We categorise our tough walks as strenuous, walking between eight to ten hours a day, often in elevated and exposed regions. Those are the tangibles. The intangibles are elation and satisfaction, escapism and individualism – just a few of the feelings one can experience on epic walking trails. Just as you may experience four seasons in a day while trekking in England or the Isle of Skye, you can go from daunted to delirious within minutes at Everest Base Camp or on Kilimanjaro. If you’re feeling ready for an adventurous challenge, the majority of which are guided by local experts, here are our top toughies but goodies.
Corsica’s GR20, France
Corsica is, in many ways, like a natural kingdom all of its own, its colossal peaks towering over the Mediterranean, 170km from the French mainland. Its crowning glory for hikers is the GR20 trail, which takes both training and a good head for heights. GR stands for Grandes Randonnées walking trails, a network covering over 35,000km of waymarked ways in France. The GR20 is considered one of the toughest, but you are rewarded with some of France’s most exquisite elevated landscapes, such as the route between Vizzavona to Calvi on the north coast where you have to really work out to bliss out. Most of our GR20 tours are self-guided, with the exception of this guided one, which is also open to solo travellers, and all of these tours are available between June and September. You may also enjoy our blog on GR routes in France.
K2 Basecamp, Pakistan
This 19-day K2 Basecamp Trek is one of the world’s most iconic expeditions into Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains. The camp is located at the confluence of the Baltoro and Godwin Austen glaciers, in the shadow of K2, the Earth’s second-highest mountain at 8,611m. Along the trek, you’re enveloped by mammoth sights of Broad Peak, Gasherbrums, Masherbrum, Mitre Peak, Chogolisa and Trango Towers, collectively known as the Throne Room of the Gods. This is a guided expedition, with full-service camping, led by qualified mountain guides and trek crew, all experts from the local Baltistan community. The clouds come in quickly on K2, not surprisingly, so our guided treks are only available between July and August.
Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Everest Base Camp is as high as most of us will go on the world’s highest summit 8,848m. In Nepali, Everest is called Sagarmatha, meaning peak of heaven, and you pass through some ethereal landscapes en route to Base Camp, at a not-to-be-sniffed-at elevation of 5,364m. This is a journey through Himalayan heritage with stops along the way like Namche Bazaar, the cradle of Sherpa culture. Or Lobuche, where traditional stone houses sit amongst the frozen landscapes of the Khumbu Glacier, the highest on the planet.
Mount Toubkal, Morocco
The local name is Jebel Toubkal, and its towering summit is just 60km from Marrakech. Toubkal is a strenuous hike with a fair amount of scrambling involved and takes two days to ascend and descend. The first day involves a hike up from Imlil through Mizane Valley to Mouflons Toubkal Refuge (3,207m), where the snowline begins, depending on the time of year. You start your ascent before dawn, clambering over rocks and scree to the pinnacle at 4,167m, with views across the Atlas to the Atlantic. As well as getting an opportunity to hike through Berber heritage, which is a joy in itself, this trip is also excellent value for money and available all year round. They are also fully guided and open to solo travellers.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Trekking Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is the ultimate way to see Tanzania for walkers, and it is a walk, albeit a slow, strenuous one, not a technical climb. We offer privately guided treks on all four routes to Kilimanjaro’s summit, or Uhuru as it’s known locally, at 5,895m. We recommend choosing a route carefully, based on how much time you want to acclimatise, where you want to sleep, and the landscapes you like to trek through. The Lemosho Route starts off trekking through rainforest in the west; the gentler Rongai Route approaches from the north near the Kenyan border; the Machame Route is the most popular and busier in peak season; and the Marangu Route is the only one to have mountain huts to sleep in, rather than camping. The routes are open all year round and also welcome solo travellers (the exception being on the Lemosho route). Whichever or whenever you choose, Kili is always colossal.
The Skye Trail, Scotland
The Isle of Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides archipelago and a bit like a microcosm of the mainland’s natural highlights, with its lochs, rugged peninsulas and valleys wrapped around the foothills of its mountainous interior. The Skye Trail goes the length of the island along the eastern side, passing through some of the best hiking areas of the island, including Black and Red Cuillin, Trotternish Ridge, Loch Coruisk, and Skye’s most northerly point, Rubha Hunish. This is a challenging Caledonian adventure over nine days and one that requires plenty of wild walking experience. With tours available between June and September, if it’s wilderness you’re after, the Skye’s the limit.
Aconcagua is actually the highest trekking peak in the world (6,960m), as you don’t need technical climbing skills, and it is also considered one of the planet’s most spectacular treks. Walk for 18 days with a small group, guided by a team of mountain experts on a seriously strenuous but extraordinary journey. Located in the Principal Cordillera of the Andes, close to the border with Chile, you trek on what’s called the Normal Route, although there is nothing banal about this beauty. The tour is available between November and February, we build in plenty of acclimatisation and contingency days on our itinerary, where the focus is on safety, as well as spectacular views such as from Plaza Francia (4,000m), Nido de Condores (5,560m) and of course the great summit itself.
The Snowman Trek, Bhutan
Trekking in Bhutan doesn’t get more tremendous than this. It’s also our longest trekking holiday – a month of pure mountain magnificence. The Snowman Trek gives you an opportunity to enjoy the Himalayan highs over a long period of time and really immerse yourself in their greatness. It’s a clockwise circuit around Jigme Dorji National Park and the ten main passes that form a natural border with Tibet. You start off taking the same route as the Jomolhari Base Camp trek but then continue with daily pass challenges such as to Gubu La (4,420m), Jere La (4,750m) or Shingela (5,010m), and valley descents with great sights such as Teri Kang glacier. The tour is available between March and May, September and November.
Hadrian’s Wall in four days, England
Most people choose to take it easy along Hadrian’s Wall, England’s historic Roman ramble of 135km between Newcastle on the North Sea and the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea over ten days. However, Hadrian’s Wall Challenge is more of a race than a ramble, taking only four days. Many of our more experienced hikers use this as a practice run for a much longer expedition. There are no steep ascents and descents, but you do cover some colossal ground, including the spectacular terrain of Northumberland National Park. Walk between 29-39km each day, self-guided with luggage transfers, and stay in a mix of B&Bs, guesthouses or 3-star hotels. This trip is available between March and October and is open to solo travellers.
Our walking holidays come in all shapes and sizes, and this blog only scratches the surface. You may also want to check out our walking holidays, which are categorised as moderate to strenuous. Do not hesitate to contact us for more information. If you enjoyed reading this, do check out our blogs on How to prepare for a hiking trip or Staying in a mountain hut on walking holidays.