Asia is more than a continent; it’s a world unto itself.
As much as we talk about Asia as a singular travel destination, there’s no single thread that binds the continent together. The Turkic-speaking republics of Central Asia are about as similar to the countries of East Asia as Eastern Europe is to Central America.
The massiveness of the continent means that no single trip to Asia will ever satisfy. Even trying to tackle sub-regions like East Asia or Southeast Asia in one fell swoop will leave you needing a vacation from your vacation.
Wherever you choose to go in Asia, know that it will be rewarding, if at times challenging. Whether you’re craving spiritual enlightenment in Bali, eating your way through Taipei or treading the Silk Route in Samarkand, Asia’s bound to get your traveller’s blood roaring.
When to visit Asia
With a continent as big as Asia, it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when to go. Each sub-region—and even each country—can feel like a world unto its own. Sometimes even two places mere hours from each other can have completely opposite weather patterns at the same time!
Throughout the continent though, one thing is sure: you’ll never be sure of what you’ll get. In the hot & humid reaches of Southeast Asia, skies can turn from sunny to miserable thunderstorms at the drop of a hat. Even the more temperate four-seasons of East Asia can see drastic changes in a day.
To get you started searching for the best time to visit Asia, here are a few useful guides:
- Best Time to Visit Bali
- Best Time to Visit Hong Kong
- Best Time to Visit Japan
- Best Time to Visit Korea
- Best Time to Visit Malaysia
- Best Time to Visit Taiwan
Where to go in Asia
I’d like to say there’s an easy answer to this, but, again, there isn’t. Asia is so full of incredible places that it would take a lifetime to see all of them. Let’s just stick to the basics. Here are a few of the best places to visit in Asia:
Along with Southeast Asia and Europe, East Asia is, in my opinion, one of the best places to travel in the world. My reasoning is simple: It’s different enough to be shocking while familiar enough to make it easy to travel in.
The cities of East Asia are some of the best travel destinations in the world. From the cultural treasures of Kyoto to the urban amazement of Hong Kong, there’s no shortage of places to be intrigued by in East Asia.
Perhaps it’s a little ambitious to slip China definitively among all these other East Asian destinations. Diving into the sublime world of China is less like hitting up a single country than tackling an entire continent on its own.
Cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai fit well into the East Asian mold, but as you move further west, things start to change. Ever-popular Xian, influenced by its Silk Road roots, offers a hint at what might await elsewhere. By the time you’ve scurried to far off-the-beaten-path destinations like Kashgar, you’ll definitely see why defining China in a few simple words isn’t so easy.
Need help planning a trip to China? Here are a couple helpful resources:
- What to Do in China in 10 Days or Less: A Complete Itinerary
- One Day in Shanghai: A Complete Itinerary
Perhaps you know it from cheesy ’80s action movies like Bloodsport, but there’s no better feeling than taking on the small Chinese quasi-state of Hong Kong by yourself.
Depending on your disposition, your first impressions of HK won’t always be positive. The never-ending urban buzz of Kowloon, where most tourists land on their first jaunt, can be draining—especially as the incessant calls for massages and tailors begin to pile up.
Even if you don’t think you’ll ever adjust to the chaos of Hong Kong, there’s always the possibility of cathartic moment not so far away. Whether its ambling along a scenic hiking trail on the back side of Hong Kong Island or the New Territories or enjoying a quiet evening meal at a small Cantonese food joint on the backstreets of Central, Hong Kong is a city that’s always got a surprise up its sleeve.
Need help planning a trip to Hong Kong? Here are some resources:
At once both deeply traditional and modern, Japan is one place you’ll simply never let go of. It’s the type of place you dream about long after you’ve left, and one where you’ll never cease wanting to return.
Japanese cities are like none other on the planet. Whether you’re in to the hyper-modernism of Tokyo and Osaka or delving into the more traditional corners of Kyoto, Japan is bound to grab your attention.
Need some help getting started planning a trip to Japan? Here are a few resources:
- What to Do in Japan in 10 Days or Less: A Complete Itinerary
- Is the Japan Rail Pass Worth It?
