Ultimate Southeast Asia bucket list for your 2023 vacation!
Asia and Southeast Asia harbor some truly magical destinations that should definitely be on your travel bucket list. From Singapore to Komodo – there are so many impressive places in that area that it can be incredibly hard to choose from. Therefore I have created the ultimate Southeast Asia and Asia travel bucket list for you – with bonus information about every destination listed! Dive on in and find the most magical destinations in Asia for your next vacation!
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Not sure yet if Asia should be your next stop? Also check out:
30 amazing once in a lifetime destinations!
Padar Island, located in Komodo National Park in Indonesia, is a small, uninhabited island renowned for its stunning beauty and incredible views. The pictures you’ve seen online of Komodo National Park from the top of an otherworldly island, with several beaches below, were taken from the top of Padar. This item should be on top of your southeast Asia bucket list.
A short but steep climb leads from the dock, where the boats stop, right to the top of the rugged island. The views get better and better the higher up you go. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most epic views on earth. From the summit, you’ll see three beaches in different colors (white, grey and pink), almost touching but separated by narrow pieces of land.
The pink beach is THE famous Pink Beach, and boat tours usually visit the beach for swimming and snorkeling after Padar island. Besides colorful beaches and world-class snorkeling and diving, visitors to Padar island will, no doubt, be in this part of Indonesia to spot Komodo dragons. While there are no dragons on Padar, you’ll see them on nearby Komodo and Rinca islands.
The combination of surreal scenery, incredible snorkeling and diving and unique wildlife make Komodo National Park a bucket list destination for adventurous travelers looking for the extraordinary.
Most visitors reach Padar Island and Komodo from nearby Labuan Bajo on Flores Island. This town is the region’s tourism center, with many accommodation options and tours catering to all budgets. Golo Hilltop is a solid mid-range choice when booking accommodation in Labuan Bajo.
With its glorious skyline, incredible food, and cultural diversity, it’s no surprise that Singapore is considered a top Southeast Asia bucket list destination.
There’s no shortage of things to do in the charming Lion City. It’s an excellent idea to start your trip in the Marina Bay area. It is packed with iconic viewpoints and offers dazzling vistas over the city. Whether you decide to take it all in from the luxurious infinity pool on top of Marina Bay Sands or want to head on the Singapore Flyer for 360-degree panoramas, you truly can’t go wrong!
Aside from the cityscapes, Singapore is also regarded for its amazing greenery. The tree-lined streets are one thing, but it’s the ridiculously aesthetic Gardens By The Bay (with its gorgeous Supertrees and Cloud Forest!) that truly takes the cake.
But what makes Singapore such a wonderful place to visit is its mix of cultures. In one part of the country you have the colorful lanterns and glittering temples of Chinatown. And in the next? You’ll be met with the next-level food and vibrant streets of Little India! You can grab the famous Singapore Sling from the Raffles Hotel. But it’s much better to head to the local hawker centers for an authentic plate of Hainanese Chicken Rice.
It’s a good idea to stay in the Financial District or near Marina Bay Sands for the most stunning views! Marina Bay Sands itself is a MUST!. Otherwise, Resorts World Sentosa is a fabulous spot if you’re with children as it’s moments from Universal Studios Singapore! But if you’d like to save some cash, smaller areas like Serangoon or Bugis will see you through in comfort.
If there is just one thing that you’d like to add to your Southeast Asia and Asia travel bucket list, then it must be a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Cappadocia has a unique landscape dotted with volcanic fairy chimneys and fascinating tufa formations. Riding a hot air balloon over this strange Martian landscape of Cappadocia is a magical experience. It is one of the best things to do in Cappadocia.
Balloon rides usually last 45 minutes to 1.5 hours and take you over some of the most iconic valleys in the region. This is including the Red and the Love valleys. The flight ends with a toast and a certificate for completing the most amazing balloon ride in the world.
