Winter is officially here in two months, but in some places, it feels like it has already arrived. I was talking with some other travel writers a few weeks ago about their favorite winter sun holidays, and the responses ranged dramatically. Two weeks ago, I posted all the answers that are located in the Americas. You can read about them here. Last week’s post was about Winter Holidays In Europe & The UK. Next week’s post will be all about Winter Sun Destinations In The Oceania Region. Winter Holiday Destinations in Africa will follow that. Hopefully, these places below will inspire you when planning your winter sun holidays in Asia.
By Iuliya from Doing Life with Iuliya . Follow Iuliya on Instagram here.
Kuching is the capital city of Sarawak, one of two states located in East Malaysia and separated from the Peninsula by the South China Sea. Many people assume that just visiting Kuala Lumpur is enough to check the Malaysia box, but it is NOT! It is like a different country altogether. I should know, being a Kuchingite myself. 😉
English is our official state language (not so in Peninsula). Kuching is the capital city of the state of Sarawak but manages to be small enough to not feel overwhelming. The pace is laidback – it takes around 15 minutes to get anywhere in the city. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Kuchingites are incredibly friendly (I could be biased, but I’m not. I promise!).
Then there is the food! You will not find anything like anywhere else, including in Kuala Lumpur. Some popular local dishes include Sarawak laksa (Anthony Bourdain was a huge fan!), kolo mee, Foochow mee sua, and kampua. If you are a fan of mural art, there is a tremendous collection, including Malaysia’s first-ever augment art! You can follow my self-guided tour to visit the most spectacular street art at the Kuching Riverfront here.
And finally, for the animal lovers, there is the Semenggoh Orang Utan Wildlife Center, where you might be lucky enough to see wild Orangutans feeding. And even do a hike at Bako National Park, where you can encounter Proboscis Monkeys, wild bearded pigs, vipers, and a python-shaped rock known as Snake Head.
If you’re looking for the ultimate exotic winter escape, Kuching is your place!
Kho Chang, Ranong, Thailand
By Sydney Skinner from Project ALLO. Follow Sydney on Instagram here.
If you’re looking for an uber laid back, dig your toes in the sand style tropical island to visit this winter, consider Koh Chang Noi (“Little Elephant Island”) in Thailand. Koh Chang Noi is a quiet, unspoiled island located near the southern tip of Burma, mainly known for…well, not being known!
This secret little gem is so special that my partner Josh and I decided to build a house there, and we’d love to share some insider tips with you.
There are very few places you can find in the world today that are truly safe, beautiful, filled with friendly people, and most importantly, for the most part, undiscovered by hordes of tourists. Koh Chang Noi is such a place.
Don’t Go to the Wrong Koh Chang (It Happens A Lot!)
Koh Chang Noi should not be confused with Eastern Thailand’s famous Ko Chang, which is much bigger and has an altogether busier vibe. Many travelers confuse the two. On the more peaceful island of Koh Chang Noi, you are entirely off-grid; power is provided by generators and solar. (Fear not though, if you get a Thai sim card in your phone, quickly picked up at the airport, you’ll have stable and reliable internet while you’re on the island). Here most traveling is done by foot or by bicycle along dirt roads—you’ll find no motorbikes for rent or paved roads, and perhaps it is this that gives the island its special flavor.
The Vibe on Koh Chang Noi: Chill, to the Power of Ten
On Koh Chang Noi, you can find the same sort of laid-back grassroots atmosphere that Thailand was so known for decades ago. You won’t see full moon parties, all-night raves, and crowds of oiled-up tourists. But you will find many repeat visitors in their 30s, 40s, and over, many of whom rent simple bungalows on the beach winter after winter and have formed their own friendly little communities, gardens, and art clubs.
Things To Do On Koh Chang Noi
If you’re into yoga, Koh Chang has a variety of options. Our favorite is Om Tao, the yoga studio run by a lovely German expat, Andrea. Om Tao is a beautiful palapa topped yoga studio with many class options and workshops available each day. A 1.5-hour gentle yoga class in a studio in the jungle is the perfect start to any day.
Here, you’ll also find stunning and affordable food. Many bungalow restaurants abound on Koh Chang Noi, but for a truly world-class experience, visit the beach restaurant Sawadee, run by a Thai woman and her famous Australian chef husband, who fell in love with Koh Chang Noi and relocated. The blend of their two cuisines is enough to make a proud man beg for seconds. They make a beautiful mocktail called a Ginger Fizz that I have been dying and unable to recreate. They won’t give me the recipe yet, but I’m workin’ on it!
A unique element on Koh Chang Noi is its freshwater lake. After a dip in the warm, inviting ocean (or perhaps a quick kayak adventure?), many visitors love to make the easy 30-minute walk to the lake and clean up in there, reveling in the freshness of salt-free water. Finish that off with an $8 full body massage, a $4 fresh, delicious meal at one of the bungalow resorts, and you’ve had yourself the perfect day.
