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Best places to visit in thailand.

With a history that spans centuries and an exotic and friendly culture, Thailand welcomes travelers with white sand beaches, bustling cities and world-renowned culinary traditions. But with all that Thailand has to offer, you might be overwhelmed by where to head first. U.S. News considered attractions, seasonality, food options and more to determine the best places to visit in Thailand. Have a favorite? Vote below to help decide next year's list.

Railay Beach

Kanchanaburi province, khao sok national park, hua hin district, khao yai national park.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is a welcome reprieve from the commotion of Bangkok. Here, you'll be treated to beautiful, mountainous landscapes and an Old City full of historical temples, such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang. Venture outside of the city to Doi Suthep temple for sweeping views of the city below. Night markets are also a must-do in Chiang Mai, so pencil in time for the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar (one of Thailand's oldest and most well-known night bazaars). And no matter what, leave time for a visit to Elephant Nature Park for some rest and relaxation with Thailand's gentle giants.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Thailand's capital city is nothing short of exhilarating. The city offers a hearty mix of big-city bustle and modern sights, such as the Jim Thompson House, alongside ancient attractions, including Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. Just don't forget to pack modest clothing for visits to sacred sites, or you won't be admitted. While here, be sure to visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market – one of the largest street markets in the world – and eat at some of Bangkok's more than 300,000 street food stalls (some Michelin starred). At night, take in the skyline by exploring the rooftop bar scene.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and also the most popular with travelers. The island draws visitors in with its many palm-fringed beaches and relatively low travel costs, including everything from food to hotels. Hit up highly regarded Patong Beach, party the night away in the Patong district or head inland to Phuket Old Town to experience more local culture and find cheaper lodging options. Complete your once-in-a-lifetime trip by taking a long-tail boat tour to other islands in the area to swim, snorkel or scuba dive.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Home to five-star resorts, amazing nightlife and some of Thailand's most beautiful beaches , the island of Ko Samui has something for everyone. When you're not lounging on the white sand, pamper yourself with a luxurious spa treatment, visit an elephant sanctuary or explore ancient temples like Wat Plai Laem and Wat Phra Yai, also known as the Big Buddha Temple. Save time in your schedule for a daytrip to nearby Ang Thong Marine Park, a 42-island archipelago that is accessible via speedboat. Here, travelers can kayak, snorkel and scuba dive.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Although the region was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Phang Nga has recovered and rebuilt. During the cool (though still relatively hot), dry season (from November to February), tourists descend upon the province to check out protected areas like Mu Ko Surin National Park, one of the best diving sites in Thailand. Hiking and snorkeling are also excellent ways to explore while admiring southern Thailand's natural beauty. Before leaving, don't forget to save time for a visit to Ao Phang-Nga National Park, famous for its caves, emerald green waters and the picturesque James Bond Island.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Railay Beach features four stunning stretches of sand to sink your toes into. Railay West and Phra Nang Beach are two of the peninsula's most popular beach spots, offering luxury resorts, soft sand and jaw-dropping views of limestone cliffs. Tonsai Beach is more laid-back and budget-friendly thanks to its quieter, more removed location. Meanwhile, Railay East, while not great for swimming, is where you'll find some of the area's best nightlife venues. Regardless of which beaches you choose to visit, you'll have access to some of Thailand's best rock climbing locations, plus various walking paths and coral reefs.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Trang's secluded beaches and stunning islands have made it an up-and-coming travel destination. The dramatic surrounding landscapes (think: lush jungles and limestone mountains) contrast beautifully against the beaches' white sands and crystal-clear waters. You can spend days island-hopping to see and do all that Trang has to offer. Top activities you may enjoy include snorkeling around Ko Kradan, swimming to a hidden beach cave on Ko Muk and wandering through Thung Khai Botanical Garden. And after you've gotten your fill of sun and sand, head to one of Trang's 10 districts to immerse yourself in Thai culture.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Ko Phi Phi features some of Thailand's most popular beaches. Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two main islands, is known for its lively party scene, hidden coves and deep coral reefs and gardens that are ideal for snorkeling and diving. Meanwhile, the smaller, uninhabited Phi Phi Leh is where you'll find verdant cliffs surrounding Maya Bay's beautiful beaches, which you may recognize from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "The Beach." The best time to visit is between November and April, though be prepared for hordes of other visitors during this time.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Situated in northern Thailand, there are countless reasons to visit Chiang Rai. Wat Rong Suea Ten (The Blue Temple) and Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) are two of the city's most popular cultural landmarks, but travelers should also save time for the incredible Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai's iconic all-white temple. After exploring Chiang Rai's architectural wonders, enjoy a boat tour of the Mae Kok River, go shopping at the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar or explore the Baan Dam Museum, a collection of buildings created by artist Thawan Duchanee.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Thailand's third-largest province captivates travelers with its natural beauty. Its diverse landscape – which features everything from seven-tiered waterfalls, rivers and mountains to Neolithic caves and national parks – is ideal for outdoor pursuits, including hiking and rafting. But a trip here wouldn't be complete without visiting some of the area's World War II sites, including the notorious Bridge over the River Kwai. Start your history lesson at the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, an interactive museum that tells the tragic story of how the Thailand-Burma Railway was built. Then, stop by the JEATH War Museum to see a replica of a prisoners-of-war camp.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Even if you don't consider yourself an outdoorsy person, a trip to Khao Sok National Park is sure to take your breath away. Home to limestone cliffs, awe-inspiring waterfalls and the world's oldest evergreen rainforest, Khao Sok is an incredibly bio-diverse area. Here, you'll find roughly 200 kinds of flora and many different animal species, including tigers, elephants and Southern pig-tailed macaques (monkeys). The park sees a lot of rainfall year-round, so for the best chance of staying dry, time your visit during the dry season, which runs from December to April.

top 10 places to visit thailand

For a vacation full of rich cultural attractions, head to Lampang. Sitting about 70 miles southeast of Chiang Mai, Lampang is known for its horse-drawn carriages, authentic Thai cuisine and ornate temples, including the ancient Wat Phrathat Lampang Luang. Spend some time browsing for souvenirs along Kad Kong Ta, a thoroughfare that turns into a street market on weekends, or learn about the production of the chicken bowl at the Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum. For a one-of-a-kind experience, head to nearby Chae Son National Park, where tourists boil eggs in the park's natural hot springs.

top 10 places to visit thailand

A popular resort destination along the Gulf of Thailand, the Hua Hin District offers a full roster of activities to pick from (think: water parks, golf courses and night markets). Visitors can ride banana boats at Hua Hin Beach or enjoy the views from the top of Khao Takiap hill (just beware the resident wild monkeys). Hua Hin also serves as an excellent jumping off point for daytrips – spectacular sights like the Phraya Nakhon Cave and Kaeng Krachan National Park, the largest national park in Thailand, are located less than 40 miles outside of the city center.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Khao Yai National Park boasts a number of impressive superlatives: It's the oldest and most-visited national park in Thailand, the country's third-largest national park and one of mainland Asia's largest intact monsoon forests. Plus, this stunning national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features more than 30 miles of hiking trails, some of which lead to breathtaking waterfalls. Keep in mind, though that guides are required for most of the trails. While exploring, you may spot some of Khao Yai's wild residents, including elephants, sun bears and several species of hornbills.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Named Ko Chang (or "Elephant Island" in Thai) because of its elephant-shaped headland, this large island is more secluded than Phuket but no less beautiful. Its west coast is dotted with stunning coastlines (some sandy, some rocky), small towns and a variety of accommodation options, while its interior offers tropical jungles and gushing waterfalls to trek through and to. But remember, Ko Chang's tourism infrastructure isn't as well developed as other Thai islands, so getting here is a bit more of a trek.

top 10 places to visit thailand

Located in southern Thailand near the Malaysian border, Hat Yai is a popular stopover for tourists traveling between the two countries. This cosmopolitan city is a premier shopping hub, boasting several malls, night bazaars and a unique floating market, where travelers can purchase local delicacies and goods from vendors stationed in small boats along a canal. When you're not bargaining for the best price, check out the impressive Phra Maha Chedi Tripob Trimongkol, a temple constructed entirely out of stainless steel. Another can't-miss tourist attraction in Hat Yai is the towering statue Phra Buddha Mongkol Maharaj, which sits within Hat Yai Municipal Park.

top 10 places to visit thailand

This northeast Thai city is ideal for travelers who prefer a jam-packed vacation itinerary. Start off with a visit to the temple Wat Phothisomphon, then learn about Udon Thani's Chinese heritage at the Thai-Chinese Cultural Center. Other travelers will want to prioritize Udon Thani's natural wonders, which include Nong Prachak Public Park and serene Red Lotus Lake. While you're here, considering making a daytrip to nearby Ban Chiang, a Bronze Age UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important prehistoric settlements in Southeast Asia.

