Asia is a fantastic continent to travel around and is full of incredible bucket list destinations! South East Asia in particular is popular, not only for backpackers travelling around for a few weeks or months, but also for those looking to have a cheap but luxurious holiday. From watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat to sleeping in a capsule hotel in Tokyo or having a flower bath in Bali, the possibilities and opportunities are endless! Read on to find the top bucket list destinations in Asia!
Travelling around South East Asia is so easy and convenient these days, with a wealth of information available on the internet to help you plan your trip. One of my favourite companies to book all manner of Asian travel with is 12.go Asia. They are the best budget travel service for Asia and you can book flights, transfers, trains, buses and ferries quickly and safely on their website.
The number one bucket list item for travellers to Cambodia is to see Angkor Wat – the largest temple and religious monument in the world, built almost 900 years ago. It is a fascinating place to visit, and at the Angkor Wat Archeological Park there are also many other temples you can visit that too date back hundreds of years. The most famous and impressive ones include Bayon temple covered in many stone faces and Ta Prohm temple with trees growing out of it – made famous by the Tombraider movie.
Angkor Wat is located on the outskirts of Siem Reap, which is a really fun town to spend a few days and let your hair down in the evenings on Pub Street. People will often do a day trip from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat ($37 entrance fee for a day pass), as well as visiting the nearby floating village on Tonle Sap lake.
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and has a really nice vibe. There are many beautiful places to visit here including The Royal Palace and a trip down the Mekong River. When in Phnom Penh it is important to make time to learn about the recent history of the country and visit The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng S21 Prison in order to understand how the nation suffered under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970’s. Click here for the best 24 hour itinerary for Phnom Penh.
Cambodia also has some stunning beaches so make sure to head down to Sihanoukville and Koh Rong to relax after all the sightseeing! Many people will choose to spend around 7-10 days in Cambodia.
Cambodia Bucket List:
- The Royal Palace
- Choeung Ek Killing Fields
- Tuol Sleng S-21 prison
- Sunset boat ride on Mekong River
- sunrise at Angkor Wat
- Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom and Bayon Temples
- Siem Reap Night Market
- Party on Pub Street
- Floating village on Tonle Sap Lake
- Sihanoukville, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloam
China is the world’s most populated country and one of the largest countries in the world. You may find travelling around China a lot more challenging than travelling around other south East Asian countries as English really isn’t widely spoken here. There are however so many beautiful places to see in China! From the real-life Avatar mountains of Zhangjiajie to the giant panda breeding centre in Chengdu or the modern skyscrapers of Shanghai!
If you are transiting through China you can obtain a 144 hour visa exemption. This means you can visit China for a few days without having the expense and hassle of sorting out a Chinese visa. If you only have a few days in China I definitely recommend to visit Beijing to check out The Great Wall of China (head to the Mutianyu section so you can toboggan down afterwards!) and The Forbidden City.
Also head to Guilin to take a bamboo raft down the Li River and visit The Terracotta Army in Xi’an – a giant clay army built to protect the first Qin Emperor in the afterlife. Shanghai is a modern metropolis famed for it’s skyscrapers, nightlife and shopping. It is definitely worth a visit too if you have the time, as well as West Lake in Hangzhou (once called the most beautiful city in the world by Marco Polo) which is just a couple of hours from Shanghai.
Of course, a visit to Tibet would be out of this world but you will need to organise this well in advance as you cannot visit Tibet independently – you must have a tour guide.
Food to try in China:
- Peking duck in Beijing
- Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) in Shanghai
- Roujiamo (pulled pork sandwich) in Xi’an
China Bucket List:
- The Great Wall of China
- The Forbidden City and The Temple of Heaven
- Terracotta Army
- Xi’an City walls
- See the giant pandas
- Le Shan Giant Buddha
- Bamboo raft down Li River
- Longsheng Rice Terrace Fields
ZHANGJIAJIE: Avatar forest
- Walk along The Bund
- Hangzhou: West Lake (2 hours from Shanghai)
Hong Kong is technically a Special Administrative Region of China, however it operates as an independent country and the people of Hong Kong do not consider themselves Chinese. You will see such a difference between Hong Kong and mainland China when you go to Hong Kong – until 1997 Hong Kong was a British Colony and so everyone in Hong Kong speaks English very well. In my experience both the city and the people of Hong Kong are very Westernised, and it is also a lot cleaner than Chinese cities. Hong Kong is a great city to spend a few days and I found it incredibly stress-free compared to China. Click here to see my itinerary!
