It is one of the most celebrated occasions in human development: the first steps of a young child. From those first hesitant but determined moments, the world forever changes. It expands and becomes more exciting, more enthralling and more amazing. From highland trails to urban pavements, we have found the best walks around the world that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” — Soren Kierkegaard
20 Best Walks in the World Everyone Should Experience
1. The Cliff Walk: Newport, Rhode Island
By the time wealthy industrialists like George Astor and the Vanderbilt clan completed their magnificent mansions in the late 19th century, the paths on the cliffs in Newport, Rhode Island were already well worn by previous inhabitants: deer, native Narragansett and the Colonials, who had made their way to the beach for food and salvage. Through the Great Depression, estate owners worked to improve the pathway piece by piece, adding bridges, tunnels and thoughtfully placed stones to enhance public enjoyment.
Today, the 3.5-mile Newport Cliff Walk is a National Recreation Trail. The terrain varies from dirt paths to paved concrete. After the tunnel at Gull Rock, the adventure begins, as well-traveled footpaths and paved walkways give way to wild scrub and the characteristic rocky New England coast.
2. Central Park: New York, N.Y.
Between 110th and 59th streets, Fifth Avenue and Central Park West lies one of the world'smost diverse, historic and restorative urban sanctuaries. Central Park lures city dwellers and visitors out of cramped dwellings and into nature, and that was undoubtedly what Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux had in mind when they made public their intention to create the park in their Greensward Plans of 1858.
As the nation’s first major park intended solely for public use, Central Park still teems with democracy and the melting pot spirit that has defined New York City for centuries. Few can deny the equalizing effects that the scent of fresh-cut grass, blooming daffodils or a sanctifying snowfall has on all those who cross into the green heart of the urban jungle.
3. Pacific Coast Sojourns: Oregon
With massive rock outcroppings, sweeping sand dunes, old-growth forests and an always-cool Pacific breeze, the Oregon coast is rivaled by few others for drama and beauty. The 300 miles encompass a range of terrains and towns, from easily accessible walkways and beachside artist communities on the northern shore to the remote and rugged southern coast. Hiking trails wind through forests, dunes and headlands and emerge above or on the coast. Some beaches stretch for more than 10 miles without evidence of human settlement; the only sound is surf breaking against rock and the occasional chatter of water birds.
4. The Monuments Walk: Washington, D.C.
The National Mall contains, hundreds of statues, plaques and memorials commemorating everything from poetry to politics. Whether honoring service in the United States military or recognizing outstanding individuals from around the world, these historic and artistic representations decorate street corners and cornices throughout the nation’s capital. The National Mall, marked on the north end by the Washington Monument and the U. S. Capitol building on the south, abounds with memorials of the major figures and military events of American history.
5. The Freedom Trail: Boston, Mass.
Extending for 2.5 miles through the heart of Beantown, the red-brick Freedom Trail links 16 historic sites that collectively narrate the tale of the American Revolution and document the path to independence from Great Britain. The Freedom Trail’s red bricks trace a subtle path on Boston’s modern streets, passing today’s busy pubs, offices, cafes and shops.
Disappearing around the corner of a narrow, cobblestone street, the trail introduces the site of the nation’s first public school, cemeteries honoring the courageous dead such as Samuel Adams and the home of patriot Paul Revere. Crossing into Charlestown and the old Navy Yard, the Freedom Trail concludes with the Bunker Hill Monument commemorating the first battle against the British and with the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship still afloat and an ever-inspiring testament to American freedom.
6. The Bund: Shanghai, China
The famous waterfront region known as the Bund haslong been regarded as the symbol of Shanghai. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, this area was the nexus of Shanghai politics, economy and culture, hosting the consulates of most countries, as well as many banks, businesses and newspaper offices.
The 52 buildings on the western embankment represent a spectacular variety of classical and modern styles, in notable contrast to the towering skyline of contemporary Shanghai. Still, the Bund encompasses the fascinating contradictions evident in present-day China.
7. El Camino de Santiago: Spain
There are many points of departure to embark on El Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James. Since the Middle Ages, Christian pilgrims worldwide have made their way to the holy cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Each year, thousands of the pious, as well as the curious, hike, bike or ride on horseback to Galicia, a region of rolling, green hills in northwestern Spain.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Route, the route from the French-Spanish border — the French Way — guides modern pilgrims and travelers to Santiago de Compostela. One of the holiest Christian cities in the world, Santiago de Compostela is also a university town and serves as a central marketplace for the farmers of Galicia.
8. The Champs-Elysées: Paris, France
Located in the Axe Historique, a line of buildings, monuments and thoroughfares extending from the center of Paris, the Champs-Elysées is bordered by some of Paris’ most renowned architecture. The lower part of the avenue, dense with gardens and greenery, hosts the Grand Palais, whose elegant glass roof impressed those attending the Paris Exhibition of 1900.
The Arc de Triomphe graces the western edge of the avenue, and just beyond is the presidential palace. Later in the 20th century, the Nazis chose the broad avenue for its celebration of the fall of France in 1940, and a few years later, French and American allies took over the Champs-Elysées to celebrate the fall of Germany.
9. Divan Yolu: Istanbul, Turkey
Designated by Constantine in the early 300s A.D., the "Road to the Imperial Council" was once the primary route from Constantinople to Rome, extending west over the city's seven hills. Today, Divan Yolu winds through the city’s most historic quarter, the Sultanahmet, and through the Hippodrome, once the heart of Constantinople (today a tranquil city park). The avenue unites the monuments and mosques of the city’s past and offers a path that one may follow to find the wonders and surprises of Istanbul. Among those highlights on the avenue is the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia), which was the center of Byzantine religious life for 900 years after it was completed in 537.
10. Amalfi Coast: Italy
The charm of the Amalfi Coast lies in its vibrant colors, rugged cliffs and drop-dead gorgeous scenery. However, to truly grasp the character of this region, you will need to grab your walking shoes. With numerous hikes starting from the lively towns of Positano, Amalfi and Scala, you will step into a world of pure wonder.
The Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) boasts over 120 trails in the region which, if laid end-to-end, would stretch for nearly 330 miles. Many of these routes date back to medieval times when they served as the primary method of getting from one village to the next. Today, most of the paths are clearly marked with red and white paint, making it easier than ever to safely traverse the Mediterranean and set your sights on the picturesque vistas below.
11. Tour du Mont Blanc: Europe
Regarded as one of the best long-distance hikes in the world, the incredible Tour du Mont Blanc trail is an automatic bucket list trek that caters to adventurers of all levels, drawing both mountain lovers and long-distance walkers alike.
A 105-mile trail through France, Italy and Switzerland, the route can take anywhere from five days to two weeks to complete. Visitors can also expect to cross quaint alpine villages, blooming meadows, deep valleys and snow-capped peaks. In addition to the striking scenery, you will also see several churches from the 18th century and walk the same paths that Roman soldiers used more than 2,000 years ago.
12. Paths of Wonder: Vietnam
Picture traversing through lush, green valleys and bustling sidewalks that wind their way to energetic marketplaces. It may sound too good to be true, but these “paths of wonder” offer just that — and so much more. Beginning in the capital city of Hanoi and ending in Ho Chi Minh City, these are, hands-down, some of the best walking trails in Asia.
Nothing beats the thrill of taking a journey through historic citadels, temples and tombs where past emperors now lie in rest. There are plenty of charming roads to walk throughout Vietnam — and each one leads to something fascinating.
13. Madeira: Portugal
While destinations like Lisbon and Porto are popular, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get off the beaten track and enjoy the natural beauty of Portugal on foot.
From gentle riverside strolls to dramatic volcanic peaks cascading down toward the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is a hiker’s paradise. There are dozens of well-mapped trails where you can come across waterfalls, echoey tunnels and sweeping vistas over bright green valleys, all in one visit.
With its towering green cliff faces, expansive seascapes and temperate climate, Madeira should be on the top of your list if terrain variety is what you crave.
14. Yellowstone: Montana
When you think of Yellowstone, geysers likely come to mind, and more specifically, Old Faithful, which lives up to its name by shooting thousands of gallons of scorching water into the atmosphere every few minutes. Yellowstone also conjures images of its famous Grand Prismatic Spring, the park's largest single hot spring, stretching 370 feet in diameter.
On a good day, the blues are bright, the greens are rich and there’s wildlife at every turn. From cascading waterfalls to deeply carved canyons, Yellowstone has something for everyone, whether you’re seeking an unhurried escape or more challenging summit trails.
15. Cradle Mountain: Australia
Cradle Mountain,Tasmania’s most famous peak, offers one of the best walking treks in the world. The 623-square-mile Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park wraps around the region’s most iconic lakes: Dove Lake and Lake St. Clair.
Cradle Mountain’s full beauty is on display during autumn when luminous reds, gold, yellow and orange colors dominate the landscape.
16. Inca Trail: Peru
The Inca Trail is one of the most famous walks around the world due to its rich historical significance. The Inca Trail is trekked by outdoor enthusiasts across the globe, as it offers a combination of stunning landscapes, cultural richness and ancient history. This trail was a historic route used by the ancient Incas, which led to the breathtaking Machu Picchu, the world-famous Inca citadel that is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
As one of the best walks you can find, trekkers can encounter a number of archaeological sites and ruins, which showcase the advanced engineering and architectural skills of the Inca civilization. Top sites along the way include Winay Wayna, Intipata and Sayacmarca. To preserve the beauty of this route, the Peruvian government has imposed restrictions on the number of hikers each day, making the experience more exclusive and environmentally sustainable.
