Winter in Asia: Travel Guide and Top Destinations

asian travel destination

December and January are popular months for travel and vacations. Many people, particularly those in the Northern Hemisphere, seek to escape the cold and gloomy weather by heading to sunny destinations in Asia. While some parts of Asia have their rainy season during these months, most southern regions enjoy hot, dry, and sunny weather.

If you prefer colder climates and want to experience snow during December and January, you can still find these conditions in the northern parts of Asia.

I asked my friends, who are travel bloggers, about their thoughts, opinions, and experiences when traveling in Asia during the winter months. Here are their recommendations to help you decide where to go for your December holiday or where to visit in Asia in January.

Asia map

Thailand

-Koh Phi Phi

Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi is an ideal destination for your December and January holiday. During these months, the island is buzzing with transportation options, accommodation choices, and various activities to keep you entertained. Koh Phi Phi gained worldwide fame thanks to the movie “The Beach” starring DiCaprio, and it truly lives up to its reputation as a paradise on Earth.

Koh Phi Phi

Things to Do

  • Enjoy the sunshine and soak up the tropical vibes on Koh Phi Phi.
  • Take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Andaman Sea.
  • Find tranquility and seclusion on the island’s beautiful, isolated beaches.
  • Delight your taste buds with the mouthwatering delights of Thai cuisine.
  • Spend your days lounging, sunbathing, and swimming on the breathtaking Long Beach.
  • Embark on a thrilling kayaking adventure to discover the Viking and Monkey beaches.
  • Explore the surrounding small islands and visit the famous Maya Bay on a boat tour.

On the island, you’ll find a selection of luxurious resorts in secluded areas with private beaches and fantastic amenities. However, if you’re traveling on a budget in Thailand or prefer to be in the heart of the island’s vibrant activities, consider booking a room near Tonsai Pier. Here, you’ll be immersed in the perfect blend of abundant sunshine and the allure of the sea.

Koh Phi Phi

-Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta stands out as one of the top destinations to explore in Asia during December. Unlike Phuket and Krabi, this island offers a more relaxed atmosphere and generally sees fewer tourists. As a result, you can expect less crowded beaches, making it an ideal choice for a tranquil and enjoyable sun-soaked vacation in Thailand. The rainy season in Koh Lanta typically comes to an end in November.

-Koh Lanta

Visiting Koh Lanta in Early December:

  • Benefit from the low season, leading to more affordable accommodation and tour prices.
  • Enjoy a relaxed atmosphere before the Christmas and New Year’s tourist influx.
  • Experience a less crowded alternative to destinations like Phuket.

Exploring Koh Lanta in January:

  • January falls within the high season, offering pleasant weather with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius.
  • Discover numerous stunning beaches with pristine white sand and turquoise waters.
  • Venture into the lush jungle for hiking and the chance to spot wild monkeys on a day trip.

Accommodation

Accommodation options on Koh Lanta cater to all preferences, ranging from backpacker guesthouses to luxurious resorts that offer an array of amenities to make your stay enjoyable.

Koh Lanta

-Phuket

Phuket, Thailand, is a highly sought-after destination during the winter months. The island enjoys a constant, year-round warmth, and the dry season stretches from December to March, ensuring you experience warm and rain-free days. However, it’s important to note that winter marks the peak tourist season. As Christmas and New Year approaches, the island tends to get busier, so be sure to factor this into your travel plans for December.

Phuket

-Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan, known for its legendary Full Moon parties, has gained increasing recognition as a hub for yoga and mindfulness. This Thai island is a true tropical paradise, offering stunning beaches, lush greenery, a profusion of restaurants and cafés, and a friendly atmosphere.

Koh Phangan in December

  • Abundant Activities: Koh Phangan boasts a variety of engaging activities for long-term stays.
  • End of Rainy Season: The rainy season concludes at the end of November, making December a dry month.
  • Ideal December Holiday: The weather in December is perfect for a holiday in Koh Phangan.
  • Temperature Range: Daytime temperatures range from the higher 20s to low 30s Celsius, with cooler nights.
Koh Phangan
  • January Surge: Tourist numbers tend to increase in January compared to December.
  • New Year’s Eve Attraction: Spending New Year’s Eve on Koh Phangan is a popular and enjoyable experience, especially for backpackers exploring Thailand.

