Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.
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Welcome to the 2016 Viator Travel Awards: Asia Edition! In the past, we’ve focused on specific tours for each item on this list, but this year we thought we’d feature some of the top 25 things to do in the most exciting places to visit in Asia.
The tours and activities highlighted are chosen based on traveler reviews, data from the millions of people who check out Viator.com during the year, and information on which tours in the region travelers book most often. We think you’ll enjoy reading about the array of activities available in each of these places – it’s the little mental vacation we could all use right now – and we also think this list is a great place to start if you’re planning a trip in 2016.
As the world’s largest and most populous continent, with more than 50 countries spread across six distinct regions, Asia offers a wealth of experiences. The cultural, geographical and ethnic diversity that exists within Asia ensures travelers with varied interests and levels of experience will find something to cross off their bucket list. Join us for this tour of the Top 25 Things to Do in Asia!
1. Visit Mount Fuji
Snow-capped Mt. Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain at 12,388 feet, has been worshipped by the devout and immortalized in works of art for centuries. It’s no wonder, as the near-perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone stands out from the surrounding landscape and can even be seen from Tokyo on a clear day. See the spectacular Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi on a bullet train day trip from Tokyo. You can upgrade the experience with a Mt. Fuji day trip including Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise from Tokyo. If you’re hankering for spa time and some souvenirs, perhaps a Mt. Fuji, Yamanakako Onsen Experience and Outlets Shopping Day Trip from Tokyo is the right choice for you. For a more leisurely trip, consider a 2-day Mt. Fuji and Hakone bullet train tour from Tokyo or 3-day Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and Nara tour by bullet train from Tokyo.
2. See Tokyo’s Crazy Robot Cabaret
Jump firmly into the future with a Tokyo robot cabaret evening show. Now, hear us out, because yes, it does sound strange – and it is! But just as the temples, natural wonders and historic sites are Japan, so too is this wild, wacky, fun evening of entertainment. There are robots, Godzillas, dancing girls, laser lights, weird music and more to assault your senses and make you realize that this could only happen in Tokyo. If you want to keep your evening free, you can always book a matinee.You can also combine this unforgettable evening with a meal, such as a Kobe beef dinner at Yakiniku Motoyama or an authentic Kaiseki dinner.
3. Have an Unforgettable Experience at the Singapore Zoo
Visiting a zoo while on vacation may give you flashbacks to school field trips. But what if you could go at night? And have animal encounters like no other? The Singapore Zoo takes the experience up a notch. Get a private night safari tour of the Singapore Zoo with an optional buffet dinner – inside the zoo! If you’re going in high season, combine it with priority tram boarding so you can get the best seats in the house. For a truly memorable meal, head to the Singapore Zoo to have breakfast with the orangutans. There’s also a full immersion Singapore Zoo Night Safari plus River Safari.
4. See the Best of Tokyo
Tokyo is an especially fascinating place because of its strong mix of traditional interests (like sumo wrestling) alongside modern ones (like high-tech gadgets). While in Tokyo, we recommend experiencing some of both old and new Japan to get a feel for what modern Japanese culture looks like in the capital city. Get an overview of this busy city with a panoramic Tokyo day tour including Meiji Shrine, Asakusa Temple and a Tokyo Bay cruise. You can also focus on central Tokyo on a Skytree and Asakusa district sightseeing tour. Dive headfirst into the culture exactly the way you want to with a Private Custom Tour of Tokyo in a Day. Combine sightseeing with retail therapy on a Tokyo Morning Tour of the Meiji Shrine, Senso-ji Temple and Ginza Shopping District. The Shitamachi district comes alive when you explore Tokyo by Bike: Skytree, Kiyosumi Garden and Sumo Stadium.
5. Check Out the Ayutthaya Temples in Thailand
The Ayutthaya temples are a highlight of any trip to Thailand, and understanding the role the Ayutthaya kingdom played not only in the history of Thailand but in the evolution of its national art and architecture is crucial. Also? It’s just plain gorgeous. Get an excellent overview with a river cruise from Bangkok to see the temples. A Mekhala overnight river cruise from Ayutthaya to Bangkok aboard a beautiful rice barge is an unforgettable experience. For history buffs, there is the 3-Day River Kwai Tour from Bangkok: Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi and Thai-Burma Death Railway, which delves into the 20th-century history of the region. Or book a 6-Day Northern Thailand Tour: Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai from Bangkok and do it all!
6. See Singapore
Singapore is known as a “garden city” because over 50 percent of its land is covered by greenery, and it boasts more than 50 major parks and nature reserves. In addition to the enchanting jungle adventure possibilities, Singapore combines ancient Chinese and Indian influences with modern skyscrapers for a unique tourist experience. Hop on board for a trishaw night tour of Sinagpore’s Chinatown, or take a Singapore night tour with Gardens by the Bay, a bumboat ride and Bugis Street. Take in the whole city with a round-island tour including Changi Prison, the Kranji War Memorial and Gardens by the Bay, or a more classic Singapore City Tour. With a Singapore Hop-On Hop-Off Tour, you can design your own day at your own pace.
7. Discover the Charms of Kyoto
The former capital of Japan for more than a thousand years, Kyoto retains its stately, imperial feel with well-preserved historical sites, beautiful gardens and hundreds of Buddhist temples. It has long been one of the country’s most popular cities to visit. Get a truly in-depth overview of the city with a full-day sightseeing tour of Kyoto, including Nijo Castle and Kiyomizu Temple or a Kyoto and Nara day trip from Kyoto including Nijo Castle. You can also choose a half-day small-group Kyoto cultural tour, giving you some time to spend in the city on your own, too.
8. Day Trip From Hong Kong
As much as Hong Kong could fill up your itinerary on its own, it also makes a great base from which to explore the surrounding area. Check out what was once the oldest European settlement in the Orient with a Macau Day Trip from Hong Kong. See the Qin Dynasty Terracotta Warriors and the pandas at Shenzhen Safari Park on a Guangzhou (Canton) day trip from Hong Kong. Enjoy the shopping and sightseeing on a Shenzhen tour from Hong Kong. Take in the beautiful views at Po Lin Monastery on a Lantau Island and Giant Buddha Day Trip from Hong Kong for a look into Hong Kong’s religious culture.
9. Take a River Cruise
Whenever you visit a place on water, it’s good practice to spend some time on that water to get a new perspective on a city or country. Asia offers lots of opportunities to explore cities and countrysides from river cruises, either for a day or an extended trip. In Vietnam, you can travel through nature on a Mekong Delta discovery adventure tour from Ho Chi Minh City. You can also explore the country’s nighttime vibe with a Huangpu River Cruise and Bund City Lights Evening Tour of Shanghai. Settle in for a fine Thai meal on a Bangkok Dinner Cruise on the Chao Phraya River. In Japan, you can combine a visit to the Tokyo Tower with a traditional tea ceremony and Sumida River cruise. Cap off a perfect day in Hong Kong with a sunset cruise plus dinner at the Jumbo Floating Restaurant.
10. Experience Hong Kong Itself
Hong Kong has it all: lush forests, pristine beaches, sky-high mountain peaks, picturesque fishing villages, a rich history and a vibrant culture. Situated on China’s south coast, the island has been under Chinese sovereignty since 1997 and is widely lauded for its international flair, exceptional food and modern architecture. Start your trip with a Hong Kong Island Half-Day Tour for an introduction to the city. You can set your own sightseeing timetable on a Big Bus Hong Kong Hop-On Hop-Off Tour. There’s no better way to appreciate the renowned skyline all lit up than with a Symphony of Lights Hong Kong Harbor Night Cruise. Even if you want to go it alone, we can help with a Hong Kong Travel Pass: MTR and Airport Express Tickets to get you on your way!
11. Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels
Learn about the fascinating history of the Cu Chi freedom fighters and their famous tunnels on a small-group adventure tour of the Cu Chi tunnels from Ho Chi Minh City, including the chance to arrive by luxury speedboat. The Cu Chi tunnels are a miles-long network which were used by the Viet Cong to hide; move supplies, food and weapons; and coordinate surprise attacks. Today they are a major tourist attraction where visitors can get an overview of Vietnamese life during the war. A Cu Chi Tunnels Tour with Saigon River Speedboat Cruise from Ho Chi Minh City includes a visit to a cricket farm or a home where rice paper is traditionally made, plus a delicious meal. Or gain a wider perspective on a private tour of the Cu Chi tunnels plus Cao Dai Temple from Ho Chi Minh City.
12. Savor the Markets of Asia
The broad tapestry that is the Asian continent includes not only a wealth of history and culture, but a wide variety of flavors as well, many of which you can discover at Asia’s not-to-be-missed markets. With a Korean Palace and Market Tour in Seoul Including Insadong and Gyeongbokgung Palace, you can see the sights while also discovering the delicacies that bring locals to the market. The inner workings of the floating markets of Damnoen Saduak on a cruise day trip from Bangkok will open your eyes to traditional Thai culture, while a night tour of Bangkok’s Temples, Markets and Food by Tuk-Tuk is a fun treat. In Japan, a Sushi Making and Tsukiji Fish Market Morning Tour from Tokyo will leave you satisfied body and soul.
13. Lean About Korea’s History
Seoul is one of the liveliest, most colorful and exciting cities in the region. Discover cultural landmarks and traditional architecture in a Seoul History and Culture Small-Group Tour or Soul of Seoul Small-Group Walking Tour. Experience the fascinating culture firsthand on a Private Walking Tour of the Shadows of the Imperialism Era. Or venture out of the city and stand within feet of the infamous North Korean border on a DMZ past and present tour of the Korean Demilitarized Zone or Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and JSA Panmunjom Tour from Seoul, during which you also visit the Joint Security Area.
14. Have an Elephant Encounter
Majestic elephants have always been a part of Asian cultures, and having an elephant encounter can be a richly fulfilling experience. A Chiang Dao Elephant Jungle Trek and Ping River Rafting Tour from Chiang Mai focuses on the many ways elephants are used in rural Thai culture, and includes a jungle trek, visit to an orchid farm, river ride and many more options. Or you can take a Khao Yai National Park and Elephant Ride Day Trip from Bangkok, which also features an oxcart ride and a cooking class! In India, you can combine sightseeing with an encounter during a Private Tour of Jaipur Including Jantar Mantar, Amber Fort and an Elephant Ride. Pack your bathing suite for a Jungle Adventure from Goa Including Elephant Ride and Lunch, where you can swim with these regal beasts!
15. Visit the Great Wall of China
Few experiences in the world are as exceptional as walking on the Great Wall of China. Used to fortify the Chinese border and built more than 2,000 years ago during the Ming Dynasty, it spans some 5,000 miles (almost 9,000 kilometers). It’s possible to not only see part of the wall in a day but to hike on several sections from a home base in Beijing, for instance on a Great Wall of China Small-Group Day Trip from Beijing, including lunch and a reflexology foot massage. See even more on a day tour of the Great Wall of China at Badaling plus Ming Tombs from Beijing. Walk the restored Mutianyu section on a Great Wall of China day trip from Beijing with lunch, or make it fancy with a Viator Exclusive: Great Wall at Mutianyu Tour with Picnic and Wine. Upgrade the experience with a VIP tour of Beijing’s Forbidden City including a special viewing of the treasure gallery and the Great Wall at Badaling.
16. See the Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge is something you have to see with your own eyes to believe. The scale, the beauty, and the national park’s harmonious relationship with nature are simply not to be missed. From Taipei you can take a Taroko Gorge Full-Day Tour or Private Tour: Taroko Gorge Day Trip, which includes an aboriginal-style lunch, a visit to the Hualien Stone Sculptural Park and a marble factory, and some of the most stunning walkways and hikes in the world. A 2-Day Private Taroko Gorge Trip features an overnight stay in a charming B&B, as well as more in-depth visits to nearby villages and more time to hike the gorge’s tunnels and suspension bridges. If you’d like your visit to the gorge to be part of a larger tour, see the whole island of Taiwan with a 5-Day Best of Taiwan Tour from Taipei: Sun Moon Lake, Taroko Gorge, Kaohsiung and Taitung.
17. Marvel at the Taj Mahal
The most iconic monument in India is waiting for you! With a Private Tour: Agra and the Taj Mahal Day Trip from Delhi or Private Tour: Agra and the Taj Mahal from Delhi, you will have a full day to marvel at this stunning structure which plays with the light of the day from morning ’til dusk. And of course, the Agra Fort is a must-see while in the area as well. To make your trip unforgettable, try a Private Taj Mahal and Agra Fort Tour, Dine with a View and Optional Photographer tour – perfect for a special occasion or proposal. And on a private tour of the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Kachhpura Village, you can take a heritage walk and learn about the region’s history and daily life.
18. See the Angkor Wat Temples
The name Angkor Wat means “Temple City,” and the complex of Hindu and Buddhist temples just outside of Cambodia’s Siem Reap is the largest religious monument in the world. Angkor Wat and the rest of the Angkor ruins date back thousands of years and were eventually abandoned and forgotten, gradually reclaimed by the surrounding jungle. The ruins weren’t to be rediscovered until 1850, when a French naturalist on expedition in Cambodia came upon the site. You can see the iconic Angkor Wat temple complex and enjoy a traditional lunch at the Royal Baths on a private tour of Angkor Wat and the Royal Temples from Siem Reap. To really dig into the history without feeling rushed, join a 3-Day Siem Reap Tour to Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Bayon and Tonle Sap. Tap into the mystical quality of the Temple City with an Angkor Sunrise Discovery Bike Tour. If you prefer to sleep in a little longer, there’s an Angkor Temples Bike Tour from Siem Reap for you!
19. Explore Nikko National Park
Tokyo is an exciting, dynamic and sometimes chaotic city sure to be on every traveler’s bucket list. But it’s also worth it to get out of the city for the day and behold nature’s majesty in Nikko National Park. Covering Shinto and Buddhist shrines tucked away in the forest and a stunning waterfall, a Nikko National Park Day Trip from Tokyo is sure to impress. Combine a visit to Nikko with Edo Wonderland, a 17th-century park where ninjas, samurais and geishas greet you.
20. Visit the Batu Caves
Far from being ancient – first put to use in the mid-19th century by Chinese farmers – the Batu Caves in Malaysia have become a major site of pilgrimage for Hindus around the world, particularly from India, after shrines were built here in 1892. But with a stunning landscape, majestic staircase and the world’s largest statue of a Hindu deity, it’s a must-visit if you’re in Kuala Lumpur. A Batu Caves and Temple Tour from Kuala Lumpur gives a great overview of the complex, and a private tour can go even more in depth. A Batu Caves and Malaysian Crafts Tour from Kuala Lumpur visits local villages and a pewter factory. With a 4-Day Malacca and Kuala Lumpur Tour from Singapore Including Batu Caves, you can also experience the National Palace and the Petronas Twin Towers.
21. Eat Your Way Around the Continent
Asia boasts some of the most diverse, flavorful cuisines in the world. From peanut sauce in Thailand to spicy curry in India and sushi in Japan, some of our favorite foods hail from the Far East. One of the best ways to experience a new city or country is through its food – from trying local delicacies to splurging on a fine-dining meal, or even taking a cooking class. Get to know the unique cuisine of Hong Kong on a food tour of the Central and Sheung Wan districts, sampling dim sum and noodle dishes. Or sample Thai delicacies on a fun Bangkok Food Tour. Learn what the locals eat on a Mumbai Street Food Tour by Night or Kuala Lumpur Hawker Center and Street Food Tour by Night. Or go on a culinary expedition of Tokyo by night on a Japanese Food Tour.
22. Explore the Golden Triangle
The three most popular sites in India – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – make up what’s called the Golden Triangle, and travelers from around the world follow this path through opulent palaces, imposing forts, sprawling street markets and iconic monuments. Even if you’re pressed for time, a 2-Day Amritsar and Golden Temple Tour from Delhi will fit the bill. Take a 4-day private tour of the Golden Triangle to see Agra and Jaipur from Delhi, with three- or four-star hotel rooms and air-conditioned transportation. Or upgrade with a 4-night private Golden Triangle tour including Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, including five-star hotels, air-conditioned transport and an elephant ride. If that doesn’t sound like enough time, then relax a bit more with a 6-day private Golden Triangle tour covering Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Mandawa, where you’ll see mansions and Hindu temples. Get in touch with your wild side on a 6-night private Golden Triangle tour and Ranthambore Wildlife Safari from Delhi.
23. See the Terracotta Warriors
Xi’an developed as a major military and trading post along the Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty, but its most famous attraction wasn’t discovered until 1974 when a local farmer uncovered a collection of ancient terracotta sculptures dating back to the third century B.C. The thousands of Terracotta Warriors have become one of China’s best-known attractions. See it with your own eyes on a Terracotta Warriors day trip from Xi’an. Also savor some quintessential Chinese cuisine on a small-group tour of the Terracotta Warriors followed by a dumpling banquet and Tang Dynasty show in Xi’an. Add in more historical context with a Xi’an Highlights Day Tour: Terracotta Warriors and City Sightseeing. Do it all VIP style with a private tour of the Xi’an City Wall, Great Mosque and Terracotta Warriors. Or add in another iconic attraction of the country with a Private Tour of China’s National Treasures: Giant Pandas and Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an.
24. Watch a Sumo Wrestling Match in Tokyo
Take your seats in the stadium for one of Japan’s traditional sports at a Tokyo Sumo Wrestling Tournament. Better yet, get a behind-the-scenes look at the complicated world of sumo with a Sumo Stable Training Tour and Sumo-Style Lunch. Watch a sumo morning practice in Tokyo and learn more about how these men train. Ask everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Sumo wrestling during an Asakusa and Ryogoku Walking Tour with Sumo Wrestler.
25. Relax in Bali
Bali is almost synonymous with beaches, and of course it has some of the most beautiful you’ll ever see. There’s more to Bali than just sand and surf, however, and you’re encouraged to sample as much of it as you can. Get underneath the surface of that gorgeous water to explore sea life on a Bali Reef Cruise and Lembongan Island Day Trip. A visit to the Bali Monkey Forest, Mengwi Temple and Tanah Lot on an afternoon tour lets you see some of Bali’s sacred sites – and beloved monkeys. Combine traditional cultural activities with natural wonders with a Kintamani Volcano, Ubud and Barong Dance Full-Day Tour. Or enjoy a wildlife and nature experience with an Elephant Safari Park and White-Water Rafting Adventure.
– Viator Travel Team