My interest in trekking goes back to school days when our painting teacher would organize weekend hikes to one or other beach. He would choose one of the trekking places and it would involve us finding shade, picking a landscape and painting it for a few hours. I loved trekking and painting so it was perfect.

My attempt at improving my painting skills hasn’t been very sincere but my love affair with trekking continued. It has grown into my favorite activity while on the road. I do have my reasons for trekking and some of them are:

  • It gives me time to reflect on my life. It’s meditative and therapeutic.
  • Some hikes with free entrances come out cheaper.
  • Organized hikes allow me to have intimate conversations with people that generally city life is not conducive to.
  • It allows me to keep fit on the road. It’s the easiest and most fun form of exercise.

During the last three years, I have gone on multiple hikes. A few were organized tours that started with strangers but ended with some long-lasting connections, Some were with friends I made on the road, and most were taken solo.

No matter what hiking adventure I’m on, I always go through almost the same cycle of emotions.

My general states of hiking:

Wow, this is really nice, I should do it more often

It’s kind of boring also, I could have just stayed in, read a book or watched a movie

Why am I doing this to myself? my feet hurt, I want cake, and I need a shower already. Do people really enjoy this?

I’m never hiking again.

(After reaching the summit) Wow, it was totally worth it. I wonder how difficult could Everest really be? I mean I’m sure I could do it with some training.

(while writing/talking about it) I miss hiking. I want to be at a place where all I have to think about in the morning is where do I stop for the night?

These are my emotional stages every.single.time.

One of these days, looking into the ocean, watching the sunset one more time, one more evening coming to a close, I could not help but reminiscence the time I have spent in the mountains, not having to go back anywhere for the night, pitching a tent or getting a room for the night was it.

Here is a list of some of the hikes that I miss already. This is obviously not a list of best hikes across the world. I wish I could do that. At one point (before I finalized plans to travel to South America), I wanted to do the best hike in every continent but that was bound to fail because who decides what is ‘the best’? and who was going to pay for this dreamy adventure?

Trekking places listed in ascending order of altitude

1. Cajon del Azul, El Bolson

  • Country: Argentina
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Cost: There’s no park entrance fee
  • Number of days: 07- 10 days
  • Altitude: 1450m (4757 ft)
  • What’s unique about it:
    • The crystal clear rivers
    • diving spots in the river
Rio Azul

Some sections of this crystal clear river were deep enough to dive

My experience at the hike:

I left my hosts place believing, I was headed for a long walk but I was in for a surprise. The dusty terrain opened into this canopied trekking trail that echoed peace in every molecule.

Unfortunately, when I went there I had no clue about multiday hiking and I had no idea the park was this beautiful so I went only for a day.

But it allowed me to think beyond day hikes and see trekking places in a different light. It gave me a fair picture of what multi-day hiking on my own could be like. 

If I ever go back to Argentina, I’m going fully prepared to hike in this park for at least a week.

The water streams get water from glaciers so they are safe to drink water from (I was given this information by forest rangers). 

Feet in water

Feet in ice cold water

My experience of hiking and staying with farmers in detail here.

 

2. Adams peak trek:

  • Country: Sri Lanka
  • Difficulty Level: Difficult
  • Cost: It’s a free trek
  • Time: 3 hours one way
  • Altitude: 2,243 m (7,359 ft)
  • What’s unique about it:
    • It’s a sunrise hike. 
    • From the peak, one can see a stunning sunrise over a blanket of clouds that floats like marshmallows in heaven.
Adams peak

We were on top on that

My experience of trekking it:

Going there in the offseason means no lights along the way. We hiked in the darkness, under a thick blanket of stars, and listening to the music of waterfalls every now and then. There was barely any scope to appreciate anything other than the stars owing to the darkness. It was an excruciating climb consisting of just steps.

I remembered reading, ‘carry layers’, but I was hiking with all of my backpack and I had no warm clothes in it. I couldn’t imagine when would I need it, as I sweat profusely along the way.

