Thinking of going that little bit further for your next holiday? Considering what long haul destination to explore can seem daunting if they are new to you, but we’ve focused on some of our favourite places in South and Southeast Asia that tick all the boxes for a truly special holiday.
Sitting between the Philippine and South China Seas, the Philippines is home to over 7,000 tropical islands – many of which are uninhabited. It’s a diverse and remarkably beautiful place combining mountainous landscapes, UNESCO listed sites, jungles and national parks, scenic beaches and bustling cities. It is also home to some of the friendliest people in all of Asia.
In Manilla, the sprawling modern capital, you’ll discover its Spanish colonial history and 16th century architecture. Be sure to visit some of the major cultural attractions here including Manilla Cathedral, the National Art Gallery and Fort Santiago to learn more about this fascinating city.
Boracay Island is a popular spot for diving and snorkelling thanks to the coral reefs. Days here are all about relaxing on the White Beach, while the evenings come to life with local bars and restaurants. Palawan, another well-loved island, is known for the town of El Nido. It’s the perfect base for island hopping and is the gateway to the Bacuit archipelago’s karst cliffs.
Other notable places to visit are Panglao Island for the coral reefs and nearby Bohol, where you’ll find the unique Chocolate Hills, rice fields and fishing villages.
Thailand has been popular among everyone from backpackers and solo travellers, to families and couples. With such a diverse mix of lush islands and 24 hour cities, Thailand offers the perfect mix laidback holiday vibes and daring adventure.
Another destination perfect for island hopping, travelling around Thailand by boat will enable you to tick off your itinerary. Islands like Koh Samui and Krabi offer the chance to visit temples, elephant sanctuaries and national parks, and take in the breath-taking palm-fringed beaches and karst cliffs.
In the lively cities of Pattaya and Bangkok, bars stay open until the early hours, the streets are buzzing with locals and there’s plenty of cultural attractions to keep you busy. Visit floating markets, shopping malls and Buddhist temples. In Thailand’s largest island Phuket, visit the Golden Buddha at Wat Khao Rang, cruise around Phang Nga Bay, and check out the nightlife on Bangla Road.
Off the coast of India, Sri Lanka is a melting pot of tropical scenery, historic ruins and extraordinary wildlife to name a few. One of the biggest draws here are the tea plantations that sweep through the countryside. And then there’s the wide, sweeping beaches that overlook the Indian Ocean.
You won’t be bored here. There’s a long list of cultural attractions to immerse yourself in, from the Sigiriya Rock in the Matale district to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. Nature lovers will have opportunities go dolphin watching, visit national parks or offer a helping hand at an elephant sanctuary.
There are two capitals in Sri Lanka; Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte and the port city of Colombo. Here, visitors can look forward to exploring Dutch, Portuguese and British colonial style buildings, luxurious hotels and a plethora of restaurants. Colombo also handles most of the country’s foreign trade.
Beach lovers can take their pick of golden sands to relax on. In the southwest, Hikkaduwa Beach is great for snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing, while Bentota Beach is clean and quiet. The small town of Mirissa in the south has a wonderful relaxed beach which is ideal for couples, and in the north, the resorts of Marawila, Talwila and Kalpitiya offer plenty of choice too.
A honeymooner’s paradise, Mauritius ticks all the boxes for a relaxed beach break where you can totally switch off. You’ll be surrounded by 330 kilometres of immaculate white beaches, luxurious hotel resorts and jaw-dropping mountain ranges. With rainforests and wildlife in abundance, the island is green and luscious.
Watersports enthusiasts will appreciate the coral reefs in Mauritius, where the scuba diving conditions are some of the best in the world. The waters are crystal clear, so you’ll spend plenty of time swimming and enjoying the ocean.
Some of the finest beaches include Belle Mare in Flacq and Mont Choisy Beach in Pamplemousses. Pamplemousses is one of the most densely populated districts, home to the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere.
Named due to the fact it receives the least amount of rainfall in Mauritius, take a trip to the Black River to see one of the island’s most famous landmarks, the Seven Coloured Earths. The region is also home to stunning waterfalls, largely untouched beaches and a few historic landmarks.
Beyond the Dominican’s beautiful palm-fringed coastline, this small island has a wealth of Colonial history, lush rainforests and lively resorts. Punta Cana and Bavaro in the east are two of the most popular for holidaymakers thanks to their luxury hotels, sprawling beaches and 18-hole golf courses. You can indulge in watersports and a laidback nightlife or make the most of infinity pools and spas.
La Romana in the south offers a quieter retreat with small fishing towns and rolling countryside. There are enough Blue Flag beaches to take your pick each day, and swanky hotels to get lost in.
In the north, Puerto Plata has a mix of beaches, historic sites, valleys and rivers making it an explorer’s paradise. Discover fossils at the Amber World Museum and explore family-owned cacao or coffee plantations. Two of Puerto Plata’s best beach resorts are Playa Dorada or Costa Dorada.