These 30 Asia Destinations You Need to see before you die
We love to plan vacations. But many of us simply struggle with the proverbial hurdle of where to go. We seek inspiration, we look for suggestions and tips. I personally am like this. My vacation wish list is more than a mile long with places I wish to see. The world is just so full of beautiful places, animals, florals, and landmarks – not to mention communities of incredible people. Asia is the largest continent on earth. It has the largest population of people than anywhere else in the world, and is a smorgasbord of cultures, traditions, flavours, and history. Want to travel to Asia? Well where the heck do you start? Here is our inspiring 30 Asia Destinations You Need to see before you die that combine our experience along with our Asia vacation dreams.
30 Asia Destinations You Need to see before you die…
1- The Great Wall of China
So an Asian bucket list would be incomplete without mentioning this ancient wonder of the world that many have claimed can be seen from the moon. Actually seeing the wall in person, setting foot within it, and enjoying all the activities it has to offer is just an unmatched experience. Ride the cable car, support the local vendors, attempt the difficult hikes, or simply take a leisurely stroll through a pillar of Chinese history.
Thinking of heading to the Great Wall? Read more about what to see and do here.
Book a Tour: Mutianyu Great Wall of China Full-Day Bus Tour
2 – Halong Bay – Vietnam
A paradise in its own right, Halong Bay is one of the most popular spots to travel in the entire country of Vietnam. And for good reason! Named a UNESCO Heritage site, Halong Bay brings so many to its shores thanks to the unique karsts and isles within it, creating a truly picturesque backdrop for photos, videos, and of course memories. The limestone that makes up the karsts has withstood 500 million years of erosion, transition and natural shaping. This makes for structures unlike anywhere else in the world. Vietnam alone is a popular spot for Asian travellers, and Halong Bay definitely shouldn’t be missed on any itinerary.
3 – The Maldives
This island paradise a short flight away from Sri Lanka, is the perfect spot for a relaxing holiday. Enjoy sailing, beaches, and cruising amidst the many atolls. Want a touch of luxury? Why not book one of the many over-water bungalows or private boat? Cannot afford the luxury price tag? Take a tour on a dhoni boat (cultural fishing vessel of the Maldivian population) and experience the islands in a more budget style. Sadly, the Maldives are sinking every year. Thanks to global warming, the islands could be underwater in 30 years. If you really want to head to these beautiful Asian islands, do it now before it is too late.
Book a Tour: Maldives 3-Hour Sun and Snorkel Trip with a Local
4 – Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Enjoy a floral extravaganza of fragrance and fauna in one of the most amazing countries in the world – Japan! This popular phenomenon attracts thousands yearly as getting even a split second glimpse is life-changing.
Book a Tour: Kyoto: Full-Day Cherry Blossom Viewing Tour by Bus
5 – Koh Tao – Thailand’s Turtle Island
This beautiful southern island of Thailand is the perfect spot to get in a little snorkeling. Why is it named Turtle Island you ask? Well it is famous for its snorkeling trips and swarming turtles. You are pretty much guaranteed to see turtles when snorkeling! This 1300-resident paradise relies heavily on tourism for stability and welcomes thousands each year to get a gander at some of the turtles below the sea.
Inspired to travel to Koh Tao? Check out our thorough post here.
6 – Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre – Sabah, Borneo Malaysia
Orangutans need our help. We are responsible for the decline in their populations, the displacement of those in the wild, and the destruction of their habitats. Palm oil simply is not worth the sacrifice these beautiful primates that share 96% of our DNA are making. So why not make a difference? Head to this world famous and renowned orangutan sanctuary and support the efforts to increase their populations, boycott palm oil products, and live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Want to learn more about helping and seeing orangutans ethically? Check out our post here.
7 – The Gobi Desert – Mongolia
Mongolia is such a mysterious spot that should be on everyone’s Asia bucket list. It has such a vast land space and a community unlike any other worldwide. If you decide to venture to Mongolia, one really cool way to go is by Trans Mongolian Railway. Stop in at the Gobi Desert too. This is one of the Driest spots on earth and spans 500K square miles. You just may see the bushy camels crossing your path. They are the most common resident of this very interesting part of the world.