Adams peak

After witnessing the magical sunrise

Five minutes in after reaching the top and I started shivering. I pulled out another t-shirt from my bag, then another pair of trousers, put the scarf around my neck multiple times and that’s about how I survived.

sunrise on mountains

The first rays

Soon, the stars started diminishing into the first rays. The sky changed colors from dark blue to lighter blue to yellow, red, and orange streaks. The sunrise that I witnessed from the peak is one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. The entire valley has a thick layer of clouds on top. It feels like we’re floating on top of the world.

clouds on mountains

That magical view

The same hike can be quite slow and arduous if one goes during season time though as it holds religious significance and people throng the place to see the footstep on top that is believed to be the footstep of Lord Shiva by Hindus, of Adam by Christians and Muslims, and of Budha by Buddhists. 

 

3. Mount Fitzroy

  • Country: Argentina
  • Difficulty Level: Medium except for the last kilometer
  • Cost: Free of cost
  • Number of days: Can be done in one day but I recommend 02 days
  • Altitude: 3,405m (11171 ft)
  • What’s unique about it:
    • Great view of the mountains
    • a lake in front
Mount Fitz Roy

Views of Fitz Roy along the way

My experience of trekking it:

The trek is through a thick green patch, I was there at the beginning of summers so I still got to see people every now and then.

It is absolutely stunning with a lake along the way where one can camp for the night. There’s toilet facility available. 

There were streams along the way, the scenery changed every now and then but largely was from the same color palette.

The pristine blue color waters are captivating and oh so beautiful for a stopover. I can stay there for days to read and write, and read, and write.

Mountains with lake at the foothill

Lake along the way

Read why El Chalten is one of my favorite trekking places here.

 

4. Quilotoa loop:

  • Country: Ecuador
  • Difficulty Level: Medium
  • Cost: There’s no entrance fee. The primary costs are that of food and stay.
  • Number of days: 03 days
  • Altitude: 3800 m (12,841 ft)
  • What’s unique about it:
    • After three days of hiking, it ends at a crater.
    • The turquoise color crater lake is not ideal for swimming but one can choose to sit near it.  
My experience of trekking it:

I signed up for this of the other trekking places only for the people. I got along really well with these people in my hostel and they were headed for this trek. They asked me if I wanted to join in and I said ‘yes’.

Some people choose to start hiking from Quilotoa but I wanted the crater to be our candy at the end of the third day.

Girl in pink fleece jacket in front of a crater lake

When the clouds parted and I got get a picture

The landscape goes from one beautiful trail to another, it has easy to miss turns so never lose sight of your guide. 

The hike usually entails four to five hours of walking each day so it gives ample time to make stops along the way, explore the village you are going to stay in and of course get to know your trek buddies better.

People walking

Somewhere on Day 2

5. Volcan Acatenango

  • Country: Guatemala
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate except for the last stretch which is difficult owing to time
  • Cost: I paid $55 that included everything.
  • Number of days: 02 days
  • Altitude: 3976m (13,044 feet)
  • What’s unique about it:
    • Witness sunrise from the peak with an active volcano spewing lava on one side
My experience of trekking it:

While I took one step after the other soaking in the rain, drenched to the bones, I could not help but question if it was worth it. With every two steps we took, we came back one step. There were a lot of thundering sounds and only when we reached the camping spot for the day, when the rain stopped and clouds parted, I witnessed what I was not prepared for – An active volcano spewing lava.

people hiking in rain

When we took shelter

We were all scooched around the fire when it started raining again when my trek buddies started leaving for tents, we all realized to our surprise that it wasn’t rain that we heard, it was the ashes from the lava.

The morning part of the trek was even more difficult with hiking in the cold dark night, my torch battery dies while I was asleep so I had to hold my phone with one hand through the glove. 

active volcano smoke

View while returning to camping location

I was so slow, I kept losing track of our guides.

We made it in time and it was worth every pain, every anxiety. There are few places just as beautiful as the view from that peak.

Sunrise on hilltop

Everyone should stop to appreciate the sunrise whenever they can

On one side was this stunning view of Volcan Fuego and the clouds underneath, on the other side we could memorial of the six climbers who had died of hypothermia nine months ago on this very hike. 

