Asia, our planet’s biggest continent, is a treasure trove of destinations that guarantee to reward you with an experience of a lifetime.
Between futuristic metropolises, ancient historical sights and secluded tropical getaways, a travel debut to Asia can be made as broad or as specific as you’d like it to be.
Once you take into consideration the sheer size and immense diversity of this landmass, picking out what to see first might start to seem a bit overwhelming.
Worry not, rookie travelers!
To help you make the first steps towards the Asian holiday that you deserve, we have crated a list of some of the most popular getaways that will satisfy all your globe-trotting needs.
Seoul, South Korea
In recent years, South Korea has become the embodiment of the “Asian cool”, in large part thanks to the ever-growing popularity of music, dramas and the booming beauty industry hailing from the peninsula.
And the place that perfectly encapsulates all the factors that make Korea so alluring is none other than Seoul. In a single day, you can go from sipping tea with the Insadong monks to watching the change of guards in front of the immense Gyeongbokgung Palate to soaking up the views from the high and mighty N Seoul Tower.
And in the evening, there’s no better way to experience the city like a local than heading to your nearest barbeque restaurant to feast on mouthwatering samgyeopsal and partying the night away in one of the Seoul’s many karaoke bars.
If you want to experience Seoul’s thriving arts and culture scene, head over to the bustling Hongdae neighborhood, where you will be welcomed with a host of hip cafés, street performers and jumping nightclubs.
Alternatively, make your way towards Myeongdong, where you can shop ‘till you drop for the newest skin care and fashion, all while bubbly K-pop tunes blast from the speakers.
Regardless of how many Asian destinations keep getting discovered, forgotten, then re-discovered, Tokyo is probably the one city that has remained firmly at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists.
The eternal allure of the Japanese capital shouldn’t be a surprise, either: Tokyo is quite literally like no other place on Earth.
For the curious travelers, it offers a plethora of intriguing cultural sites and institutions, from the dreamy Studio Ghibli Museum to the state-of-the-art Miraikan.
On the other hand, dyed-in-the-wool Japan lovers can enjoy getting lost in the streets of Akihabara and Harajuku, where they can get their full-on manga and anime fix, but also witness some of the most kawaii examples of Japanese fashion.
And if you want to avoid your visit to Tokyo turning into a sensory overload, you can always seek refuge in one of its urban oases, which will provide a much needed respite from the frenzy of Shibuya and Shinjuku.
These gems are embodied in the perfectly manicured Kiyosumi and Hamarikyu gardens, but also between the walls of the gorgeous temples found in the old Asakusa district.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
To most people, this north-western Cambodian town is best known for being a gateway to the world largest temple complex: the majestic Angkor.
This vast historic sight, located just 7 kilometers from the center of Siem Reap, dates back to 12th century, time when King Suryavarman II ruled the land.
The temple grounds cover a whopping 400 acres and counts over seventy temples and other religious sites.
The stucco façades of that grace these ago-old constructions feature intricate designs that depict scenes from the everyday life in the Khmer Empire, but also celestial beings who acted as messengers between humans and deities.
Other than being a playground for history buffs and architecture lovers, Angkor is also one of the prime spots in the world for sunset-watching.
If you want to bask in the full splendor of Angkor’s sunsets, head over to Phnom Bakheng, where you will be rewarded by some of the most stunning views of the nature surrounding this monumental temple complex.
Hong Kong, China
Due to its unique geographical positioning and historical trajectory, Hong Kong has developed into one of the most intriguing metropolises in Asia.
This 7-million city is an ever-growing melting pot, and this cultural phenomenon is decidedly felt on every step of its busy streets.
First-time travelers to Hong Kong are bound to be swept of their feet by the jaw-dropping views from the Victoria Peak and the majestic Tian Tan Buddha, a 34-meter statue that sits on the serene Lantau Island.
Visitors who preferred to blend in with the locals can venture into the labyrinth of streets and alleyways found in Sheung Wan and Soho, where a plethora of cozy cafes, busy eateries and buzzing markets await.
For a unique, old-school way to explore the city, make sure to board the iconic “Ding Ding” tram, sit back, and soak up the bustling urban landscape as it passes you by.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The Vietnamese capital represents a beautiful chaos of opulent colonial architecture, rushing scooters and busy street markets.
Saigon, as the city is also known, is also one of the prime gastronomical destinations, where just about every stripe of eatery, from a local pho joint to an exclusive rooftop dining establishment, has the potential to send your taste buds on a wild ride.
And when your palate is pleased and your belly is full, head over to the the Backpacker Street, a stretch favorited by wide-eyed adventure-seekers – this district, which comes alive at night, helped establish the HCMC’s reputation as one of the most party-loving cities in Asia.
Ho Chi Minh City also boasts close proximity to one of Vietnam’s most attractive destination, the Mekong Delta.
Tour operators located throughout the city offer one-day trips to this mystical river mouth, where you can enjoy an intimate boat ride through the Mekong’s backwaters, try out local still water fish or visit the nearby coconut workshop.
Over the last half of the century, Bali has become one of the most coveted travel destinations for holidaymakers looking to experience the ultimate tropical paradise.
