Top 10 mountains to climb

The world’s mighty mountains, from Ecuador to Indonesia, tempt the fit and fearless to scale their sides, and while summiting some of these big peaks requires technical skill, others only demand stamina and a head for heights. Astonishing mountain scenery, a sense of adventure and summit views at sunrise come as standard, while responsibly organised vacations also tread lightly on the slopes and ensure porters are fairly paid and properly equipped.

1. Mont Blanc, France

Tackling the mother of all European massifs is definitely challenging and climbing experience is needed to summit this 4,810m peak. It’s covered in snow and ice all year, so you will be using ice picks, crampons and need alpine skills. Summiting takes place over three days, but a weeklong trip gives you time to prepare. Vertigo sufferers need not apply.

When to go: June, July and August
Our top selling trip: Mont Blanc ascent climbing vacation, France
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Read more: Mont Blanc travel guide

2. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

You’ll need lots of stamina and determination to get to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but no technical skills as this is more of a hike than a climb. There is a choice of routes up, each with its own merits, taking you from grassy cultivated lower slopes right up to the ice and snow of the summit, at 5,895m.

When to go: Year round, except during the rains of April, May and November
Our top selling trip: Kilimanjaro Climb, Machame Route
See all our trips: Kilimanjaro trekking vacations
Read more: Climbing Kilimanjaro guide

3. Mount Aconcagua, Argentina

This is the highest mountain outside Asia, a whopping 6,961m, but the main route up is not technically demanding. Which is not the same as saying it’s easy! Far from it. This is a physically strenuous challenge, with very high altitude and extreme weather making the going tough. But if you’re fit, with some experience of trekking and camping in remote mountain areas, you can do it.

When to go: Mid December until the end of January
Our top selling trip: Climb Aconcagua, Argentina
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Read more: Argentina travel guide

4. Mount Kenya, Kenya

Africa’s second highest peak boasts spectacular flora and fauna, ever changing scenery and far fewer other trekkers than its more famous neighbour Mount Kilimanjaro. To reach the trekkers’ summit of Point Lenana, you’ll need good fitness levels, a sleeping bag and a sense of adventure, but no technical climbing experience.

When to go: December to March and July to mid October
Our top selling trip: Mount Kenya climbing vacation, Kenya
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Read more: Mount Kenya travel guide

5. Mount Toubkal, Morocco

Scaling Mount Toubkal is challenging, best suited to fit trekkers with some mountain experience. You’ll need to be confident at altitude, too, since the summit soars to 4,176m, rewarding climbers with unforgettable views across the plains to Marrakech and the pre-Sahara. Only got a long weekend free? No problem – you can do this trek in three days, although weeklong trips also run.

When to go: Year round, but expect snow from November to April, requiring climbing in crampons
Our top selling trip: Short break to climb Mount Toubkal in Morocco
See all our trips: Walking vacations in Morocco
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6. Everest Base Camp, Nepal

At 5,364m, Base Camp is over half the height of Everest. Trekking to it demands no technical skills, but you will need excellent fitness to cope with the 13 days of strenuous ascents and descents and the high altitude. From Base Camp, head higher to Kala Patthar for views of Everest or west into the Gokyo Valley, to see the Gokyo Lakes and cross the lofty Cho La Pass at 5,420m.

When to go: Anytime outside the May to mid September monsoon
Our top selling trip: Gokyo Everest trek in Nepal
See all our trips: Everest base camp vacations
Read more: Everest base camp travel guide and Trekking in Nepal travel guide

7. Pico Turquino, Cuba

A steamy two-day hike through virgin rainforest takes you to the tip of Cuba’s highest peak, Pico Turquino, set in the verdant Sierra Maestra Mountains where Fidel Castro kept his secret mountain headquarters. Hikes along the Pico Turquino trail can be treacherous, but you’ll want to keep one eye out for colourful birds of paradise along the way.
Best time to go: October to April
Our top selling trip: Trekking vacation in Cuba
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Read more: Cuba travel guide

8. Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

Gradually winding trails lead up Kinabalu in the state of Sabah in Borneo, the landscape transforming from green jungle to barren rock as you climb higher and the mist lifts. A day’s hike will get you to a rustic mountain cabin where you can rest before tackling the summit in time to see the sunrise. There is an alternative via ferrata route up the mountain, too.

When to go: Year round
Our top selling trip: Borneo Mount Kinabalu climb vacation
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Read more: Borneo travel guide and Sabah travel guide

9. Cayambe Volcano, Ecuador

Cotopaxi is popular with climbers, but volcanic activity can render it out of bounds. Try Cayambe instead, a 5,790m volcano that can be combined with Pichincha (4,784m) and Iliniza North (5,126m) in a strenuous six days of epic Andean climbing. You don’t need mountaineering experience, but guided ascents will include instruction in climbing on ice.

When to go: Year round
Our top selling trip: Climb Mount Cotopaxi, Ecuador
See all our trips: Walking vacations in Ecuador
Read more: Ecuador travel guide

10. Poon Hill, Nepal

A great alternative if want to experience trekking in Nepal but do not have enough time for Everest Base Camp or Annapurna. Four days of trekking will take you to the top of Poon Hill (3210m) from where you’ll see the entire Annapurna range spread out below you.

When to go: September/October
Our top selling trip: Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek in Nepal
See all our trips: Nepal walking vacations
Read more: Trekking in Nepal travel guide and Nepal travel guide
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: atmstudio] [1. Mont Blanc, France: Simon] [4. Mount Kenya, Kenya: Radu Vatcu] [7. Pico Turquino, Cuba: Eduardo Manchon] [10. Poon Hill, Nepal: Faj2323]