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24 Best Places to Travel in Asia in 2018

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From vast, sprawling cities to ancient temples (with delicious food and stunning scenery in between), Asia is one of the most diverse and captivating continents on Earth. With relatively low visiting costs and an ever-expanding tourism infrastructure, Asia is continually growing in popularity as a hot-spot destination for travellers from around the world.

While some Asian countries have many similarities, each has its own unique culture and charm! With so many cities to choose from - whether you’re a nature-lover or are trying to tick off as many temples as you can - it can be hard to decide where in Asia to visit next. From Bangkok to Bhutan and everywhere in between, here are some of the best places to travel in Asia right now in no particular order.

1. Bali, Indonesia

The Indonesian island of Bali is all the rage right now among digital nomads, young backpackers, families and couples looking for a bit of romance. With white sandy beaches and many luxurious resorts, it’s the perfect destination for those seeking a little Asian getaway. For those who enjoy a slightly more active holiday, there’s also plenty of fantastic hiking trails along with some of the world’s best diving spots. Or, if history and culture are more your thing, the island’s mixed Buddhist and Hindu history means it has striking temples around nearly every corner.

  • Why go: Bali is an absolute tropical paradise - it’s like stepping into a postcard!
  • Best season: April to June - just before high season, but still during the island’s dry season
  • Insider’s tip: The best and most convenient way to travel around Bali is to pre-arrange a driver, particularly when travelling to and from the airport
  • Recommended duration: 10-15 days
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan at Bali Indonesia
Bali has everything from hiking trails to ancient temples but it is best known for its beaches.

2. Banana Reef, Maldives

If you think about the Maldives, a common picture comes to mind: gorgeous thatched-roof huts standing on stilts above crystal clear, turquoise waters. The Maldives is a honeymooners’ paradise and the ultimate romantic destination in Asia. Banana Reef, near the North Male Atoll islands, is the best scuba diving spot in the entire archipelago, with vibrantly multi-coloured coral and an abundance of marine life. You might even spot some reef sharks and barracudas here!

  • Why go: Some of the best, most beautiful diving in all of Asia
  • Best season: November to April - The Maldives is sunny year-round, but this is when temperatures are most pleasant
  • Insider’s tip: The Maldives is full of remote islands - be sure to check with your hotel/resort about transportation before arrival
  • Recommended duration: 5-7 days
Banana Reef in Maldives is the best destination in Asia for honeymooners.
Maldives is emerging as the ultimate honeymooers' destination in Asia.

3. Ngapali, Myanmar

Myanmar (also known as Burma) is probably best known for its mountainous landscape, gilded pagodas and many hot air balloons. What you might not know, however, is that the country is also home to some beautiful beaches. Ngapali Beach is arguably the best Myanmar has to offer, with crystal clear waters, clean white sand and palm trees as far as the eye can see. Even with tourism to the area becoming more popular, this Asian destination has maintained much of its small-fishing-village vibe, peaceful and tranquil without any of the noisy bars and crowds you’ll find on other Asian beaches.

  • Why go: Ngapali Beach is the ideal destination for a little bit of R&R without any distractions.
  • Best season: October to May – perfect beach weather with plenty of sunshine
  • Insider’s tip: Be sure to rent a bicycle and explore the local villages nestled between Ngapali’s many beaches
  • Recommended duration: 3-5 days
Ngapali beach in Myanmar is a hot destination in Asia
Unlike most beaches in Asia, Ngapali is peaceful without any of the noisy-touristy bars.

4. Andaman & Nicobar Islands, India

When you think of paradise, do you picture white sandy beaches? A bright blue sea? Palm trees towering over you as you sit back, relax and enjoy the sunshine? If so, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a stunning union territory in India, needs to take the place at the top of your bucket list… immediately! There are 572 islands in total, but only about 38 of them are permanently inhabited, each with gorgeous beaches, diverse marine life, mangroves and tropical rainforests - everything you need to enjoy some tropical nature.

