Everyone, from kids to grandmas, loves fairytales. Whether it’s a Disney film or a Han Christian Andersen classic, fairytales can lift our spirits and loosen the chains of our imagination. That is why a lot of people travel to Europe, and visit incredible castles, and fortified cites, to recreate their favourite scenes and moments of their fairytale story.
But, the truth is, you don’t have to fly all the way to Europe, to see something that’s magical and fairytale-like. From Siem Reap to Agra, HomeAway has listed 10 destinations in Asia that seem to be straight of a fairytale.
1. Siem Reap – Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Want to see something spectacular? Angkor Wat, known as one of the world’s greatest archaeological treasures, isn’t just a sought-after tourist spot in Southeast Asia, but it’s also deemed as Cambodia’s most enduring symbol. For decades, this famous UNESCO World Heritage site has been luring travellers from all corners of the world, with its sheer mystery and majestic temples. Here, you’ll get a chance to see a string of beautiful temples, including Angkor Wat and the Bayon Temple with its numerous sculptural decorations. Capital of the Khmer Empire, it was built way back in the 12th century by the Khmer King Suryavarman II. However, towards the end of the century, Angkor Wat transformed from being a Hindu centre of worship to a Buddhism hub, which continues to the present day. The structure continues to throw up mysterious remnants of an era gone by. As recent as 2015, a previously unseen ensemble of structures was found from the days when Angkor Wat was being built. So much mystery to unravel here!
2. Hokkaido – Winter Snow, Japan
Dreaming of a white Christmas? Why not book a trip to Hokkaido, Japan during winter? When wintertime sets in, the city transforms into a magical winter wonderland full of life, colour, and fun-filled festivities. A must visit here is the Otaru Canal, which used to be the central part of the city’s busy port in the 20th century. Today, the warehouses have been transformed into museums, shops, and restaurants. It is the perfect location for a pleasant stroll during the day; in the evenings, the walk around the canal is lit with gas lamps, creating the most romantic atmosphere.
Every February, Hokkaido celebrates the Sapporo Snow Festival – a marvellous gala and an international snow sculpture contest that features striking, fairytale-like ice sculptures, and snow statues. To make things even more magical, the streets of Sapporo and the rest of Hokkaido will be filled with lanterns in winter, further enhancing its aesthetic appeal.
3. Agra – Taj Mahal, India
They don’t call Agra’s Taj Mahal as one of the 7 wonders of the world for nothing. Praised for its symmetry, unrivalled splendour, and sheer size, Taj Mahal is truly a dramatic and majestic masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture, brimming with gorgeous gems and white marble. Commissioned by Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal, it was built by nearly 20,000 artisans and at an estimated cost of around US$827 million. Built between 1632 and 1653, Agra’s undisputed star is also one of the world’s most iconic symbols of love, making it a regular feature in everyone’s bucket list.
4. Seoul – Cherry/Autumn Leaves, South Korea
Fond of floral blooms and colours? Seoul, in spite of its flourishing economy and rapid urbanization, remains one of the best places in Asia for autumn foliage viewing. From brimming crimsons and vibrant oranges to rich browns, autumn paints Seoul with a palette of awe-inspiring hues that will surely give you an enthralling sightseeing trip. Believe it or not, even ordinary pathways like Deoksugung Palace’s stonewall road transform into a sight to behold in autumn.
And that’s not all! With a sea of fragrant pink and immaculate white blooming beautifully, Seoul can also be the perfect place to catch the elusive cherry blossom in spring.
5. Maldives – Vaadho Island
With its gorgeous waters, clear blue skies, and luxurious overwater bungalows, it’s no wonder many label the Maldives as one of the world’s best honeymoon destinations. Praised for its romantic atmosphere and unrivalled tropical splendour, the Maldives is indeed a slice of paradise on earth. But, make no mistake about it – the Maldives isn’t just a scenic beach and honeymoon destination.
When night-time comes, you’ll have a rare opportunity to see a surreal, natural phenomenon on Vaadho Island, Maldives – the luminous sea of stars. Caused by a chemical reaction known as bioluminescence, this one-of-a-kind natural spectacle will utterly amaze you with its otherworldly glowing blue waters. Trust us, it’s a sight that will remind you of fairies like Tinker Bell.
6. Lombok – Beach , Indonesia
In many ways, Lombok exceeds or lives up to its moniker, ‘an unspoiled version of Bali’. With a striking volcano and enchanting waterfalls, Lombok is by far the tranquil idyll that many people still associate only with Bali today. And just like the famed ‘Island of the Gods’, Lombok is also a beach haven (more serene, though, with fewer tourists) that wows its visitors with its stunning waters and pristine powdery white sands. What’s more, it has a colourful and beautiful underwater world teeming with burgeoning corals and marine life.
7. Penang – Heavenly Food, Malaysia
Penang, with its tasty mixture of Indian, Chinese and Malay influences, is literally a nirvana for bona fide lovers. From spicy curries to delectable laksas and savoury soups, Penang has a wide array of mouth-watering treats that will definitely appease your taste buds and cravings. As an added plus, most of the restaurant food in Penang is amazingly cheap, allowing you to binge without breaking the bank.
But, there’s more to Penang than its blooming and established culinary scene. Drenched in history, natural beauty and culture, Penang is also rich in ornate religious sites, sand beaches, kampungs surrounded by rice paddies, and sprawling unbeaten jungles. Furthermore, it is dotted with charming, picture-perfect historic buildings that would remind of your fairytale buildings and scenes.
8. Ubud – Terraces, Indonesia
Green and startlingly beautiful, Ubud’s postcard-worthy rice paddies are a remarkable, mesmerising sight. Whether you’re travelling solo or with a partner, these verdant terraces are not just striking, but also exude a sense of peace and mellow drama. Ubud, fittingly nicknamed as a crafts and arts hub, is also regarded as Bali’s cultural centre. It is also considered the best placed to try the wildly popular Balinese massage that incorporates acupressure techniques. Well, who ever really needs an excuse to get a massage, anyway?
9. Kyoto – Sagano Bamboo Forest, Japan
No list of most magical, fairytale-like places in Asia is complete without the inclusion of Kyoto’s ethereal Sagano Bamboo Forest. Once you set foot on this one-of-a-kind forest, you’ll feel like you’re entering another dimension. Stunning and mystical, Sagano Bamboo Forest has green bamboo stalks that are distinctive due to the sound they make when the wind blows around them. So revered is this sound that it makes its way to the list of ‘one-hundred must be preserved sounds of Japan.’ A truly unmissable experience!
10. Yogyakarta – Historical Monuments, Indonesia
Yogyakarta, for decades, has been wowing travellers and dropping jaws with its impressive collection of ancient temples, wondrous museums, intricate buildings, and heritage sites. It is home to the largest Buddhist structure on earth – Borobudur – that is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. With hundreds of years of history and a fascinating culture, Yogyakarta feels like a page from a fairytale book. Here is an interesting titbit: the city is named after the famous Indian city of Ayodhya that features in the popular epic, Ramayana. Today, thanks to modernization, it ranks as a city with one of the best human development index (HDI) in Indonesia – living up to its name, which translates to ‘a city that is fit to prosper.’
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