Asia is a beautiful destination that is filled with tropical rainforests, lush golden sandy shorelines, and volcanoes, which is why you must take the time to see the best places to visit in Southeast Asia. Those who might not know what countries are in Southeast Asia will be thrilled to learn that the countries and dependent areas include Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, East Timor, Brunei, Taiwan, Christmas Island and Cocos Island.
There are so many interesting places to visit in Southeast Asia that it can be difficult for travelers like yourself to decide which ones should be on your itinerary. Thankfully, I know of a few that must make your list over all the others.
30 Best Places to Visit in Southeast Asia
1) Angkor, Cambodia
Angkor was the Khmer capital during the 9th through 14th centuries and there are currently quite a few cultural remains located there. One of the first things you should see when you are in Angkor is Ta Prohm, which is a Buddhist temple ruin that is surrounded by massive trees.
Other important places include the Angkor Wat Temple and the Bayon Temple. All three of these attractions can be found within Angkor Archaeological Park. Make sure that you take the time to appreciate all the art that you see while in Angkor too, as the Khmer influence can be seen throughout most of it.
2) Bagan, Myanmar
There are approximately ten thousand different monasteries, pagodas, and Buddhist temples in Bagan, and they are all surrounded by the Bago Yoma mountains. The best way to explore Bagan is by bicycle and that
mode of transportation will allow you to see how carefully each temple, pagoda, and monastery has been restored and preserved over the years.
3) Sa Pa, Vietnam
Hiking is quite popular in Sa Pa, so this should be your destination of choice when considering top places to visit in Southeast Asia that is not directly part of the jungle or local beaches. As you are wandering through the highlands, you will discover many of the ethnic tribal groups that live there, and you can learn more
about each one if you take the time to visit the locals. If you are an avid hiker, Fan Si Pan should be your mountain of choice, but Haong Lien National Park offers slightly easier options that still offer spectacular views of the terraced rice paddies.
4) Kuta Lombok, Indonesia
This little town has not seen the tourism of many nearby destinations, but that doesn’t mean that you will not enjoy every moment of your time in Kuta Lombok.
This may be a surfing hotspot, but you can also have fun exploring the beaches filled with volcanic rocks and white sand.
5) Coron, Philippines
The waters surrounding the island of Coron is filled with numerous shipwrecks, of which many are from
World War II. When you are not down in the water looking at these basically untouched ships, you will find yourself doing a little island hopping or simply soaking in one of the many hot springs in Coron.
6) Taman Negara, Malaysia
Taman Negara thinks that everything should be about nature, which is why this destination will have you spending most of your time outdoors. You will spend hours hiking the trails within the jungle, while looking for the wildlife that lives there.
I recommend tackling a nighttime jungle walk, as it will allow you to see the jungle from a different perspective and it won’t be as scary as you may think.
7) Sumatra, Indonesia
Sumatra might be Indonesia’s largest island, but it is only the sixth largest island in the world. This island also sits directly on the equator, making it more unique than you can ever imagine.
You must see Lake Toba, which is a massive volcanic lake that has its own island in the middle. You should also learn more about the Batak tribes and the other indigenous people who live on the island, in between taking time to see the wild orangutans.
8) Atauro Island, East Timor
Atauro Island is a very small island, but it is a tropical paradise that will draw you in quickly. As this is one of the top places to visit in Southeast Asia, you shouldn’t be surprised at all the different marine life animals and
wildlife that you see while you are visiting. Hiking the trails of the mountains is quite popular, but make sure you take the time to learn more about the indigenous people who live on this island.
9) Bohol, Philippines
Bohol happens to be one of the more unique of the interesting places to visit in Southeast Asia. The geological formations are as amazing as the coral reefs and the Chocolate Hills. When you are done staring
at the Chocolate Hills, you will want to have an adventure at the Danao Adventure Park before swimming over by the Hinagdanan Cave.
10) Malacca, Malaysia
Culture is everywhere in Malacca, but it is the food that will entice you to try to stay in this part of Malaysia a little longer. The history in Malacca is slightly unique, because there are numerous legends and myths that contradict others that are being told.
You may need to dig deep before you decide which history to believe and which stories have simply been made up and passed down through the generations.
11) Yangon, Myanmar
There are so many festivals in Yangon every year, so you should check the schedule prior to arranging your trip. However, once you choose your dates, you will have more than enough options when you are not
attending the festival of your choice. I recommend beginning at the Bogyoke Market before going to the Shwedagon Pagoda and Inya Lake.
12) Southwest Sulawesi, Indonesia
Southwest Sulawesi is the best spot in the world when it comes to scuba diving and you never know when you might find something deep down in the water from 30,000 BC, which happens to be when the earliest settlers lived in this part of the country.
The ancient city of Toraja needs to be on your itinerary, especially if a customary Bugis funeral is taking place. This type of funeral is usually attended by thousands of people and it is considered a time to celebrate the life of the person who died.
13) Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is almost as vibrant as Bangkok, yet you will love it even more thanks to the gorgeous landscape. Within the historical part of this city, you will have the chance to explore more than thirty monuments and temples. Once you have seen them all, you will be ready to travel to Sri Lanna National Park to see the Bua Tong Waterfall.
Afterwards, a trip to the Elephant Nature Park will have you loving the elephants before wandering out towards the nearby villages. This city has a plethora of festivals throughout the year, so you may want to plan your arrival accordingly.
14) Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Days of relaxing will never be better than they are when you are in Sihanoukville in Cambodia. When you are not
sitting under the sun at Serendipity Beach, you might want to take time to spend time at Kbal Chhay Waterfall or do a little sailing out on the water.
15) Si Phan Don, Laos
Si Phan Don is also called Four Thousand Islands, although there is not an exact number of islands to see. The reason for this is that the islands come and go depending on the season and how much rain has fallen.
A few favorite things to do in this part of Southeast Asia include hiking to Khone Phapheng Falls, kayaking amongst the Irrawaddy dolphins, and watching the sunsets as you sit on the beach.
16) Hue, Vietnam
Hue is an ancient capital city and it can be found near the Perfume River. Hue contains a ton of history and the culture of the country is quite prominent there. A few of the must-see sites include the Imperial Citadel, Forbidden City,
and the royal tombs. The local cuisine is amazing, and you must try the Banh Khaoi pancakes, as well as the Hue microbrew.
17) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This capital of Malaysia is a bustling space and you will automatically feel a different vibe the moment you start walking along the city streets.
When you are not indulging in some culinary delights, you may want to view the city high up in the Petronas Twin Towers or do a little exploring inside the Batu Caves.
18) Batad, Philippines
This tiny village in the Philippines normally surprises people when they find out it is part of the most interesting places to visit in Southeast Asia. According to the legend, this remote part of the world was completely built by hand over two thousand years ago.
You must take an old military vehicle to reach this part of the Philippines, but once you are there, you can see sights that include the Tappiyah Waterfalls. I recommend that you spend some time with the locals in this village, because you will be able to have them show you how to do Infugao weaving.
19) Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang is another ancient capital city in Southeast Asia and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture is French colonial, but it will be the natural surroundings outside the village area that will pique your attention the most.
Out of the numerous things to see in this part of Laos; Vat Cieng Toug, Pak Ou, Tad Sae Waterfalls, and Kuang Si Falls should be at the top of your list.
Singapore is normally at the top of everyone’s list of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia. If you love adventures,
then you will love spending your days wandering through the Gardens by the Bay, visiting Bintan Island, and shopping along Bugis Street.
21) Palawan, Philippines
Your days in Palawan will never be the same, due to the number of activities that you can choose from. One day you might be scuba diving over in El Nido, while the next brings shopping adventures at the San Jose Market.
Add in a day of island hopping and another one exploring the Tabon Caves and you never know what you might be doing next when you are in Palawan.
22) Bali, Indonesia
There are more than seventeen thousand islands within Indonesia, but Bali is the one that you will continue to return to time and time again. This tropical paradise offers a relaxing option for those on vacation and you will
never believe how much time you can spend in the water amongst the marine life and the coral reefs. On land, you can wander around the rice terraces before exploring the Hindu culture that is scattered around the island.
23) Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is another beach destination that makes the best places to visit in Southeast Asia all the time! If you are looking for a Southeast Asian destination that will allow you to relax and unwind in the sun and the sand, then Phuket is perfect for you.
There are plenty of water sports to keep you busy, as you go from beach to beach, and you must try much of the local cuisine when you are there as well.
24) Komodo, Indonesia
Komodo has received a bad rap in the past, but this is an amazing destination if you love adventure and nature. There is plenty of wildlife to see within the Komodo National Park,
including the giant monitor lizard. You might also want to spend a little time at Pink Beach before heading out to do a little scuba diving at Tatawa Kecil.
25) Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap has grown in popularity over the years, but that doesn’t mean that you will not have an incredible time when you are there. Once you reserve your room in a hip hotel and make reservations at local restaurants and the spa, you will have plenty of time to see what makes this city so fascinating.
I recommend seeing a few temples right away and then stopping at the floating village for a bite to eat. Then after a little quad biking and exploration of the Angkor National Museum, you can grab dinner over on Pub Street or spend the evening wandering around the night market.
26) Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
The limestone islands within Ha Long Bay will make you feel as if you have stepped back in time to another world. While you can appreciate this part of Vietnam from the ground, you may want to take a helicopter ride to see a few unique views. ‘
When you are not out cruising in the bay, you might want to dine at the local restaurants or grab a bite to eat at a local market. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the wildlife that lives near the water.
27) Boracay, Philippines
This small island is mostly known in Southeast Asia for its beaches and that might be the exact reason you are visiting. If you want more than just time in the sand, I recommend taking the time to see Wiley’s Rock
in between collecting extremely white seashells. It is also recommended that you take time to watch the sun as it is setting over near Yapak.
28) Vientiane, Laos
History is everywhere in Vientiane and there is no better place to see it all then the Laos Vietnam Museum.
Once you know as much about this area as you need to, you can take the time to visit the Patuxai Victory Monument and then finally try the traditional cuisine at the Vientiane Night Market.
29) Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
There are not as many people on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find plenty of action when you are on any of them. I recommend hiking through the jungle right away,
so that you can see the amazing views of the lush forest. When you are worn out and exhausted, you can then sit on the beach and relax or head out for some scuba diving and snorkeling.
30) Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phnom Penh is one of the most popular cities within Southeast Asia and it can get extremely crowded at certain times of the year.
I recommend spending lots of time exploring the museums within this city before finally taking the time to grab some souvenirs at the Central Market.
When it comes to the best places to visit in Southeast Asia, these thirty are the ones that should top your list. I know that you cannot visit them all at once, but you should be capable of checking one or two off your list in no time at all.