Asia’s top 25 bucket-list attractions.  This article breaks them down for you.  Get reading.


We can’t condense this incredible continent into just twenty-five attractions, but we know that sometimes time is short, and you’ve got to pick and choose.  We’ve put together a list of Asia’s most awesome bucket-list items, so, next time you’re scheduling a flight to China or composing your Singapore itinerary, give this a read and make sure you’ve done ’em all.

 

Thai elephant close-up

1. Meet elephants in Thailand

As a human, you love elephants.  It’s just a fact.  These beautiful, serene animals are the definition of ‘gentle giants’, and a Thai holiday is a chance to meet them face-to-face.  Take the time to visit a sustainable elephant sanctuary, and you’ll be able to pat and feed these leathery titans.

 

The Great Wall of China aerial shot

2. Explore the Great Wall in China

It’s one of the world’s most famous attractions, hands-down.  If you’re going to China, skipping the Great Wall is simply not an option.  Just do it already.

 

3. See castles made of ice in Harbin

When you think of Disney-esque ice castles, you’re probably not picturing a city in the far north of China.  Prepare to be surprised, because not only is Harbin downright freezing, it’s also home to a visually-stunning ice festival.  If you’ve ever wanted to see a castle literally built of ice and illuminated with pretty lanterns, check out the Harbin Ice Festival.

Harbin ice sculptures

4. Try Peking duck in Beijing

Yup, Beijing used to be known as Peking, and Peking duck is the city’s most iconic dish.  This mouth-watering duck delight is a must, must, must.  Although there’s plenty of fancy restaurants offering duck-carving and expensive meals, we say: be adventurous!  Try Peking duck at a hole-in-the-wall eatery for a truly authentic experience.

Peking duck slices

5. Meet snow monkeys in Japan

Um, what?  Fluffy-furred monkeys that spend their time bathing in hot springs?  Just yes!  You can see these adorable animals in their natural habitat at the Jigokudani Monkey Park, in Nagano Prefecture.

A Japanese macaque at Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano Prefecture

Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, Japan

6. Visit a Shintō shrine in Japan

Japan is justly famed for its amazing array of Shintō shrines and Buddhist temples.  Experience the tranquil ambience of these ancient religious sites, and learn about fascinating Japanese traditions.  No matter where you go, there’ll probably be a shrine or a temple nearby, so keep your eyes open.

Mount Fuji at dawn

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7. Climb Mt. Fuji in Japan

It’s Japan’s national icon, the spiritual and geographical nexus of Honshū.  A Japanese holiday simply isn’t complete unless you’ve scaled the massive flanks of Fuji-san.  Even if you’ve done it once before, we recommend climbing again at a different time of year to experience the mountain in a whole new way.

Woman in Japanese onsen

8. Bathe in a Japanese onsen

Getting  naked with a bunch of strangers and jumping in a hot tub might sound a little odd, but it’s a fairly common Japanese custom.  Time to overcome your inhibitions.  Strip off those clothes and start relaxing in these naturally-occurring hot pools.

People pouring sake

9. Drink saké in a Japanese izakaya

If you haven’t tried Japan’s famous fermented rice wine, this is your chance.  Whether you’re drinking ordinary saké or expensive tokutei meishō-shu, the best place to do it is in a traditional Japanese tavern.  Known as izakaya, they’re basically a great place to drink lots of alcohol and meet new people.

Damnoen Saduak floating market, Bangkok, Thailand

10. Visit Bangkok’s floating markets

That’s right – markets, plural.  There’s not just one of these colourfully chaotic gatherings, so you’ll have not shortage of options.  Vendors sit in long-tailed boats in Bangkok’s canal districts and hawk wares ranging from freshly-cooked food to traditional pottery.

The Phi Phi Islands

11. Go snorkelling in the Phi Phi Islands

Stunning turquoise waters.  Palm-shaded sands.  Sheer-sloped rock formations.  You’ve probably seen the Phi Phi Islands on a postcard or ten.  They’re one of Thailand’s most visually-impressive areas, and definitely worth a visit.

Borobudur Temple at sunrise

12. Visit Borobudur in Indonesia

Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and looks like something out of a movie.  The massive, multi-tiered building features over 2,672 reliefs and 504 Buddha statues.  Oh, and it’s been around since 800 AD.  If that doesn’t impress you, we don’t know what will.

