Best Places to Visit in Asia
From megametropolises to remote islands, Asia's top travel spots offer a healthy dose of adventure, ancient history and culture. After considering local prices, accessibility and the variety of attractions in each destination, along with traveler feedback, U.S. News ranked the best places to visit in Asia. Contribute to next year's list by casting your vote below.
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This far-flung destination, located miles from civilization in the Indian Ocean, is made up of about 1,200 islands that provide an atmosphere that's pretty much paradise. The islands of the Maldives feature lush tropical landscapes, unparalleled white sand beaches, crystal-clear ocean waters and coral reefs that prompt extensive exploration. The best way to experience this slice of paradise? In one of its many overwater bungalows, of course.
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There's no dilly-dallying here – Tokyo is as fast-paced as cities come (it's one of the largest cities in the world, after all). With millions upon millions of residents to its name, Tokyo features flashing lights and insanely crowded streets that novice visitors may have a hard time keeping up with. But travelers should accept the challenge and enjoy Tokyo's exhilarating energy and unrivaled shopping scene, not to mention its delicious, fresh sushi.
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Phuket's elongated beaches and cerulean waters embody a paradise that few other Thai destinations can rival. You'll find those beautiful beaches docked with traditional, wooden long-tail boats and limestone rock formations that rise from the sea. Relaxing on the beach and enjoying boat tours are the most popular things to do here, as is visiting the towering Big Buddha statue. What's more, lodging here is relatively affordable.
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Bali's natural beauty is so profound, travelers have been known to refer to the Indonesian destination as "heaven on earth." Here, lush rainforests, picturesque mountain ranges, sweeping valleys and scenic beaches all sit side by side. You'll also find a handful of serene temples, and you can't miss out on a trip to Ubud, Bali's cultural capital and home of the region's famous rice fields.
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This former British colony offers an easy introduction to China. The city blends both cultures to create a hub that is Eastern at heart but with roots deeply influenced by the West. You'll see this in the city's capitalist culture, which is illustrated by its towering skyscrapers, numerous street markets and thousands of dining options. For unmatched natural beauty, head to Hong Kong's outlying islands.
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Chiang Mai#6 in Best Places to Visit in Asia
One of the most interesting destinations in Thailand, Chiang Mai definitely has a buzz about it like Bangkok but offers more of a reprieve thanks to its surrounding mountains and location in the northwestern part of the country. Your itinerary should include tours of breathtaking temples, trips to night markets, a visit to an elephant sanctuary or two and a wander through the beautiful Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.
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History lovers will revel in the sites of Kyoto. The city, which used to be Japan's capital during imperial times, is awash with ancient religious sites, including the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which dates back to the eighth century. In addition to shrines and temples, be sure to pencil in time to stroll the famous Philosopher's Walk, preferably during cherry blossom season, and treat yourself to kaiseki, which are multicourse meals native to Kyoto.
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Singapore is unique in that it's a melting pot of Asian cultures. This fusion has led to prosperity that takes form in the city's colorful neighborhoods, eclectic culinary scene and overall modernity. After shopping and chowing down in Little India or Chinatown, head downtown to take in the skyscrapers from either Merlion Park, the Singapore Flyer or the sky-high Gardens by the Bay.
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Thailand's capital is filled to the brim with eye-catching Hindu sites, nonstop nightlife and incredible Thai cuisine. Find your chi at sacred sites like Wat Arun and Wat Pho, or hit up the Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the world's largest street markets. While here, grab grub from street stalls as much as possible: Bangkok is considered the street food capital of the world.
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Hanoi#10 in Best Places to Visit in Asia
Hanoi is perfect for first-time Vietnam travelers. The country's capital offers plenty in the way of history, culture, shopping, dining and natural splendor. Start your day off with a Vietnamese coffee, then head to Hanoi's Old Quarter for a stroll through Dong Xuan, the city's largest market. After that, visit one of the city's many temples, including the ancient Temple of Literature.
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Taipei#11 in Best Places to Visit in Asia
Known for its delectable night markets and historical attractions, Taiwan's capital is a must-see for those traveling to Asia. Can't-miss attractions here include a ride to the top of the ultramodern Taipei 101 tower, a visit to the National Palace, where you'll find artifacts from the Forbidden City, and a stop by the Shilin Night Market for some tasty Taiwanese street food.
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Railay Beach#12 in Best Places to Visit in Asia
If you only have time to go to one beach in Thailand, make it Railay Beach. Located in the Krabi province, Railay features glistening white sands and is surrounded by limestone rock formations (covered in leafy green vegetation) that jut out from the sea. As if the beach couldn't get more alluring, you're only able to reach it by boat. Daytrips from nearby Ao Nang Beach are popular tours among travelers.
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South Korea's capital does an incredible job of blending the ancient with the modern. Between all the busy streets and towering skyscrapers lie ancient temples, shrines and villages waiting to be explored. Be sure to take in all sides of Seoul during your trip and save time for its incredible green spaces, such as Namsan Park and Bukhansan National Park.
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Guilin and Lijiang River National Park#14 in Best Places to Visit in Asia
This national park is so loved and respected, its image is featured on China's paper currency. Guilin and Lijiang River National Park is located in the Guangxi region of China, northwest of Hong Kong. The Lijiang River runs about 50 miles from Guilin to Yangshuo, passing towering green karsts (eroded limestone) along the way. The best way to take in the scenery is by boat – though it's a long ride.
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There are plenty of things to do in China's biggest city. Start with a walk along the Bund for photo ops of the city's futuristic skyline, then visit popular religious sites like Longhua Temple or the Jade Buddha Temple for an impressive array of Buddha statues. If you need a break from the concrete jungle, head to the Yuyuan Garden or make a daytrip to Zhujiajiao, which resembles a more Eastern version of Venice, Italy.
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