Asia offers it all for honeymooners – some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts in the world, at prices that are competitive. Incredible beaches and an island life you’ll never forget. Culture, history, adventure and discovery. Unforgettable gourmet delights and surprises on every second street corner.
Easily accessible information and convenient travel mean we’re spoilt for choice when planning a trip. Not only are new flight routes putting hard-to-reach destinations within our grasp, some previously inaccessible countries are opening their borders and relaxing visa regulations, emerging as potential holiday spots in the process.
We’ve handpicked 10 Asian honeymoon or holiday destinations every couple needs to add to their travel bucket-list – from off the beaten track to old favourites, every taste and budget has been considered.
The Philippines checks all the boxes for a romantic tropical getaway and honeymooners will adore the destination, but the Province of Palawan – comprising Palawan island and its reef-ringed neighbours – goes above and beyond.
Not only is it visually spectacular (in 2014 Condé Nast Traveller readers voted the island the most beautiful in the world for its aquamarine waters, jungle-carpeted emerald green mountains and idyllic, multi-hued fishing villages backed by limestone cliffs), but there’s plenty to see and do, too.
Foodie hub, Puerto Princesa is home to a UNESCO-inscribed subterranean river, voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. You’ll find great places to sail and dive as you hop from islet to island, and may even sight rare species such as the Philippine pangolin or tiny mouse deer. Palawan isn’t short on luxe resorts – Amanpulo offers beach, hillside and canopy accommodation, while each of the El Nido properties is more gorgeous than the last – and as you can get there by boat or a 90-minute flight from Manila, it probably won’t be long before the madding crowds roll up.
Related article: Top 5 Things to do in Palawan, the Philippines
Laidback provincial town Siem Reap is arguably best-known as Cambodia’s gateway to the ancient Angkorian temple complex, but its sophisticated restaurants, boutiques and luxurious, pool-fringed accommodation will keep you lingering long after you’ve had your temple fix. You will love the accommodation options there – from the super luxurious Belmond La Residence d’Angkor to the boutique Navutu Dreams where every room gets their own tuk-tuk driver. I always take time out to enjoy Wat Damnak’s local produce-focused degustation menu.
Cambodia has lots more for couples to explore – you can cruise up the Mekong, go jungle trekking in Ratanakiri and wander through gilded wats and striking examples of 1960s New Khmer architecture in the French colonial capital, Phnom Penh. From here it’s a 35-minute flight (or 3.5-hour drive) to the southern beach resort of Sihanoukville, named for Cambodia’s former king.
If you want to discover more about Cambodia, or if Siem Reap is on your radar, read about what to do and see with our Top Ten Siem Reap story.
3. Luang Prabang, Laos
Nestled at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, this former royal capital – and UNESCO World Heritage Site – is a heady mix of well-preserved cultural tradition and colonial and Laotian architecture. Colourfully garbed hill tribe women and Mahayana monks clutching burnt sienna parasols walk along bougainvillea-flanked roads, passing homespun eateries, little shops and boutique hotels housed within gabled, timbered or brick-and-stucco mansions. Villa Maly, a 33-room hotel anchored by the 1938 home of Princess Khampieng and Prince Khamtan, embodies the elegance of Indochinese-era living.
Compared with neighbouring Southeast Asian hubs, Luang Prabang is not that easy to get to – only a couple of flights a day depart nearby Hanoi – although improving connections may see that change. For now, though, you can enjoy the 300-step climb to Wat That Chom Si on the top of Mount Pousi Wat and step beneath the low sleeping roof of 16th-century Wat Xieng Thong to admire its vivid glass mosaics of Buddhist teachings and King Sisavang Vong’s seven naga-headed funeral chariot, without having to elbow through busloads of tourists.
4. Danang, Vietnam
Historically, Vietnam’s central coast has been the seat of kings, emperors, colonial administrators and war heroes from both sides. Today, Danang’s 48-kilometre sandy shoreline (formerly known as China Beach) – from hilly Son Tra peninsular in the north to the historic ancient town of Hoi An – is fast becoming as famous for its sun, sand and sea as its unique history: developers are even tipping Danang as the next Phuket.
