Best Hiking Destinations in the World
Published on: September 5th, 2017
Last modified: July 27th, 2023
Whether you’re a climbing enthusiast or just enjoy the occasional ramble, this list appeals to climbers of all levels.
To help take your hiking to new heights, here is Jacada's list of the best climbing destinations in the world...
1) Mount Merapi, Java, Indonesia
Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia, is the number one climbing destination for adrenaline junkies and lovers of natural beauty alike. For a truly magical experience, trekkers like to reach the summit in time for sunrise, a prime time for epic views across East Java. Start from the nearest village of Selo and climb your way to the top of this majestic volcano.
And that’s not all that Java has to offer. Boasting 121 active volcanoes and 12 national parks as well as an intoxicating array of tea and coffee plantations, the region is an outdoor-lover’s paradise. Trek the Menoreh Hills, horseride to the summit of Mount Bromo to watch the sunrise, or take in the heady scents and mystical views of the eerie sulphur lake at Kawah Ijen Volcano.
2) Luang Prabang, Laos
It may not be the conventional choice for climbers, but the Luang Prabang region of Laos boasts some amazing climbing opportunities. Views from this striking, mountainous landscape overlook the winding Mekong River, and are well worth the half-hour boat ride from its charming UNESCO town. Climb the craggy limestone cliffs of the Gecko Wall, which offers seven different bolted routes of varying difficulty, making it perfect for climbers of all levels.
And there’s a glut of other active pursuits to get stuck into while you’re there. Discover the scenic landscape by bicycle, visit the beautiful cascading waterfalls that meander through myriad step-like pools (many of which you can bathe in), trek the Tiger Trails through the dense forest, kayak the twists and turns of the rivers, or delve deep into the Pak Ou Cave System.
3) Cochamo Valley, Lake District, Chile
Cochamó Valley in the Chilean Lake District offers an abundance of climbing possibilities. There are cragging routes, bouldering opportunities, granite walls, and spectacular landscapes. As well as a variety of sport and recreational routes, you can find more demanding hikes and trails. There is minimal development in this area, which makes it a rich location for breathtaking Chilean nature and scenery.
Also in Chile, with magical lakes, rivers and glaciers (including the Southern Patagonian Ice Field) all encircling its peak, Cordillera del Paine is the spectacular centrepiece in the Torres del Paine National Park.
For bouldering fans, Socaire in the desolate, copper-coloured Atacama Desert is truly one of a kind. There is something for everyone here, with plenty of different routes of varying difficulty.
The best of the rest
4) Halong Bay & Sapa, Vietnam
What better way to discover mystical Halong Bay than by climbing? The picturesque backdrop of limestone cliffs rising from emerald green waters tempts many. Start your climb from one of the sandy beaches below and explore this truly amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Alternatively, Sapa in the north is home to Vietnam’s highest peak, Fansipan. Dubbed “the roof of Indochina”, this peak overlooks hanging valleys of terraced rice paddies, gloriously verdant vistas and steep valleys.
5) Mount Kinabalu, Borneo
Mount Kinabalu is one of the tallest mountains in South East Asia. The dramatic peak is found in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinabalu National Park. There are two trails that reach the magical granite summit and it takes about two days to ascend, passing lush rainforests on the way.
6) Huayna Picchu, Choquequiqaro & Ausangate, Peru
There’s so much more to trekking in Peru than Machu Picchu. The mountainous ranges of Huayna Picchu are particularly interesting as they rise over these famous ruins, with ancient temples and terraces are scattered all over the site.
The Choquequiaro archaeological trek is Peru’s little-known gem and a true ‘off the beaten track’ destination, receiving far fewer tourists than Machu Picchu despite being only 30 miles away.
For a heady climb, the unearthly red Ausangate mountain is one of the highest peaks in Southern Peru, reaching an incredible 6,372m above sea level: the Incas believed it had a special spirit.
7) Mount Fitzroy & Aconagua, Argentina
For the experienced climber, Argentina is a paradise. The striking, spear-like Mount Fitzroy remains one of the most technically challenging climbs in the world, with its high peaks and steep granite faces.
The Aconcagua, situated close to the Chilean border, is the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere and considered to be the highest ‘non-technical’ route. Extensive preparation is required beforehand to tackle the high altitude, but it’s well worth the view from the summit as you look down on surrounding glaciers.
8) Sugarloaf Mountain, Brazil
For sensational panoramic views of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro and the white-sand beaches that surround it, head on up Sugarloaf Mountain. This impressive urban climbing site is apt for all types of climbers and is very convenient and flexible, letting you tailor the trek to suit your desires.
