From the bustling streets of Hong Kong to laid-back ancient temples in Myanmar, Asia is a place where adventure is ripe for the picking at every corner.

First-time travelers can get easily overwhelmed by the thought of exploring this massively diverse region. Fortunately, there are a lot of destinations that are perfect for the uninitiated while others just need more preparation & planning.

Get inspired to start your adventure in Asia with this list of the beautiful countries to visit as well as territories worth a place on your bucketlist. Take note that the countries featured below are the ones I’ve personally traveled to so far. If you have any suggestions, feel free to share your thoughts (in the comments or on my Instagram page).

1. Philippines

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

The Philippines is my home. If you’re planning to skip this country entirely, then you’re missing out on a lot! The Philippines is where you can find some of the best beaches in the World. Made up of over 7,500 islands, there is a ton of things to see and do here worth a spot on your bucketlist, from enjoying popular holiday destinations to discovering places off the beaten path. What sets the Philippines apart from the rest of Asia is its distinct culture, shaped by Spanish, American, and native influences. Bias aside, one of the best things I love about traveling in the Philippines is how easy it is to have interactions with locals. Getting around isn’t much of a problem since most Filipinos can understand English and are very friendly. Breaking down the language barrier makes travel more fun in the Philippines.

How to go: Manila is the main flight hub in the Philippines. Manila-NAIA International Airport serves direct flights from major cities in Asia, Australia, USA, Canada. An excellent alternative is to fly direct to the Philippines’ secondary international gateways including Cebu, Puerto Princesa (Palawan), Iloilo, Davao, Kalibo & Clark.

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To help with your trip planning, I’ve added links to the locations on Google Maps. Feel free to click/tap on the links posted. Then, use the “save” feature on the Google Maps app for easy reference. I’ve also shared photos from my Instagram feed. Use Instagram’s save feature for quick access to your travel/feed goals.

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2. Japan

Location: East Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Japan is one of the first places to comes to mind when people ask me about my favorite places to travel. Japan is futuristic yet still retains strong ties to tradition. You’ll find serene temples surrounded by beautiful views of nature. People are very warm and the food is delicious. Japan offers nearly all of the kinds of sights and experiences that get me excited when I travel. Best of all, getting around is very easy because of the well-developed transport network.

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3. Nepal

Location: South Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Nepal is the ultimate destination for mountain lovers. The Nepali Himalayas is the roof of the World, home to Mount Everest — the highest peak on earth. Travelers who venture to this country soon discover a lot more sights and experiences that are worth the long journey from home. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kathmandu Valley is home to medieval squares and sacred monuments for Hindus & Buddhists. In Pokhara, you can go paragliding or simply enjoy the majestic views of the snow-capped Himalayan mountains from one of the many easily accessible viewpoints.

How to go: Kathmandu International Airport is the primary gateway to Nepal. The airport’s busiest destinations include major gateways in India (Delhi), Middle East (Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai) & Southeast Asia (Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur).

From the Philippines, book a connecting flight via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore since there are no direct flights from Manila to Kathmandu. Excluding time spent on layovers, travel time from the Philippines to Nepal via Bangkok should take around 7 hours minimum.

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4. Singapore

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Arguably the easiest destination to travel in Southeast Asia, highly developed Singapore is perfect for first-time travelers, especially those traveling with family. Singapore is my most visited international destination! I’m very impressed with how nature is preserved and even masterfully integrated into the futuristic urban landscape. Gardens by the Bay and the Jewel Changi Airport are among my favorite spots. A melting pot of Asian cultures, Singapore is a foodie paradise where you can get a taste of the local cuisines of different parts of the continent. Thanks to its wide network of direct flights, Singapore is also a worthwhile jump-off point to more “exotic” places in Southeast Asia. And, a fitting last stop to indulge in urban comforts before the journey home.

How to go: Singapore’s primary gateway is Changi International Airport, which is well-connected by air from nearly all corners of the globe especially major cities in Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Middle East and Australia. Land border crossings are also popular to/from Malaysia via Johor Bahru.

From the Philippines, travel time from Manila by flight takes around 3 hours and 40 minutes. This route is served by Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Singapore Airlines, Jetstar Airways and Tigerair. Direct flights are also available from several provincial cities including Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo & Clark.

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5. Indonesia

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Even thinking about adventures to be had in over 18,307 islands already makes me want to go aboard the next flight to Indonesia. You can skip “eat” and “pray,” and go straight to “love” in Bali. If you’re tired of beaches, there are ancient temples, volcanoes, waterfalls, and nature parks waiting for you in 18,306 more islands.