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top 10 places to visit thailand

Mu Ko Similan National Park

top 10 places to visit thailand

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20 Best Places to Visit in Thailand — From the Country's Oldest National Park With Secret Waterfalls to Stunning Islands With Excellent Diving

There's no shortage of beautiful places to visit in Thailand.

top 10 places to visit thailand

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Thailand is so much more than a travel destination — visiting is a bona fide rite of passage. From hostel-hopping backpackers to well-heeled five-star hotel aficionados, there’s something for everyone in “The Land of Smiles.” 

My most recent trip to Thailand was in early 2022, when the country implemented strict entry requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, I was one of a few hundred thousand tourists who were allowed into the country, and it felt like I had many of the typically crowded attractions all to myself.

The beauty of Thailand is that it will show you different sides of itself no matter how many times you visit. From the idyllic white-sand beaches and palm-fringed islands in the south to the misty hillsides and temple-peppered mountains of the north, the rattle and hum under neon lights of nonstop Bangkok, and the ruins of ancient cities surrounded by jungle, Thailand never disappoints.

So, what are the best places to visit in Thailand? I reached out to a Thailand travel expert and threw in a bit of my own first-person experience to help you narrow down this ever-growing list.

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For most travelers, an adventure in Thailand will likely kick off in the nonstop, energetic capital city, Bangkok. A dizzying destination and one of my favorite international cities, Bangkok is full-on sensory overload — but in the best way. Dig into sizzling street food; meander back alleys and bustling thoroughfares in search of small markets, shops, and hidden temples; cruise along the Chao Phraya River, and grab a cocktail at the dozens of sky-high rooftop bars. 

Tip: Book a room at the Capella Bangkok or Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok — two iconic luxury hotels with stunning locations perched on the Chao Phraya River.

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Second to Bangkok on most visitors’ lists is the northern city of Chiang Mai. Many travelers even prefer Chiang Mai to Bangkok for its relatively slower pace of life. The spectacular city is bursting with temples (Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a must) and humming with restaurants and bars. 

"I would say for anybody, whether it's their first time or a repeat trip to Thailand, if you have been there or you haven't, [you have to visit] Chiang Mai," said Grant Ekelund , Travel + Leisure A-List advisor and senior travel consultant and Asia specialist at InsideAsia. "It's such a neat city. It’s one of those destinations that has something for everyone … Are you a foodie? Do you want to hike? See cool temples? Have amazing trekking opportunities? It can all be done [here], and it slots into any itinerary perfectly."

Koh Phi Phi

Thailand has more than 1,400 islands scattered around its coastline, but few are as famous or iconic as the Phi Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea. Comprising two islands — Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh — Koh Phi Phi is known for its natural beauty, excellent diving, and raucous party scene. For the latter, Phi Phi Don is the most famous. Phi Phi Leh, meanwhile, is uninhabited and beloved by those looking to disappear into nature. It was blasted into the public eye about two decades ago, when Leonardo DiCaprio's character went in search of an island paradise in the film "The Beach," which is set in real-life Maya Bay.

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While we’re on the topic of Koh Phi Phi, we’d be remiss not to mention Krabi province as a whole. Located in southern Thailand, bordering the Andaman Sea, Krabi is home to many of the beautiful beaches and islands that make Thailand famous. 

"I've been booking many [trips to] Krabi lately," said Ekelund. "It ticks a lot of boxes for people. You've got the beauty, cool cliffs, and interesting geology. It has a beach, but it's for people who don't want to simply park it on the sand for 10 days. Krabi offers activities and more." Some highlights include the beach town of Ao Nang, as well as islands like Phuket, Koh Lanta, Koh Yao Yai, Koh Lipe, Railay Beach, and several national parks.

Koh Yao Noi

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My first trip to Thailand was to the small island of Koh Yao Noi back in 2013. One of the most beautiful islands in Phang Nga Bay, Koh Yao Noi is flecked off the coast of its sibling island, Koh Yao Yai. Sandy beaches and small fishing villages comprise most of the land here, along with the luxe Six Senses Yao Noi resort tucked along the eastern coast. The property’s infinity pool is legendary for its explosive sunrise views that blur the distinction between the sky and sea.

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Many Thai cities have the ability to make visitors feel like they’re stepping back in time. But few create the illusion as vividly as Ayutthaya. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, the ruins of Ayutthaya are breathtaking and hauntingly beautiful. It’s only an hour from Bangkok, making it an easy day trip or a great overnight excursion.

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Sukhothai is another beautiful ancient city. "Sukhothai is for people who like history. I was taken by how beautiful the area is and how extensive the ruins are," said Ekelund. "We cycled around the ruins with a guide and got a great sense of the history. Sukhothai is much more rural and harder to reach, meaning it has fewer tourists. You also don't have a city built up around it."

Mae Hong Son Loop

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Of all the places I've visited in Thailand, none stick with me as much as the Mae Hong Son Loop. This 300-mile route is most often tackled by travelers on the back of motorbikes looking to brave the mountain switchbacks that descend into the thick jungle and pass from small village to small village. It's not a journey to be taken lightly — motorbike experience is strongly recommended — but those who make the trip are rewarded with spectacular scenery and access to remote communities.

Khao Yai National Park

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Thailand has more than 100 national parks. The oldest is Khao Yai National Park, which also happens to be the country's third-largest. Within the park lies a web of hiking trails, secret waterfalls, and herds of elephants.

"Khao Yai has a lot of bat caves, too, which is one of the coolest things I've ever experienced," said Ekelund. "I stood there for 30 minutes while an unending stream of bats flew over my head. It was all so beautiful. It's a beautiful park with waterfalls, trekking, and hiking. Plus, it's just a couple of hours [by car] from Bangkok."

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Approximately two hours southeast of Chiang Mai is the city of Lampang. Much like many large cities in Thailand, Lampang has its fair share of temples, street food, and markets. But unlike the others, it feels like a place where time has stood still. Just listen for the sound of clip-clopping horse carts, still used for transportation, and you'll understand what I mean. Because of Lampang's integral role in the teak trade, many migrants from Myanmar made this northern city home, and you'll find teak mansions and Burmese-style temples everywhere.

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Chiang Rai, a northern Thai city, is often glossed over as most visitors opt to stop in Chiang Mai instead. "I am always struck by how chill Chiang Rai is," said Ekelund. "It's a relaxing place to be and has cool stuff to do. It's a great city to walk through the neighborhoods and see people living their daily lives. I enjoyed the mountains, nearby villages, and opportunities for cultural exchange."

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No list of best places to visit in Thailand would be complete without Phuket. While Phuket has a reputation for being crowded with resort after resort, the truth is it’s for a reason — the island is a beautiful place to be. Thailand's largest and most easily accessible island brings visitors in by the millions each year for its wide array of hotels, white-sand beaches, parties in Patong, colorful snorkeling, and eclectic culinary scene.

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Thailand’s second most popular island sits off the country’s eastern coast in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Samui is wreathed in bone-white sandy beaches, peppered with temples, veined with hiking trails, and splashed with fabulous resorts and energetic beach towns and villages.

"It's hard to beat Koh Samui. It's just beautiful," said Ekelund. "If you want easy access without a full resort stay, I recommend Anantara Bophut . You can walk to Fisherman's Village, and you won’t feel like you're 'stuck' at a resort. If you want a full resort experience, I like Banyan Tree Samui for its private beach and spectacular rooms."

