Wondering what the best places to visit in Asia are this year? As an ever-evolving region, Asia’s top destinations frequently change and it can be hard to know which places to see first.
Not only that, but due to climate, crowds and culture, there are good times to visit Asia’s best places – which is why you need insider guidance before you go.
If you want to see the real Asia and enjoy the best experiences in the best places, we’ve compiled a list of top Asian destinations for the next twelve months, including exactly when to visit them.
Best places to visit in Asia in January
Welcome the new year with a fresh start by visiting Asia during winter. January offers beautiful landscapes in northern Asia, while much of Southeast Asia is in the peak of its cool, dry season. Jungles are still lush, while sunniest skies sparkle overhead.
Ngapali Beach, Myanmar
Clear days, idyllic seascapes – December really showcases the beauty of this strip of fine white sand draped on the Bay of Bengal. Enjoy a delightful beach escape as you relax under coconut palms, gazing out into the blue.
Best January Experiences in Ngapali Beach
- Lazing on a reef-fringed beach, cooling off in calm, turquoise water.
- Exploring nearby islands and getting a sense of the local culture.
- Escaping from the energetic pace of the region’s larger cities.
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Saigon and Sa Dec, Vietnam
Follow in the footsteps of Marguerite Duras, one of France’s finest writers, in Vietnam’s deep south, where her book L’Amant was set. Enjoy the excitement of modern Saigon, before taking some time out in the quiet Mekong Delta town of Sa Dec, where Duras lived until she was 17.
Best January experiences in Saigon and Sa Dec
- Exploring Saigon’s iconic colonial architecture, including City Hall, the Post Office and the Notre Dame Basilica.
- Following the monsoon season, Sa Dec and the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta are at their most vividly green.
- Experiencing the buzz of modern Vietnam in Saigon.
Best places to Visit in Asia in February
The Lunar New Year often falls in February, so to avoid the crowds, steer clear of Vietnam and China (China sees the world’s largest migration of people during this time). Places such as Cambodia and Myanmar give you cool, dry weather without the crowds.
Kampot and Kep, Cambodia
Go on a culinary tour of coastal Cambodia, with its relaxed atmosphere, atmospheric seaside villas (often in a state of decay) and famously delicious fresh seafood.
Best February experiences in Kampot and Kep
- Tasting famous Kampot pepper and Kep crab.
- Feasting on seafood and chilling out on beautiful Koh Tonsai.
- Visiting King Sihanouk’s long-abandoned villa.
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February brings great weather for exploring Yangon effortlessly. Delve into the city’s culture, from Myanmar’s best restaurants to its stunning pagodas and crumbling colonial architecture. This is a great place to see what Southeast Asian cities looked like before they were taken over by skyscrapers.
Best February experiences in Yangon
- Visiting the enormous Shwedagon pagoda.
- Exploring the city’s wet markets, trying delicious snacks along the way.
- Discovering block after block of old colonial architecture, a poignant reminder of past eras.
Shan State, Myanmar
Capitalize on wonderful clear days and mild mornings with a foray into the hills and forests of the Shan Highlands. This is a beautiful setting for a holiday at any time of year, but in February you’re treated to the most temperate climes for exploring rustic colonial towns and meeting local hill tribes.
Best February experiences in Shan State, Myanmar
- Exploring the botanical gardens in the picturesque town of Pyin Oo Lwin.
- Riding a train over the incredible Gokteik Viaduct, a marvel of engineering.
- Shopping with the locals at in Hsipaw’s markets.
Best places to Visit in Asia in March
March welcomes the arrival of spring in Asia, which means cool, dry conditions in Southeast Asia, and mild weather across the northern parts of the region. Overall, March is a great month for Asian travel with lower tourist numbers in many destinations.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is always a great place to visit, but March’s spring temperatures make it more pleasant for city explorations. See the iconic Victoria Harbor transform day to night and visit some of the densely forested outer islands if you’re after an escape from urban intensity. Wining and dining in Hong Kong is also highly recommended.
Best February experiences in Hong Kong
- Crossing the harbor on the Star Ferry, one of National Geographic Traveler’s ‘50 experiences of a lifetime’.
- Visiting monasteries on beautiful Lantau Island.
- Exploring intriguing cultural traditions at the Chinese medicine market.
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March is ideal hiking weather, and enigmatic Bhutan’s pastoral landscapes beg for outdoor adventure. A small, mountainous country, Bhutan offers up incredible fortresses, sacred temples and stunning mountain vistas.
Best March experiences in Bhutan
- Visiting mountainside 17th-century Dzong fortresses.
