Must Visit Places in Southeast Asia

17 Apr 2024 Umesh Paneru

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The Southeast Asia region is rich in culture, history, and natural diversity. The region has a magnificent history and through its historical eras, cultural evolvement has flourished. There are numerous must-visit places in Southeast Asia. Every year many places from Southeast Asia are listed under ‘Best Places’ or ‘Must Visit Places’ in Southeast Asia by popular and leading travel websites.

The cultural and historical sites including some in World Heritage Sites, holy temples, stupas, monasteries, churches, and mosques, Archaeological Sites, iconic landmarks, beautiful landscapes, mountain ranges, endless beaches, wildlife centers, vibrant festivals, lively cities, unique festivals, exotic cuisines, and fun-filled adventurous activities, Southeast Asia covers it all. 

Southeast Asia region is also a perfect gateway for short weekly holiday destinations for relaxation. We have listed below 10 must-visited places in Southeast Asia from nations like Myanmar (Bagan, Inle Lake), Laos (Luang Prabang, Vientiane), Cambodia (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh), Vietnam (Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chin Minh), and Thailand (Chiang Mai).

10 Must-Visit Places in Southeast Asia

  1. Bagan, Myanmar
  2. Inle Lake, Myanmar
  3. Luang Prabang, Laos
  4. Vientiane, Laos
  5. Siem Reap, Cambodia 
  6. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  7. Ha long Bay, Vietnam
  8. Hoi An, Vietnam
  9. Ho Chin Minh, Vietnam
  10. Chiang Mai, Thailand


1. Bagan

The ancient city Bagan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Myanmar which is renowned for its Bagan Archaeological Zone. Numerous architecturally beautiful Buddhist stupas, pagodas, and temples are the main attractions here. The historically and culturally significant Bagan tour is a must in Southeast Asia tours.

  • Best for: Cultural Tours, Art & History, Archaeology Tours 
  • Best time: November to February
  • Things to do: Bagan Archaeological zone exploration, Hot-air balloon rides, Sunset View over the Irrawaddy River, Bicycle Tours, Food Tours, shoppingmyanmar

Prime attractions in Bagan

  • Ananda temple: 12th-century Buddhist Pagoda renowned for its stunning architecture.
  • Bupaya Pagoda: The bulbous-shaped prominent pagoda.
  • Bagan Archaeological Museum: Houses numerous rare Bagan period objects like the original Myazedi inscriptions, the Rosetta stone of Burma.
  • Thatbyinnyu Temple: The tallest temple in Bagan.
  • Shwezigon Pagoda: Sacred pagoda surrounded by temples and shrines that treasure the Lord Buddha’s bone and a tooth.
  • Dhammayangyi Temple: The largest of all temples in Bagan.
  • Mount Popa: A holy pilgrimage site including several Nat temples and relic sites.
2. Inle Lake

A freshwater Inle Lake is the second largest lake nestled at an elevation of 2,900 ft. in Myanmar. This lake is home to diverse species of aquatic creatures. The lake is inhabited by Intha people who reside in the floating houses in the lake. The skillful local paddling boat with only one leg, floating markets, and houses on lakes and lake shores are prime attractions.

  • Best for: Nature Tours, Culture Tours
  • Best time: June to October
  • Things to do: Explore Wildlife Sanctuary and stilt houses, Visit authentic surrounding villages, Boat Rides, Sunset Views, Trekking

Prime attractions in Inle Lake

  • Ywama Village: Homes and buildings are made on piles driven into the lake bed.
  • Phaung Daw U Pagoda: A highly valued monastery houses 5 ancient Buddha idols covered in gold leaf.
  • Shwe Indein Pagoda: Significant Buddhist pagodas in a group in a village of Indein.
  • Red Mountain Estate Vineyards: Wine tasting in the hills and enjoy sunset views.
  • Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery: One of the oldest wooden monasteries.
  • Inthar Heritage House: Physical home for the Inle Heritage Foundation projects (the Burmese Cat project, the Vocational Training Center, Green Practices, and the Water Watch project).
  • Floating Market: 5-day market floats around the Inle Lake area.


