Asia

Explore our most popular destinations
  • Cambodia

    Most visitors to Cambodia come for Angkor – to see the sunrise at this vast (the world’s biggest), legendary temple complex. Emerging from the jungle is unforgettable (as long as you hire a guide to steer you away from the tourist hotspots). After you’ve seen the big three temples – Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm – it’s worth seeking out a few lesser known ones such as Ta Keo, Ta Som and the small but exquisite Banteay Srei. These are about 45 minutes by car from Siem Reap, the former Khmer village and gateway to Angkor. Now Cambodia’s second city with several top hotels, it retains a laid-back charm. Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh is more frenetic with a vibrant riverside area on the banks of the Mekong river and the twin architectural attractions of the Royal Palace and the adjacent Silver Pagoda. Nearby, the National Museum of Cambodia offers peaceful gardens and impressive Khmer artworks. Away from the famous temples and the main cities, Cambodia is refreshingly undeveloped, and there are many other fascinating spots packed with Khmer culture. At the heart of this welcoming South-East Asian country lies Tonlé Sap lake with its fascinating floating villages and abundant wildlife. Beach resorts have cropped up in the south, the most well known being Sihanoukville, which has the reputation of a party town. If that’s not your scene, Kampot is a waterside enclave on the Gulf of Thailand. It’s known for its pepper, which pairs nicely with the famed crab from nearby coastal town Kep. Or try the Koh Rong archipelago, where Cambodia’s first five-star private island resort has the bonus of being ecologically friendly and supportive of the local community.
  • China

    China is vast, varied and beautiful, with a population of nearly 1.5 billion. Its history, cultures and traditions span more than 3,000 years – the oldest continuous civilisation on Earth – and the sheer variety of landscapes, flora and fauna is mind-boggling. From the ancient Great Wall to the Terracotta Warriors there are many world-famous sites on mainland China to see. Regional cuisine styles are a foodie’s dream and hyper-modern cities such as Hong Kong are havens for shopping.Mainland China has inspired travellers for centuries. To the north lie the windswept steppes of Mongolia, while in the south are the balmy islands of the South China Sea. To the west there are the soaring mountains of the Himalayas, and in the east the valleys and plains of China's mightiest rivers. The first Chinese Emperor sought to unite ‘all things under heaven’, and China’s almost endless array of man-made and natural wonders – including some of the greatest spectacles on Earth – offer the perfect combination for a full and varied trip.Seeing the Great Wall of China – stretching 8,851km in total – is a must, as is a visit to see the different ranks of soldiers, the chariots and the horses of the Terracotta Warriors near the fabled city of Xi'an, one of the oldest in China. For breathtaking beauty, don’t miss the Li river, which winds its way through stunning landscapes, while the bamboo forests of Sichuan are a good place to see China’s charismatic pandas.The diversity of China's cities is equally impressive. The capital, Beijing, once choked with smog but now enjoying clearer skies thanks to the largest air-purification system in the world, is home to such awe-inspiring sights as the Forbidden City, the world's largest palace, and the imposing Tiananmen Square. Shanghai is a modern metropolis, where the fast pace is matched only by the rate at which the impressive, futuristic skyscrapers climb. And for less obvious points of call, visit the newest hotspots such as Chengdu, or head to the verdant and breathtaking city of Guilin, which is renowned for its lakes and mountains.Whether you want to engage with history or savour fantastic food, seek out natural wonders or embrace regional traditions, China deserves exploring in depth.
  • India

