January is an awesome — albeit overlooked — month to travel, and there are a number of exciting destinations in Asia to consider for your first trip of the year. Whether you’re a photography buff, an adventure seeker, or a serious beach lounger, every type of traveler can find a getaway to fit his or her style on this continent.
With a new 12-lane highway and a seriously upgraded airport, it’s finally getting easier to travel around the Thai island of Phuket. And thanks to a slew of new luxury hotel openings, the infamous party island is taking a more upscale turn. One of the most anticipated openings, Rosewood Phuket, has upped the ante on the island with 71 eco-villas and pavilions overlooking Emerald Bay on the southeastern coast. Meanwhile, the 40-room Baba Beach Club brings a bit of Ibiza to the Phang Nga’s pristine shores. On Chalong Bay, travelers can also bed down at the new Anayara Retreat Panwa: an all-villa hillside boutique resort.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang’s gilded spires and dramatic mountains are reason enough to have the city on your travel list. But a burgeoning arts scene, easy-going cafe culture, and influx of new luxury hotels are quickly transforming the sleepy town into the region’s next hot spot. Last year, hotel legend Adrian Zecha, of Aman Resorts, opened 53-room Azerai in a cluster of century-old heritage-style buildings. Also raising the stakes is Rosewood Luang Prabang, a tent and villa encampment tucked into the nearby jungle, which is set to open later this year.
Whether it’s the booming creative scene, recently announced Michelin guide, or new hotel openings that attract you, Bangkok is the place to be — just ask the 21 million international visitors who made their way to the capital in 2016. Stay at the Park Hyatt Bangkok (last year’s most talked about opening) and visit one of the capital’s many new art spaces. Travelers should also book a table at Jay Fai, the Chinatown street food stall that recently received a Michelin star. Best of all, the weather is at its most enjoyable this time of year, making it easy to enjoy the bustling city.
Iya Valley, Japan
On the often overlooked island of Shikoku, the Iya Valley offers dramatic mountain landscapes dotted by thatched-roof farmhouses and vine-covered bridges. The picturesque area is teeming with top-notch onsens and hiking trails in a setting that remains unspoiled, despite Japan’s tourist boom.
Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Tangalle is a gateway to Sri Lanka’s best beaches, incredible wildlife, and impressive heritage sites. Anantara Tangalle Peace Haven opened this year, adding a touch of luxury to this stretch of southern coast. Between a standalone cooking school and a vast spa, the resort — which sits on a private bay near town — is setting the bar high for properties opening in southern Sri Lanka.