CAPE TOWN - Following a long period of unsatisfied wanderlust and a surge in outdoor sports and activities, new research reveals the best countries around the world for a hiking holiday, now that many travel restrictions have been lifted.
The study, conducted by SportsShoes.com, analysed Google searches for over 500 hiking routes along with walking and hiking holidays in over 100 countries before combining this with the number of Instagram hashtags for each to create an index that unveils the best destinations for a hiking adventure.
Offering shimmering coastal paths, rugged mountain ranges and an ideal climate for hiking, Spain tops the list as the best hiking holiday destination, with a staggering 170 830 annual searches and 3 100 hashtags associated with a hiking adventure there.
According to the index, Sacred pilgrimage Camino de Santiago is the best hiking route in Spain. The full route takes over a month to complete and has been traversed for hundreds of years by travellers from all over the world. Caminito del Rey is the second most popular Spanish hike, and although much shorter than Camino de Santiago, coming in at just 7km, this steep trek is a bucket list item for adrenaline-seeking hikers. The third best Spanish hike is the Cami de Ronda, a trail which hugs the rugged Costa Brava coastline, and offers different sections for those of any hiking level.
Japan follows closely behind Spain, likely due to its stunning range of snow-topped mountain climbs, lush green forest paths and cultural offering.
In third place is England, boasting over 124 000 searches and 1 600 hashtags for hiking holidays, followed by Scotland.
On the other side of the globe, Australia comes in fifth place, with over 20 000 searches and a massive 54 155 hashtags; Germany is sixth; and the top 10 is rounded off by Northern Ireland.
For those eager to explore what South Africa has to offer before venturing abroad, the study analysed over 50 South African hiking routes to find out which are most popular.
The Best South African Hikes
1) Rustig Hiking Trail
2) Krom River Trail
3) Phaladingwe Hiking Trail
4) Fanie Botha Hiking Trail
5) The Otter Trail
6) Magoebaskloof Hiking Trail
7) Kloof Corner Ridge
8) Tugela Falls Hike
9) Leopard’s Kloof
10) Outeniqua Trail
Hiking the Rustig Hiking Trail: A mere 1.5 hours from Johannesburg is the lush family farm of Rustig. With hikes of varying difficulty, there's an option for walkers of all abilities, and the views of the magnificent Magaliesberg mountain range are sure to leave hikers speechless.
Hiking the Krom River Trail: Cape Town offers up one of South Africa's most stunning hikes, by way of the rock pools and waterfalls that make up the Krom River Trail. The hike can be done in under a day, requires a permit and boasts spectacular views, flora and fauna along the way.
Hiking the Phaladingwe Hiking Trail: A 6.9km loop trail near to Madibeng is one of South Africa’s best walks. Clearly signposted, but tricky in some areas, this hike is definitely worth the effort. Walkers can take their dogs as long as they remain on leash, and swimwear is recommended for a quick dip in the pool at the end
Hiking the Fanie Botha Hiking Trail: Often referred to as one of the best trails in South Africa, the walks in this area can require hard work, but the rewards are well worth it. There’s a range of options available, from a two night (17.4km) hike to a five night (58.8km) hike, and they were originally designed to be part of a network of walks known as the National Hiking Way System.
Hiking the Otter Trail: One of Africa's most well-known and oldest hikes, is the Otter Trail. Hugging the coastline between the Storms River mouth and Nature's Valley, the walk takes explorers around five days – and includes 45km of stunning beaches and epic cliff views.
A full breakdown of all the best hikes in the top 10 hiking countries can be found at: https://www.sportsshoes.com/hiking-hub/motivation/hikingholidayguide/