1. Luang Prabang

The UNESCO-listed town of Luang Prabang for its remarkable preservation of architectural, cultural, and religious heritages including French colonial is commendable. A must-visit destination in Laos is the best combination of rural and urban architecture consist of iconic landmarks and numerous Buddhist monasteries and temples. 

  • Best for: Historical and Cultural Tours, Nature Tours
  • Best time: November to March 
  • Things to do: Visit Buddhist Temples, Sunset Views from Mount Phousi, River Cruise Tours, City Cycle Tours, Visit to Cave and Waterfall, Night Market25 Safety Tips for South Asia Travel

Prime attractions in Luang Prabang 

  • Mount Phousi: A religious site that houses several Buddhist shrines.
  • Wat Xieng Thong: Significant Lao Monasteries which means ‘Temple of the Golden City’.
  • Phra Bang: The Royal Buddha Image is the namesake of the city.
  • Pak Ou Caves: Notable caves for numerous miniature Buddha sculptures.
  • Royal Palace Museum: This National museum is built with mixed architecture of traditional Lao motifs and French Beaux-Arts styles.
  • Kuang Si Falls: Attractive three-tiered waterfall famous for its turquoise color.
  • The Plain of Jars: Archaeological landscapes consisting of thousands of scattered stone jars.
2. Vientiane

The capital and the largest city in Laos lies on the banks of Mekong River. There are numerous magnificent cultural landmarks including Pha That Luang, Buddhist temples, and museums exhibiting the Laotian history.

  • Best for: Cultural Tours, Art & History
  • Best time: November to February
  • Things to do: Museum Tours, Stupa excursions, Street foods tour, Night Market, Enjoy Nightlife, Bowling Alley

Prime attractions in Vientiane 

  • Pha That Luang: A large gold-covered Buddhist stupa is a symbol of Lao nationalism.
  • Wat Si Saket: One of the oldest temples in Laos features more than 2,000 ceramic and silver Buddha images.
  • Haw Phra Kaew: A museum houses Lao religious arts.
  • That Dam: Historically and religiously significant large stupa in Vientiane.
  • Lao National Museum: Displays the nations’ history highlighting the struggle of Laotians.
  • Patuxai: A significant war memorial decorated with kinnari (a mythological creature).


1. Siem Reap 

The second-largest city in Cambodia is one of the largest religious complexes. It is popular for Angkor region which houses numerous temples including splendid Angkor Archaeological Park. Its major highlights are ancient structures in its vicinity, history lessons at cultural Cambodian village, architecturally fused Old French Quarter, and historic museums. 

  • Best for: Art & History, Cultural Tours, Archaeology tours, Spas
  • Best time: November to February
  • Things to do: Excursions to Temples and Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodian Cultural village (Angkor Green Park), Visit to Pre Rup Temple (Sunset view), Floating Village Tours, Enjoy Phare (Cambodian Circus), Quad bike ride, Nightlife at Pub Street, ShoppingSiem Reap

Prime attractions in Siem Reap 

  • Angkor Wat: This Hindu-Buddhist temple is the largest religious structure in the world. 
  • Angkor Thom: The inner royal city famous for its temples and iconic landmarks.
  • Ta Prohm Temple: One of the important temples popular as ‘Tomb Raider Temple’.
  • Bayon Temple: The only Buddhist shrine in the Angkor region with prime attraction of large huge smiling stone blocks.
  • Banteay Srei Temple: An amazing 10th century Lord Shiva dedicated temple.
  • Preah Khan: A learning center for Buddhist monks is one of the last remaining remote structures.
  • Baphuon Temple: An ancient sandstone monument at the mountains that offers phenomenal views of Angkor Thom.
  • Bakong Temple: The step pyramid structure first mountain temple of the Khmer period.
  • Angkor National Museum: It is home to artifacts of the Khmer empire, and several idols of Hindu and Buddhist gods.
2. Phnom Penh

The capital of Cambodia is the largest city with rich history and culture including the remnants of its French colonial history. The city houses architecturally beautiful landmarks. Its prime attractions are Buddhist temples, historic museums, cultural shows, and wildlife rescue center.

