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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

10 most iconic places to visit in Asia

Come to Asia to get lost in a world of pulsing neon cities, incense-tinged temples and unblemished landscapes. This bewildering yet beguiling continent offers a never-ending stream of adventures, whether you’re touring heritage monuments like the Great Wall of China and Angkor Wat or discovering nature’s own extraordinary creations, from Vietnam’s limestone-strewn bays to the snow-topped summit of Mount Fuji. Begin your journey of discovery by adding these 10 iconic Asia destinations to your travel bucket list.

Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto is the beating, spiritual heart of Japan, home to 17 UNESCO sites including the gold-leaf-adorned Kinkaku-ji Temple. Once the capital for over a thousand years, the city is a beacon of traditional culture, architecture and cuisine, making it an essential stop on our Best of Japan itinerary. Wander historic streets lined with wooden machiya houses, palaces and over 2,000 temples and shrines that sparkle with gilded splendour. Attend tea ceremonies or meditate in zen gardens dripping with spring cherry blossoms, all the while keeping an eye out for Kyoto’s famous, kimono-clad geishas who tread the winding lanes in geta sandles. This is a city best navigated with a local guide for an insider’s view of the atmospheric Higashiyama district.


Angkor Wat Temple

Explore Angkor Wat, a sprawling 12th century temple complex and Cambodia’s national treasure on a tour from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. A relic of the Khmer Empire, the temple’s pine-cone-shaped spires look particularly majestic at sunrise and you can spend hours admiring the intricate Buddhist carvings and scaling its steep towers. However, the temple is merely the centrepiece of the 400-square-kilometre UNESCO-listed Angkor Archeological Park, which you can explore by bike. Stop at Bayon Temple with its 200 Buddha faces carved into stone towers and Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire. Don’t miss Ta Prohm of Tomb Raider fame either, its ruins entwined with jungle vines and tree roots.

Mount Fuji, Japan

Marvel at Japan’s sacred, cone-shaped peak: Mount Fuji. Up to 400,000 trekkers a year come to scale Fuji, climbing its barren slopes to the 3,776-metre summit, which is dusted with snow between October and May. This active volcano – whose last powerful eruption occurred in 1707 – is known as Fuji-san to the Japanese, who’ve worshipped it for centuries. The lower slopes are surrounded by five glistening lakes and decorative Shinto shrines like Fujinomiya Sengen, where hikers pray for safe passage up Japan’s highest mountain. If you don’t want to trek, the UNESCO landmark is best viewed from afar in Hakone. This popular stop on our Golden Route itinerary offers stays at traditional Japanese ryokans where you can soak in steamy thermal baths.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Visit Hoi An to witness the Vietnam of yesteryear on a mosaic itinerary. In this tranquil town where motorcycles are banned, the tree-shaded streets are lit with colourful paper lanterns and creaky cargo boats bob on the river. Yellow, shuttered buildings date back to the 16th century, when settlers were drawn to this trading port from all over the world, resulting in a fusion of cultural wonders now protected by UNESCO. Cross the Japanese Bridge and wander into Chinese temples, past Vietnamese tubular houses and merchant homes where skilled tailors will sew you a made-to-measure outfit in just hours. For a taste of Hoi An’s diverse cuisine, take a food tour by bike and sample banh mi sandwiches, crispy banh xeo pancakes and the herby noodle dish cao lau.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Discover Luang Prabang, a riverside town steeped in French colonial architecture and Buddhist culture. In this UNESCO city monks glide silently through the streets at dawn in their sacred alms ritual and the glass mosaic exterior of 16th century Wat Xieng Thong temple glitters in the sunlight. Play afternoon petanque with the locals and climb Phousi Hill for sweeping sunset city views. As night falls, the market is the place to be, where vendors sell textiles hand-woven by Laos’s ethnic communities. Here, you can also take a food tour to try the city’s gastronomical delights, from French-inspired crepes to grilled Mekong fish and papaya salad. Many visitors arrive in Luang Prabang by boat on a journey along the water and land in Laos.

