South Korea continues to be East Asia’s hidden gem when it comes to travel and tourism, so Seoul has a well earnt place on our list. Visit the Gangnam district, the home of K-pop and a fantastic nightlife; spend some time at the DMZ, bordering North Korea; head to a restaurant to try one of the country’s famous Korean BBQs; and experience traditional South Korea in the historical Bukchon Hanok Village. If you’re reading this list because you want to find an incredible travel destination before everyone else, Seoul is where to go.
China’s always been a bit of a maverick’s choice when it comes to travel in Asia. It’s home to some of the most famous tourist sights on earth, yet some travellers are intimidated by the cultural shock. For those who remain hesitant, Shanghai offers the chance to dip your toe in the water before traveling the rest of the country. It’s a buzzing cosmopolitan hub, becoming more akin to the likes of Hong Kong in mood and culture, the city offers a fantastic blend of old and new China. Around every corner you’ll still find traditional, often family run, Chinese restaurants yet walking along the city’s famous Bund can often feel as if you’re in central New York or London. Like many cities in China, it’s developing by the second so visiting in 2020 will be very different to 2021 – not to mention 2022!
Placed in the heart of northern India, Jaipur is only a five-hour drive from Delhi yet provides a completely different view of the country. Known as India’s “Pink City”, its colourful historic architecture displays how the beauty of India’s past has not been lost amidst its industrialisation. The city is home to various hilltop forts and palaces plus, perhaps most famously, bazaars and markets. Like most of India, it’s a city full of brilliant street food markets – join a food tour to get the full experience. If you’re unsure about how to eat safely in India then be sure to have a read of our guide on that.
Within the space of a couple of years Japan has rocketed to being one of Asia’s most popular destinations to visit. Tokyo and Kyoto are the two cities which remain on everyone’s list when paying a visit but it’s well worth taking an extra few days to visit Osaka. It’s a city famous for its coastal location, its buzzing nightlife and its giant mechanical crab. If you’re looking for where to go after dark, head straight to the Dōtonbori district, packed with restaurants and bars lined alongside one of the city’s canals. If you’re a history buff, the city is home to Osaka Castle, one of Japan’s most famous landmarks and (even if you’re not interested in history) it’s a stunning sight to see. For that modern edge when you’re visiting the city, try your hand at surfing. Japan’s 2021 Olympics will be the first year surfing will be recognised as an Olympic sport and its popularity has exploded in the country as a result. Isonoura beach is one of Japan’s surfing hotspots: it’s an hour’s drive from Osaka and makes for a great day trip if you have time.
If Hanoi is viewed as a city that’s home to Vietnamese history then Ho Chi Minh City is home to its future. Placed at the forefront of a rapidly changing nation, Ho Chi Minh City currently offers a fantastic balance of a bubbling cultural scene, famous sights and stunning natural scenery. If you’re looking for the modern flare head over to one the city’s trendy arts districts. More of a history fan? Pay a visit to its markets dating back to the 17th century, including the famous Bến Thành Market. Ho Chi Minh City is placed upon the Mekong delta and if you’re looking for nature’s compliment to its urban edge then take a boat tour out into the Tra Su Forest and weave your way through the greenery.
Still not sure where you should be exploring in 2020 and 2021? Take our travel personality quiz to see which countries suit you!