Out of country trips are usually seen as luxurious and only for the rich, and out of reach for most individuals. But this need not be so! If you’re able to swap luxury for a few personal items and a backpack, you can explore the globe on a tight budget. Backpacking may apply to those who are hiking and camping while carrying on their back everything they need for the trail. It can also apply to a low-cost style of travel, often living in cheap accommodation such as hostels, while holding in a backpack all required belongings.
Don’t get us wrong, a quick overnight in your favorite state park can be an adventure you’re never going to forget, but setting your eyes on the world’s best backpacking trips probably won’t hurt. The world is full of beautiful backcountry that needs to be discovered, from eating cheese and sipping espresso in the Swiss Alps to camping on the Everest Base Camp and hiking along the Queen Charlotte Track in New Zealand. The possibilities are endless! So let’s get going with the 15 best backpacking trips in the world.
1. Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Hawaii, USA
Distance: 22 miles roundtrip | Length: 1-2 days | Elevation Gain: 800 ft
Originally established in the late 1800s and in the 1930s, parts of the trail were restored. Previous Hawaiian communities along the coastline were connected by a parallel foot trail. Before stopping at Kalalau Beach, the path traverses five valleys where steep, fluid cliffs obstruct it. As it passes over soaring sea cliffs and across green valleys, the 11-mile path is graded but almost never straight. At the beaches of Hanakapi’ai and Kalalau, the trail declines to sea level. A popular day hike is the first 2 miles of the trail, from Haena State Park to Hanakapi’ai Beach. Anyone going beyond Hanakapi’ai valley must have a valid camping permit for the night.
2. Laugavegur Trail, Iceland
Distance: 34 miles roundtrip | Length: 4 days | Elevation Gain: 5583 ft
In Iceland, this is one of the most popular trails. A 4-day walk through the wilderness of Iceland – polychrome cliffs, lava fields, deserts of black sand, geothermal pools, glaciers, lakes, frozen river crossings, plains of grass and trees. You will encounter four days of geothermal lakes, ponds, lava fields, glaciers, canyons, and mountains while hiking the 55 km (34 miles) trek; so many stunning, colorful mountains. No wonder that Laugavegur is one of Iceland’s most popular climbs, drawing hikers from all over the world.
3. Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal
Distance: 75 miles roundtrip | Length: 12 days | Elevation Gain: 18500 ft
Situated to the north by the world’s highest peaks, including Mt. Everest, in a deep and winding mix of valleys, gorges, paths and terraces, the area descends from the high Himalaya. The Khumbu is home to the people of the Sherpa, who have developed a mountain-shaped community. The Everest Base Camp Trek is an adventurous trip through the heart of the Himalayas. The actual climbing season to the summit of Everest takes place in April and May, but during the fall months is the more favorable trekking season. This is when the sky and the beautiful landscapes are visible.
4. Long Range Traverse, Newfoundland, Canada
Distance: 22.4 miles roundtrip | Length: 5 days | Elevation Gain: 5187 ft
A must for an avid hiker is the Long Range Traverse through the outback of Gros Morne National Park. Six on-road campsites encourage you to schedule the trip for as many days as you wish, but five days are recommended to complete the hike due to rough terrain, erratic conditions, and lack of definite trail park officials. On the hike, there are no designated or maintained trails that enable trekkers to rely on advanced, confident navigation map-and-compass and other backcountry skills. The Long Range explorer faces steep hills, thick tuckamore, swarming black flies, and wandering moose and caribou, but with a strong sense of wildness and some of the most jaw-dropping scenery to be found anywhere in the world, the intrepid souls who address this challenge are richly rewarded.
5. Walker’s Haute Route, French And Swiss Alps
Distance: 125 miles roundtrip | Length: 10-12 days | Elevation Gain: 9799 ft
A beautiful and exhausting summer hike is the Haute Route: a strenuous high-level climb in the French and Swiss Alps, a 10 to 12-day walk from Chamonix (France) to Zermatt (Switzerland). The road crosses 10 out of 12 of the highest peaks in the Alps, below the summits, and crosses several high passes. This is a land of ice and snow-capped, soaring hills. With flower-covered meadows and picture-book villages, the Haute Route often meanders through lush alpine valleys.