    Colourful and chaotic, India is often described as an assault on all the senses, and any visitor will immediately agree. Even allowing for the pampered confines of luxury hotels and escorted tours, this is not a place for the faint-hearted. But dive in and you’ll be richly rewarded by the compelling culture, astounding architecture and fabulous food. This massive subcontinent is broadly divided between the dry, dusty north and the humid, lush south. In the north the frenetic capital of Delhi, together with “the pink city” Jaipur and Agra, home to the astonishing Taj Mahal, form the Golden Triangle – many a traveller’s first taste of India. Spectacular Mughal architecture, typified by the Taj Mahal, is dotted throughout the north. Rajasthan, India’s largest state and synonymous with maharajas, has an impressive array of fortresses and palaces in the beguiling cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur. The region also has copious wildlife, from birds and butterflies to monkeys and tigers, and so is a good spot for safaris and nature excursions. Further north is the mountainous, sometimes snowy Himachal Pradesh region, including the cooling hill station of Shimla. To the east is Varanasi, on the banks of the sacred Ganges, and further afield Kolkata, the former British capital where fine colonial-era architecture remains. On the west coast lies sprawling Mumbai, the film and fashion centre of India, and further south the beach resorts of Goa and the more serene Kerala. The latter, perhaps the gentlest introduction to India, has the added attraction of beautiful backwaters – best explored by converted rice boat. With a huge population comes a diversity of religions – Hindu, Muslim and Sikh being the main ones – and languages (around 30). The varied cuisine is also influenced by religion, geography, climate and health (via the traditional Indian practice of Ayurveda). Nationwide, though, vegetarian food is prevalent, making it one of the best destinations for veggies. With so much to experience there’s a temptation to pack in too much but resist: several trips are better than one that may leave you templed outing and with fort fatigue.
  • Indonesia

    What makes Indonesia such a fascinating destination is its sheer variety. The country has the fourth-largest population on the planet and there are more than 300 different ethnicities. Some 17,000 islands extend 5,000km around the equator and they feature an incredible geographical diversity. Glorious white-sand beaches, dense jungles and volcanic landscapes scoured clean of vegetation by lava flows are just the start. With this comes the greatest levels of biodiversity to be found anywhere on Earth. So intriguing, you could spend a lifetime exploring Indonesia’s treasures and still discover something new on each visit. By far the most popular and famous destination in Indonesia is the stunning island of Bali, which attracts visitors with its unique culture, striking natural landscapes and gorgeous beaches. Those seeking an exciting metropolis should consider Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, on the island of Java. You may be surprised to learn that only Tokyo is larger and more populated than this bustling city. For a more relaxed vibe, head to the Gili Islands, where you'll find the culture is one practically devoted to maintaining a chilled-out ambience and a resistance to the overdevelopment that has begun to affect other tourist hotspots. To list all the different experiences that you could encounter across Indonesia’s islands would take a lifetime, but this means there is something to suit all tastes. While exploring Indonesia you’ll have opportunities to encounter a richness of wildlife that is almost unparalleled across the globe (only Australia has a greater number of endemic species of flora and fauna). For a real adventure, head into the great jungles of Borneo to meet our ‘cousins’, the charismatic orangutans. Or head to the Komodo National Park, where dragons gather on the shores of the namesake island. Meanwhile, the water positively teams with life, as the coral seas produce a bounty of incredible sights for divers of all levels to uncover. Across all the landscapes is a richness of culture and people that makes Indonesia stand out. Each have their own language, heritage and cuisine that will suit those seeking authentic experiences. Wonder at the technical prowess of Balinese dancers. Be amazed at the skill of the practitioners of silat, traditional Indonesian martial arts, at the schools on Java. And delight at the wealth of delicious street food to be found at almost at every turn. All this and much more awaits you.
  • Japan

    Japan is a feast for the senses. Whether you're in a densely populated metropolis, a tiny village or exploring the sublime and varied landscape, unforgettable sights, sounds, smells and tastes await you. It is a place that straddles time: there are few countries that strive towards the future and have embraced the aesthetics of modernity so enthusiastically yet proudly maintain their past traditions. Japan has done it in a manner that seems practically seamless. The sheer variety of experience on offer in Japan is breathtaking. Glittering Tokyo, with its skyscrapers and pulsing energy, is the largest, most bustling city on the planet. It’s practically a country unto itself and has defined the image of futuristic conurbations for decades. However, don’t ignore other Japanese cities. Kyoto is the spiritual heart of Japan, where the romance and traditions derived from centuries of history are still alive in the awe-inspiring temples, immaculate tea gardens and gorgeous geisha houses. Osaka, the city of merchants, is legendary as the foodie hub of Japan. The list goes on, because every city in Japan really has a unique character and experiences to be explored. The natural splendours of Japan are of equal renown, having served as inspiration for artists from both East and West for centuries. Whether it's the glorious majesty of Mount Fuji, the haunting forests of Shiratani Unsuikyo Gorge, or the tropical calm of southern islands such as Okinawa, there is a tranquil, sublime beauty to every inch of the countryside. Cuisine and culture are tightly woven together in Japan, and the food and restaurant industry of the country is legendary the world over. The traditional tea ceremony has been perfected and mastered over hundreds of years, and there are few things more soothing than taking part in such an event. While sushi, ramen and teppanyaki may have become firm favourites around the world, there is simply no better place to sample these gourmet delights. However, don't miss the chance to try more obscure foods, such as the amazing okonomiyaki pancakes, or freshly fried takoyaki octopus. The high standards maintained in almost every Japanese eatery, from modest hole-in-the-walls to the most glamorous, exclusive restaurants, mean you will be hard-pressed to find a place that doesn't serve amazing food. And wash it down with an incredible choice of saki, beer or excellent Japanese whisky. Kanpai!
  • Laos

