Wulai Hot Springs, Taiwan
This chilly season, warm up in the hot springs of Wulai, about 45 minutes from Taipei. A pretty river runs through the town, and surrounding it are pools of clear, hot natural spring water for therapeutic soaking. Cherry blossoms enhance the scenery from around late-January to early March, and hiking trails provide an outdoor workout – best rewarded with a relaxing dip afterwards.
Related: Insider tips for Taipei
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, the island nation just south of India, gets lots of rain, thanks to the monsoons that sweep through in late autumn and late spring. To avoid the downpours – while also enjoying cooler temperatures – visit from now to April. This will mean sunnier beach days on the south coast and clearer views from the ancient monuments in the mountains. But to avoid the high-season crowds, think later in the year. It’ll be wet, but you’ll be rewarded with pockets of seclusion.
From late February each year, canola flowers blossom in earnest across Yunnan’s Luoping county, with peak vibrancy lasting just a few weeks across stretches of farmland both flat and rolling. After the delicate yellow flowers have wilted, farmers harvest cooking oil from their seeds. But for that short moment of spring blooms, the area is a photographer’s dream.
Related: The flowery charms of Dali, Yunnan
It’s the start of spring, and in parts of Asia, especially Japan, this means cherry blossoms. In China, one of the most popular places to see trees overflowing with the pink and white flowers is Wuhan University, where peak blooming happens around mid-March. The campus’ pagodas, lakes and bridges lend the scenery a classically Chinese atmosphere.
Related: Where to see cherry blossoms in Asia
To sports fans, it’s world-class rugby. To the costumed in the stands, it’s the biggest party of the year. For three days each April, the world comes together for the Hong Kong Sevens, the city’s marquee sporting event, when the bars are packed, the streets of Causeway Bay exude festival energy and the stadium takes on a life of its own. It’s a reminder to all that there’s no place like Hong Kong.
It’s hot out in Asia; you need a beach. Phuket is an easy option. But for years savvy travellers have sprung for Krabi just a short hop away, where the beaches are less crowded and limestone cliffs tower over placid waters. It’s just about always warm here, and right now the weather is still dry before monsoon rains hit. There’s rock climbing and kayaking, but Krabi is really made for another kind of trip – the laziest kind.
Yunhe Rice Terraces, China
Reflections of sunrise on hilly farmland create an astonishing sight at Yunhe Rice Terraces, near Lishui city in China’s Zhejiang province. (Cathay Dragon flies to the closest airport at Wenzhou.) The best time to go is May to June, when the vast, steep terraces are irrigated, giving them mirror-like surfaces. You get a bit of history and culture, too: the land was honed into this wondrous form over a millennium ago and is still tilled by the She tribe today.
Busan, South Korea
It’s warm but not sweltering, with summer rains yet to arrive: June is an ideal time to visit the beaches of Busan. Join the crowds at Haeundae and Gwangali, the town’s most popular spots, or seek out quieter locations such as Songjeong Beach. But for fans of Korean food, the best part is taking a break from the sun to try the many barbecue and seafood restaurants that line the streets just off the sand.
Naadam Festival, Mongolia
Mongolia’s national day celebration features tournaments in three of the country’s traditional sports: wrestling, horseracing and archery. But it’s also an arts and culture festival, with vibrant singing and dance performances. Most towns celebrate each July, with the biggest bash at Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar. It’s no coincidence that the holiday takes place midsummer, when the weather is perfect.
Related: The great Mongolian open-air theatre
August is Bali’s most perfect month. It’s the driest time of the year, which means sunny skies every day, with cool breezes bringing the tropical temperatures down. This is also when the island’s western side gets the big waves that have made it Asia’s surfing nirvana. The waters will be crowded – but that’s all the greater motivation to seek out quieter coves. Try Green Bowl Beach, or take a boat to Nusa Lembongan. And while there are events throughout the year worth noting, August is great for the variety of experiences on offer. You can spend one day taking part in a ritualistic Hindu fire ceremony in Ubud, hang around for the Jazz Festival, and then witness the chaotic joy of Indonesia’s Independence Day throughout the island on 17 August, with parades, community gatherings, sports events and performing arts festivals.
Related: In search of the real Ubud
Kenting Surf Beaches, Taiwan
Surfed Indonesia? And India? Even tried Hong Kong? Seek out more waves in Kenting, a national park on Taiwan’s southern tip known for its cycling and hiking. (Cathay Dragon flies to nearby Kaohsiung.) Surfing conditions here are consistently good in summer, making August a great time to head to Jialeshui beach, where boards and hostels are available. The relatively uncrowded waters also make it a great place to learn the sport.
Panjin would be off the tourist trail were it not for one huge attraction: a wetland that turns bright red in autumn. Located in Liaoning province, accessible via the Dalian airport, the site is filled with a seaweed that reacts with its saltwater environment to change colour throughout the year. It goes from green in spring to deep red by September, and continues to darken until it dies in winter. A boardwalk spanning a kilometre lets visitors easily enjoy the beds of seaweed and the wetland’s many bird species.
Medan, the bustling capital of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province, is an ethnically diverse commercial centre known for its food and heritage sites. The city is also the gateway to scenic resort area Lake Toba and jungle trekking adventures in Bukit Lawang. October is prime time to check out all that Medan has to offer, and Cathay Dragon is the only airline offering non-stop service from Hong Kong.
Related: 10 reasons to visit Medan, Indonesia
The temperatures are comfortable, the skies are clear: November is the last chance to enjoy the year’s prime hiking period in the Himalayan ranges. You’ll get high-definition mountain views this time of year, but this draw also means Nepal’s major routes like Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit get crowded. If you want to avoid the throngs, try less popular – but no less spectacular – areas like Langtang, Gosainkunda and Helambu.
After closing for six months to handle the effects of overcrowding and fix sewage problems, the Philippine island of Boracay reopened in late October 2018, just in time for dry season. It now has a whole new set of rules, including ones prohibiting dining by the beach, fireworks after 9pm and hawkers on the beachfront. The number of hotel rooms has been reduced by several thousand. These measures are to help keep Boracay idyllic – so tourists win.
Related: A snapshot guide to the Philippines
Once you’ve seen a photo of Shirakawa-go, it’s hard to forget it. The village in a river valley, part of a wider UNESCO World Heritage Site in Gifu prefecture, looks like a fairy tale land in summer and is downright otherworldly in winter, thanks to a thick blanket of snow and its historic gassho-style houses. It’s accessible as a day trip from Kanazawa, but you’ll want to see Shirakawa-go at night, when lights from homes and streets cast a warm glow.