Planning a trip to the vibrant metropolis? City life is unmatched in Southeast Asia when comparing it with Singapore. Its fascinating fusion of eastern and western culture offers visitors the world in a 700-square kilometer microcosm. Here you’ll find Malay mosques, shopping malls packed with luxury items, gleaming skyscrapers, and Hindu temples all compactly neighboring each other.
Here are 8 of its best sights if you’re not sure where to start.
One of the few remaining heritage sites in downtown Singapore, this market is a flashback to the country’s old, rich street food tradition where you can find anything from fish ball to pig’s organ soup.
A nocturnal zoo? Yes! The one and only in the world, the zoo replicates natural habitats of animals from the Himalayan Foothills and the Southeast Asian Rainforest. Seeing the animals under moonglow is its best draw.
Singapore’s Chinese hub is a colorful mix of garish and grand traditional temples and dainty shophouses. It gets packed, as visitors explore the narrow paths between stalls and alleyways. But if you’re on the lookout you can spot some real bargains!
Singapore’s Zoo was one of the first zoos to offer spacious, natural enclosures to help animals feel like they are in their natural habitat. Visitors are often only separated from the animals by moat, making it an incredible experience to get face-to-face with animals from all over the world.
The complicated road system winds along the Truong Son mountain range through bumpy village roads and through stunning nature reserves, rice paddies, and sugarcane farms far away from overcrowded cities. It was once used to facilitate the movement of troops and supplies from North to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Vietnam’s mountainous northwestern provinces are a bumpy ride through dramatic karst rock formations and remote hill-tribe villages. Isolated and far from any developed highway system, the payoff are the stunning temples and night market of Luang Prabang in Laos.
Surrounded by sloping rice terraces, Vietnam’s Sapa Valley combines dramatic mountain scenery and rich cultural diversity spread out among its many hill-tribe villages. At 1,500 meters above sea level, you’re up among the clouds staring across misty expanses.
No limit of choice here: junk boats – that are really closer to floating palaces – drifting languidly through the stunning limestone karst formations of Ha Long Bay dot the turquoise waters as far as the eyes can see. Sporty travelers can kayak into hidden caves and camp on uninhabited islands.
Described by Marco Polo as a “gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks’ robes,” Bagan’s overgrown, forgotten temples are still as imposing as they were centuries ago, with over 2,000 temples scattered across the expansive dry landscape flanked by balloons hanging in the distance.
The “Rose City,” carved and built into pink sandstone cliffs, is part manmade, part natural wonder. Emerging after a deep narrow gorge, stumbling across Petra feels like entering another time and place, forgotten by civilization.
7. Borobudur, Java, Indonesia
Frank Douwes @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)
The stunning 1,000-year-old Buddhist temple is nestled in an idyllic landscape of rice-terraced hills framed by volcanoes. The grand structure seems to “emerge” – in all its grandeur – in the early morning wrapped in white shrouds of mist.
History’s greatest monument to undying love, the Taj Mahal’s architectural harmony is unmatched in scale and awe. Constructed out of pure, white marble and adorned with precious inlay jewels, it shines in the sun and sparkles in the moonlight.
5. Luang Prabang, Laos
Mills Baker @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)
The ancient town, a colorful mishmash of Lao and French architecture, sits sleepily at the confluence of the Mekong River and the Nam Khan. Surrounded by verdant mountains, its an unmatched example of a town harmoniously joined with its stunning natural surroundings.
4. Paro Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan
Nagarjun Kandukuru @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)
Perched on the cliffs of the Himalayas in Bhutan, the complex was built in 1692 at the site of a cave where Guru Padmasambhava supposedly meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours. Ascending the mountainside, one passes thousands of prayer flags, crosses over steep waterfalls to finally stare down upon the Paro valley.
Japan’s highest mountain is a place of spiritual and national importance scaled by over 300,000 people a year. It forms a serene backdrop to the idyllic landscape outside of Tokyo best viewed and contemplated from afar.
Yodel-ay-he-hoo! The Alps are almost mythical: the ideal mix of rustic rural lifestyle and some of the world’s most stunning scenery. Even though just fourteen percent of the Alps are in Switzerland, 48 of its 82 “four-thousanders” (mountains over 4,000 meters high) are in located in the Alpine country. It’s hiking heaven here. For the most spectacular of views, the Kleine Scheidegg Walk offers the unbeatable views of the “Big Three.”
Overrated? Definitely not. The Grand Canyon is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, and, while technically not the widest or deepest canyon in the world, the Grand Canyon inspires with its breathtaking range of visual spectacle. The best way to see it is plunge into its depth on a hike or ride to the floor and immerse yourself in millions of years of natural history.
Desolate landscapes and welcoming oases of life: caravaning across the Sahara offers the chance to feel like spice traders of old, traversing between oases and civilization. The rocky landscapes are stunning in their simplicity, contrast, and MASSIVE horizons. Stop over in a Bedouin town and travel back in time to a culture that has maintained its traditions over centuries.
4. Flying over Sugarloaf Mountain and the harbor at Rio de Janeiro
Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio
The harbor is another natural wonder of the world: Charles Darwin said it “surpasses in magnificence all that the European has ever beheld in his own country.” It’s the largest natural deep-water bay in the world, made up of 130 islands framed by massive granite monoliths. The truly adventurous can paraglide up in the sky, while the those looking for unbeatable selfies can take the incredible cable car to the top of Sugarloaf mountain.
Or the Aurora Borealis, is one of the most spectacular spectacles in nature. The effect is, literally, out of this world, as you watch the emissions of photos leaving the atmosphere. The best spots are in secluded nature, far outside of Reykjavik. The feeling one receives standing alone under a glowing sky will give even the least sentimental of people goosebumps!
The largest coral reef in the world is also the planet’s largest “living structure.” It’s made up of more than 3000 individual reef systems and hundreds of islands. If you go snorkeling or scuba diving here, you’ll immerse yourself in a whirlpool of millions of colorful organisms, living together in perfect harmony.
Traverse the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and explore Incan ruins up in the clouds. One of the most famous hikes in the world, it’s been called a “life-changing” experience by Lonely Planet. The path winds through the Urubamba Valley (also called the Sacred Valley), over impressive mountain slopes and through dense forests. Here you’ll feel like a god standing over the entire world!