Asia is the biggest continent on Earth. From the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, it covers a lot of lands. It has a vast land area, including everything from the Himalayas to the barren and dry Arabian and Gobi deserts. Southeast Asia is home to beautiful beaches, paradise islands, and steamy jungles.
Asia is huge, and more than half of the world’s people live there, which is pretty impressive. There are so many different cultures and languages to learn about on the continent that it is hard to describe. As each country in Asia has its history and culture, it could take a lifetime to learn about its natural wonders and hidden treasures.
For people with less time or money, the best way to find the best places to visit in Asia is to see a little bit of everything, from the skyscrapers of Hong Kong to the majestic slopes of Mount Fuji and the architectural wonders of places like Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
No matter what you want to do or see on your trip through Asia, you’ll be able to find a place to do it. Check out our list of the best places to visit in Asia to help you plan the trip of a lifetime.
1. Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Fuji is a stratovolcano still alive, but it hasn’t erupted since 1708. Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains.” Each mountain is thought to have extraordinary power, and Mount Fuji is believed to have the volcanic ability.
If that doesn’t sound scary enough, Aokigahara is at the mountain’s base. This dense forest growing on hardened lava is also called “The Suicide Forest.” It has ice caves, which soak up sound and give it an eerie feeling of being alone.
Many people come to this World Heritage List Cultural Site and well-known symbol of Japan to take pictures, but others come to climb. Until the end of the 19th century, women were not allowed to rise to the summit, which was still seen as a holy place. Now, people of all races, genders, and ages come to make up for a lost time.
There are four ways to get to the top of the mountain, and all of them offer shrines, historical sites, and even teahouses as stops along the way.
You might also want to plan your trip to Japan around the spring cherry blossoms, which are also a big draw for tourists.
2. The Dead Sea, Israel
Jordan and Israel are separated by the dark blue waters of the Dead Sea. Even though it is called the Dead Sea, it is a lake. It is over 430 meters below sea level, making it the lowest point on land on Earth. With a salt concentration of around 31%, which is almost ten times saltier than the ocean, the Dead Sea is so thick that nothing can sink, and everyone who walks into it will naturally float.
The lake’s shoreline has become a popular place for spas and resorts, and there is also a lot of religious tourism in the area. It is said that Jesus healed blind beggars in the city of Jericho. Jericho is just a few minutes drive northwest of the Dead Sea. Sodom and Gomorra, Zoar, and Admah are also in this area. Some of the world’s oldest cities are in this region.
Even though the lake is too salty to support aquatic life, many animals live in the desert around it. Hikers who explore the nature reserves near the Dead Sea will see everything from hares to foxes and leopards.
3. Phuket, Thailand
The most oversized island in Thailand is also a popular place to visit, and for a good reason. Phuket has some of the best beaches in the country. The sand is clean and soft, and the water is turquoise as far as the eye can see.
During the high season (November to February), many people visit Kata, Hat Karon, and Kamala beaches, but when it rains, they become quiet little villages. There are beautiful coral reefs along the coast that are great for snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking, and going from island to island.
People can go to the white and gold Wat Chalong, the biggest and most important Buddhist temple on the island, or climb a hill to get to the Big Buddha, a 45-meter-tall statue made of Burmese marble.
There are also a lot of exciting festivals on the island. During the 7th Chinese lunar month, the Ghost Festival is held to honor the dead. At this festival, lanterns are thrown into the ocean to help guide lost souls.
During the 9th Chinese lunar month, there is another fantastic festival called the Vegetarian Festival. Despite its name, the festival is more about purification and putting the body through extreme tests, like walking on fire and hanging from hooks.
4. Beijing, China
Beijing is one of the oldest cities globally and one of the cities with the most people. By walking through Beijing’s hutongs, which are narrow streets with traditional homes and courtyards, you can glimpse this history.
There are seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Beijing. These include the Imperial Summer Palace and its gardens, the world’s oldest canal, and the Forbidden City, the home of China’s emperors for 500 years, starting in the 1420s. The Forbidden City is one of Beijing’s most amazing places to visit. It has almost 1,000 different buildings.
The city also has a lot of exciting pagodas and temples, like the eight-sided Tianning Temple from the 12th century, and almost 150 museums and art galleries.
Both the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution and the National Art Museum of China have huge collections and are well worth visiting.
There are also parts of the Great Wall in Beijing, like the 80-kilometer-long Badaling section, which is the most-visited part of the wall.
5. Hoi An, Vietnam
Most people visit Vietnam land in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City or go straight to Halong Bay and the beach. However, the best place to stay in Vietnam is a well-kept secret.