Despite Hong Kong seeming fairly small on a map, it has over 260 islands and it sure packs a lot of things in! Kowloon and Hong Kong Island are divided by Victoria Harbour (take the iconic Star Ferry to cross the harbour) and between these two areas you will find downtown as well as the majority of touristy things to do. Hong Kong Island is quite hilly which means it is also home to some incredible hikes with fantastic views – my favourites being Dragon’s Back and Braemer Hill hikes. Also make sure to take the tram up to Victoria Peak to see the best view of the city!
In Hong Kong there are also so many Instagrammable places to visit, such as the Yik Cheong building and Choi Hung Basketball Courts. Also make sure to head across to Lantau Island to see the impressive Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha) – one of the largest sitting buddhas in the world at over 110 feet tall! You can get here by the Ngong Ping cable car, and afterwards you can head to the nearby Tai O Fishing Village.
At 8pm every night is The Symphony of Lights show at the harbour – a free light, laser and music show. After this head to the Ladies Market or the lively Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon where you can buy all sorts of things including clothes, souvenirs and there are plenty of food stalls there too. Or if you prefer something fancier, check out one of the many Michelin starred restaurants (over 50 infact!) in Hong Kong. They are extremely reasonably priced here and you will find the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world here: Tim Ho Wan, a hole in the wall on Hong Kong Island that is very cheap! If you still have energy and want to party the night away then finish the evening off in Lan Kwai Fong – Hong Kong’s nightlife district.
Hong Kong Bucket List:
- See Symphony of Lights show from Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade on the harbour
- visit the world’s highest bar: Ozone
- Choi Hung Basketball Courts
- 10,000 Buddhas Monastery
- Temple Street Night Market
- Take the iconic Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island
HONG KONG ISLAND:
- take the tram to Victoria Peak
- go on one of the trams in Old Hong Kong
- Yik Cheong building
- hike Dragon’s Back or Braemer Hill
- party in Lan Kwai Fong
- Visit Aberdeen fishing village
- eat at the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world
- take a ferry to Macau
- Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha) at Ngong Ping
- Tai O Fishing Village
Indonesia has a staggering 17,000+ islands making it the largest island nation in the world, with the most popular island being Bali of course. The islands of Java and Komodo are also incredibly beautiful and also attract a lot of visitors. There is so much to see and do in Indonesia you could literally spend months travelling around Indonesia! Take a look below at the most popular places to visit:
The Indonesian capital of Jakarta is located on the island of Java, however most tourists bypass crowded Jakarta and head straight to Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is a popular destination for travellers to Indonesia as it is full of palaces and temples and the city is surrounded by incredible nature. In particular a visit to Borobudur Temple at sunrise is definitely something you should add to your Indonesian bucket list!
Indonesia is the country with the most active volcanoes in the world so definitely make sure to see some on your trip! One volcano you shouldn’t miss when you are on Java is Mount Bromo. Waking up in the middle of the night and hiking up the volcano until you are standing on the rim of the crater looking down into the volcano at sunrise is an absolutely magical experience.
Mount Ijen is located a few hours away from Mount Bromo and is also a must visit. Mount Ijen has the largest acid lake in the world as well as the world’s only ‘blue fire’! To see these you will need to start your adventure at around midnight and you will be given a gas mask to wear to protect yourself from the sulphuric gas. At around 3am you will see the blue fire which comes from the sulphur mining here. The climb is tough but it is absolutely worth it.
Komodo National Park is made up of many islands and island hopping amongst these islands is an incredible experience. See the Komodo Dragons at on Komodo island (don’t get too close as they have a venomous bite and can run very fast!), and if you are keen to scuba dive you can also go diving here amongst some of the world’s most beautiful coral reef. The famous Pink Beach is also located here and yes the sand is actually pink here!
Bali, the Island of the gods, is a must visit on your south east Asia bucket list trip! It is a fascinating island full of beautiful temples, powerful waterfalls, unique photography spots, epic sunsets and dreamy landscapes! Some of the best waterfalls include Sekumpul waterfall and Tukad Cepung waterfall.
Bali is full of Hindu Balinese temples, with Tirta Empul being the most unique and one of the most holiest temples here. This water temple is located very close to Ubud and here you can do a purification ritual – just show respect for the culture and the rituals.
Bali is also famous for the Tegalalang rice fields, Mount Batur, the beaches, the nearby Nusa Penida and Gili Islands but also many people visit for spirituality reasons. Click here to read about my experience at a Spiritual retreat in Bali.
The Raja Ampat islands are also an incredibly beautiful place. The Raja Ampat archipelago consists of hundreds of jungle covered islands with beautiful beaches and stunning coral reefs.
Indonesia Bucket List:
- sunrise at Borobudur Temple
- watch sunrise at Mount Bromo
- climb Mount Ijen
- spot Komodo dragons
- Pink Beach
- have a flower bath
- Tegalalang rice terraces
- Bali swing
- Tirta Empul water temple
- Mount Batur
- Sekumpul waterfall
- Uluwatu temple
- Monkey forest – Ubud
- Kelingking beach – Nusa Penida
- head across to The Gili islands
RAJA AMPAT ARCHIPELAGO
Japan is one of the most fascinating countries in the world! From the elusive Mount Fuji to seeing the iconic and beautiful sakura season, to bathing naked in hot springs – there are so many unique things to see and do in this country!
Tokyo is an incredible city and you should definitely spend a few days here to tick off things on your Asia bucket list! Some notable places in Tokyo you can’t miss include: Shibuya Crossing – the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing, Senso-ji Temple, bustling and alternative Takeshita Street in Harajuku and the hedgehog cafe next door, as well as the bizarre maid cafes in Akihabara! Head up Tokyo Skytree or Tokyo Tower to get a clear view of Mount Fuji on a clear day. And of course don’t forget to have some delicious sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market! If you are more into Ramen then check out Ramen Street under Tokyo Station! In the evening head to Golden Gai for some drinks and Omoide Yokocho for some late night food with the locals! Click here for the ultimate 24 hour guide to Tokyo!
A cheap and really authentic Japanese alternative to staying in Tokyo’s hotels (which are all very expensive!) is to experience staying in a capsule hotel. Click here to read more about Tokyo’s Capsule Hotels!
A visit to Mount Fuji is a must do when in Japan. Visit the viewpoint at Chureito Pagoda for a stunning view or alternatively from any of the Fuji Five Lakes (Lake Kawaguchiko in particular). Mount Fuji is notorious for being covered in cloud the majority of the year however so click here to discover how you can get the best chance of seeing this beautiful volcano unobstructed.
Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan and should definitely be on your Japan itinerary! In just over 2 hours on a bullet train you can get to Kyoto from Tokyo. Kyoto is known for it’s many temples, and other highlights include the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, with incredible bamboo trees that make for incredible pictures. Also you will find the monkey forest nearby with Japanese macaque monkeys (‘snow monkeys’). Also make sure to visit the impressive Fushimi-Inari Shrine full of hundreds of red torii gates. You must also visit Gion district too as you might spot some geishas here! Beware these tourist destinations get very busy so try to get there as early as possible! A short train ride from Kyoto is the town of Nara where deer freely wander the street! Buy some deer biscuits and feed the deer – it is a really magical experience!
