Ask GoMad Nomad: Hiking in Asia?
Dear GoMad Nomad,
I’d really like to take a trip that combines culture and nature with a relatively cheap destination – I was thinking Asia. Are there any really good places to go hiking in Asia this coming winter or spring?
– Christine L.; Bellevue, Washington
The possibilities, quite frankly, are almost endless. There are day hikes and long-distance treks all over Asia that offer access to some really beautiful landscapes while still maintaining a bit of interaction with local communities and offering insights into the cultures of the place you’re visiting. Pictured above, Kyrgyzstan is one of my personal favorites. Epic mountains peopled by nomadic families watching over their livestock in the summer or covered deep in snow in the winter. This is maybe a bit far off the beaten path for the beginner, though, so two other thoughts for you that have been some of my favorites:
The hike through China’s Tiger Leaping Gorge is a bit of a traveler favorite, and in recent years seems to have gotten a little crowded during the busiest travel times. If you can find a few days to hike it when the masses aren’t around though, it has some really nice scenery and takes away much of the logistical hassle of full-on trekking. This is usually done in two days, taking public transport to one end of the canyon and walking through to a bus at the other end. Guesthouses and restaurants run most of the length of the trail, so you don’t need much gear to do it. Plus there are people that still live in the area, so for your purposes it could be a good way to interact with locals who are residents of the TLG region. The whole Yunnan province (and nearby by Sichuan as well) are dotted with hiking trails and many of them are less popular than Tiger Leaping Gorge, so if this agrees with you check into places like Xishuangbanna or Jiuzhaigou.
If Tiger Leaping Gorge is just too short for you, one of the other most popular hiking countries anywhere in Asia is definitely Nepal. There are two main areas in the country where tourists go hiking: Annapurna and Everest Base Camp. I ended up on an extended version of the EBC hike, flying into Tumlingtar and walking for a week before getting even close to where most travelers start. If you’re really looking for cultural immersion, I would suggest considering that option. We spent days walking through local villages and staying at basic homestays – both of which offered a view into normal life in the region we were hiking. Getting into Sagarmatha National Park changed the vibe a bit (this is a busy hikers’ area, after all, and so many of the guesthouses are built with tourism very much in mind) but the landscapes and trail were so nice that even when it got crowded it was still nice hiking. Here, too, there is so much infrastructure built to handle tourism that you don’t need to bring hiking gear beyond a good pair of shoes. GoMad Nomad Editor Stephen Bugno also spent several weeks on the Langtang Valley Trek in Nepal, so perhaps we can weigh in with more info if you’d like to hear about something a bit less traveled.
These are just two of countless options – the limit really should be what country interests you the most and how much time you can spare for hiking. If you have any follow-up questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments!
Have you spent any time hiking in Asia? What are some of your favorite trails from past trips or the adventures of dreams?