From the National Geographic book The 10 Best of Everything
Mount Khuiten, Mongolia
In Mongolia, it’s easy for a traveler to be quickly swept away by the endless green steppes, the heartiness of the Kazakh nomads, and the rolling landscapes that define the Altai Mountains. This makes the trek to Mount Khuiten as enjoyable and scenic as the climb itself.The mountain straddles the corners of Russia, China, and Mongolia. To reach it, trekkers must cross a golden, vast, and barren landscape that is one of the last remote regions on Earth. This remarkable journey is enhanced by the gentle hospitality of the Kazakh nomads.
Flat-topped Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain. Located on Tanzania’s northern border with Kenya, the mountain is made up of three extinct volcanoes, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. The highest peak, Uhuru, is 19,340 feet (5,899 meters) high.Reaching the top of Kilimanjaro is exhilarating. Take the Machame Route up so you can see the region’s wonderful animals and birds. Then you’ll begin the trek across the Shira Plateau through the Grand Barranco Canyon and on to the top. If all goes as planned, you’ll reach Stella Point with a chance to continue around Kibo’s rim to Uhuru.
The Andes, Peru
The Inca Trail is an in-depth journey through a variety of ecosystems, from plains to desert to tropical cloud forests. You’ll pass views of snowcapped mountains and rushing rivers. The highlight is Machu Picchu, the famed lost city of the Inca that was discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Then continue your trek to what was the heart and soul of the Inca Empire, Cusco.
Mount Everest, Nepal
Rising 29,035 feet (8,856 meters) above sea level, Everest is the highest mountain on Earth. For decades, reaching the top of this giant has been considered one of the greatest mountaineering achievements. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay accomplished this feat in 1953 when they approached the peak along the South Col route. Since then, more than 2,000 others have made ascents through South Col. It is, by far, the most successfully climbed route on the mountain.
The Matterhorn, Switzerland
Nestled in the Swiss Alps, the Matterhorn is the most recognized mountain on the European continent. In the shape of a roughly chiseled rock pyramid, this peak serves as a defining geographical landmark. For many climbers, ascending the Matterhorn, the birthplace of the sport of mountaineering, represents a return to the purist traditions of climbing.
Mount Elbrus, Russia
Dynamic in both region and terrain, Mount Elbrus stands as a watchtower in the Caucasus Mountains between Europe and Asia. Elbrus is a large, double-coned volcano, whose summits vary by about 65 feet (20 meters). For the climber with moderate skills, the highest mountain in Europe has great appeal because it presents a strenuous, yet rewarding climb. The mountain’s location affords visitors excellent opportunities to see the region’s large melting pot of ethnic groups, such as Turkish, Georgian, Azeri, and Russian.
Cilaltépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, Mexico
In the heart of Mexico, about 800 miles (1,287 kilometers) south of the United States border, Citlaltépetl and Iztaccíhuatl are the third and seventh highest mountains respectively in North America. The first is 18,406 feet (5,614 meters) tall, while the second is 17,159 feet (5,233 meters) tall. Ascents of these two volcanoes are by far the most attractive climbs in Mexico. From a distance, it’s easy to see how Iztaccíhuatl or “white woman” got its name; the snowcapped peaks look like the head, breasts, and feet of a sleeping woman.
Mount McKinley, also called Denali in Athabascan, in Denali National Park, Alaska, at 20,320 feet (6,194 meters) is the highest mountain in North America. This massif needs no explanation as to why it should be climbed. From its base to its apex, it rises nearly 18,000 feet (5,490 meters), an elevation gain unsurpassed anywhere in the world. No other mountain offers such breathtaking and diverse views each day of an ascent.Mount McKinley’s tremendous size and beauty create a magnetism that continually draws climbers from around the world. Choice months for attempting Denali are May and June, before the threats of avalanches and open crevasses become too severe. The mountain provides an unforgettable experience, touching the psyche of all mountaineers who have undertaken its challenges.
In terms of sheer geological and cultural diversity, a trek to Nepal’s Annapurna region is unbeatable. By circumnavigating the giant Himalaya, you’ll see everything from lush bamboo forests to arid high mountain landscapes. Most visitors here climb over the famous Thorung La (17,599 feet; 5,368 meters). The hike into this glorious mountain pass rewards one with spectacular blazes of orange as the sun rises, casting the white Himalayan peaks in a fiery glow.
The Elburz Mountains stand huge and stunning as they lean against the Caspian Sea northeast of Tehran. Damavand’s peaks range in altitude from 18,400 feet (5,612 meters) to more than 19,000 feet (5,795 meters). Steam rises from the hot springs and fumaroles that pockmark this dormant volcano, and two small glaciers provide dazzling views.