The Best Asian Travel Tours For 2020
With more than 20 countries to explore, Asian travel tours offer something for everyone. It’s a feast for the senses everywhere you turn. Sample coconut soup and crispy fried noodles from a street vendor in Bangkok. Experience the bustle of Tokyo and Singapore or relax on a beautiful beach in Borneo or Bali.
An Asia trip can help you find peace in the majestic temples of Angkor Wat or walk on the Great Wall of China. Find adventure climbing a mountain in the Himalayas or riding an elephant in India. You are about to embark on the tour of your dreams.
The diverse experiences that the countries of Asia present can result in a difficult decision when selecting one or more destinations on the world’s largest continent.
No two experiences in Asia are quite alike. That’s why Asia Vacation Group offers a good selection of travel tours, each designed to tickle the senses, immerse you in local culture and give you a thoroughly unforgettable experience. Booking a tour in the exotic lands of Asia offer a number of benefits.
When on an Asian tour you won’t have to organize transportation, determine which hotels meet your standards or lineup all activities. You’ll have a tour guide who speaks the language and knows local customs. All of these pluses give you more time to focus on why you traveled to Asia in the first place—to experience the richness and diversity of life here.
Types of Asian Tour Packages
Hundreds of Asia travel experiences are available, so how do you find the best one? Start by searching for one that fits your capabilities and interests. Many comprehensive tours will give you a taste of everything by presenting the highlights.
On these excursions, you’ll see major cities, historical sites, experience cultural sites and have time for relaxation or shopping. When traveling with children, you must also pay attention to activities that will match their interests and abilities.
Finally, timing of Asia trips is crucial. Some remote locations are simply difficult, if not impossible, to visit in winter. Similarly, you won’t fully enjoy Southeast Asia as much if you visit during monsoon season when drenching rains occur almost every day.
Best Time of Year for Asia Tours
The breadth of Asia results in drastic differences between climates in its regions. If you want to visit several countries at once, deciding on the ideal time is often challenging. For some countries, such as Nepal, there is no “best time” to visit. Rather, timing should coincide with your desired activities. Other considerations involve personal preferences or small windows of time due to work or school restrictions. If you have restrictions that limit you to summer months, yet you want to avoid heat and humidity, you may want to consider an Asian tour in more northern locations.
Timing for Asian Adventure Travel
Hiking and trekking is a big lure for some Asian travelers, particular in the Himalayas. Note that the countries where the world’s highest mountain range is located have extreme temperature swings within a short distance due to changes in elevation. Nepal ‘s climate is subtropical with four distinct seasons. Lowland plains generally have tropical temperatures, but if you want to venture to somewhere like Kathmandu, temperatures remain below freezing most of the year.
Usually, it’s best to plan an adventure into the higher elevations of Mongolia, Tibet or Nepal during the summer to avoid extreme cold and snow and for ease of travel. Travellers interested in climbing the Himalayas generally find the best Asia weather in March through May.
The opposite is true if you want to visit the Indian subcontinent or one of several countries in Southeast Asia to experience the jungles in those regions. India has hot summer suns and monsoons that sweep in from the east from May through October. The entire southern part of the continent experiences monsoons during that approximate time frame, with some regional variations.
Keep in mind that if you want to visit the jungles of Southeast Asia that the area is hot and humid year-round, although you’ll find some relief in December and January.
When Planning Travel Trips Around Asian Festivals, Watch The Weather
Travellers will find multiple festivals every month of the year. Chinese New Year, also called Tet, is celebrated in multiple countries. Because Tet follows a lunar calendar, the dates change yearly, but its usual time is late January or early February.
The Holi Festival of Colours, also called the Festival of Love, occurs in India in March just before the start of the monsoon season. The Taiwan Lantern Festival is one of the most popular of its kind, occurs on the first full-moon night of the new lunar year, so it’s possible to attend this festival along with Tet.
Dragon Boat festivals are also prevalent throughout eastern Asia with the most famous one in China and occur on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar year, generally sometime in June. Many Southeast Asian festivals are Buddhist in nature and tend to occur in spring or early fall on the edge of monsoon season.
If you have your heart set on experiencing a particular festival, note the weather for the country in which it occurs. As many festivals occur in several countries at once, you may want to adjust your travel schedule to avoid extremes in weather for the best travel experience.
If the best possible weather and travel conditions are your goals, attend whatever local festivals you’ll find on your Asian travel tours. Chances are you’ll experience at least one.
Weather Considerations for your Asian Trip
The Best Time to Tour Southeast Asia
Located south of China, east of the Indian subcontinent and northwest of Australia, Southeast Asia has two main regions: mainland Southeast Asia, historically called Indochina, comprised of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and mainland Malaysia.
Maritime Southeast Asia is historically known as the East Indies. It comprises the islands of Malaysia, most of Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines, along with several smaller, lesser-known islands.
Thailand, Malaysia and Laos
These countries tend to be cooler near Christmas time, which extends to the monsoon season that starts in May. Humidity eventually gives way around the beginning of October. November through the end of winter is the best time to visit, as weather is generally dry and sunny.
The beaches in the south of Thailand tend to have a different weather pattern from the rest of the area with the hot season running from March through May. Along the southwest coast of Thailand, including Phuket, Krabi and the Similan Islands, the best time to visit is December through March.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has similar annual conditions to Thailand with heavy rains from May to October. The period after October has clear skies and lesser heat, making the cooler months until February the ideal time to explore temples and local culture. Winter is the best season for travellers as it has the best weather of the year.
