While the heavy hitters of the walking and trekking world steal all the glory, some of the world’s finest hikes remain hidden in obscurity. But being overlooked, these lesser-known treks keep their quiet, sometimes remote, secrets from the casual observer. Get a taste for the unusual with our all-singing, all-dancing guide to the trekking world’s most deserving Unsung Heroes…
You know: The French Alps
Then try: The Julian Alps
The Julian Alps are dictionary definition underdogs, despite their sky scraping peaks. Virtually unheard of beyond the Slovenian border, this mountain range offers some of the most dramatic escarpments in Europe. The lowlands provide all the traditional alpine meadows, lush green hillsides sprinkled liberally with pretty wildflowers, but each ascent is a step into an increasingly barren moonscape, an intense and theatrical terrain. The optional non-technical ascent of Mt. Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia, involves an exhilarating combination of scrambling and via ferrata.
“The Julian Alps is a hidden gem for avid trekkers”
Neil Kimberley, Exodus client
“Anyone who likes walking in carboniferous limestone areas will love the Julian Alps. In addition to the usual alpine forests, meadows and exposed cols and peaks there are some wonderful, unusual lakes and the ridge walks were outstanding.”
John Lister, Exodus client
You know: Nepal
Then try: Bhutan
Nepal is rumoured to be the Shangri-La of trekking, yet it is neighbouring Bhutan that remains a kingdom shrouded in mystery and high Himalayan clouds. The tremendous peaks, plenty of which scrape the sky at over 7000 metres, are accessible only on foot and Bhutan offers some of the most spectacular trekking in the world, on unobtrusive paths untrodden by tourists for many years. Threading through these mountains you’ll pass monastic outcrops, tiered buildings and grouped stupas clinging to the cragged ridges of the landscape. The bright and boisterous festivals have the breath-taking advantage of taking place against this backdrop: a rainbow of dance and drama exploding into the lush valleys and gorges.
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“A brilliant trip combining landscapes and culture. The trek wasn't easy at altitude but worth it!”
Louisa Lewis, Exodus client
You know: The Inca Trail
Then try: The Moonstone Trek
The Inca Trail, one of the most iconic trips on Earth – and it’s getting more attention every year. With the Peruvian government restricting daily numbers to 500 permit-carrying trekkers and their guides there’s no better time to head off the beaten track – especially if you’re planning a late getaway. No permits or red tape restrict the much quieter Moonstone Trek, which is an option on a number of our Peruvian adventures. Trek across the altiplano plateau, far from the tourist sites, visiting the remote Inca ruins along this higher Andean route, passing tiny villages and overlooked by glaciated peaks.
“You still get a full day to enjoy the famous, well photographed and ever-popular Machu Picchu, you just get there a different, less-travelled way!” Our trekking expert Dave Richardson sings the praises of this unsung hero: Moonstone Trek
You know: Kilimanjaro
Then try: Mt Kenya
Forgo the bragging rights of Kili and Mt Kenya is one of the most beautiful mountains in Africa. The second tallest, it boasts an incredible range of life you won’t find on Kilimanjaro’s scree slopes, including 11 species unique to this mountain. Follow the Burguret route, a wild pathway frequented by more elephants or Colobus monkeys than people, ascending quickly through the bamboo. Summiting by moonlight is an eerie, otherworldly experience, even with a strong head torch, but watching the sunrise over Kenyan plains is insurmountably beautiful.
“For an 8 day trip, this was a real adventure… a panorama of people, animals, the Kenyan landscape and East Africa.”
Matthew Handford, Exodus client
“An ideal trip, especially if you fancy a challenge and something different but can only get away for a week. Group members who had done Kili recently felt that overall this was a more demanding trek but also a more rewarding one because of the splendour and variety of the scenery.”
Many assume Morocco means souks and bazars, but the High Atlas shimmers in silence, only a few Berbers in sight. These mountains share their name with Atlas, the mythical giant who held up the skies. Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, hits above the 4,000m mark, and each winter the ascent is draped in drifts of snow. So although the climb itself is non-technical, there is still the ‘gripping’ challenge of crampons and ice axes.
As your pre-dawn alarm goes off, it's still pitch black outside, but if you're lucky the night sky is glowing with stars. The only sound once you set off is the snow crunching under your crampons and the occasional braying mule. Your breath crystallises each time your exhale as you follow the well-marked zig-zag route and start the climb up towards the summit. You concentrate on moving steadily upwards - the gradient's not too steep, but you can certainly feel the effects of the altitude. As you crest the summit, the sun's first rays should be lighting up the surrounding mountains. You’re now standing on the highest point in North Africa.
Olly Townsend, Exodus Operations & Leader Manager
“I have to rate this as one of my best, of many, Exodus Trips. Like all good Tagines, it had all the right ingredients to be a success, and it really was. The itinerary, weather, group members, the guides, food , transport were all amazing.”
Dave Grogan, Exodus client
You know: The Dolomites
Then try: The Matterhorn
For anyone who thrills at the serrated angles of the Dolomites, then the Swiss splendour of the Matterhorn is the natural next step. This Toblerone triangle dominates the horizon, whether framed by balcony windows in a Zermatt hotel, towering above the trails or reflected in ripples across Riffelsee Lake. Crenelated peaks, with their jagged shadows creeping like demonic horns – trekking the Matterhorn is a spine-tingling experience.
If Chamonix is your idea of perfection à la pied, get a natural high between Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn as you trek 100km through seven alpine passes and past 10 of the 12 highest mountains in the Alps.
“The scenery is wonderful. Glaciers, blue sky and superb views of the Matterhorn from different altitudes at different times of the day. Somehow the very sight of the Matterhorn is inspirational.”
John Griffin, Exodus client