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The tiny island of Koh Tao, located in the Gulf of Thailand and not too far from Koh Samui, is one of the country’s best locations for diving and snorkeling. In fact, most avid divers will tell you that Koh Tao is their destination of choice in Thailand. The palm-fringed island is best known for its abundance of sea turtles.

Kanchanaburi

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Shrouded in thick jungle and sliced by miles of track belonging to what was once known as the “Death Railway,” Kanchanaburi has a dark and tragic history. The infamous train route, which crosses the River Kwai, was built from 1940 to 1943 by prisoners of war taken by the Japanese in World War II. Today, only a small section of the rail route is open and takes travelers on a journey through the mountain cliffs and bamboo forests of Kanchanaburi. "If you're into history, beautiful vistas, trains, and wildlife, you can get all of that in Kanchanaburi. It's a place not many tourists go, either, so it has a lot to offer," said Ekelund.

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Trang is the province directly south of Krabi, which means it has the same beautiful stretch of Andaman Sea coastline, except with a fraction of the crowds. There’s no shortage of islands to explore around Trang, like Koh Kradan and Koh Muk. Koh Muk's crown jewel is the secret Emerald Cave, which can be entered via a dark tunnel that leads to a protected beach surrounded by towering limestone cliffs.

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Located in the province of Phang Nga, Khao Lak can be thought of as Phuket’s much quieter cousin. Less than two hours from Phuket International Airport, Khao Lak is home to miles of sprawling, empty beaches, plus it offers easy access to beautiful national parks.

"I've been hyping Khao Lak quite a bit for people who want something quieter," said Ekelund. "You have easy access to the Phuket International Airport, but it's much more chill than the other Andaman Islands. It has beautiful beaches, good infrastructure, a great spot for dining, and it’s not hard to get to."

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Whether or not you drive the Mae Hong Son Loop, you’ll want to stop in Pai when visiting northern Thailand. Once a sleepy community of expats, Pai has morphed into a must-visit backpacker destination. Visitors will find funky cafes and coffee shops, endless bars, guest houses, hostels, and a dispensary or two, particularly now that cannabis is no longer considered a narcotic in the country.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

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South of Bangkok, the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan is best known for the glamorous, frenetic beach town of Hua Hin. The province runs down the skinny arm of the country, bordering the Gulf of Thailand on one side and Myanmar on the other. Here’s where you'll find Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailand's first marine national park. The park's top attractions include a series of spectacular caves and a sprawling freshwater marsh. Visitors can enjoy the park’s beaches, islands, walking trails, and thick mangrove forests. It’s just an hour from Hua Hin and about 3.5 hours from Bangkok.

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This long, skinny island, also in the province of Krabi, flies under the radar, but it’s one of my favorite places in the country. Koh Lanta is home to beautiful beaches, great restaurants, and the Mu Ko Lanta National Park, an amazing spot for diving and seeing undeveloped beaches.

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17 Best Places to Visit in Thailand

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Thailand is a collage of animated scenes that comprise bustling modern cities crowded with motorbikes and tuk-tuks, Buddhist temples tended by orange-robed monks, hill tribes selling handicrafts, lush landscapes dotted with traditional farming villages, ancient ruins and stunning coastlines peppered with gorgeous beaches and blue lagoons.

Those looking to spend a few weeks exploring tropical islands should head to the picture perfect Thai Islands . If the exciting energy of a capital city is more your style, Bangkok will more than provide an unforgettable experience.

Map of Places to Visit in Thailand

Places to Visit in Thailand

For getting to grips with nature and understanding more about the various ethnicities within Thailand, the city of Chiang Mai serves as the perfect jumping off point to the mountainous landscapes of the north. Plan your trip to Southeast Asia most popular travel destination with our list of the best places to visit in Thailand.

17. Ko Phangan

Ko Phangan

As Thailand’s fifth-largest island, Ko Pha Ngan is a mix of rolling hills, lush jungles, and white-sand beaches . Compared to the neighboring island of Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan is relatively less developed, although it still offers plenty of accommodations and activities for outdoor enthusiasts.

Diving is a popular activity in Ko Pha Ngan. The island is located near some of the best dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand , including the iconic Sail Rock site. Beachgoers are also spoiled for choice, as Ko Pha Ngan is home to over 30 different tropical beaches.

Ko Pha Ngan is famed for hosting the legendary Full Moon Party . Every month on the night of the full moon, Haad Rin Beach transforms into a lively open-air nightclub with live music, potent cocktails, and even fire rope skipping. The event attracts anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 people each month.

16. Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park

Located in the Sankamphaeng Mountain Range, Khao Yai National Park is the third largest park in Thailand . Despite the high elevation, the park’s landscape is a diverse mix of evergreen rainforests and billowy grasslands.

Khao Yai National Park also has several waterfalls hidden inside the tree-lined forests. At 260-feet tall, powerful Haew Narok is the largest waterfall in the park and a must visit. Although not as high, the picturesque Haew Suwat Waterfall is also worth visiting; it was the setting for the waterfall jump scene in the movie, The Beach.

The abundance of wildlife is one of the main reasons for visiting Khao Yai National Park. Pig-tailed macaques, sambar deer, freshwater crocodiles, and Asian black bears are just a few creatures that can be spotted wandering through the park. It’s also one of the few places in Thailand where you can regularly see bigger mammals like elephants and tigers in the wild.

15. Sukhothai

Sukhothai

A small city in northern Thailand, Sukhothai is a popular tourist destination due to the nearby ruins of an ancient city by the same name. Historic Sukhothai was the first capital of Thailand, then Siam, during the 13th century. Many temples, palaces, and monuments from this era can be found in the Sukhothai Historical Park .

The park is divided into multiple zones, with each featuring several excavated temples, chedis, Buddha figures and other monuments with impressive stucco reliefs. Wat Mahathat is considered to be the most impressive temple with its standing Buddha relics and lotus-shaped stupa. In the middle of the park is Wat Si Chum pavilion, which houses a massive 50-foot tall sitting Buddha.

The Sukhothai Historical Park is also dotted with sparkling lakes, sunken moats, and manicured gardens. The on-site Ramkhamhaeng National Museum is a great place to learn more about the park’s history, as it contains different artifacts and objects found in the area. In addition to the historic city, the Sri Satchanalai National Park and Ramkhamhaeng National Park are nearby and well worth a visit for their natural scenery and outdoor recreation.

14. Ko Samui

Ko Samui

Although Ko Samui is Thailand’s third largest island, it was largely unknown to travelers until the two intrepid backpackers boarded a coconut boat and landed there in the 1970s. Word soon spread about the islands magnificent beaches, and today Ko Samui is one of the most popular travel destinations in all of Asia. Ko Samui offers a more convenient travel experience than other islands in Thailand too (besides Phuket) as it boasts an international airport.

Compared to its neighboring island Phangan, which is famous for its rollicking “Full Moon Parties” on the beach, Ko Samui is more developed , though it still has a number of quiet and secluded beaches. Even well-developed beaches like the four-mile-long Hat Chaweng have spots where visitors can relax away from the crowds. At the southern end of the beach around a small headland is Little Chaweng, or Chaweng Noi . Offshore are two small islets, one of which can be reached by wading.

Visitors who prefer a more social travel experience won’t be disappointed either. Na Thon , Ko Samui’s transportation hub, if full of lively restaurants and bars. The island is known for its coconut carvings and hand-printed batik clothing. Samui also has several important Buddhist temples worth visiting. Wat Khunaram features mummified remains of revered monks. Constructed in 1972, the Wat Phra Yai temple features a 3 meter (9 foot) high seated Buddha figure known as the “ Big Buddha .”

The center of Ko Samui is a mountainous forest region with several stunning waterfalls, including a 20 meter (65 foot) waterfall that tumbles into a pool perfect for swimming. A well-developed road circles the island, making it easy to explore everything this popular travel destination has to offer.

13. Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai

The northernmost city in Thailand, Chiang Rai is the place to go to explore the Golden Triangle , which contains the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar . A busy town offering something for everyone, Chiang Rai is often used as a base for exploring the surrounding region. The town itself is quiet during the day, when most of its package tourists are out on day trips, but at night the neon lights flash on and souvenir stalls and restaurants spring into action.

