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Southeast Asia has long been a travel spot for many thanks to its idyllic beaches with pure white sand, turquoise oceans, authentic food and a culture full of history and diversity. While all areas of the region are arguably a must-see, we’ve ranked the best countries to visit according to beauty, magic, and less crowds.

 

10. Brunei

BRUNEI - TROPICAL ISLAND.DE
photo: tropicalisland.de

Brunei is one of the low-key destinations to visit in Asia, but arguably underrated. It has been voted as a country with one of the world’s highest standards of living thanks to its plentiful oil and gas reserves.

The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, has various points of interest including the stunning Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, the Istana Nurul Iman palace and the historical Brunei museum.

Just half an hour away from Bandar Seri Begawan lies the Tutong district, known for its natural beauty in the form of scenic beaches, its serpentine lake surrounded by swamps and the diversity of its people in the Rumah Budaya cultural village which showcases five ethnic Bornean groups that make up the district.

 

9. Malaysia

MALAYSIA - OUR GLOBEL TREK
photo:ourglobaltrek.com

Malaysia is rich in cultural heritage with a mix of Malays, Chinese and Indigenous groups. Known for its tropical rainforests, national parks that are perfect for long hikes and a fantastic wildlife- watching scene, Malaysia is a vibrant country worth a wander.

The most popular national park, Taman Negara is perfect for long-haul treks, wildlife spotting and treetop walks. In this jungle you’ll find ancient trees, beautiful orchids and even the rafflesia, the world’s largest flower.

For those who enjoy city vibes, the capital, Kuala Lumpur is the place to be with its host of shopping malls, street markets and bright lights.

If you’re on the other side of the spectrum and thrive in nature, a visit to the Cameron Highlands in Pahang is a must-do. Not as hot as the lowlands of Malaysia, some have even compared the charm of the resort to that of typical English villages.

 

8. Myanmar

MYANMAR - ACAMM2015.COM
photo:acamm2015.com

Myanmar, also known as Golden Land (or Burma), is often not included in the Southeast Asia travel to-do lists. It’s unfortunate, because it is home to gorgeous landscapes, ancient towns and sacred sites.

Top things to do in Myanmar include hot air balloon riding in Bagan, the Buddhist Sulamani Temple, the incredible golden Botatuang Pagoda and the serene Kandawygi Lake in Yangon.

It’s still relatively new to tourism, thus the majority of locals are open to meeting new people solely to have conversation, provide insight into their culture and give you a smile.

 

7. Singapore

SINGAPORE - INTERNATIONALIMAN.com
photo: internationaliman.com

Technically a city-state off Southern Malaysia, Singapore differs from the rest of Southeast Asia in terms of how developed the country is. Seen as a modern and cosmopolitan city, it’s become a global hub.

Visiting Singapore, you’d need to be prepared to spend more as it’s not as cheap as the rest of South East Asia. If you’re willing to indulge, the city is great for shopping and leisure, with points of interest including Universal Studios, the Sky Deck and the Infinity Pool at Marina Bay Sand. Although urban, you can still expect to see luscious greenery in Singapore that’s present in the rest of the continent.

 

6. Thailand

THAILAND - TOUR-ASIA.NET
photo: thailand-tour-asia.net

Thailand is no hidden treasure, and has been an attractive tourist spot for holidayers and backpackers for years. With good reason, too – the country boasts some of the world’s breathtaking beaches and is famous for it’s wild Full Moon Party in Koh Pha Ngan.

Thailand’s picturesque beaches of the island of Kho Phi Phi were even featured in the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach. This South East Asian country is no stranger to beautiful architecture, from the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha in Bangkok to the Pavilion of the Enlightened in Mueang Boran. Nicknamed of the Land of Smiles and Enchantment, Thailand is an unmissable addition to your travel list.

 

5. Cambodia

Cambodian life

photo: samanthabrown.zippykidcdn.com

Rich in history, delicious street food and proud owner of the greenest of jungles, Cambodia is another essential to visit when doing a South East Asia tour. Although the country is visited by millions of tourists each year, many parts remain untouched and unexplored by tourists. Despite being the obvious choice, the Angkor tourist site in Siem Reap is a site not to miss, the epitome of Khmer architecture with over a thousand temples including the popular Angkor Wat.

