I created this list of 25 most beautiful places in Asia to inspire you to discover this exciting continent! By no means, this is an exhaustive list of countries to visit in Asia, nor it is objective. The list is highly subjective to my personal experiences and impressions but I also believe that some of the most beautiful places in the world are located in the beautiful Asia. The continent is packed with natural wonders, historical heritage and rich culture.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Happy exploring!
1. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is the largest religious complex in the world and one of the most famous landmarks in Asia. It covers a vast area of land measuring over 162 hectares and a UNESCO World Heritage. The complex was built by one of the Cambodian god-kings, and it’s a prime representation of Khmer civilisation. Some of the most famous sites include Angkor Wat, which is the main temple and the best time to see it is at sunset. It’s possible to also zip line above it and marvel at the ancient monument from a completely different perspective! Other sites include The Bayon, Banteay Srei, Ta Som and Ta Prohm where Lara Croft’s adventures in ‘The Tomb Rider’ were filmed. Ta Prohm is situated in the middle of the jungle with massive tree roots growing on top of the temples. Those trees can absorb water from the humid air instead of the ground.
Angkor Wat is situated just outside of the city of Siem Reap where there is an international airport. You need at least 2 to 3 days to explore the temple complex. The tickets are a little pricy costing $37 for a single day pass and $62 for a three-day pass. You can hire a car with a guide that will take you around the temples, this way you can find out more behind the history. Alternatively, you can hire a scooter and drive around yourself or grab a rikshaw (there are plenty of them waiting for tourists in front of the main sites).
2. Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An is probably the most charming city in the whole of Asia and Vietnam one of the most beautiful Asian countries. The best way to experience this magical place is to attend Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival. Hoi An is also famous for its well preserved old town which represents architectural styles of the previous periods: French colonial style, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese. Hoi An was an important port city with bustling trade but thanks to the river drying out, today we can enjoy it as it is.
The best way to enjoy Hoi An is on a bicycle because Hoi An’s old town is closed for motorised traffic. And don’t forget to take a stroll through the city at night where hundreds of lanterns are lit up, creating a unique atmosphere! The town has some great restaurants and rooftop cafes where you can enjoy Hoi An’s city skyline.
The closest airport where you can fly to is Danang. Another way to get here is by train from Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi.
3. Sapa Rice Fields, Vietnam
Trekking Sapa Rice terraces is definitely one of the bucket list worthy contestants because the region is truly one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam! Situated in northern Vietnam, Sapa has some best and most iconic rice paddies in the world. The best way to fully experience the region is to go on a few day hike with a homestay in different villages. This way, you get to know the local people that come from different tribes, dress differently and have various customs.
The easiest way to get to Sapa is taking an overnight train from Hanoi, which is an experience in itself. You can also book a tour starting from Hanoi that will have everything arranged for you. The best time to visit Sapa is between June and October when rice paddies go from fully grown lush green to golden colour in the autumn.
4. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Another bucket list experience in Vietnam involves staying on a traditional junk boat and cruising the gorgeous Ha Long Bay. There are various types of cruises for any budget that you can take.
Ha Long Bay has a unique landscape that is similar only in few other places in the world – hundreds of towering limestone islands extending over the water of the bay.
There are plenty of activities that can be enjoyed in Ha Long Bay is kayaking in between thousands of rocks sticking out of the water, scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking on the many little islands scattered across the bay. There are also a few beaches where cruises stop for passengers to enjoy.
And what makes Ha Long Bay even more unique, the surrounding waters are full of jellyfish, turtles and manta rays!
5. Borobudur Temple, Indonesia
Borobudur Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world built in the 9th century by a ruling dynasty in Central Java. It meant to be a place of religious cult and pilgrimage. After Hindu kingdoms decline in Java and a large part of the society converted into Islam, the temple was abandoned.
The place was then rediscovered by the British in the early 19th century. The temple consists of nine platforms with a large dome sitting in the centre of the top platform. It is surrounded by 72 smaller stupas each hiding a buddha inside. The whole temple complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The best way to experience this incredible temple is to visit it at sunrise. The sunrise admission if $35 and includes the use of torch and buffet breakfast after the experience. There is some magic in sitting in the dark and silence amongst Buddhist stupas and waiting for the sun to rise and another day to commence.
The closest airport to Borobudur where you can fly to is located in Yogyakarta. And to make to the temple in time for the sunrise, I recommend staying in one of the nearby hotels such as Amata Borobudur Hotel where I stayed.
6. Bali, Indonesia – eat, pray and love
Bali is one of my favourite places in South East Asia. For a small island, Bali is very diverse with lush rice fields, alluring beaches and stunning Hindu temples. Whether you are an adventure seeker or looking to relax, I guarantee you’ll enjoy Bali.
