2021 Best Cities in Southeast Asia

The World’s Best Awards are compiled each year by Travel+Leisure who ask readers their travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. 

Main picture Ubud, Indonesia credit Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.

Here we look at the 2021 Best Cities in Southeast Asia.

1. Ubud, Indonesia

A startling mix of Balinese countryside, culture, temples and handicrafts, alongside world class hotels and wellness retreats has made Ubud number 2 in the Best Cities of Asia and number 4 in the World’s Best Cities lists.

Ubud landscape credit Bertahan Luxeing on flickr
Elephant cave Ubud credit Amelia Isa on flickr

Ubud emphasises the unique charm of Bali, famed for its glorious beaches and party towns, but with the contrast of mountains and traditional life close at hand.

Ubud is also home to the hotel sitting at the top of the Best Resort Hotels of Asia list and at number 5 in the World’s Best Hotels list, Capella Ubud.

Celebrated hotel architect and designer Bill Bensley transports guests to an extravagant expedition camp from the 19th-century with a series of tented, one-bedroom villas surrounded by the Keliki jungle. Antique furnishings and vintage telephones evoke a bygone era, and views out to the dense, verdant foliage add to the sense of tech-free timelessness, which readers seem to appreciate. “The most exciting hotel in Bali,” declared one reader, who added that the “food and service were truly amazing!” The staff is known to deliver  experiences that illuminate local culture and traditions, including Balinese painting and dance.

Travel+Leisure

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Founded in 1296, Chiang Mai was capital of the Lanna Kingdom until 1558 and has been voted as number 4 in the Best Cities of Asia and number 9 in the World’s Best Cities lists.

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand

The ancient protective walls and moats are still a significant feature, separating Old Town from newer areas.

Chiang Mai really has something for everyone, with lively nightlife, stunning temples, traditional handicrafts, excellent food and a friendly atmosphere. All at a much more relaxed pace than in other Thai cities.

Chiang Mai is also the gateway to much of the north of Thailand enabling visitors to discover indigenous tribes, mountains, jungles, outdoor adventures and so much more.

3. Bangkok, Thailand

The Thai capital, despite its historic landmarks, is relatively new, dating back to the early 15th century. Bangkok is number 5 in the Best Cities of Asia and number 10 in the World’s Best Cities lists.

Soi Cowboy in Bangkok credit Wry2010 on flickr
Wat Arun in Bangkok credit Antonio Romei on flickr

Home to more than 8 million people (over 12% of the total Thai population) this is a a lively mix of traditional and modern. It can be a hot and humid but for most visitors to Thailand and the region it is a must visit.

Bangkok is also home to the hotel sitting at number 2 in the Best City Hotels of Asia list and number 4 in the World’s Best Hotels list, Capella Bangkok.

4. Luang Prabang, Laos

The capital of Northern Laos, an UNESCO World Heritage Site and described by some as the most beautiful city in Southeast Asia. Yet, due its location, rarely features on travellers destinations.

River life in Luang Prabang, Laos credit Prince Roy on flickr
Temple life in Luang Prabang, Laos credit Thomas Wanhoff on flickr

The city is located on a peninsula at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River. It consists of 58 adjacent villages, of which 33 are within the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city is at number 7 in the Best Cities of Asia and number 13 in the World’s Best Cities lists.

5. Hoi An, Vietnam

At number 13 in the Best Cities of Asia list is Hoi An, a beautiful trading port with many buildings dating back to the 15th to 19th centuries with a variety of styles from traditional Chinese wooden buildings to French Colonial.

Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An, credit Robert Lafond on flickr
Hoi An beach life credit Dronepicr on flickr

Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and literally translates as “peaceful meeting place”.

6. Singapore

A British colony from the early 19th Century, Singapore was an important trading post in the region. The British lost control of Singapore from 1942 to 1945 when the Japanese invaded the territory. Britain resumed control following the end of the second world war until 1963 when it became part of the newly created Malaysia.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore credit John on flickr
Pasir Ris Park in Singapore credit Cattan2011 on flickr

Following its expulsion from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore undertook a rapid modernisation programme to help combat a severe housing and unemployment crisis. This modernisation and redevelopment, including extensive land reclamation to increase land mass, has resulted in Singapore becoming one of the most prosperous nations in the world.

Singapore has stunning skylines, world class shopping and entertainment, a superb range of food from street food to world class restaurants and excellent beaches

Singapore is number 14 in the Best Cities of Asia list.

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Published by flyingdogtravel

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