The Best Hiking in Asia kicks off our series discovering the best hiking in the world. We have asked some of the top outdoor travelers to share their recommendations for the best trails.
Finding the best hiking trails on any continent is difficult to narrow down. Asia may be the most difficult of all.
The landscape is incredibly diverse. From the islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. To hiking trails in some of the tallest mountains in the world. The possibilities are endless.
So, for this task we asked some of the most experienced hikers in Asia to give us a sampling of what is out there. Hopefully some of these will inspire you to explore some of the best hiking in Asia.
Mount Kinabalu, Borneo
by Jürgen & Martina from PlacesofJuma
For sure one of the best hiking trails in the world is located in Borneo (Malaysia): the ascent of Mount Kinabalu.
This spectacular mountain is one of the landmarks of Malaysia and with a height of over 4,095 meters one of the highest mountains in the whole of Southeast Asia!
Thanks to its intact nature and beautiful mountain landscape, it has even been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2000. Hikers come from all over the world to climb this rather easy 4,000-metre peak.
You need to plan 2 days for the hike, which can be booked exclusively with a mountain guide. The march always starts in the morning, as the weather is more stable at this time.
The first stage takes about 4-5 hours to reach Laban Rata, where you will have an overnight stay. The second stage starts at 1am the next day, as this is the only way to reach the summit at 4,095 meters in time for sunrise.
It is neither very demanding nor dangerous, just long and most of those who attempt it have a successful ascent.
During the hike, one marvels at many different landscapes and vegetation: Deep, lush jungle with carnivorous plants to the bare rock plateaus towards the summit.
At the top, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the mountains where the huge granite rocks form a panorama that is unique in the world.
–Jürgen & Martina
Tiger’s Nest Trail, Bhutan
by Athul from Our Backpack Tales
The hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, also known as the Paro Taktsang, is one of the best activities to include in your Bhutan itinerary.
Perched on a cliff at an elevation of around 10000 feet above sea level, the hike to the Taktsang is considered to be of great spiritual significance and it is a really great experience to indulge in.
The trail is considered to be of moderate difficulty and takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete based on the level of fitness.
Tall pine trees line both sides of the muddy trail and you can catch amazing views of the Paro valley on one side and glimpses of the Taktsang on the other as you climb higher.
A cafeteria and restroom are situated at the halfway point of the hike. Those who find it difficult to climb up the steep elevation can opt to travel up to the halfway point on mules. A small walk upwards from the halfway point leads to a flight of stone stairs.
The climb down ends at the bottom of a waterfall and a small bridge. After crossing the bridge and taking a flight of stairs up leads to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
It is recommended to carry snacks and water since the climb can tiresome. It is best to start early to avoid the harsh sun and crowds.
It is also good to carry light jackets since Paro experiences cool and foggy weather during early mornings.
Surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful wildflowers, the hike is one of the best to experience.
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Penang Hill, Malaysia
by Marco Ferrarese, PhD from Penang Insider
Soaring in the midst of the tropical Malaysian island of Penang, 830-meter-high Penang Hill is the highest peak and a perfect option for anything from a few hours to a full day of hiking.
Not only is Penang Hill the first colonial hill station established by the British in once-called Malaya in 1787, but it has a bounty of hiking trails for all levels of difficulties, ranging from entirely paved tracks (that can also be navigated on the small Honda motorbikes available in Southeast Asia) to scrambles through a thick jungle filled with unique wildlife like macaques, dusky leaf monkeys, and flying lemurs.
The most direct route to the top (where you’ll find a cooler climate and a number of attractions, the best of which is the Habitat, a nature park with zip lines and one of Asia’s longest suspended bridges) is the Heritage Trail that follows the railway line of the popular Funicular Train to Penang Hill and takes about two hours one way.
But if you prefer a more scenic jungle setting, rather than stepping up a stone staircase next to the rail track, it’s far better to start somewhere near Penang Botanic Gardens, such as the popular Moon Gate — a circular-shaped Chinese archway that once was the gateway to the home of a local tycoon.
The track here follows the forested hill paths, going deep into the tropical jungle along well-marked paths (which you can also double-check on apps such as Maps.me, for example). An interesting route to the top is via Station 5 (a hikers’ pit stop equipped with free gym facilities), Bukit Cendana, with its popular Rainbow Rock, and straight to the top via the old Moniot Trail, which was the first ancient road built by the colonizers to reach the hill’s top.