In general, from mid-June until the first or second week of September, mountain huts and refuges are open. It is advisable to reserve a bed, particularly from mid-July to mid-August in the high season. The early season (June-mid-July) is the quietest and most spectacular, but on the higher roads, beware of old snow that may be slippery and dangerous and will make crampons and ice axes necessary.
6. Kepler Track, South Island, New Zealand
Distance: 37 miles roundtrip | Length: 3-4 days | Elevation Gain: 4600 ft
The Kepler Track is a hike of 60 km that leaves Lake Te Anau on the South Island of New Zealand in the Fiordland National Park. The path goes into the mountains of Kepler (hence the name) and is renowned for its spectacular ridgelines and top views of the mountains. You can even get really cold temperatures and even snow in the summer!
It’s one of New Zealand’s most popular Great Hikes, which means you’ll need to book a permit for particular dates in advance – you can’t just show up for this hike and expect to camp/stay in a hut on the day. High standard and quick to follow tracks that are well-formed. In the wet season, it is normally coated in dirt, rock, or gravel which appears to get slippery. Depending on the terrain, the trail is very wide; flat sections suit two people walking side by side. Other hilly areas make the route steep, giving a clearer perspective. The best of this trail’s rivers and streams have robust bridges. Be on the warning, however, for wet weather rivers which rise rapidly and flood the tracks.
7. Dana To Petra On The Jordan Trail
Distance: 52.5 miles roundtrip | Length: 4 days | Elevation Gain: 4462 ft
This route, one of the most awe-inspiring stretches of a trek through Jordan, was recently named one of the fifteen best hikes in the world by National Geographic. The path descends to the Araba Valley from the heights of the mountain plateaus and climbs up, passing many temperature zones, complex habitats concealed in canyons, and spectacular hill and valley labyrinths showing the full range of geology of the area. Every few kilometers, the scenery ranges from magnificent and epic mountain tops to quiet, bucolic countryside, and new landscapes are presented: monotony is the one thing this area does not deliver.
8. The Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Distance: 20 miles one way | Length: 2-4 days | Elevation Gain: 4117 ft
While a shorter multi-day hike could work for the Routeburn Trail, it has some of the best scenery. The trail connects Mount Aspiring National Park to Fiordland National Park with towering mountain tops, vast valleys, waterfalls, and jewel-like lakes. The highest point of the track is 1,255 meters above sea level – so the views are absolutely breathtaking.
The part of New Zealand from which the Routeburn Trail winds has been formed into fiords, rocky beaches, towering mountains, lakes, and waterfalls by successive glaciations. Via forested areas of the track, birdlife is prolific; native tomtits, robins, fantails, wood pigeons, and bellbirds are frequently seen, as well as the cheeky Kea, the only alpine parrot in the country. This is not a loop road and can be walked any way; one end of the path is at the Routeburn Shelter (near Glenorchy) and the other is at The Divide (closer to Te Anau). It is advised that this path be avoided between May and September when the danger of avalanches is high.
9. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Distance: 26 miles roundtrip | Length: 4 days | Elevation Gain: 8202 ft
The four-day, three-night trek up and down the Inca’s stone path is the most popular route for backpackers to arrive at Machu Picchu. A vast network of roads across the Andes was established by the Inca Empire, and numerous treks can be carried out in Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, as well as Peru, spanning Inca routes. The “Royal Road” section, however, is the most prominent stretch of the trail, a path used by Inca royalty and pilgrims on their way to Machu Picchu’s holy site.
10. Rim To Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, Usa
Distance: 24 miles one way | Length: 1-2 days | Elevation Gain: 5150 ft
The rim-to-rim trek in Grand Canyon National Park is a classic bucket list adventure, no doubt about it. But it’s not a walk in the park, that is for sure. Being unprepared will yield devastating effects. However, it can be one of the most unforgettable moments of your life when you’ve learned properly, got the right gear, and know what to expect.
You’ll leave the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim on this epic Grand Canyon trek, testing your own boundaries as you descend 14.3 miles and 6,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon before linking to the Light Angel Trail and ascending 4,500 feet and 9.6 miles up to the South Rim again. You can take in hypnotic scenes along the North Kaibab Trail as you travel across two billion years of Earth’s history and eleven layers of ancient rocks. Eventually, you will hit the sandy shores of the Colorado River after hours of knee-pounding climbing. Here, in the middle of the National Park of the Grand Canyon, hundreds of huge rock formations on both sides will rise over you.
