Top 10 walks in Asia

Although Asia is an awfully large continent we’ve hand-picked our top 10 walks that we think cover all bases. Hot thermal springs for a soak – tick; hospitable and comfy guesthouses – yup; smooth stone pilgrims’ pathways – oh yeah. All that’s left is for you to walk the walk on the Great Wall of China, Japan’s Nakasendo Trail and a couple of Nepal’s most epic adventures – yes we’re talking the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp. Don’t forget your yak wool socks.

1. Nakasendo Trail, Japan

The paved paths along the Nakasendo Trail have linked Kyoto and Tokyo since the 8th century and modern day travelers are in for a real treat on a three to five day walking vacation. Walk from one traditional ryokan inn and minshuku guesthouse to the next as you experience the peace and tranquillity of Japan, with plenty of rejuvenating soaks and bowls of miso amidst the mountains.

Best time to go: April to November
Our top selling trip: Japan self guided walking vacation, Nakasendo Trail
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2. The Great Wall of China

Swap Beijing's bright lights for the smoothed stone steps and crumbling watchtowers of the Great Wall of China as hike the lesser-visited, wilder sections to the east. Traditional guesthouses and village homestays allow for authentic cultural insight as well as access to the best preserved Jinshanling and Gubeikou sections, that date back as far as the Tang and Ming dynasties.

Best time to go: April to October
Our top selling trip: Great Wall of China walking vacation
Read more: Great Wall of China travel guide

3. Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail, Japan

Take a path less ordinary as you follow in the footsteps of 11th century pilgrims and seek out the three sacred shrines set amongst the mountainous terrain of Japan's Kii Peninsula. Choose between the Nakahechi, Kohechi or Iseji routes all of which feature forests of bamboo, moss-covered stone paths and nights in traditional ryokan inns, as well as the obligatory soak in hot spring baths.

Best time to go: April to November
Our top selling trip: Kumano Kodo Trail self guided walking vacation
Read more: Kumano Kodo Walking Trail

4. Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

Acclimatise, ascend and experience Everest from an area synonymous with Himalayan hiking history. After the colourful chaos of Kathmandu, you'll be ready for the teahouse traditions and awe-inspiring landscapes from Lukla to Namche Bazaar to Tengboche via Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp (5,364m). Take your time to acclimatise over a couple of weeks as part of a small guided group.

Best time to go: August to May (avoiding rainy June and July)
Our top selling trip: Everest Base Camp trek, Nepal
Read more: Everest Base Camp travel guide

5. Kerala and Western Ghats, India

From beaches and backwaters to spice plantations and hill stations, walking vacations in Kerala are the best way to experience southern India without the crowds. A two week trip with guides, porters and full service wild camping, allows for the ups and downs of Kerala and the peaks and plantations of the Western Ghats so prepare for a variety of gradients as you start to go with the flow.

Best time to go: October to March
Our top selling trip: Kerala walking vacation in India
Read more: Kerala travel guide

6. Sri Lanka

Walking south of Sigiriya rock fortress will take you through the Knuckles Mountains and past tea plantations, rice paddies and rolling plains to hill station hotels and colonial bungalows which provide comfy overnight lodgings. Combine high altitude railway rides with midnight walks to Adam’s Peak and elephant safaris in Yala National Park on a two week walking vacation in Sri Lanka.

Best time to go: July to April
Our top selling trip: Sri Lanka walking vacation
Read more: Sri Lanka walking vacations travel guide

7. Sikkim and Darjeeling, India

Head into the Eastern Himalayan foothills and tiered tea plantations of Sikkim and Darjeeling and you'll find yourself trekking along the contours of Tibet's Chumbi Valley. Make your way to mountain peaks for sunrise and expand ecclesiastical horizons at fortified mountain monasteries. Sikkim's steep slopes are awash with as many wildflowers as Darjeeling has glowing green tea leaves.

Best time to go: March to June and Sept to Nov
Our top selling trip: Darjeeling & Sikkim trekking vacation
Read more: India walking vacations travel guide

8. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Take your time to appreciate the Annapurna Circuit on a walking vacation and let the forested valleys, rolling hillsides and snow-capped Himalayan peaks of Nepal knit neatly into place. Rocky paths, high altitude passes and the world’s deepest river gorge make this epic adventure not for the feint hearted but with the right amount of acclimatisation you’ll have every opportunity to experience all of the Annapurna from Kathmandu to Pokhara via the Kali Gandaki River.

Best time to go: All year round
Our top selling trip: Annapurna Circuit 16 day vacation, Nepal
Read more: Annapurna Circuit travel guide

9. Western Bhutan

Time a walking tour of Western Bhutan to coincide with the country’s spring or autumn Buddhist festivals and you’ll discover dzongs (fortified monasteries and temples) in full pageantry, and get a unique glimpse at the cultural traditions that were once hidden from the rest of the world. Steep steps to ancient monasteries and hikes through rhododendron forests combine wonderfully well with easy walks through rice paddies and glorious village gardens filled with fruit and veg.

Best time to go: All year round
Our top selling trip: Western Bhutan walking vacation
Read more: Bhutan walking vacations travel guide

10. Kyrgyzstan

The Tien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan are one of those Silk Road locations that very few travelers have ever heard about. However, once they have, there's a tendency to rave about them. Beginning at the open air bazaars of the Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek, this trip leads you into the domains of nomadic herders, introducing you to the lifestyles of indigenous Kyrgyz communities as you trek between campsites and yurts through isolated and extravagantly beautiful landscapes.

Best time to go: July
Our top selling trip: Kyrgyzstan trekking vacation
Read more: Kyrgyzstan travel guide
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn)] [1. Nakasendo Trail, Japan: Qurren] [4. Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal: Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn)] [7. Sikkim and Darjeeling: PRATAP CHHETRI] [10. Kyrgyzstan: sumoro]