This country’s long coastline of 2,030 miles from north to south means than it has varying weather conditions. Geographical features such as a diverse topography that includes mountains, lowland jungles and Vietnam’s location on the South China Sea, lead to its unique climate.
Beginning in the winter, the more temperate northern part of the country can be cool and foggy, while the south is warm and dry. All regions experience monsoons, but the north has a cool season between October and February, while the south is warmer and drier during the same period.
Cambodia and Singapore
These two countries have more consistent weather conditions with daily highs average around 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year. December and January experience slightly cooler conditions, although travelers should be aware that downpours can occur throughout the year. Cambodia’s dry season runs from May to November. Winter is the high travel season as the weather is the driest, coolest and sunniest.
Indonesia has a climate unlike any other Asian country. Because of the country’s location near the Equator, temperatures are consistently warm, averaging 30 degrees Celsius. Indonesia’s 17,000 islands experience two seasons: wet and dry, although travelers can expect showers now matter when you visit.
The months of April through June see the lowest humidity, with heat and humidity rising in July and lasting through the end of summer. Generally, the best time to visit is May through September, although travelers will notice some regional differences.
Best Times To Tour South Asia In 2020
India and Sri Lanka
India is a land of many different climates, given its location from north to south, so one cannot group the entire country into a single weather guide. If you want to visit the northern regions, look toward guides that talk about the Himalayan regions.
Monsoons typically run from May through October in the south, which can result in ankle-deep waters even in city centres during this time of the year. Following the Holi festival, temperatures can become extremely hot, reaching over 40 degrees centigrade. Even in the cooler months, temperatures are typically in the mid-20s.
As noted earlier, travellers can find great weather in Nepal year-round, but if you’re planning to visit the lowland jungles, the best time to visit is immediately after monsoon season when the local flora is a bright green.
September and October also have the Hindu festival of Dashain, Nepal’s longest and most important religious and cultural festival celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists and Kirats.
In Sri Lanka, temperatures tend to mimic those in southern India as monsoons tend to occur between May and October and then again between December and March. Inland temperatures tend to be more temperate.
This gorgeous archipelago in the Indian Ocean is blessed with gorgeous weather year-round thanks to its position near the Equator. The country has two monsoon seasons—the northeast monsoon, which is drier, and the southwest monsoon, which is wetter.
The ideal time to visit is during the northeast monsoon from December to April when the humidity levels are lower. March and April are the hottest months, although tropical breezes temper the heat.
Best Times to Tour East Asia
The spring months of March through May, which includes many local cherry blossom festivals, along with fall, are the best times to visit China. Springtime offers spectacular scenery thanks to blooming trees along with comfortable temperatures. The country experiences hot, humid summers and drenching downpours. Temperatures begin to cool in September and can become downright frigid in many areas in winter.
Japan is even more famous for its pink cherry blossoms in the spring, which hit their peak in March and April. June through August sees sweltering heat in the cities, along with monsoons toward the end of summer. Autumn is another pleasant time to visit and has the added benefit of fewer crowds, resulting in the best tour times..
Not only is Tibet a land of extreme altitudes, but it’s also a land of extreme weather. April to October is the best time to visit as you’ll experience temperatures averaging about 10 degrees Celsius, although temperatures in Lhasa can range as high as 23 degrees Celsius.
The air also has a higher oxygen content, making it easier to breathe. Be aware that travellers cannot go to Tibet during the Tibetan New Year, which lasts approximately six weeks in March and April, as the government doe not issue Tibetan Entry Permits to outsiders.
Multi-Country Asia Tour Packages
Undoubtedly, Asia is one of the best regions in the world for multi-country tour packages because of the proximity of many different countries. Many travellers, especially those coming to Asia for the first time want to see the most famous sites on a single tour.
A multi-country tour will allow you to do so while also giving you’re a taste of several different cultures and cuisines along with local history. Consider what your ideal holiday is. Do you like beaches, big cities, adventures in the jungle, or a mix of all three?
If you’re a foodie, tasting various cuisines is important, while history buffs will want to visit ancient temples and similar sites. Multi-country tours usually have a longer time frame, from 14 days and up.
The best multi-country Asian tours are an ideal starting point for those individuals to sample a wide variety of cultures and then return at a later time for an in-depth visit to a favourite country. Most multi-country Asia tour packages concentrate on a specific region such as East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Himalayas.
Multi-Country East Asia Tours
East Asia is the most powerful region of the continent as it encompasses a variety of bold cultures such as China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia.
From crowded urban centres to pristine national parks, a grand tour of this region will provide you with and overview everything that makes up modern and historical Asia.
A comprehensive East Asian tour can last up to 28 days and generally will include three countries and can include all or some of these destinations and attractions:
Ueno Park is perhaps the city’s biggest attraction. Originally part of the Kaneiji Temple, it is one of Tokyo’s primary cherry blossom locations with more than 1,000 cherry trees on the property. The park is home to many hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties during March and April. The Ueno Toshogu Shrine and the Hanazono Inari Shrine also boast similar events.
Another popular attraction is the Meiji Jingu, a large Shinto shrine constructed in 1920 to worship Emperor Meiji, who was instrumental in helping Japan become a modern state. The huge Yoyogi Park surrounds the shrine.
