When you look at Asia in all its entirety, one begins to realize just how much of the earth it covers. From North to South and from East to West, Asia covers different terrains and as a result the climate does change from country to country. That is what makes looking at winter destinations in Asia so interesting. The further North you go, you will find colder climates and with that comes all the cliché white winters. While they may be cliché, the winter sports do attract people from all over the world. On the other hand, the southern part of Asia has relatively warm climates which means indulging in the warm tropical weather. The beauty about the winter destinations in Asia is that you can take your pick and have the climate you like the best. With that in mind, we have worked with a number of travel bloggers to put together a comprehensive list of all different countries that they have enjoyed traveling in Asia. Hope it helps you make your choice!
Thais’ top pick for winter destinations in Asia is Japan.
Japan is a great place to be any time of the year, but it’s just magical during winter. During winter, we see Christmas, New Years, Seijin no Hi (the celebration for people turning 20 – becoming adults – that year), and Valentine’s Day – all with stunning decoration and festivities all around. They’re really beautiful and it’s fun to see that one day, it’s all decorated for Christmas, and on the next, it’s changed to New Years.
Food in Japan is usually delicious, but the winter food is even better – warming the body and the soul – everywhere. And there is much lovely and cute food, like snowman coffee, winter theme cakes, the heart warming Japanese stews, and casseroles, etc. Don’t forget the tea, steaming, a little bitter, and always delicious!
Snow sports are also present with many mountains all around the country. Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, it’s super fun and breath-taking to see the snow-covered houses and temples – and the mountains. We had fun riding a gondola just to see the town from above. It’s also during winter that we get to see the monkeys bathing in the thermal waters.
There are many sales opportunities, for those who enjoy shopping. Grab a little bargain here and there. To top it up, it’s mostly low season, so you can visit many sites with as little crowd as you can get – it’s still a bit crowded, but it’s Japan and everything is crowded every day of the year.
And when you’re tired of all that, find yourself a nice ryokan (Japanese B&B’s) with a private thermal bath and relax. If you find one with an external pool, the better! It’s pure joy for all the senses.
Ruben’s top pick of winter destinations in Asia is Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is great location for your holidays in winter. Wherever you may come from, there are many things to do in Kazakhstan for you because this is a country with culture and beliefs that are surely different from yours. This vast nation is 11 times the size of the United Kingdom, so the distances between its main cities are quite huge. However, despite being one of the largest countries in the world, Kazakhstan isn’t overpopulated compared to other Asian countries like Indonesia, China and the Philippines.
When visiting Kazakhstan, it is best to take in the sights and culture of its modern capital Astana as well as its thriving metropolis, Almaty. In these cities, you can learn much about Kazakhstan by interacting with the locals and getting accustomed to their food, traditions and everyday lives. Both are big cities with an extensive list of things to do to occupy several days of your trip. Astana is very modern and it will be an easy adjustment as a foreigner if you decide to start your trip here. Almaty is perfect for day trips like hiking the mountain, while skiing and ice skating are very popular winter activities. One other adventure you shouldn’t miss out on when visiting Kazakhstan is horse trekking. If you can spend a few days around the Kazakh Steppes, you will see amazing landscapes that showcase the vastness and magnificence of Kazakhstan.
Visiting during the winter automatically means the weather would be extremely cold. It is quite entertaining to see how Kazakhs spend their weekends to entertain themselves and keep warm when temperatures drop to -20 degrees. Enjoying Kazakhstan’s tea culture in this largely Muslim country is also a great part of the travel experience. A popular drink in the country that most foreigners might not have heard of before is kumus, which is fertilized milk mixed with beer. How amazingly strange is that, right? Since the drink just contains 1% alcohol, it is a drink both locals and tourists can enjoy without any hassle. As for local food, I would recommend, kurt. It is a traditional cheese snack that is dry and salty. Another popular meal to enjoy with locals is beshbarmak, which literally means “five fingers” and is a dish cooked with horse meat. The meat is boiled with onions and noodles, and is meant to be eaten with the hands, hence its distinct name..
Food, accommodation and transportation prices in Kazakhstan are very affordable so it is an ideal destination for budget travellers looking for a vast and unique country to explore.
Callan’s top pick for winter destinations in Asia is Cambodia.
Cambodia, like most of Southeast Asia, does not follow the four season shift but is rather divided into wet and dry months. That being said, this beautiful country is warm all year long and winter is especially great as November to January are the dry months. There are pros and cons to visiting Cambodia at this time of year. The pros, you will get to explore the entire country in a nice dry, cooler climate without the beads of sweat that are constantly dripping down your face in the wet months. The cons, the entire tourist population will be pushing its way through the more popular spots like Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat or capital Phnom Penh.