11. Torres Del Paine’s “O” Circuit, Chile, South America
Distance: 74 miles roundtrip | Length: 6-8 days | Elevation Gain: 4000 ft
The “O” circuit of the Torres del Paine is the complete circle around the Cordillera del Paine-the “W” plus the more distant back that gets fewer trekkers. The path can be walked in any direction, but most trekkers go counterclockwise and end at Laguna Amarga or Refugio Lago Pehoe Ranger Station. This is one of the premier hikes in Patagonia and will help you beat the hordes of Torres del Paine if you have the time and encouragement.
The road is long and complicated, but along the way, there is a good shelter infrastructure. Camping is required on the back of the “O”; trekkers have the option of camping or staying at refuges on the rest of the circuit. You would be able to stock up on provisions and are never too far from other people, unlike real wilderness treks.
12. Kungsleden Trail, Sweden
Distance: 267 miles one way | Length: 1 month | Elevation Gain: 800 ft
In the mountain realm of Lapland, Kungsleden travels through varying landscapes. In the route between alpine terrain and low-lying mountain birch woodland, there are abrupt shifts. Over lush mountain heaths flanked by tarns and spectacular peaks, a path along Kungsleden leads you, and the route even passes through many mountain villages.
Four national parks pass through Kungsleden: Abisko, Stora Sjöfallet, Sarek and Pieljekaise. Reindeer husbandry is carried out over the entire length of the route, and care must be extended to tourists. The trail is well-marked and bridges lead you safely across fast-flowing streams that would otherwise be daunting. Abisko, Vakkotavare, Saltoluokta, Kvikkjokk, Ammarnäs and Hemavan are the most popular places to start or finish a hike along Kungsleden. There is a two-day walk-in to hit Kungsleden if you arrive at Nikkaluokta.
13. Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand
Distance: 44 miles one way | Length: 3-5 days | Elevation Gain: 1540 ft
For newbies, the Queen Charlotte Trail is the perfect multi-day trek (or tramp, as they say in New Zealand). The trail passes through some private property, unlike most of the tramps in the nation, which suggests that comfortable lodges and campsites are available. You can move your luggage by water taxi every day, and if you ever want to miss a day, just get on the boat with it. Your non-walking partners will take the water taxi and visit you later in the day as you walk at the cabin. The ride is particularly useful for groups.
It’s almost impossible to get lost and you don’t even need a map. The track is really easy to trace. As well as the occasional long drop toilet and picnic benches, you can find Department of Conservation (DOC) maps and approximate times along the way. Queen Charlotte Track mountain biking can also be completed in two to four days, although some areas are closed from December to February at the busiest season.
14. Tour du Mont Blanc, Europe
Distance: 105 miles roundtrip | Length: 10-12 days | Elevation Gain: 15777 ft
Glaciers, cliffs, valleys, streams, meadows, and wildlife are bursting with epic alpine scenery on the Tour du Mont Blanc. The TMB also doubles as a living, breathing history lesson, in addition to the physical demands of the journey. You can find 18th-century churches still standing, and walk the same roads the Roman soldiers used 2,000 years before.
And the TMB has a comprehensive hut scheme (huts every 6-10 miles) filled with food, water and many other creature comforts should your feet grow tired (which they will). Seventeen cities dot the road, with several smaller villages, so there are many opportunities for helping vehicles and having a comfortable bed to sleep in at night. Plus, if needed, you may take on the circumnavigation of the supported or unsupported Mont Blanc massif.
15. Pacific Crest Trail, USA
Distance: 2650 miles one way| Length: 5 months | Elevation Gain: 13153 ft
The Pacific Crest Trail, also known as the PCT, is the second-longest trail in America, running across the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, from Mexico to Canada. Adventurous hikers finding a challenge will take the high route across the ranges of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade and witness some of the most scenic and diverse scenery in America along the way, from scorching deserts to snowy mountains.
You should intend to finish the hike within 6 months, otherwise, during the colder months, you’ll freeze to death (possibly literally). Many citizens, walk at an average of 16-mile-a-day, over 10-20 miles a day. You will walk more on some days; you won’t walk as much on some days. Build a rough map of where you will be every week and every month, and when preparing, remember the weather. Bear in mind that your static plans are sure to derail while you’re on the trail, and you’ll focus on spontaneity to make it through.