INSPIRATION • March 2019
Are you a hardcore hiker, laid-back stroller or just searching for an exhilarating family walk? With her hands on an exclusive extract of Lonely Planet’s Epic Hikes of the World, writer Ianthe Butt reveals five of the best
Fly to: Toulouse, then drive to Bernicaze Farm near Lourdes (about two hours)
The hike: A two-day, 15.5-mile hike through the Pyrenees might not sound an obvious family choice, but this is a crowd-pleaser. Why? Owner Marie at Bernicaze Farm near Arras-en-Lavedan entrusts hikers to take charge of one of her well-loved donkeys on wilderness hikes, sending groups off with paper maps and instructions (there’s no phone signal/GPS). Kids adore having a four-legged companion to walk through Eden-esque forests with and, in steeper sections, can ride the donkey. There’s a mountain cabin for an overnight stay, before a switchback-style forest trail to a craggy panorama of the Pic de Bazès and Pyrénées-Atlantiques mountain range.
Stay at: Book Refuge du Haugarou as overnight accommodation, a charming gite with reasonably priced dorm rooms.
Fly to: Boston airport
The hike: Boston’s Freedom Trail is only two and a quarter miles long, but takes walkers through over two-and-a-half centuries of historical drama. This intriguing urban hike snakes between key sites, most relating to the struggle for independence. It’s also a great way to introduce yourself to the buzzing heart of Boston. Highlights include the Granary Burying Ground, resting place of patriots John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, and the Old State House – the Declaration of Independence was read from its balcony in 1776.
On the way: Pitstop at Union Oyster House for top-notch seafood, and Mike’s Pastry in Little Italy for cannoli.
Fly to: Nairobi, then drive to Sirimon Gate (about 3.5 hours)
The hike: A great hulk of Rift Valley volcanicity, Mt Kenya soars to 5,199 metres but is often ignored by peak-baggers with their eyes on the bigger prize, Kilimanjaro. That’s a shame, because Kenya is a fine climb: less crowded than Kili, richer in wildlife, and arguably more scenic. Trekkers should aim for Point Lenana (4,985 metres), conquerable in three days, though four is better for acclimatisation. The classic hike is via the Sirimon route, ascending through wildlife-rich national parkland. Look out for elephants and zebra on the lower slopes, while the upper reaches are home to shrieking rock hyraxes and various strange senecio and lobelia plants.
Stay at: Bookend your trek with a stay at classic boutique crash pad Hemingways in Nairobi – rooms have fabulous views of the Ngong Hills.
Fly to: Geneva, then drive to Bourg St Pierre (about two hours)
The hike: It takes five minutes to drive through the Great St Bernard Tunnel, three miles beneath the Alps, crossing the border between Switzerland and Italy. However, an older route, the Great St Bernard Pass, runs directly above – five miles of frozen highway. From September to June it’s plunged into a state of Narnia, buried in snow with temperatures sinking to -30°C. The only way to cross is on skis or snowshoes, and a guide is essential for this two-day trip through snowdrifts, which pilgrims and Napoleon (with his army) traversed. Expect views of shark fin-shaped Mt Fourchon, the ridge of Gran Paradiso in Italy and the Matterhorn.
Go with: Insurance, snow gear and a knowledgeable guide from outfits such as Swiss Mountain Leader or Alpine Treks.
Fly to: Tenerife South, and drive to Montaña Blanca (about an hour)
The hike: At 3,718 metres, Spain’s highest mountain is a rigorous summer challenge, but outside high season, when Parque Nacional del Teide’s four million or so annual visitors trickle down to manageable numbers, it comes into its own – particularly in early spring, when the lower slopes bloom with wild flowers and, if you’re lucky, the summit remains snow-topped. The ascent to the volcano’s peak is a tough six-hour hike, but if weather makes it impossible, the cable car still gives you the views, and the park contains plenty of other enjoyable hikes.
Stay at: The Ritz Carlton Abama, styled like a Moroccan palace with an 18-hole golf course.
Epic Hikes of the World is out now (£24.99).