By Ben Stower
From the world’s highest mountain to emerald bays dotted with limestone islands, when it comes to natural attractions, Asia is hard to beat.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Few places have been photographed as much as UNESCO World Heritage-listed Halong Bay, famed for its towering limestone karsts and isles surrounded by emerald waters. Home to almost 2,000 islands and countless species of wildlife, such as the endangered golden-headed langur, Halong Bay is a naturelover’s paradise. Swimming in the bay is banned for environmental reasons, however you can still immerse yourself in the mesmerising nature while kayaking or walking through the many caves.
How to get there: Fly direct to Hanoi from Hong Kong with Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong Airlines or Vietnam Airlines. Halong Bay is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Hanoi.
The inspiration for Oscar-winning movie Avatar, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is truly a sight to behold, the collection of towering quartz-sandstone pillars rising from subtropical forests attracting more than 20 million people each year.
With over 3,000 unique plant species and a diverse array of fauna such as macaques, giant salamanders and water deer, the park is split into five distinct areas including Tianzi Mountain, where mists and clouds appear to turn the pillars into floating islands.
Perfect for nature photographers, the area also offers challenging hikes for those looking for an active holiday, and the 326-metre-high Bailong Elevator and newly-built Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge both deliver memorable outlooks over the peaks, spires, karst pinnacles and lush forest below.
How to get there: Fly to Zhangjiajie via Shanghai on Shanghai Airlines.
The Himalayas, Nepal
Stretching across Asia for approximately 2,500 kilometres, the Himalayas cover numerous countries such as China, Pakistan, Bhutan and Nepal. This incredible mountain range features more than 110 peaks exceeding 7,300 metres in elevation, including the world’s highest – Mount Everest.
Trekking through the Himalayas reveals a wealth of nature. Juniper trees and various mosses grow in the alpine zones, while bamboos, oaks, Himalayan found at lower heights. Black bears, langurs, goat antelopes and leopards also frequent the region.
How to get there: Fly direct to Kathmandu from Hong Kong with Cathay Dragon.
Relatively unknown, and off the beaten track, the archipelago nation of Palau is home to a wealth of untouched natural beauty. Comprising around 250 limestone and volcanic islands with lush rainforests, the surrounding waters are beautifully clear and offer some of the world’s best scuba diving sites.
In fact, Palau’s marine life is so stunning, it has been dubbed the ‘Underwater Serengeti,’ with manta rays, Word War II artefacts, shipwrecks, schools of colourful fish, reef sharks and other fascinating sea life abundant.
Those who prefer to stay dry can explore the islands via kayaks, 4WDs, ATVs, scenic flights and hikes. Each island reveals an array of unique nature and culture such as waterfalls, local villages, pristine rainforest and open lookouts with uninterrupted ocean views.
How to get there: Fly to Palau via Taipei on China Airlines.
Mount Bromo, Indonesia
An imposing sight at 2,329 metres high, Mount Bromo is an active volcano which has been attracting adventurous travellers for many years. Great for hikers, those wanting an easier ride can book guided jeep tours from the nearby villages of Cemoro Lawang or Probolinggo.
For the best views of the volcano, nearby Mount Penanjakan offers an incredible, panoramic vista. Take a trip at sunrise to witness it to its full effect.
How to get there: Fly from Hong Kong to Surabaya with Cathay Pacific. Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is a three-and-a-half-hour overland transfer from Surabaya.
For more natural travel destinations, call 2830 2776 or visit www.flightcentre.com.hk.
Photos courtesy of Flight Centre Hong KongTags: travel, asia, vietnam, natural attractions, china, nepal, palau, indonesia