Explore the Asian Alps: Countries to Visit For An Awesome Alpine Vacation

Exploring the Asian Alps: 7 Countries to Visit For An Awesome Alpine Vacation

Be charmed by the lovely peaks of Asia!

I’m sure many will agree with me when I say that there are few things in this world that can match the majesty and charm of an alpine view. Be it the snow-covered peaks of Switzerland or the alluring town of Innsbruck nestled within the Karwendel Alps, a trip to the alps is nothing short of magical. 

But did you know that, even without booking that expensive flight to Europe, you can still enjoy a memorable alpine holiday here in Asia? That’s right! Despite not being as well-known as the European Alps, these Asian countries are home to some truly breathtaking alpine landscapes and views. Check them out! 

1. South Korea

South Korea is easily one of the most popular destinations in Asia, famous for its dynamic cities and delicious cuisine. However, South Korea is also home to some truly mesmerising natural attractions, especially during the winter months. 

Yeongnam Alps

The Yeongnam Alps are found in the southeastern region of Korea, around the areas of Ulsan and Gyeongsang. Despite being much shorter than the European Alps (most of the mountains are only slightly taller than 1,000m), the Yeongnam Alps are an extremely popular destination among locals. Apart from awe-inspiring mountain scenery, the Yeongnam Alps are also home to several landmarks, waterfalls, hot springs, and temples. 

But perhaps the most whimsical attraction of the Yeongnam Alps is Eoreumgol, also known as the Ice Valley. Located on the slopes of Cheonhwangsan mountain, Eoreumgol is famous for its notoriously cold weather. Occasionally, you might arrive during midsummer and still find everything frozen solid! 

PyeongChang

In the northeastern part of South Korea, located high in the region of the Taebaek Mountains in Gangwon-do, is South Korea’s very own winter wonderland: PyeongChang. If you’re wondering why it sounds so familiar, it’s because the county hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics! 

Winter in this alpine area can stretch for several months and often results in heavy snowfall. This makes it the perfect destination for some alpine skiing! In fact, many of South Korea’s most famous ski resorts are found in PyeongChang, including Alpensia Ski Resort. Apart from that, you can also visit the magical Odaesan National Park for some truly breathtaking views. 

Seoraksan National Park

Closer to Seoul, you’ll find another one of South Korea’s hidden “alps”. Also located in Gangwon-do, Seoraksan National Park is a mere three hours away from South Korea’s capital city. Seoraksan is one of the country’s most popular mountain parks, famed for its beauty throughout the seasons. There are many breathtaking trails here to explore and plenty of Insta-worthy photo opportunities. 

While we often think of snow when we hear the word “alps”, I actually recommend visiting during autumn. As Seoraksan bathes in fiery hues of autumn foliage, you’ll find yourself completely smitten by the beauty before your eyes. 

Also read: 11 Mountains to Climb in Korea With the Most Picturesque Views

2. Japan

Although Japan has no shortage of majestic mountains, none of them are as incredible as the Japanese Alps. Split into three distinct regions (the northern, southern, and central alps), the Japanese alps is made up of a series of different mountain ranges on the main island of Honshu

The Northern Alps

Kamikochi

Also known as the Hida Mountains, the Northern Japanese alps cut through the prefectures of Nagano, Toyama, and Gifu. Featuring rugged terrain and sublime alpine vistas, the Northern Alps are extremely popular among hiking enthusiasts and also the most popular among foreign tourists. Out of all the destinations here, the most famous are Kamikochi , Shirakawa Village, and the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route where you can experience Japan’s infamous snow corridor! 

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route | Image credit: Uryah

The Central Alps

Image credit: 663highland

Without a doubt, the main attraction of the Central Japanese Alps is the ancient Kiso Valley that passes through several alpine towns in Nagano Prefecture. Stretching almost 70km, the Kiso Valley was an important transportation route during the Edo period. During that time, traders used it to travel, on foot, between Edo and Kyoto. 

As a result, multiple post towns were established along the route, each a few kilometres apart from the previous one. Today, many of the post towns, especially Magome, Tsumago and Narai, have been preserved to look exactly as they did in the past: wooden houses and stone paths of a bygone era. Tsumago is especially beautiful and even looks like the alpine town of Zermatt in Switzerland! 

The Southern Alps

Image credit: Alpsdake

The Southern Japanese Alps are made up of the Akaishi Mountains and are full of alpine flora and fauna. It is also full of natural hot springs that can be found throughout the many peaks and mountains in the region. 

The Southern Alps also receive plenty of snow during the winter, making it the top destination in Japan for skiing! There are over 35km of slopes in the Akaishi Mountains, serviced by around 27 ski lifts. The highest ski resorts in the area can actually go up to 1,900m in altitude! So if you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled ski adventure, the Southern Japanese Alps is the place to be! 

3. Malaysia

Malaysia is famous for many things: delicious food, ancient rainforests, and fascinating cultural history. However, given its hot and humid climate, you probably didn’t know that Malaysia also has its very own alpine destination. And no, I’m not talking about Genting or Cameron Highlands as one (although they are wonderful attractions in their own right). I’m talking about Kundasang, Sabah

Kundasang, Sabah

The town of Kundasang is located in Ranau and lies along the bank of Kundasang Valley. At an elevation of almost 1,900m, it is the highest settlement in all of Malaysia! What’s more, it is located near the foot of Mount Kinabalu (on its southeastern side) and is only a short distance away from the base camp. This means that, from anywhere within the town, you’ll be able to enjoy a panoramic view of Malaysia’s tallest mountain! 

