9 of The Best Places To Visit In Southeast Asia

Created by Elly McGuinness

Last Updated: April 1, 2021

We’re all facing a bit of wanderlust right now. Who wouldn’t want to go to some of the most beautiful places in Southeast Asia. They are absolutely stunning, with rich histories, vibrant cultures, and gorgeous landscapes. There is something for everyone no matter where you go, so let’s take a look at some of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia. You will want to book a plane ticket as soon as possible after reading about these amazing Southeast Asia travel destinations.

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1. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia’s capital city is beautiful. As one of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia, it’s a perfect juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers and colonial architecture that’s very popular with tourists. And with good reason. There is so much to do in and around Kuala Lumpur, (especially with kids), you’ll wonder why it isn’t already on your list of top places to visit in Southeast Asia.

The Petronas Twin Towers, built in 1998, were the tallest skyscrapers in the world until 2004. While not the tallest, there are still amazing views to be had from the towers. There’s even a double-decker sky bridge that connects them so you can cross between buildings with ease. And, on the way down, you can shop in Suria KLCC, an awesome and luxurious shopping mall at the base.

Best Places to Visit in Southeast Asia-Kuala Lumpur-Malaysia-View from Petronas twin towers

Another great aerial view is from the Menara KL, which is the fifth tallest building in the world. You can see for miles at the top, and take in the splendor of the city.

If you prefer things closer to the ground, check out the Petaling Street flea market, Chinatown for awesome shopping, Central Market for flea market shopping, and Jalan Alor for amazing local cuisine.

A little outside the city are the Batu Caves, which are more than 400 million years old. These make it one of the most popular Southeast Asia travel destinations.

[Find out more about things to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids].

2. Luang Prabang, Laos

This UNESCO world heritage site has a little bit for everyone – colonial architecture, Buddhist monasteries, scenic nature trails, and more. It is one of the best places in Southeast Asia because of those monasteries. One of the coolest things is each morning, you will see a procession of monks. They are collecting alms or their food for the day. You can participate if you’d like, but you’ll need to check in with the locals to make sure you’re following customs. You won’t want to accidentally offend anyone!

Best places to visit in Southeast Asia-Luang Prabang-The bamboo experience- Ayla, Elly, Colin at lunch

If you’d like to check out some of the local offerings, visit Ban Phanom. There, you’ll find traditional woven products of fine silk and cotton – they shimmer based on how they are made, which is an amazing souvenir or gift for yourself. If you are looking for the amazing things nature can offer you, visit the Kuang Si Falls, which are great swimming pools within the tropical jungles.

Things to do in Luang Prabang-Kuang Si falls

There are also the Pak Ou Caves, which have more than 4,000 Buddha icons that have been left over the years. This where to go in Southeast Asia when you visit Luang Prabang in Laos.

Things to do in Luang Prabang-Pak Ou Caves-Mekong River-Colin

[Find out more about things to do in Luang Prabang].

3. Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Siem Reap is the Angkor Archaeological Park, which is home to the Angkor Wat temple and Angkor Thom, the royal city. Just north of the city center, this is a 150-square-mile complex. It is the largest religious monument in by land area. Angkor Wat is a Hindu-Buddhist temple, and so many come to relish in its serenity, watching the sunrise in front of the reflecting pond.

Best places to visit in Southeast Asia-Siem Reap-Angkor Wat-Colin and Romy

It is a spiritual experience, and worth a trip to Angkor Wat temple no matter what religion you practice, if any. Angkor Thom is the ruins of the old royal city, the center of life. While many of the wooden structures have crumbled, the stone edifices remain, showing you a throwback of life back when. It is a one-of-a-kind experience, and one of the best Southeast Asia destinations.

Outside of Angkor Archaeological Park, there are other awesome things to do. Visit the Angkor Night Market, which has myriad shopping stalls, food options, bars and so much more. Try your hands at bargaining and see what you can grab. This super fun, and it is one of the best places to go in Southeast Asia.

