Asia is a vast continent with a seemingly endless variety of cultures and destinations waiting to be explored by intrepid travelers. The number of destinations on the continent that are truly remote, however, is dwindling each year as the economic rise of the continent gives way to better infrastructures and an increasing amount of intra-continent tourism. But fret not, as there are still some truly amazing destinations off the beaten path – for now, at least.
[Also see our travel article “Ten Incredible Destinations Off the Beaten Path“]
10. Bagan, Myanmar
[Also see our travel article “One Week in Myanmar“]
Bagan is one of Asia’s greatest wonders, as it has literally thousands of ancient Buddhist temples strewn across its plains. The temples date back to the 12th century and are all that’s left of what was once a thriving city that had an astonishing 13,000 temples. Today, dirt walking trails connect the sites and travelers can easily spend days exploring the archaeological site.
One of the main reasons Bagan is off the beaten path is because Burma holidays are still a bit difficult to plan thanks to the country’s closed-off nature. Even once the visa has been acquired, Bagan is in the direct center of the country and is a considerable distance from either Mandalay or Yangon.
9. Yerevan, Armenia
[Also see our travel article “Top Ten Hidden Travel Gems“]
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, would at first seem like an unlikely tourist destination, and, if judged by visitors alone, it is. But for travelers willing to take a chance on an unknown destination, the city has a lot to offer. The Cafesjian Center for the Arts, for instance, is a Hanging Gardens of Babylon-inspired museum that dominates the city center and has a pretty cool collection that includes works from Armenian-born Arshile Gorky.
Armenia is a small country high in the Caucasus Mountains that was once part of the USSR. Because of its remote location, visa requirements and relatively undeveloped infrastructure the country doesn’t receive a lot of tourists. Yerevan does, however, have an international airport, though most travelers must fly in via either Russia or the Republic of Georgia.
8. Yungang Grottoes, China
Just a few kilometers outside of Datong in China’s Shanxi Province – how’s that for off the beaten path? – the Yungang Grottoes are a series of 53 caves that contain over 51,000 stone statues. The caves are manmade, and construction began in 450 during the Northern Wei Dynasty. Inside travelers can expect to find huge statues of Buddhist figures and intricately carved ceilings and walls.
The grottoes are situated just outside of Datong, which is a city located roughly 400 kilometers west of Beijing. Their location in rural Shanxi – not to be confused with the more popular Shaanxi Province – place the caves well off the tourist radar, especially when it comes to foreign travelers.
7. Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Samarkand is an ancient city that has been mesmerizing travelers from its perch on the Silk Road for thousands of years. Inside the city center the sand-colored buildings contrast stunningly with the turquoise domes and minarets of its mosques. The bazaar, meanwhile, is the liveliest place for hundreds of miles as traders sell spices and silks in much the same way as their ancestors before them.
There’s nothing easy about traveling to Uzbekistan. Firstly, travelers will need to acquire a visa from their country’s Uzbek embassy, which will need to see an official letter of invitation from an Uzbek travel agency. Once that’s out of the way, actually flying to Uzbekistan is pretty difficult as well, and most travelers will have to transit through Moscow.
6. Wuyishan, China
There’s an old saying about Fujian province that says it’s “80% mountain, 10% water and 10% farmland.” Fittingly, Wuyishan resembles that mix perfectly. Inside the Wuyishan National Scenic Area, the Nine Bend River calmly snakes its way past jutting peaks like Mount Wuyi and Heavenly Peak while travelers on bamboo rafts take it all in. The countryside elsewhere in the park is a series of small, hidden valleys and tea fields connected by hiking trails.
Getting to Wuyishan is not all that difficult, as travelers can fly in to its airport from cities like Shanghai or Xiamen. But that doesn’t mean the place is overrun with tourists either, as Wuyishan is still relatively unknown to foreign tourists – though domestic Chinese tourists are quite fond of the area.