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...
Start/finish: Scotts Head to Cabrits
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.
Start/finish: Perge to Yalvac
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.
Start/finish: North Korea border to Cheonwang-bong
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.
Start/finish: Kalamunda to Albany
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...
Start/finish: Minehead to Poole
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.
Start/finish: Canterbury, UK to Rome, Italy
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.
Start/finish: Kanchenjunga to Humla
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.
Start/finish: Antelope Wells, New Mexico to Glacier NP, Montana
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.
Start/finish: St John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia
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...