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6 Mountains in Asia for the Adventurer’s Bucket List

The sight of a mountain rising up into the clouds has inspired people for centuries. No wonder spiritual experiences are the trademark of high places, and many mountains are considered sacred in various cultures.

Compiled by: Abby Yao

With adequate planning and preparation (and a certain level of physical fitness, of course), you just might be able to make it up one or more of these six mountains and catch the sunrise from the summit. That is, of course, unless you are content with the distant postcard view, which is still worth a thousand shots. 

1. Mt Fuji, Japan

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At 3,776 metres high, the snow-capped peak of Fuji-san is an icon of Japan and the country’s highest peak. It is also the world’s most visited mountain, with more than 300,000 making the ascent every year in the mostly snow-free climbing season of July and August. Four trails converge on the rim of the crater, which has not erupted in 300 years.

     A climb up Mt Fuji has been considered a spiritual pilgrimage for centuries by Shinto and Buddhist practitioners. But don’t be surprised to see mountain huts, and even a post office on the summit. And this being Japan, there are vending machines selling overpriced drinks, too.

HOW TO GET THERE From Tokyo, Mt Fuji hiking buses depart from Shinjuku station. Buses are also available from other stations. Check timetables before you go.

2. Mt Kinabalu, Malaysia

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Photo by Chan Han Chee via travel 3Sixty° Photoblog

The highest peak in Borneo and Malaysia is also one of Southeast Asia’s highest peaks. Towering at 4,095 metres and situated within the UNESCO World Heritage Kinabalu Park, Mt Kinabalu is part of a biodiversity hotspot, with rafflesia, pitcher plants and over 700 orchid species in addition to various animals ranging from hornbills to primates.

     The Dusun people believe the dead rest on the mountain on the way to the afterlife. For the living, the Mt Kinabalu climb is usually done over two days even by beginner climbers of reasonable fitness (elite climbers have been able to scale it in less than 5 hours!). If you’re ready to take it to the extreme, make a detour to Mt Kinabalu’s Mountain Torq, the world’s highest via ferrata, and the first in Asia. Via ferrata uses rungs and cables for an experience similar to what professional mountaineers get on their alpine climbs. Bone-chilling views for that mind-blowing selfie? Sign us up!

HOW TO GET THERE Buses and minivans from Kota Kinabalu stop at the Kinabalu Park HQ. Alternatively, hire a taxi for a fixed rate.

3. Mt Everest, Nepal

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Photo by Ek Wei via travel 3Sixty° Photoblog

At 8,848 metres, Mount Everest is by far the world’s most prominent peak. It’s the stuff of legend—the names of its first climbers Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay have been inscribed into the annals of history. Much has been said about the climb’s dangers and the even the tons of rubbish left on the slopes. Despite being a risky proposition that requires years of preparation, (in addition to thousands of dollars), it remains the ultimate goal of many an experienced mountaineer. For those who want to come close to these lofty heights, the weeks-long trek to Everest Base Camp is a remarkable achievement in itself.

HOW TO GET THERE From Kathmandu, fly into Lukla or take the bus to Jiri and trek to Lukla. From there, it is at least another week of trekking to base camp. Alternatively, there are sightseeing flights and helicopter rides from Kathmandu with views (albeit distant) of Mt Everest.

4. Mt Rinjani, Indonesia

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Photo by Azli Wahab via travel 3Sixty° Photoblog

Volcanoes are a dime a dozen in Indonesia, as the largest archipelago in the world is right smack in the Pacific Ring of Fire. These powerful giants, though asleep, are awe-inspiring. One of the highest and most active of these is Mt Rinjani, which last erupted in 2010. Aside from its stunning views and hot spring, it has natural caves, waterfalls and weaving villages worth stopping for. When you are back below the clouds, recharge by escaping to any of the three Gilis, each of them a paradise islet where there are no motor vehicles—a great reward, especially for those who made it through the challenging summit trek.

HOW TO GET THERE Fly into Lombok and make arrangements for transport and a guide either at the airport or at Senggigi. Alternatively, drive out to Senaru (2 hrs) and hire a guide there.

5. Mt Seorak, South Korea

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Photo CC BY Adrian M. Torres via Flickr

While not the highest mountain in Korea, Seoraksan is the most popular and sees locals coming for repeat visits. The picturesque mountain is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve blessed with waterfalls, pools, cliffs and jaw-dropping scenery. Autumn sees Seoraksan at its most beautiful, as the foliage changes colour throughout the national park.There are about a dozen trails that can each be done in a day. One of the most famous is Ulsanbawi, known for the steep staircases going up its granite faces. Daecheongbong, the highest of Seorak’s 30 peaks, can be reached in two days. The area also has the well-hidden Baekdamsa Temple, which offers a two-day temple stay.

HOW TO GET THERE Buses run from Seoul’s Dongseoul Bus Terminal to Sokcho (2-3.5  hrs). From Sokcho, there are local buses (30 mins) going to Seoraksan National Park. 

6. Mt Hua, China

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With a title like “Number One Precipitous Mountain Under Heaven”, how can you go wrong? Also known as the site of the World’s Most Dangerous Trail, Huashan was named one of China’s Five Great Mountains more than 2000 years and continues to be sacred to Taoists. “Walk the plank” has a new meaning when you’re high up and hanging on to chains but harnesses are now available for the most dangerous passes. The vertigo-free option: take the cable car that stops at a station carved into the side of the mountain.

Here’s a look at the perilous face of Huashan: 

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Image by Ondřej Žváček via Wikimedia Commons

HOW TO GET THERE Fast trains from Xi’an arrive in Mengyuan town in less than 45 minutes, while buses take 2 hrs. 

Web check-in & print your boarding pass for a seamless flying experience! Kiosk check-in at klia2 will no longer be available starting 22 June 2014. 

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EAGER FOR A CHALLENGE? VISIT HUASHAN VIA XI'AN!