Epic Off the Beaten Path Destinations in Asia
I love Asia. It’s got literally everything you could ever want. It’s filled with culture, with beauty and with incredible sights. Good food, good people and epic beaches. Whether it’s temple hopping, soaking up the sun on an island or exploring the rugged terrain, you can do it in Asia.
Another thing I love is getting off the beaten path when I travel. Sure, I love going to the tourist hot spots and seeing all those spots that you see every other day on Instagram and enjoying the best that these places have to offer. But I always like to mix in some off the beaten path destinations during my travels.
Exploring places that aren’t as frequented by tourists and have an unexplored feel to them. Nothing beats it. And let me tell you – Asia has got some off the beaten path beauties. A whole lot of them to be exact. So, when we look past the beaches of Phuket, the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City or Tokyo, or the beauty of Delhi, there’s a whole lot more to discover.
Which is why I wanted to bring you this ultimate guide to some epic off the beaten path destinations in Asia that you seriously need to visit.
What Are the Top 23 Most Visited Countries in Asia?
1. Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
Koh Rong Samloem is one of my favourite places on earth. Nestled off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, it is the little sister of the much more touristy and developed Koh Rong island, and is definitely one of South East Asia’s hidden gem’s that is so worth exploring. With picturesque white sandy beaches, tranquility and cocktails, there’s not much more you can ask for.
Getting to Koh Rong Samloem requires you to take a fairy from the city of Sihanoukville off the coast of Cambodia. The ferry can take anywhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the day. Once you get there, get ready for paradise. There’s plenty of amazing places to stay on Koh Rong Samloem for every budget, and I recommend Mad Monkey if you are on a budget, or The One Resort if you want a luxury experience.
There’s also plenty to do on the island. Of course, relaxing on the beach should be your first priority. You can also go hiking, with the hike to the lighthouse offering beautiful views, or hike to Sunset Beach if you are staying in Saracen Bay.
There’s also snorkelling, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding, and plenty of beautiful spots to enjoy the sun and the beautiful, clear water. Make sure to try some cocktails at one of the many places that offer happy hour (I recommend Sol Beach Resort), and try the BBQ at Lime Beach Bungalows and the Pizza at Cita Resort. The ultimate Koh Rong Samloem travel guide details everything you could ever want to know about this paradise island.
2. Lombok, Indonesia
Asia is full of stunning travel destinations, but very few are as captivating as Lombok, Indonesia. This small island sits directly beside one of the most popular travel destinations in the world; Bali. As a result, many people visit Bali and miss out on the stunning hidden gem next door. Lombok is known for its magical beaches, amazing waterfalls, and stunning natural attractions.
To get to Lombok you can either fly into the airport on the island or take a boat from Bali. You can fly from nearby places straight to Lombok, or take a 20-minute plane ride from Bali to Lombok. The boat rides from Bali to Lombok take between 2 hours – 6 hours depending on whether you take a ferry or a speed boat.
The best thing about visiting Lombok is all the unique and amazing things to do in Lombok. The highlight of the island is the plethora of white sand beaches with aqua blue waters. This island has some of the most amazing beaches in the world, Tanjung Aan being my favourite.
In addition to the beaches, Lombok has various huge waterfalls, authentic rice terraces, and a volcano to hike. The best thing about exploring Lombok is that all the attractions and beaches are not touristy yet. This means that you can enjoy the nature and beauty without being surrounded by other tourists.
3. Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia
Bako National Park is hidden away in a way that few places still are. It’s in Southeast Asia on the island of Borneo. You’ll fly into a small Malaysian city, and from there, it’s only accessible by combination of car and motorboat. But it’s worth the effort it takes to get there. Because once you’re in Bako, it’s all secluded beaches, endemic wildlife, and dense rainforest. It’s a world away from the distraction that seem to be so inescapable everywhere else in the world.
There’s a network of 17 trails winding through the park, granting access to beaches and water features. But the real calling card of the park is the wildlife; palm squirrels, bearded pigs, mouse deer, civets, macaques, and most notable of all, the long-nosed Proboscis monkeys. And nighttime unlocks a whole host of other wildlife, insects, reptiles, and nocturnal creatures.
