Most people think of Asia as a continent of cultures, ancient civilizations and food - as in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, China and Japan... Apart from the Himalaya, few people equate Asia with great hikes and treks. Here is our choice of the ten most scenic hiking destinations in Asia.
Nepal - Everest Base Camp or Annapurna
As classic mountain hikes in Asia go, Nepal is the most popular of them all. Whether you trek to Everest Base Camp or in the Annapurna region, you will be certain to get incredible views and vistas. Which of the two you choose is up to you - the trek to Everest Base Camp is at higher altitude and gives you more alpine vistas and even the odd monastery. It is also the most popular trek. While there are some less-travelled trails in the area, like the trek to Gokyo Lakes, for those looking for a quieter experience and more variety in landscape (think rice paddies, forests and great views at different altitudes), the Annapurna Region, especially the Annapurna Dhaulagiri trail, is a better choice. But if you really want to get away from it all, consider the 152-day Great Himalaya Trail (don't worry, it can be done in seven stages!).
Bhutan - Snowman Trek
Throughout Bhutan Buddhist tradition ensures a respect and reverence for nature. It is here where you will find the Himalaya at is't most untouched - think soaring peaks rising above deep ravines cloaked in untouched forest. The two best treks here are the 12-day Chomolhari Base Camp trek and the tough 27-day Snowman Trek.
Japan - the backroads
Japan's mountains are surprisingly unpopulated and it is here that you will find a society shaped by deeply ingrained values, with many living traditions. And it is here you will hike through places of natural beauty and hinterland sites of deep significance, along an historic trail, the legendary trade route which connected the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean. These are the Backroads of Japan.
Kyrgyzstan - the Tian Shan and Pamir mountains
The celestial Tian Shan Mountains take up much of Kyrgyzstan and provide a stunning landscape of eternal snows and alpine meadows. Explore this culturally rich country on foot meeting local herders to learn about their traditional way of life, and discover this mysterious land where people's lives are shaped by breathtaking sheer peaks and and majestic glaciers.
And rising high over Central Asia, in the Pamir Mountains lies Lenin Peak, the 3rd tallest peak in the former USSR at 7,134m and a non-technical climb waiting for anyone with the right amount of stamina!
Mongolia - Summit to Steppe River and Trek
Author and adventurer Tim Cope, canoeist Ernst Waldenfels, and Mongolian brothers Battsengel and Batbayaar, have designed an itinerary to maximize your experience of the diverse landscapes and nomadic heritage of western Mongolia. The Five Gods, Summit to Steppe River and Trek expedition combines a trek over high passes on nomad trails supported by herdsmen with their camels and horses, a horseback ride around the sacred peak of Shiveet mountain, and a canoe voyage down the Khovd River system including the spectacular Khoton-Khurgan alpine lake system. By minimizing mechanical transport and travelling with local nomads on foot, horse, and river through mountains, forest and steppe it allows the traveller to immerse more fully in the natural world and the cultures that have evolved here over untold millennia.
Jordan - canyons, gorges and lost cities
As you walk through the Siq to the Treasury at Petra, you cannot help but be in awe. Hand-hewn red sandstone buildings rise up into the clear desert skies, remembering ancient caravans of spice traders travelling far and wide to sell their wares. But that is only part of the story. Walk through the beautiful dessert at Wadi Rum or trek across the country from Dana Nature Reserve all the way to Petra, one of the finest multi-day hikes in the Middle East.
Russia - Kamchatka
Kamchatka in Russia's far east is one of the world's last unexplored places, a wilderness of stunning bays, boiling geysers, bears and snow-capped volcanoes. A land where alpine meadows and lowland forests support a great diversity of wildlife and house landscapes of outstanding beauty. For those who have been everywhere else to those who just prefer to get well off the beaten path, this trek promises to offer one of the adventures of a lifetime.
Sri Lanka - the verdant highlands
Behind the dazzling beauty of Sri Lanka’s world famous beaches is an island of lush jungles, spice gardens, ancient Buddhist temples and an abundance of wildlife - all of which makes for a unique trekking experience. Climb Lion Rock, hike through the unspoilt Knuckles Mountain Range, past rice paddies and brushing vibrant, emerald-green tea plantations, tackle Adam's Peak and enjoy the spectacular 1000m cliff drop of World's End.
Vietnam - Sapa
Our man Tom Gehrels dragged his wife much against her will all the way to Sapa. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful regions she had seen in the world. Rice paddies cascade down the steep hill sides where hamlets inhabited by hill tribes make for great places to stay during your trek through this stunning region.
Bali - coast to coast
Step away from Bali’s famous south-coast beaches and uncover an island of rich traditions, smouldering volcanoes, sprawling rice terraces and surprisingly few visitors. Exploring the island on foot, get to the heart and soul of Bali with sweeping vistas from mountaintops to charming valleys filled with plantations and rice-fields. Walk along jungle trails and crater rims, take dips in soothing hot springs and cooling waterfalls and explore the underwater world of surrounding oceans. Visit enigmatic temples, savour sumptuous dishes and discover the Island of the Gods, far from the crowds, hiking from coast to coast.
What is your favourite hike in Asia?
Over to you - what is your favourite trek in Asia? Email us.