How to go: Bali and Jakarta are the best entry points to Indonesia for most travelers as flights are aplenty. It’s also possible to fly direct to Medan, Surabaya or Yogyakarta from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

From the Philippines, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines operate direct flights to Jakarta and Bali. Travel time to both destinations should take around 4 hours. You might also be able to chance upon good deals by transiting through Singapore and Kuala Lumpur instead.

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6. Myanmar

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

If you’re already flirting with the idea of going on off-the-beaten-track adventures in Myanmar, go there now before tourism in the country grows too mainstream. Traveling in Myanmar used to take a lot of effort, but now it’s a lot easier thanks to the country opening up more to foreign tourists & convenience of booking hotels/tours online. If there’s one place you should visit, it’s Bagan, ancient city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with thousands of temples that still survive to the present day.

How to go: Yangon is the primary flight hub in Myanmar. Mandalay is also a viable option, especially if you’re planning to visit the ancient temples in North Central Myanmar. Consider a trip long enough to fly in Yangon, enjoy a stopover at Bagan, and fly out from Mandalay (or vice-versa).

From the Philippines, the best way to get to Myanmar is by going on a connecting flight via Bangkok, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur.

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7. Hong Kong, China

Location: East Asia. Save on Google Maps.

A gawk-worthy modern skyline and exciting urban attractions are the top reasons that got me on a plane to Hong Kong on my first trip abroad. If you are traveling abroad for the first time or traveling with family, I highly recommend Hong Kong. Not only are there a lot of exciting things to see and do, getting around is very easy. Another I like about Hong Kong is that it’s within a 1-hour ride away from Macau & Mainland China. The border crossings are great if you’re on a journey to collect stamps on your passport.

How to go: Most travelers arrive at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), which is well-connected by plane from all major cities across the globe. Frequent ferry services link Hong Kong to Macau (1 hour) and cities along the Pearl River Delta. By land, roadways, and trains connect Hong Kong to Mainland China via Guangdong & Guangzhou.

From the Philippines, frequent daily flights connect Manila to Hong Kong (2 hours). You may also fly from Cebu, Iloilo, Clark & Kalibo. Direct flights are operated by Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Cathay Pacific & TigerAir.

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8. Thailand

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Growing up in a place heavily influenced by Western culture, the exotic appeal of Thailand was irresistible on my first solo trip abroad. With so many places catered to budget travelers, it’s easy to travel cheaply around fascinating destinations in the country while enjoying the bliss that is Thai food.

If you’re looking forward to some saltwater therapy, the southern half of Thailand is home to jaw-dropping sea views. While the areas north of the capital Bangkok offers spectacular mountain scenery and fascinating temple towns.

How to go: Bangkok is the primary international and domestic gateway to Thailand. Travelers either arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport located on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok and Don Mueang International Airport in the north. Direct international flights also available in provincial tourist hotspots including Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Samui, Krabi & Pattaya. Alternatively, land border crossings are popular from/to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia & Vietnam (via Cambodia).

From the Philippines, fly from Manila to Bangkok (3 hours and 30 minutes) on Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, or Thai Airways. You may also go on a connecting flight via Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Another option is to arrive in Ho Chi Minh, Siem Reap, or Kuala Lumpur and continue your journey to Thailand by land or air.

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9. Cambodia

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

If you’re in-love with the idea of exploring ancient temple ruins, then Siem Reap, Cambodia has Southeast Asia’s grandest archaeological site (in my opinion, at least). Plus, locals are very friendly and most of them speak good English, which makes traveling around the country very easy. Siem Reap, Cambodia is one of the most exceptional places to visit in Southeast Asia. Here, you can find Angkor Wat, the World’s largest religious monument & other ruined sites built during the reign of the ancient Khmer empire. I’ve traveled to Siem Reap several times & the marvelous sights never failed to amaze me.

How to go: The majority of temple-bound travelers arrive in Siem Reap, the main gateway to the ancient temples of Angkor, and less popularly in the capital, Phnom Penh. The country sits right in the middle of the Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam Indochina banana pancake trail making cross-border land travel very easy.

Philippine Airlines serves direct flights between Phnom Penh & Manila. Alternatively, you can book a connecting flight via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Or, travel by land/air from Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh to Cambodia.

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10. Vietnam

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

1 US Dollar converts to around 23,200+ Vietnamese Dong (as of the time of writing). To be a millionaire in Vietnam, you only need to have USD 43! (PHP 2100+) Try checking your ATM balance to get a good shock from all the digits. Purchasing power considered, your money still goes a long way here. Today, it’s one of the World’s cheapest countries to travel. Vietnam is most known for its turbulent wartime history, delicious food, and Ha Long Bay. Before arriving in the country and traveling around its countrysides, little did I know that it is also home to some of the most spectacular natural landscapes in Southeast Asia, and charming heritage sites that are worth a peek. Vietnam is also a great starting point to traverse the (Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand) Indochina trail.

