Take a Walking Break
KUMANO KODO ANCIENT TRAIL (Japan)
This Unesco-approved network of trails leads deep into the heart of the Kii Mountains, southeast of Kyoto. Numerous tracks criss-cross these cedar-scented, waterfall-laced mountains dotted with shrines and temples; you can trek a section in a few days or complete the whole pilgrimage as Kyoto’s ancient emperors did, in roughly six weeks.
Duration: From one night to six weeks.
Level: Easy/moderate. Paths are well-maintained and shady, and you’re never far from help.
Where to stay: book into Fudoin Shukubo, Mount Koya, for serene temple lodgings on a hillside in Koyo-san. Join the monks for Morning Prayer and meditation, then share your blissful surroundings over the super-fast Wi-Fi. Rooms from about $100, including vegetarian supper and breakfast (fudouin.or.jp).
Must-pack: Long-sleeve merino wool tops are perfect for the cooler evenings, and appropriate for temples stays.
THE QUEEN CHARLOTTE TRACK (New Zealand)
New Zealand is famous for its tramping (that’s hiking to you and me) trails and this 45-mile stretch is hard but particularly beautiful. With a range of quirky, luxurious and homely accommodation in the vast Marlborough Sounds on the South Island, tough walking doesn’t need to mean roughing it. At the end of the day you can take your boots off, shimmy into a (somewhat wrinkled) jersey dress and sip a glass of local sauvignon blanc.
Duration: Three-five nights.
Level: Moderate. This walk isn’t steep, but it is long: 45-miles in five days means you’ll be walking 9am-5pm on at least two days.
Where to stay: Lochmara Lodge (lochmaralodge.co.nz, doubles from $75 per night) in Lochmara Bay a quarter of the way along the track has an organic cafe. Sculpture park and wildlife recovery centre, so we’d suggest staying two nights so you have a day to make the most of it.
Must-pack: your swimsuit. Every day’s hike ends at a beautiful cove, and jumping into fresh salt water is the best remedy for hot, aching limbs.
CAMINO DE SANTIAGO (Spain)
The first pilgrimage walking route to gain Unesco recognition, this 490-mile walking route in the north-west of Spain was one of the most important Christian pilgrimage routes in the Middle Ages, and is perennially popular with walkers of all faiths (as well as zero faith) today.
Duration: up to six weeks. A good five-day option involves flying into Santiago, taking the train to La Coruna and walking the final 50 miles to the 13th-century cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, alongside coastline, traversing forests and hills.
Level: Moderate. There are a few steep climbs, but it’s a well-trodden path.
Where to stay: Accommodation is refreshingly affordable, with traditional basic albergues en route costing $10 per night. The petite design hotel Pazo de Altamira (pazodealtamira.com) has stylish white rooms in a former nobleman’s mansion just 200m from the Santiago de Compastela cathedral, from $75 per night.
Must-pack: A Spanish phrase book. Don’t except anyone to speak English, so memorise some basics on the flight.
THE KNOYDART PENINSULA (Scotland)
As remote as it is beautiful, western Scotland’s Knoydart peninsula is accessible only by boat or by a challenging 1-mile hike. The best time to tackle this walk is between May and September, with most people breaking up the walk by staying overnight at the Barisdale bothy (sleeps 12 on a first come, first served basis and costs $5 per night) along the way. If you don’t mind carrying a tent, camping is also an option. Our tip? Do your research and contact the rangers. But we promise that the seafood platter at Britain’s most remote pub, the Old Forge in Mallaig, will make it worthwhile.
Duration: Two days is ideal.
Level: Challenging. A long hike over tough terrain.
Where to stay: Doune Stone Lodges offers the most romantic and atmospheric accommodation at the start of the hike in Mallaig, from $120 per night (sawdays.co.uk).
Must-pack: Waterproofs, gloves and GPS co-ordinates of back-up accommodation at one of the the two bothy shelters on route just in case it takes longer than you originally estimated (a common error for first-timers).
SENTIERO AZZURRO, CINQUE TERRE (Italy)
This seven and a half-mile trail connects five impossibly picturesque cliff-top fishing villages, passing vineyards and olive groves wile boasting some of the most spectacular coastal scenery on the planet. It’s a five-hour walk at most, but this is an excursion to savour so spend the night and take the time to stop at each village to eat, drink and gaze at the sea.
Duration: One night.
Level: Easy; you’re mainly walking on paved paths and you’re never far from civilisation (read: an affogato).
Where to stay: the dinky Ca’ D’Andrean hotel (cadandrean.it) is one of the friendliest and most peaceful spots in Manarola, about a third of the way along the route. Doubles from $100.
Must-pack: Designer sunglasses and your IPhone. This could be the most instagrammable walk in the world.