“Here be dragons” read the ancient maps wherever a blank corner seemed big enough to hold the fabled creatures.
And for most of us, the dragons still roar. Sure, we know all about the incredible shrinking world. We know that there are only 6 degrees of separation between a Tibetan yak herder and Kevin Bacon, that the one can call the other on a cell phone. We read National Geographic monthly, Time weekly, and watch the world news nightly. Sitting there in the living room with a glass of wine in hand, we feel we know the world-until we actually consider packing the bags and hiking from Zanskar to Ladakh. Then butterflies flutter in our stomachs and dragons roar in our brains. Yes, the world is bigger than our favorite section of the Appalachian Trail. When we strike off for lands we’ve never seen, things take us by surprise. But that’s the way it should be because those surprises breed a fascination that lasts a lifetime.
To help you on your journey, we asked seven well-traveled backpacker types their thoughts on world-class backcountry outings anyone can take on a two- to three-week vacation. What follows are their 25 recommended hikes, all remarkably affordable if you do them on your own (save Antarctica), all highlighting the diversity of each continent, all complete with dragons.