Asia’s Hidden Gems: 7 Underrated Tourist Attractions for Every Traveler

Raja Ampat Islands
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7 Underrated Tourist Attractions in Asia for Every Traveler

When people travel to Asia, they usually pick the most well-known (and highly recommended) destinations, like Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, and of course, the Philippines. But for travelers who want to walk the “road not traveled” and explore someplace different—someplace remote, obscure, but no less exciting or enchanting than the more popular tourist hotspots—in this exotic, culturally rich continent, here are some of the best underrated travel destinations to check out:

The Vijayanagar Ruins
The Vijayanagar Ruins Image Source: Flickr (Photo by Andrea Kirkby / CC BY-NC 2.0)

1. The Vijayanagar Ruins in the city of Hampi, South India

Think the Taj Mahal is the only place worth visiting in India? Think again.

At the height of its glory, the Vijayanagara Empire was the largest and most powerful empire in South India—and one of the richest in the world—during the Renaissance Era. Today, the empire’s once-majestic capital city, Vijayanagara, lies in ruins much like most ancient cities in the world, yet still retains vestiges of its former beauty and splendor: temples, stone idols of various Hindu gods, and other structures such as pavilions, stables, and towers.

2. Raja Ampat Islands in Papua, Indonesia

Raja Ampat Islands
Raja Ampat Islands Image Source: Flickr (Photo by PTorodellas / CC BY-NC 2.0)

Serene, pristine, and immensely beautiful, the Raja Ampat Islands in Indonesia is the epitome of paradise with its lush, virtually untouched greenery, glittering white sand, clear blue waters, and wonderfully diverse marine habitat. This remote archipelago is home to three-quarters of the world’s coral varieties and hundreds of species of fish and other marine life, making it the perfect destination for travelers who enjoy diving, snorkeling, and stunning underwater photography.

For adventure seekers, Raja Ampat is also a great place for surfing, sailing, hiking, and underwater spearfishing.

3. Tatev Monastery in Syunik Province, Armenia

Tatev Monastery
Tatev Monastery Image Source: Flickr (Photo by sunriseodyssey / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Armenia is mostly known in mainstream culture for being the place that gave us the Kardashians, but it should be known for so much more. Being the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official national religion, it is home to many beautiful, historic churches, monasteries, museums, and more.

Now, if taking the longest (and probably scariest, if you’re afraid of heights), nonstop cable car ride of your life sounds like something you’d be willing to try, the Tatev Monastery is not one to miss. Thrillseekers and history buffs alike will enjoy visiting this landmark, which was built in the 4th century when Armenia adopted Christianity. Although it started out as a modest church, it was later developed into a large, fortified monastery, which housed three churches, as well as a library, dining hall, belfry, mausoleum, and various other buildings. Despite numerous invasions and earthquakes over hundreds of years, the monastery and its medieval structures continue to stand the test of time, and they have been added to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

4. Yoro Park or the “The Site of Reversible Destiny” in Gifu Prefecture, Japan

Yoro Park
Yoro Park Image Source: Flickr (Photo by takosaka / CC BY-NC 2.0)

Japan is a pretty popular destination in Asia, but when travelers visit this beautiful country, they usually make a beeline for the more popular attractions such as Mount Fuji, the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disney Resort, the Imperial Palace, and of course, the cherry blossom spots.

The next time you visit Japan, try checking out The Site of Reversible Destiny for a unique (and kind of weird) experience that combines installation art and adventure. It is an “experience park” that was carefully designed to provide visitors with a disorienting, bizarre, and exciting journey through an interactive, maze-like playground of art installations.

5. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque Image Source: Flickr (Photo by Robert Nyman / CC BY 2.0)

Brunei, one of the most underrated travel destinations in Asia, should be your next stop if you want a more peaceful and relaxed trip filled with interesting visits to the country’s floating village, food markets, and beautiful nature spots.

And of course, a trip to Brunei will not be complete without a visit to the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, which is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in Asia.

6. Fenghuang County in Hunan, China

Fenghuang County
Fenghuang County Image Source: Flickr (Photo by Xianyi Shen / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This beautiful, idyllic town—rich in history, culture, and ethnic customs—offers a more scenic, peaceful travel experience that is somewhat unique among most of China’s tourist attractions, as it is reminiscent of an older, simpler time. After recently doubling its tourism efforts, Fenghuang County has been attracting more and more visitors, especially with the addition of bars, nightclubs, and other modernized hotspots—so it may not be your cup of tea if you don’t like crowded our touristy places.

Nonetheless, the quaint, ancient town feel that used to be a big part of this place’s charm is still present. And, if only for the beautiful, picturesque scenery and the amazing photos you can get, it is definitely still worth a visit.

7. Jomalig Island in Quezon, Philippines

Jomalig Island Quezon
Jomalig Island Quezon Image Source: Flickr (Photo by incrediblethots / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Philippines is known for its beautiful, pristine beaches, like those in Boracay and Palawan. But apart from these popular—and often crowded—tourist destinations, there are many Philippine beaches that are relatively unknown to the public, and they can offer a more serene and peaceful vacation for the traveler who wants to get away from all the hustle and bustle.

Jomalig Island in Quezon, Philippines is a beautiful, untouched paradise that is not for the faint of heart. Because of its somewhat inaccessible location, reaching the beach requires a grueling, six-hour boat ride across the open sea in a fishing boat. And once you get there, you have to be prepared to rough it. Electricity is limited, and accommodations, ATMs, and public restrooms are non-existent. You can arrange to stay with a local family and have them cook for you for a fee, but if that is not an option, you will have to pitch your own tent, bring your own food, and build your own fire (for cooking).

Despite the lack of conveniences for tourists, a visit to Jomalig Island will not disappoint. The quiet, back-to-basics simplicity of the island, as well as its unparalleled beauty (perfect golden sand and bright blue waters), will certainly leave a lasting impression on any beach-loving traveler.

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