Travel does not have to consist only of seeing sights, eating food and people watching. Ever consider doing something adventurous on your travels? Seeing the expanse of the land, and putting your body (as well as your willpower) to the test? Below are 5 options for hikes that will challenge you—mind, body and soul— and allow you to get a true sense of what [travel] was like for the people [of a particular region] before plane, train and automobile came to be.
1. Mt. Fuji (Sunset climb) - Mt Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain (at 3776 meters). I made this climb, and I must say— it was quite the experience. I witnessed a sort of camaraderie that I never knew existed: strangers genuinely happy for and supportive of one another. I also witnessed the disappointment on people’s faces as they decided they could go no further. Essentially, it was extremely difficult, but so worth the effort. (Click here to see photos and get my account of climbing Fuji)
The sunset climb is what you should do for the best views: climb overnight, reach the summit in time to see the sun rise. Be sure to bring the proper gear (weatherproof) and a backpack to hold food and water (Food is sold in the little huts on the side of the mountain, but can be pricey, and gets more expensive as the elevation inceases). Mt. Fuji can be climbed from late July to the beginning of September, when there is no snow on the mountain. Click here for detailed information.
2. Machu Picchu (4-day Inca Trail Trek) - Dubbed “The Lost City of the Incas,” the ruins of Machu Picchu are a 15th century Inca site situated on a mountain above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, South America. It’s quite a site to behold, and what better way to reach it than how the Incas themselves would have traveled (and the way Hiram Bingham himself discovered it)— on foot.
Start by taking a bus from Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley) to Piscacucho. Your journey will begin here. For 4 days you will hike, and when night falls, you will pitch a tent in the wilderness, under the stars. Eventually you’ll reach the Mountain where Machu Picchu hides. If you’re up to the challenge, climb Waynu Picchu for a breathtaking view of the Macchu Picchu ruins. Click here to see video of the trek. And for details regarding a package deal, click here.
3. Grand Canyon (Rim to Rim hike) - I heard about this hike from a couple I sat next to on the train in Peru. Suffice it to say, it is now on my list of hikes to experience. Meant to be a beautifully humbling experience, the hike is about 24 miles with an elevation of 6000’. From what I’ve been told, the best time to embark upon this journey (to avoid the insane heat) is as late in the season as possible before the North Rim Lodge closes: Early October is said to be a good time. The National Park Service does not recommend doing this hike in one day (as sleep deprivation and the giving out of one’s muscles can occur), though it has been done by experienced hikers. Instead, spend the night and hike back the next day, or take a shuttle back. Click here for more details.
4. Mt. Kilimanjaro (9-10 day climb) - Shown as a celebrity trek on MTV, Summit on the Summit, the Mt. Kilimanjaro climb in Tanzania is probably the most expensive adventure option listed, but is said to be worth saving for. Being immersed in Lush landscapes and surrounded by wildlife while hiking for 9 days makes for quite the experience. With a number of routes (including the popular Western Approach Route & the more challenging Umbwe Route), you can pick the one thats better suited to your skillset and comfort level. The best times to climb are late December thru Early March when temperatures are warmer. I was referred to Thompson Treks for Kilimanjaro, but there are other (cheaper) alternatives to be found with a little digging.
5. Road to Santiago (5 - 16 days) - I saved the longest trek for last. The Road— or Pilgramage— to the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, has been traversed since the 10th century by people on spirutual quests, and is now done for “travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land. Also, many consider the experience a spiritual adventure to remove themselves from the bustle of modern life. It acts as a retreat for many modern pilgrims (wikipedia).” The pilgrimage can be as short as 5 days with the 227km Portuguese Way, or as long as 16 days if embarking upon the popular French Way, aka Via Regia.
Along the way, pilgrims stop at hostels that offer accomodation to those holding a Pilgrim’s Passport, or Credencial, which is a document that can be purchased for a few Euros in a tourist/travel center. At each juncture, your Credencial is stamped, and at the end of your journey, it is examined; if it meets certain qualifications, you are given a Compostela: a certificate of completion. My close friend and I have been wanting to do this trek for quite some time now; hopefully we’ll embark upon it sooner than later.
Safe Travels x Happy Hiking! — VJ