There's nowhere quite like Bali. It's the kind of place where you'll eat the best fresh fish of your life on the beach with your feet in the sand. You'll watch whole families zoom by on motorbikes, or maybe a monkey will steal your glasses at Uluwatu temple. Despite high—and still growing—tourist numbers, you can still find vestiges of old Bali in small villages surrounded by rice paddies, where you'll hear the twinkling chimes of neighborhood gamelan ensembles rehearsing at all hours of the day and night. Note: Mount Agung, the volcano considered holy by the Balinese, has been even more active than usual for the past year, so double-check the latest seismic and volcanic activity before departing.
Pro tip: Avoid Denpasar, where you fly in, and Kuta, a tourist trap; visit culturally rich Ubud instead, and use it as a jumping off point to explore beyond. Take a day trip to Sidemen, which has all the rice paddies without the selfie-takers, or go even farther, to the village of Munduk in the mountains.
Getting there: Many international airlines fly to Bali from hubs in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong.
4. Palawan, Philippines
A regular on our list of the world's best islands, Palawan is home to the otherworldly Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site worth the trip alone. Many make El Nido and its blue lagoon their base, though, to explore the Bacuit Archipelago.
Pro tip: Puerto Princesa is one of the longest underground rivers in the world, traveling five miles through a subterranean cave system. Guided boat tours take visitors down a portion of the waterway, where karsts—natural rock formations created by dissolving limestone—loom in every direction.
Getting there: From Manila, it’s an hour-and-15-minute flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s main airport. Alternately, ferries travel between Manila and the island several days a week (about 24 hours each way).
3. Penang, Malaysia
A former trading hub, Penang has benefited from the influences of a variety of cultures. George Town, the island’s capital, showcases both colonial and Chinese architecture, and rows of Instagram-perfect, pastel-painted shophouses.
Pro tip: Penang is renowned as one of the best cities in the world for street food, and the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre is host to the biggest variety of stalls in George Town.
Getting there: There’s no shortage of flights into the Penang International Airport from cities across Malaysia and the surrounding region. Penang Island is also connected to the mainland by two bridges, making travel by car a viable option.
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