Walking Human History: A History of the World in 60 Walks

History is seldom as vivid as when you are walking through it. And walking is never as resonant as when it is through an area rich in remains or murmuring of great events and emotions.

So, we have started writing a book on Walking Human History: a History of the World in 60 Walks. This is a huge, daunting but fascinating project. We have done a lot of thinking and research, and have so far identified the following LONG-LIST walks that may qualify for the book. See below.

We are conscious that we have not yet fully represented the importance of India or the rise of the Islamic world, or Russia or South America, and that we have a lot of thinking still to do.

Our community has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and we would love to hear from you with your views on:

  • Our longlist, and your recommendations for any walks we should be considering for inclusion.
  • What do you think of our structure and categories for the book, as evidenced in our longlist? We want to achieve a good representation of different eras, events and geographical areas. What are your views on how we could do this better?
  • We want to strike a balance between great walking and great history, finding the walks that best combine the two. Do you think we are on the right track?

GIVE YOUR COMMENTS We will credit the best suggestions in the book. We may quote from choicely worded contributions. [SEE COMMENTS SO FAR]

We aim to have written this good by mid 2014, so we are seeking your comments by the end of March 2014.


Longlist of walks for Walking World History

(Walks marked with 'star' are frontrunners)

Early human history (Dawn to 2,000BC)

  • Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania: with two million years of settlement, this really is one of mankind's nurseries
  • Walking safari, Hlhluwe - imfolzi, South Africa: out in the bush, you can imagine the exposed and fearful existence of our forebears, the wild world before we got at it
  • Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia: circuit this great mass of orange rock, the Aboriginal sites at its base giving clues as to how early life might have been - we ask our cummunity's viuews on whether there is a better outback wander (maybe in Kakadu or the Jatbula Trail) for these purposes
  • Kalahari desert, Botswana: the bushmens' ancient way of life is still very much with us
  • The Ridgeway, UK: examine the hill forts, barrows, chalk sculptures and stone circles of the early Britons along this 5,000 year old route
  • The Golden Road, Preseli Hills, Wales, UK: an antiquity-scattered track across the hills from which they dragged Stonehenge's great slabs from
  • Col des Morts / Gt St Bernard Pass, Switzerland / Italy: ancient trade and pilgrimage route (Via Francigena) across the Alps
  • Brittany Megaliths and Circles, France: community question: do you consider that there are sufficiently thrilling walks here to deserve inclusion?

The ancient world (2000BC to 600 AD)

Ancient Mediterranean world

  • To the Valley of the Kings, Egypt: cross low desert hills to reach this great historical site
  • Mt Olympus, Greece home of the Greek gods, but a tough walk and frequently cloudy when you get there. Amazing views on a good day
  • Crater Rim, Santorini, Greece: gaze over the vast sea-filled hole left when Thera exploded, wiping out the Minoan civilization of Crete
  • Rome, Italy: walk round the wreckage of empire and the home of Big Religion and Grand Art
  • Pompeii, Italy: walk through this small city destroyed in Vesuvius' cataclysmic eruption in 79AD
  • Hadrian's Wall, UK: walk in gorgeous countryside beside the magnificent and inspiring remains of Roman emperor Hadrian's great northern border-barrier
  • German Limes, Germany: follow the line of the Roman defences against the barbarians of the forests: not all that much left, but atmospheric nonetheless [exclude]
  • Lycian Way, Turkey: a dramatic coastal trail that visits the towns of this rich Roman province, passing the tombs of the mysterious Lycians and the fabled chimaera permanent flame
  • Petra, Jordan: Walk into and around the outlying sites of one of the finest archaeological and anthropological sites in the world
  • Cappadocia, Turkey: troglodytic underground churches, monasteries, cities even, all in an extraordinary eroded landscape
  • Palmyra, Jordan: a vast, amazingly preserved oasis-city in the desert of eastern Jordan
  • Mt Sinai, Egypt: climb from ancient St Katherine's Monastery to the peak of this Biblical mountain
  • Q'adisha Valley, Lebanon: dramatic gorge with Christian "desert father" hermitages and chapels dug into its often sheer walls valley

