This towering city-state by the strait is a modern marvel, weaving eclectic styles and cultures into an unrivaled regale for the senses.
For a small place characterized by urban density, Singapore sustains a surprising degree of unperturbed nature. Wildlife enthusiasts should make the trek up to the northeastern edge of the island for an extended afternoon at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Here you’ll encounter migratory birds in transit from as far away as Australia or northern Siberia. A lengthy boardwalk ushers guests through thickets of mangrove past crabs, hairy-nosed otters, and—if you’re lucky—maybe even a troop of long-tailed macaques.
Palau Ubin is an unsettled island off the eastern coast of Singapore, accessible only by boat. The preserve is home to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, a unique sanctuary where a half dozen distinct habitats converge. Tropical forest, fertile lagoon, and craggy beaches all occupy a singular vista, absent any evidence of any big cities beyond.
Although Bukit Batok was formerly a granite quarry, today it exists as a serene 190-acre wilderness, straddling what is now a rain-filled lake. The park is a preferred retreat for outdoor recreation, including jogging, fishing, and weekend picnicking. It’s completely removed from the rumble of the city, yet easily connected to downtown by way of nearby rail service.
Fort Canning is a small, wooded hill rising from the middle of the downtown core. The area is believed to be the original site of a Malay civilization that flourished throughout the 14th century. Remains from that time (including jewelry and ornate gravestones) have been recovered here since excavation began in the 1980s. Keramat Iskandar Shah, a sacred pagoda atop the park, was built to honor the ruler of this bygone society.
In 2015, Singapore Botanic Gardens became the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. The 200-acre preserve was set aside in the 19th century and still maintains most of the historic architecture installed during the Victorian Era. There are areas set aside exclusively for orchids, ginger, and other brightly hued tropical flora. Inside the Botany Centre, an emphasis is placed on scientific research, as the facility grows into a guiding force for plant conservation throughout Southeast Asia.
Completed in 1827, Sri Mariamman is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. Its ornate entrance tower (known as a gopuram) rises above a busy street in Chinatown, decorated in fantastic detail by hundreds of deities carved into a tapered facade. Inside, visitors find sanctuary underneath frescoed ceilings and outstretched mandalas lining the walls.
Best Day Trip
An extensive cross section of the city can be seen by boat, floating the Singapore River as it bisects the Central Business District. Tours last up to seven hours, including stops in Little India, the National Orchid Garden, and the 10001 Light Buddha Temple. The water traces Singapore’s history, beginning in the Colonial District and flowing down toward its futuristic skyline, where the river meets Marina Bay.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Singapore is home to one of the world’s premiere cocktail scenes. Amoy Street in Chinatown is the epicenter of it all. More than a dozen bars are crowded into this two-block slice of nightlife. From Western classics such as Employees Only to the more experimental vibe at Native, whether it’s whisky drinks from Jigger & Pony or rum arrangements at Sugarhall, this single promenade has a tipple for every taste.
The Raffles Hotel, named after the British founder of modern Singapore, is one among the most illustrious guesthouses in the world. Its stunning white colonial archways have welcomed dignitaries since 1887. Inside, the Long Bar is no less legendary. Birthplace of the Singapore Sling, the esteemed establishment has served luminaries ranging from Rudyard Kipling to the Queen, herself.
The Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade is a two-mile walkway tracing the circumference of Singapore’s maritime epicenter. It affords unrivaled access to all the city’s signature landmarks and the legions of tourists who come to marvel at them all. The best way to soak it all in? Rent a Segway from Gogreen, directly adjacent to Merlion Park. Self-guided tours cost 32 dollars for a full hour. Every evening, at 8 and 9 p.m., the area comes alive with a 15-minute water and light show set to an orchestral soundtrack.