Asia is a hub for spectacular tourist destinations. It also offers some spellbinding treks which allow you to walk through thick rainforests, citing rare flora and fauna, learning about the various tribes and their cultures, and often observing them by residing with them in their homes and sharing their food. The following places for trekking in Asia are recommended not only because they are breathtakingly beautiful but also culturally immersive. Asia is a treasure trove of natural mystery tucked away into its beautiful corners waiting to be explored. We take a look at some of the most spectacular trails that explore the history and culture of the region.
Mount Kinabalu is definitely one of the most prominent, and arguably one of the most picturesque hikes in Southeast Asia. It is a World Heritage Site identified by UNESCO with a diverse and rich ecology, with thick rainforest full of enchanting flora and fauna (such as stinking corpse flower and orangutan). This summit has climbed to new “pinnacles” in popularity recently. One main reason is because of the media spotlight brought on by a group of tourists who captured a nude photo at the summit of the sacred mountain (who were eventually fined and deported). An earthquake took place shortly after this incident that kept the mighty mountain in the news.
Even though the hype has died, but the trek definitely makes the bucket list for anyone traveling to Southeast Asia. The two prominent trails are Low’s Peak peak –Kota Belud Trail and Ranau Trail –both require one night and two days. The number of permits issued per day is restricted to 135, so one would have to book in advance. Combine the lush green rainforests, the scenic beauty and relative accessibility and you get a whiff one of Southeast Asia’s most incredible hikes.
Cambodia- Yeak Laom
In the dense jungles of northeast Cambodia lies the quiet district of Ratnakiri, you would be glad to know that you will have a knowledgeable guide along with you on your expedition to this remote area of Cambodia as exploring it alone wouldn’t be a walk in the park. One of the most notable sights is the crystal clear Yeak Laom Lake. It’s surrounded by five tampuen villages and fills up what once was a volcanic crater. In the villages you’ll be taught about traditional beliefs, customs and handicrafts.
One can stay in Yeak Loam Hotel in Banlung which is 6 km away from Yeak Loam Lake and has an excellent view from the sky bar.
Located 2.5 miles of Yeak Loam Lake, another excellent choice of accommodation would be The Ratnakiri-Boutique Hotel.
A quaint nature resort, Terres Rouges Lodge is a beautiful place to relax. Its peaceful location set within the tropical gardens along the BoeungKansaing River makes it an absolute delight.
Vietnam- Son Doong Cave
A hike to the world’s largest cave definitely sounds like every adventurer and explorer’s dream. What makes the Son Doong Cave in Vietnam more mysterious is the fact that it was only stumbled upon in 1991. It’s situated in the thick PhongNha-KeBàng National Park making it even more attractive to hikers and adventurers who like to take the path less trodden. There’s a sort of exclusiveness to this trek. Permits are limited and equally expensive, and even though tours are a little heavy on the pocket (around $ 4,000 for a 4-day trip), they are sold out like hot cakes. It’s very clear as to why that’s the case. Ted Alvarez from Backpackers explains everything about this cave and how to book your hike.
During a four-day subterranean expedition you will transit through a 5 KM cavern wide and high enough for a Boeing 747 to fly through. You’ll see stalactites stacking up to 70 meters in height. You’ll see stunning formations of rock you never knew existed, such as the wondrous and breathtaking cave pearls. You’ll explore underground forests with their own weather system. You’ll need to rope-climb, clamber over huge boulders and plod through multiple streams, all while strictly adhering to the safety rules and regulations. It isn’t an adventure for everyone; few can say they’ve done it, giving it a truly adventurous shine.
Thailand – Hill tribe experiences
The mountain trails of northern Thailand showcase the best hikes in Southeast Asia if you’re enthralled by life of the hill tribe. Run by a Chang Rai based NGO, these trips focus more on cultural exchange than physical endurance. You’ll come across a congregation of diverse ethnic villages in a small area, letting you to survey more than one over the course of a few days. The routes available in Mae Hong Song province are plentiful, so finding one that suits you should not be difficult.
You leisurely walk only a couple of hours a day, most of your time is spent experiencing the peaceful vibes of everyday life with locals of the Lahu, Akha and Karen tribes – sometimes cooking meals on the bamboo floor of your host’s hut or helping in the fields or volunteering in the local school. Visit their website for more information.
If you are looking for a route that takes you through unexplored parts of northern Thailand check then this blog ‘Northern Thailand off the tourist trail’ with a couple of unique itineraries.
Cambodia – Virachay National Park
Virachay National Park is tucked away between Vietnam, and Laos in the northeastern part of Cambodia. It is located in some of the deepest and isolated jungles of Cambodia. The park is largely unexplored and holds a large array of wildlife, waterfalls and mountains. The park is one of the top priority areas for conservation in Southeast Asia. If you are lucky you can spot Asian black bear, sun bear, a leopard cat, and the Asian elephant. There are some great trekking options to explore this unique area.
Vietnam – Ha Giang
You probably have heard of Sapa, the little town that is the starting point of many hill tribe trekking in northern Vietnam. If you are looking for a more secluded and less touristy area than head to Ha Giang.
The area is great to explore by motorbike, but with a car it is wonderful too. Especially the road between Meo Vac to Dong Van is magnificent. Visit in October when it is the flower blossom season, which makes this area even more stunning.
The area is also great for trekking. The Hoang Su Phi rice terraces color magnificent yellow and green during end of September and beginning of October. In addition to the beautiful terraced fields you will also meet the hospitable, friendly local people.
India – Darjeeling
Surrounded by emerald-green tea plantations at the foot of the Himalayas and towered over by majestic Khangchendzonga (8598m), Darjeeling stands proud as its gateway. Darjeeling allures travelers all year round and is known as the “queen of the hill stations.” You can even see mount Everest from Tiger Hill.
As Darjeeling is famous for its tea, try one of the tea estates like Glenburn, Makabari and Happy Valley to see the tea process and try some yourself!
Not even is the town of Darjeeling worth a visit also it surrounding area is stunning. You can for example walk from village to village and sleep at local people’s houses, eat delicious momo’s, and Thukpa a noodle soup served with egg, meat and vegetables.
Devika Khosla from Make My Trip has written a nice guide about Darjeeling and what to see and do while there.
Palawan is one of the most stunning islands in the Philippines with thick green jungle and an emerald sea. One of its main attractions is El Nido and the Puerto Princesa, but many people forget about the more hidden parts. Aside from swimming, diving, and road trips, you may also opt to explore the thick forest while trekking and staying overnight with the Tagbanuan tribe.
There are many peaks to climb like Mt. Victoria, which is still an unexplored wild destination with an unbelievable array of flora and fauna. Recently, a rat-eating pitcher plant was discovered which created a global sensation. Another peak is Mt. Beaufort. Another beauty that is completely covered by thick forest is another land beauty. The flora and fauna here is astonishing.
Kyrgyzstan is fast becoming more well known among travelers, but it’s the Tien Shan mountains that are the real scenic draw of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan’s hiking opportunities give you the unique opportunity to combine high-mountain landscapes with living nomadic cultures. You can walk from homestay to homestay that offers you a glimpse of local life, trek around the three lakes of do any of the other 506-mile network of hiking trails that has just opened up Kyrgyzstan and described for you by Stephen Lioy.
Yogi and Suchna believe in taking the road less travelled and stumbling upon some hidden gems along the way! For over a decade, they’ve mapped their way across various continents, sniffed out unusual routes, discovered new flavours and stayed at quirky hostels. TheBackpackerCo is their expression of soul travel. You can catch up with them at TheBackpackerCo – Backpacking Through Western Europe.