Sri Lanka among the best places to go in Asia in 2024

From Sri Lanka’s shores to Uzbekistan’s Silk Road, Asia offers reasons galore to pack your bags and head east.

It’s official, Asia is back—brighter, bolder, and more ambitious than ever. The region took longer than others to shake off pandemic-related travel restrictions and border closures, but has returned in full force, eager to remind international travelers what they’ve been missing.

The continent’s titanic expanse of territories has always offered a diverse tapestry of to-dos—but across the region, new experiences, events, and accommodation options await. Sri Lanka is emerging phoenix-like from economic crisis and responding with a new food festival, wellness-oriented retreats, and a hiking trail that snakes through 186 miles of hill country and centuries of history. 

Expanded green spaces, intriguing boutique resorts, luxury sleeper trains, and the ancient Silk Road: our list of the 11 best places to visit in Asia in 2024, entirely informed by contributing writers and editors spread across the region, is packed with reasons to head east.

South and central Sri Lanka

Go for: wellness retreats, a new food festival, and a nearly 200-mile nature trail

Rising from economic uncertainty, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is in the midst of a luxury and wellness boom—from its tea-filled highlands to its palm-fringed shores. In the south of the country, new luxury resorts continue to entice. Among them, Kayaam House and Ahu Bay, a Hilton resort next to the Indian Ocean-bordering Yala National Park, one of the best places to spot Sri Lanka’s elusive leopards; and the art deco-inspired The Charleston, which opens in December in the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort. The already established Kalukanda House—a villa in surf town Weligama by British-Sri Lankan interior designer Dee Gibson—is making its mark with retreats centered on female empowerment, with yoga, breath work, reiki, and Ayurveda included.

A comprehensive renovation of the nine-room Meraki, which employs local women and offers yoga, holistic treatments, island-sourced vegetarian fare, and artisanal crafts in the Polhena Beach district of Matara, is set to be unveiled in early 2024; and luxury fitness getaway Makahiya is gearing up to launch its own brand of bespoke retreats.

In January, the Galle Literary Festival will return after a five-year hiatus, with appearances by literary figures such as Shehan Karunatilaka and Alexander McCall Smith, while Gourmet Galle, the country’s new food festival, will spotlight 12 chefs in 12 venues, ranging from beaches to paddy fields, over a 12-week period from January to March.

Inland, development of the Pekoe Trail, a new nearly 200-mile network of hiking routes that snakes its way through Sri Lanka’s highlands, continues. Traversing historic tea plantations, colonial estates, local villages, holy shrines, and forests brimming with biodiversity, it’s a novel way to experience Sri Lanka’s lush hill country, particularly when paired with stays at boutique properties such as W15 Hanthana, the luxurious Goatfell, or the Kelburne Estate, scheduled to open in December 2024.