In Asia, there are many unspoilt, tranquil environments where you can get away and find some inner peace. Here are 10 perfect deserted spots to take a break from your hectic lifestyle.
1. Nikko, Japan
Despite only being a couple of hours north of Tokyo, Nikko is a world apart from the bustling capital. It is a luscious forest of mountains, waterfalls and some of the most beautiful shrines in Japan from the Edo period (1600-1868). Weekdays are extremely quiet as Nikko is regarded by the Japanese as a weekend or day trip, with the only real high season from October to November, when visitors come to catch the golden autumn leaves. Outside of this time, this gorgeous ancient location is virtually deserted and is the perfect ground for hiking and discovering.
The Tosho-gu (below) is a breathtaking shrine and a must-see World Heritage Site, but for real tranquillity, visit the Kanman-ga-Fuchi Abyss – a wooden path lined with a collection of ancient statues. The only thing you’ll be able to hear is the sound of adjacent waterfalls.
2. Jeju Island, South Korea
The island has been hailed as the Hawaii of South Korea, though much less touristy. Downtown Jeju is urban and thriving, but the beaches and mountains provide for a scenic getaway for silence-seekers. The best time to visit for serenity is just outside of high season while the weather is warming up or down, around April/beginning of May or end of August/September.
Iho Beach has a combination of grey and yellow sand and is situated close to downtown Jeju City. There is plenty to explore including swimming in the shallow waters, renting boats and fishing, and taking a walk among pine trees and around lighthouses which are famously shaped as horses.
For those who enjoy hiking, a visit must be paid to Hallasan, a dormant volcano that is South Korea’s highest mountain. The entire area has been designated a nature preservation zone which is protected and nourished. It is here you will spot brightly coloured butterflies and handsome woodpeckers on the way to the summit, which is in the shape of a beautiful lake crater (below). Avoiding the peak summer period means visitors will get to see pretty springtime azaleas or autumn leaves.
3. Pulau Ubin Island, Singapore
Go back to basics with a trip to Pulau Ubin (below), located north-east of Singapore (a 10-minute boat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal). Approximately a hundred villagers live here today and wandering off into its jungle means you can walk for hours without seeing another being. The island is filled with lush unspoilt forestation and wildlife. We recommend taking the Sensory Trail to explore, touch and smell native plants, fruit trees and herbs.
If walking alone in a forest is unsettling; rent a bike or take a taxi at the port to Chek Jawa wetlands (be sure to take the driver’s number for your return journey as there will be no return taxis waiting there). The area houses several different ecosystems surrounded by a boardwalk around the coast to view the rich plant and marine life. There is also a viewing tower, where you can spot birds including the Collared Kingfisher and Straw-headed Bulbul.
4. El Nido, Philippines
El Nido is not exactly the easiest place to reach, but with effort comes tranquillity. The best way to arrive is via El Nido’s private airport which serves mainly guests of El Nido Resorts (below). The El Nido Resorts are a group of eco-resorts located in the El Nido-Taytay municipalities in northern Palawan, Philippines. The resorts offer sandy beaches with turquoise green waters, ancient limestone cliffs and marine sanctuaries with countless species of tropical fish, coral and sea turtles. It has been described by many as a hidden paradise.
Scuba diving is popular in El Nido, with over 30 dive sites for varying levels and skills. If scuba isn’t for you, other activities include cliff climbing, kayaking, cave exploration and windsurfing. The dry season runs from November to May with temperatures above 30 deg C.
There are over 50 pristine beaches in El Nido, and therefore it is easy to find yourself completely alone – every beach can feel like your own private beach.
5. Ko Bulon Leh, Thailand
Still unknown to most travellers in Thailand, Ko Bulon Leh is a conveniently located, yet secret getaway. It is situated close to busy Ko Lipe, with nearest airports served by Krabi and Phuket.
As the entire island can be covered in a 15-minute walk, the tiny paradise hardly contains an abundance of activities; so expect to indulge in plenty of meditation and soul-searching. There is very limited electricity and WiFi too, providing the perfect opportunity to switch off completely from civilisation.
Butterflies circle the air in a range of astonishing colours, and the warm sandy beaches are divine. There are a few local restaurants to eat at (don’t expect to find websites for them), and a bungalow can be rented on the beach. It’s very safe, so you may even find yourself falling asleep on the beach at night. Just remember to pack a good mosquito net and repellent – that is probably as dangerous as it gets.