Want to get away from the crowds on your next trekking trip? Then check out the best unknown treks below. Now obviously, these are not completely unknown otherwise how would we have found out about them… But these undiscovered trekking holiday destinations all provide quiet trails away from mass tourism.
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking”. And in the modern world with mobile phones, 5G, WiFi, social media and endless digital TV, walking is one of the few pastimes left where our imaginations have the space to expand.
Walking is also a fantastic way to get to know a new country. You may not see as much of the place as you do driving or travelling by other means, but the parts you see will affect you in a more profound way.
There are plenty of well-trodden walking routes around the world. But if you want to experience undiscovered trekking holiday destinations, you need to get off the metaphorical (and literal) beaten path to discover something new.
So how do we define unknown when the unknown is unknowable? Well in this case it is treks not on every tour operators list. They are not the most popular treks in a destination and you certainly won’t find them in top tens. In essence they are the opposite of this list of iconic treks by continent.
So what makes them the best less trod trails? Well as always this is very subjective. We have chosen some alternative routes in popular trekking destinations, trails in popular holiday destinations that are not known for trekking and a few proper expedition style treks into the wilderness that get few visitors.
In our opinion these are the best unknown treks on the planet:
South America has plenty of well-established trekking routes such as the Inca trail to Machu Picchu and the Torres Del Paine circuit in Patagonia. The chances are, that if you’re into trekking holidays, you’ve either already hiked these routes or your friends have.
And while Patagonia is hardly unknown in terms of trekking, there are some excellent trails that don’t appear on every travellers bucket list. Patagonia is filled with steppes, glaciers, beaches, lakes and mountains and has some of the most dramatic scenery in the world.
As one of the last great wildernesses left on earth it is a trekkers dream. Covering more than a million square kilometres of Chile and Argentina including Tierra del Fuego, the most southerly part of South America.
Patagonia is populated by a interesting mix of Spanish, Italian and Welsh inhabitants. And with just under two million people living there, it is easy to stay away from the busy areas giving you space to let your imagination roam.
You’ll need at least couple of weeks to take in the majesty Patagonia. The typical 14-day Torres del Paine circuit trek is incredible, but it is the most popular in the area so is relatively busy by Patagonian standards.
So for one of the best unknown treks , instead head to the remote regions of the Glacier National Park. Here you can spend six days hiking a valley between the Helsingfors and Cristina ranges where you are unlikely to see another trekker.
You’ll camp in solitude at the foot of a glacier, see pristine lakes and discover untouched wilderness in this remote part of Argentina. Plus of course you will still have time to fit in the Patagonian highlights.
From the ice of southern Patagonia to the jungle of southeast Asia. This gem of a trekking expedition by Secret Compass culminates in you being one of the few people to summit the 3,826m Mount Saramati from the western side.
Forming part of the border with India this trek involves hiking through dense jungle, rice paddies and bamboo forest. You’ll camp in remote wilderness and stay in traditional Naga villages. Experiencing their unique culture that has been unchanged for hundreds of years in a real highlight.
This 10 day trek includes a total ascent of over 7000m. You’ll walk 25km for 8 to 10 hours a day. To add to the challenges you can expect steep climbs, muddy and rocky paths, bamboo ladders, rope bridges, some scrambling and potentially some rivers that need to be swum across. But it’s a proper adventure!
If the endless reaches of Patagonia and jungles of SE Asia seem a bit overwhelming, how about the more defined limits of the island of Cuba. Ringed by the Caribbean Sea, Cuba is great for holidays but it not known for trekking. However, its geographical diversity, interesting history and vibrant culture male it great for hiking.
There are various walking tours that you can take around the island. These vary in comfort and activity levels, but all take in the unique beauty of Cuba and its dramatic revolutionary history. But most of these are short walks as part of a guided tour and are very much part of the tourist trail.
But Cuba is home to one of the best unknown treks – La Ruta de la Revolución. This trail follows the historic route that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara took after landing in Las Coloradas, Niquero during the Cuban Revolution in 1956.
It is an official trail, but as of 2017 only four people had completed it. Following wooded paths and mountain roads you will see a Cuba that tourists rarely experience. You won’t encounter cars, just the occasional mule cart, and will stay with local rural families in remote villages.
The 150 km trail takes six to eight days and ends at Fidel Castro’s Comandancia de La Plata hideout deep in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. You probably won’t see another tourist for the duration of the trek making Cuba one of the best undiscovered trekking holiday destinations.
From one island to another… Majorca (Mallorca) is not exactly known for its trekking. This Balearic island hosts around 10 million tourists each year but most of them don’t leave its bars, beaches and brilliant restaurants. Those that do often only visit the main tourist spots and very few of them bring hiking boots.
But unknown to most visitors, Majorca has a wild side. The Tramuntana Mountains dominate the northwest of the island with multiple 1,000m plus peaks, including the 1,450m high Puig Major. The mountain range is stunning and has been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Obviously none of this is a secret and the GR221 trail that runs 140km through the mountains is hardly unknown. But what makes Majorca one of the best undiscovered trekking holiday destinations is that the vast majority of visitors have no idea the stunning GR221 – known as the Dry Stone Route – exists.