8 – Gigli Islands, Lombok, Indonesia
The tiny, yet welcoming Gigli Islands are off the coast of Lombok, not too far away from Bali. These little pearls in the heart of Indonesia are more secluded over the popular island of Bali. Head to these islands for some beautiful beaches, snorkeling, and locals that will welcome you with open arms. These islands are also very strong in ecotourism with practices in hopes to preserve the environment they cherish within the Lombok strait.
9 – Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka
As a devout Christian, I have heard so much about the legend of Adam’s peak in the heart of Sri Lanka. It is believed that when Adam was exiled from the Garden of Eden, he landed here. There are also Hindu and Jewish historical events that stem from here. Enjoy a hike upward to the peak, or some memorable photos from the ground. This symbolic mountain is a must-see no matter the reason – a pilgrimage or simply as part of a Sri Lanka itinerary.
Book a Tour: Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Cave Temple Tour
10 – Mount Everest, Nepal
I don’t mean necessarily trekking to base camp. Even a glimpse of the tallest mountain in the world would be an incredible experience! Head to the heart of Nepal and head up with a Sherpa if you feel you are physically able, or just head nearby and grab some incredible photos. Want an aerial view? No worries! There are scenic flights and helicopter tours available to see it just like a bird.
Book a Tour: 45-Minute Mount Everest Flight Tour from Kathmandu
11 – Jaisalmer, India
If you want to see such intricate architecture like nowhere else, you must make a stop into Jaisalmer on your India trip. The carving is just so impressive and the locals are truly proud of their city’s aesthetic stamp within the Indian nation. The Jain followers are a very prominent people in this area of India and welcome travellers into their temples providing they abide by their strict doctrines. Truly an architect masterpiece and cultural footprint within Asia that should not be missed.
Want to learn more about travelling to Jaisalmer? Check out our post here.
12 – Jellyfish Lake, Palataju
This ancient lake is a must see. If you are vacationing in the Philippines, make time to take the 3-hour flight to the small island nation of Palau. It is a beautiful spot to rejuvenate and relax and where you can sink your toes into a beautiful sandy beach. For a touch of adventure, head to the jellyfish lake. It is a lake full of millions of jellyfish whose stingers no longer work thanks to being inactive. It is the one body of water where humans and jellies can swim together in harmony. Thanks to climate change, the jellies are mysteriously dying; however, Palau is taking measures to preserve the lake and ensure that the remaining fish survive the bleaching.
13 – Red Lotus Sea, Udon Thailand
The Red Lotus Sea is a natural phenomenon that you must experience in your lifetime. It is a site you will never forget. Immerse yourself with one of the 90-minute guided tours and count all the beautiful lotuses that cross your path.
14 – Bhutan
Gross domestic happiness is waiting for you in the kingdom of Bhutan. Getting here is its own adventure and once you arrive, you will be surrounded by some of the most exclusive landscapes and scenery you have ever seen. Enjoy the backdrop of the Himalayas that is protected and preserved from the rest of the world. Fly into Bangladesh, then take an exclusive flight to the heart of Bhutan. The beautiful Bhutanese people are waiting for you.
Book a Tour: 3 Day Bhutan Cultural Tour from Kathmandu
15 – Chongqing China
So Chongqing makes the cut thanks to its world famous local cuisine! The hot pot, a famous family dinner that is absolutely delicious, was created in the borders of this cultural Chinese city that was name the “Hot Pot City” in the country by the China Cuisine Association.
Thinking of heading to Chongqing? Check out our Hot Pot guide here.
Book a Tour: One-Day Tour: Classic Chongqing
16 – Istanbul, Turkey
This city is right in the centre of two continents – Europe and Asia. So why not check it out and see all the cultural landmarks nestled within its borders. Sample Turkish delights in the cafes, sip Turkish coffee while browsing the aisles of markets, enjoy the aromas of the spice market, and test your haggling skills at the grand bazaar. After discovering the flavours of the city, head to the blue Mosque, and marvel at its unmatched mosaics and beauty.
Heading to Istanbul? Check out our guide particularly for women here.
