8 hidden destinations in Southeast Asia for your 2022 bucket list
From ancient temple sites to secret and secluded beaches, here are the most interesting hidden travel destinations in Southeast Asia that you should check out.
Now that most countries in the region are gradually easing their COVID-19 restrictions, there has never been a better time to explore hidden places in Southeast Asia, especially in 2022. Why hidden spots? It’s because many of us would like to get away from the cacophonies of city life in search of the least explored and relax in the tranquility of the place, alone or with that special someone.
While there are off-the-beaten-path getaways all over the world, Southeast Asia has a little world of its own that stands out from the rest.
Ready for an adventure you won’t forget?
Here are 8 hidden destinations in Southeast Asia to add to your bucket list:
Picturesque localities, serene islands, intricate architecture and tourist cafes – Cambodia he has everything. While places like Angkor Wat and Siem Reap are on most travelers’ wish lists, it’s no surprise to see tourists flocking to the other popular destinations here.
However, it’s always worth heading to the hidden spots the country has to offer. Banteay Chhmar and the island of Koh Rong are two such places that are not affected by heavy tourism and can prove to be wonders for travelers who like to “lose themselves” in the middle of nature or ancient ruins. The best time to visit Cambodia is from November to February as summers are very hot here. However, it starts to rain from June, which makes it pleasant thereafter.
An ancient temple site built in the Angkorian period (802-1432), it is located in the commune of Banteay Chhmar, in the district of Thma Puok, Province of Banteay Meanchey, about 65 km north of the city of Sisophon. It is about 110 kilometers from the Angkor World Heritage Site in Siem Reap.
The architecture is intriguing and tells a hundred stories. the official site of UNESCO reads: “Banteay Chhmar was one of the largest architectural undertakings that Jayavarman VII built in a politically sensitive region during the last years of his reign. The architecture shows signs of haste in its construction, as were his other temples, and it appears to have been left unfinished.There are clear indications that new architectural forms were still being developed at the site during construction.
He adds: “The iconography expresses both Buddhist and Hindu beliefs, as well as the supremacy of the king, themes also represented in his other temples. However, the depictions of individual deities and their juxtapositions are, in many cases, unique to Banteay Chhmar.
For lovers of history and architecture, this ancient hidden destination in Southeast Asia is a must visit. One can easily take a bus or a taxi from Sisophon to reach this place, however, there are other manners also.
Koh Rong Islands
While to visit this part of Cambodia, the trick is to head toward one that is often missed, while trying to reach the other. Confused? The fact is that there are two Koh Rong islands. One is called Koh Rong Sanloem (Samloem) and is accessible from Sihanoukville and the other falls on the way but is left unnoticed by people. Thus, it is free from heavy tourism.
You can enjoy gold west coast sandsbut the east coast is all white beaches along turquoise waters. With verdant forests as a backdrop and wild animals roaming in their natural habitat, this is one of the best hidden destinations in Southeast Asia to be with that special someone or yourself.
As this part of the country is rapidly developing with beach resorts and over-water villas, you need to head to these destinations and soak up the pristine blues and dense greens before more tourists start pouring in. Pack your hammock and other essentials and search for these secret spots, while heading to the most popular ones, on a boat.
There is so much more to Indonesia than just bali. If you want to immerse yourself in the country’s history, art, and culture, then Old Jakarta is your go-to place in Indonesia, home to many churches, townhouses, and museums. However, if you are looking for peace and quiet and are a beach lover, you should head to Nusa or Kuta Lombok. Although these parts of SEA can be visited year-round, the months of May through September are relatively dry and easy to explore.
Lembongan, Penida and Ceningan are the three islands that together form the Nusa Islands. Penida is one of four islands in Indonesia that are home to the gentle creatures called manta ray. If you are a diving enthusiast, you can swim with these harmless beings by connecting with local operators who organize these dives. Often referred to as “hidden paradises”, these islands are sure to surprise you with serene hidden lagoons and natural pools as you explore deeper.
