Looking for a more exciting destination for your next vacation? Few places are as enthralling as Asia. This exotic continent is home to a plethora of fascinating historic sites and natural wonders. Whether you want to meet a holy monkey, eat sushi for breakfast, receive a monk’s blessing, helicopter over the Himalayas, or simply take in the breathtaking scenery. Things to do, eat, see, shop for, and experience in the vast world of Asia.
Here are 15 must-do activities in Asia for your bucket list. Even if you can’t visit all 10 of these countries, you are sure to find some adventures that pique your interest.
Asia bucket list transportation around Asia
In Asia, there is a veritable feast of transportation options, ranging from tuk-tuks to sleeper trains and everything in between. To get the ultimate experience, try as many different types as possible.
Scoot, JetStar Asia, and AirAsia are the main players in Asia’s incredible low-cost carrier network, with each offering dirt cheap fares that will have you zipping around in no time.
Get to know traditional Vietnam in Hoi An
A melting pot of influences, charming Hoi An boasts a mishmash of French colonial, Chinese and Vietnamese architectural styles. Its traditional riverfront lifestyle only adds to the appeal.
Meet the indigenous hill tribes in Sa Pa
Ethno-tourism is a major drawcard in Vietnam, and few ethnic communities are as intriguing as the Hmong of Sa Pa. Here, adventurers trek through lush rolling hills and rice terrace-filled valleys as they interact with colorfully dressed locals who live a traditional existence.
Cruise among the pronged peaks of Ha Long Bay
Visiting Vietnam’s most spectacular natural attraction is as easy as kicking back on the deck of a junk boat and watching rain-forest clad islands drift by. Be sure to disembark at its marvelous caves for an exciting subterranean adventure.
Learn about the Viet Cong in Ho Chi Minh
Also known as Saigon, this bustling southern metropolis is awash with monuments and museums that provide valuable insights into the most controversial conflict of the 1960s. Merely crossing the street is an exhilarating experience in this hectic town.
Your Asia spending plan
Asia is by far the most affordable continent to visit, with great deals to be had in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Backpackers can survive on as little as $25-35 USD per day. More developed countries, such as Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, will be significantly more expensive.
On the Indian subcontinent and in more touristy parts of Southeast Asia, English is widely spoken. Communication is much more difficult in countries such as China and Mongolia. If you are going to China, it’s a good idea to learn Mandarin Chinese or, depending on where you’re going, another widely spoken variety of Chinese like Cantonese. Mongolian is the most widely spoken language in Mongolia, with approximately 95% of the population speaking it. If you’re having trouble finding resources to learn Mongolian, knowing some Russian (aside from English) is your best bet.
Climates in Asia
Because of Asia’s massive size, the climate varies greatly.
The monsoon season in Southeast Asia lasts roughly from May to November. March and April are notoriously hot months.
The best months to visit China are September to November. Summers (June to August) is quite hot, while winters (December to February) can be quite cold. The best months to see Japan and Korea’s famous fall foliage are from mid-October to December, while early April is the best time to admire their cherry blossoms. Monsoons arrive in the region in June. The rains arrive in the Indian subcontinent between June and September, while the months of March and May are typically scorching. The Himalayas’ peak trekking season lasts from September to November.
The Ultimate Asia Bucket List: 19 Countries, 15 Adventures
Activities on your bucket list in Indonesia
Komodo National Park is a great place to look for dinosaur-like lizards
Get up close and personal with these extraordinary living examples of ancient megafauna. Keep your distance from the venomous blue tongues, no matter how majestic the massive reptiles are!
In Bali, you can surf and find your zen
Avoid the hordes of drunken tourists in Kuta and venture further afield to discover the authentic charms of this captivating Hindu enclave. Bali has amazing surf breaks, rice terrace-filled valleys, and an endless number of temples.