The Inca Trail is hard to beat if you’re looking for the best walking tours in the world. This trail passes through remote Andean villages, allowing participants to engage with local Quechua-speaking communities, enjoy challenging but rewarding climbs to high altitudes with steep descents, and make it to the Sun Gate, or Inti Punku, which offers a panoramic shot of Machu Picchu.
17. The Silver Trail: Mexico
Another one of the best walks in the world is the Silver Trail in Mexico. At Road Scholar, we have several Mexico travel programs that bring you to segments of the Silver Trail, stretching from Carachic to Batopilas through Copper Canyon. The Silver Trail became a prominent route after the Spanish conquest when silver was discovered in the region, connecting various cities and mining regions during the colonial period. Also called the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the Silver Route or Silver Trail played an integral role in the transportation of silver and other goods between the Spanish colonies and Europe.
When finding areas to start walking around the world, the Silver Trail is a great place to start. As one of the best walks, the Silver Trail offers scenic landscapes, including mountains, deserts and valleys, with backpackers taking in the natural beauty over the course of their travels, which typically takes about 10 days from end to end. Additionally, the trail passes through towns and cities with well-preserved colonial architecture, historical sites and churches, allowing trekkers to immerse themselves in local culture and traditions.
18. Landmannalaugar: Iceland
In the heart of Iceland’s southern Highlands, you will find Landmannalaugar, which offers some of the best walking tours in the world. Landmannalaugar is renowned for its jaw-dropping landscapes and is considered one of the best hiking destinations in the world. Through Landmannalaugar, trekkers can discover colorful rhyolite mountains, lava fields, geothermal hot springs, glacial valleys and other unique geological features.
One of the top features that makes Landmannalaugar one of the best walks in the world is the selection of exciting hikes. Landmannalaugar is located at the northern end of one of Iceland’s most traveled hiking trails, Laugavegur, and trekkers can traverse trails to areas like Þórsmörk, which brings you to the Skógafoss waterfall or the top of the Bláhnjúkur volcano.
After a long day exploring on an Icelandic tour, ending the day at one of the natural geothermal hot springs offers a unique opportunity for relaxation in nature. Landmannalaugar translates to the “People’s Pools,” noting the history and relevance of these geothermal baths that make this area so popular.
19. The Appalachian Trail: USA
When it comes to hiking in North America, one of the must-see famous walks around the world is the Appalachian Trail in the eastern corridor of the United States. Perhaps the most famous trail in the world, the Appalachian Trail spans over 2,190 miles and is the longest hiking-only footpath on the globe, cutting through 14 states along the Appalachian Mountain Range. The two endpoints of the Appalachian Trail include Springer Mountain, Georgia and Katahdin, Maine, and more than 3 million travelers visit this iconic trail annually.
What makes the Appalachian Trail one of the best walking tours in the world is its sheer length. With so many access points, getting on the trail is easy, and if you’re up for attempting the “thru-hike” that takes you from Georgia to Maine, you can witness a wide range of sweeping landscapes and changing panoramas, wildlife and geography.
The Appalachian Trail Conservator (ATC) was founded in 1925 and manages the trail system in partnership with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and several state agencies and local trail-maintaining clubs. The idea of the trail was to become an escape from the stresses of urban life, and that hasn’t changed, as it continues to offer relief from the daily stressors of the modern world. Along the way, walkers and hikers can discover wildlife like bears, deer, snakes and an array of plant life, as well as visit trail towns and communities to interact with locals and experience the hospitality this hiking community has to offer.
20. San Juan Islands: Washington
To complete our list of the best walks in the world, we have the San Juan Islands in the state of Washington. The San Juan Islands are in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and are known for their beautiful and captivating scenery. Walking the San Juan Islands allows you to explore a diverse range of landscapes, from seaside cliffs to rolling hills and lush forests. Several animal species call the San Juan Islands home, including bald eagles, sea lions, seals and orca whales. Walking the shores allows you to observe these animals in their natural habitats.
Island hopping by taking the local ferries to different islands allows you to explore each island’s unique charm and culture. From hiking Lopez Island to Orcas Island and San Juan Island, each comes with sweeping views of the coastal waters, forests and stunning landscapes, especially during different seasons. In the spring and summer months, marvel at the colorful wildflowers, or visit in the fall for a glimpse at the vibrant foliage.
From highland trails to urban pavements, we have found the best walking treks in the world that will leave you breathless and yearning for more. Looking to walk or hike with a group? Explore various hiking trails and walks around the world at Road Scholar.