Underrated Destinations in Asia You Ought To Place On Your Bucket List!

Hidden Gems: 20 Under-the-Radar Destinations in Asia To Travel To this 2020

You don’t have to go far for a little fun and adventure!

When we think about travelling Asia, we tend to think of its bigger, more well-known metropolises like Kuala Lumpur, Seoul or Tokyo. With more ‘hidden gems’ and lesser-known destinations slowly coming into the spotlight, why not opt for a little adventure on the off-the-beaten-path? Make this your ultimate new year travel bucket list here are 20 underrated destinations in Asia to travel to and uncover this year! 

1. Shodoshima, Japan

Image credit: Daniel Rubio

Located in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, Shodoshima is well off the tourist trail. Home to a population of only about 30,000, this is the first area in Japan to successfully grow olives which is why the island is also known as “Olive Island”. The island is also readily accessible by ferry which you can take from the main island of Honshu. While the island is popular for among locals, it is still seemingly unheard of among foreign tourists. 

Image credit: Kathleen Kam

On this island, you can find incredible beaches along the coastline like the Dobuchi Strait, the world’s narrowest strait. However, the major natural attraction here is still the Kankakei Gorge, situated in the middle of the island where you can find the most breathtaking views. Journeying up the mountain (either by bus or taxi) can also be an adventure thanks to the wild Japanese macaque monkeys habitating the area. This mountains here are also heavily covered by beautiful Japanese maple trees. So if you find yourself here in the autumn, be prepared to fall in love with the wonderful mic of red and gold.

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2. Yaeyama Islands, Japan

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Yaeyama Islands are both the southernmost and westernmost inhabited islands of Japan, and two of the three main island chains of Okinawa Prefecture. The islands’ coral reefs are also ideal habitats for many sea animals, including whales and dugongs! Needless to say, with its stunning beaches and plenty of water sports, this island is the place to be if you need some time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

3. Haputale, Sri Lanka

Image credit: Indi Samarajiva

Looking for something serene and quiet? Haputale is your pick. This hillside town is surrounded by beautiful tea plantations. On a clear day, you can even view the south coast from the narrow mountain ridges where the land falls steeply on the sides. Even when it is not so clear out, the moving mists will blow your mind. One of the most popular things to do here is to catch the sunrise at Lipton Seat – the viewpoint will sweep you off your feet. There is nothing short of incredible on this hill country village! 

4. Hsipaw, Myanmar

Image credit: Isabell Schulz

Hsipaw has an intriguing history and a deliciously laid-back atmosphere. While there are tourist-friendly conveniences around, the town still remains authentic and still not quite as touristy! Surrounded by lush farmlands and rice fields, it offers an insight into the rural life in Myanmar. Here, you can find hot springs, waterfalls and sunset hills that will satisfy your hunger for the natural wonders!

5. Koh Kood, Thailand

Image credit: Karolina Lubryczynska

Koh Kood is the untouched paradise of Thailand and home to one of – allegedly – the best beaches in the world! Located just a mere 5 hours from Bangkok, this island is easily accessible and yet a good distance away from the city buzz. For those who enjoy beaches, jungles, mangroves and waterfalls, this natural beauty is right up your alley. The roads here are most deserted and unexplored making a trip down with a scooter an adventure! 

6. Koh Lipe, Thailand

Image credit: Koh Lipe Thailand

Koh Lipe is best known for its white sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters! Located in the South Andaman Sea, this small L-shaped island used to only be inhabited by Sea Gypsies. The island and its surroundings are famous for snorkelling and scuba diving as its coral reefs are easy to reach. (They start just a few metres away from each of the four main island’s beaches!) These coral reefs are impressive as 25% of the world’s tropical fish can be found here!

7. Phong Nha, Vietnam

Image credit: Thang TQ

This sleepy village would still be very under the radar if not for the surprise discovery of one of the world’s largest caves within its vicinity. This pushed for an incline in adventure tourism in Phong Nha. This is a paradise for those who thirst for adventure with its meandering rivers and jungle-clad mountains! 

Image credit: Thomas Rotte

With the Phong Nha-ke Bang National Park nearby, you will unveil hiking trails, countryside lanes and rivers that is best for kayaking. While this is the place to be for adrenaline junkies, Phong Nha is also in the early stages of development, making it still very untouched by tourists!

8. Koh Rong, Cambodia

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Koh Rong is a group of islands just off the Cambodian coast which boasts 23 amazing white-sand beaches, embellished with stunning azure seas. Thanks to the hot tropical climate, the crystal-clear ocean waters are warm and inviting. As the country’s largest and fastest-developing island, this is the place to be to enjoy incredible and natural appeal of island-living. With no roads and limited wi-fi, this is the place to be to disconnect and be at one with nature!

9. Wuyuan, China

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Best known as the “most beautiful countryside in China”, Wuyuan  is located northeast of Jiangxi Province is home to at least 50 old villages. You can also find some of the most well-preserved and unique ancient architecture in China here. Having stood for over 1,000 years, this county was first set up in 740 during the Tang Dynasty. Due to the fact that the structures were built so long ago, it is very remote and inconvenient for transportation, protecting the villages from too many visitors! 

Image credit: Leo Li

This fascinating spot is also surrounded by emerald green mountains and trees, with clear rivers running along paths between the fields. There is an abundance of natural wonder here with the most famous being the Paradise of Rape Flowers. 

10. Tuvas Village, China

Image credit: Jennifer

Tuvas Village is a small valley village which has within itself only just about 80 homes, nestled in the quiet and serenity of the beautiful landscapes. Nearby is also the mysterious Lake Kanas where locals have long since told tales of a monstrous creature swimming in its depths! 