Borobudur is the place to go if you want to visit a Buddhist temple
Borobudur, located in central Java, is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and a sight to behold. Arrive at sunrise for some spiritual peace as well as an amazing scenic display.
Activities on your bucket list in Malaysia
Dancing to the beat of Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia’s capital is a regional commerce hub of incredible contrast, characterized by the city’s iconic Petronas Towers.
You’d be crazy to pass up the divine Batu Caves on the outskirts of town.
Take a beach vacation in Penang
Penang’s eclectic mix of old-world architecture, historical sites, and family-friendly fun draws a large number of Malay and international tourists. Of course, the beaches are beautiful as well.
In Borneo, look for orangutans
Spending time with these enormous ginger apes is an unforgettable experience. Visit a refuge center or go on a multi-day jungle tour with a company like Orangutan Trekking Tours to see them in their natural habitat.
Activities on your bucket list in Thailand
Explore Bangkok, the world’s most visited city
In 2017, Bangkok was the most popular tourist destination. And it’s easy to see why, with such a diverse range of history, culture, and entertainment to enjoy. At the very least, visit a floating market, the Grand Palace, and the Ayutthaya archaeological site.
Chiang Mai’s walled city is worth exploring
Chiang Mai is surprisingly relaxed for the largest city in Northern Thailand. Spend your days exploring ancient sites, sampling delicious street food, and haggling for bargains at the city’s numerous open-air markets.
Be a beach bum on Thailand’s Gulf
This long, sun-kissed coastline could be the epicenter of Asian tourism. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more popular collection of seaside resorts than this, from Phuket to Krabi and everywhere in between.
During the full moon, get your party on in Koh Pha Ngan.
Every full moon, an army of backpackers descends on this normally tranquil island to partake in Asia’s wildest party: the Full Moon Party. Among the younger generation, the insane event has become something of a rite of passage.
Activities on your bucket list in Laos
In Luang Prabang, hang out with monks
Buddhism is alive and well in Laos, as evidenced by the throngs of monks roaming the sacred monasteries of Luang Prabang.
After your spiritual fix, visit the nearby multi-tiered Kuang Si Falls for an idyllic nature escape.
In Vang Vieng, you can tube downstream with the backpackers
Backpackers flock to this formerly sleepy Laotian village to enjoy some afternoon river tubing. Then they head downstream for a drink at one of the many riverside bars. Before ordering a “happy” pizza or milkshake, make sure you understand what you’re getting into.
Activities on your bucket list in Vietnam
Discover traditional Vietnam in Hi An
Hi An, a charming melting pot of influences, boasts a mishmash of French colonial, Chinese, and Vietnamese architectural styles. Its traditional riverfront lifestyle adds to its allure.
In Sa Pa, you can meet the indigenous hill tribes
Ethno-tourism is popular in Vietnam, and few ethnic groups are as fascinating as the Hmong of Sa Pa. Adventurers can trek through lush rolling hills and rice terrace-filled valleys while interacting with colorfully dressed locals who live a traditional lifestyle.
Cruise among Ha Long Bay’s pronged peaks
It’s as simple as kicking back on the deck of a junk boat and watching rain-forest-clad islands drift by to visit Vietnam’s most spectacular natural attraction. Disembark in its magnificent caves for an exciting subterranean adventure.
In Ho Chi Minh City, learn about the Viet Cong
This bustling southern metropolis, also known as Saigon, is awash with monuments and museums that provide valuable insights into the 1960s’ most contentious conflict. In this hectic town, simply crossing the street is an exhilarating experience.
Activities on your bucket list in Sri Lanka
Admire the stunning Sigiriya
This ancient fortress is perched on a massive rocky outcrop above the dense jungle canopy. Sigiriya is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist destinations.
In Dambulla, stretch out with the Buddhas
At this major religious cave complex, visitors will find vibrantly painted and intricately carved Buddha effigies. The majority come from Kandy, the ancient capital of Sri Lankan kings.