Visit Uluwatu for some great beaches and world-class surfing spots with quality barrelling waves and great vibes. For culture, explore Ubud, which is one of the most beautiful places in Bali and immerse yourself with the local customs and arts. Ubud is also great for yoga retreats and scrumptious vegetarian cuisine that you’ll fall in love with even if you’re a carnivore. Other experiences not to be missed include a flower bath, a Balinese massage and a floating breakfast served in the pool that dominates Instagram feeds!
Bali has some great hikes – the most famous one is Mount Batur which is an active volcano, and the best way to explore is on a sunrise hike which guarantees jaw-dropping views of Lombok and other volcanoes! The island of Bali is also fantastic for exploring waterfalls hidden deep in the jungle.
There is an international airport in Bali where you can fly from most locations in the world. The best places to stay in Bali are Ubud for a jungle oasis, Uluwatu for stunning beaches and Seminyak or Kuta for the party vibes.
You may also like 10 Day Bali itinerary.
7. Gili Islands, Indonesia
Gili Islands are a piece of paradise which you won’t be able to leave once you experience it! The islands are surrounded by crystal clear water with a perfect shade of turquoise with abundant marine life and unspoiled coral reefs with hundreds of colourful species. It’s the ideal place for scuba diving and snorkelling.
The best things about the Gili Islands is that you can spot many turtles hanging around the islands! There are also interesting underwater structures raised to help the coral reef to thrive.
There are three islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. There are no cars permitted on the islands, so the only mode of transport is a bicycle! Life is slow and relaxing on the islands, and the best thing to do after snorkelling is watching some epic sunsets while swinging in a hammock! Life doesn’t get any more perfect than this!
Gili Islands are tucked between Lombok and Bali. You can get here by a speed boat either from Bali, Lombok or Nusa Lembongan. The biggest choice of places to stay is on Gili T, which is also the biggest island with a variety of restaurants, bars and shops. For luxury accommodation head to Gili Air and for a sense of ultimate peace and quiet, visit Gili Meno.
8. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Unsurprisingly, the main thing to see in Komodo National Park is the impressive comodo dragons. They are a species of giant lizards that are exclusive to Komodo Island in Indonesia!
Other amazing things to do is visiting the pink beach that gets its unique and lovely colour from microscopic animals that colour the coral reef and that get mixed with the white sand creating the dazzling pink effect!
If you are a sucker for a great view, climb Padar Island viewpoint and get ready for your breath to be taken away by the scenery.
The most convenient base to explore Komodo National Park is Labuan Bajo, where you can find a wide range of accommodation and book your trip to the park. You can fly to Labuan Bajo from Bali or Lombok.
9. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Gardens by the Bay in Singapore are probably the most spectacular gardens in the entire world! The park covers 101 hectares of land in central Singapore, right by the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It is home to eighteen Supertrees that are metal structures used to grow the garden vertically.
The admission to the park itself is free. But within the park, you can visit some additional conservatories which is a highly recommended thing to do! Explore the Cloud Forest, which is home to the largest indoor waterfall in the world, measuring 30 m. The Cloud Forest humid tropical climate, there are some unusual carnivorous plants, some beautiful orchids and jars where you can smell different plants.
The main area of the park is called Supertree Grove, where you will find the biggest tree structures and the Sky Way. Don’t forget to take some photos here with the Supertrees! Other areas of the park include Chinese Garden, Indian Garden, Colonial Garden, Silver Garden and the Meadow.
The best way to enjoy Gardens by the Bay is to come in the evening to watch the light show in the Supertree Grove!
10. Temples of Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is famous for its vast area covered in mesmerising temples dating from the 11th to 13th century. Bagan was a capital of the Pagan Kingdom that united the region, creating the foundations of modern Myanmar before it got destroyed by the devastating earthquake and multiple invasions of Mongols.
There are hundreds of temples to explore in the region. Hire an electric scooter and explore the unworldly structures in your own pace. Bagan is still relatively unexplored and underappreciated, but the scale and beauty of the archaeological site are comparable to Angkor Wat and The Pyramids of Giza. So, my advice is to get there before it becomes over touristy!
The best way to enjoy Bagan Temples is to go on a sunrise balloon ride. This is an experience I personally will never forget, and it is worth every penny spent!
Bagan has an airport where you can catch a regional flight to Yangon or Mandalay. Flights schedule is limited, so plan your itinerary well. Alternatively, you can get to Bagan by taking a night bus from all the main tourist areas in Myanmar. The admission to the Bagan Historic Area is £18.
