From pristine beaches to stunning natural sights, these Asian destinations are off the beaten path.
From bespoke culinary tours with chefs to illuminating cultural adventures, a luxury Asia trip is unforgettable.
The UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang is the cultural heart of Laos and offers travellers a respite from the hustle of modern life. Explore temples adorned with gilded reliefs and stroll along cool promenades in this oasis of tranquility. But don’t stop there – venture beyond the temples and discover a kaleidoscope of hill tribes, spectacular natural landscapes and mystical caves.
Take in the stunning scenery on a hiking adventure, or get a hands-on insight into rural village life at the Kuang Si Waterfalls and the local organic vegetable farm. The latter is part of a larger project to help combat the traditional slash and burn farming techniques that often result in land that can’t be used for crops next year.
Many visitors choose to climb the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi, where the view from this lofty peak is awe-inspiring. It’s also where you’ll see the monks on their daily alms procession at sunrise. But be mindful that it’s not a tourist attraction for the purpose of entertainment, and only give offerings of rice to the monks if you feel comfortable doing so.
One of the best ways to relax in Luang Prabang is to sit back at a restaurant and soak up the vivid sunsets over the Mekong River. But do your research and find a spot away from the crowds if you prefer a quiet meal or drink. Alternatively, visit Tad Sae waterfall during the wet season to experience a breathtaking natural wonder. Here, you’ll find streams of water flowing over unique limestone formations and descending into large pools below.
Sri Lanka’s picturesque Ella is another hidden gem for those who love a bit of adventure. Lace up your boots and hike to the summit of Little Adam’s Peak or explore the waterfalls around this beautiful town. Or, if you want to take it easy, simply enjoy a cup of tea at one of the many cafés or on a train ride through the luscious countryside.
Hanoi is a cultural treasure trove with an array of historical sights to discover. The rambling streets of the Old Quarter offer a glimpse back in time, while the city’s modern cafes and world-class restaurants will delight your taste buds. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing escape or an action-packed adventure, Hanoi has something to please everyone.
One of the best things to do in Hanoi is to walk around the charming Hoan Kiem Lake. This enchanting waterscape offers an escape from the bustle of the city, while also serving as a scenic backdrop for locals engaging in traditional Tai Chi or group dances. The area is also filled with street food vendors, where steaming pots of star anise-infused Pho broth simmer and the scent of bun cha fills the air.
Another must-see attraction is the Temple of Literature, which is a historic complex that celebrates the importance of learning. Founded in 1070, the temple is home to the first university in Vietnam, and its serene courtyards and stunning pagodas are sure to impress. You can even take a stroll through the quaint Ngoc Ha neighborhood, where you’ll find old-world charm mingled with vibrant street art.
In addition to the city’s historic sites, Hanoi is home to several hidden gems that will surprise and delight you. Bun cha Huong Lien is a famous noodle store that rose to fame after it was visited by Anthony Bourdain and President Obama. Located along the railway tracks, this unique eatery serves delectable bowls of slippery noodles and pork patties while allowing patrons to sit on humble blue plastic stools alongside the train tracks.
Other hidden gems include the Thanh Chuong Viet Palace, which is a gorgeous destination that blends Vietnamese heritage with artistic flair. This enchanting complex is the creation of renowned artist Thanh Chuong, and it’s a must-see for visitors to Hanoi.
If you’re planning a trip to Asia, be sure to choose an agency that is knowledgeable about the region and will be able to help you plan your dream itinerary. A trusted Online Travel Agency will be responsive and helpful when you have questions or concerns, and they should have a clear and easy-to-use booking process. They should also be able to provide you with excellent customer service throughout your entire trip.
After you’ve cruised around Ha Long Bay, explored Angkor Wat and gazed at the Taj Mahal, it’s time to dig deeper. Asia’s extraordinary continent is brimming with lesser-known treasures that are just waiting to be discovered.
Raja Ampat is one such hidden gem. Comprised of more than 1500 islands in the waters off Indonesia’s West Papua province, it’s a coral labyrinth that’s home to around 75% of all known reef fish species. Here you’ll find steep jungle-covered islands, pristine white-sand beaches, mushroom-shaped islets and placid turquoise lagoons where manta rays and seahorses swim in ethereal beauty.
The archipelago’s diminutive capital, Waigeo (or Waisai), is the best place to base yourself. It’s from here that daily ferries depart for the central islands of Misool and Waigeo, while twice-weekly ferries head to the more remote Batanta. This is also the region’s hub for hopping to other secluded islands, including Gam, Kri and Arborek.
It’s here that British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace based himself in 1860 while studying the Birds of Paradise, the 44 species of extravagantly-feathered birds only found in New Guinea and north-eastern Australia. His research led to his landmark theory of evolution via natural selection, published jointly with Charles Darwin.
A trip to Raja Ampat also offers some of the most rewarding snorkeling and diving in the world. The karst islets here often have central lakes, which have become separated from the surrounding sea water for millions of years. As a result, these lakes are home to unique marine life like jellyfish that have lost their defensive stinging cells.
But it’s important to note that you must always swim with a guide in Raja Ampat, as the ocean currents here can be strong and unpredictable. The local guides know the area well, and will be able to take you to safe snorkeling spots. They will also be able to help you spot the elusive seahorses and other rare wildlife, as they work closely with conservation groups. It’s also worth remembering that the mosquitoes in Raja Ampat are vicious, so be sure to bring an effective insect repellent like nasebo or coconut oil.
Koh Lipe is one of Thailand’s hidden gems and it offers visitors a chance to experience true relaxation. The beaches are pristine with soft white sand and swimmable crystal-clear waters that invite you to work on your tan or just relax in the sun. The islands surrounded by towering cliffs and lush vegetation provide a breathtaking backdrop for your vacation.
The island is small and can be explored on foot, but if you want to venture further afield you can take a long tail boat from the port at Pak Bara. There are a number of tours that will give you the opportunity to visit other islands in the Tarutao National Park, including the stunning Koh Hin Ngam and the barely inhabited Koh Adang.
There are three main beaches on Koh Lipe, along with a few secret ones. The busiest is Pattaya Beach, where the ferries arrive and which is lined with resort restaurants, beach bars and scuba diving shops. It’s a great spot to visit for sunrise and sunset, but it can be pretty hectic during the day with sunbathers and snorkellers. To find a quieter spot try Sunrise Beach, which is where the luxury resorts are located or Sunset Beach, a small secluded beach that’s perfect for watching the sunset.
If you are looking for a bit more energy, head to Walking Street where you will find a handful of bars that have live music and an upbeat atmosphere. There are some excellent places to get a good meal, too, such as Madame Yoohoo’s pancake stall on the side of the road near Ten Moons Lipe Resort. Her delicious banana and peanut butter pancakes are a real treat.
The best way to enjoy the natural beauty of Koh Lipe is by getting out and exploring the surrounding islands by boat. You can also do this on your own, but joining a tour gives you the opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of these fascinating islands and meet other travellers. If you are a nature lover, don’t miss the chance to see the bioluminescent plankton that appears on certain beaches at night. Simply walk away from the florescent lights of the beachside restaurants and you will be amazed at the little blue dots that illuminate the water as they move through the sea.