One of the oldest trading ports in Asia is in the ancient city of Hoi An, which is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Hoi An was a major stop for trading ships as early as the 15th century. It still has a lot of original architecture, like wooden buildings with colorful French-colonial shutters and Chinese tiled roofs. In Ancient Town, the historic center of Hoi An, small alleyways are lined with religious buildings, courtyards, and shophouses.
Every time there is a full moon, the Lantern Festival is held in Hoi An to honor the ancestors through light. On the night before the full moon, all the lights in the Ancient Town are turned off, and colorful lanterns and candles are put in windows, inside houses, and on boats floating down the river.
At other times of the month, visitors can walk around Hoi An to see the Museum of History and Culture, which was once a pagoda dedicated to Guan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion, the 17th-century covered Japanese bridge, and the 18th-century merchant’s house known as the Old House of Tan Ky.
6. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a small island that is only 1,104 square kilometers big, but it is home to over 7.4 million people worldwide. This makes it the third most crowded place in the world. Hong Kong’s per capita income is among the highest in the world. Still, income inequality has become one of its biggest problems, and many low-income families live in crowded tenement buildings. Many of the buildings are over 100 years old and have become tourist attractions in their own right.
Hong Kong also has the world’s most skyscrapers. It has 355, which is 75 more than New York, in second place. A lot of these are around Victoria Harbor, a popular tourist spot with one of the most beautiful skylines along the coast of Asia.
Visitors can climb to the top of Victoria Peak, Hong Kong’s tallest hill, for the best views. At the top is a shopping and entertainment complex with a viewing terrace that looks down on the city.
Hong Kong has a Disneyland park and an amusement park called Ocean Park, which has rollercoasters, thrill rides, and water rides.
In the Lan Kwai Fong district, which is made up of streets with cobblestones, there are a lot of high-end restaurants and clubs. On the other hand, Lantau Island is popular with tourists who want to see a more spiritual side of Hong Kong. At the top of a steep hill in Lantau is the 34-meter-tall Tian Tan Buddha statue, one of the world’s most significant sitting Buddha statues.
Shopping at street markets and hiking or walking in the city or on Hong Kong’s Outer Islands are also popular.
7. Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap is a tourist town best known as the entrance to the Angkor area and the beautiful temples that the Khmer people built. The world’s largest religious structure is Angkor Wat. It was built in the early 1100s and covers more than 160 hectares.
Siem Reap is an exciting mix of Chinese and French colonial architecture. Traditional Apsara dance performance spaces are mixed in with French bakeries, galleries, and rice paddies.
Spend some time at The Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Center between trips to great cafes and temples. It tells the story of the ongoing threat of landmines and what is being done to get rid of them.
If you have a few hours to kill before going to Angkor Wat, the Angkor National Museum is great to learn more about the ancient ruins and the great civilization.
Singapore only got complete independence from the UK and became a sovereign state in 1965, but this brand-new country is now a financial powerhouse and one of the most fun places to visit in Southeast Asia.
Singapore doesn’t have a lot of beaches because of its size and location unless you count the three small beaches on Sentosa Island resort, which have soft white sands and protected lagoons with clear blue water. However, it makes up for this with themed attractions, lush rain forests, and fun coastal activities.
Singapore has quickly become known as an exciting place to visit. It has its own Universal Studios Park and a 50-meter bungee jump from a tower over the beach. The Marina Bay Sands resort has an infinity pool and a sky bridge on its rooftop.
But this island-state also has a lot of green things to do. The magical Gardens by the Bay is a 100-hectare nature park with the largest glass greenhouse in the world, two cooled conservatories, and a lot of artistically designed trees and flower areas.
The nature-themed Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore has been called one of the best in the world. It has the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and four slides, a butterfly garden, and an indoor suspension bridge 23 meters in the air.
9. The Kingdom of Bhutan
Bhutan is a country that can only be reached by land. It is surrounded by the Himalayas, parts of India, and Tibet. Bhutan is a country with steep mountains, green valleys, and fast rivers. Gangkhar Puensum, the world’s highest peak that hasn’t been climbed, is 7,570 meters tall and is in Bhutan.
Some of the most beautiful places in the country are high up on cliffs. One example is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, over 3,000 meters up in the mountains and can only be reached by a challenging hike.
People aren’t free to move around anywhere. They want to protect the country’s wildlife and historical sites. This means that everyone outside Bhutan who intends to visit must go on a pre-paid tour organized by an approved operator. Some agencies have set stops, but others will work with you to make sure you see what you want to see. Places worth visiting include the fortress and Buddhist monastery ruins of Drukgyal Dzong, the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (home to the rare black-necked cranes), and several dzongs, which are religious fortresses.
