Travelling in Southeast Asia this year? You’ve come to the right place, we have selected here 10 of the must-visit islands of Southeast Asia, some of them are already well known, and others getting to be known. This is definitely the right time to visit all of them and you’ve got one year to do so
#1 Koh Samui, Thailand
Sunset in Koh Samui, Photo Credit to Steve Jurvetson (flickr)
This serene charming island has been on the bucket list of most travellers visiting Thailand. For being a well established touristy island, you’ll find some of the best resorts Thailand has to offer, and once in a lifetime experiences to spend with friends and family. Read our article “5 Insanely fun things to do in Koh Samui”
While lies more Thai culture on the southern part of the island, temples and street stalls will welcome its visitors. Koh Samui’s powder white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters will keep you mesmerized for months to come.
How to get there: Direct flights from Bangkok and major cities of Asia on a daily basis.
#2 Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Phu Quoc island, Vietnam – Picture Credit to Hugh Derr(flickr)
Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island, located in the Gulf of Thailand, just off the coast of Cambodia. Phu Quoc has gained popularity amongst Westerners escaping from busier cities of Vietnam. The island offers a perfect mix of culture, tropical beaches and turquoise sea.
You will also find fancy restaurants to dine in where you can enjoy fresh seafood, and good wine to sip on (indeed, the island was given to Vietnam by the French!).
Enjoy a great variety of things to do as you dive in the reef or simply have a lazy day at the beach. You can also rent a bike and explore the coast and its local fishermen villages. Discover along the way many temples and pagodas to visit.
How to get there: There are 5 flights a day from Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City, and boats that depart from the Mekong delta region.
#3 Gili islands, Indonesia
Gili Trawangan – Photo Credit to worldfortraveller
Located off the coast of Lombok, the three tiny islands of Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno are a must-visit for all travellers coming to Indonesia.
It has gained an increasing popularity over the last 10 years, and can be quite crowded during the high seasons (July, August and December) – it is considered the epitome of paradise islands.
Gili Trawangan, known as Gili T, is the destination for all party goers, do check out their party boats. While Gili Air offers a different style of holiday that is ideal for couples and families, it is popular for diving and snorkeling. No motorbikes or any type of vehicles are allowed within the islands, you can walk or cycle around the three islands within the same day. As for Gili Meno, it still seems like a virgin island.
#4 Karimun Jawa, Indonesia
Karimun Jawa – Photo Credit to Adityo Sastromuljono
Discover how it is like to live peacefully on an island, as Indonesian locals do. This wonderful archipelago of 27 islands located off the Java coast is one of the most laidback destination you’ll find in Indonesia, still unspoiled, and less touristic as compared to the Gili islands.
The archipelago of Karimun Jawa boasts a wonderful marine national park, where white sandy beaches, coconut trees, transparent turquoise water, colourful reefs and corals are just waiting to be explored.
Life goes at a slow pace, and few homestays owned by friendly locals will welcome you and give you all the travel tips you need.
It is recommended to stay there at least 3 days and keep an extra day in case the boat schedule would be affected by the sea (it happens regularly).
How to get there: From Semarang or Jepara in East Java, where you can take a direct slow boat (6 to 7 hours) to Karimun Jawa.
#5 Koh Rong, Cambodia
Koh Rong, Cambodia
If you’re looking for a party island in South East Asia, seek no more, this little piece of paradise is where the real party happens!
No more than a patch of jungle in the sea, just a few years ago until tourism has reached its dreamy shores though the island remains off the beaten tracks while a good part of it is still untouched and remains a haven for nature lovers.
Located 25 km from Sihanoukville, Koh Rong lies in the Gulf of Thailand.
#6 Si Phan Don, Laos
Si Phan Don – Photo Credit to reflexioneneinessuchenden
Si Phan Don, literally meaning ‘4000 islands’, is a riverine archipelago located at the southern end of the Mekong river in Laos.
The archipelago is as laid-back as it gets. It is so tranquil time seems at it is fading, and its relaxed atmosphere might just lead you to find yourself spending your day in a hammock, though there are plenty things to do!
You can go river tubing or kayaking, hop on a bicycle or go on a boat cruise. You might even see some dolphins if you are lucky enough! You will find those activities essentially on the islands Don Det and Don Khon. The largest island is Don Khong, but there isn’t actually much happening there.
#7 Koh Chang, Thailand
Sunset at Koh Chang, Photo Credit to Pietro Motta(flickr)
Ko Chang, meaning the Elephant Island in Thai, is Thailand’s second largest island, is located in the province of Trat, in Eastern Thailand.
Unlike many Thai islands, Ko Chang is still unspoiled, and is home to a very laidback atmosphere that is suitable for any type of travellers. While the island was attracting more backpackers in the past, resorts have popped up in touristic areas (West Coast of Ko Chang), reaching the standard of international tourism.
Comes the night, the island comes to life and you will enjoy a vibrant nightlife.
During the daytime, nature excursions are possible. There are many waterfalls where you can spend a pleasant day; the island is also well-reputed for its diving.
How to get there: Three flights a day depart from Bangkok, or you can also get there with the ferry from a small village called Laem Ngop, in the Trat province, if you are feeling brave enough!
#8 Sampoerna & Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia
Mabul Island – Photo Credit to Memang Rizalis (flickr user)
The Semporna and Sipadan islands are just off the coast of the Malaysian island, Sabah, otherwise known as Borneo.
The Semporna island is basically the take-off point for excursions to nearby islands, including Sipadan, Pulau Mabul and Kapalai.
Now, all the islands nearby are all world-renowned destinations for divers. Indeed, Sipadan has one of the richest marine life there is, that is told to compare with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Off Pulau Mabul, near Pulau Sipadan, you can enjoy the unique experience of diving off a working oil rig among incredibly diverse species of fish and coral such as pygmy seahorses, blue-ringed octopuses and whatnot.
Pulau Kapalai is better known for its shallow waters. It is a prime destination for snorkeling.
The easiest way to get to the Semporna archipelago is by plane, from Kuala Lumpur.
#9 Langkawi, Malaysia
Langkawi Cable Car View – Photo credit to the Poortraveler
This archipelago of 99 islands, also nicknamed the Jewel of Kedah for its pristine waters is well known for being a duty-free area that attracts shoppers from Malaysia and around. Not only shopping makes it an attractive island, Langkawi is home to splendid beaches surrounded by a mountainous landscape.
Langkawi is the ideal island for eco-tourism activities boasting a wonderful Geo Park and Marine Park. Those looking for some relaxation to get away from the hustle and bustle of nearby cities such as Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore, will be satisfied. Indeed, there’s no lack of spa salons, restaurants, and good restaurants to dine in. Needless to mention, that transparent turquoise water and white sand beaches will be at your doorstep.
How to get there: Direct flights from Penang, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or by ferry from Penang.
#10 Flores island & Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Komodo Island – Photo Credit to Yusmar Yahaya (flickr)
Flores island is seen by many as the most beautiful island of Indonesia, and just starting to get more touristic. Indeed, out there lies an infinity of pristine islands as far as your eyes can see.
The itinerary of most travellers is made of a 2 to 5 days cruise around those islands where you can spot the infamous Komodo dragon (make sure to always be accompanied by a guide!) – The Komodo National Park is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The islands around Flores are also known as a Mecca for diving, where you will easily spot manta, sharks, and dolphins without any need to go deep.
Daily flights from Bali to Labuan Bajo, Flores – where you will also find cruise departures.