Do the stairs in your home leave you winded? Try these steep and winding stairs from around the world on for size. From perilous inclines to suspension bridges, here’s our list of the hairiest — and most interesting — stairs around the globe:
1. Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Right smack in the middle of the gorgeous Southern California coastline are several lovely sets of stairs that will likely leave you out of breath but enjoying the scenery. They begin on the beach where the Pacific Coast Highway meets Sunset Boulevard.
After crossing over the PCH, you’ll head into Castellammare in the Pacific Palisades. The walk consists of different stairways with views of the Pacific Ocean and amazing homes. You’ll even encounter some old Hollywood lore as you pass the home of Thelma Todd, a silent screen movie star who died under suspicious circumstances there.
Also in Pacific Palisades is the “Stairway Climb,” which starts at the Rustic Canyon entrance of Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Step your way to the bottom of Rustic Canyon and 20,000 acres of wilderness.
2. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain
Located between Bakio and Bermeo, Spain, is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a beautiful and secluded little island named after St. John the Baptist. There’s a small chapel on the island, but getting to it from the mainland includes traversing a long, steep stairway bridge. It’s very challenging, but it’s worth the climb for its views of the Bay of Biscay.
For good luck, when you reach the top, you can step into a footprint that is said to have been left by St. John the Baptist. Another tradition holds that you should ring the chapel bell three times upon arrival and make a wish.
3. Scala Sancta, Rome
These stairs are not the most treacherous, but they are some of the most interesting. Scala Sancta translates to “Holy Staircase,” and tradition holds that they contain spots of the blood of Jesus Christ.
According to Kenneth Nowell, author of “Rome and the Vatican: Guide 4 Pilgrims,” the 28 steps at the Scala Sancta led to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate and were transferred to Rome in 335 by the mother of Emperor Constantine. It is believed that Jesus walked up and down those stairs many times during his trial and passion. Pilgrims flock to the site and ascend the stairs on their knees, saying a prayer on each step.
4. Manitou Climb, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Onetime railroad tracks make for a steep set of stairs in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Built to carry materials to build pipelines at Pike’s Peak, the tracks are now a popular hiking spot that attracts Olympic athletes, cyclists, the military and runners from all over the world.
The more than 2,700 “steps” (more than the Empire State Building) of the Manitou Climb are made of railroad ties that continue for about a mile. It goes up 2,000 feet, with an average 41 percent incline, and is considered one of the highest sets of stairs in the world. Insider tip: If you dare to make this climb, take the easier Barr Trail down.
5. Heaven’s Gate, Zhangjiajie City, China
A 999-step walk up Tianmen Mountain rewards you with a fantastic view. Nine is an important number in Chinese culture, and climbing the stairs is supposed to bring good luck.
Upon reaching the top of the stairs, after passing through fog and clouds, hikers find Tianmen Cave, which means “heaven’s gate” in Chinese. At more than 4000 feet in elevation, the 430-foot tall cave has a “hole,” created after a cliff collapsed, through which you can see the sky.
Chinese regard Tianmen Mountain as a heavenly mountain, believing it absorbed its essence from nature over thousands of years. Visitors often come to pray for a safe and healthy life.
6. Exorcist Stairs, Washington, D.C.
If you’re looking for creepy, look no farther than the “Exorcist Stairs” in Georgetown. These steep stairs are where Father Karras famously tumbled to his death in the movie “The Exorcist.”
Located at 3600 Prospect Street (at 36th Street), the stairs are also the address of the house where the exteriors of the movie were filmed. Be sure to get out your camera for a recreation of the scene and then head to The Tombs, a college-favorite, for a drink.
7. Traversiner Steg, Switzerland
What do you get when you combine lots of steps with a suspension bridge? A crossing that requires a lot of courage. The Traversiner Steg over the Viamala Canyon in the Swiss Alps is a suspension bridge with 321 steps that descends into the ravine. The path is named the Via Mala — “bad path” — because it was once hated for its treacherous obstructions.
8. The Potemkin Steps, Odessa, Ukraine
Odessa welcomes visitors via a gigantic set of stairs that is considered its formal entrance. The steps, which extend some 465 feet, were designed to create an optical illusion. Not only do they appear longer, but you see only steps — no landings — when you look up. And you see the opposite when looking down.
Constructed in 1841, the Potemkin Steps were designed to provide easier access to Odessa’s harbor.
Lyn Mettler is an Indianapolis, Ind.-based travel writer. You can find her at www.GotoTravelGal.com or on Twitter at @GotoTravelGal.