Best hikes in Asia

If you’re more into topography than tanning, then Southeast Asia’s mountains, volcanoes and rainforests offer some great trekking and opportunities to meet native tribes.

From half day hikes to eight day thigh burns, here are some of our favourite treks.

1. Cordillera mountains, Philippines


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This spiny mountain range in North Luxon is full of tribal heartlands, scruffy backpacker towns and UNESCO-listed rice terraces.

Do the trek: Cambulo to Banaue (6km/half day) Meet the Ifugao Tribe: Fans of jazzy fabrics and dancing on rice fields

2. Inle Lake, Myanmar


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A watery wonderland of floating monasteries and stilted villages, multiple tribes converge on the lake from the hills on market day.

Do the trek: Kalaw to Inle Lake (60km/3 days) Meet the Intha Tribe: Masters of one-legged rowing races (Google it)

3. Sapa, Vietnam


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Overlooked by the mighty Fan Si Pan mountain, Sapa’s jeweled terraces and alpine slopes are often covered in a spooky Dickensian fog.

Do the trek: Sapa to Ta Phin to Sapa (13km/full day) Meet the Dzao Hilltribe: Women with bright red headdresses and shaved eyebrows

4. Sumatra, Indonesia


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This wild Indonesian island is full of blustery volcanoes, orang-utan filled jungles, surf beaches and ancient rainforest tribes.

Do the trek: Lake Toba to Sipisopiso Waterfall (24km/full day) Meet the Batak People: Once rumoured to be into cannibalism

5. Chiang Mai, Thailand


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A favourite on the backpacker temple trail, Chiang Mai’s surrounding hilltribes are known for their ritual singers, shamans and sword dancers.

Do the trek: Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son (225km/8 days) Meet the Karen Hilltribe: Ladies of the rings, some of whom wear brass coils around their necks to give the illusion of a longer neck.

Interested in booking a hilltribe trek? Check out our smaller 5-day trek from Chiang Mai to Ban Jabo.

6. Gunung Mulu National Park, Borneo


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Protected rainforest best-known for its lost world landscapes, mind-boggling caves, rare wildlife and old tribal war path.

Do the trek: Headhunter’s Trail (20km/3 days) Meet the Iban People: Once a fearsome tribe of loinclothed headhunters, now longhouse property moguls who pride themselves on hospitality

7. Taroko National Park, Taiwan


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Almost entirely mountainous, Taiwan’s most famous national park contains half of the island’s plant and animal species.

Do the trek: Zhuilu Old Trail (10 km/full day) Meet the Truku People: Proud bearers of face tattoos

8. Kinabalu National Park, Malaysia


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A UNESCO-listed park full of rare orchids, orang-utan sanctuaries and the thigh-burning Mount Kinabalu.

Do the trek: Gunung Kinabalu Climb (4km/2 days) Meet the Murut People: Once feared warriors, now a tribe of feathery headdress enthusiasts

9. Big Snow Mountain National Park, Japan


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A wild mountainscape of clear lakes, active volcanoes and remote onsen baths. P.s. The correct onsen etiquette is birthday suits, not swimsuits.

Do the trek: Asahidake to Mount Tomuraushi (200km/4 days) Meet the Ainu People: Men with an aversion to shaving, women with mouth tattoos, all come with shoulder length bobs.