One week in Siem Reap with kids-Ayla and Colin Tuk Tuk

[Find out more about things to do in Siem Reap].

4. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai has some of the most reverent temples and unique historical sites, highlighting Thailand’s rich historical background. You can check out these beautiful temples, historical buildings, and more that line the streets, surrounded by crumbling ancient walls and a moat.

In the Old City, check out Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, and Wat Phan Tao. These are some of the most popular temples but there are many more to choose from. You’ll feel like you’re going back in time.

Best places to visit in Southeast Asia-Chiang Mai -Royal Park Rajapruek Temple-cover image

As well, one of the most popular tourist attractions is Doi Suthep, a mountain that overlooks the city from the northwest. Take in the breathtaking views and experience the culture at this national park.

Things to do with kids in Chiang Mai -Doi Suthep

[Find out more about things to do with kids in Chiang Mai].

[Check out our review of Bossotel in Chiang Mai].

5. Islands of Thailand

Did you know that there are actually 1430 islands that make up Thailand? With that many options, how can you choose! Well, all of them are amazing, but let’s talk about two of the best ones: Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.

Koh Phi Phi is one of the best places to visit with single friends or if you’re traveling alone. It has so much to offer travelers. Activities include diving, snorkeling, cliff-jumping, relaxing boat trips, and so much more. In fact, for Leonardo DiCaprio fans, it’s where his film The Beach was shot! With relaxing activities like lounging on the beach or partying in one of the many clubs, there’s a lot going on to pique your interest.

Meanwhile, Koh Lanta has the best of all worlds! There are nature reserves for the seasoned backpackers and beaches that will be a slice of peace in a crazy world for those looking for a more relaxing pace. Relax with the locals in the fishing villages with the whole family. This island is the holiday destination for your Southeast Asia vacation.

Best places to visit in Southeast Asia-Koh Lanta-Ayla and Colin-National Park

[Find out more about Koh Lanta, nearby Krabi, and the best place to stay in Krabi, Thailand].

6. Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is home to another UNESCO world heritage site, and for good reason. The ancient town is a sight to behold. It’s a mix of beautifully ornate Chinese temples, an amazingly unique Japanese bridge, wooden houses, French-colonial architecture, and canals.

The fun part is that many of these old buildings are still operational! Filled with restaurants, cafes, shops, and tailors, you will be able to experience a piece of the past and bring it home with you.

Best places to visit in Southeast Asia-Hoi An-by night-lanterns

And, when you’re done shopping and eating, check out some of the street entertainment. You’ll see a mix of traditional and modern dancing, singing, and games, all for you to enjoy during your time at Hoi An.

There is also an amazing riverfront, which is more modern than the ancient town. It has many of the same attractions, including some of the best cafes, bistros, and restaurants. You can even hire boats to take you out on the water to see the city’s splendor from another view!

Things to do in Hoi An with kids-riverfront walking and dining-Ayla

One of the biggest tourist draws are the annual lantern festivals, which feature hundreds of lighted colored lanterns across the city.

[Find out more about things to do in Hoi An with kids. You might also be interested in these awesome things to do in nearby Da Nang, and these great day trips you can take from Hoi An or Da Nang].

7. Islands of the Philippines

The Philippines have 7,100 islands, each with a special flavor that makes it unique. One of the best ones to visit is Bohol. Unlike other islands that may have more of a city or laid-back vibe, Bohol is all about nature.

You’re going to experience all the jungle can offer you when you visit the island. It’s like stepping back in time, before civilization turned everything concrete and grey.

Best places to visit in Southeast Asia-Bohol-walk up Banat-i hill

Look for the Chocolate hills, which are hundreds of symmetrical hills. They are brown in the rainy season, but are a beautiful green afterwards. There is a conservatory, so you can see all the bug life preserved as it was intended to be.

Things to do in Bohol with kids-Elly, Romy, Colin, and Ayla at Chocolate hills

For the adventure seekers, take a walk over the suspended bamboo bridge. This delicate feeling bridge will take you over a river, gently swaying as you move. It’s an adrenaline-inducing experience but worth it!

