25 Best Places to Visit in Asia
As the world's biggest continent by both area size and population, Asia is chock-full of amazing destinations. Whether your taste veers towards cutting-edge cities or more traditional havens of culture instead, you'll find it all and more here, starting with these 25 places:
1. Bangkok, Thailand
Holding the title of the world's most visited city in 2019, Bangkok is a veritable treasure trove of attractions and sights. Architecture fans will delight in admiring the many famous landmarks found throughout the city, including the opulent Grand Palace and the sacred shrine of Wat Phra Kaew, famous for housing the statue of Emerald Buddha. Bangkok's beauty goes beyond temples, however, as the city also boasts the splendid Lumphini Park, as well as the aptly-titled Safari World. Last but not least, the Thai capital's nightlife is the stuff of legends by now, with notable haunts such as Patpong and Soi Cowboy catering especially to foreign tourists.
2. Bali, Indonesia
A place that truly sparks the senses, Bali is a supremely evocative island that people visit for all sorts of reasons. Some are drawn to its most mystical places, with the likes of Pura Tanah Lot, a stunning seaside place of worship, and Uluwatu Temple being particularly popular. Then there's Mount Batur, Bali's preeminent summit, which is scaled each day by hundreds of visitors eager to experience the island from up top. And who could forget about the Ubud Monkey Forest, a nature sanctuary populated by troops of grey long-tailed macaques. Even Bali's slightly less-traveled corners have something to offer, with Bratan Lake and its neighboring Pura Ulun Danu temple being as picturesque as it gets.
3. Tokyo, Japan
As one of the most technologically-advanced cities in the world, Tokyo will amaze you with its glistening skyscrapers and robot-assisted facilities. The Tokyo Skytree alone guarantees magnificent views as the second-tallest building in the world. You've also got Tokyo Disneyland to look forward to, a magical theme park that puts its own spin on Walt Disney's famous creations. And why not spend a few unforgettable moments admiring the way the city's perfectly-named Rainbow Bridge changes colors throughout the night? But the Japanese metropolis has a traditional side as well, one represented by historic temples and shrines such as Senso-ji and Meiji Jingu, not to mention the imposing Imperial Palace.
4. Beijing, China
Another city that expertly blends the old and the new is Beijing. Where else could you catch a glimpse of the Great Wall of China, while also admiring the exquisite handiwork of the Summer Palace? And that's not all – Beijing's Tiananmen Square is fraught with history, as is the palace complex known as the Forbidden City. But the Chinese capital also boasts a remarkably modern center, with places like the National Museum of China and the National Stadium showcasing a contemporary side of the city. If you've got time, you can even visit the controversial Mausoleum of Mao Zedong to find out more about the nation's modern-day father.
Small but packed with things to do, Singapore is a city-state unlike any other. Its high-end hotels and shopping malls are legendary, with the Marina Bay Sands and Orchard Road standing out in particular. But even if you're traveling on a budget, you won't lack options in Singapore. There's the Singapore Zoo for instance, which recreates an actual rainforest replete with orangutans, meerkats and rare white tigers. And no words can do justice to the beauty represented by Gardens by the Bay, a state-of-the-art garden known primarily for its Supertree Grove. Finally, a trip to Singapore wouldn't be complete without admiring Merlion, the half-lion, half-fish statue that adorns the entry to the city's downtown district.
6. Istanbul, Turkey
A vibrant city that blends both European and Asian influences, Istanbul is the kind of place you never forget. Its four most iconic landmarks alone would qualify it as a must-see, from the legendary Hagia Sophia to the ornate Topkapi Palace, as well as the gorgeous Blue Mosque and the labyrinth that is the Grand Bazaar. Going deeper, Istanbul also boasts several one-of-a-kind attractions like the Basilica Cistern, an ancient form of waterworks that can be explored by foot. And then you've got places like the Galata Tower and Dolmabahce Palace, hallmarks of Istanbul's past that illustrate why this city has been so coveted over the years.
7. Seoul, South Korea
The capital of South Korea is a colorful city, one beholden to the past as much as it is welcoming of the future. In the latter category, piercing structures like the N Seoul Tower allow you to view the city from up above, while the Dongdaemun Design Plaza impresses with its futuristic architecture and exhibits. Meanwhile, Seoul's traditional side shines bright in places like Changdeokgung, a palace complex dating back to the Joseon dynasty, and Bukchon Hanok Village, a protected area that aims to showcase what Seoul looked like hundreds of years ago. Other winners include the Olympic Park, built with the purpose of hosting the Summer Olympics back in 1988, and Lotte World, a top-notch adventure and water park located close to the heart of the city.
Exotic and alluring, the Maldives have a little bit of everything going for them. The archipelago is remote enough to ensure privacy, yet located close enough to India to be accessible. The weather on the islands is perfect, and there are enough activities to keep you busy no matter how long your stay is. Be sure to book a room at one of the Maldives' iconic overwater bungalows in order to get the most out of your proximity to the ocean, and then go out exploring. Some islands like Maafushi cater to water sport lovers, while others like Kuramathi are excellent for night diving. The choice is yours, and whatever you choose, you're in for a real treat.