A popular stop for travellers and locals like is the Ameyoko Old Market, an expansive open-air market with vendors selling an array of toys, jewelry, clothes and food.
This former capital of Japan is home to Todaiji Temple, which houses the largest Buddha statue in the country. Nearby Nara Deer Park is home to hundreds of deer that roam the park freely. The deer are considered national treasures and messengers of the gods.
As one of the cities devastated by the dropping of an atomic bomb by the Americans in 1945 during World War II, Hiroshima stands as a living memorial to those killed and injured by the blast. The Bomb Dome, the only building left partially standing after the explosion, is located in the Peace Memorial Park and is an iconic symbol of the city.
Visit the Cenotaph and the Peace Memorial Museum to gain a greater understanding of the suffering caused by war and nuclear weapons.
In contrast, take a ferry to Miyajima Island, one of the top three scenic spots in Japan. Long regarded as the Island of Gods, Miyajima is home to the Itsukushima Shrine, which actually floats in the sea, along with its Great Torii, considered the boundary between the human and spirit worlds.
Located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu Nationa Park west of Tokyo, Hakone is a town in the mountains know for is hot springs resorts and view of Mount Fuji. The town also has Hakone Shrine, a Shinto shrine with a red tori gate that overlooks Lake Ashi, famous for its boat tours.
A trek through the Owakudani Valley will allow you to see the area’s boiling sulphur springs and purchase an egg cooked in the area’s naturally hot waters, which is believe to prolong one’s life by seven years.
The beautiful former capital of Japan is on the island of Honshu. The city is famous for its numerous attractions that include the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), Nijojo Castle and Kyomizu Temple, which is full of little shops selling Japanese pottery and silk goods along with Kyoto memorabilia. Nijo Castle, a fortification built for Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period, is another popular site.
The city is also known for its traditional wooden houses and formal traditions such a kaiseki dining that consists of multiple courses of precise. It’s a great place to partake in a formal Japanese tea ceremony. Geishas are found in the city’s Gion district.
Arashiyama and Sagano
This resort area is centuries old as it abounds with natural beauty that includes pristine rivers and mountains. Located west of Kyoto, it’s popular in the spring for cherry blossoms and in the fall for colourful leaves. Many Japanese romantic legends have their origins here.
The capital of South Korea is a huge metropolis that combines modern buildings, high-tech subways and pop culture with Buddhist temples, palaces and street markets. Visit the futuristic Dongdaemin Design Plaza as well as Gyeongbokgung Palace, which once had more than 7,000 rooms and Jogyesa Temple, site of ancient locust and pine trees.
Gongju, the old capital of the Baekje Kingdom is a step back in time as the dynasty lasted 678 years from 660 BCE to 18 AD. Its primary attractions include the Magoksa Temple where you can experience a tea ceremony with a Buddhist monk, the tomb f King Muryeong and the Gongsanseong Fortress.
One of South Korea’s five major cities, Daejeon is the home of Korean traditional culture. Visit a Jeonju Hanok, a Korean traditional house village. Enjoy a local favorite called bibimbap, a local favorite of warm white rice topped with namul or kimchi and gochjujang, soy sauce or doenjang.
Travellers will find a wealth of cultural experiences in the smaller towns of Korea. East Asian tours can include visits to local spots such as Boseong where you can visit a green tea plantation. Suncheonman Bay is famous for its reed marshes, Odongdo Island has its coastal treasures and Jinju has the Jinjuseon Fortress, linked to the Japanese invasion in 1592.
The largest port city in Korea is known for its beaches, mountains and temples. It is also home to the Centum City Shopping Mall with the largest department store in the world, Shinsegae. Hacundae Beach has the Sea Life Aquarium and a square with traditional games such as tug-of-war, while Grangalli Beach is home to many bars. Beomeosa Temple is a Buddhist shrine at the foot of Geumjeong Mountain.
Historically called Seorabeol, Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla. Among the attractions here are the Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju National Museum, Tumuli Park and the Cheonmseongdae Observatory.
The site of three battles during the Korean War, Wonju is famous today for the Hanji Theme Park and its museum, where visitors can learn about this history of this traditional Korean paper how to make pieces of art made from it.
This country in northeastern South Korea is known for its markets, pine mushrooms, fish and stunning sunrises. Nearby is Mount Seoraksan National Park, full of hiking trails and gorgeous scenery including mountains, cliffs and waterfalls.
China’s capital city is a must for any serious Asian traveler. Not only is this a modern city, it’s also full of ancient buildings that typify China, along with historical sites, both contemporary and ancient.
A must-see is the Temple of Heaven, the largest structure in the world for staging sacrifices to the world beyond and the site where emperors prayed for an abundant year. Nor only is this ancient site home to some of the most exquisite Chinese architecture, it also gives you a chance to witness Tai Chi, Chinese Kung Fu and other public activities.
No visit to Beijing is complete without visiting Tiananmen Square, the largest city centre square in the world, and the site of many major historical and political events. Nearby is the Forbidden City, the complex that was the former Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty through the Qing Dynasty. It is also the largest and most complete ancient wooden structure in the world.
Situated northwest of Beijing city centre is the Summer Palace, the largest and best preserved royal park in China. Constructed around Longevity Hill and Kuming Lake, the Summer Palace includes landscaped gardens, temples and pavilions designed to achieve harmony with nature.