Image credit: May Lee

The Tuvas who inhabit the area are an ancient minority group who are traditionally hunter-gatherers and are rumoured to be descendants of a group of Genghis Khan’s troops. If you are looking for an authentic peaceful piece of living the ancient village life, then Tuvas Village is for you!

11. Mabul Island, Malaysia

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Initially just a small fishing village, Mabul Island grew in popularity due to its close proximity to the famous Sipadan Island. With swaying coconut trees and idyllic water villages, Mabul has gained recognition as one of the best muck-diving sites in the world. Mabul is also well-known for its incredible plethora of macrolife making it one of the best locations to capture some of the rarest ecological species on film!

12. Malapascua, Philippines

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Malapascua is a tiny island sitting in the northern part of Cebu and is considered one of the most captivating islands in the country. Although the area is best known for diving, Malapascua is more than just a diving site. The waters are so clean and clear, it is impossible to not want to jump right in, especially with the beach spreading over such a huge area! 

There is also a lighthouse where you can enjoy all perfect panoramas of the island. Nearby, there is also a cliff jumping spot for the adrenaline junkies! The nightlife here is also fun albeit it being more casual and more limited in size and options, but it is the perfect way to mingle with locals and other travelers! 

13. Champasak Province, Laos

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Home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls, jungles and islands in the entire country, Champasak Province is a hidden gem in South East Asia. Bordering Cambodia and Thailand, this area is culturally influenced by both. Here, you can also find the Wat Phou, which predates the Angkor Temple Complex in Cambodia, and you can learn more about the history and restoration in the museum on site. 

Image credit: Tautvaldas Tumenas

There is also the Si Phan Don where many boulder-like tiny islands creates rapids and waterfalls where you can look out for the endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin! 

14. Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia

Image credit: Michael Anderson

Sparsely populated, the Raja Ampat Islands is comprised of more than 1,500 islands surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo. With hidden lagoons, spooky caves and strangely shaped islets, there is so much waiting to be discovered here. The Raja Ampat archipelago also straddles the equator forming part of the Coral Triangle which is home to the richest marine biodiversity on Earth. This is truly the pristine paradise lies and the exceptional wonders of nature will enthrall you. 

15. Coonoor, India

Image credit: Akash Malhotra

One of the three Nilgiri hill stations, Coonoor is best known for its verdant surroundings and the plethora of wildflowers and birds in the area. Located in the western part of the state of Tamilnadu, it is also famous for its tea plantations and festivals! Situated some 1850m above sea level, you can be assured that the views here are phenomenal. There are also many brilliant waterfalls in the vicinity like the Law’s Falls, St. Katherine Falls and Katary Falls!

16. Hoh Xil, Tibet

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Translating to “beautiful girl” in Mongolian, Hoh Xil is home to the famous Hoh Xil Nature Reserve which is one of the world’s best-preserved nature reserves. With its snow-capped mountains, grasslands, clear lakes that reflects the skies and groups of free wild animals, the picture it paints will surely take your breath away. 

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This reserve also has an alpine climate and is influenced by strong west wind all year round, making it inhabitable for humans. This also means that Hoh Xil is preserved in its primitive state! In addition to that, rivers of all sizes also cross nearly the entirety of the reserve. 

17. Pingyao, China

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Pingyao is an ancient city home to one of the best ancient walled cities in China. Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the old town of Pingyao is inhabited and mostly off-limits to cars. As you walk on the cobbled street, marvel over the building that are mostly from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Imagine yourself a part of a period film! This city is still off the radar for foreigners with most of the visitors being other mainland Chinese.

18. Con Dao Archipelago, Vietnam

Image credit: Hanh Trinh Puong Dong

Con Dao is an archipelago made up of 16 mostly uninhabited islets set just off the Southern coast of Vietnam, each boasting expansive beaches with incredible lush green trees. For those looking for a retreat away from the bustle of city life, this serene coastal roads will heal and provide all the relaxation you need. The beaches are thoroughly unspoilt and untouched, perfect for a day of swimming and sunbathing. With a population of about 6,000, this archipelago is the place to be for a getaway! You can also go hiking here to catch the excellent wildlife-watching opportunities!

19. Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

Image credit: Ray Ambler

For the adventure seekers, Mount Pinatubo might be the destination of your choice. An active volcano located in the Zambales Mountains, it is best known for its notorious eruption in 1991. With jarring landscapes, dramatic canyons and snaking rivers, Mount Pinatubo is a sight to behold with its scenery being so brilliant. Mount Pinatubo looks graceful and serene as it sits in front of an incredible environment. While trekking up Mount Pinatubo requires physical fitness and stamina, for all who has done it, it was nothing short of rewarding!

20. Togian Islands, Indonesia

Image credit: Collin Key

Togian Islands is a collection of 56 islands and islets with the three largest islands being Batudaka, Togean and Talakatoh. There are a total of 37 villages on the islands, with one settled by the Bajau people who are better known as the sea gypsies. The rich diversity of marine life and coral formations attract many divers and snorkelers with many professional scuba schools in the area. On land, there is an abundance of wildlife to look for in the undisturbed wild jungles. With about seven ethnic groups sharing the region, not only is this place perfect for its beaches and natural wonders, but also for the incredibly rich culture!

About Author

Natasha Shadeanna
Natasha Shadeanna

Natasha is always on a quest to find a place where it is always spring. Until then, she spends her days reading travel journals, watching travelogues and searching for cheap flights to anywhere around the world. If a bar is playing good music, she’s probably there with a drink in hand.


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