In a continent as vast as Asia, one of the best ways to truly experience its diversity is on foot.
However, with 48 countries offering every type of landscape, it can be hard to know where to begin.
From hot deserts to snow-capped mountains and volcanic peaks to dense rainforests, there’s enough trekking variety in Asia to keep even the most seasoned adventurers satisfied.
Asia is home everything from short, easy jaunts through paddy fields to the impressive, ancient Silk Road that passes through Uzbekistan’s mountains and deserts in a land of nomads.
From the untouched countryside of Myanmar and the tea plantations of Darjeeling, to the ancient pilgrimage trails of Japan or meeting the famous hill tribes of Laos, it’s not surprising that people travel thousands of miles across the globe to hit the trails.
The region is also home to the highest mountains on the planet – resulting in plentiful mountain-hiking trails and views that are hard to top.
Nepal in particular offers some of the best walking in the world, with varied levels of trekking, opportunities to meet the incredibly friendly locals and the two highest peaks on earth.
Some of the treks on our list are well-trodden paths that traverse an entire country, whilst others will take you to quaint villages far from the reach of modern society.
The Annapurna Circuit is the second most popular trail in Nepal and the perfect route for a Himalayan adventure. The Circuit has often been voted as the best long-distance trek in the world, crossing two different river valleys and encircling the Annapurna Massif.
The trek follows a glacial river from Besisahar at 2500 metres, up past Manang and over the brutal Thorong La at 5,416 metres before winding back down a river valley through glacier-filled mountains.
Most trekkers hike the route anti-clockwise, so as to gain altitude more slowly over the period of a few days, acclimatising as they go and making the crossing of high points like Thorong La pass easier and safer.
If you’re looking for a varied hike, this is the perfect fit for you.
Over the course of two or so weeks, you pass through a range of climate zones – from subtropical forests, paddy fields and waterfalls at 500 metres to the icy environments and mountain yaks as you cross the high passes.
Alongside yaks you may even a rare Gharal (blue sheep) or snow leopard.
From the circuit you can look out onto the Annapurna Massif, Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre, Manaslu, Gangapurna and Pisang Peak.
Fill up on dal bhat (rice and lentils) while staying in local villages and take time to unwind and interact with the residents.
The beauty of this route is that it covers a huge amount of ground, passing through various communities and giving you a unique look at life of the people who live there.
Mount Rinjani is the second highest volcano in Indonesia and one of the most popular treks thanks to the views from its summit. Although it is challenging to climb, largely due to some steep sections and the altitude near the rim, it is still doable for any person with decent fitness levels.
The trek starts with a climb of 1,500 metres over eight kilometres, with most of it concentrated in the in the final four kilometres. Due to its gradient, most people cover about a kilometre per hour during this section. This is also in part down to lacking trail maintenance, making it sandy, slippery and steep underfoot.
The second day actually starts in the middle of the night so hikers can summit for sunrise. On arrival at the summit, the pain and hard work of the past 16 hours seem to slip away.
On the first day you are treated to spectacular sunset views of the glistening Lake Segara Anak within the volcano’s crater and the following morning, sunrise over the summit.
On top of this, as you gain altitude the views over the grand tropical forest and Gili islands just get better and better.
You can choose to ascend from either the village of Sembalun or from Senaru. For anyone choosing a three- or four-day hike, you depart from one village and descend to the other.
Most choose to start in Sembalun because of the way the trails are configured. This route also offers grand views of the grass savanna over the eastern entrance.
Although Lombok Island (where Mount Rinjani is located) was hit by strong earthquakes in 2018, the Senaru trail to the crater rim has recently been re-opened to the public.
The Snowman Trek
The Snowman Trek is a gruelling route through the Himalayas in the culturally rich region of Bhutan, and quite possibly, the greatest trail on Earth.
The crescent-shaped trail starts on the northern border of Bhutan in Paro and snakes over 300 kilometres to Upper Sephu near Bumthang.
The route is known as “the most difficult trek in the world” so if you’re looking for a challenge, this hike is for you.
The Snowman Trek has almost 15,000 metres of uphill through rugged terrain, steep peaks and valleys of 11 mountain passes. Throw in regular fierce snow and rain storms and you might wonder why anyone would take it on.
It is undertaken by only a handful of trekkers each season and accesses Lunana, the most remote region of the country.
In fact, it is said that fewer people have completed this trek than have climbed Everest.
As you work your way through the beautiful country of Bhutan, you will be inundated with pure joy knowing that you are set to complete one of the toughest treks in the world.
