From Egypt to South Africa to California, these eight hikes are difficult enough to challenge you and beautiful enough to be worth the climb.

These mountains might not be the as intense as the mighty Everest or K2, but they are certainly more than the hills you used to camp in when you were a kid. Be warned.

Mount Elbrus, Russia
Far from the glory-grabbing summits of the European Alps are the shy twin peaks of Mount Elbrus (5,642m), Europe’s highest mountain. Straddling the Russia–Georgia border and bulging above the Caucasus Ridge, Elbrus looks to be a daunting prospect. It is nearly 1,000m higher than any of the peaks around it, and glaciers chew at its edges, yet it offers no real technical difficulties – there is even a chairlift to 3,800m, where most climbs begin. A short distance above the chairlift is Camp 11; from here it is an eight-hour push to the summit. From the Azau cable-car station, ride or walk to the Barrels Huts, where the climb begins. But do not take the summit for granted – in 2004 the mountain claimed 48 climbers.

Mount Olympus, Greece
Rub hiking boots with the gods as you ascend Greece’s highest mountain, the legendary home of the Olympian gods. Mount Olympus still draws worshippers of a sort, as trekkers make the two-day climb to its highest peak, Mytikas (2,918m). The most popular trail up the mountain begins at the tiny settlement of Prionia, 18km from Litohoro. From here it is a two-and-a-half-hour climb to Refuge A, with the summit of Mytikas about three hours further. At the summit do not forget to sign the visitors’ register. It is possible to climb and descend in two days; start from Refuge A near Prionia.

Gunung Bromo, Indonesia
Emerging from the floor of Java’s massive Tengger crater are three volcanic peaks. The smoking tip of Gunung Bromo (2,392m) is the smallest of these but it is the one every hiker comes to climb. The easiest and most popular route is from Cemoro Lawang, on the crater rim, accessed from the city of Probolinggo. The route crosses the crater’s Sand Sea, and within an hour you will be on the summit of Bromo, savouring views into the steaming crater. Like mountains the world over, the favoured time to reach the summit is sunrise. Travel agencies in Solo and Yogyakarta can book minibuses (do not expect top quality!) to Bromo for around 100,000 to 150,000 rupiah.

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
North Africa’s highest mountain (4,167m) is surprisingly kind on climbers. From the trailhead at the village of Imlil, a two-hour drive from Marrakesh, it is a five-hour walk into Toubkal Refuge, at around 3,200m, situated immediately below the western flank of this High Atlas giant. From here, trekkers usually scurry up and back and return to Imlil in a day. The climb’s greatest challenge is in Toubkal’s famously long scree slopes; be prepared for a walking experience like quicksand. Catch a taxi from Marrakesh to Imlil; it is an easy half-day hike to the base camp. Scree jumping on the way down is awesome fun.

Table Mountain, South Africa
The flat-topped, 1,086m-high Table Mountain that gives Cape Town its visual splendour is also said to contain more than 300 walking paths. For most people, however, it is all about getting to the summit. For this, the route through Platteklip Gorge is the most straightforward. The gentlest climb is along the Jeep Track, through the Back Table, though the gentle gradient also means that it is one of the longest approaches. The Platteklip Gorge route should take two to three hours; but you can descend in about four minutes on the cable car if you wish. There is a well-catered (albeit expensive) cafe at the top of Table Mountain.

Ben Nevis, Scotland
Scotland’s highest mountain has an attraction that belies its numbers. Only 1,344m above sea level, its paths are pounded by hordes of walkers and climbers. For most, the ascent means following the queues up the Mountain Track, but mountain connoisseurs prefer the more difficult approach across the satellite peak of Carn Mór Dearg, a climb that involves picking along a thrilling rock ridge between the two summits. And if Ben Nevis whets your mountain appetite there are another 283 Munros – Scottish peaks above 914.4m – you might want to climb. Base yourself in Fort William and buy a map. The mountain has many routes and the weather changes suddenly; many travellers have found themselves stranded and some have died.

Mount Sinai, Egypt
Moses climbed it and carried back some stone tablets, but all you will need is a sleeping bag and some warm clothing if you want to be here for the requisite dawn vigil atop the Sinai Peninsula’s signature mountain. The climb commences at St Catherine’s Monastery, a Unesco World Heritage site, from where you can follow the camel trail or sweat out your sins on the Steps of Repentance. The 2,285m summit, which offers stunning views of the surrounding bare, jagged mountains and plunging valleys, is reached after around two hours along the camel trail. Ascend the path zigzagging up the mountain side and then return down the aptly named 3,750 Steps of Repentance.

Mount Fuji, Japan
Welcome to the mountain that is sometimes said to be the most climbed in the world. It is certainly among the most recognisable. Rising to 3,776m in the far distance of Tokyo, Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. It has an official climbing season running through July and August, although you may want to visit just outside this peak season to avoid crowds that are almost as large as the mountain itself. The climb up from the traditional starting points takes around four-and-a-half hours; aim to reach the summit in time for dawn to witness sunrise and to beat the clouds to the top. From Tokyo take the express bus from Shinjuko; the journey takes two-and-a-half hours and drops you at Kawaguchiko 5th Station, where the climb begins.

Half Dome, California
Looming over Yosemite Valley like a stony wave, Half Dome is one of the world’s most stunning pieces of rock architecture and a major lure for hikers. The trail begins at Happy Isles in the valley, climbing more than 1,000m to the bare summit – steel cables lend some assurance on the final haul along the exposed northeast shoulder. There is a flat two-hectare expanse on top with glorious views across Yosemite, especially from the overhanging northwest point. The climb can be made in one mammoth day or you can camp on the northeast shoulder. If you are a novice, be prepared; take a torch and extra water as rangers will only escort climbers who are seriously injured.

The article 'Mountains you can climb without a porter' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.