Asia, as a whole, offers an endless list of iconic sights and experiences anyone wishing to visit will likely want to tick off their bucket list. From incredible temples to a vast and varied array of landscapes, including the rice terraces that span the continent. As you’ll see from this list, no two rice terraces are created equal. From Bali to Nepal, they vary in their agricultural architecture, size and color.
Yunnan Province, China
Photo by Ronald Tagra, CC BY 2.0
The terraced slopes of the Ailao Mountains in China’s southern Yunnan Province contain what are arguably the most famous rice terraces in the world. Their colorful pools of water have been the subject of countless travel photographs, from the pages of National Geographic to travel-inspired boards on Pinterest. The UNESCO World Heritage Honghe Hani Rice Terraces have been around for more then 1,300 years and cover nearly 65 square miles. Plan to visit between April and October when the fields will gradually turn from green to yellow.
Photo by Momo, CC BY 2.0
These rice terraces are not only featured on the country’s 20 peso banknote, they’re designated a National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines. Located some 5,000 feet above sea level, the Banaue Rice Terraces were hand carved into the mountains of northern Luzon more than 2,000 years ago, but are still utilized by locals today. Try to visit between June and July, just before the harvest.
Saga Prefecture, Japan
Photo by kanegen, CC BY 2.0
The rice terraces at Hamanoura are among Japan’s most famous. Located along the coast of Saga Prefecture, they appear to cascade like a river into Genkai Sea. The best time to visit is just before sunset when the pools of water and the sea often ignite in a fiery show of reflected color.
Longsheng County, Chi?na
Photo by Jack French, CC BY-NC 2.0
Commonly called the Longji Rice Terraces, this famous landscape is equally as impressive as the one found in China’s Yunnan Province. The ridge of the mountains there is said to resemble a dragon’s backbone and the terraces like scales. They were built more than 600 years ago, but continue to yield harvests thanks to the Zhuang people.
Photo by Lauren Kilberg
Turn just about any street corner in Ubud and you’ll likely find yourself surrounded by rice paddies. The popular Bali destination is a seemingly endless patchwork of verdant paddies and terraced fields, the most popular of which are the nearby Tegallalang Rice Terraces. This picturesque roadside attraction is an easy and cheap afternoon trip by rented motorbike from downtown Ubud.
Sa Pa, Vietnam
Photo by Lauren Kilberg
Tucked away in the mountains of northwest Vietnam is scenic Sa Pa and the photogenic rice terraces that cascade around it. The best way to see the terraces is by hiking the hills and valleys that are dotted with small hill-tribe villages who cultivate and maintain the verdant fields to this day.
Kathmandu Valley?, Nepal
Photo by Cheryl Marland, CC BY 2.0
The rice terraces in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley? are an iconic part of the country’s varied landscape. They’re best seen on foot while hiking the valley, a popular activity among visitors. While prayer flags, pagodas and the snow-covered Himalayas seem to be what many are on the lookout for, the country’s lush terraces, especially near the end of summer after monsoon season, are worth looking forward to as well.
Top photo: Chiu Ho-yang, CC BY-SA 2.0
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.