9. Hanoi, Vietnam
Welcoming and affordable, Hanoi is a backpacker's paradise. This is the place to be if you like lush scenery and traditional architecture. You'll get all that and more at Hoan Kiem Lake, one of Hanoi's most popular hotspots. Pagodas rule the day here, whether it's the white One Pillar Pagoda or the towering Tran Quoc Pagoda, whose serene surroundings make it perfect for postcards. If you'd like to know more about the history of this unique place, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum are both located in Hanoi, as is the sprawling Vietnam Military History Museum.
10. Shanghai, China
Often considered to be China's most Westernized city, Shanghai will indeed greet you with a glistening skyline that's reminiscent of any top metropolis in the US. But dig a little deeper and you'll find a city that's incredibly multifaceted. Yes, there are skyscrapers like the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center that you can scale and dine in, but there are also quieter corners such as the Yu Garden that exemplify the Chinese pursuit of beauty. Shopping is big here as well, with Nanjing Road being the main hotspot, while the Bund waterfront will be your first choice if you're looking for an immaculate view of Shanghai's shoreline.
11. Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan
Located close to Tokyo, the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is the pride and joy of Japan, containing several of the nation's top natural landmarks. Mount Fuji is the star of the show of course, a jagged snow-capped giant that can be seen from downtown Tokyo. But the area is also home to several bodies of water, including the Fuji Five Lakes and Lake Ashi in the Hakone area. The latter can even be crossed in a veritable pirate ship – easily the most unique attraction in the area. If you're looking for some rest and relaxation you would do well to pay the Atami Hot Springs a visit too, or alternatively spend some time browsing the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands.
12. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sometimes seen as Bangkok's little brother when it comes to Thailand's top destinations, in reality Chiang Mai is so much more than just that. It's a culturally-rich city that features some of the most spectacular temples in the whole country, including the gold-plated Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the historic Wat Phra Singh. Next to them, the city's natural beauty shines bright, especially in places like the neighboring Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, home to several impressive waterfalls, and the Chiang Mai Zoo, where exotic creatures such as pandas can be found. Despite its relaxed vibe, the Thai city also has a vibrant nightlife buoyed by the busy Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and the Chiang Mai Night Safari.
13. Siem Reap, Cambodia
The town that put Cambodia on the tourist map is indeed a remarkable destination. Its main claim to fame are the grand temples that adorn the area, with Angkor Wat in particular being a true architectural wonder. Its ornate design and lush jungle background help it stand out amongst the world's top religious monuments, and you can easily get lost in there for hours admiring the statues and the handiwork. If you want to learn more about the Khmer Kingdom that created Angkor Wat, head on down to the Angkor National Museum. And once nighttime rolls around, kick back and relax in the buzzy bars of Pub Street and Street 08.
14. Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is a glamorous and cosmopolitan city that can make you feel alive as you traverse its skyscraper-adorned boulevards. The likes of Kowloon Bay look positively futuristic even today, and stand in stark contrast to the classic feel of historic landmarks like Mystic Manor and the Kowloon Walled City. Hong Kong is best experienced from above, however, which is why we recommend getting to Victoria Peak and admiring the view with the aid of local telescopes. If that's not enough, there's a Hong Kong Disneyland that any travelers with families will enjoy, as well as several promenades like Tsim Sha Tsui and the Wan Chai Temporary Promenade which will leave you speechless.
15. Jaipur, India
Affectionately nick-named "The Pink City" for the vibrant color of many of its historical buildings, Jaipur is a notable stop in India's iconic Golden Triangle tourist route as well as a city worth visiting in its own right. The magnificent Amer Fort kicks things off in style with its grandiose scale and well-maintained ramparts, while the City Palace impresses with its lavish interiors. Maybe even more architecturally-distinct is the Hawa Mahal, also known as the "Palace of the Winds", thanks to its honeycomb exterior that features no less than 953 windows. And if you've ever wanted to see a palace located in the middle of a lake, you shouldn't miss out on Jal Mahal, especially at night.
16. Kyoto, Japan
Strongly anchored in Japan's traditional values, Kyoto is an absolute dream of a destination if you enjoy seeing this side of the country. Top-notch temples such as Kiyomizu-Dera and Kinkaku-ji are a joy to behold, especially during springtime when surrounded by blooming trees. The Fushimi Inari Taisha Shinto shrine is another winner here, famed for its iconic gates, while the historic Nijo Castle is a real beauty thanks to its elegant architecture and surrounding cherry blossom trees. Nature reigns supreme in the district of Arashiyama, which boasts an iconic bamboo forest and can also be explored by boat. And if you're looking to take part in the geisha experience, be sure to pay a visit to the district of Gion.
