Top 25 Things to Do in Asia: 2015 Viator Travel Awards

January 15, 2014 by

Asia, Press & Publicity, Travel Advice & Inspiration, Viator Travel Awards

Welcome to this year's Top 25 Things to Do in Asia!

Welcome to this year’s Top 25 Things to Do in Asia!


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 2015 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 2015.

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

Mt Fuji

Mt 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 still 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 a 3-day Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and Nara rail tour by bullet train from Tokyo.

2. See all that Tokyo has to offer

Learn how to make sushi in Tokyo

Learn how to make sushi in Tokyo

21st century Tokyo is an especially fascinating place because there is a 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 the 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 head-first into the cuisine with a Japanese night food tour in Tokyo. Combine sightseeing with an ancient Japanese tradition on a day tour of Tokyo Tower and Sumida River cruise including a tea ceremony. And to jump firmly into the future, why not check out a Tokyo robot cabaret evening show?

3. Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

There are few experiences in the world as exceptional as walking on the Great Wall of China. The Wall, used to fortify the Chinese border and built more than 2,000 years ago during the Ming Dynasty, 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, such as 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 small group day trip from Beijing including lunch. Hit all the highlights of the area on a Beijing essential full-day tour, including the Great Wall at Badaling, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square, or upgrade the experience with a VIP tour of Beijing’s Forbidden City including a special viewing of the treasure gallery and see the Great Wall at Badaling.

4. Singapore

Singapore Flyer sky dining

Singapore Flyer sky dining

Singapore is known as a “garden city” because over 50% 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. Start off with a Singapore city tour with an optional Singapore Flyer experience (it’s the world’s tallest ferris wheel). Hop in the back of a bicycle rickshaw for a trishaw night tour of Sinagpore’s Chinatown, or take a Singapore night sightseeing tour including Gardens by the Bay, a bumboat ride, and Bugis Street. Get the most out of a visit to Universal Studios Singapore with a one-day pass. For some truly memorable dining company, head for the Singapore Zoo to have breakfast with the orangutans.

5. Day trips from Hong Kong

As much as Hong Kong could fill up your itinerary, there are some good reasons to use it as a base from which to explore the area around the city, too. You don’t have to go far, either – with a Hong Kong Harbor night cruise and dinner at Victoria Peak, you’re out of the business center but still close to your hotel. 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 look into Hong Kong’s religious culture.

6. Experience Hong Kong itself

The Hong Kong skyline

The Hong Kong skyline

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 to get introduced 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.

7. Golden Triangle

Palace in Jaipur

Palace in Jaipur

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. Take a 4-day private tour of the Golden Triangle to see Agra and Jaipur from Delhi with 3- or 4-star hotel rooms and air-conditioned transportation, or upgrade with a 4-night private Golden Triangle tour of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur with 5-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 of Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Mandawa, where you’ll see mansions and Hindu temples.

8. Angkor Wat temples

Angkor Wat before sunset

Angkor Wat before sunset

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 “rediscovered” the site. You can see the iconic Angkor Wat temple complex and enjoy a traditional lunch at the Royal Baths on an Angkor Temples small-group tour. Get more personalized treatment with a private tour of Angkor Wat’s ancient temples on a full day tour from Siem Reap, or expand your sightseeing on a private tour of Angkor Wat and the Royal Temples on a full day tour from Siem Reap. Get a sense of just how massive the Angkor site is with an Angkor Wat helicopter flight and private tour of the temples. To really dig into the history without feeling rushed, join a 5-night Cambodia tour to Angkor Wat from Phnom Penh by air.

9. Wildlife

There is something about seeing animals in the wild that makes us all feel more alive. Spotting an elephant grazing or an orangutan swinging one-armed on vines and branches high in the jungle canopy evokes a visceral response, and Asia is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Take a tour of the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore, the garden city, to surround yourself with colorful birds. Check out Thailand’s most popular zoo, the Safari World Zoo and Marine Park, on a day trip from Bangkok, where you can take a jungle river cruise and see animal shows. Visit Khao Yai National Park on a day trip from Bangkok to ride an elephant. Get a private night safari tour of the Singapore Zoo with an optional buffet dinner inside the zoo.

10. Food

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. In Vietnam, taste local favorites – like a banh mi sandwich or a steaming bowl of pho – on a Hanoi street food walking tour or a Ho Chi Minh City street food tour with dinner. 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. Asia’s night markets are definitely not to be missed, and you can learn what to look for with a small-group Korean night food tour in Seoul or a Japanese food tour of Tokyo by night.

11. History in Korea

Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul

Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul

Seoul is one of the liveliest, most colorful, and exciting cities in the region, but it’s far from the only place of historical importance in South Korea. Discover cultural landmarks and traditional architecture in the Seoul history and culture small-group tour. With a Korean palace and market tour in Seoul, including Insadong and Gyeongbokgung Palace, you’ll see historic sights and get a chance to explore a vibrant Korean market. Experience the fascinating culture first hand on a Korean heritage tour of the palaces and villages of Seoul, including Gyeongbokgung Palace. Stand within feet of the infamous North Korean border on a DMZ Past and Present tour of the Korean Demilitarized Zone from Seoul, or a Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and JSA Panmunjom tour from Seoul, during which you also visit the JSA (Joint Security Area).

12. Exploring Thailand

Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay

Thailand offers something for just about everyone, from one of the world’s most exciting cities to lush jungles and white sand beaches. There’s plenty to explore in this Southeast Asian nation, so try to not limit yourself. See the historic and spiritual side of Bangkok on a tour of the Grand Palace Complex and Wat Prha Kaew. Enjoy personalized atteiont on a private tour of Bangkok’s temples, including the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. Take a day trip from Bangkok to Khao Yai National Park to ride an elephant. Get out on the water for some sightseeing, whether it’s to learn the country’s religious and cultural history on a tour of Thailand’s Ayutthaya Temples and river cruise from Bangkok or a somber visit to the Thai/Burma Death Railway Bridge on the River Kwai tour from Bangkok. Sample some of the best of Thai cuisine on a Bangkok dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River.

13. Terracotta Warriors

The Terracota Warriors

The Terracota 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 3rd century BCE. The thousands of Terracotta Warriors have become one of China’s best-known attractions. Don’t miss anything of this historic site with a Terracotta Warriors essential full day tour from Xi’an. After seeing some of the 7,000 terra-cotta figures buried in the mausoleum, you can relax with a small-group tour to the Terracotta Warriors and a hot springs spa from Xi’an. Get your legs moving during a Xi’an small-group tour of the Terracotta Warriors and a bike tour of the ancient city wall. 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. Really get to know this ancient city with a 3-day private Xi’an tour from Beijing, including the Terracotta Warriors, the ancient city wall, and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

14. Beijing City

Every city has a personality, but Beijing’s is bigger than most. From its narrow “hutongs” (alleys) lined with hawkers selling everything from live chickens to pigs’ feet to the unimaginably large crowds and plethora of tourist sites, the city is loud, bustling, and a little like a new friend who you really need to get to know before you pass judgment. Make sure you don’t miss a thing with a full day tour of classic Beijing, including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven. Focus on the city’s centuries of history with a Beijing historical tour of the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven. See another side of the city as it comes alive after dark with a small-group Beijing night walking tour or a small-group Beijing street food tour at night, including dumpling making lessons. Take your cooking skills to another level entirely with a Beijing market tour and Chinese cooking class.

15. World War II history

Learning from history isn’t always easy, but it’s important. Incorporating some World War II sites into your visit to Asia can give you a deeper understanding of the long-term impacts of war, and it’s a good way to remember and honor the people on all sides of the conflict who paid the ultimate price. Learn about Japan’s occupation of Singapore and the many prisoner-of-war camps that existed at the time on the Changi WWII war trail and museum tour. Hiroshima was destroyed when the United States bombed it during the War, and a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Miyajima Island gives you a chance to see how far the city has come since that fateful day in 1941. The Philippines’ Corregidor Island became a battleground between US and Japanese troops during the war – a WWII Corregidor Island historical sightseeing tour from Manila will take you through the ruins of barracks and down secret passageways to fully tell the story. To get truly immersed in the WWII history, take a 3-day Kyoto and Hiroshima independent tour by Nozomi Bullet Train from Tokyo.

16. Another side to Seoul

K-pop show in Seoul

K-pop show in Seoul

You may know of Seoul as the colorful and cosmopolitan big city in South Korea, but ever since that dance song took over radios all over the world we’ve become aware there’s another side to Seoul. From its night markets to its infectious pop music, Seoul has more to offer than just great shopping and trips to the DMZ. Get to know what the city is like after dark with a small-group Korean night food tour to sample kimchi and Soju. Get your hands dirty in the kitchen with a Korean beginner or intermediate cooking class in Seoul. Immerse yourself in the K-Pop experience with an Mnet TV studio tour and live show at one of the country’s hippest TV stations. Learn more about the place that inspired the famous song with a Gangnam District tour in Seoul, including the COEX Aquarium and a Han River cruise. See the filming locations for the popular Korean show on a “Winter Sonata” TV tour on Nami Island from Seoul.

17. Kyoto

The former capital of Japan for more than one 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. Enjoy a Kyoto morning tour of the Imperial Palace, Golden Pavilion, and Nijo Castle. After a morning on your own, you can also take a Nara afternoon tour from Kyoto of Todaiji Temple, Deer Park, and the Kasuga Shrine.

18. Cultural experiences

Sumo tournament in Tokyo

Sumo tournament in Tokyo

One of the best things about traveling to new places is getting outside your comfort zone in a culture that’s completely unlike your own. There are so many opportunities to do that in Asia, and the variety of experiences is wide enough that no matter what your interests there’s a cultural tour to suit you. Take your seats in the stadium for one of Japan’s traditional sports at a Tokyo suomo 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. Explore Singapore’s Chinatown on a trishaw night tour, seeing the city with a bicycle rickshaw as transportation. Get a deeper understanding of the sad and troubling history of Cambodia on a historical Phnom Penh small-group tour, including the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields. 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.

19. Bangkok’s floating markets

Thailand is famous for its colorful and vibrant markets, but not all of them are on land. The waterways in Bangkok and beyond are sometimes jammed with vendors who sell their goods directly from their boats. Take a cruise of the floating markets of Damneon Saduak on a day trip from Bangkok to weave between stilted houses past vendors selling fresh exotic produce from canoes. For a more personalized experience, make that floating markets of Damnoen Saduak cruise from Bangkok a private tour. Get a look at some Thai cultural activities on display with a floating markets and Rose Garden Cultural Center day tour from Bangkok, or get more personal attention by upgrading to a private day tour of the floating markets and Rose Garden Cultural Center from Bangkok. Combine markets with history on a floating markets and Bridge on the River Kwai tour from Bangkok (you can make that one more personalized, too, with a private tour of the floating markets and Bridge on the River Kway day trip from Bangkok).

20. Exploring Nepal

Trekking in Nepal

Trekking in Nepal

In addition to some of the the world’s best treks, Nepal offers adventurers intense white water rafting, mountain climbing, and an array of national parks. Many of Nepal’s cities are lively and vibrant and attract backpackers and travelers with inexpensive food and lodging, not to mention bucket-list-worthy sights. See the sights of the capital city on a Kathmandu countryside bike tour, getting your bearings as you pedal along. Visit a nearby park and two holy sites on a day trip from Kathmandu to Budhanilkantha and hike through Shivapuri National Park. Focus even more on the spiritual side of Nepal with a tour of Pashupatinath Temple and Bodhnath Stupa from Kathmandu. Those of you who have Nepal on your must-see list specifically to get some Himalayan hiking in will enjoy a 4-day Kathmandu Valley trekking tour, including Bhaktapur. To see all the highlights of the region in the most efficient way, take a 5-day best of the Himalayas tour, including a Mt. Everest region trek, with round-trip flights from Kathmandu.

21. Pandas

Panda breeding center in Chengdu

Panda breeding center in Chengdu

Perhaps no animal is more closely associated with China than the giant panda – and it’s still the best place in the world to see the endangered creatures. Take a day tour of Beijing, including the Lama Temple, Ancient Altar, and Panda Garden, or a Beijing historical tour including the Summer Palace, Lama Temple, and Panda Garden for a look at some of the pandas in the Beijing Zoo. Give back for all the joy that you get from pandas by being a volunteer for a day at the Panda Rescue Center in Chengdu. Get a private tour of China’s national treasures with a visit to see the Terracotta Warriors and giant pandas in Xi’an. Make memories any animal-lover would swoon over with a half-day tour of the Chengdu Panda Breeding Center with an option to hold a baby panda.

22. River cruises

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 countryside from river cruises, either for a day or for an extended trip. In Thailand, you can see the famous floating markets of Damnoen Saduak on a cruise day trip from Bangkok. You can also explore the country’s spiritual side on a river cruise from Bangkok to Thailand’s Ayutthaya Temples. 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 and a traditional tea ceremony with a Sumida River cruise day tour. Cap off a perfect day in Hong Kong with a sunset cruise plus dinner at the Jumbo Floating Restaurant.

23. Taiwan

Taroko Gorge in Taiwan

Taroko Gorge in Taiwan

Taiwan is a hospitable island, welcoming visitors warmly. The mountainous terrain is balanced by beautiful beaches around the island. It’s a beautiful destination with jungles, lakes, gorges, and a little something for everyone. Get to know the fascinating capital city with a full-day ultimate Taipei sightseeing tour, or a Taipei half-day city tour if you’d prefer more free time. Take a Taroko Gorge full-day tour from Taipei to see one of Taiwan’s natural wonders, including a short plane trip before taking in marble cliffs, meandering through tunnels, and visiting the spectacular Chi Hsing Beach. A visit to Chiufen (Jiufen) Village and the northeast coast on a half-day tour from Taipei to experience how the the locals have lived for generations. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, sign up for a 5-day best of Taiwan tour from Taipei including Sun Moon Lake, Taroko Gorge, Kaohsiung, and Taitung.

24. Bali

Bali is almost synonymous with beaches, and of course these are some of the most beautiful beaches 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 the sea life below on a Bali reef cruise and Lembongan Island day trip. Make a romantic vacation even more so with a Bali sunset dinner cruise. 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. Take in some traditional dances with an evening performance in Bali of a Kecak Dance, Fire Dance, and Sanghyang Dance. Combine traditional cultural activities with natural wonders with a full-day tour of Bali’s Kintamani Volcano, the town of Ubud, and a Barong Dance performance.

25. Entertainment and shows

Chinese acrobats in Shanghai

Chinese acrobats in Shanghai

When you’re looking for evening entertainment in Asia, you need look no further than the stage. There’s an array of musical performances and circus shows to make you smile and applaud. Spend an evening enthralled by feats of acrobatic skill and strength at an ERA Intersection of Time acrobatics show at Shanghai Circus World, or a Shanghai evening tour and Chinese acrobats performance by the Shanghai Acrobatics School & Troupe. Kids of all ages will enjoy a thrilling Beijing acrobat show with complimentary transfer to and from your hotel. Take in a unique Thai evening of entertainment at a Bangkok cabaret show, featuring the best of the country’s transgender performers. Settle in for one of Thailand’s best shows, the Siam Niramit Show in Phuket, with hotel transfer and optional dinner – it’s an artistic representation of Thailand’s cultural heritage. In Vietnam, visit the historic Saigon Opera House for an AO Show in Ho Chi Minh City with traditional music, dance, and acrobatics.

- Viator Travel Team

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