Comprising 48 countries, Asia is not only the world’s biggest continent in size but also a melting pot of rich culture, historical heritage, ancient cities and natural wonders. What adds to its popularity are picturesque destinations, owing to the region’s diverse topography. So, let’s have a look at the most beautiful places in Asia and the interesting things to do when touring the region.
With the relaxation of travel restrictions that were implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, tourists to Asia are keen on exploring offbeat and alluring destinations.
For a romantic escape with someone special, visitors can go island hopping or simply relax at the beautiful beaches in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. You can also plan a trip to the Indian subcontinent, which is home to serene mountains, vibrant cities, dense forests, sandy dunes, and more. Not to miss are some lip-smacking local dishes that are unique to every destination on the continent. This makes Asia one of the most tranquil yet adventurous places to visit in the world.
Here are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Asia
Kuang Si Falls, Laos
The three-tiered waterfall here (also known as the Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls) is the embodiment of tranquility. Located 29km south of the ancient city of Luang Prabang, tourists can reach the main waterfall nestled amid dense tropical forests via a 15-20-minute hike from the Kuang Si Falls market, where you can find the locals selling marvellous handicrafts.
Best suited to visit between November to April after the monsoon season, Kuang Si Falls is open from 8:00 am until 5:30 pm. Expect an entrance fee of 20,000 kip (approx. S$1.80)
Hội An, Vietnam
Lying on the north bank near the Thu Bon River, Hội An is a remarkably preserved example of a Southeast Asian port dating back to the 15th century. The UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses cultural influences from various regions across the world, including China, Japan and Europe. This can be seen in the unique architectural designs, such as its well-preserved complex of 1,107 timber-frame buildings.The town also offers lip-smacking fusion food that travellers can enjoy while sightseeing the gorgeous islands, seashores, and dunes in the vicinity.
Hội An, translating into “peaceful meeting place,” offers something to all kinds of tourists, whether it’s to learn about old traditions, unwind at pristine beaches, experience countryside solace, or indulge in scrumptious meals. Adding Hội An to your travel list is definitely a great choice.
The best time to visit this colourful Vietnamese ancient town is from March to May.
Jinhae, South Korea
Whether it is music, TV shows, movies, skincare products or local food, everything emerging from South Korea is taking over the world. In addition to the list of the most beautiful places in Asia is Jinhae.
Located in Changwon, Jinhae, commonly known as Jinhae-Gu, hosts one of the best spring festivals in South Korea, and it is as splendid in person as in photographs. Witness the pink-hued cherry blossoms create a shade underneath the clear blue sky and take Instagram-worthy snaps. It’s easy to see why Jinhae is a top romantic spot for couples.
Additionally, you can walk over the Romance Bridge, which is built over the calm Yeojwacheon stream, to get a better view of the area.
Plan your trip to Jinhae during the months of March and April to experience the area at its most beautiful.
Famous for its many temples and peaceful surroundings, Bagan is one of Myanmar’s must-see destinations. It is located in the Mandalay Region and serves as a rich archaeological site forming the Bagan Archaeological Zone. The area includes over 2,000 ancient monuments, temples, and pagodas; some notable sites to experience the ancient city’s beautiful architecture include Bupaya Pagoda, the Mahabodhi Temple, and the Inn-hyapa Stupa.
Situated on the eastern bank of River Ayeyarwady (also known as Irrawaddy), Bagan is commonly regarded as the Sea of Temples. The best time to visit is from November to May.
Apart from the scenic temples and stupas, book a trip on a hot air balloon for an even more magical experience, and try the local cuisine, which is a combination of Thai, Indian, and Chinese.
Mt. Fuji, Japan
One of the most prominent UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, the grandiose Mt. Fuji is truly the pride of Japan. Owing to its imposing yet graceful conical form, Mt. Fuji — or Fujisan in Japanese — attracts more than a million tourists every year. While some take their time to immerse themselves in the beauty of the neighbouring towns, the more adventurous mountaineers gear up for an arduous climb to the top to experience the breathtaking scenery.
Adventurers usually plan a two-day itinerary to hike along the trails of the ethereal mountain. They start at Fujinomiya 5th station (2,400m) and reach the Akaiwa Hachigo mountain hut (3,300m) to rest and spend the night. The next day, hikers leave again to reach for the summit.
Besides scaling the mountain, visitors can explore the Fuji Five Lakes, comprising Lake Kawaguchiko, Lake Yamanakako, Lake Saiko, Lake Shojiko and Lake Motosuko. Other places worth visiting include Yamanakako Hanano Miyako Koen, a lakeside park allowing calming views of Mt. Fuji, and Oshino Hakaki, which is home to eight springs.
Backwaters of Kerala, India
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Asia, the backwaters of Kerala offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Aligned to the coast of the Arabian Sea, tourists can feel at ease while cruising along lakes, canals, and lagoons that comprise the backwaters.