-Koh Samui

Koh Samui enters its dry season in December, ensuring sunny and rain-free weather. Come January, the island’s climate further improves, making it an ideal January holiday destination.

Koh Samui Highlights

  • Diverse Activities: Koh Samui, Thailand’s second-largest island, offers various activities for all kinds of travelers.
  • Beaches Galore: The island is known for its numerous beaches, each catering to different tastes – from bustling spots with shops and water sports to serene, secluded options.
  • Natural Wonders: Explore invigorating hikes to picturesque viewpoints, cool off in refreshing waterfalls, and admire beautiful Buddhist temples across the island.
  • Lush Inland Beauty: Venture inland to witness lush landscapes with tall palm trees and a quieter, less touristy ambiance.
  • Ang Thong Marine National Park: Consider a boat excursion to this park for snorkeling, kayaking, and stunning natural beauty, including an emerald lake and impressive limestone cliffs.
  • Delicious Dining: Enjoy delectable Thai cuisine at the island’s many restaurants, including Pad Thai noodles and mouthwatering curries.
  • Night Markets: Discover the vibrant night markets, offering affordable Thai food, cocktails, clothing, and souvenirs for an enjoyable evening experience on Koh Samui.
Koh Samui

-Bangkok

Bangkok is a fantastic year-round destination, but its most delightful weather graces the city during December and January, making it a top choice for winter travelers in Asia. In these months, Bangkok emerges from the monsoon season, offering a slight cooling down and a reduction in humidity.

Temperatures become comfortably mild, striking a balance between not being excessively hot or too chilly. Moreover, December and January gift visitors a bounty of clear, sunny days, perfect for exploring the city’s treasures.

Bangkok

Exploring Bangkok in December and January

  • Diverse Attractions: Bangkok offers a wide range of attractions to suit all types of travelers.
  • Scenic River Cruise: A popular activity during December and January is a scenic river cruise along the Chao Phraya River, providing breathtaking city views.
  • Magnificent Temples: Explore magnificent temples like Wat Arun and Wat Pho, known for their intricate architecture and cultural significance.
  • Beyond the City: Many tour operators offer excursions to destinations outside the city, such as the ancient city of Ayutthaya and vibrant floating markets.
  • Outdoor Experiences: Enjoy outdoor food and shopping experiences at places like Chatuchak, Asiatique, and Ratchada Rot Fai Train Night Market, which is particularly pleasant during the cool and dry weather.
  • Travel Hub: Bangkok is an excellent starting point for short stays before heading south to the Thai islands or north for adventurous jungle trekking in Chiang Mai.
  • Peak Tourism Season: Remember that December and January are part of Thailand’s peak tourism season, which may result in slightly higher accommodation prices.

Philippines

-Palawan

Palawan, Philippines, stands out as one of the finest tropical getaways to explore in December and January. Palawan experiences two distinct seasons annually: a dry season from December through May and a rainy season from June to November.

Palawan

Palawan in Winter:

  • Perfect Weather: Visiting Palawan in December or January ensures you enjoy abundant blue skies and sun-drenched days.
  • Prime Time to Visit: These winter months are the prime time to experience all Palawan offers in natural beauty and outdoor activities.
  • Island-Hopping Adventures: The most sought-after activity in Palawan is embarking on island-hopping adventures, which range from single-day outings to extended multi-day expeditions, allowing you to explore the region’s stunning islands and waters.
  • Tropical Getaway: Palawan is an ideal tropical getaway, providing an escape from winter for those in colder climates.
  • Christmas in Asia: It’s also a warm and enchanting destination to celebrate Christmas, offering a unique and memorable holiday experience.

-El Nido & Coron

For an adventure-packed tropical escape, a couple of destinations in the Philippines are beckoning you – El Nido and Coron. Given the abundance of activities awaiting you, we suggest allocating a week to each area if you’re considering an extended holiday during December or January.