17. Ranthambore National Park, India
India's most popular national park is filled to the brim with awesome sights and wondrous exotic creatures, all waiting to be discovered. Centered around the historic Ranthambore Fort, this national park contains a special tiger reserve area, where several Bengal tigers can be found, as well as environments for Indian leopards, wild boars and sambar deer. Going on an exploration you can witness these superb animals in their natural habitat, while also admiring Ranthambore's varied landscape. The gigantic Banyan tree found near Padam Talao lake is an obvious highlight, as is the red sandstone Jogi Mahal located in the same area.
18. Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
A rising powerhouse in Southeast Asia, Malaysia's emergence is exemplified by Kuala Lumpur's development. What was once a relatively small city has now transformed itself into a burgeoning metropolis filled with skyscrapers. The Petronas Twin Towers are the clear highlight here, two of the most remarkably tall buildings in the region, each with 88 floors. But Menara Kuala Lumpur is just as great, a huge tower that offers unbeatable panoramic views of the entire city. If you'd rather stay ground bound, however, the Batu Caves make for an excellent excursion into the city's limestone hills. And the Sunway Lagoon has virtually every kind of water-themed ride and game available.
19. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The second Vietnamese city on our list is another affordable destination filled with thrills for all categories of travelers. Celebrated for housing monuments like the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon and the Independence Palace, Ho Chi Minh City is an excellent place to learn about the past, with the War Remnants Museum being another highlight in this regard. Also of note is the Cu Chi Tunnel, a vast underground network that was extensively used in the Vietnam War. For a lighter affair, the city offers places like Nguyen Hue Street, a pedestrian-only promenade that frequently hosts cultural events, as well as the aptly-titled Backpacker Street where you can find affordable bars and lodging aplenty.
20. Agra, India
Some places are defined by their most famous attraction, but wear it like a badge of honor. Such is the case with Agra, a North Indian city that's become a household name thanks to the presence of the Taj Mahal within its area. This iconic Mughal mausoleum is probably India's most renowned building, and for good reason too. Its unrivaled architecture and well-manicured gardens are the stuff of legends, even if it does get crowded at times from all the attention. But Agra has other tricks up its sleeve as well, from the towering Agra Fort, another Mughal creation, to the lesser-known but still impressive Itmad-ud-Daulah, also known as the "Baby Taj".
21. Phuket, Thailand
The third and final Thai destination on our list is meant for connoisseurs of island life. With its dreamlike environment and lush landscapes, Phuket Island is perfect for rest and relaxation. The isle features top-notch beaches such as Kata and Patong, both of which cater to tourists' every whim. You've also got vantage points such as Promthep Cape, which offers stunning seaside views and is especially gorgeous at sunset. And if you're a diving and snorkeling fan, you're in luck! The island has a host of spots with great visibility and lots of things to see, including the ones around Koh Phi Phi and Similan Islands National Park.
22. Sri Lanka
Another island with a lot to offer is Sri Lanka, located off the southern coast of India. This exotic place is known for its ornate temples, with the Dambulla Royal Cave Temple and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic being just two of the most notable examples. But nothing really compares to the Sigiriya Fortress, a spectacular construction built on top of a massive rock column. Climbing it can be achieved via some steep stairwells, and is definitely worth it for the views it affords you. Sri Lanka is also a great place for animal lovers thanks to the presence of the Udawalawe National Park Safari, where numerous wild elephants roam free.
23. Kathmandu, Nepal
Eclectic and gorgeous, Kathmandu is the mysterious capital of Nepal, a place located at great altitude that stands out for its unique culture. Religious faith is strong here, as evidenced by stunning temples such as Pashupatinath and the Swayambhunath Stupa, both major pilgrimage sites for Hindus and Buddhists respectively. Kathmandu's colorful character is evident even in places like the aptly-titled Garden of Dreams, a neo-classical garden replete with pavilions and fountains. And if you want to admire the Himalayas nearby, the hillside village of Nagarkot is just a short drive away.
24. Goa, India
India's most beach-centric state has been delighting local and international visitors for decades. Its picturesque beauty is legendary by now, owing to places like Anjuna Beach, a favorite among locals for its water sport amenities, and Calangute Beach, where unforgettable sunsets await you every evening. But that's not all. The Dudhsagar Falls are well worth a trip thanks to their awe-inspiring majesty, while the Basilica of Bom Jesus is a must for architecture lovers. Lastly, Goa's nightlife is on full display on Baga Beach, where the partying doesn't stop until the wee hours of the morning.
25. Boracay, Philippines
The final spot on our list goes to Boracay, an island in the Philippines that's renowned for its pristine beaches and serene atmosphere. Relaxing in the sun never felt as good as it does on White Beach, a marvelous stretch of sand that's also excellent for snorkeling and diving. And you'd be remiss not to check out adventure spots like Bulabog Beach and Crystal Cove Island, where you can take part in all sorts of activities ranging from paraw sailing and kite-boarding to rock climbing. Finally, if you're in the mood for some souvenir shopping, the D'Mall plaza has everything you could possibly want for the folks back home.
All in all, exploring Asia as a tourist is an amazing experience, one that every aspiring traveler should have on their bucket list. The 25 locations mentioned here are but a starter pack, so feel free to go beyond them when creating your personalized itinerary.