Early Asia

  • Frankincense land, Oman: the mountains and gorges of this former centre of international trade
  • Susa, Persepolis or other great site, Iran or Iraq: we are considering whether there are any great-enough walks here: all recommendations welcome
  • Plain of Jars, Laos: wander a plain laid with huge, mysterious, ancient stone jars - and carpet-bombed during the Vietnam War
  • Great Wall, China: the world's longest, and probably biggest, building project - but it never kept serious invaders out for long. Wonderfully atmospheric once you escape the crowds
  • Tai Shan, China: sacred Taoist mountain where the emperor came to sacrifice at New Year
  • Kong Lin (Confucian Forest), China: wooded memorial-park outside Qufu, Confucius' home town
  • Chota Char Dham, India: the greatest and oldest extant Hindu pilgrimage trail, in the Gharwal Himalaya. Overcrowded in high season
  • India: we are still researching other walks in India that relate to this period - all community suggestions welcome
  • Rice terraces, Banaue, Philippines, or elsewhere in Asia (Bali? China?): these terraces cascading down hillsides demonstrate mankind's growing ability to control nature, and thus to expand and develop

Middle ages (600-1400 AD)

Medieval west

  • Iona, Scotland/St Cuthbert's Way, Scotland/NE England: explore this lonely outpost, and appreciate by what a slender thread western Christianity survived in the Dark Ages
  • Offa's Dyke, Wales/England, UK: Follow the course of this dark-ages defensive line across the gorgeous hills of the Welsh-English border
  • Mount Athos, Greece: rough monastic peninsula which has harboured surviving pockets of a lost Byzantine world
  • Moorish Spain: we are considering whether there is a great walk which gets the walker deep into this fascinating world: all recommendations welcome
  • Camino de Santiago, Spain: the greatest of all European pilgrimage trails, a web of pathways converging across Europe to the city of Santiago de Compostela, supposedly the resting-place of St James
  • Via Francigena: great and ancient pilgrimage route from the Alps to Rome passing through lovely and classic Italian countryside
  • Mont Saint Michel pilgrimage walk, France: crossing vast tidal sands on a dramatic, evanescent and risky walk
  • Pilgrim's Way, England, UK: follow in the spirit if not the exact steps of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales' pilgrims
  • Sentier Cathar, France: the heretic Cathars were persecuted into oblivion, the Inquisition created for their eradication. Walk the quiet ways that linked their strongholds, and then on their escape route across the Pyrenees
  • Ancient Routes, Georgia: walk between ancient towns and citadels in this beautiful, mountainous but turbulent region
  • Venice, Italy: the world's most beautiful and romantic city, belying its ruthless and sometimes cruel past
  • Cotswold Way, UK: the rise of wool prosperity: mellow medieval churches, castles and homesteads along the meltingly pretty Costwold escarpment
  • St Olav Trail, Norway: medieval pilgrimage trail to the tomb of Norway's first Christian king, St Olaf, and a major route through Norway for centuries, travelled by most of Norway's medieval and early modern kings.

Asia's first prime, the rise of Islam

  • Dunhuang area, China: fragments of Great Wall, forts, canyons, dunes and ancient villages around one of the Silk Road's greatest sites
  • Misfat Al Abreen, Oman: irrigation systems and gardens in an inhospitable landscape
  • Tsaparang ruins, Tibet, China: climb through the remains of an early Tibetan capital to its dramatically sited citadel, in a wide canyon of the upper Indus
  • Emei Shan and/or other sacred Buddhist mountains, China: climb ancient steps up this huge, sheer-cliffed limestone excrescence of the Tibetan mountains. Main paths are now crowded
  • City walls, Xi'an, China: Get a feel for the scale of the Tang capital, the greatest city in the world in its time, walking along its massive Ming Dynasty walls
  • Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan: lovely, fortified caravanserai and the high Tianshan Silk Road
  • Istanbul, Turkey: walk through the “other” greatest city of the Mediterranean
  • Hangzhou, China: lakeside beauty of Southern Song dynasty capital. The origin of willow pattern china - export trade
  • Altai Mountains, Mongolia: the great grasslands and mountains of Genghis Khan's heartlands
  • Isfahan, Iran or Damascus, Syria: walk through Islam's rising glory: mosques, monuments and winding streets. Community views sought - we think that these won't make the final “cut” as being insufficiently fine as walks: comments welcome
  • Angkor, Cambodia: wander through this great Asian site, home of vast Hindu and Buddhist temples and other monuments
  • Bagan, Myanmar: an early or late stroll through this great Asian site, home of vast Buddhist temples, stupas and other monuments
  • Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto, Japan: walk this hallowed route among the great Buddhist temples and gardens of Kyoto
  • Siguriya, Sri Lanka: once a royal palace, then a monastery, now a much-visited world heritage site: a vast column of rock rising vertically for nearly 200m
  • India: we are still researching other walks in India that relate to this period - all suggestions welcome
  • Huangshan, China: classic, dramatic, sheer-sided, misty Chinese mountains sprinkled with pavilions and decorated by twisted little pines, long a destination for thinkers and painters

