It’s no secret that Southeast Asia is a spectacularly beautiful place to visit—just ask the 133 million tourists that vacationed in the region in 2019. While international travel may be off the table for the time being, there’s no shortage of gorgeous destinations to dream about as we wait for tourism to become safe once again. For those seeking a quiet respite from busy city life, these pristine natural sites are perfect for your next trip to Southeast Asia—however far off that may be.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Philippines

A true paradise for nature lovers, this iconic preserve is a Ramsar Wetland, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and New7Wonder of Nature all rolled into one. While the Filipino province of Palawan is no stranger to natural beauty, this park is especially renowned for its five-mile underground river, which serves as a popular day trip destination for locals and tourists alike. In addition to the subterranean waterway, the park is also home to massive old-growth forests that are rife with indigenous Filipino species, as well as towering limestone karsts, a striking geological feature that’s formed through steady rainwater erosion.

Red Lotus Lake, Thailand

When it comes to tourism, Thailand’s northeastern Isan region is more of a hidden gem, with Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai seeing the bulk of foreign visitors to the country. However, the spectacular beauty of the Red Lotus Lake gives these three destinations a run for their money. From December to February, this idyllic water feature springs to life with a massive bloom of vibrant pink flowers, serving as the perfect getaway to a region that’s underappreciated by foreign visitors. Wildlife enthusiasts take note—in addition to flowers, the lake is also packed with waterfowl and a wide variety of native fish to spot as well.

Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia

Located in the northern reaches of Borneo, this towering mountain is renowned for both its dizzying height and wealth of endemic species, two qualities that earned it a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List in the year 2000. While the mountain and its verdant foothills are spectacular to view from afar, dedicated outdoor adventurers are welcome to test their limits with a hike to the mountain’s summit. While there’s no need for any carabiners or crampons, the 13,435-foot trek is no small feat—visitors are required to stay with licensed guides for their entire journey.

Komodo, Indonesia

The archipelago of Indonesia is home to over 17,000 individual islands, but there’s something special about Komodo and its neighbors that set them apart from their fellow isles—namely, ferocious reptiles found nowhere else in the wild. Commonly known as Komodo dragons, these infamous beasts are actually the world’s largest type of lizard, and can measure in at up to ten feet in length. Of the four islands in the nation that harbor the creatures, Komodo is by far the most famous, with a wealth of boat tours and land excursions available for booking for those brave enough to seek out a dragon in the flesh.

Lào Cai, Vietnam

For those wishing to immerse themselves in the stunning terraced hills that Vietnam is renowned for, few destinations can compare to Lào Cai Province, a hilly region in the northernmost reaches of the country. Opportunities abound for immersing oneself in both natural beauty and Vietnamese culture, with the city of Lào Cai, town of Sa Pa, and Vietnam’s tallest mountain—Phan Xi Păng—all found within the province. For a truly memorable vacation, tourists can follow their visit with a trek across the Chinese border to Kunming, a verdant destination that’s often called the “City of Eternal Spring”.

published 2021-05-27 22:40:00