For those of us who have been backpacking in Asia, you’ll know that eventually things can get a little exhausting, and so finding the perfect chill out zone is exactly what you need. I’m talking about a place where days get lost in each other, you forget what time it is, waking up with the sun and going to sleep on hammocks by the river every night. I’m talking about places with tons of great food, heck loads of backpackers just waiting to befriend you, and chilled out parties every evening. These are the places we get lost in and stay a while. And just in case you were wondering where they are, we’ve done some of the hard work for you! As a seasoned backpacker around South East Asia and the Subcontinent, here are my tips for 10 perfect places to relax and chill out for a while…

1. Pokhara, Nepal

Most people head to Pokhara for one reason – to trek in the Annapurna mountain range. However, what they find is one of the most beautiful and peaceful cities on Earth, framed by the Phewa Lake and Himalayan peaks. While there’s plenty of trekking in the area, there’s also plenty of places where you’re not expected to do an awful lot. Lakeside cafes, endless German bakeries, slow boat rides on the lake and wonderful shopping. This is the place to relax after a hard trek, take the days slowly, perhaps practice some mediation and overall, just enjoy the stunning scenery right before your eyes.

Check out my 10 Reasons Why It’s Time to Go back to Nepal!


2. Koh Tao, Thailand

If you’re more of a beach bum than a mountain freak, look no further than Thailand’s best chill out island, Koh Tao. Located just North of Koh Phangyan, home of the Full Moon Party, Koh Tao is tiny and more famous for it’s diving culture than all night raves. Even if you don’t fancy heading down into the great big blue, the land side of Koh Tao has plenty of things for you to do. Hire a motorbike and drive off to secret beaches and view points, go snorkling or take a boat trip. There’s also tons of great places to eat here, as well as open air markets selling fresh fruit and smoothies. Plus, you really can’t beat that beach…

Travelettes LOVE Koh Tao, check out our 6 Top things to Do on Koh Tao and our The 10 Commandments of Koh Tao-ism.

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3. Sapa, Vietnam

There’s so much to see in Vietnam, and most backpackers don’t have time to make it up to Sapa, a sleepy mountain village on the Chinese border. What a huge mistake, as Sapa is a part of the country you’ll never forget. Famous for its colourful hill tribes and layered rice fields, Sapa is quickly becoming a well-established tourist town, with busy markets and guest houses popping up every year. In town, we recommend staying at the beautiful Green Valley Lodge, with a view over the misty mountains and apple-wild honey pancakes on the breakfast menu. Also make an effort to go out and stay in the hills with a local H’mong family, it’s a wonderful experience in some of the world’s most peaceful and untouched surroundings.


4. Pai, Thailand

Everyone who has backpacked around Thailand has heard about Pai, many call it ‘backpacker heaven’ and many others never really seem to leave. Pai has an effect on you that becomes difficult to shake off. Stay in a wooden bungalow down by the river, watch the mist rise every morning and explore the endless hills by motorbike. There’s plenty to see in the area: waterfalls, hot springs, tribal markets and villages – but it’s also a great place to do nothing at all. Sit in a hammock by the river reading the books you’ve been longing to read your whole trip, take advantage of the crisp, cold evenings you might be craving after months in the sweltering Asian humidity. At night, the town hosts a colourful night market, with cheap local foods, handicrafts and backpacker bric-à-brac.

Wondering where to head after Pai? Check out the Travelettes guide How to Travel Thailand in One Month.


5. Hampi, India

Ahh.. crazy, chaotic India. For anyone who has been lucky enough to travel around this country, you’ll know that sometimes you just need a little break before you step back into action. Hampi is one of the most heavenly places I have ever found on this great big planet. The landscape is other worldly, as huge boulders frame rice paddies and the snaking river. There are old ruins to explore and plenty of free climbing to try out. But truly, what Hampi does best is nothing at all. This is chill out heaven. Stay on the island in a bungalow, swinging on your hammock while overlooking rice fields. At night, watch the sunset over the river or hang out around a campfire on ‘The Rocks’. I guarantee you’ll stay a little while longer than you imagined…

South India is full of great relaxing spots, check out our guide for more: How to Spend a Month in South India.

