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
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
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
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
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
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
7. SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
If you’re looking for a destination that perfectly merges the old and the new, South Korea’s capitalshould 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
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
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