  • Why go: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are quickly developing into one of the hottest exotic holiday locations in Asia
  • Best season: November to April - avoid monsoon season and enjoy some of the archipelago's best weather
  • Insider’s tip: These islands have some incredible marine life. If you want to see local tortoises, visit during their nesting season between December and March.
  • Recommended duration: 5-6 days
Andaman Nicobar Islands are less known but beautiful destinations in Asia
For beach goers, there are 572 islands to be discovered here.

5. Koh Samet, Thailand

Koh Samet is a picture-perfect island just off the coast of mainland Thailand, featuring rows upon rows of ‘Samet’ (cajeput trees), long sandy beaches, and plenty of crystal clear bays. The island gets less rainfall than anywhere else in Thailand and is sunny nearly year-round, making it the perfect destination for water sports, beach lounging and nights spent in cliffside bungalows. The island is also known for its booming nightlife, so be sure to bring your dancing shoes!

  • Why go: Koh Samet has some of the most gorgeous beaches in all of Asia.
  • Best season: November to April - Avoid the (somewhat) rainy season and enjoy as much sun as you can!
  • Insider’s tip: If you want to avoid the crowds, head south. The further south you go, the more undeveloped the island is - meaning beautiful but uncrowded beaches!
  • Recommended duration: 3-4 days
Koh Samet is the perfect destination just off Thailand in Asia
Accompanied by favorable weather and an interesting beach-vibe, Koh Samet is where to head when in Thailand.

6. Boracay, Philippines

This tiny little island in Philippines is one of Asia’s most up-and-coming destinations. Boracay is small enough that it can easily be explored on foot, travelling from one coast to the other in just a couple of hours. To the west you’ll find palm-tree-lined sandy beaches with plenty of space to sprawl out and catch some sun. The eastern side is where you’ll find water sports and other activities, along with an observation deck that offers some stunning panoramic views.

  • Why go: Boracay is a true tropical paradise that you’ll never, ever want to leave.
  • Best season: November to May - visit during dry season so you can enjoy the island’s nature as much as possible
  • Insider’s tip: There are many beaches on Boracay - from the romantic and secluded to those bustling with nightlife - so take your time finding one that best suits you.
  • Recommended duration: 4-5 days
Boracay in Philippines is one of the up and coming destinations in Asia
The tiny island of Philippines is one of the top upcoming destinations in Asia.

7. Seoul, South Korea

If you’re looking for a destination that perfectly merges the old and the new, South Korea’s capital should be at the top of your list. Much like the yin and yang symbol on its country’s flag, Seoul is a smooth blend of contradictions. Its shopping districts stretch for miles and miles, with hot nightclubs in between. When you want to indulge in some of the country’s history, however, old Seoul is just a few paces away. You could spend hours touring the city’s five large palaces from the Joseon Dynasty before hopping over to Bukchon Village to see some of the city’s more traditional wooden homes.

  • Why go: There is truly something for everyone in Seoul, whether you like to take things slow or are a fan of the go-go-go
  • Best season: March to May - you’ll want to avoid the city’s cold winters and humid summers as much as you can
  • Insider’s tip: Many street food hot spots are open 24 hours, so you’ll never go hungry - but keep in mind that the subway stops running between midnight and 5:30 am
  • Recommended duration: 4-5 days
Seoul is one of the fastest growing city destinations in Asia
Seoul is a destination that perfectly merges the old and the new.
Visit Seoul in South Korea and enjoy the mixes of old and new places
The Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest palace built by the Joseon dynasty.

8. Hong Kong

Not quite China and not quite British, Hong Kong is a very distinct part of Asia that is well worth a visit. Hong Kong was a British territory up until 1997, when it was returned to China but granted autonomous rule. You will certainly find traces of both influences in this territory, with the unique blend giving it a culture all of its own. Hong Kong offers its visitors a winning combo: sprawling, vibrant metropolis combined with sandy beaches and plenty of fresh air. There are also some great museums, offering up everything from science and art to local heritage and history, and plenty of bustling street markets to wander.