El Nido & Coron

El Nido’s Captivating Islands

  • Location: El Nido is a captivating cluster of 45 islands off the tip of Palawan Island, known for its stunning landscapes and crystal-clear blue waters.
  • Must-Visit Spots:
    • Secret Lagoon: A hidden gem with a magical allure, the Secret Lagoon is a must-visit destination in El Nido.
    • Large Lagoon: The expansive Large Lagoon, with its vivid blue waters, is another breathtaking spot not to be missed.
  • Other Highlights:
    • Secret Beach: Experience the secluded charm of Secret Beach, adding to the magic of El Nido.
    • Snake Island: Explore the unique Snake Island, offering a one-of-a-kind experience.
    • Taraw Peak Hike: For adventure enthusiasts, a hike up Taraw Peak provides exhilarating views.
  • Guided Tours: El Nido has tour operators offering day and overnight excursions to all the prime destinations, making it the optimal way to explore this captivating region.

-Sagada

The Philippines lures many travelers with its pristine, crystal-clear waters and stunning white-sand beaches. December and January provide the perfect opportunity to explore the islands, taking advantage of the dry and relatively peaceful weather conditions.

Sagada

Sagada Mountain Retreat in Winter

  • Off the Coast Retreat: If you prefer to venture away from the coast, the serene mountain retreat of Sagada is a favorite destination. December and January are prime months to experience its allure.
  • Philippines’ Weather: Like many tropical countries, the Philippines has just two distinct seasons: rainy and dry.
  • Rainy Season: The rainy season typically begins in late May and continues through October. During this time, the weather becomes hot and humid with heavy rains, especially during the peak of the typhoon season around July and August.
  • Not Ideal for Visiting Sagada: The rainy season is not the most favorable time to visit Sagada. Any sign of rain can make it hazardous to explore attractions like Sumaguing Cave, a captivating subterranean system that quickly floods when the rains arrive.
Sagada

In contrast, December and January provide a more pleasant and safer environment for exploring the beautiful mountain retreat of Sagada.

Indonesia

-Bali

Bali is an ideal tropical island getaway, ranking among Asia’s top destinations for travelers seeking sun, sand, and adventure during December and January. With its temperate climate, Bali boasts stunning landscapes with temples, rice fields, and pristine beaches. Furthermore, thanks to the consistent waves from the Southern Ocean, it beckons to surf enthusiasts, which grace its shores year-round.

Bali

Bali: A Year-Round Paradise

  • Ideal Water Temperature: Bali’s water temperature remains comfortable at 27 to 29 °C (80 to 84 °F) for most of the year, making it a perfect destination for year-round surfing in your boardshorts.
  • Diverse Activities: Bali offers more than just surfing. It’s a place for sunbathing, beachside massages, relishing delicious Balinese cuisine, and exploring the island via scooter rentals.
  • Budget-Friendly Destination: Bali has emerged as a budget-friendly destination in Asia, attracting travelers with diverse budgets, including those on a shoestring budget exploring Indonesia.

Malaysia

-Georgetown, Penang, Langkawi Island

In January, consider visiting Penang and Langkawi Island, nestled along the western coast of peninsular Malaysia. These destinations shine as excellent options for an Asian holiday, boasting long, sun-drenched days and minimal rainfall.

Georgetown, Penang, Langkawi Island

Exploring George Town, Penang

  • Starting Point: Begin your journey in the heart of George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the primary city of Penang.
  • Vibrant Urban Center: George Town offers a vibrant urban experience where you’ll encounter a blend of cultures. Weathered Chinese shopfronts stand alongside British colonial structures, coexisting with Hindu temples and mosques.
  • Kongsi and Clan Houses: A visit to the city’s kongsi or clan houses is necessary. They are scattered throughout the winding streets and charming jetties, offering insights into Penang’s rich history and heritage.
  • Street Art Scene: Immerse yourself in the city’s dynamic street art scene, featuring captivating murals and installations that adorn its walls.
  • Culinary Delights: Don’t forget to treat your taste buds to some of the finest street food in Asia. George Town is a paradise for hawker stall enthusiasts, offering an array of delectable dishes to savor.
Georgetown, Penang, Langkawi Island

-Ipoh

Ipoh, a charming yet often overlooked town in Perak, Malaysia, offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle. Despite its overshadowing by Penang, Ipoh boasts an authentic old-town atmosphere, vibrant street art, and captivating cave temples.