Japan Bucket List:
- soak in an onsen (hot spring
- see the cherry blossoms (sakura) in bloom
- Shibuya Crossing
- Tokyo Tower
- Senso-ji Temple
- Eat sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market
- Tokyo Skytree
- Harajuku: Takeshita Street
- Sleep in a capsule hotel
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest & Monkey Park
- see the Torii gates at Fushimi-Inari Shrine
- Kinkaku-Ji Temple
- See Geishas in Gion District
- Feed deer at Nara Park (Nara)
Laos is one of the lesser visited countries in South East Asia but it is such an incredible country. The fact that it is a lot less touristy than neighbouring countries just adds to it’s uniqueness. A popular route for travellers when they visit Laos is to explore Northern Laos – going from the capital Vientiane to Luang Prabang via Vang Vieng.
Laos’ capital is a lot quieter than other South East Asian capitals. It has a very calm, relaxed vibe, and to many people it feels more like a town than a capital city. Vientiane has some really interesting and unique places to visit, such as the COPE centre which helps thousands of locals who have become victims of unexploded landmines. You see, Laos is the most heavily bombed country in history. Two million tonnes of bombs were dropped on Laos by the Americans in the American-Vietnam War and even almost 50 years later these bombs are still killing and injuring people as many of the bombs dropped didn’t explode at the time and so go off even now.
Other places in Vientiane to visit are Wat Si Muang Temple, Wat Sisaket Temple, That Dam (black stupa) and Patuxai Victory Gate – the finest example of French architect here in Vientiane (Laos is a former French Colony), built to resemble Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
The small town of Vang Vieng is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of limestone karst mountains in every direction. Make sure to climb at least one mountain during your time here as the views are out of this world! The two most popular and incredibly picturesque viewpoints are from Phangern Mountain (Silver Cliff) and Nam Xay. They are located close to each other, both about 4km from Vang Vieng town and close to the Blue Lagoon. Nam Xay is a little easier to climb than Phangern, but both offer incredible views!
When in Vang Vieng you also must visit one of the Blue Lagoons (there are 3 here!). They are lovely places to visit, have a swim in, relax and have fun, but start your day EARLY before other tourists get here as they get very busy! I recommend if you can only visit one, to go to the Blue Lagoon 3 (the furthest away) as it is the least busiest. The water at Blue Lagoon 3 was so clear and there are bamboo rafts you can sit or stand on and row across the lagoon.
The majority of travellers to Laos will say Luang Prabang is their absolute favourite place here. It has an incredible vibe and is very picturesque! There are lots of boutique cafes and a huge artisan night market every night of the week that goes from about 5pm til late.
To really enjoy Luang Prabang make sure to spend at least two days here. Spend your first day exploring the old town of Luang Prabang on foot (make sure to go up Phou Si Mountain for stunning sunset views), then on the second day visit nearby Kuang Si Falls – a must visit when in Laos! Kuang Si waterfalls is probably the most famous and well known sight in Laos and absolutely cannot be missed during your trip here. It is a stunning set of tiered waterfalls and rock pools with an incredible light turquoise blue colour.
Click here for my 5 day Laos itinerary.
Laos Bucket List:
- COPE centre
- Wat Si Muang Temple
- Wat Si Saket Temple
- That Dam (Black Stupa)
- Patuxai Victory Gate
- swim in the Blue Lagoon
- climb Pha Ngern and/or Nam Xay Mountain
- swim at Kuang Si Falls
- see the sunset from Pou Si Mountain
- visit Luang Prabang night market
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia is such an exciting city. It is a vibrant modern metropolis full of skyscrapers, whilst at the same time it retains history and charm. There are beautiful photo opportunities around every corner from The Petronas Towers (the world’s tallest twin towers), Thean Hou Temple (Malaysia’s most beautiful temple), KL Temple and Independence Square. Plus make sure you stay somewhere that has an Instagrammable pool, such as one of the cheap airbnbs in Regalia Suites. Click here to discover the best photo spots in Kuala Lumpur!
A short drive from the centre you’ll find the Batu Caves – a group of limestone caves with Hindu temples and shrines inside. The caves are a very popular place to visit in Kuala Lumpur, attracting thousands of visitors and worshippers every day. There is a very large impressive gold statue of a Hindu god at the entrance, and then to reach the caves you need to climb the 272 coloured steps leading to them.
