Six of the world’s most luxurious hikes: get into the comfort zone
Some of the best trekking holidays on the planet can be combined with stays in five-star hotels and some serious pampering. Here are some recommendations
For many, holidays are now based around adventure and connecting with nature. But that doesn’t mean luxury has to be compromised.
Back-to-nature adventures were a big highlight of this year’s Luxe Report, an annual trend forecast from the travel specialists at Virtuoso, whose clients ranked hiking first among active pursuits. Also noticing the pattern is Travis Katz, co-founder and chief executive officer of Trip.com, a travel-planning platform that lets users join “tribes” to find personalised travel recommendations.
“Our data is clear – travellers want to unplug and explore nature,” Katz says. “Our outdoor enthusiasts and adventure tribes have each grown by nearly 35 per cent since the beginning of 2016.”
What’s driving everyone into the woods? Ever-accelerating news cycles and push alerts, to be sure. But beyond the collective need to unplug and detox, something else is going on. “All the recent reporting on how dangerous our sedentary lives are has really started to take hold among travellers,” says Betty Jo Currie, a Virtuoso adviser and founder of Currie Travels Unlimited. “I’ve actually had clients cite specific articles on the importance of moving more to start the conversation about active vacation possibilities. The topic comes up constantly now.”
Whether you’re motivated by health, screen time saturation, or plain old spring fever, you’re in luck. Some of the world’s best hikes happen to be close to some of the world’s best hotels. And while these five-star stunners offer a full array of trekking to suit any fitness level, we’ve picked their most iconic routes to establish a ranking order: novice-friendly, intermediate terrain, and serious challenges.
Monastero Santa Rosa
Conca dei Marini, Italy
Its setting alone – a solitary cliff that soars over the Amalfi Coast – would suggest that this 17th-century monastery turned boutique hotel offers some seriously stunning walking trails. But the real local trekking begins at Amalfi’s central square, where the town’s Duomo serves as one of the world’s most beautiful trail heads. Follow the gradually ascending Valle delle Ferriere for a two- to three-hour hike that passes lemon groves, ancient foundry ruins, and farm houses – one of which you can stop at for lunch. Your post-hike reward? A dip in the hotel’s impressive infinity pool, where you’ll have the illusion of floating above the Gulf of Salerno.From US$430 per night.
Himalayan foothills, India
Once a maharaja’s palace, and now an Ayurvedic retreat with a sprawling spa, Ananda might be the plushest place to hike the Himalayan foothills. You’ll see the white peaks during the three- to four-hour Kunjapuri Devi Temple trek that leads to an incense-filled shrine to Shakti and Shiva. The hike heads downhill through the forests of sal trees to a suspension bridge over the Ganges. Make it to the riverbanks by sunset in tine to see the aarti, a daily ritual in which hundreds of chanting pilgrims pass flickering oil lamps through the crowd along the water’s edge. From US$570 per night.
Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Sir Richard Branson is not one for understated luxury, and his retreat in the rugged Atlas Mountains is a compound of fountain-studded courtyards, tent-topped suites, and petal-filled pools.
Nearby Mount Toubkal is North Africa’s highest peak – you’ll see it from your three-hour trek to the Anfa lookout in Toubkal National Park. Along the way, you can stop at a mud-walled Berber home, relax on beautiful woven rugs, and chat with locals over fresh mint tea. From US$635 per night.
Southern Ocean Lodge
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Australia’s third-largest island is a known hiking hot spot, with coastal cliffs, outsized rock formations, and wildlife-rich bush – and the recently inaugurated Kangaroo Island wilderness trail is no exception. The full 60km circuit takes five days to complete, which has more to do with endurance than technical difficulty. Breaking the route into segments and driving to and from trailheads is an option – and it allows you to recharge nightly at Southern Ocean Lodge, a secluded, clifftop spread where “recovery” can mean soaking in an ocean-facing wooden tub. But which trail sections to prioritise? The first and last are known respectively for platypus sightings and intricate cave systems. From US$840 per night, including meals.
Aranwa Pueblito Encantado del Colca
Colca is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and the condor-filled gorge is surrounded by misty peaks, forests shrouded in waterfalls, and Inca-era agricultural terraces, perfect for those who like vertiginous day-long hikes or two-day treks. Thankfully, Aranwa piles on the creature comforts: water features that massage your neck and shoulders in the pool, blazing fires in the chalets, and a craft cocktail menu to rival Lima’s best. From US$166 per night.
St Moritz, Switzerland
Base yourself at the historic, lakeside Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, where the staff will see to your every hiking need (including posh picnic baskets). As for the trails, you almost can’t go wrong in the Swiss Alps. One of the most beloved routes is the four-hour journey between the sledding area Muottas Muragl, Segantini Hut, and Pontresina village. You’ll climb to almost 2,750 metres for a view of jagged peaks that are said to have inspired Italian painter Giovanni Segantini. From US$370 a night.