Few places on Earth can match Asia for its sheer diversity, filled with exotic destinations and inspiring sights. From the shores of Goa to the neon-lit skyscrapers of Tokyo, holidays here offer experiences that simply can’t be matched anywhere else.
If you think it’s all been done before, think again. We’ve scoured the hidden treasures of this fascinating continent to find not only new places, but new ways of seeing them too. Check out some of Asia’s best-kept secrets for yourself and see if you’re inspired to book your next big break.
Perhaps one of the most famous aspects of the Far East is its superb variety of tropical and subtropical islands. They’ve featured in countless films over the years, from monster epics to the more subdued Eat Pray Love. But with thousands of islands to choose from, it can be tricky to pin down where to begin.
Thailand and Indonesia are both worth being kept in mind for island hopping, but Malaysia just has to be first on the list – particularly Langkawi. The starting point of Marella Cruises’ Enchanting Far East itinerary, the area found its fame thanks to its lush forested backdrop, fringed with white sand beaches reminiscent of luxury holiday brochures.
Jomblang Cave, Indonesia
Island hopping is naturally popular here, but the inner landscapes of South East Asia’s archipelagos are equally worth your time. Goa Jomblang in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, is a magnificent journey into an underground realm that itself forms just part of the Gunung Kidul cave nexus.
What makes Goa Jomblang especially appealing is the famous roof of the cave. Standing around 50 meters above your head, it features a vast opening through which shafts of sunlight spill onto lush secret groves below.
El Nido, Philippines
With over seven thousand islands to its name, holidays to the Philippines are certain to keep you busy. El Nido has got secret beaches aplenty, together with the chance to take boat trips out to the surrounding isles. The name El Nido translates to ‘nest’ in Spanish and derives from the baby birds that can be found building edible saliva nests in the limestone cliffs surrounding the area.
Back on land, coconut shell cocktails and scuba diving round off all you need from a tropical holiday without the crowds. As well as its picturesque surroundings, El Nido’s location close to the famous Bacuit Archipelago makes it a natural choice for those wanting to partake in a bit of island hopping.
Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
For a real island experience, leave the far-reaching hands of technology and connectivity behind on Koh Rong Island in Cambodia. Palm trees and pale beaches are a given here, but one of the island’s most magical experiences comes courtesy of its phosphorescent plankton.
Wade into the water to your waist after dark and swirl up glowing blue creatures with sweeps of your hands, or watch as the waves wash them ashore and out again. It’s a breath-taking experience that seals the island’s status as a hidden treasure of the Far East.
Loei Province, Thailand
One of the most sparsely populated provinces in Thailand, Loei is among Asia’s best-kept secrets. Lush mountain greenery and easy access to the tranquil Mekong River make Loei one of the more peaceful destinations in Thailand, and a great choice for visitors looking to enjoy some much-needed R&R.
Compared to bustling cities like Bangkok, those staying in Loei can expect to experience an altogether more relaxed pace of life. A visit to the Dan Sai Folk Museum is a must, where you’ll find an archive of masks and costumes worn during the local Phi Ta Khon festival. Or, if you’re feeling more on the active side, venture to the top of Phu Tok Mountain to enjoy breath-taking views of the region.
Asia is a somewhat unexpected hub of diverse travel opportunities – many of which have been left relatively untouched by mass tourism. From secluded island breaks to thrilling cave exploration, it’s a continent brimming with experiences unmatched elsewhere in the world.