Americas

  • Easter Island, Chile: walk between the great moai statues standing gazing eternally out to the restless pacific
  • Mayan Ruins, Mexico: the massive sites of this sophisticated yet terrible civilization
  • Canyon de Chelly, USA: dramatic smooth-sides canyon with ancient pueblo dwellings high up its side
  • Cuidad Perdida, Colombia: a multi-day trek to this lost city recently found in deep jungle

The world expands-or does it shrink? (1400-1800 AD)

Western Awakenings

  • Levadas, Madeira, Portugal: great irrigation channels around the sides of this dramatic volcanic Atlantic island
  • Sentiero degli Dei, Italy: the humane beauties of the rocky Amalfi coast
  • Versailles, France / Schönbrunn, Vienna / Peterhof, St Petersburg, Russia: community views sought: which of these (if any) is a great enough "walk" to make the grade - our current view is that, whilse marvellous, they won't make the final cut
  • Blenheim Park, UK: a valley remodelled into fabulous parkland for a victorious new duke's embellishment
  • Vineyard Walk, France or Italy: Burgundy/Alsace/Piedmont - the culture and history of wine in a deeply civilised area: we are considering: any recommendations?
  • Croaghpatrick, Ireland: pilgrimage climb up a rocky Irish mountain with lovely views
  • Pindos Mountains, Greece or Accursed Mountains, Albania: the mule trails, bridges and remote lives of the Balkans. Byron woz 'here.
  • West Highland Way, Scotland, UK: walk through iconic Scottish scenery and a history of instability and rebellion, much of the time on old drovers' roads
  • Cairngorms, or other drover roads, Scotland: ancient cattle-driving routes across heather-clad hillsides and glens of Scotland's central Highlands
  • Mare a Mare Nord, Corsica, France: the wild mountain brigandries of Napleon's birthplace
  • Stour Valley, England, UK: walk the still-lovely valley which inspired many of Constable's greatest paintings

Africa/Middle East

  • Atlas Mountains, Morocco: Berber culture/castles/irrigation and agriculture, fierce independence in a colonial world
  • Cape Peninsula and Table Mountain, South Africa: exploration and colonial expansion - and special vegetation in the world's smallest floral kingdom

Americas/Caribbean

  • Inca Trails, Peru and Ecuador: you can still follow the sophisticated network of carefully built trails which linked the cities of the Inca heartlands, and continued to operate in secret for decades after the Spanish conquest
  • Isla del Sol and Cocacabana, Bolivia: ancient pilgrimage route on glorious lake Titicaca
  • Silver Trail, Copper Canyon, Mexico: a Spanish colonial route to the silver mines deep in this vast canyon complex
  • Cockpit Country, Jamaica: the impossible karst hills-and-holes where slaves fled and established an independent life.
  • Freedom Trail, Boston, USA: stroll along the streets of Boston, visiting historic sites from the American War of Independence
  • Pitons, St Lucia: glorious views from sheer hillsides on this island which was strategically important and fought over in colonial times