    Situated between Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia in the south, and Myanmar and China to the north, little, landlocked Laos is often overlooked in favour of its glitzier neighbours. But it would be a mistake to miss this stunningly beautiful, deeply spiritual country, home to lumbering limestone mountains, verdant jungle valleys, vast cave systems, rolling rivers, rare wildlife, ancient Buddhist monasteries and some of the most welcoming people in Asia. The main international portal to the country is Luang Prabang, once the capital of Laos and still considered its spiritual heart. A beguiling blend of French Indochine architecture, royal palaces and Theravada Buddhist temples awaits. Allow at least a few days to explore its bougainvillaea-lined streets, cool roadside cafés, arts and crafts scene and Unesco-protected sites. From here, most visitors strike out for the dramatic mountain, cave and riverscapes of Vang Vieng, Thakhék and Savannakhet, or gravitate towards the sleepy charms, easy pace and superb cuisine of Vientiane. However, those willing to venture deeper into Laos’s wondrous countryside will reap the rewards, including the chance to see many different tribes, each clad in their distinct, brightly embroidered costumes, populating the higher elevations. For trekking, kayaking and wildlife adventures there’s Nong Kwiah, the Nam Ou river and Nam Et-Phou Louey national park, where you can take an overnight safari in search of rare beasts, such as sun bears, clouded leopards, civets, marble cats and white-cheeked gibbons. Or if lolling down the river on a bamboo raft is more your thing, try the 4,000 Islands, a scattering of pretty green isles located along the Mekong in the far south of the country. While Laos remains communist, it is also a country in flux, with new, off-the-grid experiences and gorgeous hotels, plenty at the upper end of the market. And while change is inevitable (and for the most part welcome), there’s a definite air of ‘get there now’.
  • Malaysia

    Affectionately known as ‘Asia in miniature’, the beautiful kingdom of Malaysia encapsulates a little bit of everything that the vast and diverse continent has to offer. A rich culture, striking scenery – including lush forests that are a haven for wildlife, beautiful beaches and non-stop city action – are all here for the taking. Efficient transport links make Malaysia easy to get around, too, which is another reason why you should make your trip here a multi-centre stay. You may find yourself never wanting to leave. Malaysia's slogan, ‘Truly Asia’, is particularly apt when it comes to the cultures that make up its society. Sitting at the point where the Indian Ocean meets the South China Sea, it brings together influences from across almost all of Asia: the diverse Chinese cultures, both Muslim and Hindu Indian, an influx from Arabic nations as far back as the Persian Empire, colonial European intrusions – plus a bedrock of the fiercely proud and protected Malay culture. Visitors to East Malaysia will also have the opportunity to explore the tribal societies that still occupy the Bornean rainforest, where contemporary globalisation has only recently begun to intrude on traditions and ways of life that have gone unchanged for millennia. The result is a rich multitude of traditions, festivals and cuisines. This variety can be equally applied to Malaysia's geography. Those seeking fantastic views and soaring peaks will find them at Kinabalu National Park, whereas you’ll find gorgeous beaches all along the country's coasts and islands, most notably on luxurious Langkawi and the chilled-out Perhentians. This geographical diversity has produced a biodiversity to match. The rainforest of Borneo – the oldest in the world – is home to some of the rarest animals in Asia, including Asian elephants, Sumatran rhinoceroses and, of course, the utterly charming orangutan. Just off the north-east coast is the coral island Sipadan, where the sea around this speck of land is one of the richest and most bountiful in the world and among the greatest places on the planet to go diving. If you just want city life, then the country's splendid capital, Kuala Lumpur, is one of the great modern metropolises, with its fantastic architecture, which can be easily explored due to an infrastructure that puts other cities in Southeast Asia to shame.
  • Myanmar

