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.
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.