Walk along the Long Corridor, regarded as the most classic feature on these grounds to witness the vibrant painting on the structure.
Many consider the area that the real life of Beijing’s residents lies in the Hutong, or narrow streets, and Siheyuan (courtyards) in the older part of the city.
Here you can get an insight into the traditional lifestyle and culture of ordinary Beijingers and view the single-story houses that include delicate gardens interlaced among the narrow lanes.
Xi’an may be considered China’s living history book. In ancient times, it had the name Chang’an, meaning eternal city, and is one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization. Here, visitors will find more than 3,000 years of history with more than 1,100 years as the capital city, giving Xi’an an amazing heritage.
Xi’an is also the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, the network of trade routes that connected China with the Middle East and Europe.
The Terracotta Army, a massive collection of life-size terra cotta sculptures of warriors and horses in battle formations, is a must-see. As one of the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century, the figures were originally the funerary project for Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified Imperial China.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is located approximately 40 km northwest of Xi’an.
Other famous attractions include the Wild Goose Pagoda, a well-preserved Tan Dynasty Buddhist Temple, along with the Jianfu Temples and the Xi’an Museum.
Xi’an is also the birthplace of Tai Chi, the internal martial art known for its defense training, health benefits and meditation. Tai Chi originated from multiple sources, including the Book of Changes, Taoism and Buddhism.
This southern Chinese city is set amongst a dramatic landscape of limestone karst hills. The area has two major lakes, Shahu and Bonfhu, that remain from a medieval-era moat that surrounded the city.
Also notable are the Longji Rice Terraces that cut significant steps into the surrounding hills. Nearby ethnic villages that are home to the Zhuang and Yao peoples will allow you to get a glimpse into the daily life of these ethnic peoples.
Other notable sites include the Elephant Trunk Hill, considered one of the emblems of the city, along with Reed Flute Cave with its distinct stalagmite and stalactites.
This modern city is the greatest metropolis in mainland China and is its financial hub. Shanghai’s heart is the Bund, a waterfront promenade with colonial-era buildings, while the Pudong District’s futuristic skyline rises across the Huangpu River.
Along with these futuristic influences, Shanghai also has the Shanghai Tower and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower with its distinctive pink spheres. Other highlights in this vast city include the Shanghai Silk Museum, the Shanghai City History Museum, the finance and trade zone in Pudong.
Other areas that you won’t want to miss in Shanghai are Nong Tang, the alleys in Shikumen where you can find architectural features unique to Shanghai; Yuyuan Garden, the classical garden in the city centre along with the Yuyuan Bazaar. Also noteworthy are the Shanghai City History Museum along with the Bund and its gorgeous buildings along the Huangpu River.
Taipei and Taiwan
Lying approximately 140 km off the coast of southeast China, Taiwan is a group of 22 islands in the main Taiwanese group and 64 additional islands in an archipelago to the west that is officially called the Republic of China.
Most travelers visit the main island on which the capital city of Taipei is located. In addition to the ultra-modern city of Taipei, the island is packed with Buddhist sites along with gorgeous inland and scenic coastal areas.
Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery, the most famous Buddhist holy place in southern Taiwan, allows visitors to learn about Buddhism during a walking tour that includes the Main Shrine and Great Buddha Land, which includes a huge Buddha statue.
The southern and eastern coasts of the island provide outstanding scenery. Kenting National park at the southern tip offers 60 km of coral-rimmed shoreline that includes notable sites such as Chuanfan Rock, Oluanpi Lighthouse, Maopitou Coastal Scenic Area ad Longpan Park. The East Coast National Scenic Area is called Taiwan’s Last Unspoiled Land runs for 170 km, and contains a variety of landforms.
Nearby is Taroko Gorge National Park with the exceptionally beautiful Taroko Gorge, a narrow ravine created by the Liwu River. Over many millennia, the river cut into marble mountains to create sheer walls of rock, forested peaks and towering cliffs. Among the prime sites here are the Tunnel of Nine Turns, Ci Mo Bridge, Eternal Spring Shrine, Swallow Grotto and Qinshui Cliff.
Located on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary, Hong Kong is technically a part of southern China but is allowed to operate as its own country. As one of the world’s foremost financial centres and commercial ports, Hong Kong is a bustling, crowded city with the highest concentration of skyscrapers in the world.
The administrative area includes Lantau Island, where you experience lush valleys, mountains and spiritual enlightenment at multiple Buddhist sites. Visit the Giant Buddha on the Ngong Ping Plateau. Nearby is the Po Lin Monastery with its Tian Tan Buddha and its Giant Buddha Exhibition Hall.
Most Asian travels to Hong Kong also include a visit to Macau, another autonomous region across the Pearl River. Known as the “Last Vegas of Asia,” Macau has the Venetian, a world-famous casino on the Cotai Strip. Among the sites in the city include the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, A-Ma Temple, Penha Hill and the Barrier Gate.
Much of the world is unfamiliar with Ulaanbaatar, yet the capital city is Mongolia’s largest metropolis. East meets west here as you’ll see Buddhist tradition meets Soviet-style architecture. Stroll in the Sukhbaatar Square or learn about Mongolia’s history at the National Museum.
Visit the country’s most important monastery, the Ganan Khiid or the tour the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, a large museum complex that encompasses the Gate of Peace and Happiness, the Cooling Pavilion and six temples, each containing Buddhist artwork and scripture.
Located in southern Mongolia, this city is a base for exploring the Gobi Desert. From here, travellers are able to see some of its wonders without venturing too far into the wilderness. Yolyn Am, or Vulture Canyon, is an oasis of streams and gorges that is home to the Lammergeir, the vulture from which the canyon gets this name.
The Khongoryn Els in Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park are 800-meter high sand dunes that are 12 kilometers wide and 100 meters long. These massive sand dunes are widely regarded as the most beautiful in Mongolia and reportedly sing when the wind blows. The dunes are at the northwest corner of the Gurvan Saikhan Mountain Range, about 180 km from Dalanzadgad.
While in this area, you won’t want to pass up a chance to learn about the Bactrian camel, the sturdy animal traditionally known as the Prince of Gobi because of its carrying capabilities and resistance to extreme weather.
The Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park is also home to the Flaming Cliffs of Bayanzag, also known as the Cemetery of Dinosaurs. Formed 60 to 70 million years ago, this area, with its red rock formations, red sands, shrubs and vast empty spaces, has been called a “real Jurassic Park” because of the numerous dinosaur remains found here. Another stunning area is Moltsog Els, a long range of scenic dunes northeast of the Flaming Cliffs.
Multi-Country Southeast Asia Tours
Two distinct regions compose Southeast Asia: the mainland, dubbed Indochina by European explorers and the maritime countries, which extend southward to the Equator. Eleven countries are in the region and include Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. The region’s maritime countries are Brunei on the northeast coast of the island of Borneo, Indonesia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste.
Southeast Asia has incredible diversity in history, religion and culture, making for unforgettable holidays that change as quickly as one crosses borders. Booking a best Asia tour here will allow you to combine romantic, lush beaches with rainforests, peaceful temples, the ruins of lost civilizations, along with flavourful foods.
It’s no wonder that these countries are some of the world’s most popular destinations. Come along and learn about the unique beauty of this area.
Best tours to Southeast Asia vacations often start in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. One of the first places to visit is Pak Khong Talat, the large and colourful flower and vegetable market that allows you to experience real local life. Here you will find flowers from throughout Thailand sold at wholesale prices.
The market also has sections that sell fruits, vegetables, herb, spices and chili peppers in all sizes and colours. Complement your market visit with a longtail boat ride along the canals to see traditional Thai houses and typical daily life, especially in a quieter part of Bangkok known as Khlongs.
Must-see sites in Bangkok include the Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on palace grounds, which is considered the most important and sacred Buddhist Temple in Thailand.
Another well-known temple deserving of a visit is Wat Arun, or Temple of the Dawn in Bangkok’s Yai district.
Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai
Located in a mountainous region of northern Thailand, Chiang Rai is best reached by flights from Bangkok. It’s loaded with charming temples, including the White Temple, which is a privately-owned art exhibit. Nearby is Chiang Mai with the Baan Change Elephant Park. Spend an entire day to observe and learn about the daily life and behavior of the elephants. While here, visitors can wear traditional clothing and prepare meals for the elephants, including fruit and herbal rice balls.
If you’re looking for a place to unwind, Phuket Island is the ticket. With 540 square kilometers of land and dozens of beautiful beaches, Phuket is diverse and exciting. Here you’ll find a rich culture, beautiful coast, spectacular natural sights and all kinds of activities. Explore sheer limestone karsts or sail in the emerald waters of Phang Na Bay. In the evening, travellers have their choice of many restaurants with outstanding cuisine and vibrant nightlife in clubs and bars.
The ancient capital of Luang Prabang Province in northern Laos is at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. It’s known for its many Buddhist temples, including Wat Xieng Thong, dating from the 16th century and a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional art, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism.
The city is also known for its morning and evening markets as well as its exquisite fusion cuisine.
Also worth a visit are the Royal Palace Museum and the temples Wat Visoun and Wat Xieng Thong. Cap off your visit here at the top of Phousi Mountain where you’ll discover the gilded and holy stupa and indulge in a glorious view.
Outside of the city, thousands of Buddha effigies watch from the Pak Ou Caves overlooking the Mekong River. South of Luang Prabang is the Khouang Si Waterfall, a three-level waterfall that is a favorite of travellers to Laos.
Vietnam’s capital is famous for its centuries-old architecture and culture that has rich Chinese and French influences in addition to native Vietnamese. The heart of the city is the Old Quarter with its narrow streets that are arranged by trades. It’s a great place to take a rickshaw tour. You’ll find many little temples here, with each one more unique than the next.
Learn about the life of Vietnamese revolutionary leader and president at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Ho Chi Minh House on Stilt. Visit the Hoa Lo Prison, used by French colonists to house political prisoners and the North Vietnamese for American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
Get an insight into the 54 different cultural groups in Vietnam at the Museum of Ethnology. You’ll also enjoy Buddhist sites such as One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature and Ngoc Son Temple.
This mountain town in northwest Vietnam is one of the country’s top destination thanks to its towering peaks and steep rice terraces that produce amazing views along with nearby picturesque ethnic villages. This area is home to distinct ethnic minorities who are willing to open their homes to travellers to help them learn about the unique local cultures.
The H’Mong and Dao people are particularly welcoming, allowing you to experience hands-on activities with them. Visit tribal villages such as Cat Cat, Tao Phin, Lao Chai and Ta Van. You’ll also enjoy breathtaking landscapes on the way, such as the stunning Love Waterfall, Sapa Lake and Muong Hoa Valley.
