Even though places like Bali or Phuket may be the first destinations that pop to mind when you think of Southeast Asia, this exciting region of the world has a ton more to offer for those looking to stray away from the usual route.
Whether you’ve never been to Southeast East Asia and want to add a little variety to your schedule or you’ve been to the popular spots and want to see something different, there are plenty of destinations all over to do just that.
From national parks where orangutans roam freely to striking sulfur volcanoes that look straight out of a different planet, here are some of the best destinations in Southeast Asia that you may have never heard of before!
Destinations in Southeast Asia You May Have Never Heard of
Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia
Located in Sumatra, Bukit Lawang is a charming little village located on the foot of Gunung Leisur National Park, a place where some of the most unusual and endangered animals in the entire world continue to live in.
Rhinos, Sumatran tigers, and elephants are just a few of the species that call Gunung Leisur their home. Seeing them can be quite a challenge because they’re so very few of them left, but the animals that you’re 100% guaranteed to spot are orangutans in their natural habitat!
Bukit Lawang was once the location of an orangutan research center. Even though it closed its doors over a decade ago, the orangutans that were left free don’t really stray too far into the jungle and are incredibly used to humans.
Two-day jungle treks are offered in which you’ll get to spot plenty of semi-wild orangutans, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also book full-week treks in order to get really close and personal with the jungle and get higher chances or spotting other species such as elephants!
Bandung, Java, Indonesia
Even though the first place most people head to in order to see Java’s famed volcanoes is Mount Ijen, if you travel deeper into Indonesia’s largest island, you’ll find yourself inside a world of even more striking ones most people don’t know of!
Bandung itself is actually the third-largest city on the island, but the real magic lies in its outskirts, where you’ll find a plethora of exciting attractions and incredible volcanoes.
A perfect example of what a visit to Bandung has to offer is Kawah Putih, a striking sulfur crater that comes in all sorts of bright blue and yellow hues. Unlike Mount Ijen, you can very easily visit this crater independently and even get the chance to walk around it at your leisure – weekends on the volcano can get somewhat crowded with locals, but during the weekdays, you can pretty much have the entire place to yourself.
Bako National Park, Malaysian Borneo
If you’ve always wanted to feel like Indiana Jones and get the chance to explore the jungle completely independently, Bako National Park should be at the very top of your bucket list.
Located a stone’s throw away from the city of Kuching in Malaysian Borneo, Bako National Park is a gem when it comes to all things wildlife and solitary hiking trails.
Although small, Bako National Park is home to plenty of incredibly rare animals, including Proboscis monkeys, silver-leaf monkeys, bearded, long-tailed macaques, and monitor lizards. In the park, you’ll get the option to choose from a variety of hiking trails, all of which you’re free to hike on your own in order to truly dive deep into the landscape of the park.
Guided tours are available as well, but what people love about Bako is getting the rare chance to experience a jungle in Asia without needing to go in a group. Make sure you watch out for crocodiles, though!
Khao Yai, Thailand
Set in the heart of Thailand’s eastern mountains, Khao Yai is a dream come true for those who want to mix in time in nature, incredible wildlife spotting opportunities, and places as Instagrammable as they can get.
Khao Yai is actually a pretty popular destination for locals thanks to the variety of boutique hotels it offers as well as the wide array of activities on its menu. Taking a safari through Khao Yai national park will give you the chance to spot elephants in the wild, but if you’re more in the mood to have a relaxing day, you can opt to go on a vineyard hopping adventure instead (yes, Thailand has its very own wine country!).
Other favorite activities include visiting strawberry fields, hiking in the mountains, and checking out Tham Khao Chan Ngam cave.
Maluku Islands, Indonesia
Also known as the Moluccas, the Maluku Islands is an archipelago made up of dream-like islets and islands just east of Sulawesi in Indonesia.
Even though they are somewhat remote, if you’re up for an adventure where you’ll find virtually no crowds anywhere, this is definitely your go-to.
Of course, the main thing to do here is simply enjoying the paradise beaches you’ll find all over, but if you’re up for a hike, you’ll find plenty of trails available all over. The Moluccas are also a prime destination for snorkeling and scuba diving – the marine life you’ll get to see here is as exotic as it gets, with colorful coral pretty much covering the entire regio. Seahorses, rhinopias, moray eels, stonefish, and scorpionfish are just a few of the species you’ll get to see over and over!