Visiting Ipoh in Winter

  • Ideal Weather: Plan your visit to Ipoh during December and January, the peak season for the best weather conditions. During this time, you can expect near-perfect weather without the usual crowds experienced in other Malaysian towns.
  • Avoid Chinese New Year: If you choose to visit in January, it’s advisable to avoid the Chinese New Year period. During this time, traffic congestion can become a headache, and hotel prices tend to rise slightly.
Ipoh

Making the Most of Your Time in Ipoh

  • Mural Art’s Lane: Explore the Mural Art’s Lane, home to over a dozen captivating street art pieces that add vibrancy to the city.
  • Concubine and Market Lanes: Take advantage of a visit to Concubine and Market Lanes. These areas provide excellent options for souvenir shopping and serve as a backdrop for fun photoshoots with interactive murals, making your time in Ipoh truly memorable.

Cambodia

-Siem Reap

Siem Reap, Cambodia, emerges as the perfect destination in Asia for a December and January getaway. Cambodia has two distinct weather seasons: a rainy season from April to October and a dry season from October to April.

Siem Reap

Siem Reap’s Ideal Weather in Winter

  • Dry Season: Siem Reap experiences the dry season during December and January, marked by sunny days, low humidity, and relatively cooler temperatures.
  • Temperature: The average temperature during this period hovers around 26 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit), making it the coolest time to visit Siem Reap.
  • Perfect for Exploration: These months offer an ideal climate for exploring the captivating city and the majestic Angkor temples during the day, with comfortable temperatures and clear skies.
  • Stay Refreshed: While the weather is pleasant, taking a break in the shade for lunch is still advisable to stay comfortably refreshed during your adventures.

India

-Goa

Goa’s idyllic palm-fringed beaches provide an ideal setting for relaxation and rejuvenation. You can spend your days strolling along the shoreline, taking refreshing dips in the Arabian Sea, and capping it off with a soothing sunset yoga session with a delectable curry.

Goa india

Optimal Timing for Goa Visit

  • Consider Timing: Timing your visit to Goa is crucial for the best experience.
  • Monsoon Season: From March through October, many of the large resorts in Goa shut down, and most beach huts are taken down due to the monsoon season.
  • Ideal Window: The perfect time to experience Goa is December and January. During these months, the skies remain clear, temperatures settle around 30 degrees Celsius, and various beach huts line the picturesque coastline, offering a perfect beach getaway.

-Kerala

Kerala, a stunning state in South India, is embraced by the Western Ghats on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other, creating a mesmerizing setting. Its awe-inspiring scenery, rich cultural diversity, and delectable cuisine truly justify its moniker – “God’s Own Country.”

Kerala
  • Hill stations in the Western Ghats are popular with travelers for their delightful climate.
  • The rest of Kerala is known for its high humidity levels.
  • Kerala offers a unique blend of temperate and tropical climates.
  • This combination makes Kerala an ideal winter holiday destination.

-Rajasthan

Rajasthan stands out as one of India’s most sought-after destinations. Serving as the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur enjoys excellent connectivity with major Indian cities via air and the Indian Railways. In Rajasthan, getting around the state is conveniently done by train and bus.

Rajasthan

Exploring Rajasthan in Winter:

  • Pleasant Climate: December and January offer a pleasant to slightly cold climate in Rajasthan. The average temperature typically ranges from 25 to 10 degrees Celsius. Days are sunny, and evenings tend to cool down, making it the prime time to explore the state.
  • Abundant Activities: Rajasthan offers many activities, including visits to majestic forts, palaces, exquisite frescoed havelis, historical monuments, and captivating national parks.
  • Top Cities: Some of the top cities to explore in Rajasthan are Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Pushkar, and Ajmer, each with unique charm and attractions.