IMG_2696 hampi

6. Nyuang Shwe, Myanmar

Myanmar is new on the Asian backpacker circuit, but for me it’s already a firm favourite. This country is like no other and the hills of Shan State are the highlight of the whole country. The centre of these hills is Inlay Lake and the town of Nyuang Shwe. After a hike from Kalaw to Inlay, there’s no better place to relax, explore and eat yourself happy than this beautiful lake side town. Cycle up to the vineyards on the hill (yes – Myanmar has vineyards). Eat delicious authentic French food at ‘French Touch’, and catch their nightly cinema screening. We recommend staying at Aquarius Inn for a dreamy relaxing experience in old teak Burmese houses.

Love the sound of Inlay Lake and wondering what else there is to see in this mysterious country? Have a read of my Travelettes Itinerary for Myanmar.


7. Koh Rong, Cambodia

After days exploring the Angkor Temples and partying on Siem Reap’s Pub Street, you’ll be craving a place as perfect as Koh Rong. The island is just off Sihanoukville, but this place is pretty different than any other South East Asian island you might have ventured to. There are no roads, barely any hot water and electricity is a luxury many go without. In all my travels around Asia, this place is as close as I found to Leonardo DiCaprio’s heaven in ‘The Beach’. Westerns are the leading clan here, running most of the accommodations and restaurants. Even though it can sometimes feel a bit too much like a backpacker tribe, you cannot deny that the beaches are unbelievable. Make sure you take a night boat trip where you can swim with the luminescent plankton, an experience you’ll never forget.


8. Langkawi, Malaysia

Malaysia is packed with highlights (most importantly: Food!) and the tropical island of Langkawi is the perfect place to chill out and spend a week (or two) before plunging into more of the culture. The beaches here are breathtaking and swimming couldn’t be more perfect. Hire a car and explore the highlands of the island, or simply relax, sit round the beach’s nightly campfires and eat yourself happy with an incredible mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian food.

Malaysia is an often forgotten highlight of travelling in SE Asia, check out our guide for more: The Travelettes Itinerary for Malaysia.


9. Rishikesh, India

Delhi is India’s capital of chaos, yet the perfect place to get away from it all is only a night bus away. Head up to the foothills of the Himalayas and beautiful Rishikesh. Made famous by The Beatles, who came here in the 1960’s and recorded The White Album in a now abandoned Ashram, the place has been a hub for spiritual and musical pilgrimage ever since. Nowadays, many people go to Rishikesh to do yoga or take part in one of the many adventure sports on offer. But it’s also a great place to hang out for a while, away form the chaotic heat of the rest of the North. Spend mornings at the German bakery overlooking the turquoise river Ganges, perhaps take a yoga class or two throughout the day, and then chant the night in with the nightly puja (prayers) on the banks of the river. Ahh, this really is a place of dreams!

For more about this beautiful place check out or The Travelettes Guide to Rishikesh and Haridwar and for extended travel in Northern India – How to Spend a Month in Northern India.

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10. Ubud, Indonesia

Nestled in the highlands of the island of Bali, Ubud is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a little soothing. Many come here for the yoga, the vegan food and the breathtaking views all around. But there is also a ton of art galleries, shopping galore and an intriguing monkey forest. This is the perfect place to take a break, explore the surroundings and chill out in one of Asia’s prettiest, hippyist and most chilled-out hubs.

If you’re heading to Ubud soon, check out our 6 Ways to While Away the Day in Ubud, Bali.

Kuta beach in Bali

How many of these chill out spots have you visited? Do you have any recommendations for us? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

All photographs by Annapurna Mellor, expect for the shot of Bali, which is from Bali Tourism.