The city of Alappuzha, in particular, attracts thousands of tourists each year. It is especially popular because of its houseboat cruises, which allow visitors to soak up nature and connect to its purest form. You can get the best experience by visiting the scenic destination from September to March.
Gili Islands, Indonesia
Made up of three islands — Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air — the Gili Islands in Indonesia offers the promise of a relaxing vacation in what can be best described as a paradise. With its white sand, palm-fringed beaches and coral reefs, the islands have now become one of the top spots for tourists in the country.
Here, there are no cars, motorbikes, or outside distractions, so travellers looking to switch off will surely find their inner peace here. The tropical getaway serves as a must-visit place for divers and snorkellers. Watch green turtles glide over a beautiful display of colourful coral reefs and experience unique marine life in all its glory.
There’s something for partygoers to; the nightlife at Gili Trawangan will keep you entertained, starting at dusk with its array of bars and restaurants. Those seeking a quaint refuge can visit Gili Meno for a small-town feel, as the place has only a hundred permanent residents, while Gili Air is closer to the mainland.
You can witness the most beautiful sights on the islands from June to October.
Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Sigiriya is home to the most prominent historical monument in the island country, which is surrounded by the Indian Ocean.
Located between the towns of Damballah and Habarane at about 349m above sea level, Sigiriya Rock was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Filled with ancient history, Sigiriya has a lot to offer to its visitors, including temples, national parks, misty forests and beautiful sights.
The must-visit beauties of Sigiriya include the Lion Rock Fortress, Pidurangala Rock, Kaludiya Pokuna, The Lion’s Paw and Sigiriya Museum. Visit the ancient rock fortress in June, August and January.
Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sagarmatha National Park is another destination in Asia you must visit. What makes it more special is the culture of Khumbu Sherpas and the unique display of flora, fauna, and mountainous landscapes.
Tourists can witness the mesmerising view of the Himalayan peaks — Nuptse (7,861m), Everest (8,850m), Ama Dablam (6,856m) and Thamserku (6,608m) — from the visitor centre of Sagarmatha National Park.
Additionally, the national park houses glaciers, dramatic mountains and deep valleys. One can spot rare creatures like the snow leopard and the Red Panda.
The entry fee for the national park is approximately Rs 1,872 (approx. S$33). As for the best time to visit, head down between October to November, and March to May.
Besides beaches and islands, another attraction in Asia that will impress most visitors is the sand dunes of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, India. Originally consisting of three main sand dunes, Sam Sand Dunes is the most famous among tourists. Spanning three to five kilometres, the “Golden City,” as it’s also known is picturesque and makes for incredible pictures.
Visited by more than a million travellers every year, a normal itinerary to explore the sand dunes includes riding camels, enjoying a desert safari, witnessing gorgeous sunsets and living in tents.
Now one of the most famous sites for travellers in the country, tourists can visit the sand dunes of Jaisalmer between October and March for a desert holiday they won’t forget.
Goa Jomblang Cave, Indonesia
A natural tourist attraction in Asia, the Goa Jomblang cave is part of a cave system that traverses Gunung Kidul, south-east of Yogyakarta. Perfect for adventure junkies and photographers, the experience will see you being lowered (safely) 50m into the sinkhole cave via a rope, as well as a hike to Grubug Cave to witness streaming rays of sunlight flooding the dark cave.
For the best views, you need to leave Yogyakarta early in the morning (between 6:30am – 7am) and reach the Jomblang cave by 9:30am. It is important to reach early since they allow only 75 to 80 people per day, seeing as the ropes used to get people up and down the cave are operated manually by locals.
Visitors will need to pre-book their trip. The entry fee costs around IDR 450,000 (approx. S$42), and the best time to visit is between April and December.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi
One of the largest mosques in the world, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the epitome of magnificent architecture and design, reflecting a mix of ancient and modern Islamic arts and culture.
The alluring place of worship has 82 white marble domes, and a roof-line held up high by 1,000 pillars. Gold-plated Swarovski chandeliers, reflective pools, a courtyard with one of the largest marble mosaic artworks in the world, and a unique prayer hall add to the splendour of this amazing experience.
Entrance is free for everyone, and the mosque welcomes non-Muslims to experience peace, beauty, and art as well. The best time to visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is from April to May and September to October.
Taroko National Park, Taiwan
Sprawling across an area of 1,200-sq-km is Taroko National Park, which is situated 3,700m above sea level. The Liwu River, one of the highlights of the national park, carves its way through a marble-like mountain, creating a stunning view.
Other attractions visitors must experience are the Swallow Grotto, Zhuilu Cliff, and Qingshui Cliffs. Travellers can enjoy the amazing scenery from the Zhuliu Suspension Bridge. The many waterfalls — Baiyang Waterfall, Yindai Waterfall, Lushui Waterfall and Changchun Waterfall — in the area enhance the ethereal beauty of this place too.
