22 Amazing Southeast Asian Destinations You Should Visit This Year

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As we forge ahead into a new year and the world reopens to travel, there’s never a better time to plan your next getaway.

To help you get travel-inspired and pick out the perfect vacation spot, we’ve curated this list of 22 must-see destinations in Southeast Asia.

Whether you’re planning to go solo or spend time with friends and family, the region has something for everyone, so you won’t have to go far to enjoy a break.


Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Rising 2,330 meters from the center of an expansive plain, Mount Bromo’s barren landscape makes it look like it’s from another planet, and it consistently ranks as one of Indonesia’s most beautiful nature spots.

It’s possible to hike and spend a night camping here, marveling at the starry sky, or you can book your accommodation at Cemoro Lawang village just a stone’s throw away.

You might have to brave the crowds to find your sunrise spot, but you’ll be rewarded with a surreal scene of Mount Bromo emerging from a sea of clouds, smoke slowly rising from its active volcanic crater.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a small town fronting the Mekong River that blends French colonial architecture and ancient Buddhist temples.

More than just a heritage destination, Luang Prabang also offers easy access to nearby nature spots, such as the three-tiered Kuang Si or Tad Sae with its beautiful limestone formations.

If you don’t want to venture out of town, you can put your climbing skills to the test with the 100 meter-high Mount Phousi, from where you can enjoy panoramic views of Luang Prabang’s surroundings.

Banaue, the Philippines

Located at the foot of the Cordillera mountain range, the Banaue Rice Terraces that adorn the terrain boast postcard-perfect beauty.

It’s no wonder that the terraces were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

It’s mind-blowing to think that this vast network of rice terraces, sustained by an elaborate irrigation system, was created more than 2,000 years ago by the Ifugao people using only the most straightforward tools.

Kaeng Krachan, Thailand

The Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex is Thailand’s latest UNESCO World Heritage list.

Rich in biodiversity, the lush forest complex teems with wildlife, including endangered species such as the Siamese crocodile, dhole, and Asian elephant.

Out of the four official parks within the complex, three are open to the public.

Day-trippers can hike to several waterfalls or explore the many limestone caves within the parks. There’s also the option of pitching your tent at one of the camping spots to soak in the great outdoors.


Bangkok, Thailand

The Thai capital needs no introduction. This bustling city is always exciting with its fascinating blend of old and new.

From ancient temples to rooftop bars, Bangkok has something to offer everyone. Visitors can explore hidden treasures seemingly on every corner, including trendy neighborhoods like Charoenkrung.

Parallel to the Chao Phraya river, Charoenkrung is a hipster haunt where chic bars and cozy cafes abound amid old shophouses and Neoclassical European architecture. This is also where you can get your art fixed at the many excellent galleries that dot the neighborhood.

Kampong Glam, Singapore

After signing the 1819 treaty with Stamford Raffles that led to the founding of modern Singapore, Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor was allocated a plot of land in Kampong Glam, an area Raffles had set aside for the Malays, Arabs, and Bugis in his 1822 town plan.

Fast forward to today, Kampong Glam and its mural-covered streets have been transformed into a buzzing neighborhood with ample shopping opportunities, round-the-clock food, and fashionable watering holes.

Here, one can find excellent cafes, modern bars, and cultural spots like Sultan Mosque and the Malay Heritage Centre, housed in Istana Kampong Glam, once the royal seat of the Malay sultans in Singapore.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tucked within Phnom Penh’s must-visit Royal Palace, temples, and museums in the bustling Phsar Toul Tom Poung, known among locals as the Russian Market due to its popularity with Russian ex-pats up until the 1980s.

But the historic Market, which first welcomed visitors in 1937, is not the only draw here, as the neighborhood has experienced gentrification over the past decade.

Now a lively area to visit after dark, the quaint, narrow lanes are dotted with trendy cafes and rooftop bars that cater to the city’s burgeoning ex-pat community.

Bandung, Indonesia

Bandung is proud of its architectural legacy from the Dutch colonial era, especially since the city is home to the best tropical Art Deco design examples from the 1920s and 1930s.

But as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Bandung’s artists are the real gem.

Several art galleries up in the hills like Selasar Sunaryo and Lawangwangi Creative Space allow visitors to appreciate the creative flair of local artists while sipping a cuppa and enjoying the view.


Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan is not known as the “Land of Ten Thousand Temples” for nothing. Its 104-square kilometer area is home to around 2,200 Buddhist temples, regarded by Venetian explorer Marco Polo as “one of the finest sights in the world.”

There’s an endless list of temples to choose from, the most famous being Ananda, Shwesandaw, Thatbyinnyu Sulamani, and Dhammayangyi, an imposing 55-meter pyramidal structure.

Taking a cruise down the Irrawaddy River is also a good idea if you want a different view of the array of temples that stretch into the horizon, with side excursions to villages, markets, and other historic sites.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Out of all the independent countries globally, Cambodia is the only one that features a building on its flag.

This is Angkor Wat; a massive temple built initially in the first half of the 12th century. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, with its five towers that rise 65 meters into the air.

Although it’s just one of the hundreds of temples and structures within the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat is the most outstanding due to the incredible feats of engineering undertaken to complete the massive project.