  • Why go: Hong Kong blends its complicated history with the finest parts of modernity for an experience that has to be seen to be believed.
  • Best season: October to December - the weather is fair, the crowds minimal and the accommodation cheaper than other points in the year
  • Insider’s tip: Hong Kong has so much more to offer than its urban core. Use the territory’s excellent transit system to get outside the city and into nature.
  • Recommended duration: 7-10 days
Discover a bustling city in Asia by visiting Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, you will find traces of Chinese and British culture.

9. Singapore

The city-state of Singapore is perhaps best known for its cleanliness, making it the perfect place to take a relaxing holiday. With clean streets and a dedication to preserving its traditions and connections to the world (as can be seen in areas like Chinatown and Little India, along with some distinctly British-Colonial style architecture) Singapore is perfect for the trendy, culture-loving traveller. Be sure to take some time to explore the city’s many green spaces, like the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore also has some great shopping, especially on brand-name lined Orchard Road.

  • Why go: Singapore is best known for its food, so get ready to taste a whole world of cuisine in this city-state
  • Best season: Anytime! Singapore’s weather, costs and crowds are virtually the same year-round
  • Insider’s tip: Yes, it’s true - you can’t chew gum in Singapore! The laws in Singapore tend to be quite strict, so be sure to be as respectful as possible during your visit.
  • Recommended duration: 2-5 days
Singapore is the cleanest Asian city on the planet.
Singapore is a great destination to visit any time of the year.

10. Bangkok, Thailand

The second Thai city to make our list of the best places to travel in Asia, Bangkok is a vibrant, beautiful city. While it may not have the beaches of Phuket and its surrounding islands, Bangkok makes up for it with striking monuments (like Wat Arun and Wat Pho), exciting nightlife, and its unique floating market. The city is constantly buzzing with energy and is sure to deliver a little bit of culture shock to even the most experienced of travellers. Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

  • Why go: You’ll feel stuck in a time warp in Bangkok, surrounded by massive shopping complexes on one side and historical temples on the other
  • Best season: November to March - temperatures are still relatively high but are bearable, but be prepared for slightly larger crowds
  • Insider’s tip: When packing for your trip to Thailand, be sure to balance your wardrobe with clothing for a night out and clothing that’s acceptable for visiting temples
  • Recommended duration: 3-5 days
Bangkok is the charming capital of Thailand.
The floating markets in Bangkok are worth a visit.

11. Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy is one of the largest cities in Sri Lanka, but it is surrounded by vast mountains, giving it a somewhat secluded feeling all the same. It is home to some of the most popular tea plantations in the world, thanks to the biodiversity of its rainforest climate. Kandy is quickly becoming more popular among tourists to Asia, with plenty of attractions to see. Spend an afternoon exploring the Royal Botanical Gardens before taking a stroll around Kandy Lake. There are also many temples worth visiting, like The Temple of the Tooth (the city’s most popular temple) and Gadaladeniya temple (less crowded).

  • Why go: This city is just as sweet as its name, with a beautiful setting and gorgeous temperatures year round
  • Best season: December to April - this is the country’s dry season
  • Insider’s tip: Climb to the top of the stairs at the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue for a spectacular panoramic view
  • Recommended duration: 3-5 days
Kandy is a quaint hill city in Sri Lanka that is becoming a popular spot.
This Temple of the Tooth is believed to house the relic tooth of the Buddha.

12. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia is home to some of the friendliest people in all of Asia, and the people of Siem Reap will invite you into their city with open arms. With booming nightlife, plenty of cultural destinations (museums, markets and more) and the gorgeous tunnels of Angkor Wat, what’s not to love? You’ll also find a complete melange of influences here - everything from French colonial styles to Chinese architecture.

  • Why go: To stand in awe at the foot of the ruins of the impressive Angkor Wat.
  • Best season: December to February - right in the middle of the country’s dry season when the temperatures are still bearable
  • Insider’s tip: Be sure to drop by the Cambodian Cultural Village to learn all there is to know about the local culture
  • Recommended duration: 3-4 days
The Angkor Wat temple is a mysterious place to visit in Asia.
Get lost in time at the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat.