You can sleep in one of the forest lodges or campgrounds, but because the weather in Bako is persistently muggy and the macaques are notorious thieves, my vote is on the forest lodge. Rooms start from RM40 ($9.80).
There are surely better beaches in the world. Nature reserves with more dense wildlife or better hiking trails. But the allure of Bako is about getting into the thick of things. Going to a place that is uncrowded and still very local. Having a more real experience in a world that is rapidly adapting to tourism.
4. Caramoan Islands, Philippines
The lesser known region of Bicol in the Philippines, is a hidden gem filled with bustling cities, active volcanos and serene tropical islands, such as the Caramoan Peninsula.
The quiet and deserted islands of Caramoan are covered in rugged limestone rocks, white sand beaches, hidden coves and beautifully clear waters. This is why island hopping is the best thing to do in Caramoan. You can spend the day on an outrigger in search of secret beaches, hiking spots and places to snorkel. The islands are so deserted that they have even been used to film the US TV show, Survivor.
The best place to stay on the Caramoan Islands is Tugawe Cove Resort, where you can enjoy the infinity pool, free watersports equipment and private beach.
The main reason why the Caramoan Islands aren’t overrun with tourists is because of the journey from Manila. To reach the peninsula you must fly one hour to Legazpi City, the capital of the Bicol region and then drive three hours to Sabang port, where you will have to board a two-hour speed boat to the islands. This journey is not for the faint hearted but it means the Caramoan Islands remain a hidden paradise.
5. Pokhara, Nepal
Contributed by Emma of Emma Adventures.
Pokhara is a backpacker hub in Nepal, known for both it’s chilled out, relaxed vibe, and its adventure. It’s the gateway to trekking in the Annapurna range of the Himalayas, which is why many people travel to the region. However, most people miss out on everything that Pokhara has to offer, only passing through the region.
With a stunning lakeside area filled with cute coffee shops, yoga studios, shops and bars, as well as plenty to discover, there is no shortage of epic things to do in Pokhara. Go paddling on Phewa Lake, which has a stunning mountain back drop on a clear day, or opt for some adventure by going paragliding. You can also visit the World Peace Pagoda, explore and shop in lakeside, and of course, spend plenty of time just relaxing. There’s honestly so much to do, and I recommend seeing as much as possible! You can explore even more things to do in Pokhara here.
For a great mid-range stay, opt for Hotel River Park, or Zostel Pokhara for an amazing budget stay. For coffee, brunches or long lunches, try The Juicery or AM/PM Organic Cafe, and for good dinner and drinks, try Moondance Restaurant and Bar or Cafe Concerto.
6. Altai Mountains, Mongolia
The Altai Mountains in Mongolia are right on the border of Russia, China, and Kazakhstan. Their remote location leaves them practically untouched, so you can see the wild plains and mountains of Mongolia without hoards of tourists.
I highly recommend trekking in the Altai Mountains to feel as if you’re discovering an entirely new place – there isn’t a marked trail, there are no campsites or shops along the way, and I didn’t see a single other person for an entire week! The gorgeous mountain range, vast greenery, and stunning viewpoints are only enhanced by the emptiness of it.
Getting to the Altai is an adventure in itself! From Ulaanbaatar, you can take an hour plane ride or a 30-hour bus ride to Ulgii (also spelled Olgi), the capital of the region. From there, you need to hire a jeep driver to take you to the mountains!
You’ll arrange a pickup time and location ahead of time, and you can either opt for a guide or a GPS system to have along with you on your hike. The best time to visit the Altai Mountains is in the summertime, as the winter is too cold! It’s important to bring warm clothing anyway – during the day it may be hot, but at night, the temperatures drop to below freezing, even in July!
7. Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The UNESCO city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan is hands down one of the best hidden gems of Asia. This city used to be a major trading hub during the Silk Road, and while a lot of spices and crafts were traded there, religions and philosophies also flowed in. In fact, Samarkand has seen a crossroads of cultures throughout its history, and that’s very much reflected in the architecture around the city today.
Samarkand is not a very known or popular travel destination, but it’s honestly hard to understand why. The architecture there is absolutely breathtaking; one can easily spend hours admiring the intricate tilework of the madrasahs and mosques in this city.
