Best places to visit for the ultimate Asia experience
Two centuries ago, trips to Asia were reserved for wealthy merchants, ambassadors and colonial elite who could afford grand and expensive voyages. But
Two centuries ago, trips to Asia were reserved for wealthy merchants, ambassadors and colonial elite who could afford grand and expensive voyages.
But that travel scenario has been turned on its head.
With a proliferation of affordable flights, versatile accommodations, high-speed rails and increased international connectivity, it's easier than ever to visit Asia.
Why go? The world's biggest continent has long captivated travelers with its natural beauty, distinct cultural traditions, ancient architecture and absolutely delicious food.
Here are 17 of Asia's best destinations -- a diverse mix of cities, islands and entire countries -- to consider for your next adventure.
Anchoring the eastern end of the Himalayas, Bhutan showcases the very best of mother nature -- picture dense forests, deep valleys and cloud-piercing peaks.
Travelers typically land in Paro, home to the country's only international airport. The historic town is nestled in a verdant valley, surrounded by ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries.
The most notable is Paro Taktsang (also known as Tiger's Nest Monastery), a sacred site that seems to cling to a cliff in the upper Paro Valley.
Aglow with white facades, gold-plated domes and rust-red accents, the 17th-century temple sits alongside a cave network, known as a sacred meditation site.
The steep, two-hour pilgrimage to the monastery is challenging, but the payoff is unforgettable.
Located off the western coast of Malaysia, the island of Penang is a mecca for food and architecture lovers.
George Town, the island's main city, makes for an ideal home base thanks to a dynamic cityscape that's punctuated by British colonial architecture, Buddhist temples and ornate Chinese manor houses.
This seaside city is known as one of the world's top food destinations, serving up a delicious mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine.
You'll crave dishes like Hokkien mee (fried prawn noodles), roti canai (an Indian-influenced flat bread dish with dal or curry) and Penang laksa for years after visiting.
El Nido, Philippines
Searching for tropical paradise? You'll find it in El Nido. Located on the northern tip of Palawan Island, in the southwestern Philippines, the archipelago plays host to turquoise waters, mysterious lagoons, dozens of beaches and secret caves.
Surrounded by dramatic limestone cliffs, Bacuit Bay is the crown jewel. It's here where you can explore the mysterious lagoons via nimble kayaks.
Travelers spend their days snorkeling and diving, or cruising around remote and hidden beaches across the archipelago.
Many tour operators arrange adventure-packed boating trips, complete with grilled seafood lunches served on board.
Beautiful Bali, Asia's most famous wellness getaway, sits in the center of Indonesia's vast archipelago. Of the country's 18,000-some islands, Bali is easily the most famous, drawing more than 5.6 million foreign visitors every year.
Even amid the popularity, the island oozes relaxation and a sense of spirituality. It can be felt across the territory -- in the imposing cliffs in Uluwatu, tranquil waves in Nusa Dua, trendy beach clubs in Seminyak and dramatic rice paddies and temples in Ubud.
For those who love an adventure, the island's mountain trails and secret coves will showcase a more remote side of this well-trodden paradise.
Then there's the food: from healthy juice bars to beachfront seafood barbecues, the dining scene will spoil you for choice.
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul might have a well-deserved reputation as one of Asia's more futuristic cities, but the capital of South Korea is also home to a wealth of ancient landmarks that provide a peek into the past.
There's the sprawling Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace, Deoksu Palace and elegant hanok (traditional wooden homes), just to name a few.
After exploring the city's imperial history, travelers can get a sense of what makes modern Seoul tick in upbeat neighborhoods like Hongdae.
As the creative heart of Seoul, this is where you'll find popular K-beauty boutiques, restaurants, bars, street performers, karaoke and an endless array of clubs.