11. Inle Lake, Myanmar
Discover the natural beauty of Inle Lake, where indigenous people live simple lives close to nature in communities built on the lake. Inle Lake is famous for native fishermen and their unique technique of leg-rowing.
Hire a small boat and arrive at the lake just before the sunrise to spot them going about their daily life. There are villages built entirely on the lake that consist of houses, churches, restaurants, textile and silver workshops where you can visit to learn more about the technique. Everything is built on wooden poles raised above the water of the lake, and the only way of reaching places is by longtail boat.
TIP: Take a boat and visit Indein village where you can find ancient pagodas and hundreds of golden stupas!
Another great way to explore the region is to cycle the Inle Lake loop with various interesting stops on the way, including a viewpoint and hot springs. The most interesting stops were the tofu village that produces a range of tofu products and sugar cane sweets and finally a wine yard where you can sample some local wines.
To get to Inle Lake, take a night bus that connects the region with all main cities such as Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan.
12. Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
Shwedagon Pagoda situated in Burma’s capital Yangon is the most famous landmark of the country and the most important temple. It’s a site of religious pilgrimage and a sacred place where Buddha relics are kept.
The impressive 99-meter gold plated stupa with an ornament attached to its top that is decorated with precious stones, including diamonds is dominating the landscape, and it can be seen from neighbouring areas in Yangon. The experience of visiting the temple is magical and very unique. Hindu visitors wear their best clothes and bring offerings to the temple. If you walk around the golden stupa, you can spot people performing different rituals: burning candles, offering flowers and pouring water. Burmese devotees walk around and pray to shrines that represent their birthday.
TIP: Dress in your best travel attire covering knees and shoulders. For women – a long skirt and for men, long trousers will be best. You leave your shoes and socks at the entrance and walk barefoot. The admission cost $5. Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most impressive temples I have seen in South East Asia!
13. White Temple, Thailand
Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple is nothing like you’ve ever seen and for its unique visual esthetics, it earned the place on the Asia Bucket List!
The White Temple is actually privatively owned by the same guy that funded and designed it.
The temple is heavily ornated, decorated with pieces of glass that make the building sparkle in the sun. The main temple can be reached through crossing a small bridge over a lake. If you look around, you’ll see a lot of hand statues reaching out which symbolises human desires that need to be tainted to reach a higher state of heaven.
The site has not yet been completely finished. It consists of a few other buildings, including the most elegant and heavily ornated restrooms. They are probably the poshest restrooms you will have the pleasure to use!
The temple is located in Chiang Rai province, and the best base for visiting it is the city of Chiang Mai where you can take a day trip to visit the White Temple amongst other points of interest in the area.
14. Maya Bay, Thailand
Maya Bay is famous for dazzling turquoise water and abundant marine life excellent for snorkelling and scuba diving. The bay is surrounded by towering cliffs protecting the beach from three sides and has the most transparent water and it’s probably one of the most beautiful places in Thailand. And last but certainly not least thing to know about Maya Bay is that the Beach was filmed here starring Leonardo Di Caprio! The film is about a group of travellers that set up a camp and live a life away from civilisation on a paradisical, secret beach.
Maya Bay can be found off the shore of Phi Phi Island within a short boat ride. Unfortunately, Maya Bay fell victim of over-tourism being one of the most hyper popular asian tourist spots and had to shut for the whole year in 2019 to give nature time to rebuild the marine ecosystem.
The best time to visit Maya Bay is between November and April during the dry season when waters are calm with the perfect visibility for snorkelling. Maya Bay is situated near Phi Phi Island where you can hire a boat to visit the bay. I recommend hiring a smaller longtail boat which will give you the flexibility of your itinerary and the ability to explore less frequented spots. The best time will be to visit Maya Bay early morning before the arrival of bigger boat trips.
15. The Ancient Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya is situated 80 km north from Bangkok, and it is a former capital of Siamese kingdom between 14th and 18th century. That era left the rich heritage in the form of beautiful monasteries, shrines and temples that can be admired today.
There is a lot to see in Ayutthaya! You probably recognise a stone head of buddha in a living tree which has become a symbol of Thailand? Well, you can find it here in Ayutthaya! The buddha head is what’s left of the temple after the Burmese destroyed it. The tree grew around the head instead of breaking it apart. Today, it’s considered to be sacred. Other notable sites include temples of Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Naphrameru, and the Royal Castle.
Other things to do in Ayutthaya is visiting the Night Market that stretched on the street near the train station and sampling the famous boat noodles that are a signature dish of Ayutthaya!
Ayutthaya makes a perfect day trip from Bangkok. You can get here by train, book an organised excursion or take a cruise up the river.