Activities on your bucket list in Cambodia
Admire Angkor Wat, an ancient wonder
Few Asian destinations are as iconic as Angkor Wat, a massive Buddhist temple complex spanning over 160 hectares. Hire a tuk-tuk from your hotel to transport you between the best sites, and arrive at sunset for the best photo ops.
In Phnom Penh, learn about Khmer culture
Phnom Penh, with its towering Buddhist watts, lavish royal palaces, and drab genocide museums, offers a fascinating insight into Cambodia’s complex culture and past. Try the local cuisine, which is both delicious and inexpensive.
Activities on your bucket list in Myanmar
View the Bagan temples from a hot air balloon
The 2,000 or so Buddhist temples scattered around Bagan’s crumbling city can be exhausting to visit from the ground.
What is the solution? Instead, take a hot air balloon ride with a company like Balloons Over Bagan and admire this ancient wonder from above.
In Yangon, you can get to know the real Myanmar
Burma’s modest capital is a jumble of exotic sights and sounds, as well as the home of a famously friendly local populace. One of Asia’s most majestic stupas is the massive gilded Shwedagon Pagoda.
Activities on your bucket list in the Philippines
Boracay’s white sand beaches are ideal for frolicking
Boracay has returned. Following a lengthy closure due to excessive contamination, locals thoroughly cleaned the beaches, and officials imposed stringent regulations to ensure the country’s premier stretch of sand remains pristine. Water sports during the day and beachside cocktails at night are the order of the day.
Enjoy Palawan’s unspoiled tropical paradise
Head to the largely undeveloped archipelago of Palawan for an even more spectacular Pilipino beach away from the tourist crowds. At every turn, turquoise waters, swaying palms, and deserted coves appear.
Wander through the chocolate hills of Bohol
Bohol, smack dab in the middle of the Philippines, is a stunning island known for its rolling, chocolate-covered hills. Come during the dry season, from late November to May, to see them in their full cocoa-brown glory.
Activities on your bucket list in Nepal
Trek through the Himalayan Mountains
Every year, hikers flock to Nepal’s heavenly slice of the Himalayas, from the Annapurna Circuit to the Everest Base Camp trek. Trek Nepal is a local company that offers the aforementioned hikes as well as many others.
Relax in the lakeside town of Pokhara
Pokhara, a picturesque mountaineering stronghold, is the ideal remedy for travelers who are feeling overwhelmed by the stresses of extensive travel. Consider going paragliding for a few minutes to see the beautiful scenery from above.
In Kathmandu, you can get a taste of the ancient world
There is a dizzying array of enchanting historic sites between the capital and the nearby town of Bhaktapur.
Activities on your bucket list in China
In Beijing, you can learn about ancient dynasties
China’s grandiose capital has enough history to keep a culture vulture entertained for weeks, from exploring the Forbidden City to wandering along the legendary Great Wall. Don’t forget to try the Peking Duck!
In the Zhangjiajie National Forest, you can relive the events of “Avatar.”
Whatever you think of the 2009 blockbuster film “Avatar,” there’s no denying the scenery was spectacular. Experience the stunning Zhangjiajie National Forest for yourself and marvel at the real-life setting.
Cycle through Yangshuo’s misty mountains
Yangshuo’s countryside is a postcard-perfect example of old-world Chinese charm, with tranquil rivers, climactic karst mountains, and the iconic cormorant fisherman. The best way to see everything is by bike.
In Xi’an, marvel at an army of terracotta soldiers
One of the most fascinating aspects of the ancient world is China’s first emperor’s 8,000-strong Terracotta Army. It’s even more exciting to see this historical treasure in person.
In Hong Kong, you can experience big city life
Hong Kong is one of the most captivating metropolises on the continent, with its giant Buddhas, sweeping skylines, and dizzying assaults on the senses. All of the above can be reached via the mid-level escalator, cable car, ultra-modern subway, or Star Ferry.