People often say that Nusa looks like Bali, like it did over 30 years ago. One can reach Nusa by ferry from Sanur, Bali and it hardly takes about 30 minutes. Nusa is the best place for a laid back vacation as it has wonderful luxury villas and resorts for you to relax. Some of the must-sees here include Mahana Point (cliff jumping) and the Blue Lagoon.
This place should not be confused with Kuta, Bali as it is a totally different version of Balinese culture. There are different ways to reach this place, but the easiest is a ferry or a bus from Ubud (Bali). Plus, Lombok International Airport is about 20 minutes from this little gem.
Kuta town and the beach is not technically out of step, as many travel enthusiasts know of its existence. However, hiring a bike and heading off to the secret routes that take you to interesting and less explored places is something visitors can do.
Other than that, this surf/fishing village is sure to keep you busy and busy for a week or more.
Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and a paradise for foodies. This also makes it one of the best places to vacation, with December to April being the best time to visit. The rest of the year sees a hot and humid climate with light drizzles.
While Penang is one of the most popular street food destinations in the world, less explored Ipoh has street vendors serving must-try chicken and seafood dishes.
As popular as Malaysia is for food or otherwise, very few know of gems like Kapas and Pahang Islands.
If you want to meet one of the most interesting characters you have met or will meet in your life and stay in one of the coolest places, the Captain’s Longhouse in Kapas is your place to stay. The “Captain” will welcome you, house you like a member of the family and send you back with good memories. People rarely visit this place. If you want to relax for a few quiet days, head straight to Kapas.
You can reach Kapas Islands by boat from Marang Jetty. And, if you are a marine life enthusiast, this is the best place for you. You can try scuba diving, snorkeling or jungle trekking here. Apart from indulging in adventurous activities, you can relax as you wish in this serene island.
Have you ever imagined a place that also offers views of majestic mountains, lush green forests and pristine beaches? If so, then one of the most beautiful hidden destinations in Southeast Asia, Pahang, you will definitely be spoiled for choice. Although it is the third largest state in the country and home to many ecotourism destinations, it is less visited by tourists.
One of the must-see places here is the Taman Negara National Park. It is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and is home to interesting flora and fauna, including parasitic plants such as orchids and monster flowers.
For lovers of lush greenery, there are many reserves and forests such as the Endau-Rompin National Park and the Krau wildlife reserve. Although it is home to popular places like Genting Highlands and Cameron Highlands, the forests and reserves are mostly untouched and suitable for lovers of unusual places. Pahang is accessible by bus, taxi or car from Kuala Lumpur.
Many know Thailand as one of the most visited tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. Not just the popular floating market, beaches, street shopping, street food, and nightlife, the country has so much more to offer. If you want to discover Thailand beyond Pattaya and phuketthen you must explore the hidden gems here.
Like Nan, which was an ancient kingdom and is located in the valleys along the Thailand-Laos border, Mae Hong Son and Koh Kood (Kut) are places still untouched by heavy tourism.
While history buffs can visit Nan, which was integrated into the country in the 1930s because it was difficult to access (it remained independent for a time), wildlife enthusiasts can head to the other two.
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and April. The mercury is between 29 and 34 degrees Celsius during this time. However, it can be visited all year round as temperatures vary in different parts of the country.
Mae Hong Son
Backpacker alert! Mae Hong Son is truly a hiker’s paradise. With mist-covered mountains, nature trails, hidden caves, hot springs and waterfalls to greet you from time to time, this is a place where you can immerse yourself in nature and immerse yourself in the gushing beauties, literally. Don’t forget to see the Su Tong Pae bamboo bridge, which is an important part of traditional ceremonies like the one in which monks (very few are there now) use this bridge to receive offerings.
This place can be reached either by bus from Bangkok but it takes around 15 hours or by plane from Chiang Mai as this place also has a small airport with connecting flights from Chiang Mai.
There is only one road along the island, which is all about pearly white sand and calming waters. You can spot a few shops and restaurants and a breathtaking waterfall near this place.
You can spend peaceful moments in vacant monasteries and green forests all by yourself. Koh Kood is a must visit for those who take “the road less traveled” very seriously.
This article first appeared on Prestige Online Malaysia.
(Hero and featured image credit: Nora Carol Photography/Getty Images)