  • Best For: Art & History, Cultural tours, Nature Tours
  • Best time: November to March
  • Things to do: Explore iconic landmarks, Museum excursions, Tuk-Tuk city tours, Shopping (Central Market, Aeon Mall, etc.), Apsaras Dance Shows, River Cruise Tours, Street food tour, Visit Night market and enjoy in phnom penh

Prime attractions in Phnom Penh

  • The Royal Palace: Iconic landmark consisting several attractions in the vicinity (Silver Pagoda, Throne Hall, Pavilions, Khemarin Palace, etc.)
  • Wat Phnom: The largest Buddhist temple on hill that offers stunning surrounding views.
  • Wat Langka: The colorful Buddhist temple has the huge collection of ancient Buddhist holy writings
  • Wat Moha Montrey: The spacious temple has remarkable architecture and intricate golden peripheral designs.
  • Independence Monument: Iconic landmark that honors the country’s independence from France.
  • National Museum of Cambodia: The largest central museum in the country consist of numerous collections from different periods of Cambodia’s history.
  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum: A former secret prison now turned into the museum that chronicles Cambodian genocide.
  • Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre: Largest zoo in the nation consisting diverse species of wildlife.


1. Ha Long Bay

One of the must visit destinations Ha Long Bay in Vietnam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is a gateway for nature and adventure lovers. It is home to several amazing limestone islands, rock formation, and caves. The main attractions here are Cruise tours, Adventure activities such as kayaking, scuba diving, etc.

  • Best for: Nature and Wildlife Tours, Adventure Activities, Kayaking Tours 
  • Best time: March to May and October to December
  • Things to do: Cruise Tours, Wildlife spotting, Fun at Recreational Park, Adventure Activities (Snorkeling, Kayaking, Stand-up Paddleboarding, Rock Climbing, Scuba Diving, Trekking, etc.)

Prime attractions in Ha Long Bay

  • Cat Ba Island: The largest island that is home to Cat Ba National Parks and is most popular for kayaking, diving, etc.
  • Tuan Chau Island: Has an artificial beach and offers adventurous activities, martial arts shows 
  • Thien Cun Cave: One of the beautiful and largest caves also famous as ‘Heaven Cave’.
  • Cai Pau Pagoda: Stunning monastery with Vietnamese influence architecture.
  • Sung Sot Cave: One of the largest caves renowned as the ‘Cave of Marvels’.
  • Sun World Ha Long Park: Recreational Park includes Dragon Park, Mystic Mountain Fun Park, Sun Wheel, Ha Long Queen Cable Car, etc.
  • Cruise or Boat Tours: A fun-filled cruise tour at Bai Tu Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay, Ti Top Beach, Hon Trong Mai, etc.)
2. Hoi An

The well-preserved Southeast Asian trading port Hoi An is historically and culturally significant destination. The prime attractions here are Japanese Covered Bridge, Quan Cong Temple, attractive beaches, and fun-filled rides at amusement park. 

  • Best for: Historical and Cultural Tours, Adventurous Activities (parasailing, jet skiing, etc.)
  • Best time: February to June
  • Things to do: Cycle Tours, Explore an Old Town, Beach Tours, Enjoy Nightlife and Vietnamese cuisine, Watch a water puppet show, Basket Boat Ride, Shopping (Lanterns, souvenirs, etc.)hoi an ancient town e1713345452236