Paddleboarding, river cruises, and hikes are all on offer. You will be deep in the jungle, enjoying all nature can offer you in no time.

Things to do in Bohol with kids-Loboc river town

Don’t forget to stop by the Tarsier conservation center. This cute little guy is endangered, but you can see him up close in his own little protected sanctuary!

Things to do in Bohol with kids - Philippine Tarsier Conservatory

[Find out more about things to do in Bohol. You might also be interested in these great tips for Cebu City and some of the lovely attractions just outside the city].

8. Bali

Bali is a popular Southeast Asia travel destination for a reason – it’s absolutely stunning. You’ll see a lot of temples on the water with incredible views. Check out Uluwatu Temple, which is perched on a cliff over the water.

Best places to visit in Southeast Asia-Bali-Uluwatu-Bukit Peninsula

On yourway down, stop by some of the best beaches in Bali, like Balangan, Padang-Padang, and Nyang-Nyang. When you’re done taking in the rays, you can surf the waves!

Things to do in Bali with kids-Jimbaran Bay sunset-Ayla in ocean

Another popular temple is the Pura Tanah Lot, which is a popular pilgrimage site. It is said to be one of the seven temples that form a ring, and when you visit during low tide, it looks like you can walk across the water visit the temple. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If you’re looking for that eat, pray, love experience then you will need to stop by Ubud. With nature, parks, temples, museums, gardens and so much more, you will take in a microcosm of all things Bali when you visit Ubud.

Go whitewater rafting after your yoga session. Check out the latest play before you pick up some awesome souvenirs. This town is rife with tourists, so you will never feel alone! 

[Find out more about fun things to do in Bali].

9. Sumatra

Sumatra is an island in Indonesia, and it has more natural wonders than others on this list. It’s one of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia because it’s less visited than some of the other islands.

Check out the volcanos, which brew and bubble making you feel like it’s going to blow at any minute. There are earthquakes and tsunamis that reset the island ever so often to an earlier state. The jungles and rainforests will help you see so many animals in their natural habitats – ones we only see in zoos or in videos like orangutans, tigers, rhinos, and elephants. Relax on the beaches and take in the sounds of the waves.

Best places to visit in Southeast Asia-Sipiso Piso Waterfall view-Colin and Ayla

When you’re done, check out Lake Toba, which is the largest crater lake of its kind. Depending on who you ask, it was the result of a volcanic eruption or it was the result of a magic fish’s wish. Whichever it was, it is a beautiful lake and the main attraction for anyone visiting Sumatra. Additionally, you can check out Padang, which has some of the best food in Indonesia, hands down.

Lake Toba-North Sumatra

Close off your visit with a trip to Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra. It is one of the oldest inhabited parts of Indonesia because of its location. Now, its positioning on the river lets you eat on boats that have been converted to tiny restaurants. This charm is something to check out!

[Find out more in our post about our 10 day Sumatra Road Trip].

Start Your Planning Today to Check out the Best Places to Visit in Southeast Asia!

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it gives the start of what are the best places to travel in Southeast Asia. There is more than meets the eye when you’re planning to visit.

You can check out bustling modern cities, with some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers or you can relax on the beach with a cocktail in hand. Feel at peace with yourself when you’re looking at some of the most breathtaking temples and get back to nature when you explore the rainforests and see the amazing wildlife in real life.

No matter what you want to do, there is something for everyone! So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today – or at the very least, check out pictures and wish you were there enjoying yourself. Your dreams will be a reality in no time!


Considering your next trip?

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We hope you enjoyed reading about our opinions on the best places to visit in Southeast Asia. Feel free to join the conversation, and leave a comment at the bottom of the post. We’d love to hear from you!

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Elly McGuinness

Elly has been inspiring people to make sustainable changes to their health, fitness and lifestyle for 20+ years. She takes a holistic approach to wellbeing, is the creator of the Holistic Health Highway and is the author of the Amazon 5-star reviewed book ‘Burning Fat for Good’ which you can get here.

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