Lonely Planet’s Best in Asia for 2016
1. Hokkaido, Japan
2. Shanghai, China
3. Jeonju, South Korea
4. Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
5. Hong Kong, China
6. Ipoh, Malaysia
7. Pemuteran, Indonesia
8. Trang Islands, Thailand
9. Meghalaya, India
10. Taitung, Taiwan
(CNN)Asia is the world’s biggest and most populous continent.
The region is enclosed by seas and oceans, and strewn with cities, rainforests and diverse landscapes that include Earth’s highest point — Mount Everest — and its lowest, the Dead Sea.
After dispatching its Asia-focused writers to trek through the continent’s natural and urban jungles, Lonely Planet has compiled its first ever list of Asia’s top 10 places to visit in the coming year.
“The result is a varied hit list of classic destinations offering a fresh twist for travelers, regions packed full of action and edge-of-the-map places you may never [have] heard of,” says Lonely Planet’s Asia-Pacific spokesperson Chris Zeiher.
With plenty of under-explored treasures, the list is useful for Asians as well as those traveling from further afield.
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is best-known for its “perfect powder snow” but it makes it to the top of Lonely Planet’s list for its charms throughout the seasons.
In March, Japan opened its first bullet-train service to the southern parts of Hokkaido, with plans to extend the line to Sapporo, the prefecture’s capital, by 2030.
Likewise, with improved flight connections from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s isolated archipelago of 16 islands known as the Con Dao Islands is shedding its reputation for being the site of the infamous Con Dao prison and gaining another for its beaches and fresh seafood.
And there’s Jeonju in South Korea — the birthplace of bibimbap — and the lesser-known, vibrant food scenes of Ipoh in Malaysia, where street food abounds alongside boutique cafes that have cropped up in its historic district.
Dubbed “Taiwan’s secret wild card” is the county of Taitung, the heart of the island’s indigenous culture.
This stretch on the southeastern coast borders the vast Pacific Ocean, offering completely unobstructed views, while the Milky Way glows on clear evenings.
And just when you think Asia’s most developed cities have been fully explored, the list reveals their many surprises.
Hong Kong is highlighted — not for obvious charms such as Victoria Peak or the harbor — but for its UNESCO-designated geopark, parts of it reachable by a ferry service to Lai Chi Wo.
As the face of Shanghai is transformed by the opening of China’s first Disney resort and the completion of the super-tall Shanghai Tower, this classic is second on the list for being a rapidly changing spectacle as well as a place steeped in rich history.