Skip your typical travel destinations and hit the dusty roads to explore the unbeaten paths, or lesser-known scenic spots around Asia for your next getaway.
While these places are slightly obscure, away from civilization and may require a little more planning or foot work to get there. Rest assured you’ll be in for a treat.
I struggled a little putting this list together, because half my heart wishes these place will never be infested with pesky tourists, yet the other half of it tells me I shouldn’t be selfish — so, if you absolutely hate nudging through a cluttered street, or getting lost in a sea of touristy crowds, this undiscovered Asian destination list is for you.
Johor Bahru is not only for short escapes across Singapore for foods and massages, travel a little further to the west and you’ll be greeted by clear, sparkling waters and the West Bamboo Mountain at Pulau Dayang.
Essentially a part of an island consisting of four others including Pulau Aur, Pulau Lang and Pulau Pemanggil, you could arrange to island hop while you’re there.
Visitors can snorkel at the shallow reefs or scuba dive in the deeper waters to explore an abundance of aquatic life, such as stingrays, whales and even sharks.
How to get there: Take a ferry from Mersing Jetty Pulau Dayang (4 to 5 hours)
Made up of two islands, side by side — Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar, as its name suggests, one being smaller and the latter bigger and less developed.
Perhentian Kecil and the west part of Perhentian Besar is littered with lots of chalets and resorts along the coast, from wooden huts to villas and guest houses, whichever you fancy to put up for the nights ahead.
Dive in the crystal clear waters to swim with the turtles and schools of fishes, or be laid-back and relax on the white sandy beaches while sipping on coconut water.
How to get there: Transit at Kuala Lumpur to either Kuala Terengganu or Kota Bharu (45minutes), take either a bus or taxi to Kuala Besut jetty. It’ll take 1½ hours from Kuala Terengganu airport or one hour from Kota Bharu airport.
Home to millions of jellyfish, divers can jump into the lake without having to worry about getting stings. While some say they still have their sting cells, it is only poisonous to its predators and are not harmful to humans.
Diving enthusiasts will be thrilled to find up to five different species of jellyfishes, namely the Moon Jellyfish; Tripedalia Cystophora; Papuan Jellyfish; and Cassiopea, the ones that swim upside-down. You may touch and hold it in your palms but be gentle, though.
Before you can get up-close and personal with these delicate blobs, you’d have to take a boat ride and walk through a rainforest. Be prepared to hustle it out.
How to get there: SilkAir flies from Singapore to Sepinggan International Airport at Balikpapan, the capital of East Kalimantan. Then take an internal flight to Tanjung Redeb, district of Berau. When in Berau, you can hire a speedboat for the 2 hour ride to the Derawan islands. Kakaban is another 45 minutes from Derawan.
At Tebing Keraton, you’d get bird’s eye view of the entire Bandung and the city literally below your feet. A popular spot amongst locals to catch the sunrise, you’d find rows of motorbikes parked at the foot of the mountain where you could hop on and skip the hike up for a small fee.
Waves of clouds rolled over the forest and towns, and you could catch the silhouette of the surrounding mountains as the sun peeks up from above it. Absolutely breathtaking.
I wouldn’t advice risking your life to get a shot like the photographer above, there had been a few fatal accidents, so just hang around the fenced areas and stay safe.
How to get there: We took direct flight to Bandung via SilkAir, chartered a car to take us up to the foot of the cliff. Then paid a small fee for a motorbike ride up.
Just two hours away from Batam, Belitung is an up-and-coming popular weekend getaway. Boasting a variety of attractions and activities to visit, like the blue lake at Danau Kaolin is one that you shouldn’t miss which you could take a dip in it too, comparable to Kawah Putih sans it’s sulphuric smell.
Add in a little imagination and you’ll be tricking your mind into thinking you’re in North Pole amidst the white icebergs.
How to get to Belitung: Take a ferry to Batam (approximately 1 hour), hitch a taxi to Batam Airport. Take a flight to Tanjung Pandan (Belitung), which is 2 hours away. Danau Kaolin is 10 minutes drive from the city centre of Belitung.
“Wait, what? Are you sure this is in India?” may have been your first thought. The Valley of Flowers is a Unesco Heritage Site since 1988, and is easily accessible by taxis and other modes of transport before you start hiking to visit the magnificent land blooming with 300 different flower species.
The best time to visit the Valley of Flowers is in July to August when the flowers are in full bloom and at its prettiest view with the clear blue skies and the snow capped mountains as its backdrop.
How to get there: There are plenty of options once you arrive at Delhi. Depending on your budget and time of stay, you may hop on government or privately owned buses, which will take about 13 hours.
Board train from Delhi to Rishikesh station, the journey takes about 9 hours. Hire a taxi or car at at INR 5 per kilometre, not inclusive of tolls. The fastest way would be taking an hour flight from Delhi to Dehradun airport and prebook a taxi up to the Valley of Flowers.
Holding the title of ‘World Geologic Park’ from UNESCO, Yuntai Mountain is situated near Jiaozuo City, Henan Province, which boast a total of 11 scenic spots to discover.
True to its name, the Red Stone Valley has huge, towering stones that flaunt deep reddish-brown hue, which contrast beautifully against the glistening, jade blue water. Taking a hike in the valley is almost like wandering through a Chinese painting, undoubtedly pretty and breathtaking. While it takes about two hours to complete the full hike, it is definitely worth every drop of sweat and aching muscles.
How to get there: Tigerair has direct flights to ZhengZhou, from there you could take a 2 hour ride by car or taxi to Yuntai Mountain. Buses run around the mountain to the various scenic spots.
Experience what it’s like to live in villages, where the electricity runs from 6pm-11pm daily. That’s when you should head out to the beach at nightfall and watch the waters light up by the Bioluminescent plankton.
These plankton glow especially bright when you make little swirls in the waters. So go on in and have a splashing good time.
How to get there: Take a 4 hours 25 minutes flight to Sihanoukville, hop on a taxi at the airport to Sihanouk Ville Port, then take an hour of ferry to Koh Rong Island.
Escape and be one with nature at the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge in Koh Kong Island, where you can relax in a four-star boutique resort alongside the lush, unspoilt forest and surroundings. The floating lodges take glamping to the next level.
In the day, you could kayak, hike the Cardamom Mountain or soak up the sun on the patio and indulge in the peace and tranquillity.
How to get there: Transit at Bangkok, then take a flight to Trat, the total duration is about 5 hours. Hop on a 2 hours taxi ride to Koh Kong Island or directly to 4 Rivers Floating Lodge if you’re staying there.
Palawan Island is a little slice of paradise in the Philippines with half the island still undeveloped. Relatively huge, you could visit various parts of the island depending on your interest.
I would recommend going to El Nido for its white beaches and emerald waters for snorkelling, visit the caves in Tay Tay, then hop on over to long beach at San Vicente where the boats are seemingly floating in mid-air.
How to get there: Depending on the airlines that you’re taking, transit at Manila or Cebu to Puerto Princesa, the journey takes about 6 hours. Take a taxi for approximately 1 hour 20 mins to arrive at Palawan.
I’m sure there are plenty of undiscovered spots around Asia that are waiting to be explored, as long as you’re willing to rough it out, the world is your oyster. Let us know of any secret spots that you’ve been keeping to yourself.
We're hiring lifestyle writers!