Top 11 Hidden Spots in Southeast Asia to Visit

Siquijor foggy beach in the Philippines, Asia
Sunset and palm trees on teh beach in Southeast Asia

When you think that you have already seen everything the world has to offer, think again.

If you have not visited Southeast Asia, your journey of traveling the world is far from complete.

Here are some of Southeast Asia’s hidden gems that even the most avid traveler might not yet discover.

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Cambodia has plenty to offer to tourists, yet many are unaware of the natural beauty the region has to offer.

One of the country’s hidden gems has got to be Mondulkiri, in the eastern part of Cambodia. It may be the largest province in Cambodia, but Mondulkiri is the most sparsely populated province. The place is home to lush forests, incredible waterfalls, and breathtaking hills.

Mondulkiri hills in Cambodia with people sitting

When visiting Mondulkiri, the best thing to do is to immerse yourself in nature and agriculture. One place you must visit is Sen Monorom, the capital of the province and the central hub for many of the area’s economic activities. Sen Monorom is quiet yet beautiful, and as the province’s only township, it houses many locally run businesses and farms.

Visiting Mondulkiri might not be the easiest because the area is not developed as a tourist spot despite having a lot of potential to being a wonderful eco-tourism destination. However, the quiet province is a true hidden gem, and it should be on the must-visit list of any nature-loving traveler.

Pahang, Malaysia

Pahang green fields and hills in Malaysia, hidden gem

Malaysia is home to 13 states and 3 federal territories, but one state that does not seem to get as much love from tourists as it does from locals is Pahang. The state is the third-largest in the country and houses some of the country’s best eco-tourism destinations. Many locals are fond of Pahang and what it has to offer, and it is not hard to see why.

Pahang is known for its breathtaking mountains, beautiful beaches, and extensive forests. If you are looking to visit Pahang, one of the best places to go is Taman Negara or the National Park.

It is one of the world’s oldest rainforests and it is where you can go to see some incredible flora and fauna. There are many other forest and animal reserves like the Endau-Rompin National Park and the Krau Wildlife Reserve that make great tourist destinations for those who would want to immerse themselves in nature.

Pahang also houses other premium tourist destinations, Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands. Both places also feature beautiful scenery but are especially known for more modern attractions, with Genting Highland being home to Resorts World Genting, a hill resort that comprises multiple hotels, casinos, air-conditioned shopping malls, and themes park. Pahang is a destination that caters to everyone, so there is no reason not to visit the Malaysian state.

Nusa Islands, Indonesia

Nusa island deserted beach with boats in Southeast Asia

When you think of paradise in Indonesia, the first place that comes into mind would be Bali, but there is another hidden paradise in the Southeast Asian country and it is the Nusa Islands which are Lembongan, Penida, and Ceningan. If you seek the incredible landscapes that Bali offers but want a quieter place, the Nusa Islands is where you should go.

All three Nusa Islands offer white sandy beaches and calm turquoise waters, perfect for those looking for a serene paradise to relax on. When you explore deeper into the islands, you will discover magnificent hidden lagoons and stunning natural pools.

The area that surrounds the islands is also home to a sizeable number of Indonesia’s manta ray population, so if you are ready to swim with these gentle creatures, you can get in contact with the local operators that will guide you through the process.

Many people dubbed the Nusa Islands, ‘Bali before the mass tourism’ but the Nusa Islands are in a league of their own. They may also offer inspiring Balinese culture and stunning beaches, but Nusa Islands deserves its own recognition. If you’re looking to find a peaceful oasis in this part of Southeast Asia, you should definitely give Nusa Islands the chance.

Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia

Koh Rong Sanloem shore and travel boat in Cambodia

Another quiet Cambodian destination that deserves some love from the tourist is Koh Rong Sanloem, the underdeveloped counterpart of the nearby Koh Rong. The island of Koh Rong Sanloem is located off the coast of Sihanoukville and it is a small paradise, measuring nine kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide.

If you are looking to relax in private, there is no better place than Koh Rong Sanloem. The island is home to a stunning beachfront and a wide array of accommodation options, from natural treehouses to luxury bungalows.

When you are ready to hang up your swimsuits and call it a day, there are plenty of bars and restaurants that you can visit and meet locals to connect and hang out with.

Unlike the previously mentioned Mondulkiri, Koh Rong Sanloem has been developed as a tourist destination. However, you should worry about bumping into too many tourists during your visit. If you are looking for a dreamy island destination to visit while in Southeast Asia, you should definitely add Koh Rong Sanloem to your list.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Person on a boat in Inle Lake, Myanmar place to visit

In Myanmar’s western Shan State, there is the picturesque Inle Lake, the home to the local Intha people and their community. Inle Lake is known for its floating villages and gardens, and the area has got to be one of the unique destinations on this list.

The Inle Lake is more of a local community than it is a tourist destination, but it offers tons of interesting activities, along with beautiful scenery. The locals Intha people are indigenous people whose main economic activities are fishing and traditional handicraft. 

While you are in the area, it is hard to miss seeing the distinctive leg-rowing style practiced by local fishermen as they make their rounds through the iconic lake. The locals there also work hard to keep traditions like lotus textile weaving alive, as it plays an important part in their economy.

