Our bucket list has grown so long in lockdown, it’s basically just one long piece of paper listing every single place on earth. There’s a great big world out there, and when the border bans lift and things go back to normal we can’t wait to travel internationally again. When it comes to Asia, there are countless tranquil forests, beautiful beaches, trendy cities and authentic experiences to be had. From the vibrant beach town of Goa in India to the undeniably cool city of Tokyo in Japan, these are the best places to visit in Asia when the world opens up…
1. Hoi An, Vietnam
A historic port town famed for its atmosphere and architecture, Hoi An is high up on our dreamy bucket list right now. The must-visit region of the city is, of course, the UNESCO World-Heritage listed Old Town, with the historic Japanese Bridge and charming French Colonial buildings.
Immerse yourself in the culture of Hoi An with a local cooking class, bike tour through the countryside or take a day trip to Marble Mountain where you can explore the Hindu temples of the Champa Empire. There’s so much to see and do in this exciting city and we can’t wait to get back to Hoi An when international travel reopens.
2. Goa, India
Sunshine, beautiful beaches and breezy palm trees: Goa is a coastal dream! It’s the perfect place to relax after travelling through the bustling major cities like Jaipur, Delhi and Mumbai. When you have the chance to explore Goa for yourself, be sure to take a dip in picturesque spots like Cavelossim, Patnem and Palolem Beaches.
3. Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Kanchanaburi in the west of Thailand is abundant in natural beauty, with the inviting waters of the River Kwai, gushing falls of Sai Yok Yai National Park and lush greenery of the Erawan National Park. On Contiki’s Asian Adventure trip, you’ll even spend the night sleeping at the unique Floating Jungle Raft Hotel along the famous River Kwai.
The region is filled with remarkable places to visit, like the Elephant Haven where visitors can learn about conservation and meet rescue elephants. It’s also an important historical setting, with sights including the JEATH War Museum, Thailand-Burma Railway Centre and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
4. Kyoto, Japan
Sublime gardens, grand temples and shrines, charming teahouses and a historic geisha culture: the magical sights of Kyoto will blow your mind. From the famous gates of the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shinto Shrine, to the tranquil gardens of the Kinaku-ji Temple, there’s a lot to love about this iconic city in Japan. Luckily, you can experience all of this on one of Contiki’s trips! We can’t wait to touch down in Kyoto and start sightseeing when things go back to normal.
5. Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
The rolling green hills and verdant views of the Cameron Highlands are an incredible sight to behold. An expansive region that’s home to world-famous tea plantations, this is one of the best places to visit in Asia. From sampling freshly made teas to enjoying a traditional Steamboat dinner like the locals, there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in the culture of this beautiful region.
6. Luang Prabang, Laos
Golden temples, historic French mansions and stunning greenery make Luang Prabang in Laos worthy of a spot on every traveller’s bucket list. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed city has been on our minds lately, thanks to its remarkable beauty, friendly locals and incredible sites like the Royal Palace, Wat Xiengthong Buddhist Temple, Kuang Si Falls or the lively Night Market.
7. Khao Sok, Thailand
You’ve probably seen the Khao Sok National Park all over your Instagram feed in the past few years, with the pristine nature reserve continuously growing in popularity for travellers passing through Southern Thailand. One of the oldest and greenest rainforest ecosystems in the world – more than 160 million years old – Khao Sok is known for its limestone mountain peaks, deep valleys, striking green lakes and diverse native animals. It’s one of the best places to visit in Asia – and it’s sitting pretty high up on our dream travel list right now. Check it out here.
8. Ahungalla, Sri Lanka
After a year of undeniable stress, we’re seeking out relaxation and rejuvenation. On the golden shores of Ahungalla in Sri Lanka, the Ayurvedic Wellness Retreat offers travellers the chance to indulge in treatment packages, learn the secrets of Sri Lankan cuisine and kick back by the beach for four dreamy days. One of Contiki’s new Detour Mini Adventures, this trip is sitting right at the top of our must-visit list.
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If you watched Crazy Rich Asians and haven’t been able to stop thinking about the delectable food from the Hawker Markets then… same. Singapore is a melting pot of cultures, with flavoursome, diverse dishes to satisfy your every foodie craving. We can’t wait to head back to this island, making a beeline for the stalls at Hawker food centres like Maxwell Road and Newton Food Centre to get our hands on Chilli Crab, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Laksa and Char Kway Teow.
10. Siem Reap, Cambodia
The capital city of Cambodia, Siem Reap, offers up cheerful city streets with trendy new eateries, authentic markets and an atmospheric party vibe to enjoy. It’s also the gateway to Angkor, the capital city of the Khmer Empire. Ancient temples and ruins are waiting to be explored, including Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor Thom and Phnom Bakheng. You can do all this and more with the add-ons included in Contiki’s Asian Adventure tour.
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11. Vang Vieng, Laos
It’s been a hectic year, and the idea of kicking back in the fun-loving town of Vang Vieng in Laos sounds very ideal right about now. It’s hard to think what we miss more: sampling the delicious street food Vang Vieng is famous for, or kayaking and caving our way through the impeccable scenery. Either way, there’s heaps to explore in this part of Asia.
12. Chitwan National Park, Nepal
The first national park of Nepal, this biodiverse region is known for its lush plant-lands and river valleys. It’s also home to deer, monkeys, elephants, sloth bears, and the endangered One Horn Rhino and Bengal Tiger. We can’t wait to head over to Nepal and experience this magical park in person.
13. Yangshuo, China
Known for its outdoorsy activities and extraordinary scenery, Yangshuo is a riverside town in China’s Guangxi region. We’re dreaming of hiking the uniquely arched Moon Hill, Xianggong Mountain and Guilin Laozhai Mountain, exploring the many water caves and limestone karsts and strolling along the quaint night markets. For a truly authentic experience, you could even try your hand at a Tai Chi class with. local teacher on our China Adventure trip!
14. Tokyo, Japan
Another famous city all travellers should visit at least once – Tokyo has been calling our name. Technicolour light splashes across the main streets, there’s the whimsical Harajuku district, plus pockets of lush greenery in the city’s botanic gardens, historic temples and the Shinto Shrines. One of the best places to visit in Asia, the city offers up countless remarkable experiences and we can’t wait to get back to its bustling streets.
15. Seoraksan National Park, South Korea
From Seoul to Jeonju, South Korea’s many cities and towns are all deserving of a spot on your bucket list. And if you’re heading to South Korea, you’ll likely be ticking all of those major destinations off. But we highly recommend you add the Seoraksan National Park to your itinerary – and not just because we’re currently staring at pictures and pretending we’re there. The stunning park is known for verdant pine forests, gorgeous lakes with pristine waters, mountain peaks and hiking trails. Put simply: it’s magical.