This area is also excellent for trekking. Head to the top of the country’s highest mountain, Mount Fansipan, or take a cable car up there for a panoramic view of the valley below. An alternative is to head to Heaven Gate, the highest point on the Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range to get a majestic view of Mount Fansipan.
Sapa is also famous for its markets where the Flack and Flower H’Mong, Red Dao, Tay and other ethnic minorities sell their handicraft and buy provisions.
Ha Long Bay
Known for its emerald waters and towering limestone islands topped with rainforest Ha Long Bay is popular for junk boat and kayaking tours that take you past aptly named islets such as Stone Dog and Teapot. This area is popular for scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking. Visit the Vung Vieng floating fishing village to get a taste of this unique lifestyle as well as taste some of the local catch.
Not far from Da Nang is Hoi An on the central coast. Considered by some to be the prettiest town in Vietnam, Hoi An is known for its well-preserved Ancient Town with many canals flanked by coconut palms. You’ll find a mix of architecture here, ranging from wooden Chinese shop-houses to colorful French colonial buildings and ornate Vietnamese tube houses.
The iconic Japanese Bridge, with its pagoda, is the entrance-way along with the Chinese Temple. Hoi An is also a great place to learn about traditional fishing techniques that use unique bamboo basket boats.
Ho Chi Minh City
The financial centre of Vietnam, located in the southeastern portion of the country, was formerly known as Saigon when it was the capital of South Vietnam. Street food culture is prominent and incredibly diverse here. Take a food tour to allow you to experience as many different types of food as possible.
This vast maze of rivers, swamps and islands in southern Vietnam is home to floating markets, numerous pagodas and ethnic villages. Boats are the primary means of transportation in this region, which produces more than half of Vietnam’s rice output. The area is also a biological wonder, with more than 1,000 animal and plant species discovered between 1997 and 2007.
Three towns dominate the Mekong—My Tho, Can Tho in the heart of the delta, and Chau Doc near the Cambodian border. You won’t want to miss the Vinh Trang Pagoda in Can Tho, built in 1849 with a mixture of architectural influences that include elements for the European Renaissance and Romanesque periods, Japanese enameled tile and French decorative flowers.
All types of agriculture, in addition to rice paddies, are abundant in the Mekong. Cruise past quaint villages on motorized boats and enjoy local life in rowboats on the smaller tributaries and water palm canals. Visitors can taste various kinds of fruits at local orchards and visit fruit drying kilns and workshops for drying coconut.
Enjoy the Cai Rang floating market where you can view locals going about their daily tasks. Visit a rice husking mill and a shop where rice noodles are made. In Chau Su, make sure to visit the Trau Su Wild Bird Sanctuary and Blue sky Crocodile Farm for an exciting look at these ancient creatures.
Cambodia’s capital sits at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap river and played an important part in the Khmer Empire and in French colonial regimes. The massive art deco Central Market is the city’s heart, while travellers love to walk its riverfront lined with parks, restaurants and bars.
City highlights include Wat Phnom, the royal palace, and the National Museum, which has thousands of pre- and post-Angkor artifacts.
An important part of history regarding the Khmer Rouge regime, often considered Cambodia’s darkest hour, is here in Phnom Penh. Two of the most Import are the Toul Seng Museum and Choeung Ek Field.
The first is a former secondary school that was used as a security prison during the Cambodian genocide in the late 1970s. Choueung Ek Field, a former fruit orchard, is the site where many killed in the genocide are buried, It is the best known of the sites called the Killing Fields, detailed in the movie of the same name.
Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia is the country’s biggest attraction, thanks primarily to the ancient Khmer period temple complex of Angkor Wat. Travel Asia here has become a highlight for many, not only because of the temples but also because of the wealth of activities and attractions in the surrounding area that include well-preserved colonial buildings, museums, cultural performances and traditional markets.
Make sure you take in a traditional Apsara dance performance, visit the Old Market, and take part in the cosmopolitan dining scene while here.
The Angkor temples attract more than one million foreign visitors every year. Constructed in the 12th century as devotional centres of the sprawling Khmer Empire, this temple complex is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
While the Buddha images, lotus-blossom towers and intricate carved bas reliefs from Hindu mythology will entrance you, realize that these temples are the remnants of an advanced civilization.
Also, while here, you’ll take in Angkor Thom, the inner royal city constructed by Javayaman VII, the Khmer Empire’s warrior king, including the Bayon Temple, the Terrace of the Leper King and Elephant’s Terrace.
Other popular local sites include the Banteay Srei Temples, and the Ta Prohm and Ta Keo temples. Northeast of Siem Reap is the Beng Mealea, constructed in the 12th century during the same time as Angkor Wat. The nearby Rolous Temple Complex also contains the ruins of the first capital of the Khmer Empire, as well as the Preah Ko and Lolei monuments.
The names of the country and its capital have both changed. Yangon, formerly Rangoon, is the largest city in Myanmar, formerly Burma. The capital is a mix of modern skyscrapers, British colonial buildings and gilded Buddhist pagodas. The famed Shwedagon Paya, a huge shimmering pagoda complex, draws thousands of pilgrims yearly.
Make sure to visit the Chauk Htat yi Pagoda with its 70-meter reclining Buddha, the 2,000-year-old Sule Pagoda and the Maha Bandoola Garden, home to several independent monuments.