The city is also home to a few museums that exhibit local heritage, culture and art. With its lovely green spaces, trees and flower, Saun Mai Ngam Park is a nice place to relax or attend a flower festival at year’s end. Markets and a night bazaar offer food, handicrafts, souvenirs and free cultural performances. Chiang Rai Beach is popular for picnics and riverboat cruises.

Outside of Chiang Rai, the Gate of Siam is a special place on the Laos border where visitors can enjoy lovely views. Namtok Khun Kon Forest Park offers nature walks and scenic waterfalls. Lion Hill Cave is an interesting cavern surrounded by picturesque scenery, hiking trails and picnic areas. Various tour companies operating from Chiang Rai guide tourists to nearby hill tribes to experience their culture and traditions.

Pai

Once just a quiet village in northern Thailand , Pai is now a booming town that is part of the Mae Hong Son Loop stretching between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. Noted for its picturesque valley and relaxed atmosphere, Pai is a favored destination among backpackers and tourists wishing to explore the region.

Due to Pai’s increasing influx of tourists, the city has increased in tourism facilities with numerous guesthouses, restaurants, souvenir shops and bars. Pai’s Wednesday Market is a popular attraction, which draws crowds from other villages around the Pail Valley.

With Pai’s location in the foothills of the mountains, many tourists use the city as a base for exploring natural attractions , trekking tours and visits to the hill tribes of Lisu, Karen, Lahu and Hmong. Also just outside the city are spas, elephant camps, hot springs and beautiful waterfalls. Additionally, the Pai River offers tubing and whitewater adventures. Other area must-see sites include the Pai Canyon , the WWII Memorial Bridge and a Chinese village where tourists can buy teas and view a Ferris wheel powered by humans.

11. Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung

Sitting on an extinct volcano in northeastern Thailand, Phanom Rung is a Hindu shrine complex regarded for its outstanding architecture. Located near the village of Nang Rong, this temple sanctuary was built by the Khmer culture between the 10th and 13th centuries as a dedication to the Hindu god, Shiva. Constructed of sandstone and laterite, Phanom Rung was built to represent Mount Kailash , the sacred home of Shiva.

The complex faces east, and four times a year the sun shines through all 15 sanctuary doorways. During these events the park extends its hours, and locals celebrate the Phanom Rung Festival around the April alignment, with ancient Brahmin ceremonies and modern sound-and-light shows.

Phuket

Known for its gorgeous beaches, excellent diving and an abundance of luxurious spas, Phuket is Thailand’s leading tourist destination. Located in Southern Thailand, Phuket is the country’s largest island, connected to the mainland by two bridges.

Of Phuket’s many attractions, the beaches are the main draw with their white sands, blue lagoons and water sports. With resorts, hotels, shops, restaurants and vibrant nightlife, Patong Beach is the most popular beach. Phang Nga Bay is a memorable place to visit with it’s beautiful caves, aquatic grottoes and limestone islands.

Phuket is also a place for ultimate relaxation and pampering with its numerous options that range from massage tents on the beach to world class spas in breathtaking settings. Fun and adventure is to be found everywhere from aquariums and seashell museums to national parks featuring whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, scuba diving, jungle trekking and more.

9. Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park

Surrounded by towering limestone mountains and lush tropical forests, Khao Sok National Park contains some of the most spectacular landscapes in Thailand. It dates back 160 million years, making Khao Sok National Park considerably older than the Amazon rainforest.

At the heart of the park is Cheow Lan , a sparkling turquoise lake dotted with floating raft houses and colorful long-tail boats. Most notably, the national park is also home to the largest virgin rainforest in Southern Thailand. Visitors exploring the forest will come across cascading waterfalls, hidden caves, and groves of wild fruit trees. Other activities available include ziplining and kayaking and tubing on the Sok River .

Besides the picturesque scenery, many people visit Khao Sok for diverse wildlife. It’s believed that over five percent of the species on the planet live within the park. It’s common to see small creatures like Malaysian tapirs, wild boars, and pig-tailed macaques, although sightings of larger animals like Asian elephants and tigers are rarer.

8. Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya

Founded in 1350, the city of Ayutthaya is located in the Chao Phraya River valley in Central Thailand. It sits on an island surrounded by three rivers connecting it to the Gulf of Siam. King U Thong proclaimed it the capital of his kingdom. Once declared the most magnificent city on earth, the ruins of Ayutthaya are now a major attraction for those visiting Thailand.

As the capital of the Thai Kingdom , Ayutthaya was an impressive site, with three palaces and more than 400 temples. From the 14th to the 18th centuries, the city flourished. By the year 1700, the population reached nearly 1,000,000. Ayutthaya became a center for trade as well as a connecting point between the West and the East.

In 1767, the Burmese attacked and conquered Ayutthaya. The majority of the once magnificent reliquary towers, monasteries, temples and palaces were destroyed during this invasion. However, some structures still stand and tourists are welcome to visit these.

Ayutthaya

Many of the ancient remains in Ayutthaya lie in the western section of the island, while others are more widespread. One of the most popular sites is Wat Phra Mahathat . Here one will find a sandstone Buddha head entwined with the roots of a Bodhi tree. One of the most important images of the seated Buddha can be found at Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit, and is a highlight for the Buddhists as well as others visiting the site. Thailand’s largest gilded Buddha, known as Phra Buddha Triratana Nayok, is found at Wat Phanan Choeng. It is a nearly 20 feet (6 meter) tall seated Buddha and is one of the most venerated in Thailand.

The modern city is just 80 km (50 miles) north of Bangkok, and is easily reached by train, bus and van. Although many visitors choose a day trip from Bangkok , one may want to lengthen that time to two or three days in order to have time to enjoy the great number of ruins as well as the local charm and excellent food found in Ayutthaya.

7. Ko Chang

Ko Chang

Thailand’s second largest island, Ko Chang is located off of the country’s southeastern coast near the Cambodian border. The island has everything that travelers want from a tropical vacation, from long stretches of sandy beaches to unspoiled rainforests. There are plenty of activities to pursue on the island too, including scuba diving, kayaking and jungle trekking.

When it comes to lazing on the beach in luxury, White Sand Beach is one of the most popular places to visit on the island. Located on the island’s northwestern corner, it’s the longest beach on Ko Chang. The central section of the soft sandy beach is lined with resorts and hotels. Hat Tha Nam on Ko Chang’s southwest coast attracts travelers looking for fun on a budget. From rustic bungalows to tree houses, visitors can find accommodations here on the cheap and spend the money that they’ve saved on the bars and restaurants popping up along the shoreline.

Ko Chang Waterfall

Among the many beaches on Ko Chang, Hat Khlong Phao is one of the most striking. Extreme low and high tides make this picturesque beach a beachcomber’s dream. Located at the north end of the beach is Laem Chaiyachet, a rock formation that’s been fitted out with a pier. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun setting into the Gulf of Thailand.

Around 70 percent of Ko Chang is covered by mountainous forests, and taking hikes to view the island’s waterfalls offers visitors a refreshing break from sunbathing in the sand. A short hike from the beach of Khlong Phrao leads visitors to Namtok Khlong Phlu , the island’s largest waterfall. The falls drop in three cascading tiers. Those who climb to the top tier can reward themselves with a dip in a large pool.

6. Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi

Located in western Thailand and admired for its beautiful scenery and accessibility to national parks and waterfalls, Kanchanaburi is best known for its iron bridge that is linked with the historic Death Railway to Burma in which thousands of Asian laborers and POWS died during its construction under Japanese occupation during WWII.

While Kanchanaburi is a thriving city, the main attractions are associated with WWII, chiefly the iron railroad bridge that was portrayed in the Academy Award winning 1957 film, “ Bridge over the River Kwai .”

Several museums and war cemeteries all present information about the city and its bridge during the 1940s Japan occupation. The city is also home to many hotels and temples of which the Tiger Temple is the most popular.

Outside of Kanchanaburi are various national parks, including Erawan and Srinakarind National Parks, all offering beautiful scenery, waterfalls, caves and visits to tribal villages.