Borobudur, Indonesia

Borobudur, built in the 8th and 9th centuries, is the largest Buddhist monument in the world.

Visitors to this extensive temple complex will appreciate an overwhelming number of bas-reliefs depicting the life of the Buddha. Seen from above, the monument is laid out in the form of a mandala.

Although it’s a popular tourist attraction, it’s still a pilgrimage site for Buddhists, for whom climbing up the temple’s various levels symbolizes the attainment of nirvana.

Vigan, the Philippines

With its cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages, Vigan is like taking a step into a different era.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a prime example of a well-preserved Spanish colonial town. Lined with ancestral homes from the era, Vigan is proof that the Philippines is not just about the beaches and the volcanoes.

If you still want to check out the seaside, Mindoro Beach is only 15 minutes from Vigan and an excellent place to watch the sunset.


Koh Tao, Thailand

Smaller than Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, Koh Tao is more suited to backpackers than Prada-toting vacationers.

With its turquoise waters and lush jungles, there’s much to love about this tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand.

With over 20 dive sites nearby, it’s no wonder Koh Tao certifies more divers than anywhere else in the world. Visitors can also head to the island’s more laid-back south to explore fishing villages and restaurants on stilts over the water.

Lombok, Indonesia

Located next to Bali, Lombok often plays second fiddle to its far more famous neighbor.

Even when visitors from Bali venture over, it’s limited to the three famous Gili islands of Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air, located northwest of mainland Lombok.

It’s a shame as Lombok is blessed with uncrowded beaches, world-class surf breaks, refreshing waterfalls, and the majestic Mount Rinjani.

Palawan, the Philippines

Palawan regularly features on lists of the world’s most beautiful islands and was named the best island in the world in a 2020 survey by Travel + Leisure.

Anyone who’s been to this paradise of pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and colorful reefs will gladly confirm this sentiment.

But more than just a vacation spot, Palawan is also home to impressive biodiversity both on land and sea, with dolphins in the waters, sea turtles nesting on its beaches, and hundreds of species of butterflies.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Phu Quoc is an island that has it all, from idyllic beaches to lush forests. It’s no wonder that it’s Vietnam’s top island destination.

It’s also a convenient destination that caters to everyone from couples to families looking for a relaxing beach holiday without too much hassle.

Children will be pleased with attractions such as the water park, while couples can enjoy snorkeling trips and romantic sunsets. There are also pearl farms and fish sauce producers that are especially popular with locals.


Ubud, Indonesia

Perched in the highlands of Bali, Ubud has always attracted yogis and well-being practitioners even before Eat, Pray, Love became a global sensation.

A popular destination for those who want to get away from the island’s more touristy southern coastal areas, this laid-back town is a place to enjoy verdant rice terraces and forests.

Ubud is also Bali’s art and culture capital. It is home to the Ubud Royal Palace, temples like Pura Saraswati, and other attractions like the stone-carved cave of Goa Gajah and Tirta Empul water temple. A mere 10 kilometers away is Batuan, famed for its iconic artwork and handicraft.

Hue, Vietnam

Hue is a UNESCO World Heritage Site best known for royal mausoleums, ancient pagodas, and the Imperial City, which occupies the north side of the Perfume River.

But unbeknownst to many, the last imperial capital of Vietnam holds other precious gems outside of the Imperial City.

There’s also a collection of temples, tombs, French buildings, and garden houses connected to the old royal court, some of which have been left untouched by mass tourism and are waiting to be explored.

Mukah, Malaysia

If you’re looking to explore Sarawak’s best-hidden gems, look no further than Mukah, the cultural heartland of the Melanau people.

The best time to visit is during the Pesta Kaul; a festival held to appease the spirits of the sea, which can be observed at the water village of Kampung Telian near the Mukah River estuary.

Other attractions include the Chinese Tua Pek Kong Temple, St Bernard’s Church, and Setia Raja Mosque, dome-shaped like a terendak, a Melanau traditional hat.


Chiang Mai, Thailand

Mention Thai food, and most people will think of dishes like tom yum, pad Thai, and green curry, which are popular in central Thailand.

But Chiang Mai is famous for its northern Thai cuisine, which bears influences from neighboring countries like Laos, Myanmar, China, and local ethnic minorities.

Locals prefer some bitterness in their food, which usually comes from raw bile. Due to its location in the highlands, meat and not seafood is the star in Chiang Mai. There’s much to try here, from khao soi (curry noodle soup) to sai ua (spiced sausage).


Due to its strategic location at the heart of Southeast Asia, Singapore is a melting pot of diverse cultures.

This has resulted in an abundance of delicious food melded together from various influences, including Chinese, Malay, Indian and European.

And while the affluent city-state has no shortage of Michelin-starred fine dining spots, its hawker centers – recognized as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO – are where local cuisine comes to the fore.


Like other regions of Vietnam, the north is known for its particular cuisine, characterized by strong French and Chinese influences that result in hearty yet straightforward flavors.

The best place to savor all that the north has to offer is the capital of Hanoi, known among locals as a food mecca.

Foodies can follow the footsteps of the late chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, who savored the city’s bun cha (grilled pork with rice vermicelli), Banh Cuon (steamed rice rolls), and bun oc (snail noodle soup), washing it all down with bia hoi or local draught beer.



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