13. Xi’an, China

Xi’an was once the grandest city in all of China, and this destination still hangs on to some of that stunning grandeur - enough to make it onto our list. The reason for its being so popular was that Xi’an was once the starting point of the famous Silk Road, it’s history giving it a diverse heritage and culture. Here you’ll find a bustling Muslim Quarter, the Terracotta Warriors, ancient imperial tombs, and even some of the country’s trendiest bars and coffee shops.

  • Why go: To see the Terracotta Army, a series of ancient statues depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Best season: September to November, when the weather is at its most pleasant (not too hot, not too cold)
  • Insider’s tip: When you buy a train ticket to Xi’an and an entry ticket to see the Terracotta Army, a free shuttle is included from the Xi’an city centre to the attraction - don’t miss out!
  • Recommended duration: 1-2 days
Xi'an city in China was once the starting point of the Silk Road in Asia.
Xi'an, was the starting point of the Silk Road but this city is best known for it's residents, the Terracotta Warriors.

14. Kyoto, Japan

Most people who think of visiting Japan immediately think of Tokyo, but Kyoto (same letters, different city!) should also be top of mind. For anyone with a keen interest in Japanese culture, Kyoto should be at the very top of your Asia bucket list. Visiting Kyoto is like diving headfirst into ancient Japan, complete with blooming cherry blossoms (if you visit in the spring), geishas and tea houses. Take a stroll through the city’s ancient rock garden and climb to the top of Shinto shrine before visiting the Kyoto International Manga Museum for a more modern taste of Japanese culture.

  • Why go: Experience Japanese culture and traditions in its purest form
  • Best season: March to May - visiting Kyoto in the springtime is a must if you wish to see its infamous cherry blossoms
  • Insider’s tip: Be sure to splurge on at least one kaiseki, the high-class meal that all those in Kyoto love to enjoy
  • Recommended duration: 4-5 days
Kyoto is one of the most well preserved places in Asia.
Visiting Kyoto in Japan is like diving head first into ancient Japan.

15. Hoi An, Vietnam

Not many cities in Asia have the charm of Hoi An. The centre of this Vietnamese city is a dedicated national heritage zone where no cars or other motorized vehicles are allowed to pass - meaning it is peaceful, calm and oh-so-charming. At night, you’ll find the streets lit with gorgeous little lanterns, while during the day the people laze around outside the local cafes enjoying a cold drink. You’ll love strolling Hoi An’s quaint little streets, trust us.

  • Why go: Hoi An is perfect if you want to discover the calmer, more peaceful side of Asia
  • Best season: May to June - still during the city’s dry season, and warm enough that you’ll truly enjoy walking about
  • Insider’s tip: During the full moon every month, the city takes down its electric lights and replaces them with traditional paper lanterns - a beautiful sight to see!
  • Recommended duration: 2-3 days
Hoi An is a quaint city in Vietnam that still reflects old Vietnam.
This Vietnamese city has a 'No Cars Zone', which makes it a perfect place to take a walk.

16. Kathmandu, Nepal

We’ve all heard of Kathmandu at some point or another, but maybe we’ve never thought about visiting it. Well, now is the time! Kathmandu is home to a whopping seven UNESCO world heritage sites - from the Hindu temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan to the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Boudha. The Durbar Squares are great locations if you want to interact with the locals - and don’t forget to taste some of the Nepalese dumplings!

  • Why go: Kathmandu is one of the best locations in Asia for history lovers
  • Best season: September to November - just at the beginning of the autumn when the city is at its freshest
  • Insider’s tip: Visit the Thamel District of Kathmandu if you want to stock up on some gorgeous cashmere and pashmina scarves as souvenirs
  • Recommended duration: 4-5 days
Kathmandu might be a hub to go trekking but this city has more to offer.
Kathmandu is home to a whopping seven UNESCO world heritage sites.

