5 of the Best Mountain Adventures for 2024

We’ve teamed up with adventure travel experts Much Better Adventures to share their favourite mountain climbing adventures. Get ready to reach new heights…

The size of a mountain does not define its beauty, nor indeed the challenge it offers - but there is something particularly satisfying about reaching heights that you’ve never climbed to before.

Naturally, it makes sense to try and climb a few smaller mountains before you eye up the highest mountain on a continent, but those smaller mountains don’t need to be a box ticking exercise. Just because a mountain isn’t Everest doesn’t mean that a) it’s not incredibly beautiful and b) it’s not going to put you through your paces. 

Here, we’ve put together five of our favourite mountain climbing adventures, from the islands of Skye and Madeira to the Balkans and then further afield, to the beauty of Guatemala and Tanzania.

Our list starts with a mountain under 1000m, graduating to higher peaks across Europe, and culminating with perhaps the finest 4000m and 5,000m trekking peaks on our fine planet.

1. Hike and kayak on the Isle of Skye

There’s a reason hiking on the Isle of Skye is so universally romanticised. The rugged Cuillin mountains cut an intimidating image; the serrated ridgeline enticing in climbers eager to test themselves on the UK’s most demanding terrain. The spiking rock formations of the Old Man of Storr and the otherworldly landscape of the Quiraing are more easily navigated - but being so, they receive heavy tourist footfall. If you’re visiting Skye, we’d recommend looking beyond.

One of the finest mountain climbs on Skye is up Blà Bheinn (929m) - often anglicised as Blaven. It’s also one of the more straightforward Munro ascents on Skye. The mountain sits isolated from the main Cuillin ridge and offers fantastic views back over it. The south ridge of Blà Bheinn rises dramatically from sea to summit, and there are various routes to the top, via the path at Loch Slapin or up the south ridge, a more demanding route which requires scrambling.

If you’re looking to bulk out your itinerary, take a walk out to Sgùrr na Strì to reach a sweeping viewpoint over Loch Coruisk and the Sea of the Hebrides, or jump in a kayak and paddle through that same scene. At a lower level, the walk out to Camasunary Bay (just below Blà Bheinn) from Elgol is also delightful, with the islands of Rùm and Soay visible just off shore.

2. Traverse Madeira from coast to coast

In the not so distant past, Madeira was known as an island largely for the ‘newlywed or nearly dead’, as the saying goes. Today that could not be further from the truth.

Spend any period of time on Madeira, known as ‘the island of eternal spring’ for its pleasant year-round climate, and you’d believe this glorious place was custom-built for adventure. Some of Europe’s best surf waves wash up against the coastlines. World-class mountain biking trails have made Madeira a regular winter training spot for elite-level riders, and the hiking routes are just as impressive, with a plethora of waymarked routes up mountain and through lush forests.

One of the best hikes in Madeira is surely the ascent of Pico Ruivo (1,861m), the highest mountain on the island. There’s a short and steep route up the mountain from Teixeira, but a more adventurous option is to follow the PR1 waymarkers on the Vereda do Areeiro trail. This route combines the three highest points in Madeira, first summiting Pico do Areeiro (1,818m) and Pico das Torres (1,851m) before reaching Pico Ruivo and views out over the island.

You can walk this trail as part of a coast to coast trip across Madeira, also walking through ancient laurel trees and tunnels dug out of volcanic tufts on your way across the island.

3. Take on the Balkan 3 Peaks Challenge

The Balkan 3 Peaks Challenge will take you up to three of the highest mountains in the beautiful but little known Dinaric Alps.

The Western Balkans are still under the radar of even the most intrepid adventurers, but this is a landscape that offers so much. In terms of scenery, expect rolling greenery, layering forests and sharp mountains which look like they could pierce the sky. This route will also take you between Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia, and so there’s serious cultural pedigree on this trip too.

Travelling through Albania’s Mirdita highlands, you’ll tackle your highest peak - the 2,764m Korab - first. This is a demanding, physical climb but not one that requires any technical gear. From the high summit there are views far out over Mavrovo National Park in North Macedonia.

Moving along the River Drin, you can spend the night in Gjakova, a quiet city in Kosovo with cobbled streets and beautiful bridges, before climbing the highest peak in the country, Mount Gjeravica (2,656m) the next day. The ascent is one through boulder fields and past alpine lakes. 

There’s a mountain hut below Gjeravica where Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro meet, and after a night here in the wilderness, it’s a 20km walk along the Gashi River Gorge to access the final mountain hike - up Zla Kolata (2,534m), the highest mountain in Montenegro.

4. The Guatemala 5 Volcano Challenge

Three peaks not enough? The Guatemala 5 volcano challenge is a mighty route taking you up five volcanoes, including a hike to the highest point in Central America, on a route known as the Ring of Fire. It’s a journey dominated by huge mountains, forests, lakes and stunning sunrises.

Setting off from the colourful city of Antigua, the first volcano you’ll climb is called Pacaya. While this is “only” 2,552m high, it’s a crucial climb for acclimatisation purposes, and the walk is still interesting - weaving through lava fields and passing geothermal hotspots as you go.

The next day is a hike to a camping pitch at 3,750m, where you can watch the active Volcan de Fuego belching smoke into the air before falling asleep. From this tactically-located campsite you can rise early and hike on to catch sunrise from the summit of the 3,976m Acatenango. 

Volcano three is an easier hike to Chicabal (2,845m), which boasts a lush lagoon at its centre, while volcano four is perhaps the most challenging - the mighty Tajumulco being Central America’s highest point at 4,220m. The challenge finishes with an ascent of San Pedro, at around 3,000m, with vistas from the top reaching into the distance over the famous Lake Atitlan.

Photo Credit: Luke Spencer

5. Kilimanjaro via Machame Route

Our final entry is a mountain which is on a lot of bucket lists already - but there are various routes up to the top of the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, which at 5,895m is Africa’s highest peak.

The most common way to climb Kili is to take the Marangu Route. This takes 5-6 days (due to acclimatisation, all routes up Kilimanjaro take around this or longer) and around 50% of all people who ascend the mountain do so on this trail. That means that it can also be quite busy.

For a more adventurous outing, climb Kilimanjaro via the Machame Route. This takes a couple of days longer, but is a lot quieter - and more scenic. Machame is a camping route. That means there are no huts along the way, so good gear and a good guide is essential.

You’ll begin this walk in lush rainforest at the Machame Gate, passing through five different climatic zones before reaching the top of the mountain. Perhaps the finest stop on the journey is when you camp on the plateau of the Shira volcanic cone at 3,890m, with the huge bulk of Kili up ahead on one side and a clear vista back out to the valleys on the other. This route also takes you over the fierce Barranco Wall, a grade four scramble, before ascending to watch the sun rise as you pass Gilman’s Point and Stella Point to reach Uhuru Peak, the roof of Africa.

Photo Credit: Kirsty Holmes

This article was brought to you by Much Better Adventures, a team of adventure enthusiasts who develop solo-friendly adventures for active people. Head to their website to discover more incredible trips across the globe that we think you will love!