As the sun rises over Cappadocia every day, hundreds of colorful balloons take tourists on a surreal flight. Apart from watching the fairy chimneys from above, it is a wonderful thing to fly with so many other balloons in the sky at the same time. The sky looks so cheerful and colorful that it feels out of this world.
The best time to fly a hot air balloon in Cappadocia is from July – September. Then the wind speed is perfect, and precipitation is minimum. It is highly recommended that you book your balloon ride for your first morning in Cappadocia. You can reschedule for later in case it gets cancelled.
Winter in Hokkaido, Japan
Hokkaido in Japan is a winter wonderland – the perfect destination for unique experience seekers. Located on the eastern coast of Hokkaido, Shiretoko is known for its breathtaking nature and abundant wildlife. It is also registered as a World Natural Heritage site. During the winter months, the area is home to drift ice filling up the coastal line. This provides a great setting for this wild outdoor experience. An amazing experience for your southeast Asia travel bucket list.
Drift ice tours in Shiretoko take you to explore the frozen sea and take in stunning views of the magical landscapes. If you are brave enough, you can even swim in the icy sea too. A mind-blowing experience that you would never find anywhere else! The tours provide you with a heavy-duty dry suit that protects you from freezing seawater. Experienced local guides will give you safety guidance and insights into the surrounding nature.
After a day spent exploring the drift ice, you can enjoy a relaxing stay at Kitakobushi Shiretoko Hotel & Resort, one of the best hot spring hotels in Shiretoko. Take a dip in a private ocean-view open-air hot spring in your room. This will make a perfect end to your day.
Want to plan a trip to Shiretoko? Check out this 3-day winter Shiretoko itinerary to learn more. Shiretoko also offers amazing outdoor activities in summer, such as hiking, sea kayaking, and wildlife-watching cruise (you might spot dolphins and bears). If you are looking for an incredible summer destination, check out this 3-day summer Shiretoko itinerary.
When most people think of Japan, they think of huge concrete jungles like Tokyo. Or perhaps cultural and historical destinations like Kyoto or Nara. Hardly anyone thinks of the beautiful tropical island of Okinawa. Okinawa is rich in history and culture and has some of the prettiest beaches in the world for diving and snorkeling. An amazing southeast Asia travel bucket list experience.
Okinawa isn’t just a relax-on-the-beach type of destination. You can find some of the world’s best diving and snorkeling spots around the island. In regards to diving, all skill levels are welcome. There are boat dives to surrounding islands with healthy and lively coral. There are even shipwrecks that can be discovered by some of the more experienced divers.
If water activities are not high on the to-do list, then there are beautiful hikes around the island. Many hikes consist of jungle hiking to waterfalls or secluded castles with ocean views. If you’ve had your
fair share of nature, then Naha, Okinawa’s capital and largest city is full of great dining options, shopping, and seasonal festivals.
Naha hosts many great hotels that are affordable. For the resorts, visitors can expect to take a bus from Naha International Airport to the northern part of the island.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
For one of the most breath-taking views in Cambodia, get up early to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat! It might not feel like it at the time but it’s totally worth the 3.30 am alarm – trust us! What a stunning southeast Asia bucket list item!
The Angkor Archaeological Park is an incredibly special place. Temples that are almost a thousand years old are sprawling over the northern edge of Siem Reap. It’s the world’s largest religious complex and has a complicated and fascinating history.
The specific temple of Angkor Wat is where you’ll see the best sunrise. Cross your fingers for some clouds because they really do add a magical ambience to the view! Choose either the left or the right reflecting pool to stand as the sun begins to rise for the most iconic photos.
If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, then you can move back and look at the view from the two ancient libraries. You can take a tour and we recommend doing this as you also get a helpful guide after sunrise. He can show you where to most interesting spots are, plus a great lunch usually too. For a great hotel in Siem Reap close to Angkor Wat, stay at the Pavillon Indochine Boutique Hotel. The rooms are great prices, breakfast is included and there’s a stunning pool too!
Khao Lak, Thailand
If you’re looking for the perfect bucket list destination, look no further than Khao Lak, Thailand! Located just 1.5 hours north of the Phuket International Airport, it’s relatively easy to get to.
In the beachy southern area of the country, there are so many things to do in Khao Lak, Phang Nga, Thailand! Stay right on the beach in a bougie hotel, or opt for a budget-friendly hostel. Dive into the culture in Thailand through a cooking class. Or tour of one of the many temples in the area.
Perhaps one of the best day trips from Khao Lak is visiting the Similan Islands National Park. A premier diving and snorkeling destination, this day trip won’t disappoint! With crisp, white sand as soft as flour, it’s a great way to relax or enjoy nature. Just be sure to wear mineral sunscreen to protect the reefs on the islands (and everywhere else).
Another unique activity in Khao Lak is bamboo rafting. See the lush tropical forest while leisurely floating down a river in Thailand. Hiking to waterfalls and visiting the famous Phang Nga Bay are some of the other bucket list adventures in Khao Lak, Thailand. This item should definitely be way up on your southeast Asia travel bucket list.
If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam in 2023, motorcycling through Northern Vietnam will allow you to experience the unparalleled beauty of this part of the world. This region, known for its unimaginable mountain landscapes, vibrant yellow rice patties, and rich cultural heritage, is a true motorcycling paradise.
Imagine winding your way through the breathtaking mountain passes on one of the most scenic road trips in the world, Ha Giang Loop, taking in the panoramic views of Heaven’s Gate and the canyon gorge of Ma Pi Leng Pass below.
As you make your way through a north Vietnam itinerary, you’ll have the opportunity to visit charming villages, meet friendly ethnic locals, and try delicious local foods. Visit some of Vietnam’s most iconic landmarks along the way, such as the ancient city of Hanoi, the insane mountains of Ninh Binh, the largest waterfall in Asia, and the limestone karst seascapes of Ha Long Bay.
But the real reason to go motorcycling in Northern Vietnam is for the sense of adventure and freedom it provides. Whether you’re an experienced rider or a beginner, there’s something incredibly exhilarating about exploring a new place on two wheels. Make 2023 a thrill, and allow yourself to travel at your own pace, stopping along the picturesque roads whenever you want to take in the sights or capture the perfect photograph.
Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Seeing the cherry blossoms in Japan is something everyone should do once in their lifetime. Cherry blossoms can be found blooming throughout the whole of Japan during the spring season, starting in the south and slowly moving north as the weather warms up.
Although Japan is well-known for its big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, one doesn’t need to leave the city to experience the best and most popular cherry blossom viewing spots. In fact, it’s easy to find cherry blossoms blooming in parks that dot the cities.
Some of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo are located right in the heart of the city. Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park and Meguro River are some of the top places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo, and all are conveniently located in the city centre. For information on the best places to see cherry blossoms in Osaka, check out this helpful post.
During cherry blossom season it’s common to see families, friends, and even co-workers enjoying the delicate pink petals – I highly recommend travellers to Japan during this season do the same! The essentials (snacks and drinks) can be found at convenience stores, although some popular cherry blossom viewing locations will have food stalls set up in the area. Popular food stall items include takoyaki, grilled squid, taiyaki, chocolate covered banana, and candied fruit.
No matter where you find yourself during cherry blossom season, there are endless places in Japan to enjoy the beautiful pink blossoms. A quick search online will bring up the top viewing locations in your area. This item should definitely be way up on your southeast Asia travel bucket list.
Kandy, Sri Lanka
Kandy remains one of Sri Lanka’s largest cities. If you are looking for Things to do in Sri Lanka, exploring what this city has got to offer won’t be a bad idea. For instance, you can decide to check out the artificial Kandy Lake. This has been existing for over 200 years. If you spend at least one day in Kandy, you definitely should check out the unique Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue which is 850 feet above sea level. Do you want to find out more about the British colonials? There is no other better place to visit than Udawattekele Sanctuary.