If you’re into volleyball, impromptu pickup games can be had on the beach most evenings. Every Friday, the beloved “island mom” to many visitors who cross her path, Lek, whips up a mouthwatering batch of Massaman curry at the Sunset Bungalows. Many longtime visitors mark their week by Lek’s “Massaman Day.”
Unplug on Koh Chang Noi
Most of the Thai residents’ income here comes from agriculture (rubber trees and cashew trees) rather than tourism, which may be part of why the vibe here is still so authentic. The land is passed down over generations, and a small handful of Thai family members own much of the island. There is a small school on the island that visitors are welcome to volunteer at, as well as a basic hospital.
If you’re looking for a place to unplug and reconnect with nature, or perhaps the perfect side-by-side hammocks to share with your sweetheart (without breaking the bank), I can recommend no place more perfect than Koh Chang Noi. It’s off the beaten track and takes a bit of effort to get to, but once you arrive, you won’t want to be going anywhere anytime soon. Beware: many visitors that only meant to stop by for a few days have made this their regular winter holiday destination for decades!
Seoul, South Korea
I love Seoul in the winter. There’s something magical in the air with the pretty lights of the city and the hustle and bustle of the crowds in their giant parkers. The utter convenience around the metropolis also helps to ease the low temperatures, which occasionally fall well below freezing.
The subway seats are heated. Heating is blasted in the malls where you can purchase many winter items on crazy sales, and all the apartments have something called ondol – underfloor heating. So while you have to dress in several layers to get somewhere, you’ll be taking it all off once you arrive.
Seoul is the city that never sleeps, no matter what the temperatures are doing outside. The streets are always bustling with people, and the restaurants are packed to the brim. Around Christmas time, there is extra touch magic with pine trees lit up by fairy lights, shopping malls going overboard on the decorations, and various streets decked with festive paraphernalia.
Hiking is done year-round on the mountains in Seoul, and all the temples and palaces look spectacular when they are covered in snow. If you’re into skiing or snowboarding, there are several fantastic ski resorts about an hour or so away from the city center and can be visited on a day trip or overnight. If you want an active winter with plenty to keep you busy, even during harsh weather, get to Seoul in South Korea and have a blast.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
By Maya Rosenthal & Sari Even from Chasing Lenscapes. Follow Maya & Sari on Instagram here.
When the leaves turn yellow and brown, and the nights become longer and colder, we always look for the perfect destination to escape the winter’s cold weather and gloomy mood. Someplace warm and exotic with good food, relaxing atmosphere and lots of interesting things to do. Inle Lake in Myanmar ticks all the boxes for the perfect winter escape destination!
The best time to visit Inle Lake is from November to March when there is hardly any rain. Inle Lake is one of the most exciting places we’ve ever visited. There are several floating villages around the lake where the residents still use their unique methods for fishing and farming.
What can you do in Inle Lake?
The best way to see the lake and its attractions is by boat. With your boat tour, you can start your day by watching the traditional fishermen with their cone-shaped nets at sunrise, then visit the local markets where you’ll meet the hill tribes with their colorful headdresses. There are numerous interesting temples and monasteries around the lake, but the one site you must visit is Indein village with hundreds of ancient and renovated stupas and pagodas.
Another recommended activity is taking a smaller motorized canoe to take a tour through the floating gardens. During the tour, you’ll learn about the local farming methods of the villagers, which enable them to grow their vegetables on the surface of the lake.
These are just some of the highlights of our vacation. And we haven’t mentioned the gorgeous sunsets yet or the stunning reflections and relaxing atmosphere! Trust us, Inle Lake is truly a magical place. It’s one of those places you’ll always remember and want to go back for another visit.
Koh Phangan, Thailand
By Lena from Salut from Paris. Follow Lena on Instagram here.
If you are searching for the perfect destination to escape winter, Koh Phangan in Thailand needs to be on your radar! It’s an ideal paradise, including white beaches lined with palm trees, shallow turquoise waters, and green, lush vegetation. It’s a laid-back island with plenty of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, yoga retreats, and of course, a typical Thai night market.
If you are keen on some activity, take a hike to the Phaeng waterfalls. The hike is marked and not too difficult, pack enough water and wear something more substantial than flip flops.
There is no public transportation on Koh Phangan, and taxis are pretty expensive. It’s best to rent a scooter and explore the island on your own. More than 30 beaches are waiting for you! But even though the roads are well maintained, and people are considerate, you need to wear a helmet and drive carefully.
If you are into diving and snorkeling, Koh Phangan is a great destination! Many tours are offering day trips to nearby diving spots, which are the same spots you would head to if you’re visiting the neighbor island: the famous diving location Koh Tao!
Koh Phangan is a laid-back place, except for a couple of days a month: when it’s a full moon! Party folks are taking over, but if full moon parties aren’t your cup of tea, don’t worry about it. The parties are taking place mainly in the southeast, and you easily can stay out of it.
