picchu.

When to go: June to September
Our top selling trip: High Inca Trail Trek in Peru
See all our trips: Inca Trail Holidays
Read more: Inca Trail travel guide and Peru Walking Holidays guide

10. Snowman Trek, Bhutan

A tough trail in Bhutan’s northwestern Gasa district that only 50 per cent of hikers finish - and those that do need a month to tackle. You’ll trek down the Himalayan spine between Bhutan and Tibet, crossing no less than 11 mountain passes, all at more than 4,500m.

When to go: September/October
Our top selling trip: Snowman Trek in Bhutan
See all our trips: Walking holidays in Bhutan
Read more: Bhutan Walking travel guide and Bhutan travel guide
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: STxxEN] [1. Everest Base Camp: Hartmanshouse] [4. Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea: Luke Brindley] [7. Accursed Mountains, Albania: Liridon]