– Golden Triangle

India’s renowned Golden Triangle route is perfect for travelers seeking a vibrant cultural experience in favorable weather conditions.

Golden Triangle
  • Optimal time to explore the Golden Triangle in India: December and January.
  • Dry season with mild temperatures.
  • Daytime temperatures around 25°C.
  • Nighttime temperatures can dip to 9°C.
  • The abundance of captivating attractions along the three-city journey.

Sri Lanka

With its consistently warm temperatures and favorable weather throughout the year, Sri Lanka emerges as an ideal Asian destination to explore during December and January. While many travelers flock to the picturesque palm-fringed beaches, Sri Lanka offers much more to discover. Inland, you’ll encounter the captivating hill country with history, culture, and charming tea estates.

Sri Lanka

Kandy

Situated at the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country, Kandy holds the esteemed title of the country’s cultural capital. This central location is a convenient gateway to some of Sri Lanka’s top attractions.

Discovering Sri Lanka’s Highlights

  • Dambulla: Explore the ancient Buddhist cave temples in Dambulla, showcasing stunning religious art and history.
  • Sigiriya: Don’t miss the iconic Sigiriya rock, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a breathtaking ancient fortress and stunning views.
  • Minneriya National Park: Immerse yourself in the captivating jungles of Minneriya National Park, known for its wild elephant population.
  • Kandy to Ella Train Journey: Embark on the breathtaking Kandy to Ella train journey, winding through Sri Lanka’s picturesque hill country. This train ride is renowned as one of the world’s most stunning rail journeys, so booking tickets in advance is highly recommended to secure your seat.

Kazakhstan

-Almaty

Almaty, Kazakhstan, offers an attractive destination throughout the year. However, with Central Asia’s sole ski resort nestled in the city, it transforms into an ideal winter getaway in Asia. The Shymbulak resort is easily accessible from Almaty’s center, just a 40-minute bus ride on bus number 6.

Almaty

Exploring Almaty, Kazakhstan

  • Medeu Skating Rink: Almaty is home to the Medeu Skating Rink, the world’s highest open-air ice rink, offering a unique and thrilling ice-skating experience.
  • Winter Hiking: If skiing isn’t your preferred winter activity, you can explore the Tian Shan Mountains for splendid winter hiking adventures. Just bundle up to stay warm in the cold mountain air.

Oman

-Muscat

The prime time to explore Muscat, the capital city of Oman, is during the winter months. During this period, the average temperature typically falls within the pleasant range of 15-22°C. It starkly contrasts the rest of the year when temperatures soar to a scorching 45°C.

Muscat
  • Muscat’s abundant natural beauty is best enjoyed during the winter months.
  • The city features a captivating coastline with pristine, serene beaches.
  • Beachside barbecues are a favorite activity for Muscat residents during this season.
  • Muscat also offers the opulent Al-Mouj marina with numerous restaurants and entertainment options.

UAE

The United Arab Emirates is one of the rare destinations worldwide that can guarantee abundant sunshine, with rainfall seldom occurring. If you happen to witness rain during your visit, consider yourself fortunate. Not only is it a rare phenomenon, but the locals also celebrate it enthusiastically, making it a memorable cultural experience.

UAE

Discovering the UAE’s Unique Offerings

  • Tourism Focus: The Emiratis are well-versed in catering to tourists, a vital shift as they transition from reliance on oil. The UAE boasts numerous world records, including the world’s largest shopping mall, tallest skyscraper, and most enormous Ferris wheel.
  • Exceptional Blend: The UAE offers a unique blend of guaranteed sunshine, rare rain, and a culture that creates unforgettable tourist experiences, making it a truly exceptional destination.
  • Best Time to Visit: December and January are excellent months to explore the UAE. The intense summer heat subsides during this period, allowing for comfortable outdoor activities. You can enjoy desert excursions, beach club days, kayaking adventures in the mangroves, and a luxurious Friday brunch poolside.

