Mountains of the Hatta Trails, Dubai

The world’s best walks

Whether you prefer rambling on mountain ridges or meandering across deserts, this selection of six epic walking routes should get you in the mood to dust off those hiking boots and hit a trail, wherever you are in the world

Dragon’s Back mountains, Hong Kong

For the ultimate urban amble: Dragon’s Back, Hong Kong

The Dragon’s Back has been voted Asia’s best urban walk – probably because it doesn’t feel very urban at all. Despite its location in one of the world’s most densely populated cities, only a 20-minute taxi ride from either of Mandarin Oriental’s two Hong Kong hotels in bustling Central, this trail feels like another, wilder world. From its start – a short climb from To Tei Wan on Shek O Road (which is accessible by taxi or Bus 9) – the path leads up to the 284m-high Shek O Peak and traces the ridge’s lushly forested spine, with majestic views of the rugged coast, offshore islands, hovering paragliders and distant skyscrapers. Stone steps lead down to the finish at Big Wave Bay, a golden sand beach beloved by surfers, and ideal for a post-hike dip.
Length: 8.5km
Difficulty: Moderate

Man hikes through mountain pass of the Hatta Trails, Dubai

For dashing about in the desert: Hatta Trails, Dubai

Southeast of Dubai up in the Hajar Mountains, Hatta offers a cool, inland escape from the city’s high-rise glitz. It’s well set up for walkers too: Hatta Wadi Hub has 35km of well-marked free-to-use trails (open from October to April) that range from easy to ‘severe’. Routes intersect, so can be easily combined and offer plenty of variety – some lead across soft sand, others negotiate rugged rock, skirt the blinding-blue dam, roll across sun-scorched foothills, drop to green oases or switch back higher for views into neighbouring Oman. After a day spent here exploring the dramatic desert peaks, cool off at Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai’s serene rooftop infinity pool for some well-earned downtime.
Length: 35km total
Difficulty: Easy to difficult depending on the trail

View of gardens with Lake Como in the background

For leg-stretching above the lake: Dorsale del Triangolo Lariano, Lake Como

The Dorsale links elegant Como and Bellagio in the most dazzling way. With an average altitude of 1,200m, the trail traces the ridge that splits Lake Como’s two southerly legs, with stunning views en route. At 30km, it’s rather long for one day but, with numerous spur paths leading back down to the lakeshore, it’s easy to do shorter sections – Pian del Tivano is about halfway. Ride the spectacular funicular from Lake Como to Brunate to start, or walk up from Torno to join the main path, following the red and white striped markers along old mule tracks and trails, via woodland and wildflower meadows, to Monte Bollettone, with the mighty Alps soaring all around.
Length: 30km total; shorter options possible
Difficulty: Moderate

Beach and spa huts of Mandarin Oriental, Canouan

For cool Caribbean views: Mount Royal, Canouan

Short but sweet, it takes only 45 minutes to climb the 267m-high Mount Royal, but there are few better ways to spend three-quarters of an hour than hiking to tiny Canouan’s highest point. The trail begins by the old casino and winds steeply and humidly through the forest. Amid the trees, look out for fruit bushes, orchids and spiky aloes, tree-climbing crabs and iridescent hummingbirds. To reach the true summit requires a scramble up craggy boulders, where breath-taking views north to Mustique await. Treat yourself to a well-deserved picnic at the top, before retreating to Base Camp rock, where a splendid smorgasbord of the southern Caribbean unfurls: the lush Grenadines, distant Grenada and glittering azure seas. After honing your fitness amid the mountain vistas, return to the hotel for a soothing spa treatment or moment of mediation.
Length: Around 2km
Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Bridges cross water at Maryland Heights trail

For an Appalachian taster: Maryland Heights Trail, near Washington, D.C.

The US capital is brimming with urban wildernesses for walkers – from the banks of the Potomac River to the woodland of Rock Creek Park. But for nature on a grander scale, a day trip to Harpers Ferry takes around 70 minutes by car from Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C.. This National Historic Park tucked below the Blue Ridge Mountains is a stop-off on the mighty 3,500km Appalachian Trail and the starting point for more manageable hikes. The Maryland Heights Trail begins by the information centre, crosses the river, follows the old canal towpath and makes a rocky climb, via forts, trenches and other Civil War relics, to a magnificent lookout over the town and the mountains beyond.
Length: 7km and 10.5km options
Difficulty: Moderate

Raised paths appear from the trees canopy at the Southern Ridges, Singapore

For birdwatching amid the tower blocks: Southern Ridges, Singapore

Buzzing metropolis, yes, but Singapore is also known as the ‘Garden City’. With its vast network of parks and green spaces flush with fresh air, it’s packed full of adventure for urban hikers. Try an easy route along the Southern Ridges for brilliant birdwatching. From HarbourFront MRT Station, head up the Marang Trail to Mount Faber, via saga trees and squawking drongos. Cross the rippling Henderson Waves bridge to enter the Forest of Giants, where huge native tualang and jelutong grow. Beyond lies Telok Blangah Hill Park and a canopy walkway, bringing you nose-to-beak with sunbirds and bulbuls. Finally, veer south to Labrador Nature Reserve, where World War II remnants mix with rocky shores, mangrove forest and a cacophony of birds.
Length: 10km
Difficulty: Easy

Man running through New York's Central Park at dawn

The world’s best running spots

From New York to Hong Kong, running coach and author Sam Murphy rounds up the best locations for running worldwide