Another fascinating element Cambodia is the Irrawaddy Dolphin, rare mammals that live in a stretch of the Mekong in the North East. For art enthusiasts, Phnom Penh’s National Museum displays some of the most captivating art, including ancient statues and murals.

 

4. Laos

LAOS - sibw.com
photo: sibw.com

Laos is a country that lies between Thailand and Indonesia, and well worth a visit if you’re doing a South East Asia tour. Often overlooked by its neighbour Thailand, Laos has more to offer than you’d expect. The Mekong river is the seventh longest in South East Asia, surrounded by stunning forestry and mountains. Way off the tourist trail, you’ll find the Vieng Xai caves, which were originally intended to be bomb-shelter caves during the Vietnam War. In Laos, you’ll also find Luang Prabang, a remote city 700m above sea level and often thought to be more laid-back compared to other places in South East Asia.

Other interesting parts of Laos include Si Phan Don, a cluster of islands near the Cambodian border in the Pakse province and the Khone Phapheng Falls, the largest cascading waterfalls in South East Asia, in the Champasak region of Southern Laos.

 

3. Indonesia

INDONESIA - CNN

photo: cnn.com

Indonesia is a gorgeous country spread across thousands of islands, sitting on both sides of the equator. If you’ve heard all the talk about the beauty of Bali and would like to visit some of its islands, Kuta is your best bet. For those looking for something different and less packed, you will find it in Lombok, with it’s white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters, as well as plenty of hiking trails.

Indonesia also boasts the largest Buddhist temple in the world, the Borobudur in Central Java, and the largest mosque in South East Asia, Masjid Istiqlal in Jakarta.

Thought dragons were merely a fantasy? Think again – the Komodo Island is famous for its volcanoes and the Komodo Dragons of Rinca Island, the largest living lizards.

 

2. Vietnam

VIETNAM - 500px.com
photo: 500px.com

Vietnam is experiencing a revival since the horror of the Vietnam War forty years ago, with enlightened spirits, upgraded roads, new hotels and riddance of the Communist system.

The country has so much to offer in the form of its culture and beauty, from its temples and pagodas that represents the diversity of religions in the country, to the boat trips that explore the Red River Delta and the famous Ha Long Bay.

The breathtaking mountains of Sa Pa are perfect for a trek, overlooking the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley, while Hoi An is the destination for history buffs, with its colonial architecture and iconic Vietnamese tube houses.

 

1. The Philippines

EAGLENEWS.PH - PALAWAN
photo: eaglenews.ph

The Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands and is best known for its capital, Manila, which, thanks to its high-paced lifestyle and urban architecture, is actually quite different to the rest of the country.

Highlights of the Philippines are Palawan, a dreamy island province with amazing exotic beaches and wildlife (rightly voted The Most Beautiful Island in The World by Condé Nast Traveler), a similar island named El Nido, and The Chocolate Hills (a geographical formation in the Bohol province).

 


 

 

What are your recommendations on which countries to visit in Southeast Asia?  What are your favorites? Leave a comment for us below.

 


 

 

For more inspirational photos + travel tips, follow @projectinspo on facebook and instagram.

 


 

10 Secrets To Traveling Smarter, Cheaper, & Longer

  • Great list. I have been to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. I am hoping to pass by Brunei on the way to Australia next month.

    http://www.itsallbee.com

  • Well that’s all the countries in ASEAN, but don’t forget Timor Leste and PNG!

  • Great list. I’ve been to 2 of the 10 and plan to make it to Laos and Myanmar before the year ends, so I’m happy to see them on the list! I’ve never heard of Brunei before– I’ll definitely be googling it!

    Melody //MAREVOLI

  • beautiful photos, i hope to explore south east asia soon, there are so many amazing places to explore =o)

    http://dreamofadventures.blogspot.com/

  • I’m visiting South East Asia (Thailand) next month for the first time despite the fact my Dad is from Malaysia. I so excited to see this stunning part of the world.
    Leonie ♥ Lo On The Go

  • Have only ever been to Malaysia but would love to visit Singapore and Thailand. Thanks for sharing x

    http://www.wonkylauren.com

  • As a patriotic Malaysian (with a healthy rivalry with Singapore naturally) I have to ask “Why is Malaysia ranked BENEATH Singapore?!” *le gasp* Nowhere in Singapore can you “accidentally” cuddle wild endangered animals who happen to wander onto the hotel grounds nor is their street food anywhere on the same level as Kuala Lumpur or Penang. Don’t mind me, I’m a KL-ite and PROUD of it!

