EIGHT HIKES TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” If this sentiment strikes a chord with you then perhaps it’s time to pull on a pair of hiking boots and start to put one foot in front of the other. Hiking, trekking, backpacking – the terms may be different but the experience is the same. A hike around Cinque Terre National Park or Machu Picchu can feed your curiosity, inspire and invigorate the spirit more than going for a walk to your local park or sitting on the sofa and watching Into the Wild can. With more than enough options in our list, why wait? Enough of the gratuitous selfies with your cat. Do your Instagram followers a favour and swap them out for a little of the great outdoors.

Three countries, 105 miles, around 10 days. The TMB offers hikers the opportunity to travel around the base of the highest mountain in Western Europe, passing through France, Italy and Switzerland on a magnificent circular journey through spectacular and varied alpine terrain. You will travel over mountain passes, through alpine meadows, lush forests and glacial valleys, covering an average of around 10 miles each day before stopping to refuel and rest at the variety of charming and cosy mountain refuges that lie along the way. Of these, the Refuge Walter-Bonatti near Courmayeur is a definite highlight – the combination of private twin rooms, hot showers and friendly Italian hospitality all served up against the spectacular backdrop of the Mont Blanc Massif make spending a night there feel like one of life’s great privileges.

EAT & DRINK
Start your carbo loading in France with a spot of tartiflette (a local Savoie dish of potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions) washed down with a glass of génépi (a herbal alcoholic digestif made from the wormwood plant).

POST-HIKE TREAT
After 105 miles on the trail it’s time to relax in the five-star Hotel Hameau Albert 1er in Chamonix, refuel in its Michelin-starred restaurant and restore in the eco-spa.

BEST TIME TO GO
Anytime from July to mid-September but it’s busiest in August.

THINKING POINT
The first circumnavigation of Mont Blanc took place in 1767 when Mr Horace Bénédict de Saussure set out from Chamonix on a scientific journey to gain further knowledge of Mont Blanc’s geographical structure. He did it in a waistcoat and cravat; you might want to take advantage of slightly more modern mountaineering gear.

WHAT TO WEAR

  • CANADA GOOSELodge Packaway Quilted Down-Filled Jacket

One of the most important Christian pilgrimages in medieval times, the journey to the shrine of St James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia offers hikers an adventure with a spiritual twist. While the full 485 miles of the most popular route – the Camino Frances – will take you around 30 days to complete, the last stretch from Sarria to Santiago is the most important and can be completed in less than a week. The journey from this point on is relatively easy underfoot and crucially will earn hikers the “Compostela” – the certificate of accomplishment awarded in Santiago to those who have walked at least the last 70 miles of the route.

EAT & DRINK
Tarta de Santiago (almond pastry) and queimada (a local punch whose traditional serving involves setting local brandy alight while a spell is recited to ward off evil spirits).

BEST TIME TO GO
May, June and September – warm, not hot, everything is open and the route is not too busy.

THINKING POINT
The highest recorded number of annual pilgrims was in 2010 when 272,703 people are verified to have arrived at the cathedral in Santiago. Not all at once, obviously.

WHAT TO WEAR

  • YUKETENMaine Guide Waxed-Leather Boots

Sparkling blue sea, colourful villages, warm temperatures and delicious Italian cuisine – hiking along the beautiful Ligurian coast in Cinque Terre National Park is an extra special experience. Far less frequented than the Amalfi Coast, Liguria is a jewel of a place offering hikers the opportunity to retrace the routes of locals who travelled between hillside villages to deliver their wine and grapes. The two most popular trails in the area, the Alta Via or “High Path” (22 miles from Portovenere to Levanto) and the Sentiero Azzurro or “Blue Path” (7.5 miles from Riomaggiore to Monterosso) are easy and achievable hikes offering spectacular views of the stunning rocky coastline. If this sounds like your kind of adventure, it might be worth waiting until next year as parts of the Sentiero Azzurro still remain closed following the devastating floods of 2011. A full reopening of the trail is planned for April 2015 – Prosecco at the ready.

EAT & DRINK
Liguria is home to the best focaccia on earth so start the day like a local with a crusty strip of focaccia genovese dipped into a foamy cappuccino then watch the sun go down as you sip a glass of Sciacchetrà – a sweet, honeyish local dessert wine.

BEST TIME TO GO
Mid-March to mid-October.

THINKING POINT

The story behind the tradition of painting your house a different colour in Cinque Terre is that it helped local fishermen to identify their homes more easily from the water. The rumour is that they wanted to check that their wives were still at home and doing the housework!

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