Railay

Railay (or Rai Leh) is a small peninsula in south Thailand that is only accessible by boat due to the high limestone cliffs cutting off mainland access. These cliffs attract rock climbers from all over the world, but the area is also a popular attraction in Thailand due to its beautiful beaches and quiet relaxing atmosphere.

Almost every patch of buildable land fronting in the eastern and western part of the peninsula has been taken over by bungalow resorts, and development is creeping up into the forest behind. But at least there are no high-rise buildings, and much of the construction is hidden among trees or set amid prettily landscaped gardens.

Koh Tao

Located off the southeastern shore of Thailand, the tiny 21 square km (13 square mile) island of Tao remained largely uninhabited until the late 1900s and has only recently been developed as a travel destination. With its white sandy beaches, lush green forests and majestic granite rock formations, it’s no wonder that its bare-amenity bungalows are making room for luxury resorts as more visitors become aware of the island’s natural attractions.

Koh Tao is best known as premier scuba diving and snorkeling location. With many shallow bays, easy currents and gorgeous coral reefs, many visitors come to Koh Tao to learn how to scuba dive or to upgrade their scuba diving certification . There are multiple diving schools in Mae Hat, the island’s main town, as well as in many other places around the island. Koh Tao’s coral reefs are home to a broad variety of marine life, including butterfly fish, batfish, whale sharks and bull sharks.

Koh Tao Diving

“Tao” is the Thai word for turtle, and some believe that the island was named for its turtle-like shape. Koh Tao also has several locations where hawksbill and green turtles come to breed every year, although their habitat has been threatened from the island’s increasing popularity as a tourist destination. In recent years, Koh Tao’s diving schools have banded together to help preserve the turtle breeding grounds.

Other popular activities on the island include rock climbing, sailing, mountain biking and game fishing. Mae Hat also has several schools that offer courses in Thai cooking and yoga. Sairee Village is the island’s hot spot and has an assortment of restaurants, bars and clubs.

3. Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Surrounded by the mountains of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a flourishing city often used as a base among tourists wishing to explore the lush landscapes, hill tribes and outdoor adventures of the region. Nevertheless, Chiang Mai itself is a large and culturally important city where historical and modern Thai architecture and traditions coexist.

A walk around the historic center bestows views of old city walls and dozens of beautiful ancient temples. However, the most famous of these temples, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep , lies outside Chiang Mai on a mountainside overlooking the city. Modern-day Chiang Mai offers handicraft markets , an abundance of accommodations , botanical gardens and an elephant nature park where visitors can bathe and feed elephants.

Chiang Mai Hiking

Those seeking to experience the beauty, wildlife and adventure of the mountainous region will find a large variety of organized tour companies operating out of Chiang Mai that feature trekking, mountain biking, ziplining, river rafting and visits to local hill tribes.

Bangkok

Thailand’s capital city and by far the largest city in the country, Bangkok, is a buzzing cosmopolis of high rise buildings, magnificent palaces, ancient temples, glittering nightclubs, bustling markets and streets lined with vendors hawking souvenirs and tantalizing foods. While the city is sometimes described as a concrete jungle jam-packed with noisy traffic and air pollution, Bangkok is not without its natural beauty that is seen in its remaining canals, green spaces and flowering tropical plants.

Located in Central Thailand, Bangkok is a sprawling city offering something for everyone. The famous tourist street, Khao San Road , is a good place to begin with its interesting sites and cheap shopping and nightlife. The city is well known for its myriad of temples such as the sacred Wat Phra Kaew, which contains the Emerald Buddha . Zoos, water parks and amusement parks all present family fun. Shopping in Bangkok is sensational with numerous shopping malls and markets, including the not-to-be-missed floating markets. Sporting venues host Thai boxing matches.

Khao San Road

From scores of street vendors to market stalls and a variety of restaurants for every budget and taste, Bangkok offers a fantastic dining experience. The city is also well known for its wild nightlife.

See also: Where to Stay in Chiang Mai

Due to the city’s congested traffic, the best transport options around Bangkok are the Skytrain, the metro and tuk-tuks. A memorable way to experience Bangkok is by a boat ride on the canals.

1. Ko Phi Phi

Ko Phi Phi

Situated off the southeastern coast of Phuket in the Krabi Province is the idyllic Phi Phi Island archipelago. The largest island is Ko Phi Phi Don , a popular vacation destination famed for its sun-soaked beaches , beautiful limestone cliffs and laid-back atmosphere.

Tonsai Bay and Long Beach attract the most tourists, while secluded beaches like Phak Nam Bay offer a tranquil escape away from the crowds. It’s also possible to hike up to Phi Phi Viewpoint, which boasts dramatic 360-degree views over the entire island.

Ko Phi Phi

In the middle of the island is the bustling village of Tonsai . Considered the heart of Ko Phi Phi, this charming town is teeming with mouthwatering restaurants and lively beach bars.

One mile south of Phi Phi Don is Koh Phi Phi Leh , a sparkling oasis of crystal clear waters and limestone rocks. At the center of the island is Maya Bay , which served as the stunning backdrop for the movie, The Beach.

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Reader interactions.

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August 24, 2019 at 10:42 pm

I visited Thailand many times but my favourite place is Koh Samui

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August 22, 2019 at 9:01 pm

What a fantastic Post! This is so chock full of useful information, I am always looking for the perfect escape, the perfect paradise, the kind of place that tosses your cares into the sea. Thailand is my dreamland, and this year I definitely want to visit Thailand.

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August 12, 2019 at 8:13 am

Yes I have been in Thailand and I visit many places including Pattaya it was really fantastic.

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November 15, 2018 at 10:50 am

I was in Phuket recently. A real heaven.! Phi phi Island and a lot of beautiful places to see. For nightlife it is good also. Just be careful of ladyboys and lady drinks.!

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June 6, 2018 at 10:42 pm

I had 5 days with a fantastic experience in Pattaya and Bangkok! It has been really interesting for all short-term oversea guests. People are friendly, attractive and polite… hope one day I come back here and enjoy these again!

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January 21, 2018 at 1:34 pm

we’ve been to Thailand many times and Koh Samui is by far the best. You see true culture in the south of the island and then you can go to Chaweng for dancing and nightlife. Beautiful temples and you can get a boat to a national park. Phuket is good too but more for younger visitors as it has lots of lady bars and nightlife but equally has just as beautiful beaches. Bangkok is busy busy but worth a stop over

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November 17, 2017 at 9:37 am

Skip Pattaya. It is a dump. Bars and sex workers. I was there years ago and the beach and water was littered with garbage. Plenty of other beautiful beaches to be found in Thailand.

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November 15, 2017 at 6:38 am

How is Pattaya? Have anyone been there? Any tips to provide?

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November 5, 2015 at 4:30 am

Thailand is the most beautiful country in south-east Asia with rich heritage, flora and fauna and beautiful islands. I have visited the country hundreds of times and yet when I hear the name I wish to visit again. My favourite places are Krabi ( i am scared of islands ), Khao Yai National Park, Mae Hong Son and Pai.

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May 13, 2015 at 2:05 pm

It really depends on what you are looking for because like you explained in your article you can go to beaches to chill or rage like no where else in the world, go Bangkok which is just filled with everything that a major city needs plus the most ridiculous view, then places like Chiang Mai were our base was, where you have a mix of traditional Thai culture with the Temples and monks but also have a huge group of tourist backpackers to party with.

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August 22, 2014 at 9:47 am

I would skip Khao Sok from the list. It is good place, but it is nowhere near Khao Yai National Park . One can spend a whole week in Khao Yai and still not get enough of it.

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August 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Simply I just love Thailand and really wanna come here before I die I love chiang Mai the most…..

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June 27, 2014 at 2:00 am

I really Love Thailand.. nice place to visit and spend your vacation with your dear ones… I love Pattaya, Coral Islands and Bangkok.. been there.. Would like to go again to visit Chiang Mai, Khao Sok National Park, Coral Island and Bangkok city again… Miss you…

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June 19, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Thailand is my dreamland. I definitely want to visit Thailand someday. On my list of many things to do before I die.

