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20 Most Underrated Travel Destinations in Asia

by Staff

This article looks at the 20 most underrated travel destinations in Asia. If you wish to skip our detailed analysis of travel trends in Asia, you may go to 5 Most Underrated Travel Destinations in Asia.

Beyond the Tourist Trap: Exploring Uncharted Destinations

At its core, tourism is fueled by the innate human desire to venture into the unknown. Much like Plato’s allegory of the cave, our quest to travel is a conscious effort to rattle the chains of our cavic existence, expanding the horizons of our primitive minds in the process. Since the alleviation of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the human passion for globetrotting has been set ablaze once more. According to UNWTO, tourism levels reached 88% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, and are expected to surpass them in 2024.

At the same time, unprecedented inflation in the wake of the pandemic has made it extremely expensive to vacation with the same liberty as we had previously been used to. Consequently, many tourists are actively avoiding travel to popular tourist destinations, accusing these places of being “tourist traps”. Expedia Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPE) recently revealed its “Unpack 24” report that states affordable alternatives to popular hotspots, or “Destination Dupes”, which is a top trend among travelers in 2024. Recently, destination dupes became a viral trend on TikTok, as users from all over the world pitched in their take on the question, “What is the most underrated place to travel?”. In addition to TikToks, websites such as Tripadvisor, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIP) are also playing a pivotal role in driving tourists towards new destinations. Reviews published on such sites are crucial for driving business and provide unfamiliar third world destinations with the opportunity to market on the same platforms as the biggest tourist attractions.

Tourism in Asia

Asian countries were some of the first to face the plight of COVID-19, because of which these were also the destinations which experienced the most severe travel restrictions from the rest of the world. As such, Asia has not been able to bank on the recent uptick in tourism in the same manner as the other continents. UNWTO revealed that while tourism increased to 88% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, the figure for Asia-Pacific was only 65%. However, the potential for tourism in this region has not gone unnoticed. Tripadvisor, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIP) released its list of Top 2024 Destinations According to Global Travelers, wherein Asia claimed 8 out of the top 10 destinations. Sarah Firshein, Head of Editorial commented,

“It’s great to see a rebound on long-haul trips to Asia, with the region having fully opened up post-pandemic..”

– Sarah Firshein, Head of Editorial, Tripadvisor, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIP)

In anticipation of an uplift in tourism in the regions, Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAR) has been aggressively adding to their portfolio of hotels in the Asia-Pacific. In 2023, Marriott International Inc (NASDAQ: MAR) celebrated its milestone of reaching 1000 hotels in the region.

“Being able to celebrate the opening of Marriott’s 1000th hotel in Asia Pacific is a testament to our vision for growth in the years to come in the region”.

– Yibing Mao, President, Greater China, Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAR).

Similarly, Expedia Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPE) has also revealed that it has entered into partnerships with several new companies in the region, highlighting the importance of establishing a strong footprint in Asia to the company’s vision. Penetration in the Asian market allows companies like Expedia Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPE) to enhance their alternative accommodations segment, which is becoming a popular feature of tourism in the region. While Asia has its own catalogue of tourist hotspots such as Bali and Tokyo, there are a number of snow-capped landscapes, ancient temples, and historical monuments that continue to fly under the radar. Join us as we check out the most underrated travel destinations in Asia.

20 Most Underrated Travel Destinations in Asia

20 Most Underrated Travel Destinations in Asia

20 Most Underrated Travel Destinations in Asia

Methodology

To develop our list of the most underrated travel destinations in Asia, we began by combing the internet for preexisting information in this area. In our search we checked out some of the most amazing countries in Asia, some of the most friendliest, and even the most respected. Next, we accumulated places within these countries from approximately 20 different sources, including credible new outlets and popular travel websites, to come up with a preliminary list of Asian travel destinations. Using a consensus approach, we shortlisted the places which had been recommended most frequently. Further research was narrowed to these places only. Once this list was obtained, we scored each destination based on the rank they had obtained in the previous lists, relative to the size of the list. For example, a destination recommended at number 6 in a list of top 10 most underrated travel destinations in Asia was assigned a score of 6/10 or 0.6. In case a source had not ranked its recommendations, each place received a score of 0.5. Each destination’s score was then accumulated. In case of a tie, we incorporated further feedback using online forums and user reviews (excluding influencer-generated feedback due to bias) to decide which destination would be ranked higher in our list of the most underrated travel destinations in Asia.

