Asia is the largest continent in the world, and its size also comes with a diverse topography. Whether it’s the thick forests of Indonesia, the beaches of Thailand, the temples of Bhutan and Japan, the mountains of India and Nepal, the rolling hills of Sri Lanka, or the many vibrant cities in between — Asia is home to some of the prettiest destinations in the world with something to offer for everyone. Asia is not short of beauty, and stunning destinations lay in every corner, but if it had to be narrowed down, these are ten of the most beautiful destinations in Asia.
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Atauro Island, East Timor
Not many travelers consider East Timor when they think of the most beautiful destinations in Asia, let alone Atauro Island, but that’s a shame. With more biodiverse waters than any other place in the world, Atauro Island is a paradise for eco-travelers. Atauro Island is dubbed the Amazon Rainforest of the ocean and has the richest reefs in the Coral Triangle of the Pacific Ocean. With only 10,000 residents, Atauro Island is small and that means accommodation options are rough around the edges and have a no-frill eco approach. For scuba divers and snorkelers, however, few places beat the waters of Atauro Island in Asia.
Hạ Long Bay, Vietnam
Háº¡ Long Bay, or Halong Bay, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located off the coast of Háº¡ Long city that’s famous for its limestone karsts and islets of various sizes that rise above jade-green waters. While boat tours offer a quick glimpse of Háº¡ Long Bay, the mystical beauty of the bay extends far beyond its karsts and islets. Visitors staying in the nearby city can kayak through the serene lagoon, explore the network of caves hidden under the islets, rock climb over the hanging karsts, or soak in the quiet way of life at one of the many fishing villages floating deep inside the Háº¡ Long Bay.
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The beauty of Bagan is one that needs to be seen to fully understand and no amount of words or pictures do the city justice. The ancient city of Bagan was once the capital of the Bagan Kingdom that would later unify to become modern-day Myanmar and during its peak, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, monasteries, and pagodas were built within its boundaries. Though earthquakes destroyed much of its history, over 2,000 of these 11th to 13th-century buildings survive today. Visitors can stay on the banks of the river that runs along Bagan and walk through the thick patches of vegetation that fill up the gaps between its temples and pagodas. Plus, the old city’s rich cultural heritage has also given Bagan a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Nusa Islands, Indonesia
While millions flock to Bali which is perhaps the most popular destination in Indonesia, located a short ferry ride away are the Nusa Islands. Not only are the islands quieter than the neighboring Bali, but they’re unparalleled in their natural beauty. Turquoise waters wash up on the shores of its white sandy beaches, cliffs, lagoons, and natural infinity pools are sprinkled all over, and the islands are a hub for snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing with plenty of beach clubs to enjoy some downtime nearby.
When most think of beautiful destinations, it’s usually an island surrounded by clear waters and pristine beaches, towns perched on mountaintops, or cities surrounded by forests that come to mind. Champasak is none of those things, but it still ranks amongst the most beautiful Asia destinations. The town of Champasak sits along the Mekong River near the Thai and Cambodian borders and is named after the ancient Kingdom of Champasak that once ruled the region. Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Champasak’s allure comes from its ancient ruins and historical sites — all surrounded by thick jungles — which makes it a unique destination to stay at.
Taman Negara, Malaysia
Imagine staying inside a national park, and one recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site no less! Malaysia’s Taman Negara has been around for over 130 million years (since the time of the dinosaurs), making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Although visitors may have a tough chance of finding any dinosaurs here in the present day, Taman Negara is home to rare Malay tigers, the world’s longest canopy walk with unbelievable views, over 150 species of mammals, and Mount Tahan which is the tallest peak in Western Malaysia.
Second to only Tokyo in popularity, Kyoto’s beauty changes with the passing of each season. In spring, cherry blossom trees paint the streets of Kyoto in hues of pink and white; fall transforms the gardens of Kyoto’s temples in dramatic shades of reds, yellows, and browns; powders of snow color Kyoto’s ryokans in white with the new year festivities of winter; and summer is the time for warm evenings and cultural festivals. No matter the time of the year that visitors choose to visit the geisha districts, imperial palaces, and temples of Kyoto, its everchanging beauty remains enchanting.
Located on the banks of the Paro Chhu River at the center of the Paro Valley is the historical town of Paro. The most famous site in Paro is perhaps Takhtsang Lakhang, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, which is a Buddhist monastery that sits on the northern end of the valley clinging to the walls of the cliff. But that’s not all: Covered in forests and terraced rice paddy fields, Paro is home to over 150 temples with some monasteries dating back as far as the 14th century. Visitors can explore Paro through picturesque hikes and scenic drives, visit tranquil Buddhist monasteries, and stay at luxurious resorts with majestic mountain views.
Known as “god’s own country” among locals, Kerala has snagged a place at several world’s best destinations awards over the last few years. Kerala sits on the southern tip of India and shares a 600-kilometer borderline with the Arabian Sea. While that means Kerala is filled with beachy landscapes, palm trees, and a tropical climate, that’s not all that Kerala has to offer. Rather, Kerala is famous for its backwaters: a network of canals, lakes, and lagoons that weave through the mainland. Stay at a lavish beach resort or spend a night on a houseboat in the backwaters — there are more ways than one to soak in Kerala’s charm.
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The Philippines is famous for its expansive beaches and lush forests — all filled to the brim with eager tourists. But few realize that there is a treasure of hidden and unexplored gems in the country. Located in the northernmost region of the Philippines, so remote that it’s closer to Taiwan than the Philippines, is a cluster of islands called Batanes. The magical land also has another name: Home of the Winds. Spanning only 230 kilometers, Batanes is both small in land size and population, but that only adds to its beauty. The idyllic paradise is quiet and peaceful, its natural beauty is raw and untouched, and lodging options are quaint and cheap.