23 best Southeast Asia travel destinations to visit once in a lifetime

Southeast Asia travel destinations

As you set off on Southeast Asia travel, prepare to be captivated by the wonders that each destination uncovers. In these Southeast Asia travel destinations, you can indulge in the spectacles of natural beauty and immerse yourself in the profound culture. Come with us as we walk you through the most captivating sites in Southeast Asia.

1. Vietnam – among the cheapest countries to travel in Southeast Asia 

As our first stop, Vietnam is known as one of the most beautiful countries with affordable travel expenses, making it one of the best countries to visit in Southeast Asia.

1.1. Ha Long Bay

Located approximately 160 kilometers from the capital city of Hanoi, Ha Long Bay is a renowned tourist destination that was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you can embark on Halong Bay luxury cruises to admire thousands of limestone karsts scattered on the sea. You can also hire a helicopter to observe Ha Long’s beauty from above, enjoy your time on stunning beaches, explore various caves in Ha Long Bay, and stroll around vibrant night markets.

Southeast Asia travel destinations

1.2. Hoi An

Hoi An is a captivating ancient town with vibrant yellow-painted houses. The first three months of the year offer ideal weather for a visit, when Hoi An Ancient Town becomes a picturesque photo spot. During the day, visitors can explore handicraft shops, while evening is the time for Hoi An Lantern Festival. Here, you can enjoy local specialties like clams, Quang noodles, chicken rice, cao lau, etc. You can also take a basket boat ride in Bay Mau Coconut Forest, explore traditional crafting villages, and go a bit further to My Son Sanctuary.

1.3. Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park

Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park stands proudly as Vietnam’s prominent UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. It is the oldest karst mountain range in Asia, formed over 400 million years ago. Phong Nha boasts a fascinating variety of spectacular caverns and a complex subterranean river system. Here, visitors can indulge in exciting activities like exploring Son Doong Cave, camping, hiking, mountain climbing, biking in Bong Lai Valley, ziplining across the Chay River to the Dark Cave, mud bathing, and much more. 

Southeast Asia travel destinations

1.4. Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex

Trang An, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2014, is a landscape complex created by a network of limestone karsts, valleys, caverns, ancient sites, and cultural relics. The rich biodiversity here includes rare species like the great hornbill, starling, babbler, white-headed langur, etc. Visitors can partake in kayaking, sightseeing, and indulging in the local cuisine. Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Bai Dinh Pagoda, and Tam Coc are some key attractions that you must not miss out on when visiting this landscape complex.

Aside from the above-mentioned destinations, Vietnam travel offers some of the best travel destinations in Southeast Asia, such as Hanoi, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, etc. These bustling cities offer a plethora of captivating activities for an enriching experience. As you prepare for your trip in Vietnam, it is recommended that you book a room at the hotel and resort system of Vinpearl

Scattered across Vietnam in the most touristy spots, Vinpearl provides visitors with luxurious rooms, all-inclusive services, and a range of attractive amenities such as restaurants, bars, swimming pools, etc. With Vinpearl, you can also discover the ultimate fun and thrill at VinWonders – a chain of entertainment complexes that promises endless fun and excitement for visitors of all ages.

Southeast Asia travel destinations

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2. Thailand

Situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand is known as the “land of smiles” and is one of the best Southeast Asian countries to visit. This nation is home to breathtaking islands, unique fauna, and Buddhist monasteries.

2.1. Phuket

Phuket is a treasure trove of pristine landscapes well-known for its alluring beaches, with long stretches of immaculate sands brushed by the emerald-green Andaman Sea. A range of water sports are available for you to experience here, such as snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, jet-skiing, etc. You can also take a tour of Phang Nga Bay, which has striking limestone karsts and ring-shaped islands. Additionally, travelers can visit elephant sanctuaries such as the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary or the Tree Tops Elephant Reserve.

2.2. Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second-largest city, is home to approximately 300 Buddhist temples. You can either explore the city on foot or opt for a shared tuk-tuk ride for convenience. Tourists can also enjoy temple-hopping around the Old City, with iconic spots like Wat Phra That Doi Suthep that offer captivating city views. Later at night, the vibrant Sunday Night Market attracts tourists with local delicacies like pad Thai, tom yum, and mango sticky rice.

Southeast Asia travel destinations

2.3. Ko Pha Ngan

Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, Ko Pha Ngan stands as a prime hub for partying in Southeast Asia. Here, you can dive into the crystal-clear waters, explore the lively ambiance of the famous Full Moon Party, or embark on a temple tour into Thai spirituality. With over 30 beaches, including the bustling Haad Rin and tranquil Thong Nai Pan, Ko Pha Ngan caters to diverse preferences.