While there is no snow in Kundasang (or Malaysia for that matter), the alpine views are nothing short of spectacular. Surrounded by verdant greenery set against the distant silhouette of Mount Kinabalu, Kundasang is easily one of the most beautiful locations in the country. In terms of tourism, Kundasang is home to several ambient, themed homestays and Desa Dairy Farm, affectionately known as the “New Zealand of Malaysia“ due to its wide pastures and grazing livestock. 

4. Vietnam

Although we are generally taught that Vietnam, as a Southeast Asian country, boasts a warm tropical climate, it can actually get really cold in the north during the winter months. So, it should come as no surprise that the “Vietnamese Alps” is found in the northwestern town of… 

Sa Pa

The alluring town of Sa Pa sits around 1,600m above sea level in northwestern Vietnam and is found in the midst of the Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range (known by locals as the Tonkinese Alps). The ambient town is shadowed by the majestic Mount Fansipan, the tallest peak in all of Vietnam and even Indochina!  

Established in the early 20th century by the French as respite from the summer heat, Sa Pa boasts a continental climate and experiences colder winters compared to the rest of the country. In fact, there are times when it even snows in December! 

Apart from the alpine scenery, Sa Pa is also famous for its stunning rice terraces. During harvest time in September, the entire area glows in golden hues of yellow and green. This creates an awesome backdrop for an eye catching photo. In the town centre, you’ll also find plenty of eateries selling authentic local cuisine, a lively town square, and a serene, man-made lake. 

Fun Fact: The Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range is often referred to as the “Swiss Alps of Vietnam”! 

5. Thailand

Much like Vietnam, the northern regions of Thailand also experience cooler winters and pleasant climates. It is also in northern Thailand where you will find the “Thai Alps”, the alpine district of Khao Kho. 

Khao Kho

Image credit: Y.Thanongsak

Lying in the district of Phetchabun Province, Khao Kho is a mere hour away from Bangkok by flight. However, the ambience of the two feel like totally different countries! While Bangkok is full of glitzy skyscrapers, shiny malls and decadent eateries, Khao Kho is epitomised by verdant hills and mountains. Truly, it is a welcome respite from the city life of the capital. 

At this underrated location, you’ll be able to enjoy the refreshing alpine air and embark on scenic hikes. One particular experience not to be missed is hiking to the top of Phu Thap Boek Mountain and enjoying the incredible view from the summit. You can also get close to nature by camping at Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park

Image credit: Piith.hant

Away from the hills, mountains, and the waterfalls, Khao Kho also has plenty of picturesque Thai temples. Some of them even offer unrivalled views of the sunrise.

6. India

Unsurprisingly, India, as one of the largest countries on the planet, is home to plenty of alpine destinations. However, there’s just one that we ever really need to talk about: 

The Himalayas

To be fair, India shares the Himalayas with many different countries, such as China, Nepal, Bhutan, and more. Although the Himalayas’ most famous peak, Everest, is located between the borders of China and Nepal, India has no shortage of breathtaking Himalayan trails. 

Kangchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, lies partly between the Indian state of Sikkim and Nepal. Locals say that, on certain days, this majestic mountain looks literally like a “white wall hanging from the sky”. To hike it, you would have to start off on the Yalung Glacier and brave the thick snow to get to the top. 

In contrast, Stok Kangri, the tallest peak in the Ladakh region, is full of life, punctuated by verdant greenery in every corner. At the summit, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the Karakoram Range to your north and the Zanskar Range to your south. Other noteworthy Himalayan tracks include Roopkund, the Chadar Trek in the Zanskar Range, and Indrahar Pass.

Also read: 6 Incredibly Scenic Spots In Eastern Himalayas

7. China

Like India, China is no stranger to breathtaking peaks and alluring alpine scenery. There are many mountain ranges scattered across Mainland China but some of the most beautiful are often located in the northwest, either in Tibet or along the borders of Nepal.

Meili Snow Mountains

Image credit: Kevin Poh

Today, let’s focus on the Meili Snow Mountains located in Yunnan Province bordering Tibet. The mountains act as a holy site for Tibetan Buddhists. In the 1930s, the mountains were considered the most beautiful mountains in the world in the 1930s! 

There are 13 peaks in total and, from afar, they look like a magnificent painting. You don’t even have to hike the mountains to enjoy their ethereal beauty. Simply wait for the sunrise and enjoy the lovely sight of the peaks blending in with the golden sunlight. If you want to see the beauty of the mountains up close, you can also trek from Feilai Temple to Yubeng Village, a remote Tibetan village.

Although no one has ever made it to the summit of Kawagebo Peak (tallest of the 13), you can still admire the beautiful glaciers at its base. There, continuous glaciers stretch like jade dragons and along with the snow, are truly a feast for the eyes. They are also some of the lowest glaciers in the world, at only 2,700m above sea level. 

Time to yodel at the Asian Alps!

You see? You don’t HAVE to go to Europe to experience an alpine adventure, just travel around the wonderful mountain ranges of Asia! Some of them are truly mesmerising and more than hold its own against the famous snow-capped mountains of the Swiss Alps. So, ready to go yodelling at the Asian Alps? I know I am! 

About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.

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