Best places to go wilderness trekking

Trekking in wilderness areas involves extremes in climate, terrain and altitude. Treks explore parched desert valleys and mountain passes that require acclimatisation. Humid and dark rainforests, where your every step is watched by hundreds of tiny eyes, and rock-strewn geothermal landscapes shaped by volcanic activity over millions of years. But while these often fragile environments might be inhospitable, they’re certainly far from unoccupied. One of the most significant aspects of our wilderness trekking vacations is that they bring you into contact with remote communities that can make a valuable income from trekkers, such as by providing accommodation or porter services. Responsible travel in these places means treading carefully and respectfully.

1. Ethiopia

Trekking through the jagged Simien Mountains is certainly wild – gelada baboons, birds of prey and even mountain lions can be seen. But hiking here is more than just dramatic scenery and amazing animal sightings. You’ll walk through passes pre-dating the Great Rift Valley, as well as hardy farming communities where hosts in simple guest houses are ready with refreshing tea and coffee when you arrive every afternoon.

2. Himalayas

The snowy reaches of the Himalayas afford magnificent opportunities for wilderness trekking in several countries. Trips include the Markha Valley in India (comparable to the Everest Base Camp trek in effort), the mysterious kingdom of Bhutan, and tracking snow leopards in Ladakh. Wherever your wanderings take you, expect exhilarating views and tired legs.

3. Iceland

Forget the busy Golden Circle – wilderness trekking in Iceland veers off the highway and into the Highlands on one of the world’s most spectacular hikes. Six days on the magnificent Laugavegur trail, camping as you go, immerse you in scenery liable to have you composing an epic poem, all waterfalls plunging into deep canyons, vast rugged glaciers, volcanoes and black-sand deserts.

4. Jordan

Follow Bedouin shepherd paths from the bird-rich Dana Biosphere Reserve to the ancient city of Petra while wilderness trekking in Jordan. A scarf is a valuable packing addition, whether for warmth in the evenings, or to protect against sun and sand. Prepare for desolate mountains, and magnificent rose-red desert landscapes best washed down with copious cups of sweet black tea.

5. Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the planet’s most beautiful and biodiverse islands – a world of rainforests and characterful wildlife such as lemurs sadly threatened by severe deforestation which is largely due to agriculture and logging. Trekking here ranges from moderate to challenging, deep in national parks where entrance fees fund vital conservation efforts. You’ll be invited into the homes of Zafimaniry people in the Central Highlands – skilled artisans whose houses are built from wood without nails.

6. Nepal

Up at the roof of the world Nepal is one of the great trekking destinations. But you don’t need to fall into line and wait your turn at every viewpoint. Wilderness trekking vacations in Nepal seek out destinations that are far less-known, but still offer mind-blowing views and challenge. Among them are the Mustang region, with its fascinating ‘sky caves’, and the Manaslu Circuit, a 13-day epic trek.

7. Patagonia

Treks in Patagonia span a vast, wind-battered steppe shared between Chile and Argentina, skirting enormous glaciers and mountains. This is walking for wildlife-lovers too. Woodpeckers, foxes and cougars can be seen at ground level, while eagles and condors soar overhead and pumas watch on from afar. Combine with gaucho hospitality at a Calafate ranch to cool your boots afterwards.

8. Scotland

With its beloved right to roam enshrined in law, Scotland is one of the finest places in Europe for wilderness trekking. The Cairngorms need little introduction, save to say our expert partners will get you onto little-known mountain trails with uncrowded views. The mystical Orkney archipelago, off Scotland’s far north tip, makes for some seriously powerful coastal walking too.
Travel Team
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Wilderness trekking advice

Carmel Hendry, product manager at our partner Explore, on her favourite wilderness destinations: “My favourite wilderness areas to explore have been Guyana and Patagonia. They’re two very different experiences, as you have the vast open scenery of Patagonia and the dense rainforest of Guyana. Here, you see some really interesting indigenous community-led biodiversity. You stay in small villages and all the money earned goes back into local communities.”

Clara Gonzalez, from our Argentinian specialists Say Hueque, shares some practicalities on trekking in Patagonia: “Weather-wise, the ideal time of year for trekking in Patagonia is between October and April, but the most popular areas do get crowded in January and February, so I would suggest the autumn (March and April) or October and November. You may not get perfect weather, but that’s the trade-off. Some of the campsites we use are more rustic than others. For example, in Torres del Paine National Park you can expect more amenities than in less well-known areas. One campsite might offer sleeping bags so you can travel light, others might offer showers, and others are not as well-set up, so you might have a shared toilet block and that’s it.”

Marcus Eldh, founder of our partner Wild Sweden, recommends trekking in Sarek National Park: “I regard Sarek National Park as the most spectacular place for trekking in Sweden. It is surrounded by other parks, so there is no road in, no phone connection, no cabins. We camp and carry our own gear. But what there is here is the largest moose in Europe, wolverines, bears, lynx and golden eagles. It’s wonderful for wildlife.”

Kashka Lantis, from our partner Exodus Travels, explains the need-to-know about trekking the Markha Valley in Ladakh: “The Markha Valley is a strenuous trek, comparable to Everest Base Camp in difficulty. We rate it as challenging, which means you need to be confident in your physical condition. You’ll be walking on average 4-6 hours a day point to point, so there’s no turning back. There are a couple of river crossings on the trek as well so you really do need to be confident on your feet on rocks and uneven terrain.”
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: Lydia Steinmassl] [Ethiopia: Rick McCharles] [Himalayas: Toomas Tartes] [Iceland: Barni1] [Jordan: Anton Lecock] [Madagascar: Bernard Gagnon] [Nepal: Simon English] [Patagonia: Toomas Tartes] [Scotland: James Montgomerie]