Lucky for the intrepid traveller, there is so much more unchartered territory to explore beyond the tourist hotspots. You can see the almost extinct Irrawaddy dolphins along the mighty Mekong River in Kratie; you can go (sustainable and animal safe) elephant trekking in Mondulkiri; you can explore the jungles and indigenous tribes of Ratanakiri; or you can relax on an almost deserted islands near Sihanoukville.
The best part about a visit to this magical country is the feeling of tenderness, support and sustainable tourism. While traveling, you are guaranteed to come across someone or some business that is trying to help its community, either through teaching new skills, donating proceeds to good causes or helping to preserve the nature and wildlife. You can really feel the love sprouting up after a tumultuous past of political unrest, just like the massive trees growing out of the ancient ruins at Ta Prohm temple. Speaking about temples, another benefit of visiting Cambodia in winter, particularly Siem Reap, is that you don’t have to wake up at ridiculous hours to see the sun rise behind Angkor Wat, which is a standout experience
Allan’s believes that Thailand is one of the best winter destination in Asia.
Chances of a white Christmas are fairly slim in Thailand, yet, being a Buddhist country, Christmas is still celebrated to an almost shameless degree in Bangkok and other big cities. Or at least the festive season is celebrated, along with the commercial enterprises and frills which surround the traditional Christmas calendar. This means every mall of the city will be decorated with massive trees, and oversized baubles. This will continue for as long as 4 months, starting in November and ending as late as March. At least this has happened before in the main shopping districts of Siam Paragon and Central World (pictured) in Bangkok. At the same time, it doesn’t feel overly Christmassy, with the unrelenting 30’c heats in the day times.
Otherwise it is easy to escape the westernised festivals which are celebrated in the big cities at this time of the year, with a short flight to the southern islands, which are perfect during winter with more bearable temperatures of in-and-around 20’c. Although this is also peak tourist season in Thailand, and big destinations will likely be crowded, meaning it may be best to search away from the more popular beach resorts at this time of the year. And travel more towards the lesser known islands of the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman.
Meanwhile the North of Thailand is also a great option in early winter, again with cooler weathers, and Chiang Mai is a massive destination for travel through the shoulder month of November. As this is when the Loy Krathong festival is celebrated, when they float candle boats on the river, alongside the Yee Peng Festival where sky lanterns are set free into the skies. Two iconic festivals which are not to be missed in Thailand.
Sam and Natalia think that Sri Lanka is one of the best winter destination in Asia.
If you’re looking for diversity, consider spending your winter holidays in Sri Lanka. You could easily spend a month in the country whilst doing or seeing something incredible every day. With an array of different things to do, you can select the spots that interest you the most to make your winter holiday truly special.
Visit the hill country for awe-inspiring hikes and to admire tea plantations that seem to stretch on for an eternity. Take a safari through the country’s beautiful national parks in search of leopards and elephants. Head to the coast to relax on the beach or go whale watching in Mirissa. Not only does Sri Lanka have a lot to offer, but it’s also a cheap country to travel around. Public transport can be used to get between most places in the country, costing just a few dollars trips that take 6+ hours. In fact, Sri Lanka is home to what is considered one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world from Kandy to Ella – and it costs less than a dollar for the cheapest ticket!
Although Sri Lanka re-opened its doors to tourists in 2009, the country doesn’t yet attract as many visitors as other parts of Asia – with just over 2 million international tourists in 2017. This is another reason why it’s the perfect winter destination – there simply aren’t the crowds in Sri Lanka that you’d have to put up with in countries like Thailand. Whether you choose to stay in one place or take in as much of the country as you can, a winter trip to Sri Lanka presents the opportunity to make every day different. If you’re looking for a way to make it a holiday to remember, then look no further.
Matilda’s top pick for winter destinations in Asia is Singapore.
If you are looking for a country to escape the cold for your winter holidays in Asia, you cannot go wrong with Singapore. Singapore is a great place to visit especially if you like hot summer like weather as the temperature is hot all year round. Some of the many reasons to visit Singapore include numerous unique attractions (many of them free), beautiful skyline and city views, low crime rate and its cheap and efficient metro system that makes it easy to get around. Singapore has many attractions for every type of visitor whether food lovers, city lovers or nature lovers, couples looking for a romantic trip or families looking for kid friendly attractions.
