Even the most seasoned trekkers will be blown away by the beauty of Asian trails. The eclectic medley of volcanic peaks, lush forests, hidden valleys and isolated beaches offer different kinds of challenges for all kinds of hikers. Memorable hikes on world class trails always lead to breathtaking and often secluded views. Pair that with the mythical air that seems to cover the entire region and you’re in for a spectacular experience.
There are many trails all over Asia that you can take. Each country will have its own hiking darling. If you’re looking for that magical experience, here are the best hikes you can take in Asia.
This long-favored hiking trail is one of the best in the Philippines. While the country is known for white sand beaches and tropical weather, Banaue in the Ifugao region presents another intriguing side. Like many provinces in the Philippines, Banaue is not the easiest province to get to, but the 10-hour bus ride is well worth the experience. The town is very rural with a serious lack of Western comforts but alive with local hospitality.
There are different trails to take and different destinations to choose from. However, the most iconic is a trek through the world-famous Batad Rice Terraces. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, carved and maintained for centuries by the indigenous Ifugao tribe. At the foot of the far side of the terraces, hikers can also enjoy the cool waters of the 80-foot Tappia Falls.
Manali is a small Himalayan resort town in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state. Its location at an altitude of over 2,000 meters makes it a favorite among honeymooners and holidaymakers, but its hiking trails leave travelers breathless. Completing different trails can take anywhere from two days to two weeks and range from easy to extreme. Trekking to Prashar and Bhrigu Lakes brings trekkers through vast and peaceful meadows while going through the Hampta Pass and the Malana Village fill days with forests and cliffs. This is a highly diverse trek that brings out only the best that India can offer.
Another stunning destination in India is the Dayara Bugyal. It’s found in the state of Uttarakhand at the foothills of the Himalayas. It’s been visited by shepherds for hundreds of years to bring their livestock to graze. Beautiful meadows surrounded by the Bhagirathi, Bandarpoonch, and Black peaks make Dayara Bugyal one of the most beautiful hiking destinations in India. It’s a pretty isolated trek, starting with an 8-hour drive from Dehradun to the base camp in Barsu.
The trek is segmented into five trails, making the circuit from Barsu to Baranala to Dayara Bugyal and back through Pichkiya and Siyaari. The entire loop is a relatively easy hike, going through slopes and hills but surrounded by endless views of forests, meadows, and the Himalayas in the background. It is also possible to hire mules throughout the trek, making this an adventure fit for the whole family.
The Jomsom-Muktinath hike takes you to the heart of Tibetan culture and the wonder of the Himalayas. More than the beautiful hike through windy valleys and views of mountain vistas, the hike is a pilgrimage to the temples and monasteries around Jomsom and Muktinath in the Mustang region. The whole trek from Jomsom to Muktinath and back can be done in four days. It’s also a great destination if you want to travel during the monsoon season because the path lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas.
The base camp is located in Jomsom and can be accessed via plane flight from Pokhara. From here, the hike goes through the Kali Gandaki River and Gorge and towards panoramic views of the Thorong Peak, Nigiri, and Dhaulagiri. The views are overwhelming and the hike far from super strenuous. It’s a very mystical hike as well, heading towards the pilgrim site of Muktinath wherein the water is believed to deliver salvation after death.
This is actually the tail-end of probably the most famous hike in Nepal (after Everest) the Annapurna Circuit trek. This typically goes in the opposite direction and ends in Jomsom, or you can hike the whole way out. The trek is relatively easy, like the Jomsom above, except for the altitude. There is not a lot you can do to train for that, as I found out in Peru a few years ago. Fit people can still get affected by it. Overall, it is about two weeks in total, and there is transport to arrange on both ends, so allow yourself quite some time to do this trek. It is based out of the beautifully located town of Pokhara and easy to arrange from there, or Kathmandu. The views are insane, the peaks are huge, and the experience is something you will not forget.
The Cameron Highlands envelopes hikers with its cool climate and vivid green surroundings. This trip is more apt for experienced hikers as the area is still very wild. There are no clear paths and signs to guide you. However, miles of trails wind through mountains and tea plantations that will definitely get hikers lost in wonder. It’s located between Penang and Kuala Lumpur with a base camp in a small town called Tanah Rata. It’s another easy hike that involves more walking than climbing for as long as you have a relatively good sense of direction. Thanks to the temperate climate of Malaysia, the Cameron Highlands are open all year round. However, because of its relative ease, it gets very crowded during weekends and holidays.
The sacred summit of Mount Kinabalu is arguably one of the most beautiful hikes in Southeast Asia. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site for both its religious relevance to the people of Malaysia, as well as the rich biodiversity of the surrounding forests. There are only 135 permits allowed on the mountain each day, and each summit climb takes an overnight to complete. Unique species also live in this mountain including orangutans and stinking corpse flowers. It’s relatively accessible via Kota Kinabalu, making it a very popular hiking destination.
The summit climb to Phnom Aural at 1,813 meters is good, but the real experience lies within the lush jungle filled with century-old trees. Treks start from the town of Chi Phat where you can arrange different treks of varying difficulty. There are many adventures to choose from as well, including swimming at the waterfalls, visiting bat caves, and exploring ancient burial sites.
