Mountain (istockphoto.com)

Mountain travel guide

Peak, range, volcano, plateau, massif, summit; tepui, cerro, munro, shan: there are as many types of mountain as there are ways to describe them

And the experiences to be had among them are correspondingly diverse: trekking, skiing, climbing, horseriding, cycling, rafting – or just meeting the hardy mountain folk who populate the lofty heights.

Start with some of the oldest: the European Alps – spectacular and ancient, here you can circuit (or summit) Mont Blanc through France, Italy and Switzerland; hike the Austrian or Italian Tirol; or strap on skis or boards to whizz down the pistes.

Europe has plenty of prime peaks, though – the Pyrenees, separating France and Spain, offer more great trekking, while the Tatras and Carpathians (south and east from Poland through to Romania) host bears and wolves.

South America’s Andes is the world’s longest mountain range, stretching over 7,000km south from Venezuela through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

Ecuador’s ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ is dotted with picture-perfect cones such as Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. Peru’s highlands are littered with Inca sites, including peerless Machu Picchu. Lake Titicaca’s floating villages overlook Bolivia and Peru. And Patagonia straddles Chile and Argentina – the latter playing host to the Andes’ highest peak, Aconcagua.

Africa’s no slouch: Morocco’s Rif and Atlas Mountains lure wanderers with Berber culture and fresh air, particularly Mt Toubkal, North Africa’s tallest peak. Further east, wildlife-rich Mt Kenya and ‘Africa’s roof’, Kilimanjaro, are challenging but achievable treks for most travellers. And South Africa’s Drakensberg Range is heaven for hikers.

North America’s Rockies, New Zealand’s Southern Alps and Scotland’s munros shouldn’t be dismissed, but for altitude with attitude, Asia triumphs. There’s Tajikistan’s remote Pamir Mountains, Kyrgyzstan and China’s forbidding Tien Shan range, Japan’s iconic Mt Fuji and the hilltribe villages of northern Vietnam and Laos to explore.

But the last word has to go to the Himalaya. The planet’s loftiest peaks – 100 of them are over 7,200m high – stretch east from Pakistan’s Karakoram mountains through India, Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. Prayer flags flutter, yaks graze, glaciers creak and trekkers dream of Everest, Kangchenjunga and K2.

It’s time to get high – lace up those boots and take a hike.

Top 10 mountain experiences

  1. Hike the Annapurna Circuit – Nepal's Annapurna Circuit is a trekking classic
  2. Trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – One look at the mist-shrouded Andes and hummingbird-filled cloud forests and you'll understand why trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the most famous trek in South America
  3. Climb Mt Kenya – Among Africa's peaks, Kilimanjaro may get the glory, but Mt Kenya offers more wildlife, less people and better odds of making it to the top
  4. Meet the hilltribes of northern Vietnam – Travel amongst various tribes of Vietnam's central highlands, and witness the ceremony for the dead, where one tribe kills a buffalo, dances for three days and leave a ladder so the departed can climb to paradise
  5. Be dazzled by Alpine peaks – Fresh air, lush valleys and mountain heaven. Trek the Apls, in Austria
  6. Discover village India – Community projetcs bring travellers into the heart of village life in the Himalayan foothills, like Chandelao or Binsar
  7. Climb Mt Cook – New Zealand's South Island boasts the dazzling Aoraki Mt Cook, 3754m of good, clean fun
  8. Walk with Berbers in Morocco – Few travellers make it to the Atlas and Rif Mountains, but those that do are aptly rewarded
  9. Explore Torres del Paine National Park – Chile's most famous national park offers the chance to see iceberg-filled Lago Grey, wander among native beech tree forest and tackle steep ascents
  10. Search for yeti – Sherpa villages, teetering monasteries and mighty mountains greet you on the Jhomolhari Trek in Bhutan

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