East Asia Travel Guide
East Asia, the land where the past, present, and future converge in a mesmerizing dance. Home to ancient dynasties that have sculpted humanity's history, innovative megacities driving the world's technological advancement, and landscapes that have inspired poets and painters for millennia.
Journey to East Asia, where you can walk on the Great Wall, witness cherry blossoms in full bloom, stand in the bustling streets of Tokyo, and find tranquility in the vast Mongolian steppes. Here, every moment becomes a story waiting to be told.
Discover our travel tips and articles for East Asia !
List of destinations in East Asia
East Asian Countries
Quick Facts About East Asia
- There are 6 countries in East Asia Asia, plus Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China.
- China is by far the largest country, stretching across vast landscapes from dense forests to expansive deserts.
- South Korea, a compact powerhouse of culture and innovation, is the smallest country.
- Key geographic facts:
Gobi Desert: Spanning across southern Mongolia and northern China, the Gobi is one of the world’s largest deserts, characterized by its dunes, mountains, and rare animals like the snow leopard and Bactrian camel.
Himalayas in China: These towering peaks, including Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, form a natural barrier between the Tibetan Plateau and the Indian subcontinent.
Jeju Island: Located off the coast of South Korea, Jeju is known for its volcanic landscapes, underground caves, and the iconic Hallasan Mountain.
Japanese Archipelago: Comprising 6,852 islands, this island nation is marked by its mountainous terrains, with a prominent volcanic arc including active volcanoes like Mount Fuji.
The Korean Peninsula’s Mountains: Dominated by highlands and mountain ranges like the Taebaek and Baekdudaegan, it’s home to Mt. Paektu, a sacred mountain for Koreans and the highest on the peninsula.
Taiwan’s Geographical Diversity: From the Central Mountain Range that dominates its topography to the Sun Moon Lake – Taiwan’s largest lake, the island is a treasure trove of natural beauty.
Yellow River & Yangtze River in China: These two major rivers have been central to China’s civilization and agriculture, supporting life for millennia.
- East China Sea and South China Sea: These marginal seas of the Pacific Ocean are crucial for maritime trade and are dotted with numerous islands, atolls, and reefs.
- Mandarin is predominantly spoken in China, with numerous regional dialects.
- Japanese is the official language of Japan.
- Mongolian in Mongolia, while both North and South Korea speak Korean with slight dialectical differences.
- Mandarin, specifically the Taiwanese variant, is spoken in Taiwan.
- Buddhism is widely practiced across the region, especially in Mongolia and parts of China.
- Shinto and Buddhism hold significant influence in Japan.
- Confucianism plays a substantial role in the cultural and religious life of Koreans.
- China has diverse religious beliefs including Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
- Christianity has grown in prominence in South Korea and parts of China.
East Asia, A Region of Many Records
Oldest Known City: The ancient city of Luoyang in China is often regarded as one of the cradles of Chinese civilization, tracing back over 4,000 years.
Largest Population: China, with over a billion residents, is the world’s most populous country (along with India).
Highest Mountain in East Asia: Mount Fuji in Japan stands majestically at 3,776 meters.
Largest Palace: The Forbidden City in Beijing, China spans 180 acres with 980 surviving buildings.
10 Handpicked East Asia Highlights
10 fantastic places and experiences in East Asia, in no particular order.
Jiuzhaigou Valley: Located in China’s Sichuan Province, Jiuzhaigou is a nature reserve with cascading waterfalls, colorful lakes, and snow-capped peaks, often resembling a fairyland.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: Famed for its towering sandstone pillars, it inspired the floating mountains in the movie “Avatar.” It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Hunan Province, China.
Jeju Island: South Korea’s island gem, it boasts volcanic landscapes, pristine beaches, and the stunning Manjanggul Lava Tube cave.
Gurvansaikhan National Park: Situated in Mongolia, this national park is home to stunning sand dunes, icy canyons, and the endangered snow leopards.
