Top 10 International Travel Destinations for Backpacking

Curated expert Hannah Kaufman shares her picks for the top ten epic hiking trails around the world.

Photo by Salmen Bejaoui

Photo by Salmen Bejaoui

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I’ve been dreaming of travelling lately. In my spare time, I’ve been researching a lot of international backpacking destinations and I thought I would share what I’ve learned and my top picks with you lovely people.

Kom Emine Trail, Bulgaria

Photo by Ivan Nedelchev

  • Location: Bulgaria
  • Distance: 400mi
  • Elevation Gain: 2,411ft
  • Time to Complete: 20-25 days
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Season: May through September

I love Bulgaria. Granted, I only spent about 32 hours in Sofia, but it was absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait to go back to hit up the mountains. Kom Emina is the oldest hiking trail in Bulgaria. It’s the Bulgarian section of the E3—a trail in Europe that starts on the Portguese Coast and ends at the Black Sea in Bulgaria. The trail follows the ridge of the Bulgarian mountain range and lasts about 400 miles.

The W-Trek, Patagonia

Photo by Thayran Melo

  • Location: Patagonia
  • Distance: 45mi
  • Elevation Gain: 9,700ft
  • Time to Complete: 3-7 days
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Season: October through April

Patagonia is another travel destination I’m craving to go to. This trail is a popular trail, with good reason. Located in the center of the Torres Del Paine National Park, the hike is shaped like a “w,” and you will see everything from lakes to glaciers, to grasslands, peaks, and beautiful forests. This trail is known for being the “best in the world”—which only makes me want to check it out more.

ViaSbrinz, Switzerland

Photo by Vaun

  • Location: Switzerland
  • Distance: 86mi
  • Elevation Gain: 18,372ft
  • Time to Complete: 6 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
  • Season: May through October

Who doesn’t want to go to Switzerland? The mountains are my dream destination and absolutely high on my list of backpacking trips. From the scenic mountains to the waterfalls and towns, this place is idyllic. The ViaSbrinz Trail is beautiful—you head over mountains, pass through small towns, and see some epic views. This also used to be a route where mules would transport cheese to sell!

Laugavegur Trail, Iceland

Photo by Jonatan Pie

  • Location: South Iceland
  • Distance: 34mi
  • Elevation Gain: 3,608ft
  • Time to Complete: 3- 4 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
  • Season: Mid-June through Mid-September

Iceland has been an up and coming tourist destination for the past few years, but has been a popular spot for hikers and backpackers forever! Iceland is like a mecca and world-class hiking hotspot. Laugavegur Trail in South Iceland is a 34-mile trail in the Fjallabak nature preserve. You will see hot springs, mountains, glacial valleys, and fumaroles.

Chilkoot Trail, Alaska

Photo by Wei Zeng

  • Location: Alaska
  • Distance: 33mi
  • Elevation Gain: 6,043ft
  • Time to Complete: 3-5 days
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Season: Late June through Mid-September

Alright so Alaska is not international but it is very high on my list of backpacking destinations—so I thought I would share anyways. Known for “The Magic Bus” where Chris McCandless lived and died during an Alaska winter (read about it in the book Into the Wild), the Alaskan wilderness is beautiful if not intimidating. The Chilkoot Trail will take you through history as you may see some relics of the gold-rush era. You will pass through rainforests, mountain basins, and the classic Alaskan alpine terrain.

Ausangate Trail, Peru

Photo by Adriana Aceves

  • Location: Peru
  • Distance: 28.5mi
  • Elevation Gain: 3,000+ft
  • Time to Complete: 5-6 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
  • Season: October through November and April

While it’s most famous for Machu Picchu, Peru is blessed with all sorts of epic hiking terrain. The Ausangate Trail is a five- to six-day trail near Cusco and will take you through mountain lakes, glaciers, the Rainbow Mountain, pastures with alpacas, and so much more. This hike is truly a hidden gem compared to more famous hikes such as the Inca Trail. The weather can be sporadic so best to be prepared for anything. The altitude is a lot so make sure to acclimate some time before you start hiking. Drink lots of water to help, and remember to listen to your body.

Trekanten Trail, Norway

Photo by Darya Tryfanav

  • Location: Norway
  • Distance: 34.7mi
  • Elevation Gain: 7,000ft
  • Time to Complete: 3-4 days
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Season: May through September

When I was at university, one of my best friends was from Norway. Since then, it’s been on my list to visit. The pictures of terrain and scenery look absolutely beautiful. The Trekanten Trail in Trollheimen—home of the trolls—is rated as difficult and takes you to beautiful viewpoints of mountains and lakes. Don’t forget your puffy though!

Te Araroa, New Zealand

Photo by Alex Green

  • Location: New Zealand
  • Distance: 1,864mi
  • Elevation Gain: 253,333ft
  • Time to Complete: 3-6 months
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Season: Mid-September through April

New Zealand, a beautiful land that is so far away—but very worth the plane ride! While there are plenty of day hike options, the full Te Araroa trail looks absolutely stunning and a great challenge. You will pass every kind of terrain and scenery, and end on beautiful grassland cliffs overlooking the coast. Hike this trail and you will meet a variety of international travelers and see wildlife all around you.

Great Himalyan Trail, Nepal

Photo by Yatri Design

  • Location: Nepal
  • Distance: 1,056mi
  • Elevation Gain: 16,000+ft
  • Time to Complete: 150-170 days
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Season: September through November and March through May

One of the most popular and well-known long distance thru-hikes is the Great Himalyan Trail in Nepal. It is composed of ten sections that range from jungles to alpine forests and is one of the longest and highest trails in the world. It will challenge you physically but along the way you will see new culture and learn about an underrepresented history.

Chogoria Route to Point Lenana Peak, Kenya

Photo by Sergey Pesterev

  • Location: Kenya
  • Distance: 32mi (one way)
  • Elevation Gain: 17,000+ft
  • Time to Complete: 3-5 days
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Season: January through February and September

This trail will surprise you. From wildlife like elephants and buffalo to the scenery and varying terrain, you cannot go wrong with this peak. It is by far the best seat to watch the sunrise with some tea in hand—or a beer. You will pass through bamboo rainforests, waterfalls, cliffs, and the Gorges Valley.

In no particular order, these are my top 10 travel destinations for backpacking trips. Lace up those hiking boots, grab your peanut butter and jelly sandwich or your hummus and pita chips, snag some water and head out on your merry way. Hit me up if you have done any of these or let me know what international hike is next on your list.

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Written By
Although I've been hiking for most of my life, I didn't start backpacking and camping until college when I joined the University Outdoors Club at my school. My first backpacking trip was ambitious, the Batona Trail in the Pinelands in New Jersey done in two days. To do that, we had to walk a maratho...

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