Crazy staircase to the summit of El Peñol
© The Colombian Way/ Getty Images

10 of the world’s steepest and scariest staircases

Whether carved into rock or made of iron, these staircases will leave you praying for an elevator.
Written by Tarquin Cooper
4 min readPublished on
From China to Colombia, and steps carved by ancient civilisations to rickety stairs on the sides of mountains, these are the world's longest and scariest steps. These are only be attempted by those with a head for heights and legs that like to suffer.

Half Dome

Tourists queue to climb to the top Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, CA, USA
Get in line. This way to the top.
Location: Yosemite, USA
Steps: Unknown number but the steps are 120m in height
Rating: Hard – the 26km round trip takes 12 hours
Rising nearly 1,500m above the valley floor in California, Half Dome is a Yosemite National Park icon and a great challenge to climb. However, as one of the most attractive peaks in the hood, it suffers from popularity. But if you can wait your turn in the line and make it up, you'll be rewarded with one of the best views over the iconic park.

Great Wall of China

Panorama of a section of the Great Wall of China, the longest man-made structure on Earth, which runs for over 21,000km across China
The Great Wall of China
Location: China
Steps: 5,164 along the 42km marathon route
Rating: Hard – the steps go on forever
The official length of the Great Wall of China is 21,196km. Just along one 42km stretch – the official course of the Great Wall of China marathon – there are 5,164 stone steps. That's a lot of steps.

Pailon del Diablo waterfall

Overlooking the tourist route alongside Pailon del Diablo Waterfall in Ecuador, as popular but very wet attraction
Hit by the spray, these steps get slippery.
Location: Ecuador
Steps: 80m in height
Rating: Moderate, unless you accidentally slip.
These may not be the longest steps in the world, but they're among the most dramatic. They take you right up close to the Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron) waterfall. Since the steps are continually getting sprayed, they require some care not to slip on.

El Peñón de Guatapé

Crazy staircase to the summit of El Peñol
Crazy staircase to the summit of El Peñol
Location: Colombia
Steps: 740
Rating: Tough, but not difficult.
Also known as El Peñol, the Rock of Guatapé was once worshipped by Tahamies Indians. You can pay homage to the 200m high monolith by taking the 740 steps to the top of the uniquely surreal staircase built into the side of the rock.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

The stairs leading up to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on the coast of Spain's Pais Vasco
Coastal hikes don’t get much better than this.
Location: Biscay, Spain
Steps: 237
Rating: Easy
Fans of Game of Thrones may recognise the steps to this remote 10th century church, which was used as a location in Series 7. According to legend, after climbing all its steps, you're supposed to ring the bell three times and make a wish. Wishing for an elevator to take you back down is not allowed.

Mount Hua Shan

The heart-stopping rickety wooden walkway on the climb of Mount Hua Shan near Xi'an, China
This is not a good place to stop and look down
Location: China
Steps: No official count
Rating: Hard
Call these steps? The climb to the summit of Mount Hua Shan is one that will test even those hikers with a head for extreme heights and no regard for their own safety. It's not just the numerous steps hewn into the rock that climbers have to contend with, but these 'steps' hammered into narrow and exposed board walks. But don't worry, there's a teahouse at the summit to soothe your frayed nerves.

The Niesen Railway

A view down the Niesen funicular railway in Switzerland, which has 11,674 steps running alongside it that are open to hikers once a year
Taking the train might be quicker
Location: Switzerland
Steps: 11,674
Rating: Hard
The steps that run alongside the Niesen mountain railway in Switzerland are officially the longest stairway in the world. There are 11,674 steps in all, and it's only possible to hike them one day a year during the Niesen Run. It's only 3.4km but there's 1,669m of altitude to climb!

Sigiriya Rock 

View of Sigiriya, Sir Lanka. Sigiriya is an ancient palace located in the central Matale District near the town of Dambulla
Not rock climbing exactly
Location: Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Steps: 1,200
Rating: Not hard
Sri Lanka's Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress where a fifth century king built a palace on the summit and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. Among the wonders is the Lion Staircase (pictured). The climb is not long, but those steps are steep.

Machu Picchu 

Overview of the Machu Picchu UNESCO world heritage site in high Andes of Cusco, Peru.
To get here you need to hike up lots of steps
Location: Peru
Steps: More than 3,000
Rating: Hard
To build this mountain-top citadel, the ancient Incas must have not only been master craftsmen, but incredibly fit also. There are over 100 flights of stairs with over 3,000 steps leading to the site, which sits at 2,400m. In the rarified air, you'll most likely feel close to death – but don't worry, it's been several hundred years since any real human sacrifices took place there.