Make sure to get out of KL and explore the beautiful countryside of Malaysia. The Cameron Highlands are just a 4 hour bus ride from KL. The views and the tea plantations here are incredible and you should definitely add this onto your Malaysia bucketlist.
The island of Langkawi (a 1 hour flight from KL) is a great place to explore for a few days. Langkawi is so naturally beautiful, covered in mountainous jungle, limestone cliffs, caves, waterfalls, mangroves, gorgeous white sand beaches and swaying coconut trees and was awarded UNESCO World Geopark status in 2007. There are so many activities you can do in Langkawi, for example going on an island hopping boat trip, on a mangrove tour, exploring the beautiful beaches or taking a trip on the Langkawi cable car – one of the steepest cable cars in the world! Click here to learn more about Langkawi!
George Town is one of the most colourful and interesting cities in Malaysia. It is the multicultural capital of Penang Island, known for its British colonial buildings. There is lots of unique and fun street are here and it is definitely worth visiting!
Malaysia Bucket List:
- Petronas Towers
- Thean Hou Temple
- KL Tower
- Batu Caves
- Regalia Suites/The Face Suites Rooftop Pool
- Sultan Abdul Samad Building at Independence Square
- Jalan Alor Street Food Night Market
- Langkawi Cable Car
- Boat trip island hopping
- Seven Wells Waterfall
- Mangrove Tour
- Pantai Cenang
The least touristy country in South East Asia and an absolutely magical place: Myanmar only opened up it’s doors to tourists in the last few years. For this reason it is still relatively untouched and so you should definitely add Myanmar onto your Asia bucket list trip! It is a fabulous country with the most welcoming people!
Bagan is an ancient city in Myanmar sprinkled with over two thousand beautiful temples and is a must visit when in Myanmar. At sunrise hot air balloons float across the horizon, past the temples and pagodas that have stood there for over eight hundred years. Impressive and intricately detailed temples are dispersed throughout fields in every direction as far as your eyes can see and so it is no wonder Bagan is Myanmar’s most popular tourist destination. But you must come to Bagan prepared, especially because it has become increasingly difficult to access these temples in recent years. Click here for all the information you need about Bagan.
After your time in Bagan make sure to visit Mandalay. There is so much to do in this city, from watching the sunset at the beautiful U-Bein Bridge (the longest teakwood bridge in the world) to visiting Mandalay Palace, Shwenandaw Monastery or one of the many unique temples. The Mahamui Pagoda holds a 4 metre high buddha statue covered in a layer of gold 15cm thick and the brilliant white Hsinbyume Pagoda is utterly unique and totally Instagrammable with it’s way terraces. But the most beautiful temple is Kuthodaw Pagoda which holds the world’s largest book – although it is not a normal book like we imagine. Each of the 729 ‘pages’ of the book are marble and stands alone, surrounded by its own beautiful white stupa.
Click here for the perfect 24 hours in Mandalay itinerary!
Head to the scenic Inle Lake, watch the traditional fishermen with their unique nets and enjoy a boat tide here.
Visit Shwedagon Pagoda and watch the sunrise here.
Myanmar Bucket List:
- temple hop on a scooter
- watch the hot air balloons at sunrise
- U Bein bridge
- Kuthodaw Pagoda
- Mingun Pagoda
- Mahamuni Pagoda
- Shwenandaw Monastery
- Mandalay Palace
- Hsinbyume Pagoda
- Mandalay Hill
- Sandamuni Pagoda
- boat ride watching the traditional fishermen
- Shwedagon Pagoda
The Philippines is another place high up on many people’s Asia bucket list and is becoming more and more popular. From glorious beaches to thundering waterfalls, there is so much natural beauty in The Philippines! And with over 7,000 islands here you are spoilt for choice!