16. Palawan, The Philippines
If any place in the world deserves to be called paradise, it must be Palawan! Tantalising pristine beaches, surrounded by crystal clear water teaming with marine wildlife is what you can expect from this Pilipino island.
Palawan is the perfect place to go scuba diving. Check out Coron where you can dive and explore some Japanese shipwrecks that sunk in the 50s. Go island-hopping around El Nido and discover your own piece of paradise. There are many small islands and secluded beaches that can be explored by hiring a kayak or a boat. Another thing to do is to sail the world’s longest navigable, underground river within Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
There are a few airports in the area. The most common way is to fly to Manila which is the capital city and then take an internal flight to either Puerto Princesa or El Nido and then a bus and possibly a boat to your final destination depending on where you choose to stay. It may not be the most accessible place, but hell it’s worth the effort!
17. Boracay, The Philippines
Boracay is a small island in the Philippines famous for its white-sand beaches, alluring turquoise waters surrounded by swaying palms. The island has some vibrant coral reefs and diverse underwater wildlife.
Boracay seems to be popular tourist spot in Asia, especially amongst Asian tourists and most restaurants and hotels cater to satisfy Asian visitors primarily, which can be an interesting thing to experience. Walk along the long stretch of White Beach packed with bars, restaurants, hotels and massage parlours to discover the island life or get involved in the many water activities Boracay has on offer.
Come back to the beach just before the sunset to watch the jaw-dropping spectacle of the sky changing colours. Relax on the bin bags surrounded by fairy lights and take advantage of island happy hours. Another great way to enjoy the gorgeous golden hour on Boracay is to go paddleboarding or sunset cruising to experience some romance which also usually includes wine and dine option.
Take a boat to discover the neighbouring smaller islands, abundant coral reefs and Mount Luho – a viewpoint with some fantastic vistas over the island.
Best time to visit Boracay is during the dry season, which runs from November to May. To get to Boracay, take an internal flight to either Caticlan or Kalibo airport. The flights to the first one are a little pricier, but Boracay is then only 30 minutes away, Kalibo offers cheaper flights with the transfer time of about 2 hours.
18. Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos
If you were to see one place in Laos, I highly recommend it to be Kuang Si Waterfalls! The cascading falls with 50m drop are situated in the lush jungle and consist of various pools. The water in the pools is milky turquoise and perfectly clear. And the best part is that you can take a refreshing dip in the many lakes of Kuang Si.
There is also a picnic area for visitors to use, and you can hike the very top of the waterfalls to enjoy even more beautiful nature.
Laos’ most famous landmark – Kunag Si Waterfalls is located 30 km from Luang Prabang. There is an International Airport just 5 km from the city centre. The entrance ticket is only over $2, and you can get here by minivan or shared tuk-tuk that operate from Luang Prabang. The best time to visit the falls is in the dry season – December to May, when waters are calm and settled and hiking trails dry.
19. The Great Wall, China
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World – The Great Wall of China is an undeniably one of the most beautiful places in China. It stretches over whooping 21 thousand km over Northern China, is two thousand years old and can be seen from the space!
It was built to protect the Chinese Empire from the foreign invasion by the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. What’s interesting is that the fortifications were constructed mostly by prisoners and soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of them died during the construction, and their bodies were buried within the walls.
There are various stretches of the Great Wall opened to visitors. The closest one to Beijing and probably the most popular for that reason is Badaling. You can take a train, a tourist bus that leaves from the back of Tiananmen Square situated in front of the Forbidden City or a taxi and reach the city within 1.5 hours. For less crowded sections of the wall but a little more tricky to get to, head to Jinshanling, Jiankou, Huanghua Cheng or Zhuangdaokou. It’s also a good idea to book an organised tour which is always a hassle-free option, especially considering the language barrier that I found to be an issue in China.
20. The Forbidden City, China
Another Chinese position on the most beautiful places in Asia is the Forbidden City located in Beijing.
The sheer grandeur of the place is absolutely mesmerising! The Forbidden City is a complex of palaces where Chinese emperors resided between 15th and 20th century. The Ming Dynasty built it, and it took over 14 years and 1 million workers to complete! Imagine 980 buildings with over 8,000 rooms of pure splendour!
For a long time, the residence of the emperors was considered to be divine and was off-limits to ordinary people – hence the name forbidden city.
The admission is $9, and the main entrance to the complex is located on the Tiananmen Square in central Beijing where you can get by taxi or by very efficient and well-marked in English metro system. In terms of hotel, I recommend staying in the Hutong area, which is the traditional Chinese neighbourhood with many unique, courtyard centred hotels that will take you back in time.