In fact, one of the best things to do in Samarkand is to spend at least half a day exploring the majestic buildings inside the stunning Registan square. You can also watch a traditional musical performance there at night, and it’s truly a unique experience. Make sure to also visit the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum, the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, and the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis for more incredible jaw-dropping blue tiles.
For a glimpse of local life, head over to the Siyob Bazaar to people-watch and browse the traditional spices and snacks sold there. Lastly, don’t forget to chat with the locals. Uzbek people are honestly the friendliest people I’ve met on any trip; they’re always eager to have a conversation with you and really go out of their way to welcome you to their country! They’re the highlight of any trip to Uzbekistan.
8. Koh Jum, Thailand
One of the most amazing places to visit in Asia off the beaten path is the lonely island Koh Jum in Krabi region. This hidden gem is a real insider tip for all Thailand travellers who want to be find a getaway from the mainstream. Here, life is still really cozy, and somehow everything is as you can imagine Thailand 20 years ago. A mix of nature, warm hearted people and beautiful beaches will certainly captivate you and not let go that quickly.
There is not much to do on Koh Jum, and maybe that’s why many travellers feel so relaxed here. Anyway, if you are up for activities you have some lovely beaches to explore. Koh Jum is very centrally located between Krabi and Koh Lanta and is an excellent starting point for trips to Krabi’s beautiful island word.
Getting to Koh Jum can be best be organized form Krabi Town in South Thailand. There is a ferry stopping twice a day on the island. So if you are looking for lonely beaches and a lot of relaxation, then Koh Jum is definitely a good choice.
9. Phong Nha, Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the most famous South-East Asian destinations in the world. It’s known for its famed pretty town of Hoi-An, historical city of Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi for its chilled-out city vibes.
However, Phong Nha National Park in Vietnam is a hidden wonder and has got some amazing caves and ecological rainforest clusters. Phong Nha was not that famous until UNESCO recognised Phong Nha as a world heritage site. Phong Nha National Park is, therefore, one of the best off the beaten path destinations in Vietnam.
There are so many caves in Phong Nha National Park, out of which some are known to be the largest caves in the world. Some of the well-known limestone caves which are famous and open to visitors are Son Doong, Paradise Cave, Hang En, Tu Lan Cave and Phong Nha Cave. Out of these, Son Doong Cave is one of the largest caves in the world. Phong Nha should be a must-visit place for all the adventure lovers.
There are various activities that can be done in Phong Nha. Out of which, a few top choices are definitely cave trekking, zip-lining, and kayaking. There are plenty of cool backpackers’ hostels and as well as homestays in Phong Nha. Phong Nha National Park can be reached by road from any major cities in Vietnam and there are a lot of buses which are available. So, including Phong Nha National Park in Vietnam Itinerary is an absolute must.
10. Ipoh, Malaysia
Ipoh often gets overlooked by tourists in favour of popular Penang. In reality, Malaysia’s third-largest city has more than enough street art, hawker markets and heritage architecture to rival George Town – and it’s much, much less touristy.
Located in central Malaysia’s Perak state, almost exactly hallway between KL and Penang, Ipoh is extremely easy to get to from either city by bus or train. It’s a good place to break up the journey between the two hotspots.
Ipoh is a beautiful city that oozes history and charm from the cracks in the plasterwork and peeling shutters of its heritage buildings. An ideal way to discover the spirit of the city is by walking the Ipoh Heritage Trail, a mapped route that takes in 27 of the most important landmarks, including the British Colonial railway station.
Some of the best things to do in Ipoh revolve around food and drink. The city is the birthplace of Malaysia’s iconic white coffee, an iced drink made with coffee beans that have been soaked in margarine to eek out their colour. Macau-style custard tarts are also very popular, while Ipoh Bean Sprout Chicken is a must-try for dinner at any of the hawker markets.
Ipoh has a creative spirit and an amazing street art scene, including a collection of large-scale works painted by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic (the same artist responsible for George Town’s most iconic paintings). Hundreds of works by local artists and collectives are sprinkled throughout the city and concentrated around Mural Art’s Lane.
On the fringe of Ipoh, the city turns to a landscape of thick rainforest and limestone caves. You’ll find lots of beautiful lakes and hidden temples to explore, including the magnificent Perak Cave Temple.
