20+ countries for your Asian Orienteering Bucket List in 2021 and beyond!

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Asia orienteering bucket list - updated for 2021

Asia is a large continent with many cultures, languages and terrains, stretching from the Aegean shore of Turkey to the extreme east of Siberia, from the North Pole to the tropical islands of Indonesia. Orienteering provides the opportunity for us to explore many of these terrains first hand. Here, we make an attempt to define an orienteering bucket list for Asia, which we’re sure you couldn’t wait to check them all off after the COVID-19 pandemic is over and it’s safe to travel again.

Here, we focus on the countries that are in the Asian region of the International Orienteering Federation (IOF). Some countries in West Asia (Israel, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus) and transcontinental countries (Russia, Turkey) are in the European region of the IOF, and so are not included in this bucket list.

Asian Orienteering Bucket List

The classics

The first countries in Asia to have active orienteering communities are in East Asia, where common cultural origin (the East Asian cultural sphere/Sinosphere), strong economic and cultural contacts, and commonalities in language (e.g. Chinese characters) enabled their common rise in the orienteering world from the 1960s to the 1990s.

By the 2010s, these countries had already hosted one World Orienteering Championships (2005 Japan) and three more Orienteering World Cups (1988 Hong Kong, 2000 Japan and 2019 China), in addition to many more Asia-Pacific Orienteering Championships, Asian Orienteering Championships and World Ranking Events (WREs).

Orienteering is a popular sport in China.
Orienteering is a popular sport in China.

Japan and South Korea are long time members of the IOF (since 1969 and 1979 respectively), while the Chinese members (Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan/Chinese Taipei) has spearheaded much orienteering growth in Asia since the 1980s. Almost all major Asian Championships in orienteering thus far were hosted by these countries/regions. China even has two major orienteering timing systems, one of which is approved by IOF for major international orienteering events.

As their orienteering histories are longer, so do they have more maps in a large variety of terrain and vegetation. From the lush forests of Hong Kong, to the hill villages of Mainland China, to the fresh woods of Japan, you’ll find almost everything you need to fill your orienteering appetite.

The next generation

The spread of orienteering in Asia has accelerated in the past decade, and a handful of countries/regions have made their mark in the Asian orienteering world since the start of the 20th century.

Kazakhstan, for example, hosted the Asia-Pacific Orienteering Championships in 2004, and the Asian Championships in 2015. Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have hosted or are planning to host World Ranking Events.

Orienteering in tropical Malaysia, one of the fastest growing Asian orienteering countries. Pictured: Tropical Orienteering Week 2019
Orienteering in tropical Malaysia, one of the fastest growing Asian orienteering countries. Pictured: Tropical Orienteering Week 2019

Thailand, a favourite travel destination, is stepping up efforts in attracting international orienteers through City Races and Championships, as well as the related sport of Landrunning which combines orienteering with trail running.

Nepal has also started efforts in promoting international orienteering tourism, while Macau has yet to elevate their local orienteering events to an international level.

New but thrill

India, Iran, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines—do you know these countries are IOF members too?

Iran and North Korea have even sent teams to the Asian Orienteering Championships, the latter also to the World Orienteering Championships, although both countries have yet to organise international orienteering events of any scale.

India and Kyrgyzstan hasn’t seen much international participation yet, while Philippines is a new member in 2020 and has great plans in orienteering for this tropical country.

While we don’t know if we might check these countries off our bucket list some day soon, we’re hoping we could, eventually.

Possibly these too?

There are many more Asian countries that are not yet IOF members, but which we think might have potential.

Afghanistan has seen orienteering activities mainly due to the presence of military personnel, such as this 2016 World Orienteering Day activity in a military camp reported by the Swedish orienteering magazine Skogssport. We’ve also heard rumours of some civil orienteering activity going on, but have yet to substantiate these rumours and would love to hear more about them, although it would probably be a long time before this country ever becomes safe for travel again.

Cambodia pinned itself on the orienteering map in 2017 with its first World Orienteering Day activity, organised by a volunteer sports teacher in a girls school in Phnom Penh. Given the country’s high tourism profile and proximity to emerging orienteering countries such as Thailand, it’ll be a matter of time before orienteering becomes a significant sport in Cambodia.

