Try as we might, we just can’t narrow down the best hikes in the world. But, we did find outdoor adventures that are the holy grail of trails in each continent.
We’ve started off picking out four hikes from four continents we think have rich history, captivating culture and the terrain you tend to see only in National Geographic.
North America: Kalalau Trail, Kauai
For this coastal hike, the beauty is the trail and destination. The rugged route will have you conquering steep trails and possibly muddy slopes. Skirting along Kauai’s coast and into its tropical forest you will get to see waterfalls, majestic cliffs and potentially unique wildlife. After you reach the top of the trail, you’re rewarded with a spectacular view of the shimmering Pacific and Kalalau Beach. When you find yourself at Kalalau Valley, you can walk the tropical jungle or camp right on the nearby beach.
Round trip: 22 miles
When to go: May to September for drier weather
South America: Inca Trail, Peru
75,000 people don’t hike this trail each year for nothing. Starting from the Sacred Valley, this ancient trail will wind you up, down and around the mountains for miles leading you to Machu Picchu. As one of South America’s most famous trails, you can experience the high cloud forests, tiptoe cliffs and end up at the mysterious “Lost City of the Incas.”
Round trip: 26 miles
When to go: April and May, or October and November
Europe: Cinque Terre, Sentiero Azzuro, Italy
For a family-friendly hike, the Blue Trail in Italy is charming and highly recommended. With colorful villages, a blue sea coastal view and even vineyards, this trail has become a popular and relaxing European trail. Although many of us prefer a quiet and serene hike, don’t let the popularity deter you from this destination because sharing the trail here is worth it.
Round trip: 7 miles
When to go: Spring or fall to help avoid heavy crowds
Africa: North Drakensberg Traverse, South Africa
This backcountry hike has no true trail, but it’s a trek that tests your outdoor skills. If you set out to reach the plateau of Mount-aux-Sources, you’ll find yourself at a series of five cascades, and the second highest waterfall in the world. For more exploring, you check out some of the caves and the timeless cave paintings.
Round trip: 40 miles
When to go: Late summer or fall
Next week, be sure to come back and check out “Hiking in Every Continent: Part Two” to find out which hikes made the cut for the continents Asia, Australia and Antarctica.