Top high altitude trekking routes

Some of the most dramatic and exciting high altitude treks lie in far flung countries – Nepal, India, Peru – so you can expect a chunky flight to reach them, and perhaps a connecting domestic flight or long drive, too. The trek may form part of a longer vacation – people often add in the four-day guided hike to Machu Picchu while traveling through Peru – while many unforgettable treks slot into a two-week window on a trip that includes sightseeing and local culture, too. On a fully organised tour you will be transported to the trailhead, but after that it’s pedestrian power all the way, with walking distances varying each day, depending on trail and weather conditions, altitude and overnight stop locations.
Inca Trail, Peru

1. Inca Trail, Peru

Seeing Machu Picchu is ample reward for the tough four-day hike to this ancient Inca site. The trail is a high altitude battle against slippery rocks and changing weather, through varied Andean scenery, from high tundra to humid cloud forest. Acclimatise in Cusco for a few days before and use a licensed tour operator, who can obtain permits. The trail closes in February each year for maintenance work.
Ladakh, India

2. Ladakh, India

Buddhist Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, is high, dry and rippling with Himalayan peaks. The remote Markha Valley is a beautiful trekking destination, accessible in July and August. Skirt the Stok Mountains, over the Ganda La pass (4,970m) with views of the Zanskar Range, and on to Markha, passing monasteries, isolated villages and high altitude pastures. Time in Leh and initial short walks aid acclimatisation.
Mont Blanc, France

3. Mont Blanc, France

At 4,810m, Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps, and its summit is covered in snow all year. ‘Doing Mont Blanc’ usually means hiking its lower regions. The full Tour de Mont Blanc circuit doesn’t push above about 2,500m, but summiting is possible and seriously challenging. June to September is the best time to trek here; allow a week for the tour or the summit.
Mounts Kilimanjaro & Kenya

4. Mounts Kilimanjaro & Kenya

Africa’s two highest peaks offer fantastic high altitude, non-technical trekking. While Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro is most famous and attracts most trekkers, Mount Kenya, 400km away, is arguably the more interesting trek, with spectacular scenery and exciting flora and wildlife, including forest-dwelling elephants. Allow 10 days for Kili, a week for Kenya, and remember you’ll need a guide for Kili. Tag on a safari if time allows.
Mount Toubkal, Morocco

5. Mount Toubkal, Morocco

Jebel Toubkal is the highest peak in North Africa and at 4,167m, it’s a strenuous trek in all seasons. In winter, serious alpinism techniques are required, but you can book onto a tour that trains and guides you. The gateway town is Imlil, and the climb usually takes two to four days depending on the route; you can stay at refuges or camp.

6. Nepal

With the Himalayas forming its spine, it’s no surprise that Nepal is stuffed with high altitude treks. The perennially popular Annapurna Circuit and the stiff ascent to Everest Base Camp at 5,364m are its celebrated routes, offering superb scenery, from rhododendron forests and mountain gorges to glaciers in the shadow of Everest. Stay in teahouses and enjoy meeting charming Nepali people along the route.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about High altitude trekking or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

High altitude trekking advice

Packing tips

Packing tips

Alistair Grice, from our supplier Exodus, has this advice for trekking on Mount Kenya:
“I would recommend bringing your own favourite snacks, confectionary and choc bars, as such supplies can be hard to find locally.”
Lucy Booth, from our supplier Kenya Treks, suggests things to bring:
“Wine gums or similar. Particularly on your last day at very high altitude your throat becomes really dry; it makes a huge difference to have something sweet to suck! I strongly recommend bringing an aluminium bottle, too. We can fill it with very hot water and we provide fleece covers for one litre bottles so you can have a cosy hot water bottle at night!”
Danny Bell, from our leading Nepal trekking supplier Exodus, has this advice for those taking on the Annapurna Circuit:
“You will need layers to keep warm at higher altitudes, but you don’t need to bring clean clothes for every day. You can wash your underwear as you go plus as you get towards higher altitude it’s cooler so you’re not sweating as much. Basically, without being too grotty, I’d say you don’t need to change socks every day. When they can walk by themselves, then you might consider it!”
Altitude sickness advice

Altitude sickness advice

Alistair Grice, from our supplier Exodus, shares his healthy trekking tips:
“Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is always an unknown phenomenon as it can affect even the most experienced high altitude trekker irrespective of age, fitness, physiology and previous trekking experience. Such high altitude treks always allow sufficient time for adequate acclimatisation but you can’t legislate for the impact of altitude as everyone will react differently. As long as you are in good health and have a good level of fitness you should be OK, but no guarantees. I’ve always been very fortunate and have never had a problem with altitude, but then I am the complete trekking athlete of course… Ha!”
Andrew Appleyard of our supplier Exodus, has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro many times and has this advice:
“Altitude sickness is a complete unknown. But I would say that if you give yourself time to do a longer route and, therefore, have longer to acclimatise, your success rates are higher. My top tip is that if you’re going to do it, do not scrimp on cost. Don’t try and carry tons of your own gear so that you can cut down on porters, it’s just not worth it. I did it a decade ago and there were 11 in our group – I took 10 of those to the summit. The other group had 19 people and only three made it. They told us they came up too quickly, had altitude sickness, didn’t eat enough food, ran out of water…”
Walking in Morocco tips

Walking in Morocco tips

Simon Clifford from our leading supplier of Morocco walking vacations, Exodus
Climbing Mount Toubkal is quite challenging and we wouldn’t recommend it to first time climbers, or people not used to walking. A really nice introduction to walking in the Atlas Mountains is to stay in the remote village of Tijhza for a week, staying in a basic gite, and taking day walks up into the mountains each day.”
Preparation tips