How to go: Travelers either arrive at Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in South Vietnam or Hanoi in North Vietnam. Da Nang in Central Vietnam is also a good option as it caters to a growing number of direct international flights. Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi are well-connected by flight (2 hours) as well as by train (33 hours with no stops), and overnight buses.

From the Philippines, fly directly to Ho Chi Minh from Manila on Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. Cebu Pacific also operates a direct route from Manila to Hanoi. You can also consider taking a connecting flight via Singapore, Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur.

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11. India

Location: South Asia. Save on Google Maps.

There’s no place on earth like India. This country is home to the world’s most spectacular architecture and colorful mix of cultures. It is like a continent of its own. Each place offers unique experiences catered to different types of travelers. Once you’ve arrived and fallen in love with India, you’ll want to keep coming back for more.

How to go: Arriving by air is the best way to get to India. Delhi and Kolkata airports are the primary flight hubs in north India. You can fly to Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore or Chennai if you’re bound for south India. Major airlines in the country include Air India, SpiceJet, Jet Airways, IndiGo, GoAir, AirAsia & Vistara.

From the Philippines, catch a connecting flight in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok or Hong Kong since there are no direct flights between Manila and Indian airports. Excluding time spent on transits, travel time from the Philippines to India should take 6–8 hours via Bangkok or 8–10 hours via Singapore/Kuala Lumpur.

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12. Malaysia

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Lying between Singapore and Thailand, literally and on the scale of how easy it is to travel, Malaysia is a great choice if you plan on visiting adventure-filled places but still want to travel with relative ease. It’s also hard not to miss it if you’re flying with AirAsia, the biggest airline in the region based in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is worth a spot on your bucketlist for its captivating natural landscape, home to one of the World’s oldest forests and thriving multi-cultural cities. The country is composed of Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia.

How to go: Kuala Lumpur is the main gateway to Peninsular Malaysia while Kota Kinabalu serves East Malaysia. It’s also possible to fly directly to several international airports across the country including Penang, Melaka, Johor Bahru-Senai, Subang & Kuching.

Direct land and ferry connections are available from Singapore (via Johor Bahru), Indonesia (Kalimantan-East Malaysia) & Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan-Sabah).

From the Philippines, from Manila fly to Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Malaysia Airlines. Travel time takes nearly 4 hours. Direct flights to KL are also available from Clark, Cebu & Kalibo. East Malaysia bound travelers can take a direct flight from Manila to Kota Kinabalu (2 hours).

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13. Taiwan

Location: East Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Why Taiwan? For one, it’s easy to find cheap flights from major cities in Asia including Manila & Cebu in the Philippines. Taiwan’s decision to offer visa-free entry for Pinoy travelers was also a big reason why I went on my first trip. The capital, Taipei, is a bustling cosmopolitan city with a relaxed vibe. It’s home to the iconic Taipei 101 and offers an exciting food scene, night markets, temples & heritage sites as well as lots of beautiful natural sights nearby. It’s also worth mentioning that Taiwan is an affordable destination to visit, especially compared to similarly developed destinations in the region like Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.

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14. Laos

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Landlocked Laos is not the easiest to get to in Southeast Asia. Most travelers arrive here on land border crossings from Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. But don’t miss it if you want to avoid crowded cities, enjoy extremely laid-back countrysides, and see pristine natural sights. Go north if you want to visit Laos’ popular tourist spots including sacred Buddhist temples, old French-colonial heritage districts, and gorgeous riverside scenery. Make your way down south for majestic waterfalls, spectacular caves, and thousands of river islands where you can experience life in the countryside.

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15. Brunei

Location: Southeast Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Brunei is a small yet wealthy nation, known for having the largest oil fields in Southeast Asia one of the world’s highest standards of living. Laid-back capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, gleams with magnificent mosques that contrast with a massive stilt house water village and lush mangrove forests nearby.

How to go: Brunei is easy to visit by flying to Brunei International Airport. Flight duration from Manila to Brunei is 2 hours. Ferry and land travel between Kota Kinabalu and Brunei is also very popular. The sea journey takes around 4 hours minimum, while the bus takes around 7 hours.

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16. Macau, China

Location: East Asia. Save on Google Maps.

Very compact and easy to get around, the resort city-state of Macau offers a fascinating mix of city attractions, well-preserved Portuguese-colonial heritage sites and delicious local Macanese food. If you’re visiting Hong Kong, then a trip to Macau is highly recommended as the ferry & land crossing only takes an hour.

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What places have you added to your bucketlist? Have you been to beautiful places in Asia that should be on this list? Feel free to share your thoughts!

Places to visit in Asia

Asia tourist spots, things to do in Asia, where to go in Asia & more.

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

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