Volcanoes, jungles, temples, cities, and beaches… we have seen them all during our backpacking trip and elected our favorite TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN SOUTHEAST ASIA.
Before you go make sure to read our best backpacking tips.
Our top things to do in Southeast Asia
This list contains some classic spots, but also true hidden-gems. Simply based on our experiences.
This list may give you some inspiration for your next trip to Southeast Asia.
1. Island hopping in the Philippines
This our number one thing to do in Southeast Asia.
We have traveled through the Philippines for two months and ticked off our bucket list for almost all spots in this beautiful archipelago.
During our time there, we counted eight island hopping tours in different places. All of them were amazing, but for the most popular spots and truly hidden gems.
The most popular island hopping tours are in Coron, El Nido, and Siargao.
The hidden-gems among the island hopping tours are White Island (Camiguin), the Buntod Marine Sanctuary (Masbate), Quatros Islas and Kalanggaman (Leyte).
If you want to escape the crowds, it’s best to gather a few travel buddies (4-10) from the hostel and charter a private boat together. Like this, you’ll be able to go earlier than the normal tours and have a far better experience for slightly more money.
Kalanggaman Island is still one of the islands we would call a hidden-gem for boat tours in the Philippines, even though it’s becoming increasingly popular especially through social media like Instagram.
But here is the hack:
Start your trip from Leyte you’ll have the island almost to yourself until noon (Filipino prefer to stay in the shade of the palm trees unlike people like us).
Most boat trips to Kalanggaman Island are starting in Malapascua.
Those boats have a long way to go whereas you will already have spent a few hours on the beach.
Looking for more inspiration for the Philippines?
Click through our Philippines Gallery!
2. Angkor Wat temple tour
Most travelers would say, Angkor Wat is the absolute top thing to do in Southeast Asia. Hence it is also one of the most visited places on earth!
Even though we are not the biggest culture travelers, we couldn’t resist visiting the largest religious monument in the world at least for a day. The climate is extremely hot and humid but this trip was absolutely worth all the sweat.
First, we considered doing a bike tour (and save money), but luckily we decided for the conventional way and booked a tuk-tuk.
Afterward, we can say it’s absolutely worth every penny. It gives you the necessary time to explore the temples and absolutely essential breaks in between.
Looking for more inspiration for the Philippines?
Click through our Cambodia Gallery!
3. Diving with thresher sharks In Malapascua
We had an absolutely incredible experience in Malapascua and therefore this dive spot is an absolute must-do when you are in Southeast Asia (assumed you have a diver’s license).
Malapascua is said to be the best spot in the world to go diving with thresher sharks.
The dive spot is actually 25 to 30 metes deep. Most dive schools require an advanced license. But we figured out (with some negotiating) that it is also possible to go with the normal Open Water Diver (OWD).
4. Boat trip in the Komodo-National-Park
Our boat trip in the Komodo National Park was an absolute highlight during our time in Indonesia and therefore landed on number four of our best things to do in Southeast Asia.
This boat trip was one of the most expensive activities we did on our trip, but it’s possible to bargain a lot. In the end, we paid 2.6 Mio IDR for a 3D & 2N trip (including the entrance fees) per person.
Komodo Island will be closed in 2020, but due to our knowledge, the rest of the archipelago will be open. Even without the Komodo Island, it’s absolutely worth the trip.
Looking for more inspiration for Indonesia?
Have a look at our Indonesia Gallery!
5. The blue fire of Mount Ijen
Our craziest adventure was definitely the night trekking to see the blue fire and sunrise at Mount Ijen.
The experience at the volcano on East Java literally blew our minds. In the middle of the night, the adventure begins to see the blue fire in the volcanoes crater when it is still dark.
Back on the ridge, you have an amazing sunrise with a bit of luck. It was one of the most spectacular sunrises we have ever seen in our lives.
6. Future city Singapore
Of course, our top things to do list can’t miss out on the most impressive city in Southeast Asia.
We loved visiting Singapore because of its great ambition for innovation and sustainability. The city claims that it cares a lot about renewable energies, sustainable resource management, and cyclic waste disposal.
No doubt, Singapore is one of the most interesting places in the world when it comes to modern living.
Therefore an absolute must-see for us.
Want to see more of Singapore?
Go to our Singapore Gallery!
7. Lantern festival in Chiang Mai
Everybody knows those lanterns in Asia!
But did you know that during the Loy Krathong Festival and the Yee-Peng Festival in Chiang Mai you will probably witness the highest density of those lanterns in the world?!
The festival takes place in November. We recommend booking train tickets (from Bangkok) and accommodation in Chiang Mai far enough in advance.
PS: we didn’t release lanterns or boats by ourselves, because even though they are mostly made of organic material, we didn’t want to produce waste.
Excited to find out more about Vietnam?
Get inspiration by visiting our Vietnam Gallery!
8. Tet-holidays In Vietnam
Tet-Holidays was probably one thing we would not have expected to be in our highlights. We have never heard of it before, but we had one of the funniest and friendliest experiences with local people on our entire trip.
If you seek an experience like this, then make sure to go to the north of Vietnam (maybe in the south it is as good as in the north, but we have been in Mai Chau).
That day we were cycling through some rice fields for sundown and some locals invited us spontaneously for dinner.
We ate local food, drank local rice wine and enjoyed an unforgettable evening with unbelievable hostile people.
This kind of situation seems to be very likely during this time of the year in Vietnam, as we have heard similar stories from other backpackers as well.
Make sure not to miss it!
PS: Try not to get too much rice wine, who knows…
9. Snorkeling with whale sharks in Southern Leyte
The archipelago of the Philippines one of the top spots in the world to see whales sharks. Nevertheless, we can NOT recommend encounter activities with whale sharks at the most popular spots in Oslob and Donsol.
At least you should avoid a whale shark encounter in Oslob because it is easy to get into a situation of mass tourism where whale sharks are lured with food. Nobody knows for sure if this practice has negative consequences for the whale sharks’ health (e.g. exposure to sunscreen in the water) and/or natural habituation.
10. Indian food (in India and Malaysia)
This is a bit of a personal favorite of us, but maybe you have the same taste as we do 🙂
India was quite an exciting experience, not just because traveling through India was so much different than other Asian countries, but also because of the delicious Indian food.
Even in other regions like in Singapore (Little India) and Kuala Lumpur (Little India) we were craving for good Indian food. It’s cheap, comes with tons of vegetables (and fat) and has a uniquely delicious flavor.
Want to see more of India?
Visit our India Gallery!
Summary of our top then things to do in Southeast Asia
It was quite difficult to select only 10 things to do in Southeast Asia because there are thousands of interesting places and activities which are absolutely worth a visit.
We haven’t mentioned Sri Lanka and Malaysia yet. Still, they are also absolutely worth a visit when in Southeast Asia.
Read our full blog post about the top sights in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!
Or get inspired by our Galleries: