Hiking Holiday Guide
Written By: SportsShoes
After a long hiatus from travel and a year where time outdoors was valued more than ever before, many are now looking to soak up nature whilst exploring foreign lands and taking in new sights. The great outdoors has become all the more vital to us, as have holidays where we do more than simply lounge by the pool. A walking holiday is the perfect way to explore a new destination, allowing you to get off the beaten track, meet incredible locals along the way and truly experience everything a country has to offer beyond some of the more standard tourist traps.
With this in mind, we’ve crunched the numbers to reveal the world’s most stunning locations for a hiking adventure, so you can get out of your back yard and into the wild again! We collated a list of over 500 hikes from the most popular walking destinations globally, creating a unique index which looked at the number of hashtags and Google searches for each, to score and officially crown the most popular hotspots for a hiking vacation. In addition, for those still wary of travel, we’ve also dug into the best hikes in the UK, so you can explore the beautiful nature that’s right on your doorstep.
THE BEST COUNTRIES FOR A HIKING HOLIDAY
Our research revealed that Spain is the world’s most popular destination for a hiking holiday, with its shimmering turquoise coastline and idyllic hiking climate, whilst Japan’s mystical forests, snow-capped mountains and sweeping rivers follow closely behind in second. The UK does incredibly well in the rankings, with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all featuring in the top 10. European countries dominated the list, with seven of the top 10 ranked countries all from the continent.
The Best Hiking Holiday Countries
- Northern Ireland
THE MOST POPULAR HIKES IN SPAIN
Brimming with cultural delights and boasting a highly desirable climate for hiking, Spain is officially the most popular destination for a hiking adventure, with 170,830 annual searches associated with a hiking holiday there. Over 3,100 hashtags for #hikeSpain show snaps of sunshine saturated landscapes, from dense green forests and winding rivers to rocky terrains and beautiful gorges.
- Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is a sacred pilgrimage route that travellers have been traversing for hundreds of years. A real commitment, from start to finish it can take over a month! Historically, pilgrims started the trip from their own homes and as such, there’s many different routes that you can take to complete the journey. While the trail itself ends in the town of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, hikers can choose to start their journeys from Portugal, France and even Italy.
- Caminito del Rey
This 7km walk has undergone serious restoration in recent years to make it the safer hike that it is today, but it is not one for people with a fear of heights! The strings of walkways hang from heights of up to 100m from sheer cliff faces and offer some of the most phenomenal views of the stunning gorge of Los Gaitanes. With over 105,000 hashtags and 246,000 Google searches a month it’s clear to see that this route has become very popular over time.
- Cami de Ronda
The Cami de Ronda is a dazzling trail that stretches along the rugged coastline of Spain’s Costa Brava. With varying levels of difficulty, hikers can choose to explore different sections according to their own activity level, where the pristine blue waters of the Mediterranean will captivate you as you walk and secluded coves and charming villages will offer amazing experiences during the trail.
THE MOST POPULAR HIKES IN JAPAN
It’s unsurprising that a country referred to as the Land of the Rising Sun ranks highly in our Hiking Holiday guide. Atmospheric mountain ranges, majestic woodlands and magical rivers are showcased in all their splendour in the 4,911 Instagram hashtags for #hikeJapan. Japan is also one of the most searched countries for hikes in our list, with over 12,000 people searching for hikes in the country on a yearly basis.
With over 170,000 hashtags and 18,000 Google searches a month, the island of Yakushima is a hiking paradise. Designated as one of Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage sites, it’s covered in gorgeous mossy forest and inundated with ancient cedar trees. Shiratani Unsuikyo and Yakusugi Land are two popular hikes that really showcase the best of the island.
- Daibutsu Hike
One for culture-seekers, this beautiful hike passes several secluded temples and shrines on its woodland path. Travellers can even bathe in natural hot springs at its base, the act of which is associated with achieving financial prosperity and wealth. The trail stretches three kilometres through the forest, and a slight detour offers a visit to the Shintō shrine Zeniarai-benten.
