Vacations to Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

Climbing Mount Kinabalu is one of the great adventures of Borneo. It’s the highest mountain in south east Asia. Towering over 4,000 meters, it takes most climbers about two days to reach the summit. Unusually for a mountain of this size and scale, it can be climbed by novices (provided you’re relatively fit and healthy, that is).

Mount Kinabalu is one of the world’s most important ecological sites, partly because it’s home to between 5,000 and 6,000 plant species. That’s more than all of Europe and North America combined. You’ll work your way through ever-changing ecologies on your climb, starting in lowland rainforest, trekking on through montane forest, cloud forest and sub alpine meadow, before you finally reach the raw granite of the summit.

There’s a choice of trails to the top, some are more challenging than others and are better suited to accomplished climbers. Even the easiest route will be testing, especially if you’ve not climbed before. There are rest huts every kilometre on the way up, and the advice is to take advantage of these and climb slowly to allow your body to acclimatise to the altitude and the ever-thinning air. Keep going though, you’ll have the most incredibly rewarding feeling when it’s over! Once you reach mid-way Panalaban at 3,270 meters you’ll stop for a sleep – and boy you’ll need it by this point – before rising at around 2am to complete the climb. You’ll approach the summit just as the sun rises.

By the time you reach the top, your muscles may be weary and you’ll be feeling the cold, biting wind. But it’ll all pale into insignificance when you stop to take a moment to admire the far-reaching views. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Philippines.

Highlights

  • A challenging but achievable climb

  • Impressive biodiversity

  • Summit views to the Philippines

Eline
Travel Designer
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I have lived in Vietnam and travelled extensively in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

Mount Kinabalu trip ideas

Places to stay on Mount Kinabalu

Map of Mount Kinabalu

When to go to Mount Kinabalu

February to April are considered the best times to scale Mount Kinabalu, when rainfall is low and the paths are likely to be dry. August to early October can also be favourable. Outside of these months, trails can be difficult to tackle and can be closed in poor weather.