Manila, the capital of The Philippines is hectic and definitely needs to be experienced! For the ultimate local experience, brace the Manila traffic and ride in a jeepney (a cheap form of public transport: old jeeps colourfully decorated and crowded seating). When you want to escape from the hustle and bustle, head to Intramuros – the old part of Manila. Here you’ll find lots of beautiful Spanish colonial style buildings and horse-drawn carriages lining the cobblestone streets.
You can take a day trip from Manila to the beautiful but often active Taal Volcano (a volcano within a lake within a volcano! see below left picture), or visit beautiful waterfalls such as Pagsanjan Falls or Hulugan Falls. Here you can experience an incredible waterfall without the crowds as this magnificent place is mostly only known to locals!
Chocolate Hills in Bohol
The Chocolate Hills in Bohol are an incredible place you should definitely add onto your Philippines bucket list! There are over 1,700 hills covering an area of more than 50 square kilometres – from the viewpoint you get a fantastic panorama of them. They are named the Chocolate Hills because during the dry season the grass on the hills turn from green to brown.
Philippine Islands: Siquijor, Boracay, El Nido, Siargao
The Philippine islands are so idyllic and picture perfect – great for those who love the beach and the ocean as well as those who enjoy hiking! There are thousands of islands that make up the Philippines, but some of the most beautiful and well-known ones include:
SIJUIJOR: known as the magic island of the Philippines as it is famous for it’s shamans, magic potions and witches.
BORACAY & EL NIDO: known for their beautiful white sand beaches and water sports and diving are particularly popular here.
SIARGAO: another stunning island, known as the surfing capital of The Philippines.
Banaue Rice Terraces
The sprawling Banaue Rice Terraces were carved into the mountains over 2,000 years ago by the ancestors of indigenous people. They were created for irrigation purposes to hold flooded areas for the cultivate rice and are sometimes referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.
Philippines Bucket List:
MANILA & SURROUNDS
- Ride in a jeepney
- Intramuros (Old Manila)
- Taal Volcano
- Pagsanjan Falls
- Hulugan Falls
CHOCOLATE HILLS – BOHOL
- El Nido – Palawan
BANAUE RICE TERRACES
Despite it’s compact size there is so much to do in Singapore! From Gardens By The Gay to Little India, trendy Haji Lane to the bars at Clarke Quay, there is something for everyone here! Whilst Singapore is a fantastic place however like Japan it can be quite expensive. This doesn’t mean you can’t find cheap ways to enjoy the city though! There are lots of things you can do for free such as watching the Light Show at The Supertree Grove or strolling round Joo Chiat and admiring the beautiful Peranakan Houses. Click here to discover how to explore Singapore on a budget!
Singapore is very modern and clean and there are some strict rules here such as no chewing gum or smoking outside. And it is just a 5 hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur so you can easily visit KL before or after Singapore.
There are many Instagrammable places in Singapore, such as The Old Hill Street Police Station, The Art Science Museum, The Orchid Garden at The Botanic Gardens and The Fort Canning Park Tree Tunnel. And of course don’t forget to check out the Rain Vortex at The Jewel at Changi Airport! For all the best photo spots in Singapore click here!
Singapore Bucket List:
- visit Gardens By The Bay
- see the light show at the Supertree Grove in the evening
- Cloud Forest
- Flower Dome
- Floral Fantasy
- Infinity Pool at Marina Bay Sands Hotel
- Art Science Museum
- Merlion Park
- Peranakan Houses
- Orchid Garden at Singapore Botanic Gardens
- Haji Lane
- Masjid Sultan
- Old Hill Street Police Station
- Fort Canning Park Tree Tunnel
- Clarke Quay
- Little India
- Haw Park Villa
- Rain Vortex at The Jewel, Changi Airport
South Korea is another incredibly fascinating country and there are so many things to do here. Despite this however it always gets overlooked by more popular Asian travel destinations such as Japan. Nevertheless you should definitely add South Korea onto your list of Asia bucket list places!
South Korea is known for K-Pop, delicious food and some really stunning landscapes. It is also known for its high quality beauty and skincare products, themed cafes and oh so friendly locals!