>>> Explore: Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam itinerary for 10 days

3. Cambodia – Home to some of the best Southeast Asia travel destinations for culture lovers

Cambodia is another recommendation regarding Southeast Asia travel destinations, where the ruins of the ancient Khmer civilization sit amidst bustling cities.

3.1. Temples of Angkor

Renowned as the earthly embodiment of Mt. Olympus in Hindu mythology, the temples of Angkor are the world’s biggest religious structures. As you tour the temples of Angkor, you can see the magnificent Angkor Wat, which was built by Cambodian “god-kings” who strived for architectural perfection. It makes this site a symbol of the Khmer people’s creative brilliance and also one of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia. Other attractions include the temples of Bayon and Beng Mealea surrounded by a sizable moat.

Southeast Asia travel destinations

3.2. Siem Reap

With its abundance of tiny stores and French-style homes, Siem Reap has a charming rural appeal. This city houses the above-mentioned temple complex of Angkor Wat, which is its main attraction. You can also visit the fascinating temple of Banteay Srei, which is devoted to the Hindu deity Shiva. Along with boating on Tonle Sap Lake, visitors may witness the mesmerizing Apsara dances. And if you are visiting in late October, make sure not to miss out on the colorful Water Festival.

>>> Plan your adventure with our exclusive Vietnam and Cambodia itinerary

4. Laos

Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia that has a rich culture. For those looking for a combination of natural beauty and cultural discovery, Laos is a perfect destination.

4.1. Si Phan Don – One of the top Southeast Asia travel destinations for island hopping

Si Phan Don has a collection of tiny islands in the Mekong River Delta in the southern region of Laos. Backpackers and nature lovers adore the peaceful atmosphere of the countryside and the leisurely pace of life here in Si Phan Don. You can visit Don Det and Don Khet to explore the natural beauty, then relax in a hammock at a riverside guest home after a hectic travel schedule.

Southeast Asia travel destinations

4.2. Luang Prabang

The city of Luang Prabang serves as the religious and spiritual center of Laos. Here, there are a lot of things to see and do, with dozens of temples, French architectural works, night markets, river tours, and waterfalls. Travelers can explore the city on a rented bicycle or walk along the Mekong River in Chomphet district. In the morning, you can watch the alms-begging ritual as well. The most popular sites here are Wat Xieng Thong, the Royal Palace Museum, Wat Manolom, Wat Visounnarath, and Mount Phou Si.

4.3. Vang Vieng

In your Southeast Asia travel itinerary, Vang Vieng is an ideal location if you are looking for outdoor adventures. You can kayak the rapids of Nam Song, climb Pha Poak Mountain at sunset, explore the area’s cave system, or ride an ATV on the wilderness roads. In Vang Vieng, you can ride a tuk-tuk to the Blue Lagoon and cool yourself with a refreshing dive. During the dry season, you can even take a hot air balloon trip to witness the amazing scenery from high above.

Southeast Asia travel destinations

>>> Explore: Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos itinerary

5. Indonesia

Indonesia, an archipelago of over 17,000 islands, is a vibrant nation. Indonesia is also one of the best countries to visit in Southeast Asia, a paradise for both adventure seekers and nature lovers. 

5.1. Borneo

Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and is home to some of the most endangered species of animals on the planet, including Bornean pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos, and Bornean orangutans. There are a ton of outdoor activities available here. In Mulu National Park, tourists can explore the cave system, climb Mount Kinabalu, snap pictures of the stunning rainforests, and stay in a longhouse with the local community.

5.2. Java

Java is home to 30 active volcanoes that rise majestically amidst rice paddies. Here, you can experience Javanese culture through many traditional performances. Other activities include visiting Gunung Bromo, exploring the expansive Fatahillah Square, and observing the entire city from the National Monument. In Java, make sure to visit Prambanan, one of the biggest Hindu temples in Southeast Asia. Additionally, don’t miss out on the chance to see the volcano of Anak Krakatau and witness the magnificent volcanic activity up close. 

Southeast Asia travel destinations

5.3. Bali – Among the well-trodden Southeast Asia travel destinations for honeymoon

Bali captivates global tourists with its breathtaking beaches, lush jungles, and opulent mansions. It is frequently cited as one of the world’s most Instagrammable islands, the perfect destination for a honeymoon, and undoubtedly one of the best Southeast Asia travel destinations. Beyond enjoying the beaches here, tourists can also explore Hindu temples with sacred springs, ride through Tegallalang’s picturesque rice terraces, and take yoga sessions at The Yoga Barn, among various other peaceful activities in Bali.

>>> Explore the best time of year to travel to Southeast Asia!

6. Malaysia

Among Southeast Asia travel destinations, Malaysia is known for its stunning beaches and islands. Langkawi and the Cameron Highlands are among the most popular destinations for nature lovers in this country. 

