From the thrill-seeking nomadics who descend on Kazakhstan to the frenetic city junkies who delve through the electric streets of Hong Kong, Asia is full of adventures so epic they’ve confounded travellers since the beginning of time.
Sometimes it’s only natural that you’ll get bored of seeing the same old locations featured in those stylish glossy mags. In an effort to cure it, we’ve put together a list of fabulous hidden gems you’ve got to explore on your next trip to this marvellous part of the globe. From Indonesia to Vietnam, Jordan and beyond, your Instagram is about to explode with likes.
1. Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
Koh Rung: a jungle-clad wilderness surrounded by swaths of sugar-coated white sand, beach huts and cutesy little villages. Perfect for backpackers, the place is teeming with unusual pads, fab restaurants and bars blasting out tunes for days. Millennials either love it or hate it, but whatever your thoughts on the partaay scene, this place is a must for your Southeast Asia bucket list.
2. Yaeyama Islands, Japan
The Yaeyama Islands are quite simply gorgeous. Spread over 17 little isles that drift just under the Tropic of Cancer, people of all ages flock here to experience a multitude of superb diving experiences, lounge on deserted beaches and trek through the bush. Whatever you’re looking for, these mini slices of Eden are home to Japan’s best diving spots and some of the country’s last and very remote jungles and mangrove swamps.
3. Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
Comprising over 1,000 islands, the more or less deserted Raja Ampat Islands are arguably one of the most stonkingly beautiful island chains in the world. Why? Imagine mammoth, steep, jungle-covered rocks overlooking blindingly white beaches running off into spooky-looking caves and lagoons so hidden their luminous turquoise waters remain fiercely protected.
4. Kirirom National Park, Cambodia
If you’ve just had enough of life, this is where you need to go. Lush in every way imaginable, Cambodia’s Kirikom National Park is piled with winding trails, pine forests, and giant cascading waterfalls that overlook the breathtaking landscapes of the Cardamom Mountains.
5. Champasak, Laos
This wondrous world is so grand it once used to be the main seat of Laos’ royal family. A mishmash of the old and the new, the grand and the run down, the pretty and the not so pretty, Champasak may feel out of touch at times, but what it lacks in Instagramablity, it makes up for in cultural stardom. Expect to see all walks of life here, converging on everything from sublime waterfalls to French colonial-era buildings and traditional Lao wooden stilt houses – it really is quite the quirky place.
6. North Maluku, Indonesia
North Maluku has quite the illustrious history. The most significant islands in this part of the world are the volcanic blops of Ternate and Tidore. These ancient Islamic states were once home to the world’s only source of cloves, which at the time were incredibly valuable in medieval Europe. Reason: they helped cure everything from toothache to halitosis and sexual dysfunction. Now you can just expect a bunch of glorious waterfalls and several spots to laze about in peace. Sounds like heaven.
7. Con Dao Archipelago, Vietnam
Interesting fact: Con Son once used to be a giant prison for naughty outlaws when the French and Americans ruled over Vietnam. Now, the islands are just a slice of paradise. Isolated and strikingly otherworldly, the Con Dao Islands are easily one of Vietnam’s overlooked jewels. Lovely deserted beaches, pebbled bays, thick forests, plenty of hiking and diving opps await in this wondrous part of the world.
8. Gulf of Thailand Islands, Thailand
There are literally hundreds of these dreamy islands to choose from. Scattered along Thailand’s pristine coastline, the specks of land offer up quite the visual feast for the eyes. Can’t picture it? Well just imagine a tantalising blob of green surrounded by glittering turquoise waters that feed into bubblegum-pink coral reefs and mysterious lagoons. If you’re a newbie to the Thai experience, start off with the likes of Ko Samui or Ko Tao, and once you’ve settled in, make way for the Samui archipelago and find out what it’s really like to live Thai-style. Whatever and wherever you decide to do and go, the entire place really is quite simply the definition of sexy lush.
9. Phong Nha, Vietnam
A UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, the stonkingly breathtaking Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park hides one of the country’s best secrets: the oldest karst mountains in the whole of Asia, yes really. Formed 400 million years ago, it’s home to a rather riddled network of underground caves, crevices and underworlds that are so big you’ll feel overwhelmed by their grandiosity. So here’s the real question: Ha Long Bay or this place? Simple. Go here. Reason: it’s far less crowded and is for exploring in absolute solitude.
10. Ella, Sri Lanka
If you love a bit of home cooking then this hilltop country village is right up your street. Sit back, relax and take in some of Sri Lanka’s finest views (sunset goals) through the Ella Gap while sipping on a reviving cup of very, very fresh tea from one of the local plantations. As we know you’re already sold on visiting, don’t miss Little Adam’s Peak, the Umbrella Art Café and if you’re feeling extra adventurous, walk along the railway all the way to Ella Rock. Once you’ve recharged your batteries, head out and satisfy your hiking appetite with a trek to a perilous waterfall – trust us, it’s so much fun.
11. Wadi Rum, Jordan
Wadi Rum really is quintessential desert country. Extremely hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter, the unforgiving climate is what gives the place its undisputed appeal. Snap the sun as it chisels through the hundreds of towering canyons; lose yourself (literally) navigating the rocky palace; sleep under the stars and admire the night skies. The list really is endless.