Best historical hiking holidays: Top 10 cultural trekking breaks

Mar 30, 2020 BY Paul McWilliams

What are the world’s best historical hiking holidays? The kinds of cultural trekking breaks that put your body to the test but also offer a treat for the eyes and mind?

best historical hiking holidays and cultural trekking breaks Hawaii Kapaa na pali coast state park Piqsels royalty free image

We have compiled a list of ten of the best hikes for history buffs and those that like a spot of culture. They offer glimpses into lost civilisations, great military and religious events, and epic voyages of discovery.

Top 10 cultural trekking breaks

Any of the top 10 cultural trekking breaks below will test your hiking ability and endurance. But they also offer you the chance to learn about how our ancestors thought, behaved, prayed and fought. 

Hadrian’s Wall

In AD 22 the Roman Empire was at its peak. Emperor Hadrian controlled much of the known world but even for him there were parts of the world that were beyond conquering.

One of these was Scotland! So rather than fight a series on ongoing battles, the Romans simply decided to seal it off. 

After a visit, Hadrian left instructions to create a five-metre-high wall, stretching from sea to sea (Newcastle to Carlisle). At the time it was one of the largest building projects ever undertaken. Today, you can hike the path of the wall, taking in the stunning views and remains of the original construction.

Hadrians wall one of the top 10 cultural trekking breaks Royalty free image by Wallpaper Flare

It’s an 84-mile National Trail with plenty of accommodation options along the way. The landscape is beautiful as you follow in the footsteps of Roman soldiers who once patrolled the Empire’s frontier.

There are visitor’s sites and museums along the way. Here you can see objects found in archeological digs along the wall. This includes jewellery, such as broaches and antique earrings, which may have even been worn by emperor Hadrian himself.

Kokodo March

This re-enactment of the historic Kokoda March on Papua New Guinea brings history to life. You’ll take on the legendary Kokoda Track.

Following the footsteps of the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion B Company on one of the toughest military missions ever. You will hike up and over the challenging Owen Stanley Ranges as they did back in 1942.

And to give the expedition an even more historical feel, you can do it wearing replica uniforms and on the same rations as the original troops. This really is living and breathing history and one of the best cultural trekking breaks.

Reenact historic Kokoda march Papua New Guinea trekking holiday Image courtesy of No Roads Expeditions

El Mirador, Guatemala

At it’s peak El Mirador was twice the size of the impressive, but ancient, city of Tikal. It was also home to the tallest pyramid the Maya ever built – the 72 metre La Danta.

El Mirador is only accessible via a challenging hike from the village of Carmelita. Along the route you’ll pass other Mayan ruins, including El Tintal and Nakbe. At points you’ll be hiking along some of the old raised Mayan causeways. 

Tuscany, Italy

One of the most historic parts of Italy (and that really is saying something), Tuscany is littered with lost castles, monasteries and churches. These include the world famous Vallombrosa. Historical hiking holidays don’t come much better!

Trekking in Tuscany is also backdropped by breathtaking beauty. Hike through the Valley or Marble and up to the Apuan peaks or take a trek to the unappealing named Rocca della Verruca (Verruca Fortress).

Perhaps start in Florence and trek to Siena enjoying great food and drink along the way. Cultural trekking breaks it italy deliver on so many levels.

Tuscany activity holidays: Best adventures in Tuscany, Italy Flickr CC image by francesco sgroi

Kalalau Trail, Hawaii

Forming just 5 million years ago (a blink of an eye in geological terms) the island of Kauai sits on the edge of the Hawaiian tectonic plate. This one to two day hike takes in the natural beauty of the Na Pali cliffs. It’s covered in jungles and waterfalls, inaccessible except on foot.

However, the real historical interest is following pathways and trails first created by the 13th century Polynesian settlers. These were the first people to discover these islands, and it’s easy to see why they stayed to make it home.

Temple Pilgrimage, Japan

Follow the route of the founder of Shingon Buddhism in the Shikoku province of Japan. It visits all 88 of the temples that have been built here for one of the best cultural trekking breaks on the planet. 

The route is circular, so you can choose your start and end point. Although it does take around 40 days to complete the whole circuit. At various points you will encounter rugged mountains, cityscapes and beautiful beaches. 

Camino de Santiago

Also known as the Way of St James, it is a network of pilgrimage trails that head to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. This is where the tomb of St James is housed, and is one of the most important sacred sites in the Catholic religion.

Best trekking holidays Way of St James / Camino de Santiago Flickr image by Carmen Escobar Carrio

You don’t have to be religious, however, to enjoy the journey. The route passes through some of the most scenic parts of the Pyrenees. Visiting France, Spain and Portugal, this is a journey that dates back hundreds of years.

And you will be following in the footsteps of thousands of others who have made this pilgrimage from their home nation. It is widely regarded as one of the most iconic treks on the planet so well worth your time.

Machu Picchu 

The most popular trek to Machu Pichu follows the ancient Inca Trail, from the Sacred Valley. Along the route you will see a wide variety of impressive Inca sites and unforgettable scenery. Of the best historical hiking holidays this is the most famous.

Your destination is the lost city of Machu Pichu, built in the 1450s during the reign of Inca emperor Pachacuti. The impressive complex of temples is surrounded by vast terraces that were used to feed the 1,000+ inhabitants.

As well as the four-day Inca Trail (which is limited to 500 people a day), you can also tackle the Salkantay Trek and Lares Trek, among others. There are many other treks in Peru that are worth exploring.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu one of the best historical hiking holidays Pexels royalty free image

Lost City, Colombia

Much as the Inca people had Machu Pichu, the Tayrona (of the area now known as Columbia) had their own lost city. Located deep in the jungle, it’s a five-day hike to the ruined city of Teyuna (a.k.a Ciudad Perdida)

The final climb up more than a thousand steps gives you the big reveal. Although what you see from the terrace is only a tiny part of what has been taken by the forest. 

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the most incredible feats of engineering and construction in history. It was built over 2,000 years ago by a succession of emperors to protect against invasion from the north

Although only a third of the wall remains, you can still hike its near 5,000 km length. Although if you want to do it all you’ll probably need around 18 months. 

Small sections of the wall have been fully restored. But it you want a more authentic hiking experience, head for the mountainous sections at Gubeikou. Easily one of the best historical hiking holidays – find out more in this guide to trekking in China.

Most Iconic treks of Asia - Great wall of China Flickr image by Bernard Goldbach

Best historical hiking holidays

These are some of the world’s best historical hiking holidays. Any of these cultural trekking breaks gives you a unique glimpse into how our ancestors used to live, as well as giving you the chance to put your boots on and clock up some kilometres.

We hope you enjoyed this guide to the best Historical hiking holidays. Be sure to check out our trekking holiday discounts as you could save a fortune on your next trip.

Asia, Central America, China, Colombia, Cumbria, England, Europe, Florence, France, Guatemala, Hawaii, Italy, Japan, Kauai, Machu Picchu, Newcastle Upon Tyne, North America, Oceania, Owen Stanley Range, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Pyrenees Mountains, Shikoku, Siena, South America, Spain, Tikal, Tuscany, United Kingdom, United States
Hiking, Trekking
Cultural, Great Wall of China, Hadrian's Wall, History, Inca, Inca Trail, Mayan, Teyuna (a.k.a Ciudad Perdida)
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