Planning a vacation? Why not take the path less traversed, travel with a conscience and head off on an escapade that won’t just be a retreat for your senses and soul?
Asia is a melting pot of cultures, culinary creations, craft, languages and is filled with hidden gems. So we’ve put together an inexhaustive 10 must-visit holiday destinations in Asia that you can consider for your next trip. Make no mistake, each of these will lull you into paradise and you can be rest assured that your enjoyment will be benefitting the environment too. Safe travels and bon voyage!
Nihiwatu, Sumba Island
Credit: Indonesia Tourism Forum
The arcadia of islands, paradise of hidden beaches, exquisite sunset views, decadent cuisine and exciting culture - Bali, Indonesia is the place to be! As the largest archipelago in the world with over 1000 islands, the hidden islands may be unknown to some people. Nihiwatu, Sumba Island offers intimate villas spread over acres of tropical forest and rice terraces - keeping the island-vibe luxurious, yet eco-friendly.
The vacation spot is considered eco-friendly due to fuels built from sustainable resources, water waste being recycled for beneficial plant growth in gardens (with over 64,000 trees planted to neutralise carbon), and a curated menu based on seasonable vegetables from organic gardens, freshly caught fish, and poultry derived from their own chicken farms. Definitely a must-go on the bucket list!
Nihiwatu is located in a deserted location 2.5km away from Sumba, Island. Nihiwatu is also a one-hour domestic flight away Bali departing on a daily basis.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysia
Credit: National Geographic
Sukau Rainforest Lodge is located in the rainforest, providing a lush and comfortable guest experience. Explore the beauty of Sukau with Malaysian Borneo’s river basin, jungle waterways, nourishing natural habitats of the world’s exotic species, wild orangutans, pygmy elephants, and proboscis monkeys. Ready for an adventure?
Not only is Sukau a great area to explore, they have introduced apiculture (beekeeping) as a natural barrier to wild elephants that tend to trespass village farms. Plus, the income from the apiculture project has become a great source for the local citizens from harvesting honey! Agriculture fresh from the jungle! More eco-friendly initiatives include reforestation, organic farming, improving clean drinking water for village communities, and a tree-planting project, Kinabatangan Wildlife Corridor Rehabilitation Project.
Song Saa, Cambodia
Credit: Song Saa Private Islands
Song Saa which translates to ‘The Sweethearts’ in Khmer, is a resort built on two side-by-side islands off Cambodia’s Southern coast. Both islands are connected with a bridge which runs through a marine reserve.
Song Saa fulfils its eco-friendly responsibilities to improve the wellbeing of the environment, local villages and economy. This is seen in the creation of Cambodia’s first marine reserve where island water is treated and reused for growth of native vegetation around the resort, and driftwood and timber are recycled from old fishing boats to build furniture and construction for the villas. This resort doesn’t just tick the boxes on the eco-friendly criteria list, it certainly is a beautiful destination to head off to!
Song Saa is a 3-hour drive from Phnom Penh International Airport in Cambodia, and a 45-minute speedboat ride from Sihanoukville.
El Nido Pangulasian Palawan, Philippines
Credit: Thousand Wonders
Looking for crystal-clear pristine waters for a swim, water activities or just a walk down the beach? Head to Palawan, Philippines for that experience!
One of the trusted luxurious, yet eco-friendly El Nido resorts, Pangalusian operates an environmentally-friendly state-of-the-art sewage treatment; where plants and organic waste are assuredly separated before carried out to sea. The waste is then treated carefully before recycling for other uses.
Furthermore, the resort has great low-impact water activities such asa kayaking and snorkeling, as opposed to using any motorised equipment causing danger to the environment. The marine life surrounding the resort is one of the must-see sightings in the Philippines – it’s been said that if you’re lucky, you may spot black tipped reef sharks from the pool villas!
To get to El Nido resort, there are 1 hour domestic flights from Manila International Airport to Palawan, followed by a 45-minute boat ride to Pangalusian.
Luang Namtha, Laos
One of the best environmental practices of eco-hotels Green Globe is located in Luang Namtha, Laos. The Boat Landing Guest House hotel includes riverside bungalows with great spots for trekking, kayaking, mountain biking and various outdoor activities in the protected forests. This is a great destination spot for families who enjoy being surrounded by nature!