During the morning periods, you can go to the popular Ceylon Tea Museum. This gives you the chance of finding out more about the best tea around the world. The 88feet Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue is another very popular attraction in Kandy. Finally, there is also the option of exploring the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Apart from being the holiest temple of Buddha, it portrays some of the most vital cultural elements in Sri Lanka.
Weather conditions are always perfect from January to April. Also, be mindful of where you are going, especially during night periods. This is because some spots in Sri Lanka aren’t safe for tourists. Ask the locals around before visiting a place. This item should definitely be way up on your southeast Asia travel bucket list.
Plain of Jars
The Plain of Jars in Laos is a rustic and unusual destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Located in the Xieng Khouang province, the plain is home to over 90 stone jar sites that date back to the Iron Age. These ancient jars, which can weigh up to several tons, are a mystery to with their purpose never having been fully discovered.
One of the most special things about the Plain of Jars is that you feel like you’re on the set of a movie. Due to bombing of Laos during the Vietnam War, the area has only just reopened, so it feels like your own Indiana Jones plot at times. The jars are scattered throughout the rolling hills and lush green forests, adding to the otherworldly beauty of the region. Visitors can explore the jar sites on guided tours, learning about the history and culture of the area.
When it comes to where to stay, there are are a couple of options. We stayed in the nearby city of Phonsavan where there are lots of hotels to chose from (we stayed at one called Hillside Residence). For a more authentic and immersive experience, consider staying in a homestay in one of the local villages. This will give you the chance to interact with the locals and learn more about their way of life.
Overall, the Plain of Jars is a must-see destination for anyone interested in history, culture, and natural beauty and it topped our list of the best places to visit in Laos. The ancient jar sites are a truly one-of-a-kind destination that should be on everyone’s Southeast Asia bucket list.
Mulu National Park
Mulu National Park is situated in Borneo, Malaysia. It’s famous for it’s trekking to the Pinnacles, which is only for the daredevils. But the park has a lot to offer for everyone, that’s why it’s a bucket list destination for 2023!
On arrival in Mulu National Park, you get a 5-day entry wrist band that allows you to walk around the park. There are a lot of tours and activities that you could sign up for. Visit one of the many caves, try out the canopy walk, learn all about the wildlife during a night walk.
But what it’s most impressive about a visit to Mulu National Park is the Bat Exodus. Every night (if it’s not raining) around dusk the bats fly out to find food. We’ve never seen so many bats at once, it’s like it never ends.
There are a couple of accommodations to choose from, depending on what you would like to spend or what facilities you need. Some accommodations don’t have power during the day, which means no hot water and no AC.
The best way to get to Mulu National Park is by airplane. There are daily flights from Kuching, Miri and Kota Kinabalu. The airport is quite small and so are the airplanes, which makes it even more adventurous.
Add Mulu National Park to your Bucket List Destinations for 2023 to experience this amazing rain-forest and all that it has to offer!
One of the ultimate bucket list destinations for 2023 if you’re looking to de-stress and unwind is Koh Mook Island, in South Thailand. The island is so tiny that there aren’t even any cars on it yet, except for the odd tuk-tuk! It’s an idyllic, tropical paradise hidden away in Thailand’s Trang district. It’s a must-visit destination in Thailand due to its breathtaking palm-lined beaches, wild jungle trails, panoramic views and one of the best-hidden gems in Thailand – The Emerald Cave.
The Emerald Cave is a unique attraction in Koh Mook. It formed via a sinkhole in the limestone cliffs and is named so due to the water shining emerald green at midday when the sun strikes through a large circular opening overhead. Access to the cave is through a small entrance in the cliff face on the water’s edge which means you will need to arrange a boat, or kayak, to reach it. If you go by kayak it can be quite an adventure!
Due to its location, Koh Mook isn’t the easiest place to get to, in fact, it’s best visited during a 2-week island hopping holiday in Thailand. You’ll be able to explore other fantastic islands including Koh Mook, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi – one of the most famous islands in Thailand! This item should definitely be way up on your southeast Asia travel bucket list.