A trek is a walking tour through wild or primitive areas. Unlike a backpacking trip, where you eat your meals trailside and sleep in a tent, trekkers typically eat and sleep in shelters along the way. This eliminates the need to carry full camping gear and lightens the trekker’s load to only a few pounds.
The Himalayan trek takes you from village to village, over high alpine trails. You lodge with the locals, eating with them in the evenings and really getting a taste of their way of life. A trek through the European Alps follows similar kinds of trails, though in Europe you’re more likely to spend the evenings in isolated hillside huts or chalets than in villages.
It’s easy to organize your own locally guided trek in many locations around the world, or if you prefer, you can book a package trek offered by a commercial outfitter. Either way, a trekking holiday can be the experience of a lifetime!
Four Places to Get Trekking
Peru – Walk in the footsteps of the Incas
Discover Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas, the same way they did by trekking over the high mountain passes of the Peruvian Andes and along the Camino Inca. You’ll follow ancient Inca roads and tunnels through cloud forests, condor habitats, and orchid zones to the spectacular 13, 0000 foot-high Warmihuanusca Pass.
After five days of trekking and nights spent in camps run by local Quechua Indians, you will arrive at the stone archway called Intipunku, the “gate of the sun.” Below lays the sacred city of Machu Picchu.
Even though porters and pack mules carry most of your gear, the Machu Picchu trek is a demanding one.
The popularity of Machu Picchu trek means you will encounter many other trekkers along the way. To avoid the crowds at peak season, July and August, you might want to consider the High Andes Circuit Trek. This is a 25-day trek of an exploration of Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. After a brief visit to Machu Picchu, you will board a train for Nevado Ausangate. Trekkers enjoy spectacular vistas of alpine lakes and glaciers as they make their way along the flanks of the Ausangate.
Bhutan – A Himalaya Trekking
Located to the east of Nepal, the kingdom of Bhutan is the least visited of the Himalayan countries. Strict government regulations keep the unspoiled wilderness’s rich flora and fauna. On a trek in Bhutan you will find much the same scenery and terrain that you would in Nepal; rain forests, fertile valleys, and glaciers reaching 24,000 feet, but you’ll encounter few, if any, other Westerners.
With less human impact, the forests remain uncut, covering about two-thirds of the total land area, and wildflowers, including orchids and the rare blue poppy, abound in the country’s lush meadows and tropical foothills.
There are several challenging Bhutan treks, ranging from 10-day to 29-day treks.
Norway – A wonderful natural environment
Norway boasts a well-maintained system of trails and comfortable trekking lodges, and their numerous national parks have well-posted hiking routes, as well as unlimited off-the-beaten trekking.
The Norway government subsidizes an outdoor club called Den Norske Turistforening which offers guided treks at reasonable prices in most regions of Norway.
One DNT trek in south-central Norway explores the mountainous Rondane National Park. The park is known for the beauty of its rugged scenery, where large terraces of sand and gravel are interspersed with narrow canyons, rivers, and steep-walled mountains. The Rondane trek takes eight days and departs in June and August.
Hard-core hikers can explore the Jotunheimen Range, the so-called “home of the giants.” Located 50 miles southwest of Rondane National Park, Jotunheimen National Park is an impressive expanse of mountains, glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls. The trek begins in the southern edge of the mountain range and ends with a climatic ascent of 8,100 foot-high Galdhopiggen, the highest mountain in Norway.
For a gentler pace, hikers may want to consider the Heart of Norway Trek, a six-day hike through Jotunheimen National Park. The route runs through valleys populated with hanging glaciers and sparkling alpine streams. The pace is moderate, elevation gains are modest, and participants can cap off the trek by rafting the Sjoa River or climbing the Glittertind, Norway’s second highest mountain.
Chile – Patagonian Wilderness
Patagonia is the Alps, Yosemite National Park, and Alaska all rolled into one. Patagonia is spectacular, and it is cold. Any first-time visitor should be prepared for a harsh climate characterized by bone-chilling winds and extremely changeable weather conditions. In this southern stretch of the Andes, you can experience rain, snow, sleet, and sunshine in the span of an hour. As long as you keep this in mind, and don’t expect to come home with a suntan, you’ll not be disappointed.
Although Patagonia can’t be considered a mainstream trekking destination, there is a good selection of trekking trips. There are several trekking outfitters who have lodge-based nature trips to adventurous hikes through remote backcountry. For the rugged traveler, you can be taken through unforgettable scenery beneath granite walls and peaks of the Torres and Cuernos del Paine, skirting lakes, glaciers, meadows, and waterfalls.
The best treks are those that go to remote areas whose inhabitants don’t see many westerners. Such trips can be arduous. You may have to walk more miles, climb steeper hills, and carry a heavier pack; the days may be hotter, the nights colder, the beds harder. But enduring such hardships may give you the chance to experience societies not yet changed by the modern world.