Asia

  • Mt Kailash Kora, Tibet, China: ancient pilgrimage circuit around this beautiful 22,000ft mountain in the wilds of western Tibet: probably Walkopedia's best walk in the world
  • Tibet's monastery koras, China: thrilling and moving sacred circumambulations of Tibet's most holy places
  • Zanskar or Markha Valley, Ladakh or Jomolhari trek, Bhutan: the spread of Buddhism and trans-Himalayan trade
  • Nakasendo Way, Japan: walk along well-preserved stretches of the ancient highway between Tokyo and Kyoto
  • Shikoku pilgrimage or Omine San, Japan: pilgrimages in the hills and mountains of Japan
  • Mt Fuji, Japan: climb Japan's iconic sacred mountain
  • Mustang, Nepal: - the bed of the primordial Tethys Sea thrown 14,000ft high by the impact of India hitting Asia, and an ancient trans-Himalayan trade route. Walkopedia's second best walk
  • Tea Plantations Walk: we are researching the best tea plantation walk - community recommendations sought
  • Torajaland, Sulawesi, Indonesia: spread of Christianity to remote places: brotherly love meets headhunting

19th Century

  • Waterloo Battlefield, Belgium: wander the site of one of Europe's greatest battles and the final death of Napoleon's ambitions. Probably not interesting enough as a “walk” to make to final cut
  • The Lake District, UK: supreme walking in beautiful landscape, beloved by Wordsworth and Coleridge
  • Lewis and Clark Trail, USA: trek across the United States on this 4,600 mile trail commemorating Lewis and Clark's famous/infamous 1804-6 expedition
  • Mount Snowdon, Wales, UK: early mining tracks in gorgeous landscape - but so popular at good times of year, the experience is dulled
  • Sixfoot Track, Blue Mountains, Australia: the first pioneers' route west from Sydney and through the cliffs of the Blue Mountains
  • Lord Howe Island, Australia: beautiful but grim prison-island where misbehaving British convicts were sent
  • Crimea, Russia: we don't think there is a sufficiently recognised “walk” to merit inclusion (e.g. the route of the Charge of the Light Brigade): all community input welcome
  • Gettysberg, USA: walk the fields of the most terrible battle of the Civil War
  • Nez Perce National Trail, USA: - follow a tribe's route as they tried to escape army/settler pursuit
  • Trail of Tears, USA: the westward route of displaced Native Americans
  • Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania: beautiful but scene of an infamous cordon and roundup of Aborigines
  • Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, Massif Central, France: follow in the footsteps of the author of Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes
  • Galapagos Islands: Darwin and evolutionary theory in these untouched (if heavily touristed) islands
  • Trollheimen/Reisa, Norway: inspiriation to the Nordic poetic imagination
  • Fugitives' Trail, South Africa: the escape route of the few survivors of the Zulu massacre of British imperial forces Ishandlhwana
  • Overland Track, Tasmania, Australia: the pioneer's struggle with the elements and a beautiful but difficult world
  • Hunza, Pakistan: resistance to colonial “Great Game” expansion by this fierce mountain kingdom over the mountains from Afghanistan
  • Chilkoot Trail, USA/Canada: - C19 prospectors' trail from the coast to the Klondike in the Yukon interior
  • Mt St Victoire, France: Cézanne's mountain, a motif he returned to again and again
  • Appalacian Trail : the beginnings of conservation consciousness in the rugged and mostly forested mountains of the eastern USA

20th Century to present

Horror and growing pains

  • Shackleton's Crossing, South Georgia: while this is an extraordinary walk in a harshly dramatic scenery, it is probably too inaccessible and too tough for our final list
  • Wadi Rum, Jordan: dramatic red sandstone desert towers, buttes and cliffs which were used as a base by TE Lawrence (of Arabia); his Seven Pillars of Wisdom are a local formation
  • Dolomites, Italy: arguably the world's most beautiful mountains were a little-known but brutal high-level WWI battleground: the famous via ferrata cliff-face cableways beloved of modern adrenalin-junkies date from these struggles
  • Somme Battlefields, France: you will weep as you tread gentle farmland that was the scene of senseless WWI carnage
  • Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey: walk the hillsides bitterly fought over by brave ANZACs and their courageous Turkish enemies in a bloody WWI sideshow
  • The Long March, China: you can still walk some of the routes of Mao's communists great escape from Kuomintang entrapment in South China
  • Berchtesgaden, Germany: Nazi ‘playground' in gorgeous wilderness - and the Eagle's Nest
  • Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea: this trail follows and commemorates a horrible WW2 campaign between the Japanese and Allies in the jungle and mountains of south-west PNG
  • Normandy beaches, France: walk the scene of the bloody, heroic D-Day landings
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Japan: heartrending and thoughtful park built on the epicentre of the first atomic bomb
  • Japanese or Nazi death march: any community suggestions? Thai - Burma 'River Kwai' Railway
  • Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia: there aren't yet enough formal trails to justify inclusion of this network of paths used by the communists during the Vietnam war to move with relative impunity to near vital US/South Vietnamese sites - but does our community see it differently?