While Inle Lake may be a tourist spot, but the real focus of the area is its authenticity and the local quiet lives. As a step to protect the area from any mass man-made damage due to development, UNESCO has designated the Inle Lake as a biosphere reserve. This way, both the locals and tourists can enjoy Inle Lake and what it has to offer, without compromising its natural beauty.

Bai Xep, Vietnam

Bai Xep beach in Vietnam, Southeast Asia top destinations

There is something magical about how healing a beach can be, and if you are looking for a quiet beach to visit while in Southeast Asia, you should consider visiting Bai Xep in Vietnam. The beach is truly a hidden gem, and it is the perfect place to go when you want to escape the busyness of the capital city.

Bai Xep is a tiny fishing village located south of Quy Nhon, the capital city of the Binh Dinh Province. The main selling point of Bai Xep is that it is secluded, which allows you to enjoy the authentic Vietnamese beach, without worrying about the crowds and the tourist. There are not many flashy attractions in Bai Xep but you can visit the many hiking trails and treks in the area.

Bai Xep is tiny, remote, and you can barely see anything cosmopolitan in sight, but that is the beauty of the area. When you visit Bai Xep, leave your worries in the city and just immerse yourself in the friendly and calming atmosphere.

Mae Hong Son, Thailand

Mae Hong Son wooden houses in Thailand, places to visit in Southeast Asia
Source: Songkris Khunkham (Shutterstock)

Thailand may be known for being a cheap city destination, but the other part of the country is a beautiful nature-lovers’ paradise. Mae Hong Son is a province that borders Myanmar, and it is the place to be when you want to be surrounded by misty mountain landscapes and lush nature parks.

The Mae Hong Son province offers a plethora of natural attractions including hundreds of hidden caves, hot springs, and several waterfalls. Trekking opportunities are of an abundance here, so make sure your backpacks are filled before you begin your journey. The province is also home to the Su Thong Pae Bamboo Bridge that is used by local monks during alms ceremonies.

Mae Hong Son sees a steady crowd of tourists throughout the year, but that does not mean it is no longer Thailand’s hidden gem. The province is still very much underappreciated, so if you are in the area, give some love and pay a visit to the Mae Hong Son province.

Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Kuching Sarawak shore in Malaysia, hidden spot to visit in Asia

Kuching might not be the most hidden gem out of this list since it is the capital city of Sarawak, but this city in Malaysia houses some incredible attractions that need to be more known to tourists. Downtown Kuching is where most people will go when they visit the Malaysian state, so if you want to shift away from the busy crowds, it is best to head into one of Kuching’s national parks.

The name Kuching translates to ‘cat’, so it is no surprise that the place is home to many fascinating creatures. Kuching’s national parks are a must-visit if you want to expand your knowledge on animals, like the rare proboscis monkeys or the orangutans.

Many of these animals are cared for by specialists in reserves and conservation centers, which allows tourists to safely visit them without compromising their safety.

Jaco Island, East Timor

Jaco Island in East Timor, great hidden gem to visit in Southeast Asia

You might have never heard of East Timor or Timor-Leste, but the Southeast Asian nation has got to be one of the best places to visit if you love the beach and the ocean. East Timur is home to tons of small islands, but the nation’s best-kept secret has got to be Jaco Island.

Jaco Island lies within the Nino Konis Antana National Park, which is why the almost deserted island is the best place to spot beautiful ancient coral reefs. The island is considered sacred by the locals, which is why they stand firmly against any development or construction. That decision has allowed Jaco Island to remain an untouched natural beauty.

You cannot stay on the island and most visits are limited to day trips, so your best option for accommodation would be in the nearby village of Tutuala. Nevertheless, Jaco Island is still a gorgeous destination and is truly heaven on earth, especially for those who love the beach and the sea.

Mataking Island, Borneo, Malaysia

Mataking Island on Borneo island in Indonesia, hidden gems to visit in Asia

Malaysia does not disappoint when it comes to diving and snorkeling destinations, and some of the best on the list are located in Borneo. If your ideal trip includes diving into the blue ocean and checking out the marine biodiversity, then you should visit the Mataking Island, in Southeastern Sabah.

Mataking Island is a premier diving and snorkeling destination in Borneo, and it is where you should go if you want to see sea turtles, sharks, and pelagic fishes up close. The region is also home to Malaysia’s first underwater post office that is housed within a sunken fishing vessel, and you can mail out letters to all parts of the world.

The island is owned by the Reef Dive Resort that offers premium chalets while helping to maintain the area’s marine life through the local dive center. Besides diving, snorkeling, and relaxing on the beach, you can also partake in other activities on the Mataking Island like jungle trekking and batik painting.

Siquijor, Philippines

Siquijor foggy beach in the Philippines, Asia

A majority of the Filipino people are Roman Catholics, but there are several communities in the Philippines that continue to practice ancient mysticism and witchcraft. If you are interested in learning more about these ancient traditions, the best place to go in the Philippines is Siquijor.

The island of Siquijor is a destination that is entrenched with traditional mysticism and rituals. There is a sense of magic in the air when you visit the island, and that is thanks to the enormous swarms of fireflies that live within the trees on the island. Many of the Siquijor’s natural attractions are veiled with enchanted traditions, and the local community still practices ancient healing rituals and incantations on a daily.

While the rituals and incantation are a part of the island’s tradition, Siquijor remains a laid-back tourist destination with beautiful beaches and stunning waterfalls. The island is nothing less than amazing and you will surely fall in love with the place, the moment you set foot on its soft sands.

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