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With everything from stunning diverse natural landscapes and unique wildlife to an abundance of cultural and historic attractions, Asia offers more to see and do than most travelers can possibly experience in a lifetime. Of course, there are some adventures that stand out above all others. For true bucket list adventures, consider some of these unforgettable options.
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Mount Fuji soars over Tokyo at 12,389 feet, a symbol of the country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While you can gaze at it from afar, it’s arguably best experienced by climbing to its snow-dusted peak between July and mid-September when conditions are optimal. A place of pilgrimage for centuries, once you reach the summit you’ll enjoy awe-inspiring views along with bragging rights. There are four different routes, with the Yoshida trail the most accessible, starting at Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine at Fuji’s base.
Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and top destination in Vietnam with emerald waters that boast a breathtaking collection of some 2,000 limestone islands with dramatic cliffs and caves inhabited by cuckoos and hornbills. Simply being able to marvel at the incredible scenery is reason enough to take a cruise here, with Instagram moments galore. There are multiple cruising options, including vessels built in the style of old Chinese trading junks. The “junks” are the most memorable and will bring you to beaches for swimming and sunbathing to but you’ll want to book through your hotel or online in advance to avoid potential scams. There are also tours that can be booked with departure from Hanoi.
Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Islands aren’t easy to reach but they’re some of Asia’s most enchanting isles. Enveloped by brilliant turquoise seas and vibrant reefs that are teeming with colorful fish and other marine life like tiny sea horses and playful manta rays, it’s a true diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise. The amazing sunsets provide the perfect finale every evening as some of the most awe-inspiring to witness on the planet too.
Located in the Arashiyama district of western Kyoto, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is absolutely enchanting, a magical wonderland of towering bamboo trees, some of which rise for more than 65 feet. One of the top things to do in Japan, walking through feels like a dream, with the trees gently swaying in the wind and the sun filtering through the darkness. The path links Okouchi Sanso Garden and the Tenryuji Temple, providing more beauty both natural and manmade on either side.
Situated between Yudanaka Station and the Jigokudani Monkey Park, Shibu Onsen is a historic hot spring town with a 1,300-year history. Long known as a place of refuge and healing, it boasts numerous thermal water sources that have drawn visitors for centuries to soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters. It’s also a historic treat with cobbled streets and traditional wooden ryokans (inns) built some 400 years ago. To relax in the springs, you’ll need to book a stay at one of the ryokans, each of which offers something unique of its own. If you come during the chillier months, you’ll have the chance to see the famous snow monkeys soak in the warm pools as well.
Komodo Island is famous for being the home of the largest species of lizards on the planet, the Komodo dragon which can weigh as much as 220 pounds. It’s definitely a bucket list experience as these creatures are endangered with only an estimated three to five thousand existing on the planet today. Just be sure to keep your distance as they have venomous bites and razor-sharp claws. While you’re here you can also watch for water buffalo, monkey, and deer, snorkel or dive among vibrant coral reefs, and visit a famous pink sand beach.
A river cruise through Tanjung Puting National Park on the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo is the best place in the world to encounter orangutans, an animal that’s been predicted to be extinct in the wild in less than 50 years. You’ll be able to relax on the deck of a klotok (a multistory liveaboard) as it winds through the channel, making stops at orangutan feeding stations where the free-roaming animals can almost always be seen gorging on the fruit designed to supplement their diet in the wild. Other wildlife commonly spotted include the bizarre-looking long-nose proboscis monkeys, long-tailed macaques, hornbills, and crocodiles.
Watching a sunrise at Angkor Wat is one of the bucket lists of many who visit Cambodia. It’s one of the world’s most breathtaking sunsets, with the reflection of the temple in the still waters. As the colors start to dance above the ancient spires, you’ll know that early wake-up call was worth it. You’ll have plenty of other things to do here afterward, like see the carvings placed in the waterfalls and river beds, said to infuse the passing water with spiritual power, visiting the floating markets, and the Floating Forest at Kompong Phluk.
If you were blown away by the scenery in 2009’s sci-fi blockbuster “Avatar” film, visiting Zhangjiajie National Forest, the real-life setting, should definitely be on your bucket list. The movie’s Hallelujah Mountains were inspired by the Heavenly Pillar in this land of dense forests, karst caves, and precarious peaks. Wulingyuan is the jumping-off point for excursions, with day trips that will bring you there, although you can also explore the trails on your own.
The Bali Swing is a vision you’ve problem seen multiple times on Instagram. There are actually many of them dotted around the island, overlooking stunningly lush rice paddies and jungle, with most around Ubud. You’ll find 15 of them in Bongkasa Pertiwi sitting at various heights ranging from about 33 feet to as high as 256 feet off the ground. Real Bali Swing, offers this thrilling rush and other activities too, like quad bike rides and rafting.
A trek through the Himalayas is a bucket list experience for hikers, home to some of the world’s highest peaks and incredible mountain scenery. Adventurers should put Sagarmatha National Park at the top of their itinerary, as it’s home to the tallest of them all, Mount Everest. Here you’ll be able to take in the dramatic skyline of the Lhotse, Cho Oyo, Nuptse, Thamserku, Pumori and Amadablam mountains, lush valleys, and glaciers that sparkle in the sun. Watch for the elusive snow leopard, red panda, black bears and Himalayan tahr that roam through.
Siquijor Island offers some of the world’s most breathtakingly lush scenery with everything from gorgeous beaches to waterfalls. Lugnason Falls, part of the Zodiac Falls Nature Trail, is considered one of the best, cascading nearly 50 feet into a brilliant turquoise pool, perfect for swimming. It’s sure to be one of the most memorable ways to cool off on a hot day, and if you’re a thrill-seeker, you can leap in via a rope swing or from the rocks above.
For waterfall lovers (and many others), Bali is a dream. Design a trip chasing the falls, perhaps starting with Sekumpul, often called the most beautiful at all, located on the island’s northern side near the towns of Tukad Cepung and Tibumana. North Bali is a more remote region that’s ideal for getting off the beaten path and away from the crowds, home to lakes and many other falls like Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall and the Banyumala Twin Waterfalls. There are waterfalls near popular Ubud too, including magical Tibumana and Tukad Cepung.
The Maldives is the ultimate tropical paradise with postcard-perfect white sands edged by translucent turquoise waters. It’s also one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks. These docile creatures are the largest species of any fish, reaching up to 40 feet in length but despite their size, they’re harmless gentle giants. Swimming alongside them is an opportunity of a lifetime, and there are multiple resorts and guesthouses that offer tours. The best place to go is in the marine protected area off South Ari Atol, thanks to the abundant plankton that draw the animals to feast.
Singapore has one of the world’s most incredible skylines looking as if it came from the pages of a sci-fi book. It’s dazzling day and night, but after dark, if you walk around Marina Bay you can watch a dazzling light show and sit the skyline illuminated in all its glory, the perfect thing to do if you have a layover here.