The modern era

  • Cares Gorge, Picos de Europa, Spain: - walk through incredible gorge on hyro-electric channel cut into the cliff-face
  • The Highline, New York, USA: a different perspective on the 20th Century's greatest city, from a disused elevated railway line
  • Everest base camp, Nepal: trek to the foot of the mountain that has captured the imagination and taken so many lives over the last century
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia: view this iconic cityscape as you cross the harbour on the giddy central curve of this vast and innovative steel bridge
  • Freedom Marches, USA: follow the route of marches that helped bring about the end of racial segregation
  • The Peak, Hong Kong: walk round this steep mountaintop for a stunning panorama across the “Fragrant Harbour”, currently the world's most thrilling city

More information

Walking Human History: A History of the World in 60 Walks leads the reader on a grand tour of human history, meandering through 60 of the most resonant places, learned but light-footed and never pedestrian (sorry). It will intrigue and delight a wide range of readers, from weatherbeaten hikers to armchair historians, with its magnificent walks and historical and cultural coverage.

It gathers the most interesting and telling possible selection of walks, which get inside events or people that shaped the world, or shine a light on crucial periods, and which strike a balance between different eras, parts of the world and types of event.

We intent that this book will contain 60 great walks, with a chapter of 1,000-1,500 words devoted to each of them. Each chapter will include some practical tips.

We are considering including, as an appendix, a fuller list of walk as The History of the World in 100 Walks, which will include short (2-line) descriptions of each walk.

Please leave your comments below




Comments received

Name: Calum
Posted on: 28/10/2013
That is a fabulous list. You've incorporated most of my favourites, but here's a couple of lily-gilding suggestions. 


 Middle East: 1) Masada in Israel, a huge elevated fortress which the Romans laboured mightily to capture. Very scenic, and with a dramatic and emotional story. 2) I'm not sure where it would be, but I bet there is a walk which would show the land that was taken from the Palestinians and given to Israel, in the move to assuage European guilt over the Holocaust which ended up created the running sore that continues to plague the Middle East and hence the whole world. 

MesoAmerica: You could divide the MesoAmerican into its three phases: pre-Classic (Olmecs etc around Veracruz, and / or the unknown civilisation that created Teotihuacan near Mexico City), Classic (Palenque or Tikal in the highland rain forest would be the obvious ones), and post-Classic (the Puuc Trail in the desert lowlands of Yucatan, and the Aztecs in Mexico City).

Name: Kateclow
Posted on: 01/06/2014
Not enough ancient history - too much emphasis on the west. Have a look at our site www.cultureroutesinturkey.com for a few to add. Certainly the Abraham Trail, which includes Göbekli Tepe, believed to be the first site where permanent settlement occurred. 10,000BC. You also need the Hittites. İslam - the Evliya Çelebi way - follows an Ottoman adventurer who travelled for 40 yrs mainly within this huge empire (which was larger than the Roman empire and lasted longer). This trail is likely to be expanded into the Black Sea countries. St Nicholas Way - group of daywalks around the birthplace of St Nicholas aka Father Christmas. Turkey was the bridge between Africa, Asia and Europe and all of civilisation passed thru' here. And definitely something to commemorate what Stalin did to the peoples of the Soviet Union - a Georgian trail?  


Walkopedia says "Thanks to the great Kate Clow, creator of the Lycian Way!"

Name: dick handscombe
Posted on: 31/12/2013
1.Sienna to Florence through the Chianti hills ...moderate...an interesting one week walk....used a guide issued by Explore walking holidays. 2. See our 52 day travelogue 'Adventure along the Spanish Pyrenees - Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea. Natures alternative to the busy Santiago de Compostella Route'. Now on Amazon....Strenuous ..I did when 61. Walkopedia says: Thank you, Dick.

Give your suggestions and views.

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