    I do love Bangkok for shopping and Vietnam (Hanoi is absolutely BONKERS!). I can’t wait to see the rest of Southeast Asia – the region is to me what Europe is to Brits as a diverse yet accessible wealth of travel destinations! x

    Jasiminne: Posh, Broke, & Bored

  • I want to go to Asia so bad. But to be fair, I want to go everywhere really bad!!

    http://www.inmydreams.ca/

  • I’ve been to a fair few of the countries on your list but I’m planning to be in The Philippines this May. I’m super excited! El Nido does look truly beautiful!

  • I’m glad that the Philippines ranked #1. It does have many beautiful spots with less crowd. Some have skipped the Philippines whenever they travel to Southeast Asia. I hope more people will discover the many wonderful attractions of this country. The only country I’ve never been to in this list is Brunei and Myanmar, which I hope to visit soon.

  • John Green

    Strange, I always thought Laos was North of Thailand Bordered by Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, with relatively small borders with Cambodia & China? Isn’t Indonesia an Island Nation south of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore & Philippines? Maybe Google maps as well as I am incorrect? Do any writers ever do fact checking and proofreading any more?

    Perhaps Myanmar is not a busy tourist location due to the recent political turmoil making it a somewhat dangerous place to visit? (US State Department Alerts for bombings and attacks by radical factions) The Philippine people are quite loving (especially of the American dollar) but aren’t the Southern Philippines also considered quite dangerous for travelers due to kidnappings for ransoms? (another US State department Safety alert issued for Southern Philippines particularly Mindanao). Malaysia also has state department warnings it is considered an ISIL stronghold (“U.S. citizens should consider the risks associated with travel to coastal eastern Sabah (Eastern Malaysia) because of the threat of kidnappings-for-ransom and violence from both terrorist and criminal groups. U.S. government employees are prohibited from travelling to most of this area without prior permission from the Embassy security office and Ambassador.” Quote from US State Department Website)

  • Love your photos and travels!

  • Hello, dear, I am really glad I have found your awesome blog. I just want to add something about the Philippines with you. The Philippines is a small island have many fishing villages, Malapascua Island is popular for its ideal diving spots, Tubbataha Reef, one of the most famous dive sites, San Agustin Church, has survived seven earthquakes and two fires and much more.

  • This is a tough one… we’d probably go for Thailand purely from the breadth of experiences you can have there. Having said that, Myanmar would have to be right up there! Great post!

  • Cody

    Well nature wise Indonesia is number 1 imo, the country has 17000 island spreading wide from West to east southeast asia.
    You can find lot limestone cliff like in the krabi, halong bay or palawan in east part of Indonesia like Balbulol, raja ampat etc.
    Volcano, snowy mountain, rainforest, biodiversity, very good diving spot, etc Indonesia has it all.

    about food or man made structure i’m not sure, after all travel is not only about nature

  • Jessica Jessica

    Cambodia should be in #1 ranked
    Beautiful country and people and delicious food nicely communication and friendliest in Southeast Asia

  • I would argue that Thailand should be #1 as there are tens of thousands of foreigners who regularly buy and sell real estate. The drawbacks of “more 3rd world” countries like Vietnam or Philippines don’t exist in Thailand which is usually safe and easy when it comes to acquiring property.

  • andy

    nonsense, Philippines should be number 5 max. bad food, lack of culture, overly westernized, attraction is beautiful but it’s just same over and over, water and water again. take Indonesia for example you can go to temple, mountain, beach, snorkeling, good food, rich culture etc.
    i’ll put thailand, indonesia vietnam/malaysia in top 3.

  • Jessica Jessica

    Cambodia should be in #1 everything is great.
    Nice people nice food interesting history and culture beautiful country and friendliest best smile communicate, participate, helpful love you Cambodia however this country is poor but for me is great