Stepping out: the world's best long walks

Forget planes, trains and automobiles – the greenest and greatest way to travel is to use your own two feet. It immerses you in a country like nothing else. and, with time and a bit of fitness, you can traverse whole counties, countries – even continents. Here are a few trails to get your feet itching...

Waitukubuli National Trail, Dominica

Start/finish: Scotts Head to Cabrits

Length: 184km

The Caribbean's first long-distance hike tip-to-toes the rugged, rainforested isle of Dominica – the alternative Caribbean, where nature still rules and you're more likely to pass parrots than people. The trail is divided into 14 sections: pick a couple – the Boiling Lake bit, or bird-rich Morne Diablotin – or do the lot, using homestays en route.

St Paul's Trail, Turkey

Start/finish: Perge to Yalvac

Length: 500km

Heard of Turkey's coast-tracing Lycian Way? This is its offbeat brother – a wilder, inland ramble dotted with Roman ruins and mooching tortoises. Beginning near Antalya, it wends north, following St Paul's first missionary foray into Asia Minor. Waymarking is complete, signposts non-existent – bring a compass and a sense of adventure.

Baekdu-Daegan Trail, South Korea

Start/finish: North Korea border to Cheonwang-bong

Length: 735km

This hike should be twice as long: it follows the Baekdu-Daegan ridge, which dragon-backs the Korean Peninsula for 1,400km. Only North Korea's not keen on hikers... so stick to South Korea's stretch. Here, the ridge is deeply spiritual – a symbol of nationhood – and small shrines dot the mountainscapes: to walk this path is to tread on Korea's soul.

Bibbulmun Track, Western Australia

Start/finish: Kalamunda to Albany

Length: 964km

Waugal lead the way on this epic Aussie tramp: a rainbow serpent from the Aboriginal Dreaming, it's depicted on the Bibbulmun's waymarkers, ever-present amid the granite peaks, tingle forest and Southern Ocean beaches. Good but basic campsites are handily spaced every 20km – just watch out for the snakes...

South West Coast Path, UK

Start/finish: Minehead to Poole

Length: 1,008km

It started because of smuggling: in the 19th century banditry was so rife that guards had to patrol England's entire south coast. Today, those old patrol paths are the UK's longest National Trail, tracing every cove, cranny and cute fishing village in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. It takes eight weeks, non-stop, including 35,000m of climbing: a good excuse for fuelling on a pasty or two.

Via Francigena, Europe

Start/finish: Canterbury, UK to Rome, Italy

Length: 1,700km

The Via Francigena is the 'other Camino'. While many medieval pilgrims embarked for Spain's Santiago de Compostela, some set off to worship saints Peter and Paul in Rome. Few use this way now, but it can still be walked – across England, France, Switzerland and Italy: an 80-day hike back in history.

Great Himalaya Trail, Nepal

Start/finish: Kanchenjunga to Humla

Length: 1,700km

Mountain walking doesn't get much better: a traverse of the world's highest range. Launched in 2010, the GHT spans the Nepalese Himalaya, passing rhododendron forests, high-altitude lakes, 8,000m peaks and the remote communities that call them home – providing vital income and support. Do the lot in 160 days, or choose one of ten tantalising sections.

Continental Divide Trail, USA

Start/finish: Antelope Wells, New Mexico to Glacier NP, Montana

Length: 4,960km

Connect Canada and Mexico via 5,000km of backcountry walking along the north-south spine of the USA. The Continental Divide follows the Rocky Mountains, dissecting New Mexican badlands, the gold ghost-towns of Colorado, the geyser-spews of Wyoming and the granite massifs of Montana. The trail is only 70% usable (though some have walked its entirety); dip in – at Yellowstone National Park or the San Juan Mountains – for a fine taster.

Trans Canada Trail, Canada

Start/finish: St John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia

Length: 22,000km

Got a spare few years and a very sturdy pair of boots? The grand dame of grand rambles is an east-west traverse that also shoots north to take in Canada's Arctic reaches. It's a work in progress, currently comprising 400 mini trails in every province: chose from blueberry walks in Nova Scotia, gold-rush history in the Yukon – or do the whole lot...