One of ASEAN’s Heritage Sites Nam Ha National Protected Area is located in Laos. Take a trip to Nam Tha River to fully experience the local villages’ traditional foods harvested from the forests, watch woodsmen at work and you can even learn bushcraft in the jungles to get an insight of their lives in the villages. A breath of fresh air indeed!
Credit: Misool Eco Resort
As one of the archipelago of over 1,500 islands in West Papua Province, Indonesia, Raja Ampat is a great destination for families, group of friends, and honeymooners who want to be secluded from the rest of the world! Although the location is remote and isolated, they provide one of the greatest diving experiences in the world.
As one of the most recommended vacation spots, Misool Eco Resort is surrounded by Marine Protected Area, which falls within the massive Raja Ampat Shark and Manta Sanctuary. Their vision of becoming eco-friendly is to protect the biodiverse marine region for future generations, and claiming their traditional ownership of their reefs. Furthermore, the resort uses recycled hardwoods for handcrafted furniture and interior designs!
To get to Raja Ampat, there are daily 4-hour domestic flights from Jakarta to Sorong. It is then followed by a 4-hour journey with a speedboat. It may seem like a long journey - but the stunning scenery seen on the boat is certainly worth the trip!
Bhutan, located in the mighty Himalayas between China and India is a definite must-see if you are an ‘Asia-phile’ who loves to discover different eco-touristic areas. Bhutan’s mission to maintain an eco-friendly environment is considered more important than growing the economy. This may seem ironic due to a daily fee of $250 for tourists - in which the fee is part of the happiness index pillars; for sustainable development, preservation and limited promotion of local cultural values, conservation of natural environment, and good governance.
Bhutan’s stunning mountain landscapes, natural waterfalls, rice paddies, temples and monasteries will make you wonder how ancient societies maintain the beauty of nature and you’ll be awed by how stately cultural monuments are built on mountain perches!
Did you know Bhutanese citizens are the happiest people in the world? Due to lack of technological devices, they are serene and at peace with themselves. We could learn from them in regards to reducing our stress, appreciating natural beauty and valuing each other for their souls - not talent or success!
The Mudhouse Anamaduwa, Sri Lanka
Credit: Sri Journeys
Located in the Central Western jungle in Anamaduwa, Sri Lanka lies a hut made of mud and coconut leaves. Could it BE more eco-friendly? *Chandler Bing voice*
The Mudhouse, far away from Sri Lanka’s beach resorts and Buddhist temples, is built on rich, red mud floors and walls which are constructed into a hard material to sustain a hut-like ‘building’, with coconut leaves covered as roofs. The private retreat is definitely an out-of-the-box experience, perfect for families, groups of friends and couples with intention to isolate yourselves from the hectic modern day lifestyle.
From local clay pot cooked meals to the serenity of the wildlife and environment surrounding natural habitat, the area enables explorers to discover nature within a rural ambience and tranquil setting.
Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood, Thailand
Located on 150 acres of tropical rainforest and beaches, Soneva Kiri consists of 42 resort villas and 21 private residential houses. Soneva Kiri resorts adhere to eco-friendly practices which include passive cooling, natural lighting, recycling of rainwater, natural filtration of organic waste, and green roofs for waste diversion, improved air quality, and many more.
Furthermore, the choice of transportation are eco-friendly too! Guests are offered to ride electric cars and bicycles to explore the area. The highlights of the resort include open air Cinema Paradiso, Benz’ mangrove restaurant, The Observatory, The Den, and the Treetop Dining Pod (as shown above). A definite must-visit!
Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain, China
Credit: Six Senses
Looking for a picturesque getaway? Head to the majestic Qing Cheng Mountains and stay at Six Senses, a UNESCO World Heritage and Natural Cultural site located nearby Dujiangyan.
Six Senses has committed to environmental initiatives to improve sustainability and communities nearby. Their environmental philosophy is to reduce ecological and carbon footprint done through purifying and mineralising drinking water with reusable glass bottles, increased transportation choices with Tesla electric cars, strict waste separation within resort operations, all to ensure an eco-friendly experience for guests. Beyond this, Qing Cheng Mountains is also committed to the social causes in the local community, organizing charity events and education within local schools and work environments to promote awareness of sustainability. Let’s help spread the awareness!
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