Taking anywhere from three to five weeks, you will walk through the most remote regions of Bhutan and into the heart of the Himalayas as you absorb magnificent mountain views, explore hidden valleys and bask in the serenity of high-altitude lakes.
Taking time to explore Paro and surrounding areas, including the impressive Takstang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), you will see a completely different way of life.
Other than the sheer challenge of it, hikers are drawn to this route for the environment that it crosses.
A constant backdrop of 7,000 metre peaks, tiny Buddhist monasteries and secluded villages, meadows full of yaks and herders’ huts, along with wide glacial valleys, junipers and silver firs, and clear, turquoise lakes make it incredibly hard to beat.
Another favourite in Nepal, the Manaslu Circuit is rapidly growing in popularity as a new trekking destination in this area of the world.
Thanks to the uniqueness of the region, many avid trekkers descend upon the trail every year.
The trail circles around Mount Manaslu, the eighth highest peak in the world, and passes through landscapes that range from from the subtropical forest to high alpine meadows with endemic flora and fauna on offer.
The trek commences in the terraced fields and forests of the foothills before climbing north into the arid, high-altitude landscapes.
The trails are narrow and uneasy underfoot for the first few days before getting slightly easier and walking from low to highland is truly enchanting.
The toughest section is the high point of Larkya La Pass, one of the most dramatic within the in the Himalayas, that offers up panoramic views of Mount Manaslu, Himlung Himal (7,126 metres) and Annapurna II (7,937metres).
En-route hikers will cross the high land attached to Tibet, getting to experience Tibetan-influenced cultures and traditions.
The cultural and geographic diversities of remote Buddhist villages close to the Tibetan border is a highlight for lots of people who have never ventured to this part of the world before.
An optional extra is to traverse to the north of Manaslu and visit Base Camp, which is used by summit expeditions, and potentially meet some of the professional climbers.
Hiking up here through snow can be tough but will offer more impressive views of Manaslu, glaciers and lakes below.
Every winter the Zanskar River freezes and is referred to in the local language as ‘Chadar’ – a blanket of ice.
Only accessible during the coldest months or January and February, this frozen river expedition entices amateur and professional trekkers from around the world.
The trek passes through the beautiful landscape of Ladakh and has been publicised (and thus popularised) by both the Discovery and National Geographic TV channels.
Often referenced as a frozen dreamland, the Chadar Trek offers a unique perspective of the Himalayas.
The trek moves away from Ladakh into the snowbound villages of the Zanskar Valley, where visitors can gain insight into the remote cultures of these areas and even spot snow leopards if they’re lucky.
This is one of the most difficult treks in India, covering around 15 to 17 kilometres on foot every day.
There also shorter versions of this trek that are closer to 65 kilometres in length, cutting off parts of the trail.
Whilst the day-to-day trekking itself is not particularly difficult, an immense amount of mental grit is needed to tackle the extremely cold conditions and tough camping situations.
You can expect temperatures anywhere from 15 to 20 degrees during the day time and -25 to -35 degrees during the night in this region. Such cold conditions also mean that there might be instances where trekkers are required to climb icy rocks and boulders.
Take in the mesmeric beauty of the snow clad mountains and beautiful city of Leh, then bunk down to sleep in caves along this Arctic-like expedition.
For any true adventure seeker who is ready to face the harshest conditions, the Chadar Trek is a must.
Mount Everest is the highest mountain above sea level in the world and lies on the border between Tibet and Nepal. Only the most skilled and experience climbers can attempt to summit the mountain, which requires expert gear, plenty of experience, oxygen tanks and the right weather – not mention a whopping cost of around £60,000.
The much more popular and accessible option is Everest Base Camp, which refers to the mountain’s South Base Camp at 5,554 metres, attracting 30,000 visitors annually.
After a breathtaking (and often heart-stopping) flight to Lukla, the trek begins. The trail leads through the famous villages of Namche and Khumjung, as well as Thyangboche monastery, that reflect the renowned Sherpa culture.
As you climb, you can soak in views of Kala Pattar, Lhotse, Nuptse and other surrounding peaks.
Guided tours to Base Camp are designed at a pace that allows you acclimatise safely, so whilst it is tough enough, this trek is doable by most people that have done the correct training.
On top of this, camping equipment and food supplies are typically carried for you by local sherpas, who make the hardest of treks look like an absolute walk in the park.
One of the key benefits of Everest’s popularity is the development of its routes, the different types of tours going up the mountain, accommodation en route and competitive prices.