Two things you must experience when in Seoul are the food (Korean barbecues, bibimbap, kimchi for example) and a jimjilbang. A jimjilbang is a public bathhouses similar to Japanese onsens where you must be naked to go inside (same sex only).
Seoul – the capital of South Korea, is a mix of old and new. You’ll find beautiful old palaces and quaint streets as well as skyscrapers and neon-lit streets full of bars. There is definitely something for everyone here! Head to Gyeongbokgung Palace – the grandest of Seoul’s Palaces and also walk up to the N Seoul Tower (formerly Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower) – from here you can get a fabulous panoramic view of the whole city! You can get up to the tower by climbing up the mountain or riding the cable car. You’ll also see the many love locks at the bottom of the tower. If you are looking for something more quirky head to one of the themed cafes, for example the raccoon cafe where you can sit and have tea with the raccoons!
When in Seoul also make a day trip to the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone) – the division between North and South Korea. The border is heavily guarded and it is quite tense here, but it is a must do when in Seoul.. You will need to book on a tour to visit.
Jeju Island is known for it’s volcanic landscape, beach resorts, white sandy beaches and beautiful waterfalls. There are lots of hiking trails and even a crater lake at the summit of the dormant volcano – South Korea’s highest mountain. Jeju Island is very beautiful and is a popular holiday destination for people from South Korea however remains relatively undiscovered to the rest of the world!
Busan is a charming city known for it’s mountains, beaches and temples. The city is very underrated and not often visited by foreign tourists which is a shame as this is definitely somewhere you shouldn’t miss!
South Korea Bucket List:
- have a Korean barbecue/eat kimchi/bibimbap
- go to a themed cafe
- go to a jimjilbang
- go to the DMZ line
- Myeongdong Street
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- Seoul Tower
An ever popular South East Asia destination and on many people’s bucket list is Thailand. Thailand is a great country to travel round, plus it is so easy as it is a firm favourite on the backpacker route. And the food is delicious (I think I ate Pad Thai every day in Thailand!).
From going wild on Khao San Road – Bangkok’s main party street to visiting the famous Sky Bay (remember the movie The Hangover?!), Bangkok is one big giant playground. But it is also a city with a lot of history. Spend time exploring the stunning temples of Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Benchambophit and The Grand Palace, as well as visiting the famous floating markets or the railway market south of Bangkok. And if you are up for the challenge, get a Thai massage. Be warned they are hard and can be a little painful but they are worth it!
The overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a bucket list experience for many people travelling around Asia. Click here for all the information you need to know, including how to get the best priced tickets and when you should book your ticket!
When you get to Chiang Mai there are so many temples for you to explore including Doi Suthep and Wat Chedi Luang. Also make sure to visit nearby Chiang Rai for some really Instagrammable temples such as Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple) and Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple).
Make some time for trekking when you are in Northern Thailand: you can spend a day visiting Doi Inthanon – the highest mountain in Thailand full of beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails, plus you should also visit the Karen Long Neck Tribe.
If you want to see elephants make sure you visit an ethical elephant centre such as Elephant Nature Park, which rescues and rehabilitates injured and abandoned elephants.
The islands off Thailand are incredibly stunning and are split between The Andaman Sea and The Gulf of Thailand. Both have different seasons so make sure to check the weather before you go.
On the Andaman Sea side the most famous islands are Phuket, Phi Phi Islands, Ko Lanta. On The Gulf of Thailand side the most famous islands are Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui and Ko Tao. Typically couples head to Ko Samui for the beautiful resorts and beaches, party-goers head to Ko Pha Ngan for the Full Moon Party, and people looking to complete their PADI in diving head to Ko Tao. Phi Phi Islands are stunning and were the filing location of the Leonardo Di Caprio movie ‘The Beach’ (Maya Bay) as well as where the devastating 2004 Tsunami happened. Phuket is a bit wild and touristy (think ping pong shows and the like) but there are still some beautiful quiet parts and you can do a boat trip excursion to the stunning James Bond Island.
