6 lesser-known island getaways in Southeast Asia

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    Beach in Palawan (photo by Shubert Ciencia on Flickr)

    Southeast Asia is well known for its island getaways, with Bali, Phuket and Boracay among the most popular island locations in the world to kick back and relax.

    But if you’re looking for other wonderful gems in the region, look no further than this list of treasures we’ve unearthed: some of the lesser-known, yet most beautiful islands in Southeast Asia that you should definitely consider visiting.

    Nikoi Island

    Nikoi island (photo: Nikoi Island)

    85km and 2.5 hours by ferry away from Singapore, this private island accommodates up to over 50 people at any one time, with no plans to expand on that number.

    This limited quota gives an impression of exclusivity – and indeed it can be considered as such – since 50 people on a 15 hectare island is still pretty private.

    Relax along the white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, and if you’re bored of doing nothing, the island offers a wealth of land and sea activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, diving, and kayaking.

    Palawan

    Palawan (photo by Christian Ronnel on Flickr)

    While Boracay and Cebu are the more popular island getaways in the Philippines, many locals will tell you that Palawan is where you can find paradise.

    These islands, which stretch from Mindoro in the northeast to Borneo in the southwest, is widely acclaimed as the “last ecological frontier” of the Philippines.

    Looking for pristine beaches? Head down to El Nido and Coron, where the sand is known to be sugary fine and white. Don’t forget to also visit Puerta Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which comprises of an incredibly beautiful underground river system. The National Park is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as recognised as one of the New7Wonders of Nature.

    Gili Islands, Lombok

    Gili Meno (photo by Sergi Hill on Flickr)

    Part of the trinity of Gilis (gili means “small island” in Bahasa Indonesia) off Lombok – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno – the latter two islands are still largely quaint and off-the-beaten-path while the former is the largest in size, and most touristy.

    If you like the Bali party vibe, then you’d want to visit Gili Trawangan. This is the place to be if a rowdy full moon party is what you’re looking for.

    Gili Air has an established, yet off-the-beaten path vibe, which is perfect for families as well as the casual island visitor. Activities at Gili Air include diving and surfing.

    Head down to Gili Meno and you’ll find that life slows to a crawl. It is the most laid back among the three islands, and it also has the nicest beaches.

    Togean Islands

    Togean Islands (Photo from Elena's Travelgram)
    Togean Islands (Photo from Elena’s Travelgram)

    The Togean Islands are commonly referred to as the Maldives of Southeast Asia, but comparing this island paradise to its more well known brethren does it a bit of an injustice, since it exudes its own unique character and charm.

    Of course, this archipelago of islands and islets located off the coast of Central Sulawesi is a little difficult to get to, but it is well worth the journey once you set your eyes upon its pristine white beaches and turquoise blue waters. Its isolation also means that the Togean Islands are pretty untouched by mainstream tourism, and you’ll get to enjoy your trip there in peaceful solitude.

    Togean is also home to a community of Bajau People (Sea Gypsies), who spend most of their lives drifting along the ocean. They are known to have amazing diving abilities – the kids learn to dive up to 10 metres deep from the tender age of seven.

    Flores

    Mount Kelimutu and her coloured lakes at sunrise (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

    Flores is an Indonesian island in Nusa Tenggara, and is located next to the more well-known Komodo Island.

    The most famous attractions on Flores are the crater lakes at Mount Kelimutu, which reportedly change colours regularly between turquoise, green, red and chocolate brown. This phenomenon is thought to be triggered by chemical reactions in the lakes, caused by the area’s volcanic activity.

    Of course, with volcanic activity comes the possibility of hot springs, and visitors will not be disappointed. There’s a hot pool close to the capital of Maumere, and it’s located in the middle of a jungle – perfect for relaxing and being one with nature.

    Ko Yao

    Ko Yao Noi (photo on Flickr by Nicolas Esposito)

    Comprised mainly of two islands, Ko Yao Yai and Ko Yao Noi, Ko Yao is located between Phuket and Krabi in Phang Nga Bay.

    Despite increasing tourism in the area over the years, Ko Yao has retained much of its laid back atmosphere. Both islands have the distinction of being among the last islands in the region to have avoided massive human development, which sets it apart from the more popular islands in the area such as Phuket and Ko Samui.

    Chill out by the beautiful beaches or explore the picturesque rice flats and mangrove swamps, Ko Yao offers visitors a great island experience unlike other more commercial locations.

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