China

-Shanghai

Winter is the ideal season to explore Shanghai, free from the usual crowds. Unlike many other Chinese cities, Shanghai has embraced numerous Western winter traditions. For instance, the city enthusiastically hosts Christmas markets where you can savor lightly spiced mulled wine, admire beautifully decorated trees adorned with twinkling bells, and relish the sweet aroma of gingerbread.

Shanghai

Shanghai’s Cosmopolitan Charm and Chinese Culture

  • Captivating Metropolis: Shanghai is a captivating and cosmopolitan metropolis that seamlessly blends modernity with its rich ancient charm.
  • Suburban Old Towns: Exploring suburban old towns is a must during the winter holidays. These areas allow you to immerse yourself in authentic Chinese culture and traditions, offering a unique and immersive experience.
  • Cultural Exploration: The suburban old towns provide an ideal setting to explore the full spectrum of Chinese customs and heritage, making your visit to Shanghai a culturally enriching and memorable experience.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Orient,” ranks among the largest cities in Asia. Situated directly on the Tropic of Cancer, Hong Kong experiences a climate marked by hot and humid summers and mild winters.

Hong Kong

Prime Time to Visit Hong Kong-Winter

  • Compelling Reasons: December and January are prime months to visit Hong Kong for numerous compelling reasons, making it one of the top destinations in Asia during this time of the year.
  • Exceptional Travel Destination: Hong Kong is an exceptional travel destination that caters to all types of travelers. Its impressive infrastructure, stunning skyscrapers, diverse culinary scene, and rich traditional Chinese culture make it a city that encompasses the best of both worlds and offers something for everyone.

Japan

-Kamakura

Kamakura, a former capital of Japan, holds immense historical and religious significance, boasting numerous exquisite temples and shrines.

Kamakura: A Prime Destination for Temple Exploration

  • Cherry Blossom Adorned Sacred Sites: Many sacred sites in Kamakura are adorned with cherry trees, including the renowned Kotokuin Temple, home to the impressive Great Buddha (Daibutsu). This colossal bronze statue is the second tallest in Japan and is a compelling reason to visit Kamakura.
  • Ideal Day Trip: Kamakura, with its imposing religious structures and proximity to the capital, ranks among Tokyo’s finest day trip options.
  • Overnight Stay: For a more comprehensive experience, an overnight stay in Kamakura is an excellent choice. In December and January, Kamakura enjoys slightly milder temperatures than Tokyo, making it a favorable destination for those looking to avoid the cold.
  • Temple and Shrine Exploration: Despite its relatively small size, Kamakura is a prime destination for exploring temples and shrines in the Land of the Rising Sun, providing a rich cultural experience.
Kamakura japan

Conclusion:

Asia offers a wide array of travel options for all types of travelers. From sunny beach destinations like Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, and Koh Samui to cultural experiences in cities like Bangkok and Siem Reap, there’s something for everyone. Nature enthusiasts can find paradise in Palawan, Philippines, while adventure seekers can explore El Nido and Coron. Malaysia’s Penang, Langkawi, and Ipoh provide unique experiences with pleasant weather, and Sri Lanka’s Kandy offers a mix of culture and nature.

For winter sports, Kazakhstan’s Almaty is an excellent choice. Oman’s Muscat is perfect for beach and natural beauty, while the UAE guarantees sunshine and memorable cultural experiences. No matter your preference, Asia is the ideal destination for your winter getaway.

FAQs- Best places to visit in Asia in Winter

What are the ideal months to travel to Asia for a winter getaway?

December and January are the ideal months to travel to Asia for a winter getaway, with pleasant weather and a range of exciting destinations to explore.

Which Asian destinations are best for a warm winter escape with sunny weather?

Some of the top Asian destinations for a warm winter escape with sunny weather include Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Phuket, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui.

For less crowded beaches in Thailand during the winter, consider exploring Koh Lanta, which offers a more relaxed atmosphere compared to popular destinations like Phuket.

What are some unique activities to enjoy in Koh Samui, Thailand during the winter months?

In Koh Samui, Thailand, you can enjoy invigorating hikes to breathtaking viewpoints, refreshing swims in waterfalls, and boat excursions to Ang Thong Marine National Park for snorkeling and kayaking during the winter months.

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