Thailand Bucket List:
- Wat Arun
- Wat Pho
- Wat Benchambophit
- The Grand Palace
- Sky Bar
- party on Kao San Road
- Damnoensaduak Floating Markets
- Railway Market
- night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- visit an ethical elephant sanctuary
- trekking at Doi Inthanon
- visit Karen Long Neck Tribe
- Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple) – Chiang Rai
- Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple) – Chiang Rai
- Full moon party at Koh Pha Ngan
- relax at Ko Samui
- Diving on Ko Tao
- Climb Phi-Phi viewpoint
- visit ‘The Beach’ (Maya Bay)
- James Bond Island (Phuket)
And last but not least – Vietnam! Vietnam is another incredibly exciting, beautiful and varied country and is one of my absolute favourite countries!
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
Saigon may feel chaotic and overwhelming at first, but stick around long enough and you’ll discover a lively city with a contagious energy that you can’t help but fall in love with. One of the cheapest cities in south east Asia, Saigon is known for it’s great street food, millions of mopeds, French colonial style buildings, complex history and wild nightlife. There are so many things to do in and around this dynamic city such as visiting the beautiful French Colonial buildings such as Notre Dame Cathedral and The Old Post Office, partying on Bui Vien Street, visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, haggling at Ben Thanh Market, taking a day trip to the Mekong Delta or seeing Saigon from above at the top of the Bitexco Tower. Click here for the top 10 things to experience in Saigon!
If you are making your way north from Saigon stop off at Mui Ne – a slightly lesser known part of Vietnam that has magnificent sand dunes, a fairy stream and a lovely fisherman’s market on the beach.
Dalat is located in the mountains and has long been a popular weekend getaway for locals. It is an absolutely beautiful town with many French Colonial style reminders still. Dalat has a very temperate climate (ie: it rains often!) so check the weather before you go!
Hoi An has the most beautifully preserved Ancient Town that runs along canals and is famous for the many lanterns that line the streets. There is a lovely quaint vibe to Hoi An and the town is surrounded by beautiful architecture. From Hoi An you can make a trip to the Insta-famous Cau Vang ‘Golden Bridge’ in the Ba Na Hills.
Seeing the limestone karst mountains rise out of the sea at Halong Bay is high on most people’s Vietnam itinerary. You can do a boat ride or for a cheaper option you can head to Ha Long City and climb Bai Tho Mountain (Poem Mountain) to get a fantastic aerial view of Ha Long Bay. Click here to read how to get to Bai Tho Mountain and what to expect on the hike up the mountain!
Whilst Saigon in the south is larger and gets more attention, Hanoi is actually the capital of Vietnam and is a beautiful place to base yourself for a few days. From visiting picturesque Hoàn Kiếm Lake, to the best markets and street food to try, to getting the best rooftop views, and visiting Hoa Lo Prison – click here for all you need to know about Hanoi.
There are also several trips you can do from Hanoi, for example to Sa Pa and Ninh Binh.
Vietnam Bucket List:
- Party on Bui Vien Street
- visit the French Colonial buildings: Notre Dame, The Old Post Office
- enjoy the view from Bitexco Tower
- Cu Chi Tunnels
- Ben Thanh Market
- day trip to Mekong Delta
- see the white and red sand dunes
- visit the fairy stream
- explore the Ancient Town
- Cau Vang ‘Golden Bridge’ in the Ba Na Hills
HA LONG BAY
- Take a junk boat on Ha Long Bay
- Climb Bai Tho Mountain
- Hoan Kiem Lake
- Hanoi Old Quarter Night Market
- Hoa Lo Prison
Asia Bucket List Destinations outside of South East Asia
If you are looking for other Asian countries to visit outside of South East Asia, Nepal and Sri Lanka are fascinating places to visit.
Kathmandu is a fascinating city and the start of most people’s journey into The Himalayas. For a 1 day itinerary of Kathmandu click here.
In recent years Sri Lanka has become an increasingly popular country to visit. One of Sri Lanka’s most Instagrammable spots is the rope swing at Dalawella Beach. Click here to discover how to find it and more!