- Meeting local farming communities in the stunning Paro Valley.
- Learning about Bhutanese culture at the National Library in Thimphu, the capital.
Best places to Visit in Asia in April
Ahh, spring. In much of Asia this means mild, dewy mornings and intensely sunny days. It also heralds the Buddhist New Year for Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, with the celebrations most fervent in Chiang Mai.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Gentle Luang Prabang is wonderful year-round, with its historic temples and jungle-clad mountains. If you visit during the Pi Mai (New Year) water festival, you get to take part in the most joyous occasion of the year and witness this UNESCO town’s fun, festive spirit. It’s an insider experience of Laos that the high-season travelers simply never experience.
Best April experiences in Luang Prabang
- Visiting temples to ‘make merit’ like a local.
- Engaging in a fun water fight.
- Unwinding in the turquoise lagoons of Kuang Si Waterfalls.
- Watching the dawn alms-giving rituals on the last day of the Pi Mai festival.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
If you want to take part in the biggest Songkran new year festival in Asia, Chiang Mai is where it’s at. The ‘Rose of the North’ hosts a three-day celebration including parades, Buddhist ceremonies, merit-making and high-spirited ‘len nahm’ – water fights. Outside the Old City, the hills of Chiang Mai are as serene and picturesque as ever.
Best April experiences in Chiang Mai
- Taking part in the Songkran experience – fun-filled ‘water play’ and Buddhist celebrations.
- Taking a Northern Thai food cooking class with a local family.
- Visiting one of the holiest local temples at the holiest time of year.
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Kyushu and Shikoku, Japan
Mild days and sakura blossoms characterize Japan in April. Venture away from the capitals to escape the crowds and enjoy real glimpses of authentic Japanese culture. See feudal Japan at the castle of Matsuyama, enjoy the seaside charm of vibrant Fukuoka and get a taste for local cuisine in easy-going Osaka, also known as ‘Japan’s kitchen’..
Why do we love Kyushu and Shikoku
- Immerse yourself in the history of Kyoto, where you can don a kimono and take part in a traditional tea ceremony.
- Soaking in an open-air onsen in a traditional Kotohira ryokan inn.
- Walking through history in feudal-era Matsuyama.
- Eating your way across Osaka on a guided foodie tour.
Best places to Visit in Asia in May
May is a fantastic time in Asia. Spring blooms across China and Japan, bringing clear, sparkling days and picture-postcard scenes. Meanwhile, the monsoon brings brief, refreshing bouts of rain to mainland Southeast Asia, deterring the crowds and giving you a more authentic, relaxing experience.
The Japanese Alps
Amazing scenery? Check. Beautifully preserved castles? Check. Perfect weather? Check. Best bring your camera to the Japanese Alps, because no one will believe how stunning its landscapes can be. An incredible region, where culture, history and nature combine.
Best May experiences in the Japanese Alps
- Journeying to the historic castle of Matsumoto through unforgettable springtime scenery.
- Eating a traditional kaiseki meal and soaking in an onsen in a Takayama ryokan.
- Trekking past bubbling sulfur pools in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park at the foot of Mount Fuji.
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There’s no more picturesque time in Yunnan than spring. This province in China’s southwest has it all: culture, history and gorgeous scenery. Yunnan is home to some stunning high-altitude landscapes that will literally and figuratively take your breath away.
Best May experiences Yunnan
- Seeing the sights – the ‘stone treasure mountain’ of Shibaoshan, Lion Hill, the Black Dragon Pond and the majestic Jade Dragon Mountain.
- Experiencing a more laidback China in the smaller towns of Shuanglang, Wase, Dali, Lijang and Shaxi, home to great people-watching.
Best places to Visit in Asia in June
June brings monsoon rains to mainland Southeast Asia, but for some, this is the most enchanting time to visit. Across Indonesia, many islands remain quite dry, letting you island hop across some of the most spectacular stretches of sea. June is also a great time to see tropical jungles at their most lush.
Derawan and Nabucco, Indonesia
Indonesia’s incredible array of islands offer a lifetime of adventure. Chances are you have never heard of Derawan and Nabucco, off the coast of East Kalimantan province, yet these postcard-perfect islands are some of Indonesia’s best, offering up diving, snorkeling and sunbathing in pristine conditions.
Best June experiences in Derawan and Nabucco
- Sailing the glimmering Indonesian seas to hidden tropical getaways.
- Diving with the region’s rare stingless jellyfish off Derawan.
- Relax on a ‘deserted’ island with nothing but sun, sea and surf to while away your time.