Komodo Island National Park

13. See real-life dragons in Indonesia

Game of Thrones, step aside.  Indonesia has hundreds of actual (slightly small) dragons, living in the Komodo National Park.  These massive reptiles have a fearsome reputation, so getting a photo with one is definitely an experience to remember.

Marina Bay Sands at night

14. Stand on top of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

Yes, yes, yes – we love!  This paragon of luxury is an architectural phenomenon with a world-famous reputation.  Explore the massive mall, or head up to the incredible SkyPark for sunset – you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city, and a 150-metre infinity pool.

 

Deer Cave in Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia

15. Visit the world’s largest cave in Sarawak

Mulu Cave, in Borneo’s Gunung Mulu National Park, is pretty spectacular.  The world’s largest cave has a distinctly prehistoric feel thanks to its subterranean rivers, intricate rock formations and soaring ceilings.  Even if you’re slightly claustrophobic, you’ll be fine here – the cave is taller than most buildings.

 

Turtle Beach, Perhentian Islands, Terengganu, Malaysia

16. Dive with turtles in the Perhentian Islands

Terengganu is famous for its beautiful beaches, and they don’t get any better than the Perhentian Islands.  A true diver’s paradise, the Islands are home to adorable green turtles, and you can get up close and personal with these little fellas via a dive or a snorkel.

Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an, China, one of Asia's best experiences

17. See Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors

They’re definitely Xi’an’s biggest draw, and, although they’re slightly creepy, you can’t pass up the chance to see a literal army of life-sized terracotta figures.  Fascinatingly, the tomb they’re protecting (roughly the size of a football pitch) remains unopened – let your imagination run wild!

The Fordbidden City moat and tower

18. Walk through the Forbidden City in Beijing

So-named because no-one could enter without the emperor’s permission, the Forbidden City is a perfectly-preserved temple complex in the heart of Beijing.  It took over a million workers fourteen years to build, so you know that a visit will definitely worth your while.

Jiayuguan Fort along the Silk Road in Gansu, China, one of Asia's best experiences

19. Set foot on the Silk Road

Want to see the best of ancient China?  Check out the Chang’an-Tian Shan Corridor, which features dozens of ancient sites, including the Maijishan Cave Temple Complex and the mysterious ruins of Qocho.

Huangshan Mountains (Yellow Mountains) in China, one of Asia's best experiences

20. Explore the Yellow Mountains

You know those mystical-looking pictures of pine trees and cloud-girded mountains you see on ancient Chinese scrolls?  They’re all inspired by the Yellow Mountains!  This beautiful, unique region is famous for its seas of cloud, gnarled pines, bizarrely-shaped rocks and geothermal springs.  Bring your camera, and start exploring.

Aerial view of Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta, Indonesia

21. Visit Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta

If visiting the largest mosque in South-East Asia isn’t on your bucket-list, then you need to ask yourself: what am I doing with my life?  Built in 1978 to commemorate Indonesia’s independence, its minaret and 45-metre dome are certainly an impressive sight.

The Musi River in Palembang, Indonesia at night

22. Cruise the Musi River at sunset

Known as the Venice of the East, Palembang is bifurcated by the massive Musi River.  Loved-up sunset cruise, anyone?  If you thumb your nose at romance, you can explore the river via ketek or speed boat (yes, you’ll be one of those people).

Mount Rinjani, Lombok, Indonesia, one of Asia's best experiences

23. Climb Mount Rinjani

Lombok is famed for its amazing beaches, but Mount Rinjani – Indonesia’s second-highest mountain – is arguably even better.  This big guy requires a local guide to explore – a full hike can take a few days.  Oh, and did we mention it’s an active volcano?  No?  Our mistake.

Prambanan temple complex in Java, Indonesia, one of Asia's best experiences

24. Explore Prambanan in Java

Yup, Prambanan looks like it’s CGI from a fantasy movie – it’s that cool.  This ancient Hindu complex is composed of towering stone turrets which are simultaneously impressive and intimidating.

Bintang bottle beside glass tumbler

25. Drink Bintang in Bali

Okay, okay, maybe this isn’t quite ‘epic’ enough to be on your bucket-list, but drinking Bintang in Bali (and then proceeding to have an awesome time) is kind of just something all humans should do at least once in their lives.  Indonesia’s hottest tourist destination is never better than when you’ve knocked back a six-pack of cold ones.

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