Escape the crowds by going to these picturesque holiday destinations.
1. Togian Islands, Indonesia
The Togian Islands offer you an opportunity to live the life of a castaway, away from the distractions of the modern world. Seclusion isn’t the only perk that the Togian Islands provide. Ever wanted to swim with jellyfish? Well, in the Togian Islands, there lies a freshwater lake filled with jellyfish. The amazing thing about this? These jellyfish don’t sting at all!
The waters around Togian are filled with a rich wide array of marine life, and makes for an ideal spot for snorkeling or scuba diving. Other things to do include taking a day trip to Una Una Island to hike up a still-active volcano, and paying a visit to the indigenous Bajau people, commonly known as sea gypsies.
2. Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Are you looking for a beach experience similar to that offered in Phuket, but without the touts and crowds? Look no further than Phu Quoc, voted The Cleanest and Most Beautiful Beach In The World’ by ABC News in February 2008. With such acclaim thrust upon its shores, it’s no wonder that Phu Quoc is steadily rising on many travelers’ must-visit lists.
Regular snorkeling and fishing tours are available as well. For travellers not into fishing, Phu Quoc has waterfalls nearby Duong Dong Town, fishing villages open for visiting, as well as night markets to get your grub on. Be sure to catch the sunset from Pho Bo cafe, overlooking the lighthouse and the local shrine!
3. Sapa, Vietnam
Famous for its rugged scenery and cultural diversity, Sapa, or Sa Pa, is a frontier town in northwest Vietnam, lying in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range near the Chinese border. Host to many hill tribes, Sapa is an ideal location for trekking, with various mountain and rice terrace ranges for tourists to scale.
There are plenty of activities available for recreation in Sapa. Take a day or two to climb Fansipan, the highest peak in Vietnam, or experience a homestay with the locals. Biking is another popular tourist activity there, giving you the freedom to explore Sapa at your own pace.
4. Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, located in East Java, is home to the two iconic Indonesian volcanoes from which the park derives its name. Mount Bromo, the more famous of the two, is easily recognized by the constant billowing of white smoke from its caldera. Mount Semeru, the highest peak in Java, is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, with minor eruptions every 20 minutes.
The main attractions in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park are of course, the trekking trails up the volcanoes, but there are plenty of other sights to see while you’re there. Take a walk across Laut Pasir, a sea of fine volcanic sand located at the base of Bromo, and visit Poten while you’re there, a Tenggerese Hindu temple. Other attractions include Madakaripura Waterfall, a stunning waterfall where Indonesian national icon Gajah Madah was said to have meditated, and Lakes Ranupani and Ranu Regalo, two misty lakes at the base of Semuru.
5. Pulau Tiga, Malaysia
Pulau Tiga is a little-known island off the coast of Sabah, but most of us have probably seen it in one way or another – Pulau Tiga was the shooting location of the first season of Survivor! A popular location for snorkeling and scuba diving, Pulau Tiga is home to various hard and soft coral, a wide range of tropical fishes like Yellow Snappers, and plays host to mating cuttlefish during August.
Activities in Pulau Tiga aren’t limited to the sea – you can take a journey to the mud volcanoes for a relaxing mud bath, which is said to have healing properties, or look out for the many species of wildlife living here, such as proboscis monkeys, flying foxes, hornbills and monitor lizards.
6. Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
The second largest island of Cambodia, Ko Rong, also known as Monkey Island, is a relatively new settlement, only being established as a tourist destination in 2008. While Ko Rong looks like any other island on first glace, this jewel of an island is unlike most other South-East Asian offerings. There are barely any roads in Ko Rong, and the only ways to get around are by foot or boats.
The main attraction on the island is the High Point Adventure Park, an adventure course featuring suspension bridges and walking wires, which takes you up to the highest points of Ko Rong. For everyone else with a fear of heights, take a walk down the beaches at night, and you’ll be greeted with the amazing view of phosphorescent plankton. With minimal development and light pollution, Koh Rong has the ideal conditions to take in this dazzling spectacle.
7. Pulau Kapas, Malaysia
Have you ever had the fantasy of waking up to clear waters, with the smell of the sea filling your nostrils? At Pulau Kapas, you can do all that and more! A designated marine park, Pulau Kapas offers breathtaking natural scenery, clear waters for scuba diving or snorkeling, and isolation from the rest of the world. Kapas is a small island, where everything is accessible by foot. It takes fifteen minutes to cover the entire island, excluding the jungle trek. Isolated from most forms of civilisation, Kapas is ideal for people looking to escape the monotony of city life.
The northernmost coast of the island is a hotspot for turtle watching, and reef sharks have been spotted there as well. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a trek through the jungle trails, bringing you to a picturesque spot in the eastern side of the island.
8. Siquijor, Philippines
Hands up if you’ve always wanted to experience fireflies around you in the flesh. Many of us have never seen these elusive creatures, yet in Siquijor, they sparkle brightly every night, covering the island in a eerie glow, giving it the name ‘Isla del Fuego’, which translates to ‘Island of Fire’.
Siquijor is home to many natural formations, like Cambugahay Falls, an impressive three-tiered waterfall, Cantabon Cave, a massive cave that requires one and a half hours to trek through, and Balete Tree, an old tree revered by locals. The coastline of Siquijor consists of sandy white beaches, which is as good a location as any to get your tan on!
9. Rai Leh, Thailand
If you’re up for an adrenaline-pumping experience, look no further than Rai Leh! With over seven hundred routes up the majestic limestone faces, Rai Leh draws tourists in from all countries with the promise of a hard climb and a breathtaking view at the end of it.
With a reputation as one of the premier rock climbing locations in the world, most visitors to this island come with climbing in mind. However, there’s plenty of other things to do In Rai Leh as well! Pay a visit to the Sleeping Indian cliffs, named after its uncanny resemblance to an actual sleeping Native American, or take a walk to Phra Nang cave, a cave with formations that glitter like diamonds.
10. Pulau Dayang, Malaysia
For a true kampong experience, head down to Pulau Dayang in Malaysia. With long, untouched stretches of sand and amazing sunset views, staying in Dayang takes travellers back to the good old days.
Known primarily as a diving location, Dayang offers over ten dive sites for serious divers. Activities in Dayang aren’t limited to just diving though – there are plenty of long beaches for relaxing walks, fishing spots and island hopping experiences. Be sure to go stargazing, as Dayang has minimal artificial lightings, enhancing the stargazing experiences here.
11. Kelimutu, Indonesia
Imagine three lakes side by side, all colored differently. Sounds too good to be true? Well, I’m glad to inform you that this is in fact, reality. Kelimutu is a volcano in the island of Flores in Indonesia, featuring three crater lakes of varying colors. Unlike other color-changing lakes, the lakes in Kelimutu are unpredictable in their color variations.
The volcanoes, although breathtaking, aren’t the only spectacles in Kelimutu. Natural hot springs can be found near the Kelimutu National Park entrance, and the nearby waterfall is a popular picnic spot amongst local youth.
This article is originally published on The Smart Local