Bagan is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar. During the 9th through 13th centuries, it was the capital of the Paga Kindom, which unified the areas that would become contemporary Myamar. The city’s attractions include the Hyilominio Temple, Shwezigon Pagoda and the Ananda Temple, sometimes called the Westminster Abbey of Burma, with its four Buddhas, each facing in the cardinal directions.
Bagan is also a centre for Burmese lacquerware, prized as some of the country’s best artwork. Climb to the top of the Bagan Viewing Tower to get a 360-degree view of the area’s temples and pagodas.
The former royal capital in northern Myanmar in the Ayeyarwady River has at its centre the restored Mandalay Palace from the Konbaung Dynasty. The city is also renowned for the Mahagandayon Monastery, the country’s largest teaching monastery located in the Amarapura town.
In the Sagaing Hill district, the Tha Kya Di Tha nunnery is home to 1,000 nuns who practice Buddhist scriptures. The Kethodaw Pagoda is notable for its hundreds of marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist scriptures.
Mandalay is also known for its gorgeous scenery. Near Kuthodaw, a covered stairway takes visitors to Mandalay Hill where you can partake in gorgeous views of the city. The U Bein Bridge over the charming Taungthaman Lake, is the word’s oldest teak bridge, constructed in 1850 from the remains of a royal palace.
The bridge is exceptionally beautiful in the evening when the setting sun’s rays bathe the bridge in natural colors.
South Asia Multi-Country Tours 2020
The eight countries of South Asia are arguably the most exotic in the world. Including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, these lands have virtually every geographical feature, ranging from the sea level wonders of the Maldives to the towering heights of the Himalayas in Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan.
The land traditionally known as Kashmir lies among India, Pakistan and China and is predominantly mountainous with deep, narrow valleys and high, barren plateaus. Perhaps nowhere else do pristine landscapes and untouched culture and tradition come together better than in Bhutan, the Thunder Dragon Kingdom, named so because of the large, violent thunderstorms that come down from the Himalayas.
Myth and legend are also part of the 1,200 islands that make up the archipelago of the Maldives, which many experts believe is the world’s best vacation destination. Come along on an unforgettable adventure in the lands of South Asia, where travelers can truly experience a different world.
Wonderfully chaotic and incredibly photogenic, Old Delhi and New Delhi are unlike any other area on earth and a wonderful beginning point to any South Asia 2020 travels. Steeped in history, yet overflowing with modern life, this Indian region pulsates with life that will leave you breathless with its intensity.
The emporiums here are multi-level, gift-filled markets that have a dizzying array of goods. Delhi tantalizes your taste buds with flavours from every area of the subcontinent, so don’t forget to sample street food such as sizzling kebabs or aloo tikki.
Visitors pass through ancient crowded streets and alleys to visit buildings with magnificent Mughal architecture along with UNESCO sites such as Jama Masjid, the Red Fort, India’s monument celebrating independence from Great Britain and Humayan’s Tomb.
Must-see places also include the Raj Ghat, the burial ground of Gandhi and The Qutub Minar, a minaret in the Qutb complex. Photographic opportunities await you everywhere you venture and include Rashtrapati Bhawan, Bangla Sahib Gurudwar, Biria Temple and India Gate.
Agra is perhaps the most well-known of the cities in India’s Golden Triangle because of the mysticism and majesty of the Taj Mahal, one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.” Built between 1632 and 1648, the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum commissioned for the wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and is considered a perfect specimen of Muslim art in India.
This white marble structure encompasses Persian, Islamic, Turkish and Indian architectural styles. The complex also has formal gardens with raised pathways, sunken flowerbeds and a linear reflecting pool.
Although the Taj Mahal overshadows it, Agra Fort is one of the finest Mughal forts in India. Walk through courtyard after courtyard in this red-sandstone and marble fortress, which is a city within a city with vast underground sections.
Many of the structures, however, have been destroyed over the years, ending with the British who used the fort as a garrison. Much of the fort is off-limits to the general public as the Indian military still use it.
On the opposite bank of the Yamuna River directly across from the Taj Mahal is the Mehtab Bagh, a 500-year-old Mughal garden designed as an integral part of the Taj Mahal complex riverfront terrace pattern. Its width is identical to that of the Taj Mahal.
Known as the Pink City because of the color of its buildings, Jaipur is a photographer’s and shopper’s paradise for travel trips. It houses some of the country’s most ornate palaces, while many structures from he 1800s have a dusty pink hue.
Visitors can find all kinds of goods in markets here, including handicrafts, jewelry, fabrics and carpets. Among the most visited sites are the Amber Fort and Palace, built by Raja Mansingh, which are prime examples of Rajput architecture.
The walled city of Jaipur is home to the City Palace, Jantar, Martar’s Stone Observatory, Hawa Mahal and museums with magnificent collections of costumes, armor and miniature paintings.
Start your tour of this island off India’s southwest coast in Colombo, its commercial capital. Sri Lanka is home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities, with the majority of the population Sinhalese along with a large minority of Tamils.
A day tour here will take you to lush gardens and sites of natural beauty. The Peradeniya Botanical Garden offers an amazing experience for nature lovers with its Avenue of Royal Palms along with 10,000 giant trees and 4,000 species.
You’ll also see the Bamboos of Burma, a century-old Javan fig tree with roots measuring 1,800 square metres. Also noteworthy are the stunning Galle Face Green, Viharamahedevi Park, Cinnamon Gardens and the Pettah.