11. Spiti Valley, India
Spiti Valley is a remote region in Northern India, located in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Spiti is India’s only cold desert that lies close to the India-Tibet border. There are several marvellous places to see in Spiti Valley such as Chicham bridge – Asia’s highest bridge, Hikkim – which contains the world’s highest post office, Komic – world’s highest motor-able village at an altitude of 4587 m, Kibber – a sanctuary famous for spotting of the snow leopard, Kee monastery – an ancient majestic monastery which is also a Buddhist religious training center, and Kaza which is the capital of the Spiti Valley region that also contains the world’s highest petrol pump.
There are two ways to reach Spiti – via Manali and via the Kinnaur district. The road from Manali is adventurous, to say the least, requires passing through two mountain passes but is closed during the winter months. However, the road from Kinnaur passes through the scenic region of Kinnaur Valley and is open throughout the year, irrespective of the weather conditions.
The food and life in Spiti Valley is simple because of the harsh climate and topography but the people here are welcoming and warm. If you do visit Spiti, kindly don’t litter (plastic is banned) and try to conserve the limited supply of water that this region gets. Also keep in mind that there is limited connectivity here. You can use this Spiti Valley itinerary and guide to plan your trip to this remote Himalayan region.
12. Don Det, Laos
In Southern Laos near the Cambodian border sits the Si Phan Don Islands, a labyrinth of tiny islets and sandbars strung throughout the Mekong River. Commonly known as the 4,000 islands, a trip to the palm fringed island of Don Det is worth the trek.
Most travelers never make it to this part of Laos due to the strenuous modes of transportation and time it takes to get there. It typically takes a handful of buses, a couple tuk tuk’s, a boat and your own two feet to finally arrive on Don Det.
The main thing to do on this island is to kick back and relax, but lazing in a hammock isn’t the only way you’ll be spending your days. Don Det is best explored by bicycle which can be rented in town for 10,000 KIP, roughly $1 USD. There is a single bridge that connects Don Det and Don Khone which can be reached by bicycle. Cycling around on dirt roads surrounded by rice paddies and water buffalo makes the adventure.
Another reason to visit the backpackers paradise of Don Det is to see the rare and critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. These dolphins only exist in two parts of the Mekong River and one of them is here. A popular way to see these adorable creatures is on a kayak tour to get an up close and personal view.
Come to Don Det for the sunsets, scenery and affordable prices. Then you will find paradise inside the muddy waters of the Mekong River.
13. Batu Katak, North Sumatra
Batu Katak is the remote jungle paradise you’ve always dreamed off. This tiny village sits prettily beside a crystal-clear river on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra. Behind the village is a spectacular karst forest, full of towering cliffs and intriguing cave systems.
The area is heaving with wildlife – from gibbons and orangutans to sun bears, hornbills, and tigers. If you time your visit right, you can even see the rare, enormous rafflesia and amorphophallus titanum flowers – the biggest blooms on the planet!
Batu Katak is a special place because it’s not on the main tourist trail. Although it’s only a short drive away from the tourist hotspot of Bukit Lawang, few people bother to visit, which makes it all the more idyllic for those who do. From Medan, it’s about a three-hour car ride or bus ride to Bahorok, followed by a brief 20-minute journey to Batu Katak.
You won’t find bars, clubs, or even Western restaurants here; only a smattering of charming guesthouses and warungs offering tasty local dishes. In spite of (or perhaps because of) the scarcity of visitors, the locals know how to make you feel right at home. Learn about Karonese culture, chill out to acoustic guitar in the evenings, bathe in the nearby waterfall and river, or head out in search of wildlife safe in the knowledge that there’s no feeding of or interaction with animals here.
Visiting this small community helps them maintain eco-friendly initiatives such as local rubbish management, beekeeping, patrolling the national park, and domestic animal health programs.
14. Dawei Peninsula, Myanmar
Not many people have heard of the Dawei Peninsula though it’s one of the most beautiful places in Myanmar. If you’re looking for beautiful secluded beaches and some authenticity, add the Dawei Peninsula to your bucket list.
The south of Myanmar has many hidden gems. Generally speaking the further south you go, the less tourists you’ll encounter. You can get to the Dawei Peninsula by plane, bus or train from Yangon. You can also cross the border from Thailand. The road conditions are quite challenging so if you can afford it, you’d better opt for the plane.