    Start your Myanmar adventure in Yangon (formerly the capital Rangoon). Outside on the busy streets you’ll see sights that will make you look twice, maybe three times, from buses literally overhanging with locals, to men with horribly red-stained teeth from all the betel nut they’ve chewed. Amid the crumbling, 19th-century British colonial buildings you’ll find many that are beautifully restored, but it’s the diamond-studded Shwedagon Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda that are the star attractions in town. As is Karaweik Palace, the royal-style barge on the shore of Kandawgyi Lake. Feast your eyes on Burmese royal regalia and cultural relics at the National Museum and pick up your own treasures – local handicrafts, art and jewellery – at the sprawling and somewhat touristy Bogyoke Aung San Market. If you know what to look for, there are bargains to be had on antiques and gems. Meanwhile in Bagan, the archaeological Buddhist temples total more than 2,000, many of which tower above the green landscapes and treetops – a spectacular sight. Visit the impressive Ananda temple and pick up some souvenir lacquered bowls or parasols. The lacquerware art has been a tradition here for centuries. Bagan is also the starting point for several luxury cruises along the Ayeyarwady (also known as the Irrawaddy) river, where you can spend several days on board enjoying guided cultural tours ashore. Not to mention travelling through captivating rural and jungle scenery; passing locals working the fields with ox and cart; fisherman going about their daily catch in little wooden boats; and village kids playing in the shallows – it’s like stepping back in time. The cruises are usually on their way to Mandalay, the last royal capital of Myanmar, where there’s more Buddhist heritage to discover. Visit the Mahamuni Buddha temple and take a trip to Inwa, where you can tour the temples and monasteries of the ancient imperial capital of Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries.
  • Philippines

    Spread across an archipelago of more than 7,500 islands, there’s a veritable bounty of geographical wonders in the Philippines, from rugged volcanic landscapes and verdant mountains covered with tiered rice paddies, to sprawling megacities, charming villages and fantastic beaches. But it’s the Filipino culture and influences of centuries of Spanish and American colonial rule that set this nation apart. The coast of the Philippines is the main appeal. With more than 22,000 miles of it, there’s a beach to suit every taste. Want fantastic diving? Head to El Nido on the western isle of Palawan for the bountiful seas of the Philippines’ largest marine reserve. Maybe surfing is more to your taste, and in recent years the Philippines has become a hotspot with some of the best surfers in the world praising the waves around Siargao island to the east. If you simply want to chill out on gorgeous expanses of white sand there are choices galore, from deserted islands to developed resorts. Inland, the beauty of the Philippines continues. The Banaue rice terraces are one of the finest examples of tiered rice fields in the world. Almost every possible surface of the Ifugao mountains, no matter how small and seemingly inaccessible, are covered in paddies that have been cultivated for more than 1,500 years. The charming conical Chocolate Hills of Bohol and the surrounding forests are home to an amazing array of biodiversity, most notably the charismatically wide-eyed tarsiers. Even sprawling megacities such as Manila have a metropolitan magnetism that's sure to please city slickers. Then there’s the Filipino people and culture. There are 175 recognised ethnic groups in the Philippines and, while centuries of Catholic missionary work under Spanish rule and later the influences of American colonialism have caused their identities to be diluted, it means there’s a fascinating mix of cultures. Filipino cuisine is poised to become the next big thing, praised by critics such as Anthony Bourdain (American chef, author and television personality), and queens of healthy eating the Hemsley sisters, who are half Filipino. With Filipino people being famed for their warm hospitality, prepare to embrace the opportunity to share their food culture, traditions and celebrations.
  • Singapore

    Much of what makes Singapore a pleasant and desirable place is often also held against the city state: it’s unbelievably clean and surprisingly safe for a major metropolis with lush, manicured foliage as a backdrop to gleaming skyscrapers. Look beyond that and you’ll find a fascinating mix of cultures as the trilingual signposts and the presence of Chinatown and Little India attest. This melting pot manifests superbly in the street food, best enjoyed in the sanitised confines of a hawker centre, while great shopping opportunities and a handful of exciting attractions make Singapore a gentle introduction to Southeast Asia.
  • Sri Lanka