Taking seven to ten days the trail showcases the island’s forests, mountains and drystone structures. The route, from Andratx to Pollença, follows rock paved paths and mule tracks between welcoming villages. Be sure to book yourself a nice Villa in Pollença to treat yourself at the end, or continue the trek onto the Formentor peninsula.
Onto another popular tourist destination. Turkey has long been popular for package holidays and cheap sunshine. But take a step back from the tourist-soaked coastline and the Turkish interior has masses to offer hikers.
Saturated with thousands of years of human history, from the ancient Babylons to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey is the cross roads between east and west. This rich culture, combined with its jaw-dropping scenery, makes Turkey endlessly inspiring for those who wish to explore her depths.
With 7,200km of coastline, mountains, lakes and pastures and straddling both Europe and Asia, Turkey is a world within itself. With such varied terrain there are treks to suit everyone’s fitness and experience.
There are many popular routes from relatively easy coastal walks, to strenuous 15-day trekking holidays to the infamous ‘fairy chimneys’ and white tufa cliffs of Cappadocia. You could also trek to the summit of Mount Ararat, which at 5,137 metres is Turkey’s highest peak. But these are all popular.
If you want to get off the beaten path then head to the Kaçkar Mountains in northeast Turkey. I visited in the winter for a Turkey Heliski holiday and met local hiking guide Celal Özkan. He explained the area is great for trekking and other adventures in the summer, but doesn’t get many foreign visitors.
A six to eight day circuit of the Kaçkar Massif including the 3,932m summit involves wild camping in stunning scenery on mostly empty trails. To make it one of the best unknown treks continue into the Altiparmak Range in the northeastern Kaçkar foothills. Here you can trek for another eight days and barely see another person.
Like the idea of a remote destination but want somewhere sounding a little more exotic? Then Tajikistan is one of the top undiscovered trekking holiday destinations. Known as the roof of the world, 90% of Tajikistan is mountainous – which is good for challenging and remote treks.
Even by Tajikistan standards the Fann Mountains are remote and untouched. In the summer there is plenty of wild trekking and mountaineering to get involved in.
And as Huw Kingston said “you’re more likely to spy untouched glaciers than you are any other travelers. Because there are none.” A 16 day circuit of the mountains taking in seven stunning lakes is one of the best unknown treks.
Moving on, but not very far, our next stop is Pakistan. The Chilinji Pass trek to Chapurson Valley has only recently been opened to tourists and is in a very remote part of the country.
You’ll follow a route parallel to the Afghanistan’s infamous Wakhan corridor. Along the way you’ll pass through Ishkoman Valley, Chapurson Valley and the Upper Hunza.
During this 15 day trek you’ll pass through richly contrasting landscapes in a pristine and untouched environment. On the way there are scores of unclimbed and beautiful 6,000m peaks. So if you fancy a mountaineering side trip you could bag a first ascent!
Talking of peaks, at 5,895 metres Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s main trekking attraction. This is closely followed by trekking in the Atlas Mountains, Mount Kenya, Kili’s little sister Mount Meru and the Rwenzori range in the Congo. But there are plenty other mountains you can trek in Africa that get nowhere near the same attention.
For example, most people have no idea about the 3,445 metre Tibesti Mountains in the centre of the Sahara desert. But this range of extinct volcanoes in Chad and Libya provide one of the best undiscovered trekking holidays.
Any visit will include spending time amongst the Tuba people who inhabit some of the most isolated settlements on earth. Expect breathtaking volcanic peaks, stunning views and experience a unique culture. A circuit around the range and up the highest peaks will take around ten days.
But you don’t have to go into the depths of the Sahara desert to find solitude or undiscovered trekking holiday destinations most people have never heard of. The Auyuittuq National Park in the northern Canadian Territory of Nunavut is not exactly a household name.
In fact I expect many readers have never even heard of this region of Canada. But Nunavut makes up the majority of the north of the country including most of the Arctic archipelago. This enormous territory is not only Canada’s largest but the fifth-largest country subdivision in the world.
Auyuittuq National Park is on Baffin Island in the southeast of Nunavut facing towards Greenland. Full of glaciers, towering granite peaks, deep fjords, powerful rivers, icefields and wildlife the 21,470 km² (8,290 mi²) park gets less than 1,000 visitors per year. Making it one of the best undiscovered trekking holiday destinations.
Any trek here is very remote, unmarked and unmaintained and you’ll be unlikely to see other backpackers. The 97 km Akshayuk Pass trek is a ten to twelve day expedition into this wilderness. The route is a traditional Inuit trail that traverses the park and crosses into the Arctic Circle.
Lets face it most of these treks are not suitable for beginners. Many of these top unknown treks offer serious challenges from wildlife, weather and the terrain. So unless you have significant backcountry experience with top notch navigation skills you should go with a guide.
But we hope there is plenty above to get your imagination flowing and hiking boots tapping. Ultimately, by taking the road less travelled you have the chance to experience something truly special.
We hope you found this guide to these great undiscovered treks inspirational. If you want to hit the trail check out these trekking holidays worldwide.