Southeast Asia Travel

Southeast Asia Travel: 5 Hidden Gems to Put on Your List

Have you ever wanted to experience Southeast Asia travel, but didn’t know where to start?

The serene white-sand beaches and the quaint rainforest villages look so peaceful and beautiful on your computer screen. But if you’re looking up pictures online and making travel plans, chances are you’re not the only one.

Hidden Southeast Asia Travel Spots

Don’t make the mistake of assuming Southeast Asia is all serene beaches and quiet jungle villages.

With around 58 million visitors coming to Southeast Asia each year, it’s easy to end up in a crowded tourist trap if you don’t do your research beforehand.

Do you want to plan your trip around hidden gems? The ones you won’t find in a major Southeast Asia travel guide?

Take a look at five of our favorite out-of-the-way travel spots and beat the crowds!

Don't make the mistake of assuming Southeast Asia is all serene beaches and quiet jungle villages.Click To Tweet

5. Gili Islands, Lombok, Indonesia

southeast asia travel

Coconut palm trees, island breezes, and sandy white beaches overlooking the crystal-clear ocean. The picturesque Gili Islands offer something for every type of traveler.

Gili Trawangan, the busiest of the three islands, has a lively bar scene, dozens of five-star restaurants, and top-quality resorts and hotels.

Gili Air showcases the local culture best of the three. If you’re looking to experience everything you can, Air has a good blend of serene beaches and city accommodations.

If you’re just looking to get away from it all, Gili Meno is simple and secluded. Book a quiet oceanfront cottage and spend a week away from all the troubles of the world.

Though the Gili Islands have recently gained popularity, they maintain a serene island getaway atmosphere. No motorcycles or dogs are allowed on the islands and the hotel developments have remained tasteful and elegant.

4. Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia

Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia

The island of Nusa Lembongan is the most famous of a group of three islands that make up the Nusa Penida district located southeast of Bali.

Nusa Lembongan is another place that’s recently grown in popularity, sparking a booming economy, temple renovations, luxury hotels, and tourist boats.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a quiet beach to listen to the waves crash against the sand. Away from the city center, you can find serene oceanside cottages far enough to be away from the noise of the city, but close enough that you can travel into town.

If you’re feeling adventurous, there are three main breaks on the reef for experienced surfers and scuba diving around reefs and shipwrecks.

You can find cute little cafes and bar-grills on every street. As the economy continues to boom, new high-quality hotels show up all the time. Or, you can book a secluded cottage by the beach.

3. Pai, Thailand

Pai, Thailand

Pai, Thailand is a small town in a remote mountain valley in northern Thailand near the Myanmar border.

It’s located on the Pai River. It’s also on the bucket list of every mountain backpacker who gets a chance to travel to Thailand.

The town of Pai itself can get rather busy in the colder months, but for most of the year, it’s fairly easy to find quiet accommodation outside the main part of town.

It boasts a wonderful cultural scene with live music every evening and art galleries in town. For those interested in the history of Thailand, there are four ancient Buddhist temples located nearby and fascinating local architecture on every corner.

Whether you book an adventure rafting tour or a week at the spa resort, don’t miss the Tha Pai Hot Springs or the local waterfalls.

2. Tubbataha Reef, Philippines

Tubbataha Reef has been called one of the best places to dive in the Philippines. There are numerous dives sites with colorful corals, sea turtles, small sharks, exotic fish, manta

There are numerous dives sites with colorful corals, sea turtles, small sharks, exotic fish, manta rays, and shipwrecks. If you want to take in all the diving Tubbataha Reef has to offer, you’re going to have to book a week-long stay. It will be worth it.

If you want to capture the memories, Tubbataha is one of the best places you’ll find for marine life and reef photography.

The Puerto Princessa underground river and Honda Bay are both within driving distance. Tubbataha Reef is also nearby Ugong Rock, the local mountain, so if you need a break from reef diving, you can take a hike up the mountain and zip-line back down.

There are numerous luxury hotels nearby, as well as smaller beach cottages depending on what sort of atmosphere you prefer.

1. Chiang Rai, Thailand

Chiang Rai, Thailand

The province of Chiang Rai in mountainous northern Thailand has a wide array of attractions but its small capital city maintains a quiet and relaxed atmosphere.

The city was capital to the independent Lanna kingdom from 1296 to 1558. But the city retains many walls and moats from its cultural and religious history.

