Everest, of course, is the highest summit you can reach on Earth. But even with its traffic jams because of a high number of permits issued, it’s still an arduous climb reserved for an elite subset of adventurers. These climbs, while still challenging, are more within reach.
The iconic summit in Tanzania rises more than 19,000 feet above sea level, making the dormant volcano the highest peak in Africa. It’s high enough to maintain glaciers and snowfall despite its position quite close to the equator, although sadly climate change is causing the glaciers to recede. From the ground, you might be lucky enough to see giraffes or elephants going about their business in the shadow of the mountain, blissfully unaware of the effort it takes to get to the top. Once you do, though, the panoramic views and sense of accomplishment make it all worth it.
The hike is one you can do in a day, but the experience will stay with you forever. It’s about 17 miles round trip through Norwegian fjordland. There is plenty of beauty on the way, but the real showstopper is the slab of granite jutting out from a mountain about 2,300 feet over a lake. Trolltunga translates to “troll’s tongue,” and the formation is about as Instagrammable as they come. For this reason, visitors to Trolltunga have come in droves over the last few years, so you might have to wait for your turn to walk out onto the rock. But you can’t beat that view.
Franz Josef Glacier
A guided ice walk or heli-hike lets visitors get on top of this glacier descending from the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island. Down in the valley below, there are rainforests to trek through, with waterfalls and lakes to reward your efforts. On the glacier, there are ice formations to marvel, and walls of ice for novices and experts alike to climb. If you need a bigger, you can skydive from a height of 20,000 feet to see the entire system of glaciers about 12 miles off the coast of the Tasman Sea.
Official trails up Japan’s iconic mountain are open from early July to mid-September, though you might want to avoid the Buddhist Obon festival in mid-August when the sacred mountain gets very crowded. Still, the trek up the more than 12,000 feet up Fuji is a communal experience renowned for the friendliness of the people you meet along the way. The hike is not so difficult that beginners should not make the attempt, though things get steep and windy on the approach to the summit. If you want to see the sunrise, a night in a mountain hut near the peak is allows for a once in a lifetime sight.
It might not be the quickest way to Machu Picchu, but it sure is the most interesting. Three different routes let trekkers choose from a one-day stroll to a four- or five-day sojourn through the jungle and other lesser-known monuments of the Inca civilization. Altitudes top 13,000 feet at several points, and you’ll run across ruins far less crowded than Machu Picchu. You still get to see the most famous of Inca settlements, arriving way before the crowds and in time to see the sunrise at the Sun Gate with a fuller understanding of the society that built it.