Palawan Island, Philippines

El Nido Island Hopping

Palawan is an unmissable stop on any island-hopping Philippines trip. On this remote, snake-shaped island, the beaches are blinding white sugar, the sea a dazzling turquoise-topaz blend scattered with karsts. Palawan’s dense jungles and eerie underground rivers beg to be explored, while divers flock to the northern Calamian islets for kaleidoscopic marine life and WWII Japanese shipwrecks. The island’s main hubs are Coron, Puerto Princesa and El Nido – the gateway to the far-flung Bacuit archipelago. In El Nido, you can discover the island’s Cuyonon culture to learn about one of the country’s oldest ethnic groups, who migrated here across the Sulu Sea centuries ago. See their traditional stilt houses and wooden canoes at the Sibaltan Archaeological Village.

Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

Cruise Lan Ha Bay on a tour of northern Vietnam to uncover a watery wonderland. According to legend, the flick of a dragon’s tail shattered this limestone landscape into 300 islets that now dot the serene bay. As the lesser-known extension of UNESCO site Halong Bay, Lan Ha remains relatively untouched by the tour boats that blight Halong. Here, the local government have tightly controlled tourist permits to preserve Lan Ha’s natural beauty, the emerald waters and jagged peaks riddled with secret caves and fringed by beaches. A two-night cruise on the prestigious Heritage Line will allow you time to watch the sunset from the deck, visit floating villages and kayak to deserted isles, passing dolphins and fishermen who trawl the depths for pearls.

Nara, Japan

Stroll among ancient temples and shrines in Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital in the 8th century. Set against forested hills, the city boasts eight UNESCO sites including the Todai-ji Temple, which houses a 15-metre-tall Buddha statue. Many of the city’s sites are based around Nara Park where hundreds of semi-tame deer roam, once thought to be messengers of the gods. Highlights include the former merchant district of Naramachi, which is a testament to Japanese architecture, lined with wooden machiya town houses, and the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, famed for its thousands of bronze and stone lanterns. Situated between Kyoto and Osaka, Nara makes for a fascinating stop on our Enchanting Japan itinerary.

The Great Wall of China

Experience the sheer magnitude of the Great Wall of China on a leisurely voyage through the country. At over 21,000 kilometres long with 25,000 battlements, the wall stretches from coastal Shanhaiguan all the way to the Jiayuguan Pass in the Gobi Desert, its various sections bolstered by mountain ranges. A monument to China’s history, sections of the Great Wall date back over 2,000 years and were stitched together by the first emperor Qin Shi Huang in 220BC. Find a quiet spot along the Great Wall at Mutianyu, where you can enjoy this UNESCO heavyweight minus the crowds, taking in panoramic views of the wall snaking into the distance, surrounded by forests.

Sapa, Vietnam

Hike among towering rice terraces in Sapa, Vietnam’s northern jewel. Nestled near the Chinese border among pine-scented forests, the town was once a French hill station loved for its cooler climes. In Sapa, green-yellow staircases of rice ascend towards the clouds and the country’s highest mountain, Fansipan, shows itself on clear days. A typical trip to Sapa should begin with an overnight sleeper train, where you’ll fall asleep to hectic Hanoi street scenes and wake to misty mountain views in Lao Cai. Spend your time in Sapa trekking to tiny hill tribe villages where you’ll meet the H’mong and Red Dao communities, passing waterfalls and bamboo forests. You can continue your tour on our Vietnam expedition and remote north itinerary.

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Plan your holiday withAlfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Pam, who's travelled extensively in Vietnam. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember – the vespa rider who’ll whizz you round HCMC on a unique foodie tour, the guide who’ll take you fishing with locals at Chuon Lagoon and the ranger who’ll guide you to golden-cheeked gibbons to hear their dawn duets.

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