Asia has so many hidden gems that have charmed travellers seeking unique experiences. Skyscanner brings you nine secret destinations in Asia that you must add to your travel bucket list.
1. Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
Most of us think of the majestic Angkor Wat when we think of Cambodia. But the tropical country is home to many a secluded, untouched, gorgeous beach that we have only dreamed of visiting. A couple of hours away from the mainland, is the white sandy island of Koh Rong, the most lively of the islands off Sihanoukville. If you love adventure, there are plenty of options to go snorkelling, diving and trekking in the dense jungles. If not, just lay on the white sand with a book in your hand and a cocktail. Fly into Sihanoukville from Siem Reap, and take a ferry to Koh Rong.
Photo credit: Mark O’Sullivan
2. Gyeongju, South Korea
Stepping into Gyeongju is like stepping into another world – a magical land with ancient ruins and a spiritual calm that hangs in the air. If you’re a history buff, the city has plenty of archaeological sites and some magnificent tombs of the Shilla rulers, for you to explore. The National Museum will give you a superb picture of the cultural heritage of the land. If you’re outdoorsy, the city’s many hiking trails, especially the Namsan Mountain, will give you your fix. Indulge in authentic Korean food like dwaeji-gukbap (pork soup), and some hearty seafood. Busan airport is around an hour away by express bus from Gyeongju.
Photo credit: Brandon Oh
3. Hsipaw, Myanmar
This delightful Shan town has a easygoing vibe and a history so rich that you may just stay longer than you intended. Immerse yourself in the local culture, visit the Mahamyatmuni Paya, Bawgyo Paya. Rent a mountain bike and visit the hot springs in the area, and catch the sunset at Five Buddha Hill. While Hsipaw is a five-hour journey by bus or shared taxi from Mandalay, a slower, but more scenic option is to take the train.
Photo credit: Clay Gilliland
4. Haputale, Sri Lanka
Perched in the Sri Lankan central highlands, Haputale is a misty town with remnants of British legacy and tea plantations as far as the eye can see. It serves as a perfect getaway for those looking to just unwind after the chaos of Colombo or Kandy. And it is a great base to explore the Horton Plains National Park. Visit the Dambatenne Tea Factory, where you can see traditional methods of processing, and also try out different brews.
Photo credit: Kosala Bandara
5. Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Despite the resorts that have now cropped up along the Long Beach, this tear-shaped island in Vietnam is still largely undeveloped, with a lot of scope for exploring. Water babies can expect to have a whale of a time with the diving and kayaking opportunities that the island presents. Unwind with a rejuvenating massage and take long walks on the white sandy beaches.
Photo credit: Daniel Hoherd
6. Luang Prabang, Laos
Although Laos is now emerging as a favourite among discerning travellers, it hasn’t lost its vibrant charm to the tourist buzz. Its blend of traditional temple spires and French architecture will have you undoubtedly floored, while the tranquillity that pervades the city will make you want to never leave. Take a walk up Mount Phousi for views of the city and visit the Kuang Sii waterfall. Don’t miss the National Museum and the Central Market.
Photo credit: Romancing The Planet
7. Palawan, Philippines
Stretching from Mindoro to Borneo, the island of Palawan has stunning seascapes and the waters are home to some of the most vibrant sea life you will ever see. The Puerto Princesa subterranean river is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the best natural wonders in the world. The island is also home to another world heritage site, the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park.
8. Altal Tavan Bogd National Park, Mongolia
This is as remote as it gets. Located in the western most point of Mongolia, this park borders China and Russia, and is not the easiest place to reach. But once you’re there, you’ll know why it’s worth the visit. The snow-capped Kuiten Uul is the highest of the five peaks of the Tavan Bogd mountains. The region is a trekker’s paradise, and includes three UNESCO Heritage sites. Entry into the park needs permits that you will need to arrange in advance, so make sure you have checked these. There are flights from Ulaanbaatar to the provincial capital Olgii, from where you can take the scenic route by road.
Photo credit: martin_vmorris
9. Flores, Indonesia
This island in Nusa Tenggara, named by Portuguese colonists after its fragrant flowers, has been Bali’s lesser-known cousin. But it has its way of getting a traveller to stay. Visit the multi-coloured volcanic lakes in Kelimutu, and the Komodo National Park, home to the Komodo dragon. In Ende, make sure you try the Kopi Ende, which is a unique coffee where the beans are toasted with ginger, and make for an interesting blend. The main airport in Flores is at Maumere.
Photo credit: YXO