The Everest Base Camp is one of the most iconic treks in the world. Its literally dizzying height of over 5,500 meters is truly an accomplishment that entails grueling and freezing days. Besides, making it to the base of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, is definitely no easy feat and not ideal for just any kind of traveler. Other than its renowned difficulty, this hike rewards the brave with astonishing scenery and an occasional meet-and-greet with the Solu Khumbu’s Sherpa people. The trek starts in Lukla where you’ll also find one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to extreme weather changes.
Most people start their trek as soon as they hop off the plane. Despite its difficulty, the trail to the base camp remains busy with enthusiasts, locals, and even helicopters going around in the air. Despite this, the sheer vastness of the mountain will always give you moments of peace where you have the trail all to yourself to take in the adventure that lies ahead.
Hikers to the crater of Mount Rinjani are in for an epic adventure. The whole hike takes three days and in no way fit for novice hikers and casual travelers. Found in Lombok, Indonesia, the highest point rises up to over 3,700 meters looming over the entire town. It’s the second highest of the 130 volcanoes in Indonesia. The hike is tough but the magnificent views at the rim of the crater are rewarding.
The soil at the top is rocky and black, but the surrounding hues of greens and purples in the valley below are stunning. The volcanic lake is called Lake Segara Anak, characterized by its deep turquoise color. Mount Barujari, an active volcano, sits at the edge of the lake and spews steam from the bubbling earth below. At night and unobstructed by light pollution, the sky is black and stars shine the brightest.
No visit to Japan is complete without even just a glimpse at the iconic Mount Fuji. For the more adventurous, a hike to the summit of this sacred peak is a necessity. It’s an active volcano that towers up to 3,776 meters. Despite the steep slope of the volcano, it’s still a good experience for beginners. As with everything in Japan, the trails are well-marked and organized. There are also mountain huts and medical centers placed strategically along the trail to ensure that every climber will be taken care of. Over 300,000 make the climb to the top at Mt. Fuji, and there’s still plenty of room and wonder to go around.
The whole hike to the summit and back takes two days, including an overnight in one of the mountain huts. There are no fees to climb Mt. Fuji, which means it can get extremely crowded during the weekends. However, the whole climb to the top is filled with views of the towns and cities down below. As a relatively easy climb, standing at the summit to welcome the sunrise is an experience many people can enjoy. Of course, there are lots of other hikes in Japan, but this should be at the top of your list.
Bhutan is home to many astonishing treks in Asia, and the Druk Path Trek is a great introduction to trekking in Asia. The whole trek takes around 7 days, depending on how fast or slow you want to take it. While it doesn’t require any special skills, altitude sickness is a big concern. The trek starts at an altitude of 1,000 meters at the valley of Paro and peaks at 4,110 meters when you reach Phume La.
The surroundings are very diverse, starting with apple orchards and pine forests, through grassy ridges and rhododendron forests. You will also see alpine yak pastures and mountain lakes punched up by splendid views of the Himalayas. It’s essentially many different Asian hike experiences packed in one trek and will leave you wanting for more.
Another popular but possibly more impressive hike in Bhutan is the Chomolhari Trek. It’s a high-altitude trek bringing hikers up to 4,950 meters and is completed in around 10-12 days. The experience is a great combination of nature and culture. Hikers get to spend time in an Alpine setting only a few get to experience. Throughout the trek, hikers get to wander meadows where yaks graze, cross glacial streams and climb your way up rugged hills.
Civilization has reached some areas already with small towns enjoying the wonders of electricity. Despite this, beyond the wires are spectacular views of the Paro and Thimpu Valleys and mountain vistas of Chomolhari (7314m), Jichu Drake (6794m) and Tshrim Khang. There are many opportunities to immerse in the rich culture of the country as well. Visits to the Tiger Monastery and welcoming homes of mountain shepherds are part of the adventure.
For hikers in the Philippines, Mount Pulag is one of the hikes many aim to conquer. It’s the third highest mountain in the Philippines and located in Luzon. It’s considered as one of the most majestic hiking trails in the country, notorious for its cold weather that can drop to subzero levels. There are several trials of varying difficulty levels. The whole hike to the summit and back takes 2-3 days. This gives campers the chance to experience the magical hours of sunrise and sunset. At dawn, golden rays of the sunshine on a sea of clouds below. The beautiful montane forests and dwarf bamboo slopes create an enchanting experience, giving Mt. Pulag its nickname “playground of the gods”.
Crossing a frozen river in Asia seems unheard of, but that’s the allure of the Chadar Trek. Considered the most glamorous trek in India, the Chadar Trek has been featured time and again by Discovery Channel and National Geographic for the sheer beauty of the entire place. The trek takes around 6 days over a frozen river in Ladakh. It doesn’t require special skills, but the environment is inhospitable with an average temperature of -10 degrees Celsius.
At night, the temperature falls to -25. Despite this, it’s a relatively easy trek but something extremely enchanting. The ice breaks and reforms every few hours, creating different hues of blue and green and an ever-changing experience. There are areas where ice does not form, so new trails have to be formed over snow and boulders. It tops the list is unique treks in Asia and possibly the rest of the world.
The list is long and we haven’t even scratched the surface, but Asia is a prime continent for incredible hikes. The historic or religious significance of many mountains and trails heighten the experience. Above all, the mythical culture of Asian countries combined with the beauty of the wild are the perfect elements for a memorable adventure.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!