One of the first things I did on my month-long trip through New Zealand was the Tongariro Crossing. Renowned as the best day hike in the country, it takes you on a 12-mile journey through volcanoes, lakes, and a very Mars-like terrain; past active volcano Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe, and – most gorgeous of all – the Emerald Lakes.
Now, this was in 2006, i.e. very early in my traveling life – so I didn’t have a whole lot to compare it to. But 8 years and 15+ countries later, I can say with assurance that the Tongariro Crossing is one of the most uniquely scenic hikes in the world. I mean… look at the Emerald Lakes nestled by the volcano. STUNNING.