A must on any Singapore itinerary is to see the futuristic looking large tree-shaped vertical gardens at Gardens by the Bay, especially at night when there is a free light and sound show. Another cool attraction is Marina Bay Sands, a huge complex housing a hotel, mall, casino, theatres and restaurants – it is famous for its amazing city views which you can enjoy from its observation deck, bars, or from the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool if you are a hotel guest. Singapore has diverse neighbourhoods like Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam which allow you to experience different cuisines and cultures and visit both temples and mosques.
If you are a foodie, then you will love Singapore, especially the inexpensive hawker centres where you can enjoy tasty but cheap food. If you enjoy nature, there are many natural attractions including the beautiful and large Singapore Botanic Gardens (which are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), MacRitchie Reservoir (which has a nature trail and a treetop walk) and Palau Ubin (a rustic island off the mainland that is home to a variety of wildlife).
Andra’s pick for top winter destinations in Asia is India.
India has a bit of everything. From deserts to the mighty Himalayas, from impressive Mughal architecture to Hindu colourful temples, from wildlife to stunning beaches, delicious food and so much more. It is probably the most varied country in the world, given that you can go from one state to another and feel that you are in a different country. And this also means that it is a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
But should you visit India during the winter holidays? Well, if you want to escape the cold, for sure you should. Unless, however, you are heading to the northern states of India, such as Jammu and Kashmir where you can get a proper winter and snow in specific areas (e.g., Ladakh). So, try and picture your next Christmas amidst Mughal forts and palaces, or rowing in Kerala’s backwaters, gasping at the world-famous Taj Mahal or enjoying the beaches of Goa.
India is so vast that it is difficult to choose one single place to visit. All tourists want to squeeze as many places as possible in their short holidays. But there is nothing more enjoyable than staying for a more extended period in fewer places than just checking items on a list. For example, you could enjoy your holidays in Rajasthan, perhaps India’s most visited state. During the winter months, the weather is much cooler, which means that you can enjoy long walks and visits to the forts without feeling that you are melting. Moreover, you can even enjoy better the delicious spicy Indian food that makes you sweat like hell.
So, think about running away from the snow during the next winter holidays and hide in warm and incredible India.
Margherita believes that Philippines is one of the best winter destinations in Asia.
The Philippines is definitely one of my favourite countries in the world, and a place I never tire of visiting. I think any time is a good time to head to the Philippines, since there are so many things to see and do and the country is very large, but if I were to choose the perfect time to visit, I’d go for winter. The Philippines have a lot of mountains, interesting cities and cultural experiences, but the biggest tourist drawcard of this archipelago are beaches – truly some of the most spectacular in the world. Not to mention, Nov-Feb is a great time to visit, when it’s cold and grey in Europe/North America. Is there anything better than jetting off to the sunshine when outside it’s cold and rainy? I don’t think so!
There are literally hundreds of islands to visit in the Philippines, most of which have stunning beaches and top scuba diving opportunities. We spent almost a month around the country, and we visited five different places – Bohol, Malapascua, Dumaguete, Cebu and our very own favourite, Siquijor. This little island is located just a short ferry crossing away from Dumaguete, and it is known around the Philippines for its healers and sorcerers – some say that voodoo and black magic are also practiced. To be honest, during the week we spent around the island we didn’t see any black magic, but there are so many things to do in Siquijor! Naturally, lying on the beach, swimming, sunbathing and relaxing always take top spot, but we also loved sightseeing and visiting places like Lazi, where we saw the magical ‘balete tree’, and beautiful colonial church, Cambungahay Waterfall and Salagdoong Beach, with a cool half-abandoned water park nearby. We loved the chilled atmosphere of Siquijor and we recommend it to everyone, especially in winter!
Roobens’ pick for top winter destinations in Asia is Indonesia.
During the first quarter of the year (Winter) when you live in the northern hemisphere and it’s sooo cold there. Your mind keeps wandering, you dream about a place with a nice weather since it’s freezing in your hometown. You want to go to Asia because you love the culture there. But… Where should you go? Indonesia is probably the best option! It really stands out from many other Asian countries. First things first, the weather is nice during this time of the year. Moreover, the cost of living is very low. Lower than Malaysia, Thailand and of course lower than Singapore. Here spending $3 for a night in a hostel, breakfast included, is the norm!
The landscapes are just stunning. It’s impossible to not fall in love with the amazing sceneries there. Moreover, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Indonesia! Do you like big cities? Head to the capital, Jakarta, and visit Monas (the national museum), Taman Mini Park and have a walk in the city! Want to get a tan on the beach? There are countless beaches in the country! A popular place is the Gili Islands! Great place to relax on the beach! Want to party all night long? Head to Kuta in Bali! Many backpackers there, and there’s a street full of bars and clubs with loud music! Want to go snorkelling, or scuba diving? Go to Nusa Penida, very close from Bali! It’s arguably the best island to go snorkelling, the water is extremely clear there!