- Seven Waterfalls of Kawazu Hike
This glistening riverside trail follows the Hontani River and features seven epic waterfalls along the route, which is also dotted with thermal springs and tunnels. Several beautiful bridges, statues and traditional inns line the path, which will take hikers one to two hours to complete, depending on how long they stop to take in Odaru Fall, the highest of the seven waterfalls, featuring a staggering thirty-meter drop.
THE MOST POPULAR HIKES IN ENGLAND
England might not offer the lush tropical climate that some of the other spots on this list do, but it is a dream destination for hikers looking for adventure. Garnering an enormous 124,660 Google searches each year, and with 1,620 hashtags on Instagram – it's a real contender as one of the best countries to hike in worldwide. From the dizzying peak of Scafell Pike, to the impressive coastal landscape that lines the South West Coast Path, England truly is an unmissable location for avid walkers.
- South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path is the UK’s longest National trail, a 630-mile route with rugged coastline views of the entire South West peninsula to offer. Hikers can begin in Somerset, continuing through North Devon and ending at Poole Harbour in Dorset. Fortunately, this trail is suitable for hikers of all ages and abilities, making for a perfect family-friendly hiking holiday.
- Scafell Pike
Scafell Pike is England’s highest peak, and is located in the gorgeous Lake District. It may be the smallest mountain in the Three Peaks Challenge at 978m tall - but it shouldn't be underestimated! The mountain itself is actually a war memorial, and though the climb can be tricky, lucky hikers will get unparalleled views across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man if they reach the summit on a clear day.
The second Lake District trail in England’s top three hikes, Helvellyn mountain is a much easier climb than Scafell Pike, offering plenty of different routes for hikers, all of which offer a sense of adventure. Arctic-alpine plants, coves and a rare alpine breed of butterfly known as the Mountain Ringlet can all be seen from the rocky terrain - this is not a climb to miss.
THE MOST POPULAR HIKES IN SCOTLAND
The fourth most popular destination on our list, Scotland has an enormous 18,261 hashtags under #hikeScotland and 88,220 yearly global searches for hiking holidays. The rugged terrain, white sandy beaches, vast mountainscapes and glistening lochs all draw in millions of visitors every year.
- Ben Nevis
The UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, is an incredibly popular hike that isn’t for beginners. While it can be completed in less than one day, the weather up here can make for some treacherous journeys! That said, if you’re lucky enough to hit the summit while it’s clear, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views in all of Britain.
- West Highland Way
One of Scotland’s most famous hikes, this one stretches for 154 kilometres and ends right in the centre of the Ben Nevis Mountain range, in Fort William. The West Highland Way takes avid explorers across the jaw dropping southern Highlands and even features a stint along the glistening Loch Lomond, the largest area of freshwater in the entire United Kingdom.
- The Quiraing
The Isle of Skye is full of some of the most sensational walks in Scotland, but the Quiraing itself is perhaps one of the most impressive. The Quiraing was formed by an enormous landslip, giving rise to steep, staggering cliffs and incredible views. The walk itself is a difficult (but short) loop that starts and ends in the same car park. This is a hike you will not forget in a hurry.
THE MOST POPULAR HIKES IN AUSTRALIA
With a whopping 54,155 hashtags associated with hiking in Australia, clearly the country boasts some unbelievably picturesque hikes. At present, Australia’s borders are closed to travellers, but the 20,000+ searches for Hiking in Australia suggests that outdoor enthusiasts are already planning their next Australian hiking adventure when the country reopens to visitors.
- The Overland Track
This 80km bushwalk spans an incredible range of scenery in the stunning area of Tasmania. Rainforests, waterfalls, alpine peaks and glacial lakes all make up this relatively straightforward hike. Those who want to take on the adventure can do the whole thing, or select certain sections of the track to complete, and it can be suitable even for relatively new hikers.
- Larapinta Trail
This 231-kilometre track across the Northern Territory has 12 different sections that you can join at any point and will take you through the mesmerising Red Centre of Australia. For anyone wishing to truly experience the wilderness, this is the perfect hike and is both well marked out and easy to follow.