Ubud, Bali – Indonesia
Ubud is the perfect winter destination not just to escape the cold, but also to find some peace and quiet. Since the days of Eat, Pray, Love, this once-quiet Balinese town has become a haven for all things spiritual, attracting legions of truth-seekers – especially between April and October, which coincide with the high season in Bali.
From October onwards, with the beginning of the rainy season, visitors to Ubud are far fewer, allowing those who do visit to appreciate the stunning nature and spiritual atmosphere of this town in central Bali. There are so many things to do in Ubud that we recommend staying for at least 4-5 days to check them all out.
Yoga lovers will find plenty of places to practice, including the famous Yoga Shack; there are also Pyramids of Chi, holding sound-healing sessions daily, and plenty of other sites offering purification ceremonies and other traditional rituals.
If you’re not into spiritual things, Ubud is still a great destination – it’s surrounded by magnificent nature, including rice terraces and waterfalls, temples, and caves. It’s ideally located to explore the rest of Bali – don’t miss the sunrise hike to the top of Mount Batur!
Ella, Sri Lanka
By Ellis Veen from Backpack Adventures. Follow Ellis on Instagram here.
Ella in Sri Lanka is a perfect winter escape destination if you are an adventurous traveler. When you think about Sri Lanka, the first thing that comes to mind is its gorgeous palm-fringed beaches. However, Sri Lanka is so much more than just the sea and sun.
Ella is a cute little town tucked away in the hills of Sri Lanka. It has an incredibly scenic location surrounded by tea plantations. Winter has the sunniest and driest weather, with pleasant temperatures around 20 degrees. Thus, making it the ideal place for your winter sun holidays. An excellent time to explore all the hiking opportunities available.
It’s up to you if you want to make some short and gentle walks through the tea plantations or do a more challenging hike up to Little Adams Peak and Ella’s rock. Everywhere you go, you will see the tea plantations. Therefore another attraction of Ella is visiting one of the tea factories to see the whole process.
There are a lot of boutique hotels and guesthouses, but also a lot of homestays. Staying with a Sri Lankan family and eating home-cooked food is one of the highlights of Ella. The best way to reach Ella is by taking the scenic Elly to Kandy train. Some say it is one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.
Galle, Sri Lanka
Without the shadow of a doubt, Galle is the prettiest city in Sri Lanka, and for many visitors, it’s the cherry on the cake during their trip. This small fortified town has a lot to offer – from cultural experiences to incredible nature and beautiful beaches nearby, and a selection of the best hotels and restaurants in the country.
Galle is a lovely place where you can discover an exciting part of the history of Sri Lanka. Walking along the ramparts, you will encounter the scenic lighthouse, as well as the Clock Tower. The historic town is a maze of cobbled alleys with colonial buildings whose gardens pour colorful flowers onto the street. You will find small boutiques and art galleries where you will be able to shop for souvenirs and more. There are also lovely restaurants and cafés to stop for traditional food and the best drinks in the country.
For an incredible sunset, make sure to head to the ramparts – you’ll notice that both locals and tourists will gather there waiting for the sun to go down.
From Galle, you can enjoy a day trip to Mirissa, famous for stilt fishing, and even to Unawatuna Beach, one of the most famous beaches of Southern Sri Lanka. Not far from that, you will find the Japanese Pagoda. If you look carefully, you may even see it from Galle!
Galle has a great selection of accommodation options. Most people try to stay at one of the boutique hotels in town, but if you are visiting a bit longer, opt for a colonial villa a bit outside of town. If you are traveling with a group of people, you can share the costs – thus making it very cheap – and you will enjoy the privacy of a luxury villa complete with a pool, a lush garden, and even your own butler.
Dubai, a luxury place that is known for the tallest buildings, luxury malls & hotels, but Dubai is more than this. A place that is full of outdoor fun like stunning beaches, beautiful desert safaris, the world’s best flower gardens, global fairs, and many fun things to do.
Dubai is blessed with lots of sunshine, cool days, and bright blue skies in winter. Therefore, winter is the perfect time to visit this region. From November to the end of March, Dubai receives many tourists from all over the world. Several world-class fairs, shopping festivals, and events like street dance and music pop up everywhere in the city. They entertain tourists from all over the world.
Dubai has world-class waterparks, so you can also indulge in adventurous water rides. There are also a lot of beaches in Dubai, many with lavish resorts and exotic parties. During winter, it is perfect for relaxing or partying in the open sun and under the blue sky. Camping in the desert with a beautiful sunset, desert dance, and other activities is one of the best things to do in Dubai during the winter months.
Half of the world is covered with snow during winters, but in Dubai, the sky is clear and bright with cool breezy evenings. The city hosts several fascinating events, festivals, and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities. Therefore, escaping to Dubai for your winter sun holidays is a great choice.
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