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8 of Asia's Most Underrated Icons

| Words by Zoe Crane |

We asked the experts which parts of Asia are not regarded as iconic, but should be. Read on to learn more about getting off the beaten path on your next adventure.

1. Sapa and Ha Giang, northern Vietnam

Sapa’s terraced rice fields sit high amongst Vietnam’s tallest mountains.

Home to colourful hilltribes such as the H’mong and Red Dzao, Sapa sits high amongst Vietnam’s tallest mountains. Light treks through the terraced rice fields reveal the rural way of life of the hilltribes living at high altitudes.

“Sapa is well known but probably not as iconic as it could be given what it offers, and with the new highway linking it to Hanoi it’s easier than ever for travellers to get to. If you have three days or more then head even farther north and explore the Ha Giang. Generally free of tourists you'll see local life unfold and meet the ethnic communities that call this beautiful region on the Vietnamese-Chinese border home.”

- Aaron Edgington, Vietnam Country Manager, Insider Journeys

2. Preah Vihear, Cambodia

The sprawling temple of Preah Vihear sits on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the valley below.

“One of my favourite sites is Preah Vihear, a remote off the beaten track temple straddling the Thai-Cambodian border. On disputed ground until last year when the international court in The Hague decided it was on Cambodian territory, it was out of bounds for some time due to skirmishes. It's now safe to visit, however, still sees few tourists.

The sprawling temple is spectacularly sited on the edge of a cliff overlooking a beautiful valley. While it’s possible to visit on a day trip, I recommend staying overnight (there's a boutique hotel a short drive away) so you can visit for sunset and sunrise. You'll get more out of a visit with a good guide. Take a box of cigarettes to distribute to the Cambodian soldiers.”

- Lara Dunston, travel and food writer, Granturismo

3. The Bolaven Plateau, Laos

Fly over cliffs and waterfalls zip-lining in the Bolaven Plateau.

"The Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos that sits around one kilometre (3,000 feet) above sea level. Covered in lush vegetation, it boasts jungle-clad waterfalls, remote hilltribes and organic coffee plantations, where you can sit down with the locals to sample a cup.

Step it up a notch and zipline over cliffs and past waterfalls as you soar across the canopy, then spend the night in a jungle tree-top house for a unique experience in this amazing region.”

- Antony Giblin, Laos Country Manager, Insider Journeys

4. Vijayanagar at Hampi, Southern India

The amazing Roman-style ruins of Vijayanagar stretch over a spectacular rocky area in Hampi.

The ancient ruins of Viayangar at Hampi may be one of the best kept secrets of Asia. At its peak around 1500 AD, it had 500 thousand inhabitants, making it three time the size of Paris and the second largest city in the world. Nehru, the first prime minister of India, said in his book The discovery of India “it appears that the city was rich and very beautiful—The city is such that eye has not seen nor ear heard of any place resembling it upon earth”.

The city ruins surround the modern-day town of Hampi and includes numerous temples and sacred site, mostly built in traditional Hindu architectural style. These amazing Roman-style ruins stretch over a vast spectacular rocky area and hardly any tourists get there.

- Eric Finley, India Product Manager, Insider Journeys

5. Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, Northern India

The gardens are an important aspect of Humayun’s tomb, but do not appear as they did when to tomb was built.

"Many visitors to Delhi go to see Humayun’s tomb, but some of these interesting facts about Humayun and his tomb are little-known, even to the locals. Legend has it that Humayun was a soft king unlike his powerful father Babur, which meant Tiger. Babar had sent him away when he was young, as it was a tradition in Mughals but he wrote a letter to Babur lamenting the hardships, to which Babar replied to him to stop using flowery language in his writing.

The legend also tells that in 1530 Humayun fell gravely sick. His father took him to see a priest, as was the culture in those days. The priest predicted that Humayun was cursed and would die soon unless Babar takes the curse for his son. Babar dies soon afterwards and Humayun miraculously survives. Humayun brought two Persian miniature artists to India, which introduced Persian art and culture in India.

The gardens we see today were restored in the 1900s, but do not look exactly as it did when tomb was built. In the climate of north India, expanses of grass were not practical as they soaked up water and provided no shade. The gardens under Mughals would have consisted of flowering and fruit trees and bushes.”

- Vijay Misra, local guide, Insider Journeys

6. Jiuzhaigou National Park , China

The bright blue waters of Jiuzhaigou National Park may be one of the most overlooked spots in Asia, image by Chris Walker-Bush.

“In my eyes, Jiuzhaigou National Park in China's Sichuan province may be one of the most underrated and overlooked spots in all of Asia. Far from the built up cities and the more well-known landmarks of the east coast, this mountain national park is a densely forested paradise full of startling cerulean waters, stunning waterfalls, and a kind of tranquillity that isn't so easy to find these days. Whether you're there for rain misted winter days or the autumn in which the oranges and reds of the trees contrast sharply with the bright blue water, it's one of the most beautiful parks you'll ever visit.”

- Chris Walker-Bush, blogger, Aussie on the Road

7. Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma

Image by Jessica Mudditt.

“The glittering Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar (Burma), with origins dating back some 2,600 years. The king of Myanmar is said to have erected it with the purpose of enshrining eight strands of the Lord Buddha’s hair. At 99 metres tall, it dominates Yangon’s skyline and it is laden with no less than 27 tonnes of gold leaf and thousands of diamonds and other precious stones. It’s fascinating to observe Buddhist monks and pilgrims paying their respects at the sacred site, which is particularly beautiful at sunset when it shimmers from gold to crimson.”

- Jessica Mudditt, freelance journalist in Myanmar, www.jessicamudditt.com

8. Miyama, Japan

One of the last remaining areas where traditional thatched-roof farmhouses survive as dwellings.

“Just 30 kilometres north of central Kyoto, Miyama is one of the last remaining areas in Japan where traditional thatched-roof farmhouses survive as dwellings where residents still live and work. Built in a style known as gassho zukuri, which means praying hands, the steep sloped roofs are designed for the snowy winter conditions.”

- Angela Ferres, Japan Product Manager, Insider Journeys