' src=

June 16, 2014 at 1:13 am

I really love Thailand especially Karon. I have been to many places in Thailand and I really love Bangkok and Karon. I went to Phunawa and I really love their luxurious ambiance.

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21 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Thailand

Written by Meagan Drillinger Updated Mar 20, 2024

Thailand is the gateway to Southeast Asia . It's a country that is sure to cause sensory overload, and yet is one of the most approachable and easy-to-navigate countries on the Asian continent. Thanks to a thriving tourism industry, Thailand is well-equipped with creature comforts, yet is also wild enough to offer rugged, uncharted adventure and once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences.

Koh Mor, Krabi Islands

Over the years I've spent many months exploring Thailand and am still discovering new things to see and do. Whether you're looking for sparkling white-sand beaches, towering limestone cliffs, thick jungles, verdant rice fields, or electric, cosmopolitan cities, Thailand has something to offer.

My travels have taken me from the tiny flecks of islands in the south to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ayutthaya, from the rooftop restaurants of Bangkok to the remote mountain villages of northern Mae Hong Son. Thailand's attractions are diverse, and each provides a rewarding and memorable experience in its own way.

For some inspiration when planning your trip, here is my list of top tourist attractions in Thailand.

1. Railay Beach

2. koh phi phi, 3. the grand palace, bangkok, 4. sunday walking street, chiang mai, 6. wild elephants at khao yai national park, 7. sukhothai old city, 8. historic city of ayutthaya, 9. beaches of koh samui, 10. doi suthep, 11. floating markets, 12. climbing at tonsai beach, 13. kanchanaburi bridge, 14. waterfalls at erawan national park, 15. maruekhathaiyawan palace, 16. khao sok national park, 17. ao nang, 18. hua hin beach, 19. prasat hin phimai, 20. phang nga bay, 21. mae hong son loop, best time to visit thailand.

Railay Beach

Krabi province is home to some of Thailand's most famous beach destinations and Railay tops the list as one of the most stunning. Definitely one of the best beaches in Krabi , Railay delivers on promises of white sand, turquoise-blue water, and the feeling that you've found a slice of paradise even before your feet touch the sand.

The island can be reached by boat from Krabi town and Ao Nang -and the trip on a long-tail traditional boat is just as magical as what you'll encounter when you reach the shores.

While the beach might be the main reason to visit the island, Railay is also a rock-climbing hot spot, with karst peaks drawing adventurers both experienced and novice, ready to take on the towering limestone cliffs.

Among the many other active things to do, Railay is well-known for its ocean rafting and kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving-but visitors can also try their hand at cooking classes or indulge in a massage.

There's also the tourist-friendly Diamond Cave , reached via a beautiful trail with stunning views and ready to accommodate curious visitors looking to do some exploring between stretches of sunbathing.

Boats on shore, Koh Phi Phi

On my most recent three-month visit to Thailand, we kicked off the experience with a visit to the magical Phi Phi Islands.

The main island is Phi Phi Don. This is the largest of the islands and the only one permanently inhabited, and this is what people usually mean when they refer to Koh Phi Phi. Koh Phi Phi Leh is the other of the Phi Phi Islands

Perhaps one of the most fun spots on Koh Phi Phi is Monkey Beach , where you'll come face to face, literally, with plenty of macaques ready to steal your lunch.

Koh Phi Phi

Long Beach is another nice spot on the island; while not a secluded place where you can hope for privacy, it's great for watching the sunset. If you're lucky and the tide is out, it's a beautiful walk back towards the main part of the island.

Tour operators offer packages for snorkeling and diving trips to the islands, as well as excursions to the famous Maya Bay , where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach was filmed. Note that you can no longer swim in Maya Bay thanks to a government ruling to help restore the reef system. You can walk on the shore, though, and snap all the photos you want.

Because Koh Phi Phi draws so many tourists, there are plenty of tour companies arranging tickets to other beach destinations, such as Phuket , Koh Chang , and Koh Lanta .

Phi Phi Don was one of the areas hit hard by the 2004 tsunami - but since then, guesthouses, restaurants, and markets have been rebuilt, and crowds still come in droves to the resort island. There is a small, somber memorial park to honor those who died in the tragedy, but the resort areas are otherwise revived and looking as beautiful as ever.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Even if your plans for Thailand mainly involve frolicking on a beach and eating as much Massaman curry and pad Thai as humanly possible, you'll probably spend at least a day or two in Bangkok. In fact, I encourage it as it is one of the most fascinating and exciting capital cities in the world.

There are plenty of things to see and do in Bangkok , but the Grand Palace should definitely be at the top of your list. This is the number one sightseeing attraction in the city, and it's staggering in both historical significance and craftsmanship.

The grounds are a maze of royal halls, temples, and ancient relics, the most important being Wat Phra Kaeo (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), said to hold a fragment of either hair or bone from the enlightened Buddha himself.

Allow several hours to do the Grand Palace justice, but if you're up for more walking afterward, you can easily take in some of the city's other major landmarks nearby. The famous Wat Po and Wat Arun , the Temple of the Dawn (a great place to watch the sunset), are just a few minutes away.

Wat Arun happens to be my favorite temple in Bangkok and I am sure to always make a visit every time I go. If you want a great view of Wat Arun (and a tasty meal, too), head to the rooftop of Hotel Riva Arun Bangkok . This rooftop restaurant has a perfect view of the temple and a menu of delicious Thai cuisine.

  • Exploring Bangkok's Grand Palace: A Visitor's Guide
  • Best Temples in Thailand

Sunday Walking Street, Chiang Mai

Every Thailand visitor looks forward to cheap and delicious food, and that's exactly what they can find in abundance at Chiang Mai's Sunday Night Walking Street. Vendors sell all kinds of treats here, from the popular pad Thai and chicken satay to samosas, to fried bananas, sweet roti, and fresh fruit shakes.

Once you've satisfied your culinary cravings, you can peruse hundreds of stalls selling an array of unique goods such as all-natural soaps, hand-dyed textiles bearing the unique patterns of local hill tribes, incense, and essential oils, musical instruments, paintings, wall hangings, and more.

The market gets crowded every week without fail, no matter what time of the year you're visiting, so brace yourself and try to enjoy being part of the fun chaos. This is one of the must-dos in Chiang Mai , and an essential part of the Thailand experience.

If you're not around for the Sunday market, or just want to get a taste of other market experiences in Chiang Mai, check out the Saturday Night Walking Street or the Night Bazaar on Chang Klan Road, a daily event. For something less touristy, head to the daytime Warorot Market , near Mae Ping River.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Places to Stay in Chiang Mai

Evening in Pai

Thailand's reputation as a country of beautiful landscapes and friendly people is due largely to the world-renowned southern beaches. Because of this, most people don't realize that the vast north is also home to entirely different but equally breathtaking places to visit.

Northern Thailand, particularly the western region near the Burmese border, is marked by mountainous jungle terrain that is both rugged and beautiful. Pai, in Mae Hong Son province , is the perfect starting point from which to enjoy the country's natural beauty, as well as the famed Thai hospitality and cooking.

I fell in love with Pai on a motorbike trip along what is known as the Mae Hong Son loop. This 300-mile loop road starts in Chiang Mai and zips along hundreds of switchbacks through the mountains, stopping in towns like Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son, and Pai.

Pai

This small town has developed a reputation as a mecca for hippies and backpackers, though you will see plenty of families traveling in the area as well. There is a small walking street market that comes alive every night, a variety of local and Western foods, and easy access to nearby Buddhist temples, waterfalls, and the impressive Pai canyon .

There is an air of cheerfulness and relaxation as you walk through the tiny town center, a vibe that continues to draw crowds season after season despite its somewhat remote location.

Khao Yai National Park

Elephants are revered in Thailand, and statues and paintings of them can be seen everywhere you go, including the royal palaces and many temples. For the ultimate experience, however, nothing beats the chance to see elephants in their natural environment, and Khao Yai National Park provides a great opportunity to do just that.

