Europe’s best hikes for first timers

Mont Blanc is one of Europe's best hikesCreative Travel Projects/Shutterstock

From easy city walks to harder challenges in the great outdoors, we share 10 of Europe’s best hikes for first timers

When Peter headed to Argentina in January to climb Aconcagua (his third of the seven summits), a friend of mine asked why I wasn’t joining him.

Climbing mountains is his thing, I explained. I’m perfectly comfortable below 4,000m. She frowned and said, ‘I thought you’d want to go because you’re always out hiking.’

Hiking Sørvágsvatn Lake, Faroe Islands

Hiking-Sørvágsvatn-Lake-house-2Atlas & Boots

Blessed with a spell of good weather, we set off to Sørvágsvatn where the largest lake in the Faroe Islands stretches into ocean

Sometimes, in the dead of British winter, I’ll console myself with the fact that at least I’m not on Cotopaxi. At least I’m not on Cotopaxi. Our 2015 glacier hike on Cotopaxi Volcano was probably the coldest I’ve ever been. My fingers were rendered immobile and my feet were hunks of ice and still we trudged on through rain, sleet and snow.

10 best hikes in Dartmoor National Park

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The best hikes in Dartmoor National Park showcase the very finest of England’s wildest landscape

I’ve always been fond of Dartmoor. I first visited as a child on a family holiday and I’ve returned regularly ever since. Famous for its wild ponies, open moorland and craggy granite tors (free-standing rocky outcrops that rise abruptly from the surroundings), it is one of the few genuinely wild places left in England.

Tucked away in the southwest of the country, Dartmoor National Park is home to some of the finest hiking in England. An array of trails criss-cross the wide open vistas and there are several routes to suit different abilities.

Hiking Table Mountain: 10 tips to get you to the top

hiking table mountain isn't as easy as one might think

Hiking Table Mountain isn’t a walk in the park like one might hope. We share our tips for getting to the top

Hiking Table Mountain is a rite of passage for visitors to Cape Town. The iconic behemoth defines the ‘Mother City’ in the same way Rio has a harbour, New York has a statue and San Francisco has a bridge.

This mountain is said to be one of the oldest in the world. Its formation began circa 280 million years ago and some of its rocks date back 600 million years (long before the Himalayas).

Hiking in Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia

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We spent a day hiking in Aigüestortes National Park across a wild landscape of twisting waters and soaring summits in the Catalan Pyrenees

Tucked away in the northwestern corner of Catalonia, deep in the Catalan Pyrenees, is the region’s best-kept secret: Aigüestortes and Lake Sant Maurici National Park or Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici in Catalan.

Aigüestortes is absurdly pretty. Mighty jagged peaks tower far above evergreen forests and myriad glinting lakes. It’s a landscape begging to be hiked – and so we did.

Hiking Great Shunner Fell: my first ‘Dales 30’

hiking Great Shunner Fell from Thwaite

Hiking Great Shunner Fell was my first of the Dales 30, the highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales. One down, 29 to go…

As many of you will know, Kia and I recently moved to the country. It’s taken me eight years, but I’ve finally convinced Kia that life is better away from the busy south. As such, we’ve moved to the small and charming market town of Richmond on the edge of Yorkshire Dales National Park.

As well as enjoying the delights of Richmond, the best thing for me about our move is having easy access to the countryside, right on our doorstop. It takes five minutes to drive into the national park, one of Britain’s 15 breathing spaces, while at the end of our street is a walking trail along the River Swale that gets us into the park in just 15 minutes.

Climbing Carrauntoohil: Ireland’s highest mountain

things to do in the reeks district CarrauntoohilValerie O’Sullivan

Climbing Carrauntoohil is an excellent introduction to the Reeks District, Ireland’s adventure playground

The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in Kerry are Ireland’s highest mountain range and the inspiration behind the region’s newly renamed Reeks District, home to Carrauntoohil which at 1,038m (3,406ft) is Ireland’s highest mountain.

High cliffs, mountain lakes and fast-running rivers define the range which runs 19km along the eastern boundary of the Iveragh Peninsula. Known as the backbone of the Kingdom of Kerry, the sandstone mountains have been hewn over hundreds of thousands of years by glacial erosion and extreme weather.

8 South Island short walks with big views

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We review eight South Island short walks showcasing New Zealand’s extraordinary scenery in just a short stroll

If you don’t have the time or legs for the Great Walks of New Zealand, then these South Island short walks are the next best thing. With grand views on par with some long-distance hiking trails, these quick walks showcase the best of New Zealand’s diverse and sometimes bizarre scenery without the aching feet, sweaty backs and muddy boots. 

