Solo female travel isn't a new trend—in fact, it's been happening for as long as humans have been traveling. But even though it's 2017, because of concerns about safety, some women forgo their dreams of a Wild-like experience. However, as anyone who's climbed Everest Base Camp, through the jungles in Ciudad la Perdida, or along the Inca trail with nothing but a backpack know, these are amongst the most fulfilling, life-altering, and gratifying trips you could ever take. Here, five challenging and breathtaking hikes run by the most reputable tour companies in the world.
Ciudad la Perdida
Situated in Colombia's staggering Sierra Nevada mountains, flanked by verdant jungles, rushing river rapids, and local Wiwa villages is Ciudad la Perdida, or the Lost City. An archeological site discovered in the late 1970s by a few intrepid explorers, this sprawling hilltop city dates back to about 800 C.E. and is 650 years older than Macchu Picchu. The hike to this mystical and terraced site takes about seven days to complete and the best (and most affordable) tour is this one with G Adventures. You'll start in the small town of Machete Pelao and will walk about 4–8 hours a day up the extremely steep and slippery Sierra Nevada mountains. Accommodations are provided, but mind you—they're basic. (Think hammocks and hard wooden bunk beds.) However, the food provided by local villagers is hearty and delicious, giving you the energy you need to plow through the sometimes 45-degree inclines. This grueling hike isn't for the faint of heart, but the views of the cloud forests, rivers, and thick grassy meadows make every (sometimes painful) step worth it.
Everest Base Camp and Annapurna
The ultimate bucket-list trek for almost any hiker, Everest Base Camp is also one of the hardest. Ranging from 15–30 days with trails weaving around the astonishing Himalayan mountains, past sparkling crystal blue lakes, and through Nepalese villages, it's also one of the most beautiful in the world. There are different options when it comes to Everest Base Camp, but adventure-based tour group Intrepid Travel provides some of the most enthralling. If you're looking for something highly challenging but equally picturesque, opt for the 16-day Annapurna Explorer, which will guide you through some of the Himalayas' most impressive snow-capped peaks, misty valleys, and isolated communities. Note: This trek involves 11 days walking at 5,000 meters above sea level. For serious hikers, they offer Everest Base Camp & Gokyo Lakes, a 19-day hike to the base of Everest that wraps around the snowy glaciers and ice-blue Gokyo lakes. This hike takes you 5,500 meters above sea level and will have you on your feet 5–8 hours a day.
The Pacific Crest Trail
Stretching from Mexico to Canada over 2,000 miles, the Pacific Crest Trail is, arguably, one of the most cumbersome trails in North America. Although the trail has been on the bucket list for adrenaline junkies for years, it recently gained massive notoriety due to the success of Cheryl Strayed's novel Wild and the movie adaption starring Reese Witherspoon. The trail is no walk in the park and traverses some of the U.S. and Canada's toughest terrain, including the hot and barren Mojave Desert, the snowy and icy peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the staggeringly high Mount Rainer, and the uneven and wildlife-populated valleys and gorges of Yosemite National Park. As empowering and life-affirming this hike can be, it's also a huge undertaking: You can't trek the entire 2,000+ miles in fewer than 7–9 months, which means it's only applicable to women who can make the time commitment.
Torres del Paines
Located in the southernmost tip of the world, Chilean Patagonia's beauty is beyond words—it's simply a place one must see to believe. For unrivaled views of Torres del Paine, along with guided hikes, all-inclusive meals, and a very comfortable bed, stay at Explora. The Lodge sits in the middle of the Torres del Paine National Park and faces the "centerpiece" of the park, the breathtaking Cordillera del Paine mountains. With more than 50 hikes to choose from, including the physically demanding 8-hour trek to Cordilleria's "horn" mountain peaks and the French Valley, there are never-ending ways to enjoy the natural beauty. Plus, the lodge offers horseback riding through the valley for a more leisurely way to enjoy the park's incredible beauty. If you're on a tighter budget, you can set up camp all around the park for next to nothing, which will give you a great chance to mingle with other hikers.
Although this hike, which takes you through Hawaii's astonishing Ne'Pali Coast, is only 11 miles (compared to the 39 miles to Everest Base Camp), that doesn't mean it's easy. The Kalalau Trail traverses through five deep and dipping valleys, through towering sea cliffs, and along sandy and rocky beaches of Hanakapi'ai and Kalalau, and can take around two days (depending on the weather). The views from the top of the highest part (664 feet) are magnificent, with lush green mountains flanked by blue water, rich jungles, and winding trees and speckles of bright flowers. If you're not too tuckered out by the eleventh mile, hike an extra two and uncover the cascading Hanakapi'ai Falls, where you can jump in for a much-needed dip. Get yourself used to the elevation with some day treks near the beginning of the trail in Kauai, such as the 2-mile-long Nounou trail or the Kuku trail, which takes you down 2,000 feet into the Waimea Canyon floor.