Here, you'll run into elephants roaming near rivers, exotic birds of prey, monkeys, and plenty of other tropical creatures that call the park home. The park is also home to many waterfalls, including the 150-meter-tall Haew Narok and the even more famous Haew Suwat, which appeared in the Leonardo DiCaprio's film, The Beach .

If a one-day stay isn't enough to take it all in, it's possible to camp out at the park and get up early enough to watch the sunrise over the lush landscape.

  • Read More: Exploring Khao Yai National Park: A Visitor's Guide

Buddha in the ruins of the temple Wat Chana Songkram, Sukhothai Old City

A favorite stop for history buffs and photography enthusiasts, Sukhothai offers many lovely photo ops at a smaller scale than Ayutthaya. The ruins of this old city still stand proud despite enduring centuries of battle and exposure to the elements. Sukhothai's Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and much has been invested to restore and preserve one of Thailand's most significant historical sites.

Of the many wats in Sukhothai , Wat Mahathat is the most impressive. Founded sometime in the 13th century, the temple was built to enshrine Buddha relics and is surrounded by massive standing Buddha images, stuccoed sculptures, stupas, and more.

Historic City of Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya offers a magnificent peek into the glory of ancient Thailand, where visitors can wander the haunting but romantic ruins of the former capital.

Ayutthaya was once the most important city in Thailand, and the old palaces and temples stand as a testament to this. Over a hundred wats, chedis (Thai-style stupas), prangs, and thousands of Buddha statues are spread around the park. All of the temples in Ayutthaya are breathtaking, but perhaps the most memorable is Wat Mahathat, known for the statue of Buddha's face that has been completely engulfed in tree roots.

Ayutthaya is located only a short bus trip or train ride from Bangkok, making it convenient for a day trip if you're pressed for time. If you're on a more leisurely schedule, plan on spending a few days exploring the ancient capital and rent a push-bike to tour both the old city and the new.

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ayutthaya

Bang Po beach on Koh Samui

Koh Samui island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches you'll find in Southeast Asia. Each beach on Koh Samui offers something different: some are ideal for peaceful isolation; others are filled with activities, water sports, and big crowds.

The island's biggest and busiest beach is Chaweng , where you'll also find the best shopping, plenty of attractions, and some of the nicest restaurants. The turquoise blue waters and palm trees dancing in the ocean breeze might explain why some of the island's best resorts are located here.

Keep in mind, though, that Chaweng is definitely the most crowded beach on Koh Samui. If you are craving a tranquil beach atmosphere, head along the north coast or around to the western side of the island. These beaches may not have as many services as Chaweng, but they make up for that with supreme beauty and privacy. My favorite beach was Maenam Beach located along the northern coast.

Heading just south of Chaweng Beach will get you to Lamai Beach , a little smaller and slightly more affordable but still busy in the middle of the day, as day-trippers arrive.

Silver Beach on Koh Samui

For backpackers and those on a budget, there's Maenam Beach , while Bophut Beach (better known as "the Fisherman's Village") is a great destination for visitors wanting a place that retains some traditional Thai touches. At Bophut, that means wooden Thai-Chinese shophouses sitting close to boutique hotels and plenty of attractions.

If you have privacy in mind, the 250-meter-long Silver Beach is somewhat hidden behind forested hills and offers beautiful open views over the water and excellent snorkeling. Bang Po on the northwest coast is another quiet beach that sees fewer visitors.

  • Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Koh Samui
  • From Bangkok to Koh Samui: Best Ways to Get There

Doi Suthep

Perhaps the best-known wat in Chiang Mai sits atop Doi Suthep, a mountain overlooking Thailand's second-largest city. A favorite destination of devout Buddhist followers and travelers from all over the world, Doi Suthep is a marvel of intricate religious carvings - a visit here means seeing monks praying, witnessing worship rituals, and a chance to gaze out over the ever-growing sprawl of Chiang Mai city.

Just be sure to bring a bottle of water and your walking shoes - you'll have to climb a steep staircase to reach the top of the hill where the temple is. At the base of the stairs, vendors hawk everything from tasty local treats to goods handmade by villagers from the surrounding mountains. There's also a shop selling masks, elephant carvings, and home furnishings, so you can do some shopping while recovering from the trek up and down the stairs.

You can combine your trip to Doi Suthep with excursions to Doi Pui , a small Hmong village in the mountains. Although far more touristy than other villages, this will still give you a taste of Hmong culture and a chance to learn more about the hill tribe communities in the region, not to mention purchase some beautiful hand-woven textiles. The Bhubing Palace , open to tourists, is on the way to Doi Pui from Doi Suthep as well.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Chiang Mai

Floating markets

Thailand's floating markets offer a unique way to do some shopping and eating while supporting local vendors and getting a closer look into a traditional way of life.

While some of the markets do seem to cater more to the tourist crowds, others make for a nice authentic travel experience that involves getting in a boat and letting your guide take you through canals, where you'll see traditional houses on stilts and run into sellers offering wares from their own boats. You'll need to get up early to visit a floating market, as vendors are out in their long wooden boats first thing in the morning with their goods, fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, and tasty dishes.

There are several floating markets near Bangkok, with Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak being among the most popular. You can visit the markets on your own or join a guided tour, which often includes visits to other local attractions and shops.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Bangkok

A climber at Tonsai Beach

With its stunning limestone cliffs hugging sandy coastlines and turquoise waters, Thailand attracts plenty of climbers all year long - and while there are many destinations that offer stunning routes, Tonsai Beach has long been considered a climbers' paradise. One of the great things about climbing here is that you can just as easily climb solo or find a climbing partner or club once you arrive - and if you need a refresher lesson, that won't be a problem to find here either.

Because the area has many climbing and bouldering schools, the easier routes are often busy, and you might even have to queue to get up to the most popular viewpoints. If you're an experienced climber - and can get around stalactites, overhangs, and tufa - you'll fare much better and get the best spots with stunning open views over the bay (almost) all to yourself.

Kanchanaburi Bridge

Better known to many as "the bridge over the River Kwai," the Kanchanaburi bridge is part of the Thai-Burma Railway that never came to be. During WWII, Japanese forces were intent on building a railway link between Thailand and Burma and used Allied prisoners of war (mostly British, Dutch, and Australian citizens) for forced labor. Over 12,000 Allied prisoners ended up dying during the one year the bridge was under construction – and reconstruction, as the bridge was bombed and damaged more than once – leading to it being known as the "Death Railway."

While the Kanchanaburi bridge remained closed for years after the war ended, it is now again in operation and can be crossed by boarding a slow local train. About 130 kilometers of the original 415-kilometer railway route are in use today, a grave historical reminder of the horrific events that took place here.

Near the bridge, the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is the final resting place of Allied military personnel from many countries except the United States, which repatriated all remains. The Hellfire Pass Museum and the JEATH War Museum both offer insights on the history of the railway and the effect of the war in Thailand.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Kanchanaburi

Erawan Falls

Erawan National Park has much to offer to visitors, including a number of caves; paths that cut through thick deciduous forests; and fauna that includes wild elephants, gibbons, and great hornbills. But it's the waterfalls here – and especially the seven-tiered Erawan Falls – that attract the bulk of the visitors.

The falls are named after the white elephant that travels with the Hindu god Indra because the tiers are said to slightly resemble the shape of an elephant's head.

Each of the seven tiers also has its own name, and reaching them gets harder and harder as you go up – after the fifth tier, visitors need to use slippery ladders while pushing through thick vegetation in order to continue. You might not need to venture that far, though. The first three tiers are actually the most impressive, offering emerald green pools, a small cave, and cool cascading waters. Plenty of curious fish live in the pools, so don't be surprised to feel them swimming between your feet.

Maruekhathaiyawan Palace

Built as the summer residence of King Rama VI, who reigned until 1925, this unique teak palace is stunning in many ways. The king originally ordered its construction following a suggestion by his doctor, who thought an airy seaside climate would help the king's rheumatoid arthritis.

The palace was then built in Hua Hin, a sleepy seaside town about three hours south of Bangkok. Today, Hua Hin is a popular destination for families and travelers who want to enjoy the beach in a relaxed atmosphere away from the crowds.

