Gorgeous South-East Asian destinations you should visit this year

Da Dia Reef is also known as Ganh Da Dia. — QUANG NGUYEN VINH/Pixabay

Here's an idea for your new year resolution: appreciating Mother Nature more. You can easily incorporate this into your 2024 travel list, too.

We are blessed to be living in a region where natural wonders are aplenty, with an abundance of forests, islands and mountains that are just waiting to be explored. But admittedly, we do take these for granted sometimes.

Lest more lands are cleared for unsustainable man-made attractions, why don’t we show a little more love to our Blue Planet? Take the time to unwind in nature or take the roads less travelled for your next adventure.

To get you started, here is a list of South-East Asian destinations and the wondrous beauty that you can expect at each one.

The coastal charm of Phu Yen, Vietnam

Let’s begin with a scenery that is hard to come by on our shores. Phu Yen is a coastal province boasting both scenic seaside and magnificent mountains, but if you can only pick one, start with appreciating the former as it is markedly different from ours.

Da Dia Reef in the Tuy An district features columns of black basalt rock formations; it is considered one of the most beautiful of such reefs in the world.

Dai Lanh Cape in the capital city Tuy Hoa has slightly more greenery and, being the easternmost point of mainland Vietnam, is the perfect place to catch the first sunrise in the country. It is best to do so from the Dai Lanh Lighthouse, which has stood there since it was built by the French in 1890.

The best time to visit is from January to March, when the weather is cool with less rainfall.

Kuang Si Waterfall is famed for its multi-tiered pools of turquoise water. — ANNIKA HERING/PixabayKuang Si Waterfall is famed for its multi-tiered pools of turquoise water. — ANNIKA HERING/Pixabay

The cascading waterfalls of Luang Prabang, Laos

Inscribed into the Unesco World Heritage Site list, the town of Luang Prabang (located in the district and province of the same name) is a popular tourist destination. But not many may venture beyond the town itself, where stunning natural wonders await.

If they do, Kuang Si Waterfall or Tat Kuang Si often makes the list. Understandably so thanks to its turquoise water and three-tiered pools that lend it an otherworldly aura.

If you plan to visit it too, you might want to put Tat (or Tad) Sae Waterfall on your list as well. Tat Sae also features cascading pools of turquoise water that look just as ethereal in photos.

If you’re feeling adventurous, visit the Hoy Khua Waterfall that has a zip-line obstacle course or the barely visited Tad Thong, as it is located inside an abandoned park. So, be sure not to visit this one alone!

November to March may be the best time to visit, as the weather is average with minimal rainfall. However, January can get crowded.

Embrace slow living in the quaint Ban Rak Thai. — NOPPON MEENUCH/UnsplashEmbrace slow living in the quaint Ban Rak Thai. — NOPPON MEENUCH/Unsplash

The lush greenery of Mae Hong Son, Thailand

Are islands with sandy beaches and packs of tourists the first thing you think of when you hear the mention of “Thailand”? It’s time to change that perception then; let’s venture a little further inland to appreciate the green scenery our neighbour up north boasts.

The mountainous province of Mae Hong Son is a great escape for nature lovers. If you’re a fan of hiking, you’d love the Pai Canyon. The bare reddish-brown earth of the canyon creates a striking contrast against the green valley below and the blue mountain range that stretches across the horizon. It’s also a popular spot for watching sunsets.

Head to Ban Rak Thai, which translates to “the Thai-loving village”, to experience a quaint Thai countryside with a charming Chinese heritage. Historically, the small highland village was settled by former Kuomintang fighters from Yunnan following the Communist takeover in China in 1949. Hence the strong influence of Chinese culture and architecture that is evident to this day.

Pleasant weather makes November to February the best time to visit, with January being the busiest month.

The scenic islands of the Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia

Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara is separated into two, East and West. But the latter is arguably more popular among tourists who seek a more laid-back island vacation.

Of the two largest islands in the West province, Lombok is the one that has gained popularity as an alternative to Bali. It is a perfect, quieter destination if you think that Bali has become a tourist trap. The small town of Kuta – not to be confused with the one in Bali – has been likened to being Bali reversed in time. The other island, Sumbawa, is great if you love surfing – minus the crowd on the beach.

Meanwhile, the East province offers gems like the Flores island (where the Komodo National Park and Mount Kelimutu are located) and Alor Archipelago (for world-class diving). Flores is also where the Pink Beach can be found; its muted pastel pink makes for a pretty backdrop for your vacation photos.

As the dry season is April to September, that’s the best time to enjoy relatively rain-free trips here.

The untouched beauty of Albay, the Philippines

The Province of Albay in the Philippines’ Bicol region possesses a beautiful landscape punctuated by a magnificent mountain – which is one of the country’s most active volcanos, to be precise.

The Mayon Volcano, also known as Mount Mayon, is dubbed “the world’s most perfect volcanic cone” thanks to its symmetrical shape. Standing 2,462m high, you can admire it from afar or get up close with the stratovolcano by visiting Albay’s capital, Legazpi City.

While it is frequented by tourists, the beauty of Albay remains untouched. To get a real feel of this, visit the Cagsawa Ruins Park, where you can snap photos with the Mayon Volcano looming in the background. Ligñon Hill Nature Park and Sumlang Lake also offer grand views of the volcanic mountain.

To escape the heat, head to waterfalls like the Vera Falls and Bussay Falls, where you can take a dip in the cool water and enjoy a picnic as you admire the cascading beauty.

December to May are the best months to visit as the weather is dry and clear.

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