Southeast Asia has become a top destination for many travelers. There are so many countries to explore with each one offering up a unique experience. It’s also significantly cheaper than Europe, which means you can travel for a lot longer and fit more into your itinerary.
The increasing popularity of Southeast Asia travel means you’re dealing with larger and larger crowds. If you want to explore this region without dealing with pushy crowds that cause lines and price surges, consider going off-the-beaten-path instead. To help you see all that Southeast Asia has to offer, here are five of the best off the beaten path destinations you should check out.
1. Kratie, Cambodia
Cambodia is an incredible country to explore and has recently become a Southeast Asia hot destination. When visiting Cambodia, people typically go to Krong Siem Reap for the Angkor ruins, Phnom Penh for the Royal Palace, and Koh Rong for the beach vacation. But, we’re here to say that Kratie should be added to that list.
Kratie is a beautiful little area that isn’t well-known with tourists – but it should be. First of all, it’s the best spot in Cambodia to see Irrawaddy dolphins. These dolphins are rare, and sadly their global population is diminishing every year. However, if you take a boat ride down the Mekong River in Kratie, you’re basically guaranteed to spot these dolphins in their natural habitat!
Other reasons to visit Kratie include the amazing French-era architecture left mostly undamaged by the war, the Kampi Rapids, and the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre.
2. Sumatra, Indonesia
People hear Indonesia and automatically plan a trip that revolves exclusively around Bali. And while Bali is beautiful, you can experience a totally different side of Indonesia by visiting the island of Sumatra.
This small Southeast Asia gem has a lot to offer travelers. You can visit the world’s largest volcanic lake – Toba Lake. If you love animals, visit Gunung Leuser National Park to see elephants, orangutans, rhinoceros, and other wild animals. Or, spend your days surfing and relaxing at the many beaches throughout Sumatra and its nearby islands. You’ll love Sumatra as you’ll get to see a more quiet and untouched side of Indonesia.
3. Luang Namtha, Laos
Laos as a whole is probably one of the least popular travel destinations in Southeast Asia. But, we expect this will change a lot in the next few years. Laos is a spectacular country known for its beautiful mountains, French colonial architecture, and Buddhist monasteries.
Come to Luang Namtha for an experience unlike anything else in Southeast Asia. People come to Luang Namtha to trek through the 2224 square kilometers of the Nam Ha National Protected Area. This region has beautiful plants and scenery and it’s also home to the Akha people. And, you can book 2-3 day trekking adventures where you explore the Protected Area and visit the Akha villages. You’ll hear all about their beliefs and see their beautiful headdresses, essentially seeing a culture preserved in time. It’s a beautiful and unique experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Make sure to choose a tour group that gives back some of its proceeds to the villages.
4. Ly Son Island, Vietnam
Vietnam has quickly become one of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations – especially with backpackers. Everything is affordable, the country is easy to navigate, and there’s so much to see. We recommend leaving the regular destinations for a bit and traveling to somewhere a bit less known.
Ly Son Island is a small island created by a former volcano. This small island isn’t well-known with travelers, so don’t be surprised if you run into very few (or no) tourists while staying here.
This is a great destination to add to the end of your Vietnam trip when you’re ready for some downtime. Spend your days relaxing and snorkeling, the beaches at An Binh Island and Cau Cave. Make sure to rent a motorbike and explore Gieng Tien Mountain and Mount Thoi Loi. Time your ride for later in the day so you can enjoy the sunset from the top of the mountain. And lastly, Ly Son Island has some of the best fresh seafood in all of Vietnam. Every opportunity you get, make sure to eat local seafood dishes.
5. Koh Adang, Thailand
Most people would probably give Thailand the title of being Southeast Asia’s most tourist-heavy destination. And while that may be the case for many places in Thailand, the island of Ko Adang is one exception. This island is mostly untouched and accommodations can be hard to find, so it doesn’t attract many tourists.
Most people opt to visit the nearby island of Koh Lipe first. Here, you’ll find typical tourist crowds and many attractions like restaurants, beach parties, and excursions. From there, take a 15-minute boat ride on the off-the-beaten path and visit untouched Koh Adang for some relaxation.
Koh Adang is part of Tarutao National Park, which is why there are so few developments here. In fact, you only have two accommodation options. You can camp (in a bungalow or tent) or stay at the Adang Island Resort.
Most of Koh Adang is covered in a dense, uninhabited jungle. People come here to relax, hike, stay by the beach, dive, snorkel, and swim. It’s a perfect slice of paradise that will feel like it’s all yours.
Remember- Southeast Asia is huge and has so much to offer. You don’t have to fall into the trap of only visiting common destinations. Try something different for a unique and fun experience!