Selective Six: best public gardens in Asia

7th June 2017 | by Guest author

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From flourishing tropical idylls bursting with exotic plants to serene mountain landscapes with space to breathe, the gardens of Asia are some of the most spectacular in the world. Take some time out of your busy itinerary to explore these little pockets of paradise.

Kenroku-en Garden, Kanazawa, Japan

Kenroku-en combines all six elements (explained here) in the classic blueprint for a perfect garden, achieving both spaciousness and seclusion with its hidden lawns and sweeping views. Celebrated as one of Japan’s top gardens, the cherry trees erupt with soft, pink blossom in the spring, while in autumn the turning leaves make a rainbow of gold, burgundy and rust against the pale sky; constantly changing scenery, equally exquisite in every season. Designed as a strolling-style garden, Kenroku-en is best enjoyed ‘on the move’, by following the paths as they meander over the hills and between the lakes, leading you on a tour through the landscape. Read our local's guide to Kanazawa here.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

The futuristic super-trees that tower over Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay provide vertical habitats for over 200 hundred plant species, including orchids, ferns and flowering climbers. During the day, these iconic structures give shade to an aerial walkway with panoramic views towards the bay, and at night they are illuminated by thousands of coloured lights. On the ground, the Flower Dome biosphere recreates the conditions of a ‘perpetual spring’, while the Cloud Forest mimics the cool conditions high in the mountains. The combination of striking visual spectacle and fresh botanical innovation gives these gardens a wide-ranging appeal that keeps everyone engaged, even the very young.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Planted on the site of an ancient temple, and once only open to royalty, the Botanical gardens near Kandy are on an altogether different scale and require a bit more time to explore. Avenues of towering palm trees stretch skywards and forests of giant bamboo (which grow, on average, 30 cm per day!) guard the lake. Hundreds of rare orchids are protected in specially built hot houses, surrounded by vibrant flowerbeds, and the heady scent of bay, nutmeg and cardamom radiates from the shady spice garden. The crowning glory, however, is the collection of exotic flowering trees that flood the canopy with colour throughout the year. Read our guide to Kandy here.

Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens, Luang Prabang, Laos

A relatively new kid on the block, Pha Tad Ke was opened in 2016, and the passion which has gone into making Laos’ first botanical gardens a reality is almost palpable. The curators have taken a fresh approach, merging traditional botanical techniques with modern eco-sustainability to create a garden which evolves and develops naturally; a living archive of Laotian biodiversity. After a 15-minute boat trip down the Mekong from the town centre, you step into a different world. Choose any of the winding paths to begin your exploration as you learn about ceremonial and medicinal plants, gaze out over the lotus ponds and relax in shady palm groves. Read more about Luang Prabang here.

Victoria Peak Gardens, Hong Kong

When the noise and humidity of central Hong Kong get too much, the residents of this global super-city head uphill to the peaceful heights of the Victoria Peak gardens. Near the summit, on the site of the old Governor’s Residence, this park is reached via a ride on the tram followed by a gentle 30-40 minute hike. Any children who tackle the trek can look forward to a runabout in the nearby Mount Austin playground as an incentive! Stretching out at the top of the park are beautifully manicured lawns where you can sit and enjoy the panoramic views down over Hong Kong in blissful tranquillity.

Suan Nong Nooch, Pattaya, Thailand

Half Kew Gardens, half Disneyland, there is nowhere else on Earth quite like Suan Nong Nooch. Spread over more than 600 acres, these vast gardens are immaculately landscaped in a variety of styles from the classical to the cutting edge, each section with its own theme and planting design. But what really makes these gardens stand out are the hundreds of giant ornaments scattered among the flowers. These are not your typical stone cupids; there is everything from full-size dinosaurs, to brightly-coloured animal sculptures and even a miniature replica of Stonehenge! Utterly bonkers but completely compelling, Nong Nooch is consistently listed in the top 10 gardens of the world. 

Strolling through a garden in full bloom is one of life’s great pleasures, and throughout Asia there are hundreds more green spaces to discover. Chat with one of our Destination Specialists about incorporating a garden visit into your next trip, and enjoy the gentler pace you’ll find there.