What’s so special about Dawei? It’s the abundance of pristine beaches with crystal clear water and the lack of tourists. Unlike some of the most popular areas in Myanmar, you won’t find big resorts and herds of tourists here. Most people come to Dawei for its beautiful beaches, but you can also witness first-hand the daily lives of the fishermen, visit some of the local artists and learn about the local fish paste and rubber plantation industries.
The history of the Dawei Peninsula is reflected in its cultural practices and customs. Throughout the years the area has frequently changed hands between Myanmar, Thailand and Britain Therefore, you’ll find here an eclectic mix of cultural influences, which is always a plus in our eyes.
Try the local cuisine that serve a mix of Burmese and Thai dishes, visit the local temples and most of all, go beach hopping around the Dawei Peninsula. If you’re looking forward to spending a relaxed time on a picture-perfect beach while drinking some fresh coconut or cane juice and you want to escape the crowds, you have to add the Dawei Peninsula to your bucket list.
15. Garmeh, Iran
In the middle of the Dasht-e Kavir desert in Iran there is a small desert oasis called Garmeh. For many years the oasis was near abandoned until one man came back to his home place and built a guest house.
This gave work to the villagers and as visitors started coming, it gave even more work and more people kept moving back to the little oasis. Today, the flourishing village is becoming more populated as there are more workplaces available. Ateshooni Guesthouse is today the only place to stay in Garmeh.
It is still an extremely remote place in the desert, and you can go on long calm strolls through tall date palm trees, sizzling water, and old clay ruins from before the village was abandoned. Especially interesting are the ruins of an old clay castle which today, unfortunately, works as a dump place for rubbish, but beyond this it’s interesting to explore the different rooms in the old structure.
The highlight of Garmeh is probably the desert tour you can do, either day trips or overnight trips and you get to explore a huge salt river.
There are no direct buses to Garmeh, so you need to travel to Khur from either Isfahan or Yasd and from there you need to take a taxi for the last half an hour into the oasis. The buses stop pretty much in the middle of a roundabout, so you better tell the driver you need a taxi and he will help you out.
16. Muscat, Oman
Oman is easily one of Asia’s best hidden gems. This country in the Middle East is somewhere that rarely comes up in conversation about the best places to visit, but every single person that visits will tell you all about how breathtaking the country is, how safe it is, and how friendly the locals are.
The best place to base yourself when visiting Oman is the capital city of Muscat. There are lots of great places to visit within the city of Muscat and also right outside the city. Within Muscat, be sure to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It’s one of the most breathtaking mosques I’ve ever seen and if you go outside of prayer times, you’ll practically have the place to yourself.
Another spot you can’t miss while you’re in Muscat is the Royal Opera House. The outside of the building alone is gorgeous, made of mostly white marble. Make sure to do a tour inside as well.
One of the other incredible things about staying in Muscat is the day trips right outside the city. About 130 km outside of the city, you can visit the Bimmah Sinkhole. This spot is super unassuming at first, but the park you walk through opens up into this massive, turquoise sinkhole. You could easily spend a few hours swimming around and even cliff diving if you’re feeling adventurous.
Another stunning day trip is out to Wadi Shab. On the drive to Wadi Shab, make sure to stop by Wadi Dayqah Dam and Wadi Arbiyyin. Both are equally breathtaking and again, you’ll likely have the place to yourself. The culmination of this full day adventure will land you at Wadi Shab where you’ll enjoy a day of swimming and hiking.
Oman is without a doubt one of Asia’s best places to visit and a hidden gem. You won’t be disappointed!
17. Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Nakhon Phanom is the offbeat gem in Thailand, very few tourists visit. This Northeast town is situated on the Thailand- Laos border wherein the Mekong river acts as the water border between the two countries. Nakhon Phanom means the ‘City of Mountains’ due to its view of the towering, limestone mountains of Laos on the opposite side of the Mekong River.
Nakhon Phanom is a must-visit offbeat destination because it is perfect to unwind and chill on the Mekong border with spicy Thai food and beer! The town has a lovely laid back and tranquil nature and most of its activities revolve around the Mekong riverfront.
