Going on a hiking adventure doesn’t mean you have to give up creature comforts. Here’s how you can spend the day as an intrepid explorer and enjoy the night in luxury.
Machu Picchu by rail
A visit to the wondrous archaeological site of Machu Picchu is on every avid adventurer’s bucket list. And this once-in-a-lifetime expedition calls for an equally unique journey on the 1920s-styled luxury Belmond Hiram Bingham train. Named after the explorer who discovered the site more than a century ago, the train features old-fashioned charm oozing with loads of Peruvian hospitality — you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Your day starts in Lima with a leisurely three-anda- half-hour train ride through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, along the revered Urubamba River. You’ll journey from ancient town to lush cloud forest, before arriving in Machu Picchu. The day is yours to hike and explore, before taking afternoon tea at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only accommodation adjacent to the citadel.
The best thing about staying on site is waking up the next morning to a sunrise over the lush green mountains. In that brief, sublime moment, the peace and tranquility of the Lost City of the Incas is all yours to savour.
Adventures Down Under
Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the Australian outback on a three-night, four-day walk in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. Set against the stunning backdrop of Elder Range and Wilpena Pound, this walk takes you into the depths of the wild bush and yet cocoons you each night in a deluxe campsite.
The days are spent traversing the ancient routes of the Flinders Ranges — you’ll see waterholes lined with thousand-year-old river gum trees and rolling hills of cypress pines; you may even spot emus, kangaroos and the threatened yellow-footed rock wallaby. Each night, your expert local guides will set up camp and you’ll have the option of either sleeping under the stars in a deluxe swag or in a comfortable shelter. You’ll also be nourished with a delicious three-course meal and a good supply of Australian wine. Well-rested, you’ll be up and ready for the next day.
The final night is spent in the comfort of the historic Arkaba homestead, where you’ll have the option of a well-earned massage.
Doing Tour du Mont Blanc in style
This is one of the world’s most classic treks, which you can now do in total style and comfort. Following a route that circles the entire Mont Blanc massif, this version of the Tour takes 11 days to complete, giving you plenty of time to savour the high-alpine scenery. Each day is spent hiking on the trail (while your luggage is spirited ahead of you), and each night is spent in hand-picked hotels and refuges with private rooms full of local colour.
The tour starts in France in the Les Contamines Nature Reserve, before dipping down into Italy’s Aosta Valley for spectacular views of the famous massif, and then ending with a climb through the Grand Col Ferret that leads you to Switzerland. As you journey through the three countries that surround Mont Blanc, you will get to savour the different cuisines and enjoy the various culinary delicacies on offer.
Take in a Pacific panorama
Fancy a hiking retreat but don’t want to be tied to a fixed route and schedule? Try The Inn at New Port Ranch in northern California for a getaway that lets you explore at your own pace. Visitors to the ranch can enjoy more than 20 miles of world-class hiking and riding trails that meander through the 2,000-acre property, providing more than a mile of oceanfront, three miles of ridge tops and all the gorgeous scenery you want!
At the end of the day, retreat to the rugged yet luxurious inn, with its roaring fire and steamy hot tub to soothe your aching joints. All meals are prepared using local ingredients — you can even enjoy a meal or two al fresco to savour the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
Gorillas in the mist
Take a leaf out of naturalist Dian Fossey’s book and head to the jungles of Rwanda to get up close and personal with the magnificent mountain gorillas. The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is near the headquarters of the Parc National des Volcans in the foothills of the Virungas range of volcanoes — and perfect for treks into the jungle to spot one of the 10 families of gorillas living in the area.
Each trek takes anything between two and five hours, and a maximum of eight visitors are allowed per gorilla family. Once you reach the gorillas, you can stay for up to an hour to view them. Book this once-in-a lifetime opportunity well in advance as only 80 gorilla trekking permits are issued each day at most.
Step into the past
Those who enjoy a less structured trekking experience may prefer tackling the ancient Nakasendo trail that runs through the spine of central Japan. Stretching more than 500km from Kyoto to Tokyo, the road was established more than a millennium ago, mostly for the convenience of travelling shoguns. Just a few hundred years ago, it would have been crowded with travellers; it’s now a quiet walking route through the beautiful Kiso mountain region.
Choose from simple minshuku (Japanese-style bed-and-breakfast establishment) and luxury ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) as you follow the well-worn route that meanders through lush valleys and ancient towns. Spend as long or as short as you like at each rest stop before hitting the trail again. In the evening, rest your weary limbs in a soothing onsen before tucking into hearty meals of fresh local produce. The tourism offices in the villages of Magome and Tsumago offer a luggage-forwarding service so you can hike with just a backpack.
PREPARING FOR A HIKING HOLIDAY
There are just two things you need to do before your hiking holiday:
- Get a good pair of walking shoes or hiking boots suitable for your adventure. Ideally, they should be supportive, light and water-resistant/waterproof.
- Go for a few walks in your new shoes before your trip. Not only will this help to break in your new shoes, it’ll help you get in shape for the hike. Look for opportunities to walk more: take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, and walk to the market or mall instead of driving