- What to Pack for Japan: The Ultimate Japan Packing List
- 24 Hours in Tokyo: A Complete Itinerary
- One Day in Kyoto: A Complete Itinerary
- One Day in Osaka: A Complete Itinerary
- One Week in Hokkaido
- Best Time to Visit Hokkaido
Even without the fame of its neighbours, Korea is amidst a massive surge in popularity thanks to hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The games withstanding this is an East Asian destination that’s highly underrated and primed to turn a couple heads when the world finally fully discovers it.
The pleasures of travelling in Korea are hard to pinpoint. Some fall in love with the wild urban thrills of Seoul while others are more content with the classic Asian beauty of places like Gyeongju.
Either way, in this tightly-packed East Asian country, it’s not much of stretch to do it all. Distances are between major towns & cities are short with a quick & efficient public transportation system in place to zip you around in no time.
Not sure where to get started in Korea? Here are a few helpful resources:
- What to Do in Korea in 10 Days or Less: A Complete Itinerary
- What to Wear in Korea: Essential Tips for Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter
- Seoul Travel Guide
- One Day in Seoul: A Complete Itinerary
- One Day in Busan: A Complete Itinerary
I wouldn’t blame you if the thought of visiting Taiwan never crossed your mind. With Japan, China and Hong Kong staring it down at all sides, it’s not surprising that this little island nation often gets left out of the running when dropping down your best laid East Asia travel plans.
For a country as small as Taiwan, there’s quite a variety of things to keep your attention piqued. From the culinary delights of Taipei’s night markets to the beautiful craggy & coastal scenery around Hualien, you’ll never go wrong spending time in Taiwan.
Want to start planning your trip to Taiwan? Here are a couple resources to take a look at:
- What to Do in Taiwan in 10 Days or Less: A Complete Itinerary
- Taipei Travel Guide
- 48 Hours in Taipei, Taiwan: A Complete Itinerary
Outside of Europe, no region in the world attracts backpackers quite like Southeast Asia. And who could blame anyone for loving this crazy little corner of Asia? Just about everything you’d ever dreamed of about the continent—from pristine white-sand coves to mystic ancient temples—is scattered throughout ever-interesting Southeast Asia.
When my first foray into Southeast Asia took me to Indonesia, I knew this region was something special. It’s hard to not fall in love with this hefty archipelago, spanning all of Southeast Asia from below.
With its immensity, it’s not surprising that one trip to Indonesia is never enough to feel the full breadth of its offerings. Most travellers start with Bali, a great destination, to be sure, but one that’s just about as polarizing as places come. The island of Java also has its charms from the otherworldly landscape of Gunung Bromo to the cultural treasures of Yogyakarta.
Not sure where to start planning your trip to Indonesia? Check out these resources:
Even lacking big attraction Angkor Wat or the surfing paradise Bali, it’s hard to not love travelling in Malaysia. In many ways, Malaysia captures all the quirks that make Southeast Asia such an amazing place to travel.
The Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur is one of the region’s most interesting cities. Much like Singapore to the south, KL blends a hodge-podge of different Asian cultures for a palette all to its own. Its glitzy and glamorous skyline conceals the chaos of the city below where you’ll find pockets of traditional shops & restaurants sprinkled among the glass skyscrapers.
Most intriguing about Malaysia though could be its food. The mix of Chinese, Indian and local Malay flavours strikes a chord in even the most hard-to-please foodie. If you’re on the fence about whether the country’s to your taste, a laksa or kari ayam should tip the scales in Malaysia’s favour.
Want to plan a trip to Malaysia? Here are some helpful resources:
Visiting Thailand is almost a rite of passage for the independent traveller. While most still launch their backpacking careers in Europe, more budget-conscious wayfarers are increasingly skipping out on the high prices in Europe for more value-laden times in Thailand.
It’s a blessing and a curse for Southeast Asia’s most popular country. On one hand, it’s made Thailand one of the easiest countries in Asia to travel in; on the other, it’s becoming one of the harder places to enjoy.
Over-tourism aside, Thailand hardly has a peer in the world. It’s home to some of the world’s most spectacular temples and some of its best beaches. Assuming you steer clear of the over-indulgences and excesses that pockmark many a trip, visiting Thailand will be one of the memorable journeys in your lifetime.
Time to plan your Thailand getaway? Check out these Thailand trip planning resources: