Yes, it’s that time again – time to unveil our hottest Asia destinations for 2014! We’re passionate about Asia and our team travel frequently around the region to check out new and existing destinations to discover new experiences and create exciting new trips for our discerning clientele.
Of our 2013 picks, Myanmar, Indonesia’s islands and Bhutan were particularly popular; this year we’ve picked another 12 destinations that we think you should visit in the next 12 months. Some you will have heard of, others are completely new, even to us. But all offer the kind of amazing, authentic and unforgettable travel experiences that Asia does better than anywhere else. So read on, start dreaming, and call us to turn your dreams into reality!
Welcome to a remote world that is far off the tourist trail; a deep valley fringed by the majestic peaks of the Himalayas, where neither the terrain, nor the way of life, have changed for centuries. Here, an independent Kingdom, or the Kingdom of Lo, said to be a lost dominion of Tibet, was taken under the wing of Nepal, before being abolished just a few years ago.
The area’s isolation has been, in large part, due to the fact that its nascent tourism industry is only two decades old, making it one of the final frontiers for adventurous and curious travelers. Those who make the trip will be rewarded by the area’s stunning natural beauty, full of lush vegetation, flowing rivers, lakes and ponds. The friendly people live a simple way of life, continuing to follow ancestral cultural practices that help them survive amidst the area’s harsh climate.
To experience this area in all its untouched glory, we suggest you start making travel plans now: a new highway has recently been completed, linking Mustang to Tibet and Nepal, and we expect that it won’t be long before the tourism industry enters its next stage of growth.
Travelers have long flocked to Japan’s cultural epicenters of Kyoto and Osaka, its bustling metropolis of Tokyo, and its warm southern islands of Kyushu and Okinawa. But this year, a new travel trend is emerging: Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is making a name for itself as a hot tourism destination.
Why? Well, it could be its fantastic wintersports conditions, making it a ski and snowboard resort paradise; it could be its natural beauty, full of lush vegetation, wildlife, and more, ideal for summer activities like hiking and biking; and it could be its thick cloak of culture, having been isolated from the rest of Japan for centuries due to its climate and proximity, making it a unique and exciting travel destination for 2014.
Read more about Hokkaido on the Remote Lands website or check out our Japan’s Winter Wonderland: Snow & Ski in Hokkaido itinerary, from US$1640 per person per day.
VIETNAM: Son Doong Cave
Five years ago, an underground cave of epic proportions was discovered in Vietnam. Not only was it found to be the largest underground cave in the world, but it shattered the record when it was found to be five times larger than the Malaysian cave that held the title until its discovery. Son Doong cave is not for the faint-of-heart, but for those in search of extreme beauty and adventure, it deserves a spot on the must-see list for this year.
Entering the cave, which is done by abseiling down a cliff, is like entering a mystical, secret world. Due to the cave’s enormous skylights, formed when the roof of the cave collapsed millions of years ago, sunlight beams down into the depths of the cave, giving life to a thick jungle known as the Garden of Eden, the world’s largest jungle within a cave. The discovery of Son Doong cave and its breathtaking beauty and mystique make it a place that we suggest visiting sooner, rather than later, before the word gets out.
Read more about Son Doong on the Remote Lands website, or check out our Explore Son Doong itinerary, from US$600 per person per day.
CHINA: Silk Road
Prepare to have your preconceptions of China turned on their heads. The historic Silk Road region bears little resemblance to Beijing, Shanghai or Xi’an, nor to the popular images of pagodas and pandas. To travel the Silk Road is almost to leave China for Central Asia, where mosques replace pagodas and where the people don’t look anything like their eastern compatriots.
As well as its historical importance, the region boasts such stunning sights as Kurakal Lake; Id Kah mosque (the largest in China) and the historic livestock market in Kashgar; the Mingsha Dunes near Dunhuang; and Urumqi‘s ancient and massive Grand Bazaar. Luxury hotels in the region are conspicuous by their absence, but why stay in a hotel when you can sleep under the stars in a private yurt camp?
With Myanmar’s transition towards a welcoming tourism destination just a few years ago, when the country elected a civilian-led government, the country’s tourism industry is in its infancy, and word is quickly spreading about its friendly beauty.
The Mergui archipelago, however, near the southern tip of Myanmar’s geo-political ‘tail’, has yet to become a vogue travel destination. We’re not sure why, but when we observe the stunning tropical beauty, isolation, and serenity of these 800 islands, we’re glad of it. A boat cruise that winds its way through this incredible archipelago is definitely a must-do for 2014.
Read more about Mergui on the Remote Lands website, or check out our Lost Islands of Mergui itinerary, from US$1420 per person per day.
INDIA: Nagaland and Northeast India
One of India’s lesser-visited regions, the Northeast is home to some of the country’s most incredible natural beauty. Humbling mountains, fresh lakes, fragrant plantlife, and a colorful ancient culture, are among the joys encountered by visitors here. Bordering Myanmar, China, and Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh is one of Asia’s most fertile and ethnically-rich places. Assam, bordering Bangladesh and Bhutan, has succeeded in re-populating the numbers of endangered Indian rhinoceros. A sensual highlight to any trip to India’s Northeast is the thick tea plantation-covered hills of Darjeeling, and the snowcapped peaks and wildflower meadows of remote Sikkim.
So why is it important to visit this region now? Change is afoot, and Northeast India is currently in a tourism sweetspot. Arunachal Pradesh, once a disputed territory, is now at peace. Darjeeling, no longer under the strict command of British India, still retains much of the colonial charm left behind by the rulers. Assam, however, is facing what could turn into a battle for resources, due to the incredible mineral wealth held by its fertile land. And the part of Northeast India that stands out the most to us, Nagaland, is also in an idyllic phase. The people of Nagaland fought for control of their own state against the British and then the Indian government, and are finally once again at peace. Nagaland’s annual festivals are one of its most powerful tourism draws, revolving around the yearly harvest, with feasts and exciting cultural performances.
Read more about Nagaland on the Remote Lands website, or check out our Flight of the Hornbill: India’s Northeast by Helicopter itinerary, from US$1200 per person per day.
INDONESIA: Raja Ampat
With the world’s underwater life being threatened by all kinds of environmental factors, and the vibrant corals on the verge of what some say could be a global extinction, now is the time to experience the luminous rainbow of colors that exist beneath the tropical ocean. Nowhere is a more idealistic place to do this than Raja Ampat, an archipelago of four Indonesian islands known as the ‘Amazon’ of the underwater world.
The islands are located in the heart of the world’s coral triangle, which is home to over 500 species of reef-building corals. Raja Ampat only recently became its own regency, having separated from neighboring Sorong Regency only a decade ago. This newly-affirmed independence has allowed the Raja Ampat government to assert its strong commitment to protecting its ecologically valuable waters, having declared in 2013 the area to be a shark and manta ray sanctuary, among other protective actions.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Representing our top pick for hot off-the-beaten-track destinations in 2014 is Papua New Guinea. This extremely diverse country offers tourists a basket full of holiday draws, from beautiful beaches, mystical rainforests, rushing rivers, active volcanoes, towering mountains, unique, colorful and friendly tribes, and a long, fascinating history and culture waiting to be discovered.
Tourism standards around Papua New Guinea are slowly growing: luxury hotels are cropping up here and there, though in the truly remote areas, simple-but-comfortable accommodation with bare-bones facilities is what travelers can expect. But those who are willing to forgo some (not all) five-star luxuries will be truly rewarded when they make a thrilling, unforgettable trip to this incredibly diverse, beautiful country.
Read more about Papua New Guinea on the Remote Lands website, or check out our Classic Papua New Guinea itinerary, from US$1100 per person per day.
One of the few exquisite paradise islands in the world with low numbers of tourists but an array of five-star accommodation and facilities, Palawan is a truly special place. This is where superstars escape for their clandestine, discreet holidays. We’re picky when it comes to our preferred hotel selection [link] and we have hand-selected an incredible seven luxury hotels on this beautiful island.
While the Philippines experienced a devastating natural disaster in late 2013, the affected areas are far from Palawan’s pristine shores, and indeed, planning your holiday to the country will put much-needed tourism funds back into the country, which will filter down to eventually help rebuild the affected areas.
Palawan truly offers something for everyone – from relaxing by the exquisite white-sand beach, to some of the world’s best diving, to a magical subterranean river. Relaxation and adventures abound in this idyllic Philippines escape.
Read more about Palawan on the Remote Lands website or check out our Pristine Palawan itinerary, from US$535 per person per day.
THAILAND: Similan Islands
The Similan islands, located in Thailand’s Andaman sea, are known as a world-class diving destination. Close enough to Phuket to be convenient, yet far enough away to be off the main tourist trail, the 11 Similan islands that make up the Similan archipelago will soon become a World Heritage Site. Get there before this new prestigious title moves the islands into the mainstream!
The best way to explore these islands and the vibrant underwater world that surrounds them is aboard a private yacht, where days consist of swimming, snorkeling, diving island hopping, repeat. We can’t think of a more enticing schedule for a relaxed beach holiday.
Read more about the Similan Islands on the Remote Lands website, or check out our Beautiful Bountiful Beaches itinerary from US$660 per person per day.
A long-time escape for the rich and famous, the Maldives boasts an incredible array of luxury facilities, five-star hotels, and gourmet restaurants. This is where days are lazed away by expansive infinity pools, broken up by languid walks along white-sand beaches, and nights are spent mingling with the global elite at ritzy cocktail bars, to the beat of international DJs.
But as worldwide water levels rise, the Maldives and its 1,190 coral reef islands are increasingly at risk of disappearing. Experts estimate that the country has only 50 to 100 years left before it becomes uninhabitable, due to the fact that most of its islands are no more than one meter above sea level. The time to visit the Maldives, and experience a paradise that could soon be lost, is now.
MALAYSIA: Danum Valley
Visit a national park that has seen little to no development, ever. Borneo’s pristine Danum Valley is a treasure trove of thriving flora and fauna, having become an officially-protected destination, by the Malaysian government, in the 1990s. The move was not exactly overdue – before it became a national park, not a single human lived in the area’s lush grounds.
Not long ago, Prince William and his wife Kate made a trip to the Danum Valley during their four nations Southeast Asia trip, showing strong interest in the progress of conservation works in the area. The park is an important place for science and conservation, conducting academic research on the area’s plant life, preserving endangered species, and more. The park’s Borneo Rainforest Lodge is a humble and comfortable, down-to-Earth spot to discover the spectacular natural surroundings.
Read more about Danum Valley on the Remote Lands website, or check out our Wild Borneo itinerary.
Ready to start planning your 2014 Asia adventures? Contact us now!