8 best day hikes on North Island, New Zealand

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We review the best day hikes on North Island. No tents, sleeping bags or bulky backpacks required

New Zealand is one of the best hiking destinations in the world and although the South Island steals the headlines for long-distance hiking, the North Island has much to offer in terms of shorter trails.

Don’t let lower distances fool you though: these trails may be short, but they are not always sweet. Some are thoroughly challenging. What they all have in common is spectacular scenery. Emerald lakes, rugged coastlines and rocky stalagmites are defining features of these day hikes on North Island.

Climbing Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak

Climbing Mount Kosciuszko in Australia may not be on every visitor’s itinerary, but it’s the easiest way to bag one of the seven summits (sort of)

“So does this really count as one of your seven summits?” Kia asked as we started to break trail.

“Not really. But if I’m on my deathbed and one short, it will have to count,” I replied.

I may have mentioned climbing the seven summits (the highest mountain on each of the seven continents) once or twice or ten times before. I dream of climbing them all, no matter how improbable

Mount Lofty walking trails: six routes to the summit

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The Mount Lofty walking trails crisscrossing the Adelaide Hills all lead to one place: the summit – and some of the finest views in south Australia

In the Adelaide Hills, located just 15km east of Adelaide, sits Mount Lofty and its panoramic views across Adelaide’s skyline and beyond. The Adelaide Hills – an elevated landscape of rolling vineyards, rambling forest and steep ridges – have long been a peaceful retreat for the residents of Adelaide.

Leap of faith: hiking to the vertiginous Tigray churches

Tigray churches over the plains

To reach the Tigray churches of Ethiopia, one must scale sheer rock, inch along narrow ledges and skirt around yawning chasms – all in bare feet. Naturally, we leapt at the chance

I was feeling uncharacteristically nervous. It wasn’t the narrow ledges with sheer drops that had me spooked, but the prospect of climbing with ropes – something I’d never done before.

Visiting Erta Ale volcano: the ‘hike to hell and back’

Erta Ale Volcano in the Danakil Depression

Erta Ale in Ethiopia is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and looms above a deadly desert. We ask if it’s worth the risk

The 4×4 steams across the desert, lurching over rocks and cracks. Sand whips against the window, almost liquid in its motion. Immediately behind me sits our military escort: two men with automatic rifles slung casually across their laps.

I hate to say it, but there is a distinct sense of lawlessness in the air. I hate to because this is Africa and, for centuries, westerners have come to the continent to gather tales of risk and adventure for recounting at dinner parties over and cheese and wine.

I don’t want to be that guy, but it’s true: here, in the Danakil Depression in the Afar Region of Ethiopia, it really does feel like anything could happen.

Hiking in Mauritius: five trails with stunning viewpoints

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Hiking in Mauritius is hot, sticky and exhausting, but with some of the finest viewpoints in the world, thoroughly worthwhile too.

Hiking in Mauritius is like exploring Jurassic World, albeit without Chris Pratt and a ferocious dinosaur in tow. The scenery boasts sapphire-blue waters and powder-white beaches encircling jagged jungle-clad peaks that surge from sugar cane fields below. It is the spectacular crests with unimpeded viewpoints of the island in all its glory that provide the finest hiking in Mauritius. We take a look at five of the best trails.

Hiking Le Pouce in Mauritius

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Hiking Le Pouce in Mauritius is a quick and rewarding hike offering stunning panoramic views of this beautiful tropical island

After hiking Le Morne Brabant in Mauritius, we were keen to see more of the country’s extraordinary scenery and so chose Le Pouce, following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin who writes about his ascent of Le Pouce in his journal of 1845.

At 812m (2,664ft), Le Pouce – or The Thumb, so named because of its thumb-shaped peak – is the third highest mountain in Mauritius.

Hiking to Yazakyi Monastery in Myanmar

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We hiked to Yazakyi Monastery above the Burmese village of Pindaya and found a picturesque settlement straight from the pages of National Geographic

On my last visit to London, I asked my niece to grab a tenner from my wallet for the pizza fund. (We have a family of eight siblings and 21 nieces and nephews, so ordering pizza requires a basic level of crowdfunding.)

She rifled through my wallet, first pulling out some US dollars, then my tattered entrance card to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, then the business card of a tourism official in Malawi. She smiled cheekily and said, “Ada marayreh?”.

The Bengali phrase – which loosely translates to ‘flouncing about’ or ‘gallivanting’ – is usually used pejoratively by prim auntie-jis to chide young women for venturing outside and being seen in ‘improper’ situations (e.g. walking with a boy, entering a cinema, going on holiday).