You don’t have to tackle the Inca Trail or Mt. Kilimanjaro in order to enjoy a hike through some magnificent landscapes. Here are seven awe-inspiring walks that can each be completed in a few hours.
Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia
This iconic Australian destination is a striking 1,142-foot-high sandstone rock formation that is considered sacred by the local Aboriginals. Although it’s possible to make a half-mile climb to the top, the Aboriginals discourage this because of the site’s spiritual significance. A better option is to do the 6-mile Base Walk around the circumference of Uluru. You’ll not only enjoy beautiful views, but will also have a chance to see ancient rock paintings. If you’re not up for the full 6-miles, there are shorter trails in the area.
The lost city of Petra is accessible even if you’re not Indiana Jones. Near the Jordanian town of Wadi Musa, a one-mile walk will take you to Petra’s ancient ruins. Half of this trek is through the Siq, a narrow gorge that winds dramatically between 600-foot rock faces before suddenly opening to the stunning view of Al Khazneh, or “The Treasury.” Once you’re at Petra, there are other hikes that will take you to 2,000-year-old temples, tombs and other ruins built by the Nabataean people.
The region of Cappadocia, in central Turkey, is an otherworldly setting of bizarrely beautiful rock formations. Most fantastic of all are the fairy chimneys, which were named because the shapes are so eccentric they appear to be the work of fairies. There are numerous local hikes that you can enjoy, ranging from about one to five miles, through places like Love Valley, Rose Valley and Honey Valley. Some of them are easy local walks and others involve a trek between villages, but all of them take in one of the most spectacular landscapes you can imagine.
Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
The Grand Canyon is aptly named: it’s 277 miles long and 18 miles wide at its greatest breadth. Every type of hiking opportunity is available, from a simple walk along the rim to a multi-day trip into the canyon. The 9.5-mile rim trail is mostly level and partly paved. It’s also serviced by a shuttle bus, so you can spend as much or as little time as you wish enjoying the spectacular vistas. For a more intimate and rugged view of the canyon, there are day hikes along the Bright Angel, South Kaibab and other trails.
Great Wall, China
The Great Wall of China is a must-see for travelers to Beijing and, although you can enjoy the sight without getting much exercise, in order to really experience the wall you should walk part of it. It can involve climbing hundreds of steps where the wall hugs steep hills, so it’s not a leisurely stroll in the park. But it’s well worth the exertion to gaze upon the jade-colored Chinese hills and to experience a structure that stretches for thousands of miles and was first built more than two millennia ago.
Huayna Picchu, Peru
The name Huayna Picchu may not be immediately familiar, but it’s the peak that serves as the backdrop to the most famous view of the Macchu Picchu ruins in Peru. Yes, it’s steep, but it is walkable. A few hundred people are allowed on the trail each day to climb towards the sky along a pathway and stairs that were carved into the mountainside by the Incas. It takes an hour or two of panting to reach the top, from where you can look down majestically on the ruins of Macchu Picchu and the surrounding Peruvian countryside.
National Mall, Washington, D.C., USA
It’s hard not to feel a tinge of awe along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., regardless of your politics. From the U.S. Capitol, it’s 1.9-miles to the Lincoln Memorial. Along the way, you’ll pass the White House and Washington Monument, you can relive such historic events as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and you can visit numerous Smithsonian museums and other memorials. The round trip journey is just under four miles and it’s truly a memorable urban hike.
Photo credits – Bob Riel (Macchu Picchu) and Thomas Schoch via Wikimedia Commons (Uluru).