June marks the dry season in Borneo, which is the perfect time to explore its rainforests – some of the world’s oldest. It’s great weather if you like getting outdoors and going on wildlife-spotting adventures and for touring the island’s intriguing historic and indigenous.
Best June experiences in Borneo
- Bird-watching in K inabatangan in the early hours.
- Meeting orangutans and rescued sun bears at award-winning rehabilitation centers in Sepilok.
- Rising up over the jungle on a canopy walk that spans 350 meters.
Best places to Visit in Asia in July
July brings summer to northern China and Japan – bright, sunny days and lovely dry weather. Meanwhile the forests of Southeast Asia grow increasingly lush from the monsoon rains, and waterfalls at at their most majestic.
Gansu is where you’ll find the ‘rainbow mountains’ – China’s ‘secret’ sandstone landform with striking erosion patterns. If you’re a culture buff, the diverse ethnicity of remote Gansu province make this a fascinating destination, with Chinese, Manchu, Kazak and Mongolian traditions intertwined in a stunning natural setting. The Kodachrome Mountains, endless grasslands and whispers of the ancient Silk Road make for fascinating excursions.
Best July experiences in Gansu
- Adventuring around Darzong, a pristine highland lake – camp like a nomad and go horseback riding and hiking.
- Visiting maze-like Labrang Monastery with a local monk as your guide.
- Exploring Lanzhou, the provincial capital and an important hub on the Silk Road with rich culture and great cuisine.
Enjoy a summer escape in a village in Northern Thailand. Just 90 minutes from Chiang Mai, you can leave the modern world and join a community of tree houses, where you can unplug and reconnect with nature.
Best July Experiences in Northern Thailand
- Hiking to nearby waterfalls through lush forests.
- Cycling to the village markets and experiencing the village day-to-day.
- Eating local Thai cuisine – authentic dishes prepared by a local family every day.
Best places to Visit in Asia in August
August sees the monsoon rains turn Southeast Asia into a lush playground. Downpours generally come in short bursts, leaving bright skies for most of the day. This time of year is low season in many countries, meaning you could have some popular destinations all to yourself.
Mawlamyine and Hpa An, Myanmar
With fresh, verdant landscapes and rivers at their fullest, Mawlamyine and Hpa An really shine in monsoonal weather. This quiet corner of Myanmar is home to sacred sites, ancient culture and idyllic countryside, with plenty of Burmese tradition and culture to immerse yourself in.
Best August experiences in Mawlamein and Hpa An
- Sailing on the Tarwin River to Shampoo Island, an ancient ritual site of the Mon kings, followed by a visit to Bilu Island’s fishing villages.
- Driving along serene country roads to Hpa An, stopping at Kyauk Kalat Pagoda and the Cave of the Ten Thousand Buddhas – as remarkable as it sounds.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s booming economic heart, and August heralds low-season crowds and rates, not to mention the odd dramatic thunderstorm. There’s something peaceful about a bustling Southeast Asian metropolis after a storm that must be experienced to fully appreciate. Alternatively, head to tranquil Thanh Da Island for a green getaway.
Best August experiences in Saigon
- Taking a cooking class after a trip to the local fresh market.
- Escaping to quaint Thanh Da Island and exploring its landscapes by bicycle.
- Dipping your toes into vibrant Saigon’s art scene, from classic to contemporary.
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Best places to Visit in Asia in September
Now is the time to see the rice paddies of Southeast Asia at their most verdant. September puts a glossy green sheen over rural Southeast Asia, with jungles and forests luxuriant from the monsoon rains. Usually crowded landmarks are less busy now, letting you see them in a new light.
Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city, pairs pristine countryside with traditional Khmer culture. This is the ideal place to take an in-depth look at rural Cambodian life.
Best September experiences in Battambang
- Watching thousands of bats emerge from the caves of Phnom Sampleau at sunset.
- Cycling to the village of Wat Kor, where you can learn about village crafts from the locals.
- Exploring the ancient ruins of Bateay Chhmar and Banteay Top.
Ha Giang, Vietnam
Ha Giang province is the final frontier in Vietnam’s north, where hill tribes dressed in technicolor costume live in mist-wreathed mountains. A visit here introduces you to a way of life quite unlike anything you’ll see in Hanoi and Saigon.
Best September experiences in Ha Giang
- Taking a trip to the region’s traditional livestock markets.
- Cruising along a river on the Chinese border to the palace of a former H’mong king.
- Hiking through dense forests, past jaw-dropping mountain passes.