Want to see rice fields and a monkey forest? Don’t skip Ubud in Bali. It is a popular but still very quiet and relaxing city! Most travellers who head there fall in love with this charming town! Are you adventurous? Climb the Mount Rinjani in Lombok, or go to Flores, in the east part of the country! Not many tourists go there, and you will find the landscapes are breath-taking. It’s possible to see a wonderful volcano in Flores, called Kelimutu! Yes, there are more than 17000 islands in Indonesia so as I said, you have plenty of options to explore!
Mary’s top pick for winter destinations in Asia is Vietnam.
What a lot of travellers did not know about Southeast Asia is that it has a perfect place to spend your winter holiday namely Vietnam. Due to Vietnam’s geographic location it offers very different weather depending on which city you are going to. If you completely want to escape the winter, you can easily spend all your time from central Vietnam to the south, which is from Hoi An to Phu Quoc Island. The weather will be amazing, it won’t be too hot and there maybe days for the rain to cool you off. If you don’t want to be in a very sunny and hot city, head to the north like Hanoi or Sapa where the temperature can drop down to 4 or even zero degrees.
You can go backpacking in Vietnam or simply spend your holiday hiking the mountains or relax on the beach. The price of accommodation and food are crazy cheap, for example in Ho Chi Minh city, private rooms are about $10. The street food is amazing, and you can find the best and most authentic Vietnamese dishes for as low as $1. The locals are very welcoming and warm. If you have a spare time, you can also cross the land border to Cambodia or Laos easily via bus or air (it’s a lot cheaper to cross the border with a bus). I cannot rave enough how much I enjoyed my one year of travelling and living in Vietnam, I’m sure you will enjoy it too!
Eileen’s pick for top winter destinations in Asia is Taiwan.
For travellers who prefer milder weather in the winter months, Taiwan is a perfect destination. It’s not hot like some other Asian countries, but you won’t find any snow either except rarely on a few mountain peaks. The island is easily accessible in most areas by domestic flights or car, so you can explore inland and along the coast. Due to weather it might be best to skip some of the more mountainous regions, but overall, it’s a pleasant season to visit. Make sure you splurge on a hotel with a hot tub or pool, as the ocean often has waves that make it too strong to swim any time of year.
If you pack a poncho, you can pretty much go wherever you’d like in the winter months. Start in the centre of Taiwan and have a relaxing experience by Sun Moon Lake. They boast beautiful scenery, which can be enjoyed by boat or along the calm shore. There are plenty of bike trails along the lake too, as well as more opportunities for scenic two-wheeled sightseeing down south along the ocean in Kenting.
Besides the more rural winter adventures, Taiwan’s cities are a hub of activity year-round. In Kaohsuing there is a massive Buddhist temple open to the public, complete with award-winning vegetarian restaurant and endless rows of golden Buddha statues. The capital city has Taipei 101, which used to be the world’s tallest building. It’s the perfect place to get out of a quick rain shower and watch the clouds roll by from the observation deck. Don’t miss a chance to have some Michellin-rated soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung.
James’ top pick for winter destinations in Asia is Laos.
If you’re looking for a unique Asian country to spend your winter holidays in, look no further than Laos. The landlocked South East Asian country is often overlooked by travellers in favour of nearby Thailand and Vietnam, but it really shouldn’t be. It’s incredibly beautiful, reasonably affordable, and has some of the best food in South East Asia.
While the food is similar to some Thai and Vietnamese dishes, it has its own distinct flavours and personality. Look out for dishes like the Khao Jee Sandwich (similar to a Bahn Mi), Laab, Tam Mak Hoong (similar to Thai papaya salad), Mok Pa (steamed fish in banana leaves), and Sai Oua (a kind of fragrant and smoky sausage). The weather in winter is reasonable, with temperatures ranging between 20 and 23° C during the day. You’ll probably need to wear trousers and maybe a jumper in the evening, but that’s definitely an improvement on most of Northern Europe and North America.
Luang Prabang, in particular, is a fantastic place to base yourself for a week or two. The small Northern town is known for its colonial French architecture, its many Buddhist temples, and the surrounding countryside which includes beautiful forests and photogenic waterfalls. Vientiane, the capital, is also worth spending a few days in. It’s not as strikingly beautiful as Luang Prabang, but there’s still enough to see and do here to keep you occupied for a few days.
Vang Vieng, a small town north of Vientiane, is known primarily as a party destination. It mainly attracts young backpackers who go there to party and float in tubes down the river, but more recently it has started to make a name for itself as an outdoor sports destination. If you’re planning to spend a few weeks in Laos, you can easily visit all three locations – all are deserving of your time.
