Wat Phou Temple

Our favorite Culture & History vacations

As the home of the world’s oldest continuous civilization, Asia’s culture and history is deep, rich, and infinitely interconnected.

Soak up the history of Myanmar at the stupa-studded plains of Bagan, or explore centuries-old temple complexes sprawling through the jungles of Cambodia. Explore glitzy, fast-paced cities buzzing with life, then travel into the mountains to visit ethnic minorities in thatched-roof villages nestled among rice terraces. Visit old port towns where European colonial relics mingle with Chinese and Indian influence, adding to indigenous cultures to create something completely new.

If you're looking for an Asian vacation rich in culture, look no further. Here are our best Asian cultural itineraries, top culural destinations and the best cultural tours and excursions, all tried and tested by our country experts.

Our top itineraries for culture & history lovers

A selection of itineraries that offer a deeper insight into the country's heritage and traditions

Top destinations for culture & history lovers

Our favourite culture rich places in Asia

Malaysia

With a history stretching back through colonial rule and the Age of Exploration, Malacca’s Portuguese fortress and lantern-strung Chinese temples make it one of the best places to get a sense of Malaysia’s long and turbulent past.

Malaysia

World Heritage architecture, 130-million-year-old rainforest, world-class street art and a countryside peppered with spice gardens and durian groves: the island of Penang is an intoxicating medley of natural and cultural treasures.

Malaysia

Once a tin-mining boom town known for its seedy nightlife, Ipoh has remade itself. Stellar street-art, Western-Malay fusion cuisine, and a clutch of elegantly dilapidated galleries and cafes make this one of Malaysia’s trendiest cities.

Borneo

A wide variety of indigenous and immigrant cultures combine to form Kuching’s unmistakable cultural mélange, expressed not only in its historic architecture and ethnic diversity, but in its legendary laksa, multicolored cakes and freshly blended gourmet coffee.

Cambodia

The laid-back, low-rise town of Siem Reap is the gateway to one of the most spectacular man-made sights on the planet: the sprawling, root-strangled ruins of Angkor.

Cultural and historical guided tours and excursions

Our best cultural tours and excursions

Hanoi
Art
Culture
Culture & History
Insider

Get an insider’s look at the capital’s thriving contemporary art scene with curator and artist Nguyen Anh Tuan.

Phnom Penh
Architecture
Culture & History
History

It’s often bemoaned that Phnom Penh is no longer the “pearl” it was in the 1920s — but since when did beautiful equate to interesting anyway?

Penang
Architecture
Culture & History
History

Begin learning about George Town’s 200-year history over a breakfast of freshly baked Bengali bread, then delve into its Chinese roots with a visit to the former HQ of one of the city’s Five Great Clans.

Ipoh
Architecture
Culture & History
History

This half day tour is about getting a sense of Ipoh’s past while enjoying the delights of its present.

Ayutthaya
Culture & History

Discover Thailand’s cosmopolitan roots on a tour of the Ayutthaya ruins, accompanied by art history expert Professor Chedha Tingsanchali.

Siem Reap
Culture & History

Magnificent in both scale and artistry, half-supported and half-consumed by buttress-rooted silk-cotton trees, the temples of Angkor are among the most fantastic man-made sights on the planet.

Hanoi
Culture
Culture & History
Insider

Hanoi is a maze of streets, a hotch-potch of eras, a tangle of stories.

Phnom Penh
Culture
Culture & History
Insider

It's easy to beeline from landmark to landmark, but the tours we really love dove into the life that goes on in between.

Muang La
Culture
Culture & History
Scenery

In the hills around remote Muang La, undisturbed by the modern world, the Khmu live in teakwood stilt houses, the Hmong raise pigs and buffalo, and the Ikhos produce dyes made with plant extracts foraged from the forest.

Popular questions

Things we're often asked...

What does it mean to dress “respectfully” at a temple?

Most temples in Asia, regardless of denomination, require visitors to dress “respectfully” — which essentially just means “cover up”! The level of strictness differs, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure that you cover everything from your shoulders to your knees, usually with something more substantial than a scarf or wrap. This goes for men as well as women, so guys — make sure your shorts are long enough to cover your knees. You’ll be expected to take your shoes off to go inside, too.

I’m from the USA. Will I feel welcome in Vietnam?

Although the war is definitely not forgotten, Americans shouldn’t feel any anxiety or trepidation at all about being in Vietnam. Our US clients and team members have never felt anything but welcome in Vietnam, and you’ll be treated just the same as any other overseas visitor. Indeed, most Vietnamese people working in the tourism industry today are too young to remember the war, so it’s unlikely to be top of mind in most situations.

What’s it like to travel during a religious or cultural festival?

It depends on the festival! National, multi-day festivals such as Tet (Vietnamese New Year) or Ramadan (in Malaysia & Borneo) will mean a more subdued travel experience, as many restaurants, shops and attractions close for several days. It also means busier airports and public transport, as locals travel home to spend time with their families.

Conversely, many festivals are exciting and memorable to be a part of, and are short enough that they won’t disrupt your entire trip. For instance, new year in many Southeast Asian countries means street parties, traditional music and dance, and country-wide water fights. Meanwhile, smaller festivals such as Hoi An lantern festival or Inle Lake’s Phaung Daw Oo Festival an also be a great taste of local traditions — including food, costume and craft. Festivals of all shapes and sizes take place across Asia in every month of the year. Speak to our team to find out more.

I’d like to get a feel for everyday local life, but how do I make sure my visit supports rather than exploits the local community?

All too often, cultural tourism can feel exploitative — but done properly, it can be a huge benefit to local communities.

If you’re visiting a struggling community and want to make a donation to support them, don’t be tempted to give money or gifts directly — speak to an NGO to find the right way to contribute. Similarly, don’t expect to be able to visit places like schools, orphanages, private homes, or anywhere that would interrupt daily life. Instead, visit with a guide who’ll show you to venues who’ve agreed to participate, such as cottage workshops or show-houses. That way, you can be sure that your visit is welcome.

We only work with community-based tourism projects that involve and empower local people, providing authentic cultural insight for the visitor in exchange for fair compensation for the host. Whether it’s a traditional cookery class, a rural homestay, or a fishing and farming experience, the goal is for everyone to come away richer for the experience.

A woman lights incense at a shrine

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