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ADAM’S PEAK, SRI LANKA
by Haley Blackall from HaleyBlackall.com
Located near the beautiful hilltop towns of Ella and Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka’s green centre is Adam’s Peak. This challenging trail boasts 5500 steps or 7km of varied and steep terrain that will take the average enthusiast 2.5-4 hours to ascend.
The trail starts by entering a stone gateway with many prideful Sri Lankan flags atop. Then you will ascend 5,500 staircase steps. Yes, that’s right, Adam’s Peak is comprised of many staircases leading to the summit where a temple perches over the lush rainforests and epic views of the surrounding area. Make sure to ring the bell at the apex.
Also known as Sri Pada Mountain, is it a common pilgrimage site for the Theravada Buddhists of Sri Lanka, who make up 70% of the population. Over 20,000 pilgrims ascend Sri Pada Mountain every year, looking for spiritual significance. This is what makes the Adam’s Peak trail so magnificent.
Combine beautiful landscapes, difficult physical ascent and a spiritual experience, this is one of the best hiking trails in the world, and one of the best things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka.
In order to catch the sunrise at Adam’s Peak, it’s best to start your journey from the Dalhousie village at 2:30 AM.
Explore the Carpathians in Ukraine
When it comes to hiking, popularity-wise Ukraine may lose to its close neighbors — Romania, Slovenia, and Slovakia. But this does not mean that the country does not have much to offer. On the contrary, there are plenty of great hiking trails in Ukraine. And some of the best ones are in the Carpathians.
A big and impressive national park, the Carpathian Mountains has one trek that stands out in particular. Named after Oleksa Dovbush — a Ukrainian version of Robin Hood — the loop route starts in a small and scenic village Yaremche. It winds between the trees of the lush pine and beech forest and up the hills of the Makovica mountain.
The trail takes hikers past huge, magical rocks that look as if they are part of the set of fantasy fiction. In June, berry-picking is just one of many activities along the way to the top, in addition to enjoying the silence of the forest, drinking water from the clear springs, and exploring the caves of Dovbush and his merry men.
Legend says that it is in these mountains that the Ukrainian Robin Hood set camp and was hiding from the long hand of the law while robbing the rich and helping the poor.
The route leads to the top of Makovica, opening stunning panoramas of the Carpathians, and then winds back to Yaremche, to the waterfall Probiy and the mountain river perfect for a swim.
– Inessa and Natalie
The Langtang Valley, Nepal
by Rai from A Rai of Light
The Langtang Valley, located in the north-central Himalayas of the Bagmati province of Nepal, provides one of the best alternative options to hiking in the Everest region.
The Langtang Valley trek, despite being one of the shorter hiking routes in the country, offers amazing scenery and an introduction into a hidden world as you make your way along the old trade route to Tibet.
Situated over 50 kilometres north of the Kathmandu Valley, it is also one of the more accessible treks that takes you through a striking valley, forests, high alpine meadows and into the range of the Himalayan mountains.
The trek begins in the small town of Syabru Besi or Sundarijal and continues up to the peak of Kyanjin Ri at a height of 4,773 m. The 40 kilometre journey, described as moderate in difficulty, can be completed in a week and makes for a great option for those with limited time.
With accommodation in tea-houses along the way it provides the ideal opportunity to try the traditional food of Nepal.
A purchase of the Langtang National park permit is required to access the region, with the best time to visit being the months of spring.
The trek can be done with or without the use of a guide and porters, although it is recommended to at least have some form of company.
–RaiFollow Rai on Instagram
So what do you think? Are these some of the best hikes in the world?
We certainly think so. And we would like to thank each of the contributors for sharing their hikes with us.
They are all top notch travel writers and are keen to share more of their experiences. Be sure to follow the links to their respective sites to get more of their insights for hiking around the world.
Did We Miss Any?
Of course, this is just a sampling of all that Asia has to offer. Which trails do you think belong on the list of the best hiking in Asia?
Be sure to leave a comment below. Perhaps you can add your experience to this list.
More Outdoor Travel Fun
Now, though, we are working on the next article in this series. Where will we go next?
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In the meantime be sure to check out our camping and hiking guides.
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We also just finished a whole series on the best camping around the world. You can go to our Camping page to find more.
If you want to get into some specifics, we had an incredible camping trip in Iceland. Here are our picks for the best campsites in Iceland.
And no camping trip would be complete without coffee. Did you know that there are 13 different ways to make coffee when camping? We have listed them all here and show you how to do each one of them. Plus we tell you why we always bring this French press with us.