Unlike other mountain treks, or the Chadar trek mentioned above, much of the route allows you to stay in huts with running water and even WiFi.
So follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s historic climbers and take on the most famous mountain in the world.
K2 falls on the border of China and Pakistan, though most people tend to climb from the Pakistan side. At a whopping 8,611 metres above sea level, it is the second highest mountain in the world, after its big brother of the Himalayas – Mount Everest.
For anyone keen to take on the toughest mountain on the planet but lacking the time or mountaineering skills to make it to the summit, trekking to Base Camp is the perfect option.
The route to and around K2 Base Camp is considered one of the world’s greatest treks with breathtaking scenery unsurpassed anywhere else on Earth.
The trek passes through mountain wilderness at high altitude above the swirling Braldu River before ascending along the extensive Baltoro glacier. This is one of the most beautiful mountain areas on offer, with towering peaks and spectacular views of some of the best vertical needles on the continent.
Get to experience the wonder of trekking beneath K2, the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak, Trango Tower, Cathedral Peaks, Chogolisa and many more as you make your way up to Concordia.
Weather-permitting, your journey will take you across the famed Gondogoro La and up to the Godwin Austin Glacier. From the amphitheater of Concordia, you get to look around at the highest concentration of 8,000 metre peaks on the planet.
Concordia, K2’s Base Camp, is often referred to as the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods for its 360-degree panorama of surrounding mountains and its impressive views of K2.
Although the trek is not in the same league of difficulty or terrain technicality as the summit climb, the route still involves steep ascents and descents, high altitudes and the possibility of snow and ice underfoot – even in summer.
As a result, it is recommended to go with a guided group to make sure the route you follow is the most suitable.
Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest and most prominent and iconic mountain. This trek is a perfect one-dayer, just two hours by train from Tokyo and will have you climbing alongside people of every nationality and age.
Views from the summit on a clear day look out over mountain ridges, sprawling towns and cities and green fields. If you go at sunrise you can look down at the colossal shadow cast by Mount Fuji itself and will beat the crowds for a more tranquil summit experience.
The official climbing season runs from July until mid-September, during which time more than 300,000 climbers take to the mountain.
The peak of this is during Obon Week in mid-August, when climbers literally have to stand in queues at some of the passages – adding to the atmosphere but will likely double your climb time.
Mount Fuji is divided into ten stations with the first station at the foot of the mountain and the tenth at the summit. Paved roads go as far as the fifth station halfway up the mountain, from where most people start their ascent.
There are four of these halfway stations on different sides of the mountain and the steepness and length of your route will vary between each.
Although not a technical hike, the air gets noticeably thinner as you gain altitude, making the steep sections particularly strenuous.
Kalaw to Inle Lake Trek
Myanmar is a beautiful country and there is no better way to get up close and personal with its landscapes and people than to explore it on foot. What better way to see the country than to spend a few days trekking through lush green fields and local villages?
Over and above the stunning scenery, people recommend this trek time and time again because of its people.
The trail takes your through the lands and villages of local farmers and families, allowing you to stay in their houses, drink freshly brewed tea and play with their kids.
Even though it isn’t scrambling up and down a snowy mountain, the trek still offers a challenge – with uneven trails, steep hills and of plenty of mileage. If you go in or at the end of the monsoon season, the rain can turn the dry path into a flowing mud river within minutes.
This three-day trek is easy enough to do without a guide and you can pay to send your bags from the start to finish point, meaning you’re free to just soak up the incredible surroundings and take a myriad of Instagram-worthy photos.
Markha Valley Trek
This popular trek is one of the most diverse options within the Western Himalayas, winding past Buddhist monasteries and remote villages as you follow the Markha Valley. Trekking through the north western Ladakh Region of India, you get to see an area famed for its wildness and untouched beauty.
The Markha Valley trek follows the Markha River downstream, crossing several high passes including Ganda La, adding to the bank of epic views across the landscape as it unfolds.
The stunning high valley provides superb views across the mountain region, with the highlight being the peak of Kangyatse.
Not only is the route one of geological beauty but trekkers get to see practices of ancient farming with green irrigated fields, local villages and several monasteries featuring brightly-dressed monks as they go about their daily lives.
The trail is still one of the best ways to experience the unique culture of the High Himalaya region.
The Markha Valley Trek is very much an altitude trek, staying high with several steep ascents, rocky canyons, the need to walk over slippery scree on occasion and exposure to to several waist-deep river crossings.
It is made ever so slightly easier thanks to homestays along the route, meaning that you can hike it from start to finish without carrying stoves, tents and sleeping bags.
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