And what else to expect from the island that is believed to have been created by gods?
Between miles of pristine beaches, secluded inland temples and lush vegetation, Bali is guaranteed to please every variety of visitor.
The coastal areas of the island have several well-established holiday resorts, including Kuta (favored by party-loving travelers, especially from Australia), Seminyak (where more aspirational, bohemian crowds gather) and Uluwatu (surfer’s paradise).
If you want to experience the full extent of Bali’s famed mysticism, make sure to spend a few days in Ubud, a place where you can witness age-old Balinese dances, practice yoga and meditation or simply surrender yourself to the luscious nature that surrounds it.
Between the uncomfortable elevation, the jam-packed traffic and incessant pollution, the first contact with Kathmandu might seem a bit overwhelming to the inexperienced traveler.
However, those who decide to scratch between the city’s dusty surface are bound to be rewarded with an experience of a lifetime.
To begin with, the Nepalese capital is home to some of the most spectacular sacred sights in the entire world.
And a good few of them are nestled at the Durbar Square where, in the early morning hours, you can witness crowds of devotees gathering to make their offerings.
On the north-eastern edges of the town, you will find Bodhnath Stupa, one of the tallest and most intricately decorates stupas in the world.
Perched atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley is the Swayambhunath, referred to by many as the “Monkey Temple” due to all the playful primates who gather to interact with the visitors.
In case you’re wondering, Kathmandu is not all about history lessons and holy sites. If you want to explore the city’s busy cafés and dining spots, make your way towards the Thamel district, where tourists and locals comfortably mix to create a boisterous atmosphere that will provide a welcome change after long hours of sightseeing.
The south-eastern city-state is on a fast track to become one of the most alluring destinations on the continent.
And when you take into consideration it’s rapidly-evolving trajectory, Singapore’s growing popularity as a tourist getaway shouldn’t come as a surprise.
When you think about it, the Lion City has it all: rich cultural diversity and efficient infrastructure, all tucked away amidst an intriguing blend of modern, colonial and traditional architecture.
And owing to its multi-faceted character, you can rest assured your Singaporean travel will be packed with all kinds of adventures: from getting lost in the busy streets of Chinatown to admiring exotic wildlife at the Singapore Zoo to maxing out your credit card in the glitzy shops on the Orchard Road.
The city also boasts a refreshing amount of urban greenery, so whenever your feet get tired after a long day of sightseeing, you can unwind in the tranquility of Singapore’s oases, such as Padang or Botanic Gardens.
As someone who is looking to explore Asia for the first time, how many times have you heard people raving about Thailand and its delightfully chaotic capital of Bangkok?
There’s a reason why the popularity of this Thai metropolis never seems to wane – the 11-milion city has the ability to amaze and keep every stripe of traveler on their toes.
And yes, while it’s most known for its hedonistic nightlife scene, Bangkok’s immense historical and cultural heritage transcends its modern-day reputation.
For one, no trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the Grand Palace, a mesmerizing royal residential complex nestled at the heart of the city.
In Wat Pho, you will be greeted with the famous Reclining Buddha, a holy statue that measures over 46 meters.
Of course, if you don’t one to miss out on what Bangkok is always praised for – the never-ending party – head over to the Khaosan Road, Silum or Sukhumvit and you won’t be left disappointed with the outburst of restaurants, clubs and bars.
The charm of the Taiwanese capital lies in its intriguing blend of historical influences, all which have helped shape the wonderful hub that Taipei represents today.
And of the first places where you’ll be able to notice this mish-mash of historical presences will be in the city’s architecture, which somehow manages to seamlessly incorporate ancient Buddhist temples, sleek skyscrapers and meditative Japanese-style hot springs.
Its most impressive edifice is the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which proudly stands as the symbol of the city.
Eating has to be one of city’s favorite pastimes, and you’d be hard pressed to find a local who isn’t actively enthusiastic about Taipei’s dining offers.
You can start your Taiwanese culinary adventure by visiting one of the city’s popular night markets, where you’ll get a chance to sample the very best of local cuisine without committing yourself to one full dish.
Even if you’re not immediately familiar with the name of this Uttar Pradesh town, you will definitely know its most famous attraction – the Taj Mahal.
Millions of tourists flock to Agra each year just so they could catch a glimpse of this monumental mausoleum as it reflects in the glistening waters of the ornamental pool at the front.
And yet, the Taj is only where the wonders of Agra begin: this popular travel destination is a bona fide treasure trove of architectural feats from the Mughal era.
Among its most striking examples are the Agra Fort and Akbar’s Tomb, both of which date back to the 17th century.
Luscious gardens that stretch in between these majestic historical edifices shouldn’t be overlooked, either.
Perhaps the most enchanting one is the Mehtab Bagh, which lies on the opposite side of the Yamuna River. This vast green expanse, which was first built by Emperor Babur, had its shine restored during the 1990s, so you can rest assured you will experience it in its full verdant splendor.
If your feet are feeling itchy after reading this list, maybe that’s a good sign you should bite the bullet and finally book the ticket for the Asian destination that has peaked your interest. Wherever you choose to land, we are positive you will discover whole new worlds unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.