    The beauty of an island destination is that everything is near at hand. In Sri Lanka that means beaches, cultural cities, tea-covered highlands and wildlife-rich rainforest, all gathered within the central and south-western section of the island. How you play these various cards depends on your interest, and of course on the season, because the monsoon brings rain and tricky sea conditions to this area between May and August. Fortunately, the island’s best weather coincides conveniently with Europe’s wettest, so this is a wonderful place for winter sun.Sri Lanka is an excellent destination for touring and some of the most exciting places to discover are off the beaten track. If you’ve an adventurous spirit, we suggest that you consider a minor detour to experience them fully. You won’t find the kind of globally recognised luxury hotels that we review in these areas, however, we can personally recommend charming boutique guest houses and lodges, independently owned and elegantly managed.
  • Thailand

    The beaches of party islands Koh Samui and Phuket have been pleasing holidaymakers for decades. But if you like things low-key, there are much quieter beaches tucked away on tropical peninsulas, blissfully sheltered by limestone karsts. For your urban fix, Bangkok is pretty full-on, while for a complete contrast, there are jungle adventures and cultural trips into northern villages amongst the rice paddies. Don’t leave until you’ve tried two specialties: an authentic Thai massage (the pain is worth the gain you’ll feel the next day); and a Thai curry with sticky rice, to see why Thai is nicknamed ‘the king of cuisines’. As the main gateway to the country and a popular stopover en route further east, the bustling capital of Bangkok is great for a few days to soak up the city’s frenetic energy, colourful sights and sounds. After you’ve shopped ‘til you’ve dropped in the malls and markets, famous for picking up great value products, including Thai silks fashioned into cushion covers, handbags and dresses, go sightseeing. From gilded temples to cruises on the Chao Phraya river and floating markets, there’s plenty to see. If you’ve a head for heights, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to have drinks and dinner at one of the sky-high rooftop restaurants and see Bangkok lit up at night. Bangkok is all a bit fast and noisy, so after you’ve seen the sights, hit the beaches and unwind. You’ll find the best are in the south. If you’re after quiet beach resorts, try Hua Hin, Krabi or one of the island resorts off the coast of Phuket. To really absorb the country’s rich cultural offerings, head north to the city of Chiang Mai—Thailand’s northern capital. Venture towards the mountainous landscapes, countryside, lush valleys and rice paddies, and there are authentic villages, several hundred temples, and orchid farms waiting to wow you. It’s also the place to observe local traditions such as a khantoke dinner and traditional dancing. There’s a great night market for quality arts and crafts including the local wooden carved bowls. If you’re looking for a more off the beaten track adventure, treks in the jungle can be had further north in Chiang Rai, a relaxed riverside city known as part of the Golden Triangle where Thailand meets Laos and Myanmar. Whilst here, the White Temple—like no other temple you may have seen—is quite a spectacle.
  • Vietnam

    With its stunning scenery, beautiful beaches and tasty food, Vietnam has a lot to offer. The South-East Asian country adjoins China in the north, curves around Laos, Thailand and Cambodia in the west, and has more than 2,000 miles of coastline on the South China Sea. Vietnam’s long, slim shape also means it has three distinct climates – in the north, centre and south. Elegant Hanoi in the north has French colonial architecture and tree-lined boulevards mixed with ancient alleys and Chinese shophouses. Some three hours away is Halong Bay, the ultra-photogenic collection of limestone islands soaring out of the emerald-green sea. You’ll want to spend a night onboard a boat here, but don’t expect to have the bay to yourself. Central Vietnam offers picture-perfect towns such as Hue, the former imperial centre on the Perfume river, and Hoi An with its narrow streets full of merchant buildings strewn with lanterns. The beaches in this area are beautiful, and there are numerous luxurious resort hotels to choose from, particularly near Nha Trang. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south is as bustling as it gets, but you can find refuge from the crowds in the burgeoning crop of fashion and interiors stores and galleries. All across Vietnam food is a big draw, characterised by refreshing flavours of lime juice, lemongrass, chilli, fish sauce and palm sugar. An authentic way to try the cuisine is from street stalls. Popular dishes are spring rolls – fresh and soft, or crispy and deep-fried; banh mi (baguettes, a legacy from the French); and the nation’s most famous dish, pho (pronounced fir), a noodle soup. Further south, the Mekong Delta is dominated by the mighty Mekong river. Book a luxury boutique cruise to get a glimpse of the tiny waterside villages on stilts and floating markets – a world away from the cities.