Photo by Peera_stockfoto/Shutterstock
5 Underrated Destinations in Asia You Need to See
Asia is one of the top tourism destinations in the world, yet there are so many regions of this vast continent that are still undiscovered or under-appreciated by international tourists. There's something appealing about traveling to a place few others would even consider, whether it's a cultural gem in the foothills of the Himalayas or a bustling metropolis on the steppes of Central Asia. Discover the must-see sights and things to do in each locale, and start planning your next trip to one of Asia's top underrated destinations.
table of contents
5 Underrated Destinations in Asia You Need to See
Photo by Kateryna Mashkevych/Shutterstock
A small country in the Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan is known by some for being the only country to value 'gross national happiness' over gross domestic product. This happy nation has a rich culture and countless ancient monasteries and palaces, as well as several wildlife sanctuaries and national parks currently vying for UNESCO World Heritage status.
Punakha was once the capital city of this sovereign nation before it was moved to Thimphu, and there are many culturally important monuments and structures here. There is the Pungthang Dewachen Phodrang, or Palace of Great Happiness, and is still used as a winter palace by the senior members of the state religious sect, or Central Monastic Body of Bhutan. The nearby valleys of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu Rivers are famous for rice farming, and there are many quaint farming settlements along the rivers. The Bhutanese government charges a daily fee of $250 US, which includes tour operators and hotel stays.
Photo by toiletroom/Shutterstock
Mongolia was the disputed territory of skilled, mounted nomads for thousands of years. Most notably, the infamous Genghis Khan began his Mongol Empire from the steppes, which would eventually become one of the largest empires the world would ever see. In 1921, Mongolia split from China and became an independent republic. Today, horses are still an integral part of Mongolian culture, and many still practice a nomadic lifestyle away from the city borders. Mongolia's capital of Ulaanbaatar is a bustling metropolitan center with Sukhbaatar Square at its center. Between checking out the street art of Peace Avenue and sampling local delicacies downtown, Ulaanbaatar's many historic monuments, temples and monasteries are highly recommended.
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Photo by Ihor Pasternak/Shutterstock
Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital city of Brunei, a sultanate on the island Borneo, a landmass it shares with sections of both Malaysia and Indonesia. The city is known locally as Bandar, a Malay word meaning 'city'. Bandar's must-see sights include the Kampong Ayer or 'Water Village', the world's largest collection of dwellings on stilts, which are perched over the Brunei River. The city is home to the only two national mosques in Brunei, the Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque and the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, the latter of which is often considered the most beautiful in the region. Bandar's elegant tombs of the former sultans, the Royal Mausoleum, and two grand istanas (palaces) belonging to the sultanate are also recommended.
Nagasaki City, Japan
Photo by TOMO/Shutterstock
Nagasaki is nestled in a coastal, subtropical region of Japan known as Kyushu. The city has long been an important center of trade, and its port was one of only a handful open to foreign trade during the Edo Period. As a result, Nagasaki City was heavily influenced by Chinese and Dutch traders, becoming an melting pot of religions and schools of thought. Western Christianity took hold here during the Edo Period, and despite continued persecution by the shogunate, monuments and churches of the Nagasaki Christians are scattered throughout the prefecture. Nagasaki is also known for its peace monuments and memorials erected after the devastation of the atomic bombing during World War II, including the Nagasaki Peace Park and the acclaimed Atomic Bomb Museum.
Photo by tenkl/Shutterstock
Tainan is located at the southern end of Taiwan, a small island country the Portuguese once called 'Formosa', meaning 'beautiful island'. Compared to Taipei, the nation's capital on the opposite end of the island, Tainan is much more traditional and quiet, though there are more than enough trendy cafes and bustling night markets to compete. Tainan is home to two historic Dutch military fortresses, the Anping Old Fort and the Chihkan Tower. For a taste of old Taiwan, head to Shennong Street or Anping Old Street, while the Blueprint Culture & Creative Park offers a more modern take on entertainment.
Finding that hidden gem or simply exploring a lesser-known locale is one of the most rewarding travel experiences one can have. As the most diverse and populous continent in the world, it's little surprise that Asia contains a treasure trove of cultural wonders, tantalizing cuisines and fascinating histories, many of them found off the beaten path. Discover the cities and sites still under-appreciated and less traveled in Asia.