17 – Singapore
This tiny municipality is very popular for layovers on long haul flights. But perhaps instead of staying in its very spacious and impressive airport, why not take advantage of your time there and head out on the streets and explore the landmarks? In particular, stroll through the Garden by the Bay, take endless photos of the Art Science Museum, and enjoy a soak in the pool at the Marina Bay Sands.
Book a Tour: Singapore Half–Day Colonial Tour and Afternoon Tea
18 – Cambodia Killing Fields, Cambodia
So not everything you see in your travels is happy. And I know that many head to Cambodia to witness the beauty of Angkor Watt. But, even the most somber of places need to be visited and honoured. The world has been riddled over the centuries with war and conflict and none of the sacrifices made should be forgotten. In the 1970’s Cambodia endured a brutal genocide where 20,000+ people were murdered. Mass graves were uncovered with large amounts of civilians buried together. Today, the Killing Fields are a grim reminder of these events and should be respected and visited when in the country. Just like the tragic and horrifying concentration camps located in Germany, Poland and elsewhere, the Killing Fields are a poignant element of Cambodian history and are definitely a must-see while in Cambodia for these reasons.
Book a Tour: Phnom Penh’s Past – Small Group Tour
19 – The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan
One of the most mysterious spots on earth, Turkmenistan is a treasure trove of culture and landmarks to explore. One thing in particular that attracts thousands yearly is the infamous Doors of Hell. The Door to Hell came to be thanks to a collapsed underground cavern made famous in 1971. It is a massive hole and measures 226 feet and is 98 feet deep, with a complete area measurement equivalent to a football field! If you are keen to visit, be sure to read all the entry details ahead of time!
Learn more about the entry details and how to get to Turkmenistan here.
20 – The Taj Mahal, India
So yep, there it is making an appearance in this bucket list – the Taj Mahal. Now, I have been there and got to see it with my two eyes and was impressed with it, though if I were to go back to India for another trip, I would definitely swap touring the North with an immersive experience in the South. That being said, the Taj Mahal is worth a visit in Agra. This very ornate mausoleum has incredible architecture, beautiful surroundings, and makes you feel a touch of royalty while on property. While there check out Diana’s bench – named after the late Princess Diana.
Book a Tour: Sunrise Taj Mahal Tour from Delhi
21 – Shangri-La Lake, Pakistan
This beautiful body of water in the country of Pakistan inspired author James Hilton’s book “The Lost Horizon.” In the story, Hilton describes this beautiful spot as shangri-la (“heaven on earth” in Tibetan) of the world. Based on the beautiful images, I would tend to agree. Now, although it wasn’t officially confirmed by Hilton or those in the know about the manuscript, the area of Pakistan remains the muse and because of this, tourism to Pakistan increased. The lake is located in the Skardu Valley of the country and sees thousands of literary enthusiasts pay homage.
22 – Taiwan
A truly up and coming tourist destination, Taiwan should definitely have a spot on your Asian itinerary. This lovely island nation between Japan and the Philippines is home to 23 million people who are waiting to welcome you. Enjoy lovely beaches, cultural landmarks, famously high-peaked mountains, lush gardens and forests, and delicious cuisine that is quite popular with the Japanese. With all this to offer, they are one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. Keep this in mind when browsing the streets and especially the cool night markets! Before you go, do your research on the entry requirements for your nationality. The country status of Taiwan is a sensitive one, so enjoy the sites and tread carefully during your visit.
Book a Tour: Taipei Half-Day City Tour
23 – Boracay, Philippines
This beautiful secluded island has become a favourite honeymoon destination over the last few years! Boracay has some of the most incredible white sandy beaches, secluded accommodation and hospitality unlike any other. Read more about this paradise and the best beaches on Boracay in my friend Allison’s article here.
Book a Tour: Boracay Kiteboarding Discovery Course
24 – Laos
So Laos is such a beautiful country in Southeast Asia. It not only has an unique culture and is widely visited during Southeast Asia inclusive trips, but also thanks to the high number of gorgeous waterfalls. A nation that has maintained its rural culture, kept traditions from yore, and still brings thousands of tourists to check out its influx of lotuses, Laos has secured its spot on the traveller’s radar. Check out the museums, the pagodas, the history wrapped around each city. Watch the monks in awe as they dedicate their lives to their faith and doctrines. And enjoy feasts of some of the most flavourful foods in the world.