By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that tracks the movements of corporate insiders and hedge funds. By using a similar consensus approach, we identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). Whether you are a beginner investor or a professional one looking for the best stocks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders.

Here are 20 most underrated travel destinations in Asia.

20. Clark, Philippines

IM Score: 1.56

While Manila gets its fair share of tourists each year, many of Philippines’ other incredible tourist destinations fly under the radar. Clark, a former US airbase, is a city that offers the perfect blend of scenery, history, and modern attractions. The city has a wide range of historical landmarks such as decommissioned military facilities and museums, along with a dinosaur theme park that is perfect for entertaining children. Its most impressive attraction is the majestic Mount Pinatubo, where tourists get to summit through the Crow Valley before setting their sights on the Crater Lake.

19. Koh Kood, Thailand

IM Score: 1.57

Although Thailand is one of the most visited countries in Asia and its cities can hardly be deemed underrated, Koh Kood is one of the country’s lesser-known islands. This untarnished gem is one of the most underrated travel destinations in Asia, and a perfect location for a reclusive vacation. Tourists can snorkel on the shores of its pristine beaches, kayak through beautiful mangrove forests, and explore plenty of obscure tracks into the heart of the island.

18. Kerala, India

IM Score: 1.62

Kerala is a state that stretches 600 Km across India’s Malabar coast. It offers tourists one of the most comprehensive tropical experiences in Asia. Apart from the magnificent shorelines of Varkala, you can cruise on houseboats along the Periyar river, or Trek in the Ambukuthi Hills which feature petroglyphs dating back to the Neolithic age. Another impressive sight is Fort Kochi, a coastal settlement that features monuments of Portuguese, British, and Dutch architecture.

17. Busan, South Korea

IM Score: 1.62

Busan is typically reduced to the status of being a port city, however, it is so much more. The Haeundae Beach is a prominent site for beach goers and offers one of the most picturesque sunsets in the world. Busan is also notable for its religious sites as it features many historical temples and tombs, each of which is accompanied with its unique mythical folklore.

16. Hue, Vietnam

IM Score: 1.65

Another one of the most underrated travel destinations in Asia is Hue. This city was once the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty. Many of the city’s historical sites are well preserved, including the citadel. The city is home to several UNESCO heritage sites, including shrines, palaces, and pagodas, that embody the strength and tradition of the country’s former kingdom. Moreover, in the fall season the city is spritzed with the sweet fragrance of the perfume river, making for even more of a delightful experience.

15. Skardu, Pakistan

IM Score: 1.69

The district of Skardu, perched at over 7,000 meters and nested in the center of the Karakoram Mountain range, is a paradise for mountain vacationers. It offers views (and treks to) some of the highest peaks in the world. The Deosai National Park, a UNESCO heritage sight, is the second highest plateau in the world. Moreover, the Sarfaranga desert is the highest and coldest desert on the planet, and a popular place for stargazing as it allow you to glimpse the peripheries of the Milky Way.

14. Leshan, China

IM Score: 1.74

Home to the tallest Buddha statue in the world, Leshan offers a mesmeric and insightful view into the religion of Nirvana. The Giant Buddha, carved out of the face of a cliff, is present at the junction of the Min and Dadu rivers, and is the main reason people flock to visit this city. Moreover, Leshan is popular for its Sichuanese cuisine, which perfectly complements the spiritual odyssey you experience in Leshan.