9) Cotopaxi, Ecuador
This stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains is the second highest summit in Ecuador, and you can spot the impressive peak from the capital Quito. Surrounded by pristine forests, lakes, exotic fauna and topped with a beautiful snow covered crater, Cotopaxi is a dream to climb. Be cautious of the high altitudes before embarking on this technical but rewarding trek.
10) Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
It goes without saying that Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest free-standing mountain would make the cut. This inactive stratovolcano situated in Northern Tanzania, close to Kenya’s border, is considered to have a straightforward ascent, making this incredible ‘Roof of Africa’ a feasible trek. Take in the amazing views of the plains of the Savannah as you climb this snowcapped mountain.
11) Chiang Mai & Krabi, Thailand
Travel to the Rai Leh peninsula to venture up the idyllic Krabi karst hills. Stunning views here encompass rich coral reefs in the turquoise waters that surround the limestone cliffs, lined with sandy beaches. A rock climbing paradise!
12) Table Mountain & Drakensberg, South Africa
Discover the famous flat-topped plateau of South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain for an awe-inspiring view of Cape Town. With many different trails, walks and hikes to choose from, you’re spoilt for choice.
Drakensberg Park, more commonly known in Africa as “Dragon Mountains”, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to some of the highest peaks and mountains in South Africa. Stretching across 200 kilometres of land, this majestic mountainous landscape has peaks suitable for both beginners and more advanced climbers.
13) Poon Hill Trek & Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Nepal is, of course, world-famous for its climbing opportunities, and the 4-night Poon Hill Trek through the Annapurna mountain range provides some of the most breathtaking panoramas in the world, as well as a unique chance to experience the authentic traditional lifestyle in rural Nepal.
Of course, you can’t talk climbing spots without at least mentioning the formidable Mount Everest. But for those not ready to reach the summit (most of us), the 14-day trek to Everest Base Camp is a satisfying but much more achievable goal.
14) Ladakh, India
Often referred to as India‘s ‘Little Tibet’, Ladakh is characterised by its striking landscape of scorched, sweeping expanses, soaring snow-capped peaks, deep blue lakes, plunging valleys and cliffs specked here and there with whitewashed monasteries. Framed by the Himalayas and the Karakoram, this desert sits at an altitude of 3,500m and makes for some truly spectacular hiking under crisp blue skies.
15) The Lake District, England
Hike through a storybook landscape in England‘s Lake District, with it’s glacially carved U-shaped valleys, expansive lakes, and the kind of rugged, romantic scenery that inspired classic writers and poets from William Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter. Scafell Pike is England’s highest mountain, and presents a delightful challenge for hungry hikers.
16) Serra de Tramuntana, Mallorca, Spain
Swap snow for almond blossoms, which cover the slopes of Mallorca‘s craggy mountain terrain in this UNESCO World Heritage site. Ancient cliff-hanging footpaths, hypnotising ocean views and jagged limestone peaks make for a charming and leisurely hike whatever your level – and what’s more, you can refuel with some of Spain‘s most delicious local cuisine when you’re done.
17) Mount Cook, New Zealand
Rising formidably from amongst the 19 peaks of Mount Cook National Park, this spectacular mountain is New Zealand‘s highest at 3754m. One for experienced hikers, it is one of the most dangerous (yet most alluring) climbs on the planet. For less experienced climbers there are still some excellent hiking opportunities, whether you’re after an ice-trek, heli-hike, or comfortable walking walking trek.
18) Glencoe, Scotland
Steeped in history, myth and legend, the Scottish Highlands are a gloriously wild and rugged spot for climbing, and Glencoe is one of their most famous mountain landscapes. With world-class climbing routes for the more experienced, and stunning walks and hikes for an easier trek, there’s no better way to take in the spectacular highland scenery.
19) Marmolada, Italy
Nestled amongst the picturesque ‘pale mountains‘ of Italy, Marmolada is affectionately known by locals as the Queen of the Dolomites. Mountaineers dream of reaching the Via Ferrata on her western ridge, but for an easier hike the mighty glacier on the mountain’s north face is just sublime.
20) Fontainebleau, France
You might not think you would find some of the world’s best climbing less than an hour from Paris, but in fact the whole concept of ‘bouldering’ was invented here in the 1960s by a group of French climbers known as the ‘Bleausards’. They called it the ‘laboratory of movement’, and with good reason: with its unusually hard, smooth sandstone and unique rock formations, this is one of the best spots to work on your form, strength and technique.