During my visit to Nakhon Phanom, I stayed in a hotel situated at Mekong riverbank, I strolled on the riverfront and participated in many recreational activities, took an evening river cruise, biked around the specially created bike track, shopped from the night market and even dined overlooking the Laotian mountains. I had the best digital detox holiday and highly recommend travellers to choose Nakhon Phanom in Thailand.
18. Taichung, Taiwan
Most foreigners visiting Taiwan will head straight to Taipei, and if they have time to visit another city they might check out Tainan or Kaohsiung. As for Taichung, it’s pretty far down the list for most people, but it really shouldn’t be! It’s just a short train ride away from Taipei, and there are some really cool things to see in Taichung, especially if you’re into arts and culture.
The top sight is probably Rainbow Village, a colorful place that’s much more than just an Instagram hotspot. It was created by a man known as Rainbow Grandpa, who was the last remaining resident in his housing estate built for military personnel and their dependents. The “village” was slated for demolition, but Rainbow Grandpa painted all the walls with images from his childhood and convinced the government not to destroy it. At 96 years old, he still welcomes visitors today.
Other cultural sights of interest include the Natural Way Six Arts Cultural Center and the Taichung Cultural Heritage Park. And if you’re a fan of street art, you’ll also want to visit Painted Animation Lane and an abandoned entertainment complex called the Qianyue Building. This one is a bit intimidating if you’ve never tried urban exploration before, but once you venture up the dark staircase you’ll find some incredible artwork on the upper floors.
19. Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Hidden all the way up north in Sri Lanka is a big and busy city waiting to be discovered by tourists, Jaffna.
During the civil war of Sri Lanka, Jaffna was the center of many fights and attacks, which is why tourists and locals avoided the north until the end of the war in 2009. And while locals are slowly returning home, tourists have stayed far away from Sri Lanka’s north. And that’s a shame. Because that key role Jaffna played in the recent civil war, and the large Tamil population is what makes Jaffna such an interesting place to visit.
The large number of abandoned houses and buildings and the many bullet holes that are still visible in the walls are a reminder of Sri Lanka’s brutal past. This is perhaps not the most stunning sight in Sri Lanka, but it’s an important and eye-opening one nonetheless.
The best way to explore Jaffna is by TukTuk. Find a guide who can explain more about Sri Lanka’s history, show you all the beautiful Hindu temples, and take you to the other highlights of the north. These other highlights include the small islands off the coast, Fort Jaffna, and the northern tip of Sri Lanka (Point Pedro).
Jaffna can easily be reached by public transport from popular destinations in Sri Lanka, such as Anuradhapura or Trincomalee. Making Jaffna a great hidden-gem in Sri Lanka, easy to reach, yet not spoiled with tourists.
20. Almaty, Kazakhstan
Almaty is not your regular tourist destination. However, the former capital of Kazakhstan has lots to offer. From Soviet history to trendy restaurants and lots of outdoor activities. Almaty is probably not the first city that comes to mind when you think of hiking, rafting or winter sports, but it’s all possible.
Almaty lies in the south eastern corner of Kazakhstan near the border with China and Kyrgyzstan. Here you will find the Tien Shan mountain range. Its snow capped peaks are visible from the city. Almaty is therefore one of the best destinations in Asia to go hiking.
Several hiking trails start at the ice skating rink Medeu or the ski resort of Shymbulak. Both are less than 30 minutes away from the city center and easy to reach by public bus. A bit further from Almaty is the 8 kilometer hike to the Kolsai lakes where you will be surrounded by alpine mountain sceneries.
Almaty is not just mountains though. The area around the city is very diverse. Other day trips can bring you to the singing sand dunes in Altyn Emel National Park or the red rock formations of the Charyn canyon where you can go rafting in the charyn river.
Once back in Almaty you can enjoy the facilities of any modern city with lots of cafes and restaurants where you can try Kazakh food such as horse meat and beshbarmak as well as international food. Almaty is easy to reach by plane or if you are already in Kazakhstan by train.
21. Fukuoka, Japan
Fukuoka, the largest city on Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu offers visitors one of the country’s best food destinations. Whilst closer to Seoul than Tokyo Fukuoka remains easily accessible. Flights from Tokyo take 2 hours and a Shinkansen train from Osaka 2 hours 20 minutes. Busan on the southern tip of South Korea is just a 3-hour hydrofoil journey away.