13. Kaohsiung, Taiwan

IM Score: 1.74

The island nation of Taiwan is perhaps the most underrated country in Southeast Asia. Although most of the country’s major travel destinations can be explored in a single trip, we especially recommend the port city of Kaohsiung. This city offers incredible waterside sceneries, vibrant night markets, and many spiritual temples.

12. Dhaka, Bangladesh

IM Score: 1.75

On the surface, Dhaka is an overcrowded mesh of traffic and sunburns, however, its blend of subcontinental culture with modern development means it is one of our most underrated travel destinations in Asia. It is caulked with historical monuments from the Mughal, British, and East Pakistani eras. If you wish to get a glimpse of the region’s diverse history, you will find it etched upon the walls of the Ahsan Manzil, Lalbagh Fort, and Star Mosque, some of Dhaka’s most prominent landmarks.

11. Hachimantai, Japan

IM Score: 1.77

Similarly to Dhaka, our minds have a preexistent notion of what a trip to Japan would encompass, and its generally to the note of skyscrapers and tightly packed markets. However, in the northern mountains of the country is Hachimantai City. Famous for its year round ski resort, Appi Kogen, the city is the perfect destination to explore rustic hot springs, courtesy of the stratovolcanos which encircle the area. Moreover, it is regarded as being a more authentic experience of the Japanese tradition in comparison to the contemporary culture of Tokyo.

10. Pontianak, Indonesia

IM Score: 1.78

Pontianak is regarded as being a diversified melting pot of the Malay, Dayak, and Chinese cultures. Visitors have plenty of opportunities for boating as they traverse their way through the city’s floating market, enjoy river cruises in the Kalimantan rainforest, or venture through the pretzeled mangrove plantations of the Kapuas Delta. Moreover, it is also in close proximity of the tempestuous Mount Kelam and the Betung Kerihun National Park, the latter being a UNESCO heritage site and habitat of Bornean Orangutans.

9. Johor Bahru, Malaysia

IM Score: 1.92

If you’re looking for a mixture of entertainment, adventure, and intellectual stimulation, Johor Bahru might be the perfect destination for you. Tourists can visit the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque or the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple, giving them a glance at the spiritual significance of the city. If you’re looking for an excuse to ramp up your heartbeat, visit Legoland Malaysia. Or you might retreat to the sandy shores of Rawa Island, the ideal place to unwind and bask under the setting sun.

8. Gansu, China

IM Score: 1.93

If you consider yourself an avant-garde explorer, hurry up and study the remnants of medieval China in the region of Gansu. Once a passage along the ancient silk road, Gansu is one of China’s untouched historical treasures. It is a vast area, infused with Tibetan heritage sites such as the Mogao Caves, a collection of 500 temples which contain perfectly preserved Buddhist art spanning a period of 2 millennia.

7. Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia

IM Score: 1.96

Located near West Papua, the Raja Ampat Islands are a collection of 4 major islands surrounded by around 1500 smaller islets and cays. This place is one of the most underrated travel destinations in Asia, regarded as a paradise for divers and snorkelers who can access over 200 different diving spots. The waters are regarded as one of the most diverse aquatic sites in the world, home to coral reefs, batoids, and various species of dolphins. Moreover, the cliffs of its largest islands are adorned with ochre rock paintings dating back between 3000 to 5000 years.

6. Palawan, Philippines

IM Score: 2.29

Although it was recently featured in Trip Advisor’s list of Top 2024 Destinations According to Global Travelers, the recent hype around Palawan still does not do any justice to this tropical archipelago. Palawan is the site of the most heavenly natural landscapes in the world. There are a series of remote cays, underwater caves, and beautiful coral reefs, making this a popular destination among scuba divers. Moreover, it is in traveling distance of the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which consists of one of the world’s longest underground rivers, flowing through a series of incredibly majestic caves.

Click to continue reading and see the 5 Most Underrated Travel Destinations in Asia.

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Disclosure: none. 20 Most Underrated Travel Destinations in Asia is originally published on Insider Monkey.

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