Oman is, along with Algeria, Lebanon and IOF member Egypt, one of the earliest Arab states to see World Orienteering Day activity. While this Wikipedia infobox mentions the existence of an orienteering governing body in Oman, we can’t as yet find any further information on this.

To round of this list we mention Vietnam, as its many beautiful towns, beaches and hills have already made it a tourist hotspot and it won’t be long before orienteering makes its way into this country too. (Experience it virtually, for the meantime.)

It’s always imagination-provoking to leave a few boxes on the bucket list unchecked, but who knows they won’t be checked some day in the unknown future when it becomes safe and prudent to visit these countries for orienteering as well?


ORIEN.ASIA “I orienteered in Asia” jerseys are now out!

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Have you orienteered in Asia? Show that with a jersey!

We’re happy to announce that the ORIEN.ASIA “I orienteered in Asia” jersey is now available for pre-ordering! The jersey is manufactured by Oland with advantageous qualities and prices. The price is €85 including delivery and VAT. For organization ordering please contact for a discounted quote ex-VAT. You can order them here.

I Orienteered In Asia ORIEN.ASIA jersey

Jerseys will be ordered, produced and delivered in batches of 25 jerseys, so the more people ordering, the faster you’ll get the jersey – so spread the news to your friends!

Prices include delivery to any country.

Order now and show that you’ve orienteered in Asia!

Size tables for the “I orienteered in Asia” jersey

Thailand Orienteering Challenge (Dec 29, 2022 – Jan 1, 2023) – sign up now at
Support ORIEN.ASIA today – see options on

Guest articles

[Guest Article] The Week After WMOC 2022 Day 2 in Alberobello

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Article by Yousuke Yagami from Japan. He participated in the World Masters Orienteering Championships 2022 in Italy.

Are you from an Asian country and participated in one of the recent international events in Europe? We’d love to hear from you! Send your report to

Alberobello is known for its distinctive cone-topped white-walled houses called trullis. (Editor’s note)

I joined the 2nd race of “After WMOC” in Puglia, Italy.

This was my first orienteering in Italy, and also in Europe in these two years for me.

As it was so impressive for me, I’ll share about my experience here.

About me

Before my report, I’d like to write about myself.

I’m from Japan, 38 years old now, and started orienteering in university about 20 years ago. After 15 years working in Japan, I moved to Ireland to study English in last April. I’ve been to Europe or other countries for orienteering like “O-Ringen”, “Fin5”, “Swiss O Week” and “Thailand Orienteering Championships” during my orienteering career.

Race in Alberobello

Alberobello is a town locates in Puglia, Italy. It’s famous for its beautiful town view with “trullis”, small house built with stone-roof and white wall. The district of old town is registered as one of the world heritage sites by UNECSO. Furthermore, it was one of the best places where I’ve wanted to visit. So, I decided to join this event soon when I found the announce.

A sprint race was held in the middle of Alberobello, surrounded by many trullis. We enjoyed an orienteering through the small paths, cozy parks, and many tourists. Personally, the route of narrow path surrounded by trullis was one of the most exciting moments. Although I lost quite a lot time at the end of race, I completely enjoyed that.


A small banquet was held after the race, at the villa located in outskirts. Not only Italian wine and beer, many kinds of South-Italian portion were also served like a mozzarella cheese and panzerotti. Every kind of foods might be the “must” ones for the tourists came to Puglia. Although I was the only participants form Asia, I also enjoyed talking with European orienteering lovers.

As I am still in my holidays now, I’m going to join “O-Ringen”, “EOC2022 (volunteer staff)”, and “Hungarian cup”. Please check my next reports!


Indonesia: how actually is orienteering doing there?

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Indonesia. The archipelago country is home to 273.5 million people from different ethnicities and religions, many volcanoes, diverse wildlife, and one of the most active economies in Southeast Asia. As the fourth most populous country in the world with so many beautiful and diverse outdoor travel options, how exactly is orienteering doing there?

Indonesia has diverse landscapes—and we might have grossly underestimated the state of orienteering there.

