Our Best Hikes and Cycling Routes Around the World

Outdoor activities are one of the safest ways to explore during COVID-19. Where will you go when international travel opens up (or on your next domestic trip)? To inspire you, our nomads share their favorite hikes, treks, and bike rides, and what made them so special.

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A man cycles along a car-free road in the Swiss Alps. Photo © Tim Neville

“It’s far from a strenuous or long hike, but one of my favorite little jaunts is to the Black Rock Hot Springs in New Mexico. It’s near Taos, which is a town worth checking out, and the short hike to the hot springs takes you right to the bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge. There, you can sit in natural hot springs, cool off in the river (if you’re a strong swimmer), and watch bighorn sheep curiously check you out from high above. If you’re lucky enough to share the springs with locals, you’ll learn more about one of America’s legendary art colonies.” – Meghan Nelson, Digital Advertising Specialist, World Nomads

“Switzerland has this electric bike route called the Heart Route, or Herzroute, that rolls through the Bernese farmlands and beyond, and it’s world-class. Picture narrow, car-free paths winding and driving through fields and forests, past chalets selling fresh cider and with the Alps chewing at the horizon. The route passed through numerous villages where you could go into a cafe, refuel on pastries and caffeine, and then, if – and only if – you’d rented your bike from the main station in Bern, which was easy to do, could you swap out your e-bike’s depleted batteries for fresh ones right there on the spot, for free. It was awesome. I had pitched it to my editor at the NYT, who bought it, and that became my first “award-winning” story, I think. So that’s double great.” Tim Neville, travel writer and World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship mentor

“My most memorable hike would have to be up Mt. Acatenango in Guatemala. Nothing will ever beat camping out for the night while Volcan Fuego spurted and spluttered lava nearby. It was great playing games around the campfire with travelers from around the world, too. Those are kind of memories that you travel for.” – Rebecca Day, Program Specialist, World Nomads

Hikers atop  Mt. Acatenango in Guatemala, as Volcan Fuego belches smoke in the distance.
Hikers atop Mt. Acatenango in Guatemala, as Volcan Fuego belches smoke in the distance. Photo credit: Getty Images / Louise Bottomley

“Central Spain: One summer, we cycled to Heathrow from our flat in London, checked our bikes in, and flew to Madrid. After a couple of days there, we spent two weeks following an old-school paper map, cycling first south to the ancient hilltop walled city of Toledo, traversing a river on a makeshift ferry we pulled ourselves across on by hand using a rope pulley. We carried on in a wide arc west and northwest of Madrid to Segovia, home to a Roman viaduct and a castle said to have inspired the Disney one, on to El Escorial and its vast monastery and then to the green mountains of Macizo del Pico del Lobo-Cebollera. We took only one change of clothes and one small bag each, found places to stay and eat in small villages along the way, swam in lakes and rivers, lazed in hot fields with bulls in the distance, and slept like babies every night. When we needed help, we asked locals and fumbled along using terrible Spanish and big smiles. Muchas gracias and dos cervezas were our most frequently used phrases and got us a long way.” – Kate Duthie, Managing Editor, World Nomads

“Being from such a dry state (South Australia), I get super excited about river tracing, and one of the best places in the world to do it is Taiwan. We did an amazing trek up a river, following some simple track notes, in Yilan County on the east coast to find a waterfall and swimming hole. It was glorious. Another surprise nearby was the Zhui Lu (Old Road) trek. It was originally built as a hunting path by the indigenous Truku tribespeople in the early 1800s. It’s a tiny track less than a meter wide, cut into the side of a mountain high above the valley floor, which is in places over 2,300ft (700m) below. The views are amazing and the drops stomach-wrenching." – Miles Rowland, filmmaker

“Honestly, my favorite walk is close to home: I live on the edge of the Australian bush, looking north towards the great forest that stretches all the way to the Blue Mountains. Close to us in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales is the Box Vale Track, which follows the course of an old coal train track built in the 1800s. It was dug out by “wards of the state” – in other words, institutionalized kids – and it must have been like prison labor. The bushland is now recovering from the drought that Australia has suffered from in recent years and the bushfire emergency of early 2020. It’s great to see the resilience of the bush trees with regrowth coming back. At one branch of the trail, the walk ends at a spectacular lookout. At the other, you descend into a ravine to the 40 Foot Falls (see video link).” Brian Rapsey, filmmaker and World Nomads Travel Photography Scholarship mentor

A woman hiker poses at the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Kate Duthie at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo credit: Kate Duthie

“Grand Canyon, Arizona: We hiked in and out of the Grand Canyon over two hot August days. We thought the hike in would be easy because it was all downhill, but by the time we reached the bottom – about four hours of strenuous rough track – our knees and ankles were killing us. The hike isn’t particularly long – between about seven and nine miles depending on which route you take – but what makes it fascinating is the depth. It’s about a mile straight down, and as you walk, you pass through different ecosystems each with their own micro-climate, temperature, and plant and animal life. At the bottom, we stayed in a basic shared cabin with bunk beds, and then got up at 4am and started the seven-hour hour walk back to the top, starting early to avoid the worst of the heat of the day. We wore cotton bandanas around our necks which we soaked in freshwater streams to stay cool. There were occasional places to stop in the shade of a tree and look back down into the mighty canyon, carved over millions of years by the Colorado River. Reaching the rim and looking back down at the finish was euphoric.” – Kate Duthie, Managing Editor, World Nomads

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