6.1. Langkawi

Langkawi, also recognized as the Jewel of Kedah, serves as a captivating destination on your Southeast Asia tour. Comprising 99 islands off Malaysia’s northwestern coast, it is an ideal retreat for families and friends. Here, you can enjoy stunning beaches like Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah, where you can bask in the sun or enjoy diving adventures. Don’t miss out on the iconic Langkawi SkyCab for panoramic views and catch a sunset cruise over the tranquil Andaman Sea here.

Southeast Asia travel destinations

6.2. Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands is a scenic area with a mix of hiking trails, colonial charm, and tea plantations. As the center of Malaysia’s tea industry, it invites tourists to explore verdant fields and have tea at one of its estates. Beyond the tea experience, the Cameron Highlands offers excitement through jungle hiking and climbing to the breathtaking peak of Gunung Brinchang. You can also pay a visit to Tanah Rata – the largest and most developed town of the Cameron Highlands, and Sam Poh – the fourth-largest temple in the country.

7. The Philippines 

The archipelago of Philippines is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and cultural diversity. With its immaculate beaches, the Philippines is one of the most popular tropical Southeast Asia travel destinations.

7.1. Palawan

Palawan is a gem in the Philippines and is widely regarded as one of the greatest islands in the world. This picturesque location is home to Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where guests may take an enthralling trip along an underground river. Palawan invites explorations with its breathtaking landscapes, from the hidden lagoons and deserted beaches of El Nido and Coron to vibrant beaches perfect for snorkeling adventures. 

Southeast Asia travel destinations

7.2. Boracay 

Boracay may be small, but its offerings are nothing short of grand. This island offers a wide range of activities above and below the water’s surface. Willy’s Rock, a fascinatingly sculpted volcanic rock that enthralls tourists, is a must-see here. Tourists can enjoy a leisure stroll along the White Beach, dance the night away at the exciting Epic Boracay Beach Club, or go hiking to learn about the island’s animal species and picturesque scenery.

7.3. Sagada – Among the best places to visit in Southeast Asia for epic treks

Sagada, with its abundance of intriguing activities, is a charming town nestled amid the gorgeous surroundings of the Philippines. One of the must-see attractions here is the famous hanging coffins – a distinctive burial custom of the Igorot people. For backpackers, spelunking and hiking amidst lush mountains provide an ideal adventure. You can also hike to see the enticing rock pool at Bokong Falls, the rice terraces surrounding Bomod-Ok Falls, and the breathtaking cascade at Pongas Falls. 

Southeast Asia travel destinations

8. Myanmar

Myanmar is home to a diverse range of natural wonders and cultural traditions. From the ancient temples of Bagan to the tranquil waters of Inle Lake, Myanmar offers a unique blend of history and nature. 

8.1. Bagan

Bagan in Myanmar deserves a spot in your Southeast Asia travel itinerary. Here, you can ride an e-bike or bicycle to tour well-known temples such as Thatbyinnyu, Shwegu Gyi Phaya, and Ananda Pahto. Another way to go sightseeing is to take a hot-air balloon flight above Bagan or plan a day excursion to Salay and Mt. Popa for a different viewpoint. You can also savor the lively energy of Bagan by immersing yourself in the city’s dynamic life on a sunset sail on the Irrawaddy River.

8.2. Mandalay

Before the British occupation, Mandalay served as the final capital of the Kingdom of Myanmar. Many digital nomads looking for peace and quiet are drawn to Mandalay. Here, visitors can wander around Mandalay Palace – the final residence of the Myanmar royal family, cross the U Bein Bridge, and admire the stunning city view from Mandalay Hill. There are many other cultural activities to see, such as the morning bath at Mahamuni Paya, the pagodas of Hsinbyume, Shwenandaw Kyaung, and Kuthodaw, etc.

Southeast Asia travel destinations

9. Singapore – Among the safest places to travel in Southeast Asia

The highly developed nation of Singapore is considered as one of the safest countries in Asia. Fantastic theme parks, elite sport events, and well-known restaurants can all be found here. You can enjoy a fun shopping time in the luxury Orchard Road or visit the colonial-era Raffles Hotel, where the timeless Long Bar birthed the iconic Singapore Sling. For wildlife enthusiasts, the eco-conscious Singapore Zoo and Gardens by the Bay provide an unparalleled rainforest experience. You can also explore local dishes like chicken rice, Singaporean rice noodles, etc. Meanwhile, those who love an immersive experience should definitely come to Universal Studios, a theme park offering a captivating blend of entertainment and adventure.

Southeast Asia travel destinations

As you embark on an unforgettable journey through these Southeast Asia travel destinations, you will have a chance to admire vibrant cultures and natural wonders. Whether exploring bustling cities or serene islands, Southeast Asia promises a tapestry of experiences, beckoning visitors to explore the heart and spirit of this fascinating region.

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