Just outside of Sigiriya is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, the world’s largest facility for abandoned Asian elephants. The orphanage also acts as a breeding ground. Here you can learn about elephant behavior and interact with these massive pachyderms. The nearby rock Fortress of Sigiriya, nearly 200 metres high, provides unparalleled views of the surrounding Sri Lankan Countryside.
The ancient capital of Sri Lanka is a UNESCO World Heritage site that contains well- preserved ruins of the Sinhala civilization. You’ll also visit the Maha Bodhi, the oldest documented tree in the world, said to be a descendant of the fig tree where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment.
Your tour will also include Dagobas, Rumanwelisaya, Abeygiri, Brazen Palace and the Jetawana Monasteries with its well preserved rock statues of Buddha. Another important site is the Isurumuniya Rock Temple, which has a viharaya connected to a cave with small stupa on the cliffs above.
The Golden Temple of Dambulla is a sacred site located in a five-cave complex that uses a drip line to keep the interior dry. Dating to the first century B.C.E., the caves are full of paintings and statues. The Temple of the Tooth, located in the royal palace complex in Kandy, holds a relic purported to be one of Buddha’s teeth, which had traditionally played a role in Sri Lankan politics.
After intense tours in the subcontinent, some travellers like to take a side trip to the Maldives for the ultimate in relaxation. Many consider this nation of 1,200 islands that sits atop an underwater mountain range the best vacation spot in Asia. Grouped in a double chain of 26 major atolls spread in a north-south direction, the Maldives is the flattest country in the world, rising to only seven feet above sea level. The Maldives has no counterpart when it comes to its unique geography and topography. Its culture and good native food closely follows that of Sri Lanka. Malè is the country’s capital city and comprises the entire island of the same name. The country’s international airport has frequent flights that connect the Maldives to many different countries in Asia as well as Europe and the Middle East. The Maldives is also a favourite destination of superyacht owners. Sunning, swimming, snorkeling, diving and other water sports are the major activities here.
Sitting at the foot of Mount Jomolhari ,the vast valley of Paro, with its town of the same name, is filled with historical sites and traditional buildings. While here, you’ll experience amazing views from Rinpung Dzong, which overlooks the Paro Valley. The valley is a great area for trekking when visiting Taktsang Goema, also called the Tiger’s Nest. Hire a trekking stick for your hike or ride a pony. Drukgyel Dzong is an ancient site encompassing ruins of a fortress that repelled numerous invasions of Tibetan armies. Kyichu Lhakhang is an old, sacred religious site that depicts the introduction of Buddhism into Bhutan.
Bhutan’s capital has a treasure trove of cultural sites. Simotokha is a centre of the Dzongkha language and tantric teaching, while the National Library houses precious Buddhist manuscripts and books about Himalayan culture and religion. Visit Zorig Chusum, an arts and crafts school, along with the Folk and Heritage Museum to see the tools and livelihood of the Bhutanese in medieval times and Revel in the beautiful architecture of Punakha Dzong, arguably the most beautiful building of its kind of Bhutan, housing both governmental and religious offices.
The road to Thimphu through the Himalayas is filled with wonders. You’ll drive through the Dochula Pass to see Mount Gangkarpuensum, Bhutan’s highest mountain. Wangdi, famous for its bamboo work, slate and carving, will give you a glimpse into the lives of locals as well as a gorgeous view of the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. You’ll be in for a surprise at Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of the divine madman Drukpa Kunley, whose unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism included a wooden phallus with a silver handle that is still used to bless people who visit the monastery on pilgrimage.
Few places in the world conjure an air of mysticism and romanticism, as does Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Set in a valley surrounded by the Himalayas, the old city has a network of maze-like alleys, with Durbar Square at its heart, famous for its unique structure and ornate embellishments.
West of the city atop a hill is Swayambhunath, a sacred Hindu temple that is a UNESCO Heritage site, which also provides great views of the valley. The Pashupatinath Temple, on the banks of the Bagmati River, honors Lord Shiva.
A visit to Boudhanath, a sacred Buddhist stupa moe than 2,5000 years old has four eyes witness the four cardinal directions and an important destination for Tibetan pilgrims.
Nearby towns such as Patan allow travellers to see local arts and crafts on display in the busy Patan Durbar Square. At the same time, Bahaktapur, a holy city of sacred devotees, is where you can see a full-size, masterful figure of a Malla emperor facing the Golden Gate.
One of Nepal’s most beautiful destinations, Pokhara is a wonderful place to rise early to witness glorious sunrises. Here, visitors will discover beautiful caves, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and a multitude of temples. Be sure to visit Devi’s Falls, whose Nepali name, Patale Change, means “underworld waterfall,” and Phewa Lake where you can simply enjoy the beautiful scenery and partake in paragliding at Sarangkot.
About a 150 km from Kathmandu is the town of Chitwan and Chitwan National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is home to many endangered wild mammals, including rhinoceros, tigers, leopards, sloth bears, wild bison, moe than 500 bird species and the nearly extinct Gharials crocodile. Travellers have the opportunities to partake in many different activities, including nature walks, canoe trips, a jeep safari and more. You can even take a bath with elephants, if you so wish! The town is also charming, giving you a chance to walk on the banks of the Rapti River to watch the sunset in a sub-tropical jungle.
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