If you’d like to have a go at trekking the good news is it’s the most accessible of all adventure sports, the bad news is there’s a bewildering amount of choice. So read our tips for planning first trekking holidays and the best beginner treks to help you decide where to go.
You’ve may have bungee jumped, skied, scuba dived and skydived, but trekking is a very different challenge. Unlike most adventure sports you can’t just turn up and learn what to do – after all you can already walk.
Tips for planning first trekking holidays
So don’t think you can just rock up and your trek will organise itself. What all treks need is a little forethought and planning – even more so if you are going it alone. Essentially you need to make quite a few decisions in advance that will affect your trip.
Although not part of this article, you should also do some preparation to get in shape for your trek. Being fit is not the same as being conditioned to walk all day. So check out this article for helpful advice when training for trekking holidays.
To help you have a rewarding adventure we’ve put together the following tips for planning first trekking holidays. The advice is aimed at helping you choose the right trail for you, with a list of the best beginner treks at the end.
A days trekking can vary from a couple of hours to the entire day before you stop for the night. Although you don’t have to be a hardened walker or super-fit mountain goat to enjoy going trekking – after all it’s not a race! – you do need to have a good idea where you will be sleeping each night and plan accordingly.
If you set out walking without a daily goal in mind you can end up approaching night without a suitable place to sleep. Regardless of whether you are camping, staying in huts or using guesthouse or hotel accommodation, planning your days trek and where you will sleep, get supplies etc is key to a successful and enjoyable experience.
If you planning your first trekking holidays, I’d suggest avoiding camping. A tent and all the related camping equipment is a lot to carry. It also adds a lot of responsibility on your already overloaded shoulders, to not just get the trekking right but also supplies and planning.
Depending on which part of the world you trek, there are options to stay in teahouses, wooden huts, B&Bs, hostels or hotels along the way. Spending all day in the outdoors you may be wet and cold at the end of the trekking, so warm welcoming accommodation can make a first trek more enjoyable.
That said, nothing beats waking to the sound of the world just outside your canvas home. So don’t dismiss camping as something for hardened trekkers only. Camping is often an option on organised tours where you do not personally carry the the heavy load, it also can save you a fortune. Wild camping in particular is very rewarding.
Now before you book a trek, you need to decide if you want to trek independently or with a tour operator. Although it costs more to go with a company, there are lots of benefits.
You’ll get an established trekking route and know exactly where you’re going. With an experienced local guide that knows the area inside out, you’ll see things you would otherwise miss – and won’t get lost. Porters will carry your bags, or gear will or transported, and you’ll have company for the evenings.
Plus, there will be help at hand if something goes wrong. So if it’s one of your your first trekking holidays or you’re travelling to more remote destinations, going with a trusted operator is recommended. With someone else doing the planning you can pretty much just turn up and put one foot in front of the other.
If you’ve decide you’re trekking independently, you can still hire your own guide and/or porter – but this can be expensive in some places. But you get the freedom to walk as much or as little as you like. You also get free reign when it comes to deciding the route.
But don’t forget to buy all the right kit. When trekking with tour operator groups there will be people looking out for you and often they can provide some of the equipment. But when independently planning first trekking holidays you’ll have to organise the lot yourself.
When hiking independently we recommend you start off small – crossing the Himalaya without prior experience is not recommended. It is always best to trek with someone else, hiking as an independent group is very rewarding planning routes and where to stay is part of the fun.
As this article is tips for planning first trekking holidays, I feel it is important to point out you’ll need certain skills if going independent. First and foremost you need to be able to read a map and use a compass, GPS is very useful but never rely solely on it. You should also understand potential dangers and know what to do if something goes wrong.
Ultimately independent trekking is a great way to practice responsible tourism and integrate with the locals. It provides an important source of income for local villagers, helping them to sustain their way of life.
Choosing a trek
There are so many great trails to choose from that it can be pretty tough to choose a trek. So when planning your first trekking holidays is is important to narrow down the options. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
When you’d like to head trekking? In some places trekking is very seasonal. Pick the wrong dates and you’ll end up drenched with monsoon rains; pick the right ones and you’ll be tackling summits with views you never thought you’d ever get to see!
