Eleven of the world's best walks you can do in one day

Well planned one-day walks can be a spectacularly rewarding experience.

You don't have to walk for days or have the back strength of Atlas to see some of the best walking sights the world has to offer.

There are day walks that can be just as beautiful, and just as revealing, as any trek to Everest Base Camp or Machu Picchu.

To see grand things without the weight of a backpack seemingly loaded with boulders, set your walking sights on the following trails.

Grindelwald Valley, Switzerland

A sign inside the Grindelwald First cable-car station promises the 'most beautiful view of the world'. Hyperbole? Yes. Far from the truth? No. And on this walk around part of the Grindelwald valley rim, it's just the beginning.

Ride the cable car from Grindelwald to First, 1100 metres above town, and you step out into one of the Alps' most famous scenes. Across the valley, to a backdrop of glaciers, the famed north face of the Eiger rises like a wave about to break over Grindelwald. 

The wow factor never disappears.

Andrew Bain

Walk across the open Alpine slopes, among a soundtrack of cowbells, to the Grosse Scheidegg pass, and the wow factor never disappears.

Grand Balcon Sud, France

If there's an Alpine day walk to rival Grindelwald, it's the Grand Balcon Sud, high above the Chamonix valley. Beginning and ending with cable-car rides, it's a simple mountain stroll with endless views of Mont Blanc, the Alps' highest mountain, and the many glaciers that scrape down its slopes.

Take the cable car to Planpraz and simply follow the Grand Balcon Sud across to Flegere. The walk is quite short - about two hours - but it's worth building in another couple of hours to climb from Flegere to the gorgeous Lac Blanc. The view is like Mont Blanc with a plunge pool.

Torres del Paine Lookout, Chile

Chile's improbably shaped Torres del Paine is famed for its multi-day W Trek, but you can witness one of its most spectacular scenes in a day.

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This hike takes you through the Ascencio Valley, eventually rising up its slopes to a lake pooled beneath the base of the trio of towers that give the massif its name.

Through the valley, the trail passes through a beautiful lenga forest, then it's a steep 45-minute climb beside a glacier moraine to the lake, where the rock spires tower hundreds of metres above. Not bad for just 18 kilometres (return) of effort.

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

Believe the hype. Regularly billed as the best day walk in New Zealand, and sometimes the world, the 19-kilometre Tongariro Crossing is where volcanoes come to show off.

Funnelling between the twin peaks of Mt Tongariro and the perfectly conical Mt Ngauruhoe, the Crossing passes impossibly coloured lakes, climbs by steaming craters and in recent times stares across at the newly boiling Te Maari crater, which twice erupted in 2012.

Buses from nearby towns drop hikers at the start and pick them up at day's finish at the opposite end.

Cradle Mountain, Australia

Most usually associated with the week-long Overland Track, Tasmania's trademark mountain can also be scaled in a day.

Following the start of the Overland Track, climb to Marion's Lookout and the Kitchen Hut shelter at the foot of Cradle Mountain.

From here the ascent is a rocky, gymnastic scramble through a daunting escarpment to a sublime view over Cradle's companion peaks - the equally impressive Barn Bluff and the distant Mt Ossa, the state's highest mountain.

If you have the energy, return on the high route over Hanson's Peak to complete the lofty circuit of Dove Lake.

Lizard Point, England

A fair argument could be made that the South West Coast Path, bumping along the cliff-lined shores of Cornwall and Devon, is the world's most spectacular coastal trail. But it's also 1000 kilometres in length. The day-long section from Mullion Cove to Lizard Point is the perfect taster, showing off so much that's great about this path.

The 11-kilometre walk rises from Mullion Cove to the cliff tops, following them to Lizard Point, the British mainland's southernmost tip. There are at least four pubs along the route, so you can hike it in the true British style, with a stop for a pub lunch.

Burgess Shale, Canada

How about a walk where the mountain scenery is spectacular but also secondary?

High on the slopes of Yoho National Park, the Burgess Shale is one of the world's most important fossil sites, being the first record of soft-tissues fossils and the oldest fossils to shed light on the evolution of life.

The site can only be accessed on a guided walk led by the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation. It climbs past Yoho Lake, where you may see moose, and then out onto the open high slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

At the site you can pick through the rock, where you'll find hundreds of 500-million-year-old fossils imprinted into stone. If you tire of the fossils, just look up. The mountain view alone in this national park near Banff is worth the walk.

Amphitheatre, South Africa

Chipped into the Drakensberg Mountains - the Barrier of Spears to the Zulu - the Amphitheatre gorge is lined by an eight-kilometre-long wall of cliffs, with the world's second-highest waterfall dripping down from above. 

The walk is cut high into the banks of the often-dry Tugela River, before squeezing into the tight gorge. Stepping over river boulders, the trail ends at a confluence of waterways, from where you can wriggle into a narrow slot canyon, climb an airy metal ladder up above the gorge, or simply lay back on boulders admiring one of Africa's most inspiring mountain skylines.

Zion Narrows, United States

The USA's Southwest is a stunning and fractured landscape of red desert rock and deep slot canyons. To get a real sense of these thread-like chasms, from within, take a walk into the Narrows in Utah's Zion National Park.

The way is obvious - simply follow the bed of the Virgin River. Cliffs tower about 300 metres overhead and sometimes the canyon walls  are less than 10 metres apart. Wet feet, legs and maybe even body are guaranteed.

It's possible to start at the top of the canyon and hike to its bottom in one epic day, but this requires a highly sought after permit. To hike from the bottom needs no permit - you're allowed to go as far as Big Spring, eight kilometres through the canyon, before turning back. 

Quiraing, Scotland

Any number of trails on the Isle of Skye could make this list  - the Black and Red Cuillin are the most rugged mountain ranges in Britain - but for most reward for the least effort, the Quiraing is hard to beat.

It's an otherworldly landscape of pin-sharp rock spires, cliffs and other rock formations. A seven-kilometre circuit climbs past each of the features, including the 40-metre-high Needle, the Quiraing's star feature. 

From the summit, you look back out over the rock formations to - on a good day - the Scottish mainland and the islands of the Outer Hebrides. But don't bank on too many good days on Skye.

Pueblito, Colombia

Take a lost Andean city, exotic wildlife and a string of South America's finest beaches and you have a pretty intoxicating walk.

This trail begins in the foothills of the world's highest coastal mountain range and heads through humid jungle to the ancient city of Pueblito, now an abandoned ruin. Expect to hear the haunting calls of howler monkeys, with poison frogs hopping about the ground.

The descent from Pueblito finishes on the coast of Tayrona National Park, where white sand meets warm Caribbean Sea in a combination that's hard to resist after hours of sweat through the jungle.

The walk finishes along a chain of beaches, but don't save your swim for the final beach - it has a killer rip and caimans in the lagoon.

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