Only have two weeks or three weeks in Asia for your trip? These are our top picks for destinations perfect for your limited vacation time!
Last year, a survey by the Skift revealed something pretty dismal about Americans and their paid time off: 41% of Americans reported having used none of their paid vacation days in 2014. That’s nothing compared to the 64% of Americans that said they hadn’t travelled within the past year.
Though British and Australians might be doing a bit better on the travel front, it’s not much different. Telegraph reported that a third of British workers didn’t take their full holiday entitlement, either. All of this has us wondering: what is it that’s scaring us away from using our precious days off to travel and explore?
And after thinking hard about what we could do to help shift the problem, we realized something important. Sometimes, travellers just don’t know what they could be doing with two weeks or three weeks in Asia. Sometimes it’s an inspiration problem!
So before 2016 rolls around, we decided to round up our favourite journeys that are worth every single one of your paid days off – whether that’s two weeks in Asia, three weeks in Asia or even a bit more!
12 Days or Less…
Just because you only have a week or two to explore, doesn’t mean you should count out international travel. With the right itinerary, you can explore an entire country’s highlights and top destinations without every breaking the two week mark! These are some of our favourites.
Who doesn’t love combining an architectural world wonder with some illuminating rural homestays? For a short trip, Cambodia’s highlights can pack a punch in terms of experience. Because the country is relatively small and most of its spectacular sights are within two cities, it’s a great place to explore if you’ve only got a little bit of time.
Connect the dots between the country’s capital city, Phnom Penh, and the home of stunning Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Between the two, you’ll be able to explore the best of its Angkor temples in as little as 24 hours, and Phnom Penh’s famously fascinating post-colonial and art deco architecture. Add a little bit of adventure with a one night homestay in rural Siem Reap, and you’re in for a new perspective when you finally return home and to work!
Bali and Ubud
Indonesia is a dizzying collection of over 17,000 islands, which hardly seems like a great country to visit if you don’t have much time. Thankfully, its most popular and scenic destination, Bali, is an experiential and cultural goldmine! Plus, it’s not too large, so you can get a surprisingly in-depth experience in under two weeks.
Our best suggestion is to focus your energy on the stunning beaches of Southern Bali and the cultural mecca of Ubud. Since these areas are just a drive away from each other, you can explore both without ever changing hotels. That means a great combination of spiritual discovery, trekking excursions and beach relaxation in a short stay. For a short, week to ten day trip, a visit to Ubud’s stunning rice terraces, best temples and then some chill-out time on a beach is a great formula for a still-relaxing holiday.
In comparison to neighbouring destinations, Hong Kong is tiny – but big things come in small packages. Hong Kong is actually a combination of islands in the Kowloon peninsula – a total of over 250! Needless to say, a week’s vacation is a great amount of time to get a feel for the excitement of some of its best islands.
If you’re very short on time – or want to treat yourself to a visit to Hong Kong during a long stopover – the three must-see islands are Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Island and Lantau Island. A day or two visiting each promises a pretty great first look at what makes each unique. In Kowloon, make sure to wander around a shopping “mansion” and dig into some dim sum. On Hong Kong Island, don’t miss the famous Victoria Peak lookout and Victoria Harbour (including the Symphony of Lights laser show from a river cruiser).
If you’ve got time, head to Lantau island for some outdoor relaxation. Our favourite stops there are Tai O Fishing Village and Cheung Sha Wan Beach – both well-worth a day on the island. Grand total for travel time? Seven to 10 days!
Laos is one of those destinations where you could easily spend a week, way on up to over a month. Depending on what you want to see and how comfortably you want to see it, the highlights of Laos can be a great introduction to ethnic minority culture or the adventure destination of a lifetime.
What makes Laos great for a short trip is the same thing that makes Cambodia a stand-out on this list – and that’s its combination of a few great cities. Since Laos is sparsely populated beyond its big cities, places like Luang Prabang, Vientiane and cliff-and-jungle paradise Vang Vieng or Pakse give you a great introduction to the country’s culture and scenery.
Most will remark at just how relaxed and languid Laos is to visit, so even a “whirlwind” tour around these cities will feel pretty leisurely. Allot one or two days in each destination with a day to travel in between, and you’ve got a great week-long getaway.
20 Days or Less…
Some of us are lucky enough to have upwards of three weeks to explore Asia’s best destinations. These are our top picks for destinations that are perfect for a three week trip!
Thanks to Thailand’s booming travel industry, even its most far-flung destinations are well suited for even the most novice of world travellers. That means that those who come to Thailand have no problem finding upwards of 10 destinations they want to tick off while they’re there. So, to get a real sense of Thailand as a whole, this country packs a punch for a fantastic two week or more trip.
Most will move across the country either south to north, or north to south – depending on if they want to start with beach relaxation toward the beginning or the end. We love creating Thailand itineraries that start in beautiful Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, move south to Bangkok, and wrap things up beachside in Phuket or Krabi. If you’d rather inject a bit of adrenaline and outdoor adventure into your trip, linger a little longer in the north where you’ll find Doi Inthanon National Park, or central for Khao Yai National Park.
With so much to see, expect at least two or three days in each destination to get the full experience – more for big cities like Bangkok or parks like Doi Inthanon. Thankfully, you can save time with flights between destinations – which are both affordable and frequent!
Though many don’t see Vietnam as a particularly large or in-depth destination, exploring the best of Vietnam means experiencing both the north and the south. That’s because the cultures and highlights in both regions are truly exceptional – and seeing the juxtaposition of history and culture is a fascinating show. Couple that with a stop in the charming and scenic central coast, and you’re looking at at least a five or six days in each region.
In the north, except a few days in Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay. Head south to explore charming Hoi An (and Hue if you’re feeling energetic), and then onto Ho Chi Minh City and the incredible Mekong Delta region. Though the trip will be a whirlwind, the breezy and relaxed central coast is considered a great breather between the more dynamic and frenetic northern and southern cities. If you have a bit more time to travel, pair a north-to-south Vietnam trip with a quick flight over to Siem Reap in Cambodia for a glimpse at Angkor Wat!
As one of the world’s most vast and most populous countries, it’s no wonder that the best of China require a bit more time to explore. Though it’s not impossible to spend upwards of a month travelling through this massive nation, exploring its top destinations within 20 days is just a matter of good planning – and knowing what you want to see!
Most that come to China for the first time will plan their introductory tour between its two major cities: Shanghai and Beijing. Located on the same coast – but with plenty of remarkable destinations in between – it’s easy to chart a path to Xi’an, Chengdu, E-meishan (and Guilin a bit further south) in between the two cities. Given the sheer size of the country, most will connect the dots by flying, but a good way to break it up is with a cruise on the Yangtze River!
Ready to starting planning the best use of your time off you’ve ever had? Contact our team of travel experts to start building the journey worth every one of your vacation days.