Some provide a trek back in time through local history, while others take you through glacier-carved valleys and remote mountain passes that are welcoming some of their first human visitors. Avid hikers looking for bragging rights in 2020 would be remiss not to consider these seven long-distance hiking trails before word gets out.
1. Juliana Trail
The mountainous Balkan nation of Slovenia debuted the Juliana Trail in October 2019 in an attempt to get visitors to stay longer and visit more than just its capital Ljubljana and main tourist town of Bled. The 270km (168-mile) route begins at the adventure hub (and popular ski resort) of Kranjska Gora, near the Italian border, before looping around the Julian Alps past turquoise rivers and glacier-carved lakes. Divided into 16 stages, you can choose a shorter adventure or tackle the entire trail, sleeping in charming alpine villages along the way.
2. Red Sea Mountain Trail
Mainland Egypt’s first long-distance hiking path, the Red Sea Mountain Trail links a series of ancient trade routes into a single 170km (105-mile) circuit that takes an average of 10 days to complete. It was local Bedouin of the Maaza tribe who created the project, which officially opened to the public in January 2019. Trekkers brave enough to set off into this remote wilderness (typically with Bedouin guides and cameleers) will skirt vast plains, dip into deep gorges and summit barren peaks to visit crumbling Roman towns and prehistoric rock art. Smaller circuit trails are also possible at six separate hiking hubs along the path.
3. Liechtenstein Trail
Liechtenstein celebrated its 300th birthday in 2019 in a predictably grandiose way by crafting a 75km (47-mile) walking path where citizens and visitors alike could explore three centuries of local history. The Liechtenstein Trail twists over peaks and pastures on a route that takes in 147 sites in all 11 municipalities of this diminutive German-speaking principality, which is sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. The zigzagging north-south route takes about three days to complete with ascents of up to 2000m. Be sure to download the LIstory app before setting off to get the trail’s accompanying history lesions.
4. Paparoa Track
For the first time in 25 years, the Department of Conservation in New Zealand has added a new trail to its esteemed list of Great Walks. The 55km (34-mile) one-way Paparoa Track, which opened in December 2019, snakes into the rainforests of the South Island near the famed Pancake Rocks (a seaside limestone formation with ferocious blowholes). The freshly carved trail typically takes three days on foot – or two days on a mountain bike – with two well-appointed mountain huts breaking up the journey. Along the way, you pass moss-clad river gorges and hilltop lookouts with expansive views over the turquoise Tasman Sea.