During my stay in Beijing, the Forbidden City was shut for the visit of an ‘important official’ which turned out to be Donal Trump! Luckily, the site reopened the next day, and I managed to explore this magnificent complex.
21. Batu Caves, KL, Malaysia
Batu Caves are one of the most Instagram- famous spots in South East Asia but also one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside on India.
There are several caves situated on a limestone cliff that houses Hindu shrines. At the foot of Batu Caves, there is a giant golden statue of Lord Murugan measuring 43 metres. It’s also the tallest statue in Malaysia. Climb 272 steps to get to the main cave and don’t forget to look back for an amazing, panoramic view of the area.
In recent years, the steps were painted in different colours of the rainbow, which increased the popularity of Batu Caves on Instagram feed even further. There are dividing opinions on the topic, but I think Batu Caves look good with their new colours!
You can reach Batu Caves by taking a short metro ride from the central Kuala Lumpur. The best time to visit is early morning before it gets too crowded. There is no entrance fee, but please remember to cover your knees and arms to respect this prominent religious place.
22. Nine Arch Bridge, Sri Lanka
The journey amongst picturesque rolling hills and tea plantation of Sri Lanka is considered to be the world’s most scenic train ride and one of the most beautiful places in Sri Lanka! The train ride that most visitors decide to take is 6 hours between Kandy and Ella.
The biggest attraction of the train journey is passing through the striking Nine Arch Demodera Bridge! It’s been built during the colonial times by a British engineer, and it’s kind of become a symbol of Sri Lanka! The impressive viaduct also called the Bridge in the Sky is located between Ella and Demodera railway stations.
The train ticket prices start from $3 depending on the train class you choose to travel in. While the first class is most comfortable and has air conditioning, the second and third class will offer you the hanging from the door experience sought by most travellers!
The most important thing is to book in advance if you’re hoping for a guaranteed seat, as the train journey between Kandy and Ella is very popular. To explore the surrounding area and have a closer look at the Nine Arch Bridge, you can take a tuk-tuk from Ella or visit it on an organised day trip.
23. Taj Mahal, India
Taj Mahal is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World situated in northern India; city called Agra and one of the most beautiful places in India. Taj Mahal is an impressive Muslim mausoleum built by an emperor in memory of his favourite wife. The building is made of beautiful white marble, and it’s considered to be a world-class masterpiece.
The entrance ticket costs $16 and can be purchased at the ticketing office which is 1 km from Taj Mahal itself. Arrive the earliest possible before the 6 am opening times to avoid a long queue.
24. The Pink City of Jaipur, India
The historical city of Jaipur is known to the world as the Pink City thanks to its buildings that are tinted pink. It’s also referred to as ‘Bali of India’ due to its popularity on Instagram thanks to its exquisite and unique architecture.
The most famous place to see in Jaipur is Hawa Mahal or the Palace of the Winds. The palace architectural style represents a fusion of Hindu Rajput and Islamic Mughal, and it’s made of lovely red and pink sandstone. Other incredible places to see include Amer Fort, City Palace with its Insta-famous and so gorgeous blue chamber and a water palace called Jal Mahal.
Eat your way through the city by sampling the mouth-watering Rajasthani cuisine full of rich and tasty ingredients, water it down with an authentic Indian drink – lassi based on yoghurt and fruits.
Jaipur is located in Rajasthan state, north-western India. The Pink city is a part of a very popular tourist itinerary often referred to as the Golden Triangle including Jaipur, Delhi and Agra. The easiest way to get here is on the train from Delhi or Agra which takes around 6 hours form both locations.
25. Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, the former place of residence of the great Japanese emperors, cannot be missed from your list of ultimate places to see in Asia! In Kyoto, one of the most beautiful places in Japan, you will be able to see the most important icons of Japan.
Visit the Fushimi-Inari Shrine founded in 711 AD and walk the beautiful 4 km long avenue of bright orange arches and on your way back get yourself a traditional fortune cookie. Head to Geisha district and try spotting some graceful geishas in their traditional attires.
Don’t forget the Golden Pavilion standing majestically over the lake and Nijo Castle decorated with intricate carvings home to the government in the past and the picturesque bamboo forest.
For the best city view and surrounding areas of outstanding natural beauty head to Kiyomizu-Dera Temple situated on Otowa Mountain and proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage!
The two ideal times in the year to see Kyoto in March when the cherry trees blossom and during the autumn season when the tree leaves change colour into yellow, red and gold. The closest international airport is in Osaka from where you can catch a train to Kyoto.
What are the other most beautiful places to visit in Asia that should be included? Let me know in comments!
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