After the lull following 2008’s downturn, things are starting to pick up again. The Meliá Danang held its soft opening there in 2015, while JW Marriott, Hilton and Sheraton will be online within the next few years, and flights are gradually being added from hubs all over Asia. For now, though, the vibe is not too hectic, the resorts are gorgeous (the all-villa Nam Hai and high-style InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort are my favourite places to stay on the beach), and local attractions – from cooking classes to beach bars tucked away in small bays – are myriad. At ancient UNESCO-listed merchant town, Hoi An you can wander charming museums, temples and eateries set within 15th-century houses by day, and eat at tiny eateries along lantern-lit streets by night – don’t miss the chocolate duck and mango shrimp at Mango Rooms or a nightcap at opium den-inspired Q Bar.
While Bali’s charms may seem thoroughly documented (thanks, Eat, Pray, Love) and regular visitors may grumble that it’s not the untouched paradise they remember, the truth is that this Indonesian jewel has been evolving since celebs such as Noel Coward and Charlie Chaplin vacationed here in the Twenties and Thirties. The upside is that no matter how many times you’ve visited Bali, next time around there will be new places to check out – and check in to.
New restaurants pop up every season, many from already successful Bali restaurateurs – last year I loved Pirate Beach Club and Indonesian eatery, Bambu Restaurant from the team behind popular La Lucciola.
The island’s well-established eateries also introduce new chefs and new menus to complement their high-concept interiors (check out the British colonial-era Shanghai vibe at Mama San and rice-paddy vistas at Sardine). And in addition to captivating visitors with its jungles, beaches and spiritual sanctuaries, the Island of Dreams also inspires entrepreneurs from all over the world to up sticks and try new ventures on its shores. When not opening new boutiques or launching craft cooperatives, designers – including those behind Australian brands Ebony Eve, Shakuhachi and Nastasha – spend most, if not all, of their time in Bali previewing new collections or releasing samples through local shops. This means you’ll often snag one-off pieces for an absolute steal. And once you’ve had your fill of Bali’s social scene, ancient centres of tranquillity such as Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Uluwutu temple, still hold new secrets to be discovered.
Ever since Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, Myanmar’s star has been in the ascendant and many travellers will tell you its top of their list. Historically, Myanmar (formerly Burma) has been a popular destination, particularly during its British colonial past (and visitors can experience the luxurious accommodations of that bygone era), but years of more recent isolation mean that Myanmar still feels relatively untouched by the fast-paced modern development characteristic of neighbouring countries.
Yangon, especially, is a beguiling mix of European-influenced history and Myanmar tradition. Victorian features at The Strand Hotel – sweeping marble staircases; an ancient elevator – have been well maintained, while rooms at the two-storey 1920s home of Myanmar’s former British governor, now the Belmond Governor’s Residence Yangon, feature canopy beds bordered by silk-panelled walls and views over leafy treetops. But things are changing quickly and new developments are mushrooming up everywhere. Luxurious, safari camp-inspired Bagan Lodge opened in 2013 to give well-heeled visitors a place to stay just a few kilometres from Bagan’s 11th-century plain of temples. In recent years, several river cruisers have been launched along the Ayeyarwady, including Belmond’s Orcaella and Sanctuary Ananda, while Inle Lake and Ngapali Beach are both hotbeds of development.
Related article: The Road to Mandalay: Be Enchanted by Myanmar
In 2009, then-Maldives President, Mohamed Nasheed and his officials donned scuba gear and held an underwater cabinet meeting aimed at drawing attention to climate change. For locals of this Indian Ocean Republic, the issue cuts close to home.