Book a Tour: 3 Days Luang Prabang Trip
25 – Jeju-do Island, South Korea
This favourite holiday hot spot for locals is popular for good reasons – sandy beaches, sunny weather, lodging on the beach, and incredible countrysides screaming to be discovered. You can get to Jeju-do quite easily from Seoul and enjoy a relaxing retreat working on your tan or if a more active traveller, hiking the lush hills and admiring the island’s most popular landmarks. Marvel while here at the orangy country roads and get charmed by the adorable local cottages speckled amongst the hilly natural terrain. Getting hot after a hike or sightseeing walk? Snorkel in the beautiful ocean reefs and spot some of the most elusive sea creatures beneath the surface. Want to see something exceptionally cool? Well, check out the haeneyo- female divers who catch seafood for special dishes served locally on the island.
Book a Tour: DMZ, Gyeongbokgung Palace & Seoul City Tour
26 – Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, Chengdu China
The national animal of China was so severely endangered and needed help to avoid extinction. The Chinese government took the threats and risks of their survival seriously and now have put protection measures in place to help these beautiful black-eyed bundles of fluff. And you know what? You can help them too. Head to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Chengdu China. This spot is the integral location of much research and conservation efforts to help the Giant Panda’s life improve as well as increase populations to be reintroduced in the wild. Now, humans can have encounters with them, but they are done in such an ethical way – you must pay a fee of approximate $300 USD which 100% goes to the care of the pandas. For this price tag you can see the pandas, sit with one, and enjoy a video about their life and the efforts made to help them.
Read more about this experience here.
27 – Tokyo Disneyworld
So no two Disney parks are the same. Some Disney fanatics make it a point to visit all of them and compare. I personally wish to do this in my lifetime as the flair of each park would be an adventure and joy in itself. Tokyo Disney is a very different experience from its North American and European counterparts. Head here for a dose of magic, to see Mickey Mouse, and take photos with characters that do not appear in other parks.
28 – Tajikistan
This very mountainous country you don’t hear about too much! And why not? Well, more need to learn of what it has to offer. The fact that over 90% of the country’s land is upward in nature, hilly, and within rocky ranges is reason enough for a Tajikistan adventure. It isn’t the easiest country to access; however, flights from Russia, China, Istanbul, and the U.A.E fly in frequently. This country would suit a hiker or a trekker looking for that ultimate adrenaline challenge. The mountains scream “explore me!” and encourage the dusting off of those walking sticks and rubber-soled boots. Not a hiker? That is okay! There are beautiful exclusive lakes, cultural villages, and locals who welcome you as lovely as can be in spite of the struggles their homeland has faced.
29 – Red Square, Moscow, Russia
No matter what, Russia, the largest country in the world in land mass has some incredible landmarks to see. As a traveller, you cannot miss seeing the UNESCO Heritage Red Square in the heart of Moscow. This poignant landmark in the nation’s capital is a separating spot for the Kremlin and the Royal Citadel that now the Russian president calls home. Plus, the Red Square is also the home to the world famously gorgeous St Basil’s cathedral. Known for its colourful and intricate architecture, this church has been photographed more than many other Russian landmarks, adorning Instagram accounts left, right, and centre. Check it out and stroll through the many other historic buildings within the square’s radius.
Book a Tour: Moscow Kremlin: Entry Ticket to Cathedral Square
30 – The Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam
This lovely oil-rich nation borders Malaysia and sits comfortably in Southeast Asia. With a population of approximate 500,000, the friendly locals are very welcoming of visitors throughout the year. Their rainforests have remained beautiful without implementation of oil-related rigs, the beautiful palaces shape bring opulence to the towns, and water villages are definitely tourism draws while visiting. Be sure to explore the natural beauty and try spotting crocodiles and monkeys! As the main religion of Brunei Darussalam is Muslim, hundreds of gorgeously designed mosques adorn the streets and villages upon the island. When visiting, do keep in mind that alcohol sales are banned. Be vigilant and learn your entry requirements prior to arriving.
So there you have our ultimate Asian bucket list! How many of these wonderful spots have you been to? We would love to hear about your adventures! Did we miss something extraordinary? Let us know!
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