17. Gyeongju, South Korea

Gyeongju was once the capital of the Silla dynasty which ruled over the area for about 1,000 years, and many historical remnants can be found in the city to this day. If you’re a culture lover, we can guarantee that you’ll be dazzled by the Bulguksa (a historic Buddhist temple with two pagodas) and the Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond (constructed in 674 CE under the rule of King Munmu). This coastal city in South Korea also offers some pretty incredible views of the Sea of Japan!

  • Why go: Gyeongju has an incredibly well-preserved history with plenty of Buddhist landmarks to explore
  • Best season: April to June - Spring is typically the best time to visit South Korea, with pleasant temperatures and pretty flowers blooming everywhere
  • Insider’s tip: Visit at the beginning of spring (early April) if you want to see the city’s gorgeous cherry blossom festival.
  • Recommended duration: 2-3 days
Gyeongju is South Korean city that is well known for its old temples.
Stroll around the old temples of Bulguksa in the evening for a spectacular sight.

18. Lhasa, Tibet

Lhasa is literally translated to the “Place of Gods”, and it won’t take you long to figure out why on a visit to this beautiful Tibetan city. Lhasa is the centre of the Tibetan Buddhist world, with countless temples and monasteries for you to explore. One of it’s most famous landmarks, however, is the Potala Palace - an impressive red and white building that looms over the Holy City. Rugged and unpopulated, this is the perfect destination for some quiet, rural and cultural exploration.

  • Why go: Lhasa is a very important city in Buddhism, and you’ll love exploring the local culture here.
  • Best season: April to October - Drier weather with beautiful scenery
  • Insider’s tip: Keep in mind that you need an entry permit to enter Tibet. Plan early as securing a permit takes 20 days on average.
  • Recommended duration: 2-3 days
The center for Tibetan Buddhism, Lhasa, is the capital of Tibet.
Lhasa in Tibet is the perfect place for some rugged exploration.

19. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Samarkand is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia thanks to its location along the Silk Road, an ancient trading route between China and the Mediterranean. This golden-coloured city has maintained much of its opulence from the 15th to 17th centuries, and you’ll be staring up in awe at its many ornate buildings. Some can’t-miss sites include the madrasas in the middle of Registan, the city’s public square, the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum, and the Bibi-Khanym Mosque.

  • Why go: Be one of the few to explore one of the greatest ancient cities of Central Asia
  • Best season: April to May or September to November - enjoy Uzbekistan’s warmth and dryness without having to deal with unbearable desert heat
  • Insider’s tip: Don’t visit Samarkand without tasting plov, a delicious dish that combines rice, mutton and vegetables
  • Recommended duration: 2-3 days
Samarkand is believed to be one of the oldest settlements of humans in Asia
Registan is the heart of the ancient city of Samarkand.
Samarkand's a great place to explore the stunning architecture of old world
Explore the dazzling architecture of the three madrasahs in the town center.

20. Komodo Island, Indonesia

About 5,000 Komodo dragons call Komodo Island home. In fact, the entire island is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park, established in 1980 to help protect the rare reptiles that live there. Komodo Island is a perfect short escape from Indonesia’s busier islands, offering beautiful views and some excellent hiking opportunities. Take a day trip over to Padar Island, where you can hike to Padar Lookout for views of the entire National Park. The island is also great for diving and snorkeling, with some 250 species of coral off its coast!

  • Why go: To catch a glimpse of the famous Komodo dragon
  • Best season: April to November - Dry season with increased sightings of Komodo dragons
  • Insider’s tip: Be sure to check out the island’s Pink Beach for a truly unique sight
  • Recommended duration: 1-2 days
Komodo, indonesia's island is the home of the monitor lizard, Komodo Dragon
Komodo Island is the only island where you can find the Komodo dragon.

21. Gokyo Lakes to Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

The Gokyo Lakes are a somewhat unknown region of Nepal but are certainly one of the jewels in the Himalayas’ crown. These lakes offer incredible views of Mount Everest in the distance, while the trek to the mountain’s base camp takes you across winding trails through sprawling valleys and traditional villages. This is certainly a strenuous hike - taking at least 16 or 17 days to complete - but an unforgettable one as well!