The Maldives’ highest point stands only 2.4 metres, and its 1,200 gorgeous reef- and beach-fringed islands and atolls are threatened by rising sea levels associated with global warming. Researchers have warned there will be no coral left in 30 years and that the Maldives will disappear completely by 2100, so local authorities and resorts have taken a stand. For every island being developed into a resort area, another island is being preserved. All Maldives resorts are eco-resorts; the “biodegradable” Six Senses’ Soneva Fushi even produces its own fresh water by desalinating ocean and lagoon water, and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere rather than adding it. Many couples staying in the Maldives have been actively helping to support the local economy and save the islands. And boy, are they worth saving. Go now.
Related article: The Ultimate Maldives Honeymoon Guide: Everything You Need to Know
8. Koh Lanta, Thailand
As Krabi province is a little tricky to get to – the only international flights serving Krabi airport are from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Darwin – it’s one of Thailand’s more laid-back destinations. And compared with Ao Nang and Phi Phi, Koh Lanta is even more low-key. That’s not to say that there’s nowhere for couples to stay (of Lanta’s five-star resorts, we love the deliciously secluded mountain retreat, Pimalai Resort & Spa), but it does mean that the island experience feels both relaxing and more authentic.
Lanta’s ethnically diverse inhabitants, comprising Muslim, Thai-Chinese and Urak Lawoi sea gypsy communities, are more likely to make their living from fishing, prawn-farming and rubber-tapping rather than tourism. Along the 25-kilometre west coast from northern Klong Dao to Bamboo Bay in the south, you’ll find deserted stretches of sand interspersed with day-into-night beach bars frequented by locals and visitors alike. The action, such as it is, happens around the concentration of bars, shops and stilt-house seafood restaurants in the main village of Baan Saladan, and there’s also great diving to be had. Ko Ha Yai is known for its submerged caverns and you can spot whale sharks, manta rays, and schools of barracuda around the deep drops-offs of submerged pinnacles, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang.
Find your perfect Thailand honeymoon or holiday resort in our exclusive Thailand Travel Directory. Read more about beautiful Koh Lanta with The Ultimate Travel Guide for Couples Visiting Thailand’s Koh Lanta
9. Surat Thani, Thailand
Once the capital of the 10th-century Indonesian Srivijaya Empire, Surat Thani city is the hopping-off point for its eponymous province and some of Thailand’s best-known islands, each of which has built a reputation on offering either great diving, a castaway lifestyle, or a party from dawn to dawn – and sometimes all three.
Koh Tao is credited as having the best diving in the Gulf of Thailand, and gorgeous places to stay are legion. Koh Samui – part of the protected Ang Thong National Marine Park’s 42-island archipelago – is known for its high-end resorts and spas, but you can also find nightlife along Chaweng’s main street and a more tranquil vibe in north coast fishing hamlet, Bo Phut. And while Koh Pha Ngnan is best known for its infamous full-moon parties and less-raucous half-moon parties, it has a lot more to offer beyond the Hat Rin debauchery. As 90 per cent of the island is covered in jungle and 40 per cent is protected by national park, wildlife abounds; if you hike up Khao Ra, the island’s highest point, your pulse will likely be raised by the jaw-dropping vistas as much as the incline.
Related article: 6 Beach Destinations to Visit in Thailand
You might not realise it, but Iran is also in Asia. It’s also set to be one of the must-go frontier destinations for 2016. Most of the country is now considered safe: Australia has an embassy in Tehran and after re-establishing its embassy there last summer, the UK launced non-stop flights from London July this year – Iranian officials are hoping to welcome 20 million annual tourists by 2025. But those going now will be among the first to experience the Islamic Republic’s diverse landscapes and cultural treasures.
You can hit the beach or go skiing (yes, you heard correctly). You can explore 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the most of any Middle-Eastern country (Persian capital, Persepolis was founded by Darius The Great in 518BC), and wander ancient Islamic prayer halls illuminated by kaleidoscopic shafts of light lancing down from stained-glass windows. And after a day’s sightseeing, you can turn your attention to Iran’s fabulous cuisine to the sound of Persian pop or classical poetry – walnut pomegranate stew or hot and sour shrimp, anyone?