Best places to Visit in Asia in October
Make the most of the mild weather and do a pilgrimage along an ancient Japanese route. Choose from the Kumano Kodo, a series of ancient pilgrimage trails through beautiful forests and mountain scenery. Journey through millennia of history as you discover some of the locale’s most spiritual sites.
Kii Hanto, Japan
This is the largest peninsula in Japan, and hosts the Kumano Kodo, a series of ancient pilgrimage routes through beautiful forests and mountain scenery. Journey through 1,000-plus years of history as you discover some of Japan’s most sacred and spiritual sites.
Best October experiences in Kii Hanto
- Finding serenity at the foot of Nachi Falls, Japan’s tallest waterfall.
- Soothing tired legs in the natural hot springs of Yunomine Onsen, one of the country’s oldest hot springs.
- Sleeping in a traditional ryokan on a private island in gorgeous Katsuura Bay.
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Inle Lake, Myanmar
Massive Inle Lake, one of the most beautiful destinations in Myanmar, is ringed by the rugged Shan Mountains and a number of small villages and market towns. Visiting during October gives you the unique opportunity to witness the amazing Phaung Daw U Festival.
Best October experiences in Inle Lake
- Watching the royal barge move golden Buddha images to different villages around the lake.
- Witnessing Inthar villagers compete in ‘leg-rowing’ boat races.
- Visiting the impressive Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda and the beautiful Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery.
Best places to Visit in Asia in November
It’s high season across much of Asia, with fantastic weather almost everywhere. From dry, clear skies in Southeast Asia to crisp days farther north, it’s hard to go wrong no matter where you travel.
Bangkok and Chiang Kham, Thailand
Thailand’s geographical and cultural diversity is on full display in these two destinations, with Bangkok’s dense urban energy contrasting sharply with the placid pace of idyllic Chiang Kham in the mountainous north.
Best November experiences in Bangkok and Chiang Kham
- Feasting your senses in Bangkok, home to eye-catching architecture and design and incredible cuisine.
- Enjoying peace and quiet in Chiang Kham with it verdant rice paddies, rustic temples and treks.
- Visiting Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, ancient cultural centers with golden-spired temples and forest-clad mountains.
Mt. Koya, Japan
Little-known Mt. Koya is the home of Shingon Buddhism, a destination perfect for those looking for both natural and spiritual serenity. Visiting in November gives you ideal weather for tackling the 22-kilometer, 700-meter ascent through the ancient forests of this World Heritage Site.
Best November experiences in Mt. Koya
- Taking a private guided tour of Kongobunji Temple, one of the most important Shingon Buddhist temples in the world.
- Visiting the atmospheric Okunoin graveyard, Japan’s largest cemetery and home of the mausoleum of Shingon leader Kobo Daishi.
- Resting in peaceful shukubo, temple lodgings, while dining on Buddhist vegetarian food.
Best places to Visit in Asia in December
It’s the cool, dry season across mainland Southeast Asia – the perfect time for exploring the backcountry. Getting off the beaten track is a great way of avoiding high-season crowds.
Beautiful Southern Laos hosts amazing natural scenery, pre-Angkorian temples and serene, remote islands in the middle of the broad Mekong River. The dry weather will let you make the most of Mekong tours and lazy island days.
Best December experiences in southern Laos
- Visiting the magnificent Bolaven Plateau, a major tea and coffee growing region.
- Meeting the elephants in the picturesque Xe Pian Protected Area, a sustainable tourism project.
- Sightseeing around Siphandon, or the 4,000 islands, relaxing on popular Don Det and Don Khone islands.
You may be also interested in: Best Time to Visit Lao
Mrauk U, Myanmar
Possibly one of Myanmar’s best-kept secrets, Mrauk U is an ancient trading port on the Bay of Bengal, home to fascinating archaeological wonders that provide insight into the customs of kings and merchants from the past. A true insider destination that lets you glimpse the bygone majesty of Myanmar.
Best December experiences in Mrauk U
- Discovering the Rakhine State’s unique coastal culture in Sittwe, the state capital.
- Ascending the ruins of Mrauk U’s ruined royal palace, which once presided over this port city.
- Exploring the area’s most important religious structures, including the imposing Shitthaung Temple.
Asia is home to countless extraordinary travel experiences, with a destination for any time of year. Whether you like to join the crowds for new year’s celebrations or escape them with by getting off the beaten track, we can steer you in the right direction. To get your vacation underway, or to request more information about the best places to visit in Asia and when, just contact one of our Travel Specialists today at info[alt]backyardtravel.com.