Mount Paektu: Sacred to Koreans, this active volcano on the China-North Korea border is surrounded by myths and legends.
Climb Mount Fuji: Japan’s iconic peak isn’t just for postcards. Hiking it is a spiritual journey, especially during the sunrise.
The DMZ: The Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea provides a unique glimpse into the history and tensions of the Korean Peninsula, paired with unexpected biodiversity.
The Terracotta Army: In Xi’an, China, this archaeological marvel consists of thousands of life-sized soldiers and horses, built to guard China’s first emperor in the afterlife.
Nara: Japan’s ancient capital, Nara is home to free-roaming deer, historic temples, and the Great Buddha statue, embodying the country’s rich past.
Traditional Hanok Villages: In South Korea, places like Jeonju allow visitors to step back in time, experiencing traditional Korean architecture, culture, and food in preserved Hanok villages.
When to Go to East Asia
East Asia presents a vast spectrum of climates, from the freezing winters of Mongolia to the tropical warmth of Taiwan. Generally, spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) are the most favorable periods for travel, offering pleasant temperatures and scenic beauty.
China: While the country’s size results in diverse climates, spring and autumn are typically the best times to visit most regions. Summer can be scorchingly hot, and winter sees areas like Beijing freeze.
Japan: The cherry blossom season (late March to early April) draws many visitors, but autumn’s foliage (October to November) is equally beautiful. Summers can be hot and humid.
Mongolia: Known as the “Land of the Blue Sky,” Mongolia’s brief summer (June to August) is ideal for travelers. Winters are harsh, with temperatures plummeting.
Korea (North and South): Both countries experience four distinct seasons. Spring and autumn are ideal for their moderate temperatures and vibrant landscapes. Summers are humid and rainy.
Taiwan: Best visited during autumn (September to November) for mild and dry conditions. Summers are hot and prone to typhoons.
Traveling to East Asia
- Stay Informed: Given the geopolitical tensions, especially concerning North Korea, it’s essential to stay updated on current events.
- Travel Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive coverage, especially if you plan adventure activities.
- Respect Local Norms: This is especially true in North Korea, where certain behaviors might be considered offensive.
- Be Cautious in Crowded Areas: Watch out for pickpockets in busy markets or tourist spots.
- Emergency Numbers: Familiarize yourself with local emergency numbers for police, fire, and ambulance.
- Safe Drinking Water: While countries like Japan have potable tap water, always check local advisories.
- Typhoon Season: Especially in Taiwan and parts of Japan, be aware of the typhoon season and its implications.
- Travel in Groups: Especially in remote areas, traveling with companions is advisable.
- Know Restricted Areas: Some areas, especially in North Korea, are off-limits to foreigners.
- Local Scams: Be cautious of common scams targeting tourists.
Getting There and Around
- Airports: Major hubs include Beijing Capital International Airport, Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita, Seoul’s Incheon, Taipei’s Taoyuan, and Ulaanbaatar’s Chinggis Khaan Airport.
- Airlines: Carriers like Air China, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, and EVA Air offer extensive routes.
- Trains: The Shinkansen in Japan and China’s High-Speed Rail connect major cities. Korea’s KTX also offers rapid intercity travel.
- Buses and Taxis: Widely available across cities. In China, DiDi is a popular ride-hailing app, while Japan and Korea have efficient bus systems.
- Ferries: Essential for island hopping in Japan or traveling between South Korea and Japan or China.
From luxurious skyscraper hotels in Tokyo and Beijing to traditional ryokans in Japan and ger tents in the Mongolian plains, East Asia offers a diverse range of accommodations. Prices vary significantly, with city centers typically more expensive.
Budget travelers can explore hostels, guesthouses, or capsule hotels (especially in Japan). For a cultural experience, try a Hanok stay in Korea or a temple stay in Japan or China. Ensure you book in advance during peak seasons and national holidays.