Alexis and Bertaut’s top pick for winter destinations in Asia is the Maldives.
The Maldives are the perfect place to spend winter holidays in Asia. The beautiful chain of atolls boasts of crystal clear waters in stunning shades of blue, white sand beaches, and pristine coral reefs teeming with life. It’s not hard to understand why the Maldives are at the top of many bucket lists for travellers. In the Maldives, there are plenty of opportunities for both adventure and relaxation, so you will have plenty of ways to stay entertained during your winter holiday. You can scuba dive with whale sharks, snorkel amongst fish in every colour of the rainbow and black-tipped reef sharks and watch sea turtles nibbling on the coral reefs. We even spotted a small octopus hiding in the coral. Other fun activities in the Maldives include exploring the reefs in a glass-bottom kayak, taking a sunset cruise, sunrise yoga on the beach, or going fishing in a traditional Maldivian boat.
If you prefer simply relaxing on vacation, there’s no better place to chill than in overwater bungalows perched above the turquoise waters. We loved sitting on the deck of our overwater villa, feet dangling off the side, watching for reef sharks and fish below. More ways to unwind in the Maldives include walks along the beach searching for pieces of coral washed ashore and settling into a hammock with a good book.
Foodies will love the fresh fish and curry dishes bursting with flavours that are staples of the Maldivian diet. We splurged on a romantic private dinner on the beach for Valentine’s Day in the Maldives and watched the sunset while the waves lapped against the shore. There’s so much to love about holidays in the Maldives! You can read more about this paradise on Earth in our review of Park Hyatt Maldives on Hadahaa.
Elisa’s pick for best winter destinations in Asia is Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a great destination to spend your winter holidays. The temperature in the city during the months of December, January and February goes from 18ºC to 21ºC which is perfect for sightseeing activities and outdoor activities. Hong Kong is divided into 4 main areas: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories and the Outlying Islands. Visitors can reach Hong Kong through Shenzhen in Mainland China or land at Hong Kong airport, which is one of the main airports in Asia.
Few people know that Hong Kong is a very interesting destination for hikers. Hong Kong’s surrounding islands are crossed by hiking trails with gorgeous views over the Pacific Ocean. Its most famous hike, the Dragon’s Back, is considered by some one of the best urban hikes in the world but of course, there are many more! People interested in history will enjoy visiting downtown, with its narrow alleys, Buddhist temples, colourful markets and weird, little shops. The colonial period also left an interesting footprint in Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour being the main highlight. The best time to see Victoria Harbour is at sunset from the top of Victoria Peak or from a ferry boat. Finally, Hong Kong is one of the world’s greatest food cities. The city offers the best of Chinese cuisine, but it also has great restaurants proposing the best of international cuisine. Also, it is interesting to wander around the local markets, with interesting smells and tastes, being the Temple Street Night Market my favourite one.
Hong Kong is very easy to visit because, unlike in Mainland China, English is widely spoken not only in tourist places but also in restaurants. It is also a city with lots of expatriates, so you will never find a real cultural shift.
Emily’s top pick for winter destinations in Asia is Myanmar.
From roaming around the vast temple complex of Bagan, to trekking in Shan State, to boating across Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma) is a country made for outdoor activities. Even Mandalay and Yangon, the country’s two biggest cities, are great for exploring on foot. The weather, therefore, can make or break your experience. Like many other countries in the region, Myanmar doesn’t have a ‘true’ winter. This alone makes it a great choice for anyone looking to escape winter in the northern hemisphere. Myanmar has a tropical monsoonal climate, with heavy rainfall during the wet season (June to October) and oppressive, inescapable heat in the dry season (March to April). Come cool season (November to February), temperatures drop to the mid-20s, skies are blue, and heavy rainfall is rare.
Weather wise, winter is an ideal time for trekking, sailing, hot air ballooning, and whatever else you plan on doing in Myanmar. The country’s Andaman coastline has balmy temperatures year-round, making winter prime time for beach activities. In the northern highlands, winter can be very chilly. The rice and corn harvest season is over by late November so fields and scenery in general won’t be as green. But on the plus side, you won’t have the rain or mud to contend with. You might need thermals if you’re trekking around the old hill stations of Kalaw and Hsipaw in winter. Coming home to a cup of hot tea over an open fire in a cosy homestay after a long day of hiking makes it all worth it.
Winter is also a great time for festivals in Myanmar. Independence Day falls on January 4, and sees entire towns and villages gather together for all-day celebrations. To avoid the peak tourist season, it’s recommended to travel in early winter. November is ideal.