Entry to the park is free, and the best time to have a spectacular day at Taroko National Park is before 7am during the months of March to May.
Lantau Island, Hong Kong
The best time to visit Lantau Island is between October and December, and Hong Kong’s largest island has a lot to offer explorers.
You’ll find a unique mix of rural and urban experiences here. For instance, the island is home to shopping complexes, Disneyland, traditional markets, and some of the best dining options, which offer an expansive view of Discovery Bay and white sand beaches.
Lantau Island also draws tourists from around the world to its Big Buddha statue, also known as Tian Tan Buddha. The island’s icon sits majestically on a lotus throne atop Mount Muk Yue peak, and serenely gazes down on visitors. A 10-minute walk from Ngong Ping Village and 268 steps to the podium can get you to this imposing structure, which measures around 34m in height.
Disneyland is another attraction on Lantau Island. Create your itinerary by adding places such as Tung Chung Fort, Wisdom Path, Cheung Sha Beach, and Pui O Beach.
Situated in the Changthang region of Ladakh, the small village of Hanle is home to around 1,000 people, and is a gem in the Indian continent, creating an enchanting experience for its visitors with stunning aerial views and an adventure out of the world.
One of the most beautiful places in Asia, the village is situated around 260km away from Leh, and has an elevation of close to 4,300m. Fortunately, the roadways are smooth and visitors can get to the stunning destination with no hassle, making travelling easy despite the cold weather.
Watch the twinkling stars beneath the purple sky and enjoy a heavenly escapade here. The best time to visit Hanle is between April to September.
Classical Gardens of Suzhou, China
Suzhou is commonly known as the city of gardens and houses some of the best flora, which recreates mini natural landscapes. Dating back to the 11th century, the gardens represent the philosophical aspect of natural beauty in Chinese culture.
Nine out of the 69 gardens in Suzhou have been inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with the Humble Administrator’s Garden being the largest one. Other famous visits include Master of the Nets Garden and Lingering Garden. All of them are popular for their distinctive architecture, distinguished rock formations, and rich and polished towers.
The Classical Gardens of Suzhou is one of the most beautiful places in Asia, and it’s recommended you visit between April and May for the best experience.
Being the third largest island in the world, Borneo teleports you to a paradise that’s home to a wide variety of fauna and flora within its dense rainforests.
Now one of the most untouched places on earth, Borneo – located southeast of the Malay Peninsula – is surrounded by four seas — the South China Sea in the northwest, the Sulu Sea in the northeast, the Celebes Sea to the east and the Java Sea in the south.
The long series of mountain ranges overlook the calm turquoise waters of the island create a surreal view. Besides soaking up plenty of nature, tourists can elevate their visit to Borneo Island by scuba diving, hiking up Mount Kinabalu, and exploring natural caves.
For the most beautiful sights, visit the island between March and October.
Danum Valley, Malaysia
Said to be home to one of the world’s most complex ecosystems, Danum Valley not only gives you a view of the dense rainforest but also lets you experience a wide variety of native wildlife. Tourists can easily spot wild cats, orangutans, macaques, gibbons, red leaf monkeys and pygmy elephants here. Although rare, you may even get a chance to witness the elusive clouded leopard if you’re lucky.
Besides a night drive, you can also walk across canopies to get up close and personal with nature amidst the treetops. Nature lovers will especially appreciate the core area of the Danum Valley, which is a must-visit due to its rich community of flora and fauna.
The best time to visit the pristine rainforest is between March and October.
Paro Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan
Paro Taktsang Monastery sits 3,120m above sea level adjacent to the Paro Valley, and has drawn tourists from across the world for its spectacular location and views. The temple is surrounded by magnificent mountains and deep valleys, but you’ll also find stunning trails amidst the pine forests, which are covered with prayer bannerettes to emit positive energy around the holy site.
The rich green valleys and mountains make this one of the world’s most peaceful places, but those who want to escape from it all should head to the Buddhist monastery there, where you can fully immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture.
You must visit the Paro Taktsang Monastery from March to May and from September to November.
Kumano Kodo, Japan
Kumano Kodo is a network of pilgrimage trails and holds great importance in Japan. These pilgrimage routes have been in existence and in use for over 1,000 years, and were inscribed into UNESCO as heritage sites in 2004.
The Kumano Kado features well-sculptured shrines called Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha and Nachi Taisha. The way to these shrines are a spiritual experience to travellers in itself. The Kodo Pilgrimage links Kumano to Kyoto, Kyoyasan, Yoshino and Omine and Ise — Japan’s most important shrine. Travellers can also enjoy the emerald green trees and views of the mountain ranges –especially the Kii Mountains – along the way.
The best time to visit Kumano Kodo is in the months of May and September.
(Hero and featured image credit: Thatree Thitivongvaroon/Getty Images)
This story first appeared on Travel + Leisure India.