5 Incredible Hikes to Add to Your Bucket List

On October 1, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

There’s no better way to experience the great outdoors than to walk through it. Lace up your boots, toss on your pack, and start trekking. To that end, Cassie and I sought out great hiking spots during our trip. Some hikes lasted only a few hours; others took a few days. But they were all amazing!! Here are our top 5 incredible hikes!

5) Cinque Terre, Italian Riviera, Italy

The shortest and easiest of these 5 incredible hikes, Cinque Terre takes you along the northwest Italian Coast by the Ligurian Sea. The trail connects five gorgeous little towns that sit right on the water: Riomaggiore (where we stayed), Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. In recent years, landslides forced the closure of the trail from Riomaggiore to Cornigilia, so you can only hike the last two sections. That doesn’t matter – even the last two sections are incredible.

The hike takes a few hours, but the trail rewards you with stunning views of the coast. Need a break? Each town offers a delectable smorgasbord of fresh seafood and delicious wine. Toss your bathing suit in your backpack and hop in the water at Monterosso when you’re finished hiking!

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4) Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

We had no idea what to expect when we started this hike, but we’re certainly glad we ventured this far north for Giant’s Causeway! This 10-mile hike takes you along the northern edge of the Emerald Isle. We came in the offseason, which meant we had the trail to ourselves for almost the entire way. Unfortunately, it also meant that every restaurant, pub, and restroom was closed along the hike, so make sure to bring snacks if you’re not hiking in the warm months!

The hike hugs the coast, and we often found ourselves on dramatically steep cliffs, looking down at the violent seas churning below. We dealt with some rain and a whole lot of wind while hiking, but it was worth it. The frigid ocean on one side and the beautiful green landscape of Ireland on the other make for an incredible experience. Added bonus: you’re near Bushmills Distillery when you finish the hike, so you can relax with a stiff drink after the hike.

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3) Great Wall of China, Jiankou, China

If it’s your first time in China, you’re going to see the Great Wall. We’ve covered this before. But to really experience the Wall in all its historic majesty, you need to stay more than one day, and you need to avoid the two sections overrun with tourists: Mutianyu and Badaling.

The Wall itself is absolutely amazing. It is, without a doubt, the most impressive man-made structure I have ever seen. Nothing even comes close. A hike along the Wall takes you through history, nature, and even time itself. It’s well worth the expense of paying for a night near the Wall (or even on the Wall!) so you can hike late one day and get an early start the next.

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2) Annapurna Base Camp, Nayapool, Nepal

The other famous base camp in Nepal. Most people have heard of Everest Base Camp, but I would argue Annapurna Base Camp is a better hike and a better experience. First, Everest Base Camp takes about 17 days, so you need a large chunk of time. We hiked to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) in 8 days, and you can do it in 5 if you’re pressed for time. Second, Everest Base Camp is legitimately empty unless it’s the short climbing season when adventure climbers make their push to the top. There is always something at ABC, even if it’s only a guest house with a friendly host ready to hand you a hot cup of tea.

The hike to ABC takes you up to 14,000 feet, and the view is incredible. The Annapurna mountain range forms a U-shape around the camp, so there are staggeringly tall mountains in nearly every direction. The best part? On the way down, you can stop at the Jhinnu hot springs and melt away the sores from days of hiking. If you’ve got time, you can append Poon Hill to this trek, making it a 12-day hike. And if you’ve got even more time, you can do the Annapurna Circuit – a 25-day hike around the outside of the Annapurna range. Good luck! The hike to ABC is the hardest hike on this list.

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1) Inca Trail, Cusco, Peru

The 4-day hike along the Inca Trail ranks as one of the most incredible experiences of our entire trip. The scenery along the way is amazing, and the payoff at the end when you see Machu Picchu emerge from the clouds is worth every step along the way. This hike also goes up to 14,000 feet (at a place conspicuously called “Dead Woman’s Pass”), but, unlike the hike to ABC, you start much higher, so it’s not nearly as much of an altitude gain. Then you start descending almost immediately to Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail combines centuries of history with stunning landscapes. There is always something to look at along the way, including some archaeological sites that are nearly as impressive as Machu Picchu. At the end of the hike, you head to a small town called Aguas Calientes. Just like on the hike down from ABC, there are hot springs here to melt away your pains (though they’re much more commercial than ABC). Of these 5 incredible hikes, this hike, without a doubt, should be on your bucket list!!

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Do you have any other hikes you think should be on this list? Let us know! We know there are thousands of beautiful hikes, and we’d love to keep growing the list!

-O.L.

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8 Responses to “5 Incredible Hikes to Add to Your Bucket List”

  • Great list you guys! I’ve only ever done the Great Wall to Simatai. Life changing. Get to New Zealand for hikes and treks. So many waiting for you there.

    • We definitely intend to add to this list, and I’m sure NZ will be an incredible place to do so!

  • I am desperate to do at least two of those walks, the Cinque Terra hike in Italy, and the Inca Trail in Peru. I wouldn’t mind doing the other three as well if truth be known by the first two are definitely on my bucket list!

    • Those are two awesome (and very accessible) hikes. The great part about Cinque Terre is that you can do it in a day, and you can do it both ways. The Inca Trail is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll never forget!!

  • Wonderful list and cool that you did all these. I have done two – Giant’s Causeway and Great Wall of China. I would love to do the Inca trail someday.

    • There’s a reason the Inca Trail is at the top of our list – it’s such an amazing experience! I’m glad you did Giant’s Causeway. We found that to be an incredible hike in some gnarly weather conditions. Beautiful nonetheless!

  • I’m not sure if you explain this elsewhere, I just found your site and haven’t finished poking around. Sorry if it’s a dumb question. On all of these hikes you’re tent-camping at night? When you did the Inca Trail, did you feel unsafe at any time? We keep getting warnings about American tourists/backpackers being targeted by kidnappers but this hike is still high on my list of to-do’s.

    • Giant’s Causeway/ABC/Inca Trail/Great Wall/Cinque Terre

      That’s actually a great question, and safety is always a worth topic to discuss. So two of these hikes are one-day hikes: Giant’s Causeway and Cinque Terre. No need to worry about anything getting stolen there and no need to worry about safety. There are plenty of people around in the busy season, and even the offseason can draw some crowds.

      On the hike to Annapurna Base Camp in the Himalayas, we slept in guest houses along the way. We had our own room, and the door had a lock on it. Although Nepal is incredibly safe, we saw no reason to take any unnecessary risks and always locked our room if we were out.

      During the Great Wall hike, we spent one night on the Wall in a tent and another night at a guest house near the Wall. Both were perfectly safe. We never felt targeted in any way.

      On the Inca Trail, we spent 3 nights in tents along the way and 1 night in a guest house in Aguas Calientes. We felt safe the entire way. It’s almost impossible to kidnap someone along the Inca Trail – there are just too many people everywhere. The hike is open all year, so you will always be within a few hundred feet at most of another group of hikers. Theoretically, our porters/chaskes could’ve stolen stuff from us, but you’re always so close to all of your stuff that there’s very little risk of that happening. The Inca Trail is absolutely safe, and you shouldn’t think twice about signing up for the hike. Just make sure to do so far in advance – our group filled up about 6 months out.

      We have heard safety concerns about the bus from Lima to Cusco. It’s a long bus ride and the buses have been targeted. We avoided that threat by simply flying from one to the other. It obviously cost us a bit more money, but it saved us a tremendous amount of time and gave us an extra day in Cusco, which is a beautiful city. Happy to answer any other questions!

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