Southeast Asia may not be famous for its hikes, but the region has its fair share of spectacular trails. It’s not that it’s difficult finding good hikes in Southeast Asia, it’s more if they’re worth exploring, given the proximity of Nepal, China and Japan.
As adventure travel and hiking specialists in Asia, we say yes, they definitely are! To give you a taste of the great outdoor experiences that await you in this spectacularly diverse part of the world, we’ve selected the best hikes in Southeast Asia, broken down into categories to suit your hiking style.
Find out which are the most famous, the most breathtakingly beautiful, the most culturally immersive, the most intense and the most remote.
Pack your kit and put your boots on, we’re going on an adventure!
Hike #1 – Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia
Altitude: 4,095m (13,435 feet)
Day 1: 5-7 hours
Day 2: 3-5 hours
Difficulty level: Not hard as far as hikes go. General fitness required – very accessible with experienced guides and ropes to hold onto.
Why we love it
UNESCO World Heritage Site with biodiverse rainforest
Relatively easy overnight summit climb
Easily accessible via Kota Kinabalu
Amazing sunrise views at the top
Probably the most famous, and definitely one of the best hikes in Southeast Asia, the Mount Kinabalu summit climb has “peaked” in popularity in recent years. Some of this is due to the media attention brought by a group of travelers who took a nude photo at the mountain’s sacred summit (and were subsequently fined and deported). An earthquake shortly after the incident (which locals claim was tied to the foreigner’s lewd act), kept the majestic mountain the news.
The hype has since died, but the mountain remains a must for many travelers to Southeast Asia. There are two trails to the Low’s Peak summit – Ranau Trail and Kota Belud Trail – which both take two days and one night. Only 135 climbing permits are issued each day, so booking in advance is essential. Mount Kinabalu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich and diverse ecology, with dense rainforest full of endemic plant and animal species (such as orangutans and stinking corpse flowers). The combination of incredible scenery, lush rainforest and relative accessibility make this one of Southeast Asia’s most famous hikes.