Preparation tips

Kush Hari Phuyal is Nepalese and has led treks to Everest Base Camp for our supplier Intrepid Travel for over a decade:
“Before you are physically ready, you have to be ready mentally. Of course, some physical training is good. It would be nice if you are walking two or three hours every day during the month before you start the trip, that will help a lot with regards to trekking the trail. But some people are mentally unprepared. They worry too much about the altitude or it being their first time trekking. Rather than feeling that way they should just be positive, and trust that if they follow the leader’s instructions and listen carefully to his advice, it will be fine. So, prepare in a positive way rather than a negative way, expecting bad things to happen.”
Kathy Jarvis is the director of our supplier, Andean Trails, and has this Inca Trail trekking advice:
“Make sure you acclimatise as much as possible. The more acclimatised you are, the more you'll enjoy it. You can suffer a lot if you try and force your body too high, too soon – as well as it being dangerous. So allow as much time as possible as you can before trekking. And then it's a case of having the right clothes – good kit, jackets, waterproofs, warm gloves, hats... It's also better to bring your own sleeping bag. There are some for hire, but it's quite a personal thing!”
Small group

Small group trekking insights

Danny Bell, from our leading Nepal trekking supplier Exodus:
“During the first week you stick together as a group, with the guide controlling how far and fast you go so you acclimatise safely to the altitude. It’s a good way to get to know everyone, but it can become a bit of a mule train. Once the chief guide gets to know your fitness levels he may let you go ahead a bit at your own pace, but always with an assistant guide.”

Tips from our travelers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful high altitude trekking tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your backpack.
the food was excellent, much better than I'd expected and plenty of it.
– Susan Sandalls, on the Mont Blanc circuit
“The Thorong La pass is the highlight. At 5,416 meters above sea level, lots of attention is given to ensure trekkers are properly acclimated in the days prior. Making it to the crossing is marked with much jubilation, and a flurry of photos. There's a strong sense of accomplishment, and it's literally downhill from there! Your feet do take a beating. Bring a sufficient amount of medical supplies for foot-related injuries, blisters in particular. The hot springs at Tatopani provide relief, but it's towards the end of the trek.” – Edgar Ampil, on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

“Make sure you’re fit enough – another group had one person so much slower than the rest that the guide had to stay with her, meaning that the rest of the group couldn’t benefit from his knowledge. If you don’t take hold luggage, buy a cheap kitchen knife in Chamonix. Take plenty of factor 50 and a wide-brimmed hat – we had over 30 degrees a few days even quite high up. There was no choice for the evening meal so don't be fussy – the food was excellent, much better than I'd expected and plenty of it.” – Susan Sandalls, on the Mont Blanc circuit

“Take the fitness level seriously. This was a wonderfully challenging adventure. Also, try to be in Italy for a few days beforehand. We flew into Florence the week before and spent a week outside of Bologna first. We found flying in and out of Florence easy to do, getting both a bus and train to get to ur destination.” – Leslie Keeney, on the Mont Blanc circuit

“Bring hand sanitiser and wet-wipes. Don't try to bring too many luxuries with you – embrace the experience!” – Susheel Chumber, hiking the Inca Trail

“Because of the high altitude, it is advisable for trekkers to give themselves at least 3 days to acclimatise. Having a basic level of fitness would be ideal to allow for better appreciation of the whole trekking experience.” – Seng Mak, hiking the Inca Trail

Tip your guide, chef, and porters well! An extra amount means little to us but a lot to them.
– Mina Connor, hiking the Inca Trail
“Leave the Inca trail to the last part of your vacation and give yourself lots of time to acclimatise to the altitude! There is no way we could have managed the trail after a couple of days as we all suffered some symptoms from the altitude.” – Erica Johnstone, hiking the Inca Trail

“Bring a wide-brimmed hat, good suncream, bug repellent, 2 rolls of toilet paper, and a pack of wet wipes (good for daily deodorizing). Rent two walking sticks unless you are in awesome shape. Saves the knees and catches any falls. Tip your guide, chef, and porters well! An extra amount means little to us but a lot to them. At the end of the trip, donate any shoes or equipment that you may not need in the future. Ideally spend 3+ nights in Cusco before the trip.” – Mina Connor, hiking the Inca Trail

“Listen to your leader and drink plenty of water to avoid altitude sickness. Don't do too much when you first get to Leh in order to acclimatise properly. Enjoy the views!!!” – Ellie Hawksley in Ladakh

“Positive attitude is essential. Bring snacks, plenty of food but nice to have home comforts and to share with guides and porters.” – Mair James, Mount Kilimanjaro

“Listen and follow your guide’s advice and have a positive mental attitude. Also, be prepared to be grubby!” – Jane Walker, Mount Kilimanjaro

Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: DMSU] [Intro/Peru: McKay Savage] [Inca trail: Esmee Winnubst] [Ladakh India: Shams amu] [Mont Blanc: Simonsimages] [Kilimanjaro: Sam Hawley] [Mount Toubkal: Julia Maudlin] [Nepal: Bijaya2043] [Alaistair Grice snack tip: Borkur Sigurbjornsson] [Lucy booth bottle tip: Stig Nygaard] [Danny Bell clothes tip: Doug Letterman] [Alistair Grice sickness advice: Franco Pecchio] [Andrew Appleyard porters : Clark H] [Simon Clifford Morocco tip: Wonker] [Kush Hari Nepal tip: Steve Hicks] [Kathy Jarvis Inca trail trip: Cathrine Lindblom Gunasekara] [Danny Bell small groups: Steve Hicks] [Trvellers tips intro: McKay Savage] [Travelers tip 1 : Simonsimages] [Travelers tip 2: Tyler Bell]