Humans have been following some of the same walking and hunting trails for thousands of years.
Have you ever stopped to think about which of them are the oldest?
We did research to finding the oldest trails in the world and narrowed them down our eight favorite. What makes them our favorite? We were looking for the right combination of age, interesting locations, and historical importance, as well as geographic diversity.
You’ve got something new to add to your bucket list – trace the steps of ancient cultures and experience their life on ancient trails.
1. Samurai Trail (The Nakasendo Highway)
The “Samurai Trail” conjures images of sword-bearing Japanese warriors. They were known for frequenting this route between Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo) during Japan’s feudal times.
It is a well preserved, quiet journey through Alp-like mountains. The road itself follows the valleys, so it is mostly flat but will take you over a week to complete. This medieval road passes thriving post-towns where you can find hot Japanese tea, traditional futons and if the season is right, blossoming cherry trees.
2. Camino de Santiago – Camino Primitivo
You’ll want to pull out your trekking poles for this, well, trek. For centuries people have been preparing for and conquering the Camino Primitivo, the original way, along which King Alphonse “The Chaste” first completed the historical route to the revered sanctuary Santiago de Compostela.
This section of the pilgrimage stays true to the history and follows the rugged, natural coastline of Spain through the Cantabrian Mountains. A solitary hike that avoids main roads and cities, it offers a real pilgrimage where you can escape and experience a truly personal journey.
3. The Lost City Trek – Ciudad Perdida
About 650 years older than Machu Picchu, this Lost City is Colombia’s most coveted archaeological feature. Local tribes kept this beautifully constructed gem a precious secret for years before a group of looters discovered it in 1972.
Following this secret trek takes you through some of the most remote parts of the Sierra Nevada. The steepest obstacle: a moss-covered stairway, a tough ascent with a true treasure at the end. The sight from the top unveils the emerald green terraces of Ciudad Perdida hidden in lush, untouched forests.
4. Chilkoot Trail
The Chilkoot Trail is a through-way protected for centuries by the native Tlingit tribe. Finally discovered by gold prospectors in the 1880s, this trail offered a shorter, direct route to the Canadian interior where the gold rush was booming.
Ready to risk everything in their search for gold, these men braved the more precarious, steep mountain pass taking along with them one TON of supplies. It was a necessity for surviving the treacherous terrain and the frighteningly cold Canadian winters. What would you do for a Klondike Bar (of gold)? View the full history of the Chilkoot trail to dive deeper.
5. The Bundian Way
Charting the movement of Aboriginal tribes from thousands of years back is no easy feat. Fortunately, their dietary habits dug into the earth aeons of evidence of their annual patterns following food sources such as whales and Bogong moths.
The trail boomerangs back and forth, from the coastal city of Eden to Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia. With a plethora of outback animals to encounter, snaking along this trail will take you through some of the wildest parts of Australia.
6. The Lycian Way
The Lycian Way unites the footpaths, mule-trails and Roman roads used by the ancient people of Lycia. It is a demanding trek along the mountainous coastline of Turkey, with rewarding views of the Mediterranean water.
Here you can go back in time through centuries-old cities, historical sites and even down into the stunning Butterfly Valley a remote sanctuary for numerous species of these elegant creatures.
7. Tratturo Magno – Tratturo L’Aquila-Foggia
These various routes follow the Italian transumanza. A Latin word interpreted as “crossing of the land” that indicates the bi-annual migration of shepherds leading their sheep through Abruzzo pastures and valleys.
The trails, known as “tratturi” in Italy, lace softly through the countryside. Follow these well-trodden paths and meander through the quaint villages found along the way where you can refuel on some locally sourced wine and cheese.
8. The Ridgeway
This road has carried people for at least 5,000 years serving hunter-gathers, traders and knights alike. Along this ancient path are a string of ancient hill-forts and Neolithic monuments such as the White Horse at Uffington and other emblems from the Iron and Bronze Ages.
Retracing the steps of history from the top of the ridge, you can observe slow sloping hills, forlorn rocky features, and the mysterious grey, green English atmosphere. Unforgettable and almost magical, this meditative experience will transport you back in time.