Research conducted by shoe specialist Zalando reveals the world’s most Instagrammable hiking routes, seven of which are based in the UK.

With new inspiration sometimes hard to find, many will be pleased to know that the UK has seven of the top 20 most picturesque hiking routes on Instagram – more than any other country.

The West Highland Way in Scotland is the UK’s most popular trail with 1,180 photos per mile, more than twice the amount for Tour du Mont Blanc in the French Alps. Other UK hiking trails in the top 20 include the South Downs Way (10th globally), the Thames Path (12th), and the Fife Coastal Path (15th).

South West Coast Path

The research, conducted by outdoor sports and outdoor shoe specialists Zalando, analysed nearly five million Instagram hashtags from the world’s most famous hiking trails. The data revealed the Inca Trail in Peru to be the world’s most picturesque, followed by Spain’s Camino de Santiago and the Refugio Frey and Cerro Catedral trail in Argentina.

Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Advisor with Mountaineering Scotland, says:  “The dramatic landscapes, wildlife and flora, ease of access (particularly on the West Highland Way), human history and unrivalled right to roam laws make Scotland a top place to visit.

“There has been a massive increase in the numbers of people enjoying the Scottish mountains and countryside, as would be expected with Covid-19 and the associated difficulties travelling abroad. The rise of the ‘staycation’ is certainly very evident. When lockdown was lifted last summer, Scottish Mountain Rescue saw a 35% increase in the number of call-outs, compared to the same period in the previous year.

“When hiking, it’s important to be respectful and considerate to others and the environment. Solid preparation is also vital. We’ve just launched an initiative called ‘Sofa 2 Summit’, which is a free online resource for those who are new to the hills. It’s a great place for people to start when planning their adventures.”

West Highland Way

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Most photographed hiking trails worldwide

# Trail Country Length (miles) Number of Instagram pics Pictures per mile
1 Inca Trail Peru 26 240,621 9,255
2 Camino de Santiago Spain 472 1,830,925 3,879
3 Refugio Frey and Cerro Catedral Argentina 7.5 15,225 2,030
4 Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Uganda 8.7 16,008 1,840
5 Eiger Trail Switzerland 3.7 5,742 1,552
6 West Highland Way UK 96 113,267 1,180
7 El Camino del Rey Spain 4.8 4,121 859
8 GR 20 France 112 93,603 836
9 West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island Canada 47 34,522 735
10 South Downs Way UK 100 65,381 652
11 Tour du Mont Blanc France 106 62,078 586
12 Thames Path UK 184 99,978 543
13 Appalachian Trail United States 2,200 919,661 418
14 Indus Valley India 42 16,099 383
15 Fife Coastal Path UK 117 44,375 378
16 Cleveland Way UK 109 32,778 301
17 South West Coast Path UK 630 174,403 277
18 Cotswold Way UK 102 28,125 276
19 The Lycian Way Turkey 300 79,120 264
20 Via Francigena Italy 625 144,340 231

What makes these hiking trails the world’s most photogenic?

As the UK’s most photogenic hiking trail, the West Highland Way offers glistening lochs, verdant forests and towering mountain peaks. It begins just outside Glasgow, snaking its way north for 96 miles to Fort William, with accommodation and refreshments all along the way.

Featuring on many people’s bucket lists, the Inca Trail is famed for its spectacular views of Machu Picchu, perched high up in the Andes. Although it’s just 26 miles long, the Inca Trail passes through atmospheric jungle and you’re almost certain to come across a llama or alpaca.

Inca Trail

Second on the list, the Camino de Santiago (literally the Way of St James) is a medieval pilgrimage route ending at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in north-western Spain. There are many well-trodden routes, but the most popular one winds 472 miles through France, the Pyrenees and historic cities such as Pamplona, León and Burgos.

Camino de Santiago

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The third most Instagrammable trail is Refugio Frey and Cerro Catedral, which takes hikers through Argentina’s stunning Nahuel Huapi National Park. A 7.5-mile trek rewards visitors with incredible views of Patagonia’s mountain peaks and lakes.

Refugio Frey

There are spectacular alpine vistas on the Eiger Trail in Switzerland, which is the shortest hike on the list at 3.7 miles. At the other end of the scale, the Appalachian Trail runs for a mammoth 2,200 miles up the eastern United States.

Eiger Trail

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Joelle Esmoris, Senior Corporate Communications Manager for Zalando, said: “Over the last 18 months, lockdowns have given people a new appreciation of time spent outdoors. And because international travel has largely been off the menu, many have come to look closer to home for a getaway.

“As the data shows, the UK has many, many options for those wanting to rediscover the Great Outdoors, so if you want to get out and see some natural beauty in the UK, it’s really easy to do so.

“However, it’s important to get the right gear for a hiking trip, even if that just means comfortable footwear. The public is aware of this though and we’ve had sales of outdoor-specific gear double in 2020, compared to the year before. Good gear is an investment: it can be used for years on end to explore the plentiful hiking trails in Europe.”

Further reading

Best UK photography locations (where you can still avoid the crowds)

Finding the perfect location for landscape photography

Top 10 travel photo tips and techniques – from gear choice to shooting