Are we getting Indonesia wrong all along?

As of this moment in 2022, Indonesia still doesn’t quite get included in the list of usual Asian orienteering countries in our minds. To start with, they haven’t quite gotten into holding a major event yet (World Ranking Events were scheduled for 2020-2021 but due to the COVID-19 pandemic had to be postponed), and have thus far never sent a team to the Asian Orienteering Championships or World Orienteering Championships.

But to think of Indonesia as a country with little orienteering activity, is a gross underestimation and a highly biased view. With over 200 million people, cultural proximity to other orienteering countries (especially Malaysia and Singapore), and mandatory scout participation at school since 2013, it’s impossible for orienteering to stay under the radar for so long.

FONI Instagram accounts: a rough but useful estimation

ORIEN.ASIA founder Raphael Mak has done a rough estimation on 3 February 2022 (all results quoted below are as of that date) by tabulating the Instagram accounts managed by the various regional branches of FONI (Federasi Orienteering Nasional Indonesia), the orienteering federation of the country. It gave a surprising picture not only for Raphael, but perhaps for a lot of orienteers elsewhere in the world.

A simple search on Instagram gives 49 accounts affiliated to FONI, of which one belongs to the national federation and the other 48 belonging to 47 regional/municipal federations (The Orienteering Federation of North Sumatra has had two accounts). Local orienteering federations affiliated with FONI can be at a provincial (provinsi), regency (kabupaten), or municipal (kota) level.

From these accounts we can get a rough estimation of how popular orienteering is in Indonesia. We shall look at two metrics: followers and posts.

The number of followers show how much do people care about orienteering in a certain region or town. While clearly not all Instagram followers take action in joining an orienteering event, we can still presume that they must care about orienteering to some degree to follow the account.

The number of posts, meanwhile, can be useful in gauging the relative level of orienteering activity in that region or town. The more posts an account has, the more likely the local federation holds more events.

Here are the results regarding the local federations:

  • There are 47 local orienteering federations with Instagram accounts; the number of followers range from 30 (Southeast Sulawesi) to 895 (Jakarta)
  • Number of followers: mean = 199.4, median = 134
  • Number of posts: mean = 24.0, median = 7

And for the national federation:

16400 orienteers in Indonesia—far more than you’d expect, isn’t it?

Why should I care? What does this mean for the orienteering world?

While it’s impossible to directly verify this number without digging into piles of member lists and start lists—which are hard to get by to start with, not to mention the fact that they’re almost certainly in the Indonesian language—the above estimation nonetheless gives us a clear conclusion:

Orienteering in Indonesia is much bigger than you think. We’ve underestimated it all along.

Why is that? To start with, there appears to be a tendency to underestimate the scale of orienteering outside of Europe. Orienteering is still a Europe-dominated sport, and if you’re from Europe you’d probably not even think of Hong Kong and Malaysia as places with orienteering unless you’re well informed (or travelled there yourself).

And then there’s the problem of language. Almost all orienteering promotional material in Indonesia are in Indonesian, a standardised variant of Malay, and an Austronesian language that’s related to Filipino, Māori, and even Hawaiian. With little material published in English, it comes as no surprise why we’d all underestimate orienteering in Indonesia.

Orienteering is biased towards Europe not just because of geography and language—the increasing technical demands of the sport, brought by the improved quality of orienteering mapmaking, is related to a “standardisation” and “idealisation” of the typical orienteering terrain to that of a Scandinavian forest with considerable complexities in terrain. The World Orienteering Championships have never ventured outside of Europe since 2005 (Japan). While navigational challenges in forests are fun for those obsessed with orienteering, it effectively shuts out a large part of the population living in non-temperate climates—and even a lot of people in Europe who find it too hard or too inconvenient (especially for those without cars) to try orienteering.

We should recognise the inherent bias in our sport against non-European countries and, consequently, consider Indonesia’s orienteering activities in a more positive light.


Orienteering is indeed pretty big in Indonesia, and we’re indeed looking forward to bringing #AsiaCityRace there and cooperate with them on marketing major events. Perhaps the country should be in your bucket list too?