Prime Attractions in Hoi An 

  • Da Nang: Visit to Golden Bridge, Ba Na Hills, French Village, 3D Museum, etc.
  • Japanese Covered Bridge: One of the three-tile-covered and only ancient bridges in Hoi An.
  • Quan Cong Temple: Most Revered Chinese Pagoda in Hoi An.
  • An Bang Beach: Beautiful beach popular for delicious tasty seafood vendors, souvenir stalls, and adventure activities (parasailing, jet skiing, etc.)
  • Fujian Assembly Hall: A historically important UNESCO-listed site is built in Oriental style.
  • Cua Dai Beach: One of the most beautiful beaches popular for sunbathing, surfing, etc.
  • Cantonese Assembly Hall: A historically important primitive relic built in Confucian style.
  • Sun World Amusement Park: Exciting rides on the world’s 10 giant circles, the highest free fall Sky Tower, numerous games, etc.
3. Ho Chin Minh

The French colonial influenced Ho Chin Minh city has several architecturally prominent buildings. It also has Chinese influenced architectural buildings. The prime attractions are historic museums, largest Ta Daon Park, Cu Chi Tunnels, etc. 

  • Best for: Scooter tours, Historical tours, River Cruise Tours, Spas
  • Best time: December to March
  • Things to do: Museum Excursions, Shopping and Dining at Ben Than Market, Scooter, and Food Tours, Cultural Shows, Postcard Sending from the Central Post Office, Mekong Delta Trip, Enjoy coffee culture, and nightlife.Ho Chin Minh e1713345727908

Prime Attractions in Ho Chin Minh

  • War Remnants Museum: Displays belongings related to the Vietnam War and the First Indochina War.
  • Cu Chi Tunnels: Preserved by the government and turned into War Memorial Park where in two safe tunnels visitors can experience the tunnel life.
  • Saigon Central Post Office: A relic of French Colonial history that has diverse Renaissance and Gothic architecture.
  • Saigon Sky deck: Phenomenal 360° view of the city from Saigon Sky deck from the 49th floor of the popular Bitexco Financial Tower.
  • The Independence Palace: A historically significant iconic museum also called the Reunification Palace.
  • Emperor Jade Pagoda: A 100-year-old Taoist shrine that is filled with mythical figures is famous as the Tortoise Pagoda.
  • Saigon Opera House: Best creative performances including traditional plays, classical music, concerts, ballet dances, etc.
  • Museum of Vietnamese History: Brief history of Vietnam before the Colonial Era.
  • Tan Dinh Church: Ancient Catholic Roman churches famous as ‘The Pink Church’.
  • À Ố Show: A Mesmerizing Vietnamese Bamboo Circus Performances.


1. Chiang Mai

The second largest city in Thailand is Chiang Mai which is a prime destination for historical and cultural landmarks, food tours, and night markets. Its prime attractions are religious landmarks, river cruise tours, National Parks, tasty street foods, and night market.

  • Best for: Historical Tours, Cultural Tours, Wildlife Tours and Night Safari, Food Tours
  • Best time: December to May
  • Things to do: Tram ride at Night safari, Shop, and Dine at Night Bazaar, Visit a Cat café, Savor street foods, Shopping (Warorot Market, Night Market), River Cruise, Hiking, Relax at Hot Springs, Rafting.chiang rai e1713346402661

Prime attractions in Chiang Mai

  • Wat Chiang Mai: The oldest temple in the city contains the oldest and most revered Buddha images.
  • Wat Sua Donk: It is home to the largest teakwood statue of Buddha guarded by 4 lion sculptors.
  • Wat Phra Singh: 14th century one of the most beautiful temples that house Buddha statues is also popular as the ‘Temple of the Lion Buddha’.
  • Wat Chedi Luang: The religiously significant landmark is the original home to the Emerald Buddha and is also popular as the ‘Temple of the Great Stupa’.
  • Wat Phra Doi Suthep: A gold-plated 700-year-old historically significant landmark.
  • Doi Inthanon National Park: Adore the breathtaking views, waterfalls, sunrise and sunset views, and bird-watching.
  • Chiang Mai Night Safari Park: The world’s largest and second-best nocturnal zoo where visitors can enjoy a tram ride along with a night safari.
  • Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: An ethical and sustainable sanctuary where you can feed, bathe, and mud spa to elephants.

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