Greatest Walks of the World



Karakoram Highway, Pakistan

What are the greatest nature walks in the world? Tasmania’s Three Capes Track? New Zealand’s Tongariro Crossing? It’s all subjective, of course.

(Personally, we love WA’s Bibbulmun Track.)

Well, now a new book has been published by avid hikers Stuart Butler and Mary Caperton Morton, called Greatest Walks of the World, (Exisle Publishing) full of great ideas for treks around the globe.

Stuart talks to The Starfish about his most memorable walks, glaciers and what he always takes with him on his hikes :


Where was your most recent hike, and what was it like? 

Well, the last few months have been difficult. I was going to go to Sweden and Norway to do some hiking there-  but then I broke my foot surfing and for a good while after that just ‘hiking’ to the other side of the kitchen was hard enough… I actually only did my first day and overnight hikes since breaking my foot a few days ago. Just up in the Pyrenees close to home.

You’re an avid hiker: tell us of some recent highlights?


Prior to breaking the foot, I did a fabulous one-week hike in northern Ethiopia. It was a community development project, where remote villages work as a co-operative to host hikers. It was an example of good community tourism. The scenery was superb.  After that I was in Nepal for a couple of weeks hiking up the remote Tsum Valley which is a beyul. In Tibetan Buddhist culture a beyul is a sacred, hidden valley, the location of which is only revealed to the spiritually pure at times when the world is under great stress. I think it’s fair to say that we can tick one of those boxes right now but the other one is a bit more debatable! While there, we explored a side valley which led to the north face of the Ganesh range, about which I’d been able to find very little advance information . Following that I was in Mallorca, hiking the northern mountains. Early summer in Mallorca is a fantastic time as you can combine hiking with beaches! Other than that, just lots of short hiking trips around the Pyrenees,  my favourite mountains, although I might be a bit biased as I live in the shadow of them. Later I’m planning on going to Ladakh in the Indian Himalaya to do a combination of hiking and looking for snow leopards who come lower down into the valleys in winter.


Chadar trek (The frozen Zanskar river trekking) during winter in Leh, Ladakh, Kashmir,India.


What’s something you always take with you on your hikes?

I wouldn’t entirely recommend it –  but I always take a lot of heavy camera equipment. Very heavy camera equipment! I really should just use the camera on my phone! I’m also a bit old fashioned and always have a proper paper hiking map and a compass. So few people seem to take those nowadays that I was once stopped in the mountains of Albania by a couple of younger hikers who were fascinated to see someone looking at a map. I should add to this that they were lost and I wasn’t…

Is it tempting to re-walk old favourites, or do you always seek to try new trails?

I try to always do new trails. Certainly long distance trails. But, there are a couple of Himalayan and French ones I have done at least twice.


Author Stuart Butler


Do you prefer hiking with others, or on your own?

That’s a hard one. I’m generally happy hiking alone if conditions are good. But, I do prefer to be with someone else for safety reasons. A lot of the time though, it can be hard to find someone available to go with. We go as a family when we can. But my kids are now 13 and 10 and they’re starting to make more of a fuss about it! When my son was nine he walked across the breadth of England with my wife and me.

Can you remember the hike that first inspired you to become a hiker?

I first did parts of the UK’s Southwest Coast Path with my dad when I was about 11 or 12. My first long distance hike alone was in Nepal when I was 19 and that was so long ago that I think there were probably still dinosaurs hiding in quiet valleys. It wasn’t  until I moved to the Pyrenees (which was just after the dinosaurs went extinct) that I really got interested in hiking. The Pyrenees are so incredibly diverse, unspoilt and beautiful that every hike there was like a big adventure. That’s still the case today.


Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire, England, UK


One of your personal favourite walks is along the grasslands of East Africa: please tell us about this?

Kenya is a fantastic area for walking; I’ve done a lot of day and multi-day hikes there over the years. Kenya is almost something of a second home to me.  The area going from the Loita Hills down to the grasslands of the Masai Mara and Serengeti offers some of the most memorable, unique hiking. The Loita Hills are very little known, even to Kenyans. The mountain tops are covered in dense tropical forest full of buffalo and monkeys. You start walking there and gradually descend down to the savannahs while passing through very traditional Maasai villages and ever changing scenery. There’s a wide variety of wildlife as well. You need a local guide because there’s no set route and because of the risk of bumping into an elephant or lion. Very few safari companies offer this trail. Nashulai Journeys ( is one that does.

I guess what puts some of us off hiking,  is not the walking itself, but the thought of roughing it at night,  sleeping out in the cold, or vying with strangers for space in poky huts.  Please dissuade us of this fear! Are there many destinations that are reasonably remote, yet also have simple lodgings along the way?

I’m totally with you on the dorm beds in huts and mountain refuges! I hate them, so will normally take a tent to sleep in but, if it’s a staffed refuge, then I will eat there to save carrying too much food. I actually enjoy the camping out at night and if you are in a hut or refuge then you can be sure of a good community spirit. Today there are quite a lot of trails as well where once simple mountain lodges now have hot showers and other little luxuries.


Mountain lake in the Aktru Valley in Altai.


Can you perhaps give us an example or two of an outstanding trail where there are lodgings with hot water etc to stay at along the way?

Pretty much anything in the Everest region of Nepal would fit this bill. Most lodges there have private rooms and there will normally be a hot shower available. Some will even provide hot water bottles! Another long route that would fit this bill would be the Camino de Santiago in Spain where there are lots of decent but cheap pilgrim accommodation options at the end of each days walk.

What’s an easy or moderate hike everyone has to do in their lifetime?

That’s a really hard one because it depends on each person’s interests and requirements. But, the Three Passes trek in the Everest area of Nepal offers unbelievable mountain scenery, a fair bit of challenge, good accommodation and food, a rich local culture and is quieter than the standard base camp route. That might just be the world’s most complete hike. If you are properly acclimatised and equipped for the cold then it’s not so hard.

Are any getting so popular, you no longer enjoy them so much?

I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t enjoy a hike because it’s too busy. On some trails – the Camino de Santiago, pilgrimage to the source of the Ganges etc, the other people on the trail are as much a highlight as anything else. The problem is more that if a trail is too busy then there can be too much erosion, too much development and too much pollution.


Mackinnon Pass, Milford track, New Zealand


Stuart, you must notice signs of environmental degradation along some of your favourite hikes.

I haven’t noticed this on one particular trail more than another but since Covid there seem to be more people in general on mountain trails and, unfortunately, this has led to a general increase in environmental degradation.

Are there some notable routes you’ve noticed that are starting to suffer from effects of climate change, pollution, etc?

Yes! Very much so. The most obvious is of course with shrinking glaciers. I see this everywhere. Even high in the Himalaya the glaciers are shrinking. I’ve sat with locals overlooking the glacial moraine and made comments about how impressive the glacier must have been 100 ago when it went all the way down the valley and the person I’m speaking to turns around and says something like, “100 years ago?! No, when I was a child it went all the way down that valley.”

Also, I see it very obviously at home in the Pyrenees. The glaciers are almost gone. I have hiking maps printed just a year or two ago and I’ve done routes expecting to cross a glacier – but it’s gone. The weather is crazy here right now. Last October it was still well above 30 degrees, I was on a mountain pass, looking at the glacier on Aneto, the biggest mountain in the Pyrenees. It should be have been covered in snow then but instead the glacier was smaller than just a year ago.



Greatest Walks of the World (Exile Publishing), $49.99, by Stuart Butler and Mary Caperton Morton, is out now. Available from