- Great Ocean Walk
One of the longest hikes in Victoria, the Great Ocean Walk showcases the best of both worlds - the popular tourist attractions and the more remote areas. Hikers can start in the seaside village of Apollo Bay and walk the route before ending at the iconic 12 Apostles. The middle sections offering both gorgeous stretches of beach where you can spot whales, and lush rainforest where you can really explore away from it all.
The Most Popular Hikes in Germany
The Most Popular Hikes in France
- Camino Frances
- GR 20
- GR 34
The Most Popular Hikes in Wales
The Most Popular Hikes in Italy
- Lago di Braies
- Tre Cime di Laveredo
- Via Francigena
The Most Popular Hikes in Northern Ireland
- Slieve Donard
- Slieve Gullion
BRITISH HIKING HOLIDAY GUIDE
For those of us that are keen to stay within the United Kingdom, but want to appreciate the fresh air, have more of an active holiday and do a little exploring of our home country - we’ve also compiled a list of the best hikes across the UK. From the snow-capped peaks of Mount Snowdon in Wales, to the vast expansive views from the white cliffs of the South West Coast Path in England - there’s a hike to suit everyone on this list.
THE BEST BRITISH HIKES
- Snowdon, Wales
- Ben Nevis, Scotland
- South West Coast Path, England
- Pen-y-fan, Wales
- West Highland Way, Scotland
- Scafell Pike, England
- Coniston, England
- Helvellyn, England
- Buttermere, England
- Old Man of Storr, Scotland
- Malham Cove, England
- South Downs Way, England
- Cat Bells, England
- Tryfan, Wales
- Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland
We’ve briefly mentioned a couple of the most popular (and quieter) routes up the magnificent Mount Snowdon, but for those looking for an adventure more off the beaten track, read this guide by our hiking ambassador Gerda Lejasmeiere to find out her tips and tricks for scaling the inspirational mountain if you’re a more experienced hiker!
Ben Nevis, Scotland
Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike all make up the National Three Peaks Challenge, each mountain representative of the tallest peak in its country. The challenge involves climbing each of the three, usually within 24 hours. The trip overall will be 37km long and hikers undertaking the challenge will ascend over 3,064m throughout.
South West Coast Path, England
Hidden coves, steep cliffs and prehistoric forests are just some of the delights that make up the UK’s longest coastal path. Coming in at a staggering 630 miles long, the South West Coast Path snakes its way through a National Park, two World Heritage Sites, a UNESCO protected Biosphere and various Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The path would take the average hiker eight weeks to complete, but if you’re looking for a shorter hiking holiday, various sections such as St Ives to Penzance or the Somerset Coast Path can be completed in far less time.
With 150,104 hashtags and 33,100 monthly searches, Pen-y-fan cemented itself as one of the UK’s best hikes by ranking both within the UK top 10 and Wales top three best hikes. For hikers that want a quieter walk than the Motorway route, you can opt for the Cwm Llwch walk from Cwm Gwdi instead, a 7.5-mile climb. And for those looking for more of a challenge, you can try the Horseshoe Ridge walk, a 9-mile circuit that demands more energy from those who tackle it.
West Highland Way, Scotland
The West Highland Way is one of the most popular hikes in the UK, with over 100,000 visitors each year and just over 35,000 of those visitors completing the entire trail. It’s well known globally for featuring in the Harry Potter movies too, with the Jacobite steam train (i.e., the Hogwarts Express) departing each day from Fort William and crossing over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct!
If all this has stimulated your appetite for adventure and given you some serious wanderlust for your next outdoors adventure, make sure you’re kitted out appropriately so you can make the most of your trip! Take a look at our hikinghub for any extra inspiration you might want, get the gear you’ll need for a smooth journey and make sure you’ve got appropriate footwear to avoid any injuries!
We used Google Search Data to analyse annual global search volumes using the terms walking + [country] and walking holidays + [country] over the past 12 months, we then combined this with the number of Instagram hashtags for #hike[country] and gave each destination its own score. The countries were then ranked according to this score to identify the most popular locations worldwide for a hiking holiday. We then also collated a list of over 500 of the most popular hikes from these destinations and ranked them according to monthly Google Search Data and their own hashtags, in order to rank the most popular hikes within each country. All data correct as of November 2021 and countries that did not return enough data were excluded from the research.