10. Kathmandu, Nepal
Nepal’s capital and largest city are also known as the “The City of Temples.” Kathmandu is a mix of Hindu and Buddhist religious ideas. It is full of stupas, such as Boudhanath, Nepal’s holiest Buddhist site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Swayambhu, one of Nepal’s oldest temples and home to sacred monkeys. In a city where spirituality is everywhere, people looking for a religious experience and tourists with cameras can find a lot to like.
Kathmandu is a popular starting point for trips to the Himalayas and nearby places like the Ancient City of Patan. It is more than 1,400 meters above sea level.
Climbers from all over the world start their 15-day hike to Everest Base Camp from this place. People also like to stay overnight in the city to see the Himalayas in all their glory. Even people who don’t want to go on adventures can find a lot to see and do in the capital. There are great markets, historic buildings, and lots of fun festivals going on all year long.
You can even see the beauty of the Himalayas up close to the air, as many tour companies offer short flights over the snow-capped mountains.
11. Jaipur, India
India’s best-known cities might be New Delhi and Mumbai, but Jaipur wins the prize for “most beautiful.” Jaipur is known as the “pink city” because of the stone color used to build many of the buildings there. It is also home to a group of artists. Here, people make things like block printing, blue pottery, shellac work, stone carvings, and Bandhani, a unique way to decorate tie-dyed fabric by plucking pieces of it with your fingernails.
Many of Jaipur’s most impressive sights are architectural marvels, like the beautiful Jal Mahal palace in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake.
Within 10 kilometers of the city, there are a lot of other monuments and pink buildings, like the old temple complex Galtaji, which was built right into narrow hills and is surrounded by sacred kinds (small water pools). Jantar Mantar, which has the most giant stone sundial globally, and the Amer Fort, made of red sandstone and marble and built in the 10th century, are both just outside the city and draw a lot of tourists.
12. Luang Prabang, Laos
The UNESCO town of Luang Prabang, a World Heritage Site, includes Luang Prabang and 33 villages around it. Together, these places hold a fantastic mix of cultural and architectural history that has helped shape Laos over the centuries.
The Wat Xieng Thong, also known as the “Temple of the Golden City,” is a good example. It was built in the 16th century and is where all Laos kings were crowned, so it has a lot of historical value. Mount Phou Si is in the middle of town and is home to Wat Chom Si. From the top, you can get one of the best views of the town.
The best way to see Luang Prabang is on foot or by bike, getting lost in the narrow streets where temples, houses, and colonial buildings blend peacefully.
There are several natural sites worth seeing just outside of the city. You have to drive through rolling green hills and rice paddies to get there. From Luang Prabang, many people take day trips to the Pak Ou Caves, over the Mekong River, which have hundreds of small wooden Buddha statues, and the three-level Kuang Si Falls.
13. Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan is an old city that used to be the capital of a powerful kingdom. It is one of the world’s most important historical places. The most important religious sites in Asia are Bagan and Angkor from the past. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people visit them. The Bagan Archeological Zone covers an area of 41 square kilometers and has more than 3,000 pagodas, stupas, and other religious buildings hidden in dense forests.
Exploring the temples and ruins is a big job that can be done on foot (small sections at a time) or on a rented bike. Shwe Gu Gyi is one of the temples that can be climbed. It has some of the best views, making it a great place to take pictures. If you want to see the temples at sunrise and sunset, you have to go to Nyaung Laphat hill and Sulamani hill.
But the best way to see Bagan in all its glory is to take a hot air balloon ride over the temples.
Outside of the Archaeological Zone, Bagan is known for its lacquer and sand paintings, which you can find in most villages’ local markets. Bagan town also has a busy night market and a traditional Burmese market called the Mani-Sithu Market. You can take a boat tour or a cruise from the town’s central jetty.
Thatbyinnyu Pahto is the tallest temple in Bagan at more than 200 feet. Gubyaukgyi, also called the Great Painted Cave Temple, has frescoes from the 12th century.
14. Bali, Indonesia
Bali is best known for its beautiful golden beaches with swaying palm trees and blue-green water, but this Indonesian island has more to offer visitors. Not that you shouldn’t put beaches at the top of your must-see list. The best places to go in Bali are the beautiful stretches of sand at laid-back Crystal Bay, the undeveloped White Sands Beach, and the quiet, village-like Sanur.
In addition to the sun, sand, and sea, Bali has a unique cultural and historical landscape full of temples. These include the ancient pilgrimage temple Tanah Lot, famous for its sunsets, Gunung Lebah, and its beautiful jungle surroundings, and Pura Goa Lawah, one of the six holiest places of worship in Bali.
Mount Batur is an active volcano that is 5,633 feet tall. If you want to do something more involved, you could hike up, especially at sunrise. Or, you could visit one of Bali’s many terraced rice paddies. In Ubud, the Tegallalang Rice Terraces are a beautiful sight.