Foodies will know Fukuoka as the home of Hakata Ramen. Try any of the small local Ramen restaurants and you’ll be treated to a bowl of creamy pork bone broth or Tonkotsu better than you’ve ever tasted.
For the very best find a seat at one of the Yatai stalls that line the banks of Nakasu Island in the centre of the city. These stalls seating 6-8 people are a fabulously social way to experience ramen and other specialities such as gyoza or our own favourite, Mentaiko Teba. These deep-fried chicken wings stuffed with cod roe are simply mouth-watering.
Other Fukuoka highlights include Shofukuji, Japan’s first Zen Buddhist temple, the delightful Ohori Park and the 234 metre tall Fukuoka tower offering splendid coastal views. Each November Fukuoka hosts one of Sumo’s six annual tournaments.
Although smaller than Tokyo’s Ginza or Osaka Dotonbori Fukuoka’s Tanjin region offers the same level of vibrancy. Fukuoka has the added advantage of an underground passageway lined with over 150 retailers, perfect for escaping the often wet and windy Kyushu weather!
One of Asia’s best hidden gems is undoubtedly Pakistan. Though the country has had a difficult past, the security situation has improved exponentially in recent years, making Pakistan an incredible place to visit- sans all the tourists.
Epic landscapes, rich cultural traditions, unique Pakistani festivals and some of the most delicious food you’ll ever have the pleasure of tasting await you in this magical South Asian country. During the nearly 4 months I spent there last year, my partner and I only encountered a small handful of other travelers.
Though Pakistan does have an established “tourist trail” of sorts, it’s exceedingly easy to go beyond it. Even major cities are filled with tons of hidden gems- I spent weeks in the city of Lahore and was never bored- there was always something new to be discovered. These days, Pakistan is relatively easy to get to. You can cross overland from India at the Wagah Border, fly into either Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad, or even cross over from Iran at the Taftan Border.
Once you’re in the country, moving between cities is easy thanks to excellent private bus companies such as Daewoo and Faisal Movers, or local minibusses that tend to be cheaper yet stuffed with more people. Pakistanis are EXTREMELY hospitable and friendly, so keep in mind that hitchhiking is very doable- no matter where in the country you are, someone will be sure to help you out if you need it!
As for top sights, exploring the rich history and culture of Lahore is a great place to start. The Wazir Khan Mosque, Badshahi Mosque, and Lahore Fort are places you just shouldn’t miss. Pakistan’s crown jewel however is its mountains: the Hunza region is stunning and most popular with both foreign and domestic tourists, and for good reason.
Nevertheless, my favorite places in Pakistan are Phander Valley- known for its dreamy lake and peaceful surroundings-, Swat Valley- filled with lush green mountains, icy blue waters and extremely kind locals- and Yarkhun Valley, a remote and unexplored hamlet located in the region that borders Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor.
No matter where you go in Pakistan though, a life-changing trip certainly awaits. Though it might be lumped in with many of its neighbors, it couldn’t be more unique.
23. Rain of Kutch, India
White Rann of Kutch is one of the largest salt flats in the World, located in western Part of India in Gujarat State. The region is divided in two Parts- White Rann and Little Rann. The Rann means ‘desert’ in English. The Great White Rann is famous for its salt flats and Little Rann is famous for its wildlife and salt farming.
The desert comprises 30000 Sq km area, till Sindh Province in Pakistan. The climate remains mostly dry and during monsoon the desert is covered with water and during winter water evaporates, makes white salt flats! The months of December to March, ‘Rann Utsav’ is held to celebrate the culture of the region.
You can stay at local homestays, indulge in buying authentic handicrafts items from locals and taste the local food at Rann Utsav. You can witness the cultural Programs at the venue at Night. Apart from these, I highly recommend to visit the artisan villages like Nirona, Bhujodi and Ajrakhpur to see artisans at work while they are making handicrafts of Kutchh.
While you visit Rann of Kutchh, don’t miss the spectacular Sunset and Full Moon Nights which add the beauty of white desert by adding different shades of colors. The Rann of Kutch is one of the best offbeat destinations to visit in India. How to Reach: Bhuj is the nearest City to Rann of Kutch, well connected by air, train and by road.