  • Why go: Hiking even a section of Everest is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
  • Best season: April to May - Before the local Monsoon season and peak climbing season at Everest
  • Insider’s tip: Bear in mind that a good level of fitness is required for this hike
  • Recommended duration: 17-20 days
Trekking Gokyo Lake in the Everest region is once in a lifetime experience.
The Dudh Pokhari Lake in Gokyo provides great views of Mount Everest.

22. Taroko National Park and Gorge, Taiwan

The Taroko National Park is located on the eastern side of Taiwan, not far from the coast. It is mostly visited by travellers who want to see the Taroko Gorge, a 19-km-long canyon that is sure to take your breath away. The park was created in 1986 as a way to protect the gorge. Walking through the park gives you a taste of Taiwan’s diverse and unique landscape: in a single day, you can travel from the park’s rugged coast through a labyrinth of tropical canyons before passing up to the park’s coniferous forests!

  • Why go: Taroko Gorge is truly one of the most magnificent natural wonders in Asia
  • Best season: April to June - this is shoulder season when the weather is mild and pleasant and the crowds are minimal
  • Insider’s tip: You can still hike through the park if you visit during the rainy season - just be sure to check the forecast beforehand, but rains typically don’t start until late afternoon.
  • Recommended duration: 1-2 days
The Taroko National Park is a stunning natural escape.
The Taroko Gorge is a 19 km long gorge.
Taroko National Park is a national gem of Taiwan.
While in Taroko National Park, visit the Changuang Temple.

23. Fann Mountains, Tajikistan

The Fann Mountains stretch along Tajikistan’s Sughd Province as part of the western Pamir-Alay system and they’re set to be one of the biggest tourist destinations in Asia this year. The system has about 100 peaks, some reaching altitudes of more than 5,000 metres! Trekking the Fann Mountains is no easy feat, with trails that have you clinging to the hills above the rushing rapids below. If you’re brave enough for the adventure, though, you’ll be rewarded with some pretty incredible views - from towering mountains to glittering lakes and remote villages.

  • Why go: The Fann Mountains are ideal for discovering true Asian wilderness, with uncrowded, remote trails just waiting to be explored.
  • Best season: June to September - it’s best to avoid the wet, cold season as much as possible for best trail conditions
  • Insider’s tip: Be sure to pack plenty of layers as you’ll be camping in some fairly remote (i.e. cold!) areas of the mountains at night
  • Recommended duration: Depending on the distance of your trek, but 12-14 days to complete the entire area
The Fann Mountains are an emerging outdoor destination in Asia
Trekking the Fann Mountains gives a chance to discover remote villages, great views and glittering lakes.

24. Bhutan

Bhutan is a beautiful mountainous country, nestled at the eastern end of the Himalayas between the Chinese and Indian borders. If Bhutan’s fresh air and vast, peaceful landscapes aren’t enough to convince you that this is one of the best places to travel in Asia, its many cultural sites certainly will. Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom – the last great one of the Himalayas – and has many temples, monasteries and other religious sites to explore. You’ll also be able to see some stunning snow-capped mountains and rushing rivers in one of the continent’s most dramatic landscapes.

  • Why go: Bhutan is a great place to discover Buddhism, with many gorgeous monasteries scattered around the country. Don’t miss Taktshang Goemba, also known as ‘the Tiger’s Nest Monastery’!
  • Best season: October to December - the air is fresh, and the sun is shining
  • Insider’s tip: Visitors to Bhutan must pay a US 250 tariff to contribute to the country’s sustainability efforts
  • Recommended duration: 5-6 days
Bhutan is one of the most exotic places to visit in Asia.
Enjoy a visit to the Tiger's Nest monastery in Bhutan.

As you can see, there are so many great places to travel in Asia. From the floating markets of Bangkok and the clean streets of Singapore to the architecture of Hoi An and the beaches of Bali - there is a little something for everyone spread across this diverse continent.

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