Best hiking spots for beginners
As addicted as we are to our modern comforts, there’s no app in the world that can replicate the fresh air, gentle exertion and sense of achievement of a hike. It’s even better when the ramble is in the depths of the countryside, far away from the hectic aura of a city. But hikes don’t have to be multi-day, specialist affairs - there’s plenty of opportunities for beginners too.
What to look for in an easy hike? Top of the list is landscape that’s unique to that destination, whether that’s the cityscape of Japan, the rolling hills of Ireland or the rugged coast of Madeira – after all, the payoff still needs to be spectacular. Then, it helps to have good paths and signposts, so even those with no sense of direction can find their way around. And if there are shorter routes you can take if you’re not too confident, all the better. Note that even easy hikes can involve a lot of climbing and descending (it’s par for the course for sweeping views) so while we’ve listed the world’s best beginner hikes here, get those fitness levels up beforehand!
Here are the Citybond team's top choices for novice hikers.
Nunobiki Falls, Japan
Only in Japan could you store your luggage at a bullet train station and minutes later, be in the depths of an overgrown forest with gushing waterfalls in the distance. The hike from Shin-Kobe Station to Nunobiki Waterfalls – a cluster of four waterfalls that lead up to Nunobiki Herb Gardens – is steep but well-maintained. The waterfall trail goes up to the cable car midway station, so depending on your stamina, you can cheat on the way up or down! For our hike, we took a one-way cable car up to the very top, which left us at Nunobiki Herb Gardens, and walked down: half the hike was through the enclosed botanical gardens; the lower half was through the wild waterfalls and forests.
Especially on a clear day, it’s impossible not to be humbled by Glendalough’s postcard-perfect lake and symmetrical mountains in the distance. This money shot is available to anyone visiting the sacred site in Co. Wicklow, an easy coach ride away from Dublin. But to make the most of the ‘garden of Ireland’, follow one of its colour-coded trails to explore the 20,000 hectares fully. The hikes are marked by difficulty and length, with the longest route being a still-manageable 11km, which should take four to five hours. Expect babbling brooks, towering trees and curious clearings along the way.
Sao Lourenco, Madeira
There’s no danger of getting lost on this peninsula walk on the eastern tip of the Portuguese island. The route follows a natural path, with incredible views of the cliffs (formed from volcanic rock) jutting from the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day, you’ll even catch sight of Porto Santo Island, Madeira’s little cousin. Also, on this three-hour walk, keep your eyes peeled for the Seawolf Seal in the waters, and the Madeiran lizard on land: it’s the island’s only reptile, and most of them reside here. With few trees and dry vegetation en route, be sure to pack sunscreen, water and a hat.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Breathe a sigh of relief, as the torturous four-day hike of the Inca Trail isn’t the only way to walk to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. You can also try the one-day hike, which takes walkers through the unique Peruvian mountain range that includes the Wiñay Wayna ruins, before finishing at the world-famous Sun Gate later in the afternoon. With this greater sense of context, walking through the ancient city carries a deeper meaning. The hiking part of the day is relatively short at six hours, but the pace and climb mean that a good level of fitness is needed; train by climbing stairs daily beforehand. It’s also a long day as you’re picked up at 4am and dropped off at 10pm, but the wonder of the Unesco World Heritage Site helps power you through!
Les Dentelles de Montmirail, France
The Provence countryside is all it’s cracked up to be, as proved by a gentle walk through Les Dentelles de Montmirail – a rugged set of mountains, surrounded by terraced vineyards and olive groves. The most popular route, skimming the base of the mountains, is just over six kilometres long, which should take two of three hours. Along the way, you’ll have to resist the urge to constantly stop and take pictures of the rural French scenes. The hike ends at the quaint village of Gigondas, so virtuous walkers can reward themselves with a meal at a bistro and a cheeky glass of France’s best wine: Côtes du Rhône.
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