What is my budget? You might want to head to South America but think about what you can afford and remember to consider flight prices. If your budget is low then stay local, if it is medium grab a short haul flight and if it is large you can go long haul. There is nothing worse than blowing your budget on flights and not having enough left to trek.
How fit am I/will I be? This is a tough one and you need to be honest. Trekking in mountains is hard work, add altitude, heat and long distances and it is not for everyone, but there are easy treks that are flat, or you can do less per day. So match your trek to your fitness – or planned fitness if you can stick to a exercise regime – to the trek.
What do I want to get out of trekking? Possibly the most important question is what you want to do/achieve. If summiting a mountain is important to you, then you’ll be looking for something different to someone who is looking for beaches. Perhaps you want wilderness and adventure, or culture and nightlife – the choice is yours.
Best beginner treks
Now you know what you’d like to achieve, the level of difficulty, when to go and your budget, you are ready to choose your first trekking holiday. With that in mind here is my list of the best beginner treks – just match your needs to the treks.
Best for first timers
The Atlas Mountains in Morocco offer relatively easy treks past Berber castles and lakes. The highest point is Mount Toubkal at 4,165 metres is one of the best beginner treks as it is achievable by most people. The best time to trek is May to October.
Check out our other articles about trekking in the Atlas mountains for more information.
Best for adventurers
The Himalaya mountains in Nepal are the granddaddy of all trekking. Once you are there is is cheap and rewarding. But it’s difficult trekking with high altitudes, difficult terrain and lots of miles. The Everest Base camp is one of the most popular as is the Annapurna circuit. Trek from March to May or October to December.
Best for high altitude
At 5,896 metres Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the highest point in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain on the planet. The trekking is not too difficult, but altitude sickness stops people reaching the summit. The trick is to take your time and acclimatise. Trek from June to February.
Best for culture
The Inca Trail is a four day trek that culminates at magical Machu Picchu, it is a short but intense trek suitable for most people with reasonable fitness. Dead Woman’s Pass is the highest point at 4,198 metres. April to November is the best time to trek but book early as the number of trekkers are limited for this trail.
Be sure check out our guide to the best inca sites in Peru for more info about the best beginner treks if you’re looking for culture.
Best in Europe
If you are looking for the best trekking holidays in Europe for beginners then there are plenty to choose from. But probably the best is the Mont Blanc Circuit which takes you around the highest peak in the Alps through France, Italy and Switzerland. Best June to September.
Best for photographers
Torres del Paine in Chile. Glaciers, lakes and sheer rock pinnacles make this one of the best beginner treks for photographers. Its peak is 3,050 metres. Visit from November to March.
There is more detail about trekking in the Torres Del Paine in our guide to the most iconic treks.
Best for discovering the unknown
Mount Damavand in Iran. Brave choice, but why not? Iran is on the fringes of the list, but with so many unexplored routes, tracks and peaks (up to 5,671 metres) it takes the wild-card slot. Best time to trek here is July and August.
Find out more about Mount Damavand in this article about Middle East overland adventures.
Best for budget
Very simply go local. Wherever you live there will be trekking within a days drive. Here in the UK and have the South downs Way, the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, the Peak District, Pennines, Lake District and pretty much all of Scotland to explore. Sometimes the best beginner treks are those that are easiest to reach.
Head to our trekking holidays home page and navigate to your local area. Who knows we may have articles about treks near you that you have never heard of.
First trekking holidays: Conclusion
Whether you wish to marvel at ancient ruins, discover solitude in the wilderness or conquer the mountainous peaks, if you follow these tips for planning first trekking holidays then the best beginner treks are well within reach. Just match the treks to your availability, budget and expectations and you’ll find the right trek for you.
Where would you recommend for a first trek? Which destinations are best for guided treks? And which should the independent adventurers choose? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
We hope these tips for planning first trekking holidays have been useful. If you plan to book one of the best beginner treks then be sure to check out our trekking holiday discounts as you could save a fortune.