The city offers cheap, but quality accommodations and delicious local cuisine. The really amazing part of Chiang Rai though, is the city architecture. The Buddhist temples display ancient handmade statues and structures.

The Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park is home to Thailand’s largest collection of ancient Lanna artifacts, antique and contemporary art museums, and beautiful landscaping.

If you want to get a sense of the local culture, you can book an overnight, two-day, or three-day hill tribe walking experience. You can tour the Hmong Hill tribe’s farms and landscape.

Take YOUR Perfect Southeast Asia Travel Vacation

So what kind of experience are you looking for on your trip? Do you want to immerse yourself in the local culture or get away from the hustle and bustle of regular life on a secluded beach?

We’ve offered several different types of vacation spots in Southeast Asia. Whether you’re looking for a quiet beach, a bustling party scene, art and culture, a jungle village, or lush coral reefs, you can find the perfect hidden vacation spot for you.

So what are you waiting for?

Go stock up on traveling gear and book your flight. Southeast Asia has some of the most beautiful exotic travel destinations in the world. There is no better time than right now!

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  • Heather
    Posted at 19:08h, 24 October

    Not sure I would call these hidden gems because I feel a few are well known – but all are great locations to visit.

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 03:39h, 25 October

    Heather, You’re right. Maybe we should have titled it “the hidden and not so hidden gems” ? But all awesome none the less. Thanks!

  • Alessandra
    Posted at 22:17h, 27 October

    They are indeed hidden gems as you hardly hear people mentioning these spots. They look beautiful and definitely the kind of places I would like to visit when trying to get away from the main touristic ones 🙂

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 12:00h, 28 October

    They are awesome! We really enjoy finding the hidden gems of an area ?

  • Mar Pages
    Posted at 09:01h, 31 October

    Yes! truly hidden gems indeed! I’ve done most of them but definitely going back for more!

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 10:39h, 31 October

    Mar, that is so cool that you have done most of these! Yup, we could do them over and over again and still enjoy every minute of it. 🙂

  • Doreen Pendgracs
    Posted at 12:27h, 31 October

    Hi Vanessa. What a terrific list! I’ve not yet been to Southeast Asia, but I’ve definitely bookmarked your site for future reference.

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 13:40h, 31 October

    Thanks Doreen! Hopefully you will get the chance to visit Southeast Asia in the near future. You will love it.

  • Kevin Wagar
    Posted at 15:24h, 31 October

    We’ll be heading to the Philippines in a year. I’m desperately looking forward to visiting Tubbataha Reef while we’re there.

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 16:41h, 31 October

    Kevin, how exciting. You will definitely have a blast!

  • Indrani
    Posted at 17:02h, 31 October

    Great list. The locations on a map would have been of great help.
    If they can be done in one continuous tour it would be great.

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 19:43h, 31 October

    Indrani, that is a fantastic idea! We may need to update our post and include a map to make it more convenient. Thanks.

  • Vyjay
    Posted at 05:46h, 01 November

    There are so many hidden gems in SE Asia, especially in the Phillipines, Thailand and Indonesia. There are so many exotic and undiscovered islands and beaches which are pristine and waiting to be discovered.

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 07:44h, 01 November

    Vyjay, you are SO right! We continue to be pleasantly surprised throughout our travels. So much beauty to be discovered.

  • Chris
    Posted at 02:32h, 02 November

    Some beautiful spots on your list, however I’d have to disagree that the first two are hidden gems (very popular with backpackers, glampackers and the resort crowd).

    South-East Asia is one of my favourite parts of the world.

    So colourful and lively, then there’s the food!

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 08:46h, 02 November

    Chris, you’re right. Many have been growing in popularity. They are still gems in our book (just not as hidden anymore). 🙂 Southeast Asia is amazing!

  • Ami
    Posted at 16:02h, 03 November

    In this list. Chiang Mai is high on my list. I definitely want to visit that and experience it all. Other than that, I would love to go to Cambodia and Vietnam!

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 17:48h, 03 November

    Ami, hopefully you will get to visit Chiang Mai in the near future. Of course, if you can visit them all that would be even better! 🙂

  • neha
    Posted at 00:47h, 30 March

    Gili islands and Chiang Mai are high on my own bucket list. There are so many hidden gems in south east asia. Thanks for uncovering the best and brining it out to us readers. ..each one is so beautiful

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 00:55h, 30 March

    Hi Neha. Thanks so much for the encouragement. Its funny how many wonderful places in south east asia.

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