 

6. Annapurna base camp

  • Country: Nepal
  • Difficulty Level: Difficult in winters owing to the snow. Medium in summers.
  • Cost: the entrance fee for Indians in NPR 3000 for most other nationals it’s NPR 7000
  • Number of days: 6-7 days
  • Altitude: 4130 m (13,550 ft)
  • What’s unique about it:
    • Overlooking the Himalayas and the beginning of one of the most dangerous treks in the world – Annapurna.
My experience of trekking it:

It is definitely one of the most stupid things I have ever embarked on. I went there by myself (no porter, no guide) hoping I’ll meet some trek buddies along the way, in the thick of winters. 

I did meet two guys on day two but had I not met them, I would have either died, lost a leg or two, or turned around.

Annapurna base camp

I got more than lucky to have found them

I have never trekked in such thick snow before, I was not prepared for it. It’s okay to walk in fresh snow where there’s slight elevation on both sides but it’s suicidal to walk on ice on a trail where there’s a deep valley on one side almost the entire time. You slip, you die.

Trekking places are not forgiving.

Annapurna base camp

This was after a blizzard. I didn’t even want to smile.

On the first two days, I walked for hours without seeing another soul, in case of an accident nobody would know where to even look.

Himalayas

Snow-clad everything

My tips and packing guide for trekking the Annapurna base camp in the winters.

 

7. Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

  • Country: Peru
  • Difficulty Level: Medium
  • Cost: I paid $185 for a five-day trek
  • Number of days: 05 days. One can opt for 04 days as well.
  • Altitude: 4600 m
  • What’s unique about it:
    • Has a stunning lake along the way – Humantay lake.
    • It ends at Machu Picchu
My experience of trekking it:

Salkantay has to be one of the best treks I have ever been to. The landscapes are ever changing. It has lakes that can take one’s breath away but it’s too cold to sit and enjoy.

Salkantay trek

When the alleged difficult part of the trek was over

The days were about keeping up with my guides, dipping in ice-cold rivers, waking up at 4 a.m., dragging myself to the top, getting drunk, walking hungover, and eventually trying to contain my excitement at Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu

One of the many pictures with this backdrop

My account of trekking to Machu Picchu drunk, hungover, and barely walking.

 

Some other trekking places I have loved:

Poon Hill trek:

Nepal has no shortage of trekking places and none of them are overrated. Find your trek and go for it. 

Poon hill

Found a great photographer on top

It’s a beautiful sunrise hike that takes about two to three days. Had I not gone for Annapurna base camp, I would have listed it above but it gets overshadowed by the magnanimity of Annapurna base camp.

Sunrise at himalayas

I made it just in time

Combine both in one trek and it would be perfect (if you don’t end up injuring your knee that is).

Camping by Tata Steel Adventure Foundation:

It was not a trek but I’m listing it in this article because it is one of the most memorable camping experiences in India I have had.

tarp tent

Tarp tent we made by the lake

Not only was the entire experience filled with adventure, it felt very authentic.

They give every participant raw material to cook and every team has to make their own dinner in clay stoves.

raft

Made our own raft and got in the lake

Surfing

Surfing on a ‘Door’

It takes two days and includes a day of adventures on an island that’s solely used by Tata Steel Adventure Foundation.

List of upcoming trekking places by Tata steel adventure foundation here.

Which trek is on your list? And which trek would you recommend that I go on next?


Manisha Singh

I'm an HR (IT) Consultant by profession who loves traveling to keep from getting caught up in the monotony of regular life. I quit my job in Oct 2016 to take a career break. I'm using my time to travel around South America. When not traveling I love spending time volunteering for various activities ranging from Art to corporate citizenship. I love Running (5k mostly), reading (interest keeps varying here), playing TT (something I picked up recently), and open to just about any new experience.

2 Comments

Mohit · June 8, 2019 at 11:37

I love mount Fitzroy. I wish to visit there.
Nice post ❤👌

    Manisha Singh · June 8, 2019 at 15:42

    I have Fitz Roy tattooed on my feet. I quite like it as well 🙂
    Good luck, I hope you get to realise your dream of visiting there soon.

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