The Other Side of Southeast Asia: 6 Lesser Known Islands

Traditional boats, Papua New Guinea | Darren Jew
Traditional boats, Papua New Guinea | Darren Jew

Southeast Asia may be known for tourist favourites such as Thailand and Vietnam – but for travellers keen to get off the beaten track and explore less known destinations, the region has a lot of hidden places waiting to be discovered. From Papua New Guinea and the other side of Bali to Mindanao and East Timor, we bring you six lesser known Southeast Asian islands.

1. Mount Wilhelm | Papua New Guinea

Mount Wilhelm in Papua New Guinea - Trekking Holidays - World Expeditions

A climb to Papua New Guinea’s highest mountain, Mount Wilhelm (4,509m) has to go through rugged terrain and a variety of environments. To reach the top, the trail crosses thick ‘montane’ rainforest with wild orchids and cycads, alpine grassland, and glacial valleys with beautiful lakes. When you plan your trek so that you reach the summit at dawn, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views.

This less known Southeast Asian island is called home by the world famous ‘mudmen’ of Asaro. The ritual dance they perform is outstanding. On your way to the top of Mont Wilhelm, it’s possible to overnight at traditional village stays  and learnd more about the local culture.

2. The Other Side of Bali | Indonesia

Cycling in Bali - Island of Southeast Asia - World Expeditions adventure holidays

Bali has a reputation of being one of the most spectacular island paradises in the world. Although because of Kuta beach this is obviously one of the most famous of all Southeast Asian islands, there’s a less visited part of Bali as well. With fast flowing rivers, deep canyons, crater lakes and volcanoes dominating its interior landscape, Bali is an outdoor lover’s dream come true. Going on a bicycle ride is a fantastic way to explore the island. Once your wheels hit the ground, you will be confronted with a variety of riding conditions: from dirt tracks and forest trails to volcanic lava and sand. A network of hidden trails connect the remote parts of this world-famous island of Southeast Asia.


3. Mindanao | Philippines

Southeast Asian Islands: Mindanao in Philippines - World Expeditions adventure holidays

Mindanao is the second largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines. This little known island in Southeast Asia offers something special for both adventurers and nature enthusiasts. Because of Mindanao island being so unknown it receives few travellers and with a visit here you can really make a meaningful contribution to the local people. A visit could take in natural wonders and indigenous traditions that fire the imagination: from discovering waterfalls and hiking in the rain forests to white water rafting and island hopping. By visiting the indigenous Obu Manuvuthe people you can experience local village life and learn about their traditions.

4. East Timor

Welcoming people of East Timor - Southeast Asian Islands - World Expeditions adventure holidays

Just over a decade since it regained its independence, the once forgotten East Timor is slowly beginning to appeal to travellers to Southeast Asia again. Capital Dili was once colonised by Portugal and the heritage of these times make it an interesting city to visit. This Southeast Asian island has picturesque coffee plantations to drive through, rice paddies to help the welcoming and independent Timorese people, mountain ranges to walk through, and pristine turquoise waters to swim in. The highest peak of East Timor island is Mount Ramelau (2964m) and there are opportunities to climb this mountain for a spectacular sunrise. The quaint Atauro Island that can be reached via a short ferry ride is another one of those hidden pearls of Southeast Asia.

5. In the Shadow of Mount Kinabalu | Borneo

Holidays to north Borneo around Mount Kinabalu - World Expeditions

The northern part of Borneo is a less visited area of Malaysia. We wonder why, as this part of the Southeast Asian island shows an exceptional variety in nature. There are dense jungles brimming with wild animals and exotic flora. You can find rivers mountains, active mud volcanoes, beaches… You name it and you can find it in Borneo. You can enjoy spectacular views of Mount Kinabalu, spend an afternoon sighting proboscis monkeys and of course see orangutans in the forests of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

6. Louisiade Archipelago | Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea boats - © Darren Jew Aurora - World Expeditions adventure holidays

It is a rare opportunity to explore the remote Louisiade Archipelago, one of the great volcanic island arcs of the South Pacific. The Southeast Asian islands stretches some 400km along the northern rim of the Coral Sea. A paradise of islands, lagoons and extensive barrier reefs (and home to the seafaring Dobu people), you can snorkel over the legendary Japanese Zero wreck at Deboyne lagoon, swim by Manta Rays at Losai Island, relax among the archipelago’s picture perfect beaches and spot fishermen tangle with sailfish and giant dog-tooth tuna.


South East Asia covers a large area and we haven’t been able to provide you with all its hidden corners here. There are a lot more islands in this part of the world to explore. So for more information on these and other remote islands of Southeast Asia, do get in touch with one of our teams around the world and they’d be happy to assist you with your queries.

Adventure, Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia

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