6 Awesome Historic Sites to Visit in Southeast Asia

Thanks to its rich history, Southeast Asia is filled with cultural wonders that we wanderers can visit. Travelers and backpackers who want something different from the usual beach trips—and booze sessions—are sure to enjoy the many heritage sites found in this region. Whether you’re after the Spanish-influenced churches and cathedrals in the Philippines or the Buddhist temples in Thailand, there’s always something for those looking to learn a thing or two about a country’s origins.

Let’s take a look at some of the best historic sites to visit in Southeast Asia:

1 | St. Paul's Cathedral in Vigan (Philippines)

If you’re a traveler looking to visit historical sites while staying at affordable hotels in the Philippines, Vigan has a lot of places that you can see. One of these tourist attractions is the St. Paul's Cathedral, which dates back all the way to the Spanish Colonial Era. It was built in the 1800’s with a mix of Neo-Gothic, Romanesque and Christian features—a treat for art enthusiasts and religious churchgoers alike. 

Its signature feature is the "earthquake baroque" style, which has thick buttresses to act as braces in times of earthquakes and typhoons. Inside, you can find lavishly decorated altars, naves and brass communion handrails. It also houses a separate bell tower with a weather rooster on top, a symbol of Saint Peter. The church’s Chinese influences can be found in the outer doors, where you will see beautifully carved guardian Shi lions or foo dogs. The other is in the octagonal shape of the bell tower.

2 | Pak Ou Caves near Luang Prabang (Laos)

The Pak Ou Caves is situated in a sacred landscape along the Mekong River, located about 25 kilometers from Luang Prabang. It can be reached by boat.

The site’s signature feature is the collection of Buddha statues which are worshipped each day. These statues are laid out over the wall shelves, depicting many positions like meditation, teaching, and reclining. Those who wish to know about the ways of Buddhism hold this place in high regard, since it’s also a yearly pilgrimage destination where devout practitioners pray every New Year. This spectacle is a sight to see for any culturally-inclined tourist.

3 | The Temple of Literature in Hanoi Old Quarter (Vietnam)

The Old Quarter in Hanoi is one of Vietnam’s most prominent cultural sites. While it’s now famous for its markets and art shops, it also features historical landmarks which were built during the time of its ancient dynasties. 

One such place is the Temple of Literature, built in 1070 at the time of Emperor Lý Thánh Tông. It’s one of several temples dedicated to the ancient philosopher Confucius and is featured on the back of the 100,000 Dong Vietnamese bills, making it a cultural icon. The temple features several decorated courtyards and also houses Vietnam's first national university.

A prominent attraction for this site happens just before the Vietnamese New Year celebration, where tourists can get souvenirs in the form of New Year wish tags. These are made by calligraphers who gather outside the temple, writing wishes in authentic Hán characters. The art works are given as presents or used as ornaments during festivities.

4 | Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Ayutthaya (Thailand)

Thailand is known for several beautiful temples, and among them is the Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Ayutthaya. Also known as the King's Temple, it’s one of the most decorated and historically important temples. It holds the ashes of prominent kings and their siblings, along with their treasures. 

While the crypts were plundered by the Burmese, the site still retains much of its architecture, a must-see for any visiting tourist. The site is also part of the Ayutthaya Historical Park, which houses several more temples for you to visit.

5 | The Angkor Wat in Angkor (Cambodia)

The largest religious monument in the world, the Angkor Wat was originally constructed as a Hindu temple for the Khmer Empire. In the 12th century, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple. The site itself is one of the best-preserved wonders of the world, with temples that still have a significant religious function. It’s also a symbol of Cambodia, as it appears on its national flag.

It serves as a prime attraction for tourists and is admired for its architectural grandeur. The numerous bas-reliefs, religious artifacts, and devatas embellishing its walls give visitors no shortage of relics to see.

6 | Taung Kalat near Bagan (Myanmar)

Taung Kalat is a Buddhist monastery constructed over an extinct volcano plug. It is one of the most breathtaking sites in Myanmar. While visitors must climb a winding 777 steps to reach the summit, they are rewarded with a panoramic view of the countryside. The monastery is one of the most prominent pilgrimage sites of the country, where thousands of pilgrims and tourists visit annually to see the Nat temples and numerous relic sites on this volcanic mountain top.

Tourists who appreciate both nature and religious architecture are sure to enjoy taking in the sights and admiring the artifacts found only in Burma’s version of Mount Olympus.


These are just some of the most amazing sights in Southeast Asia. If you want indulge in a more culturally-oriented trip, this region is the place to set as your next destination. Enjoy the region’s heritage and learn more about this part of the world by booking your next flight to these wonderful places!

Have you been to any of these places? Which one was the most unforgettable for you?

Disclosure: This is a guest post.

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