Asia is renowned for its diverse natural landscapes, ranging from the peaks of the Himalayas to the sun-drenched shores of Malaysia and Indonesia. Not surprisingly, hiking has become popular among tourists who wish to experience all the breathtaking natural wonders that the continent has to offer. Even with a plethora of hiking trails crisscrossing Asia, there are five extreme trails that clearly stand out from the rest.
1. Snowman Trek, Bhutan
At the heart of the Himalayas between India and the Chinese region of Tibet, the incredibly scenic country of Bhutan is home to some of the most spectacular sights in Asia, if not the world. The 24-day Snowman Trek, which traverses eleven passes over 4,500 meters in elevation on its course from Drukgyel Dzong to Sephu, winds through many secluded yet charming Bhutanese villages isolated from the rest of the country for months at a time. Hikers will have unbelievable views of peaks towering 7,000 meters, along with dense coniferous forests. Despite the relatively short window for fair hiking weather – three weeks in early and mid-October – the Snowman Trek is the journey of a lifetime.
2. Cliffside Sky Path at Mt. Huashan, China
If the Snowman Trek is an endurance test for hikers, the southern peak of Mt. Huashan in China is a treacherous hike that tests the mettle of trekkers from around the world. The Cliffside Sky Path from the mountain’s base to its summit is comprised of 2-foot-wide wooden platforms, across which each step appears to be within inches of disaster. Fortunately, trekkers are harnessed in as they climb toward the teahouse at South Peak’s highest point. In short, the Sky Path is not for the faint of heart.
3. Bachor Mountain Lakes Trek, Tajikistan
The Pamir Mountain range of Tajikistan is nothing short of amazing. Hikers on the Bachor Mountain Lakes Trek will encounter numerous lakes, some of them translucent enough to reflect the wondrous alpine peaks. The trail traverses magnificent passes, stunning ancient monuments, and glacial deposits, notably one resembling a frozen amphitheater. Not to be overlooked are the opportunities for wildlife sightings, including rare, beautifully patterned snow leopards.
4. Low’s Peak Via Ferrata — Kinabalu National Park, Malaysia
Rising 13,435 feet above the tropical rainforests of Borneo, Malaysia’s tallest mountain provides myriad challenges for intrepid hikers. The grueling two-day hike from base to summit along the Via Ferrata, a demanding course which includes treacherous suspension bridges and vertical ascents of granite walls, requires a great deal of confidence and a sheer amount of bravery. Because of its challenging nature, the Via Ferrata has a minimum age of 17. Regardless, ascending Mt. Kinabalu is rewarding for all who traverse the majestic mountain near the Equator.
5. Concordia-K2 Trek, Pakistan
Isolated from the hustle and bustle of modern civilization, the Baltistan region of northern Pakistan is a pristine wilderness, unspoiled by human activity and perfect for hiking. Beginning their trek in the village of Askole, hikers begin their journey toward the summit of Concordia. Along the way, they have opportunities to admire the sights along the 39-mile Baltoro Glacier and take part in cultural traditions on their rest day at Paiyu. At the summit of Concordia, astonished tourists are presented with a view unparalleled anywhere on planet Earth, as the world’s second-tallest mountain, K2, towers above them at 28,251 feet in altitude. The Concordia-K2 trek might be demanding, but it is truly worth all the effort.