Mrigadayavan Palace (Maruekhathaiyawan) was designed to stand completely on stilts, which allows the sea breeze to circulate on all sides and keeps the buildings cool. The palace complex consists of a number of buildings divided into three main groups: the official reception area; the king's private quarters; and the ladies' quarters, originally designed for the Queen and an area no other man, besides the king, could enter.

The palace is an exquisite mix of Western standards (which included a modern-for-the-time bathroom and a badminton court) and traditional Thai architecture that can be visited and enjoyed by everybody today.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Hua Hin

Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park is a unique mix of very diverse ecosystems. Home to rainforest that's older than the Amazon, the park also contains a limestone mountain range covered in karst formations, many kilometers of trails, and even a river you can explore on canoes or bamboo rafts. The park is home to Malayan sun bears, tigers, and wild elephants, and sightings aren't rare once you get deep into the evergreen rainforest.

The park is also famous for its eco-luxury camps, where tents come with en-suite bathrooms, deluxe bedding, their own kayak, and some of the best meals you'll try in Thailand.

Ao Nang

One of the most important anchors for Krabi's islands is the mainland beach town of Ao Nang. It's from this pier that many travelers venture off to the more far-flung and remote beaches, like Railay, Koh Poda, and the beaches of Koh Phi Phi. But Ao Nang is an attraction in itself, with so much to see and do right here on the mainland.

Ao Nang is a busy port, and more often than not, you'll find the bay practically brimming with longtail boats waiting to take tourists out onto the water. The long, wide beach is always alive with activity, from sunbathers and tour-seekers to street food vendors.

Ao Nang has two main thoroughfares that are flanked on either end with restaurants, shops, and hotels. Outside of town is another main road lined with street food stalls that comes alive once the sun goes down. The Ao Nang night market is an absolute must for people-watching, street food, and waterfront sunsets.

Author's Tip: I spent about four weeks in Ao Nang during my latest adventure to Thailand and it became a very special place to me. When the streets of Ao Nang became too busy with tourists, I took a quick 10-minute motorbike ride over to Klong Muang Beach, a sleepy stretch of beachfront restaurants and bungalow-style rentals.

Hua Hin beach and Khao Takiab

Where do Bangkok residents go when they want a relaxing beach getaway? Hua Hin, of course. This bustling seaside town is jam-packed with restaurants, resorts, shopping, and lots of things to do . It's for good reason – the main draw to Hua Hin is its powder-white beach that sits perched at the edge of the turquoise Gulf of Thailand.

Hua Hin Beach is massive. It runs from Klai Kangwon Palace in the north down to Khao Takiab. It is undeniably one of the top attractions in Thailand, but that does come with a few caveats. The sand is as bleached white and soft as they say, but because of its beauty, it has definitely become increasingly crowded over the years. The white sand is lined with dozens of beach restaurants and hawkers who charge crazy prices for food and beverages. And it may be difficult to find a quiet place to swim.

Having said all that, it is absolutely beautiful. Arriving in shoulder season will ensure that it will be a little more low-key.

For something a little more laid-back, head to Suan Son Beach, which is about 12 kilometers south of Hua Hin.

Prasat Hin Phimai

Thailand's ancient cities are among the most beautiful and fascinating in the world. Most visitors to Thailand know about Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, but Prasat Hin Phimai is another gorgeous historical park that is worthy of your time.

The Phimai Historical Park holds one of the largest Hindu Khmer temples in the country. It dates back to the 11th or 12th centuries. In fact, it was connected with Angkor (in present day Cambodia) by an ancient Khmer roadway. If you've ever visited or seen pictures of Angkor Wat you'll recognize the gorgeous, elaborate architecture.

The stunning historic park is in the Nakhon Ratchasima province to the northeast of Bangkok.

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay

When you close your eyes and picture the southern seas of Thailand, what you're likely picturing is the mesmerizing Phang Nga Bay. Positioned between southern Thailand's mainland and the island of Phuket, the massive bay is known for its towering limestone cliffs, electric blue water, tropical lagoons, rich jungle forests, and small islands.

The bay is also home to Ao Phang Nga National Park, which keeps its natural beauty protected. Many visitors who come to Thailand tour the bay on a day trip or an island-hopping tour. One of the most famous islands is called James Bond Island, thanks to its appearance in the film, The Man with the Golden Gun .

While exploring the bay, the Similan Islands are a must-see. These low-lying islands are lush with jungle and rimmed with striking white sand. They are also known for the massive boulders that cover their shores.

Rice field on the Mae Hong Son Loop

For many travelers, a visit to Chiang Mai is about as far north as they get in Thailand. But a venture into the northernmost province of Mae Hong Son, on the border with Myanmar, will take the Thailand experience to a whole new level. One of the most popular ways to travel in Mae Hong Son is to drive the Mae Hong Son loop, beginning and ending in Chiang Mai.

The loop travels up into the mountains, some of the most beautiful countryside in Thailand. The hilly, lush, mountainous terrain lends itself to a road ribboned into switchbacks. The drive is challenging, but beautiful, not to mention fun. Most travelers who do the loop make stops in towns like Pai, Mae Hong Son, and Mae Sariang. Along the way, are guesthouses, stops for lunch, lookout points, waterfalls, and hot springs.

Author's Tip: This is the most memorable thing I have ever done in Thailand. It's possible to do the loop in a variety of ways, whether by car, motorbike, motorcycle, or bus. We opted for a motorbike, which was a challenge but certainly possible. To do the journey, we left our luggage at a hotel in Chiang Mai and packed two small backpacks before embarking on the journey. You can do the trip in as little as four days, but we opted for seven days to give us more time to explore.

Thailand has three official seasons: hot, cool, and wet. With just a few exceptions in certain areas of the country, the seasons are well-defined, and the weather is exactly as you would expect within each season.

This makes it easier to plan a trip based on your needs, whether that means lots of sun, lower prices, or just the perfect timing for diving and snorkeling.

Hot Season: Temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius during this season (which runs from March to June in most of the country), making this a difficult time to do anything except jump into the water.

This means the hot season is a great time to snorkel, swim, or even kayak (with breaks for a swim) but sunbathing, jungle trekking, or anything that requires spending a lot of time on land will be quite unbearable.

April is the hottest month but also the month with one of the biggest festivals in Thailand-Songkran, the Thai New Year, is celebrated for a period of three days in mid-April, and it involves massive water fights (no, you won't be spared just because you're a foreigner).

Wet Season: The Monsoon rains arrive in most of the country around June and last until October, with slight variations. For example, in Phuket , the rainy season runs from May through October while Krabi sees most of its rain between May and November.

In most of the country, September and October are the wettest months when the humidity is high, rains can be torrential, and floods can happen not only in the countryside but even in Bangkok.

If you arrive earlier in the season, however, you'll probably only see rain in the form of short and heavy afternoon showers, where you can head indoors for a few hours without much disruption. The rainy season can feel very hot, as the daily rains cause an increase in humidity, and it sometimes feels as if temperatures are in the 40s.

On the plus side, this is a great time to travel if you're after discounts and deals, as both hotels and flights are cheaper during the wet season. In many places around the country, September is also the month for longboat races – colorful boats, big celebrations, and lots of fun you shouldn't miss if you're in Thailand.

Cool Season: The cool season runs from November to February in most of the country (till March in Krabi and till April in Phuket), and it's the most popular time for international visitors to make their way to Thailand-which translates to big crowds everywhere and higher prices.

Don't let the term "cool" confuse you, though. Temperatures during this time still average around 28-30 degrees Celsius , but humidity drops down to 70-80 percent, which feels like quite a relief compared to the rest of the year. In certain areas (including Bangkok and near the ocean), temperatures can drop as low as 17 to 18 degrees Celsius at night in December. This can feel quite cold compared to daytime temperatures.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

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Exploring Thailand's Islands: The islands are some of Thailand's hottest attractions. Glorious beaches attract all kinds of travelers and vacationers. Places like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui attract a lot of attention but you may also want to consider destinations like Koh Phangan and Koh Tao , which offer unique alternatives.

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Best Places To Visit In Thailand — From The Oldest National Park With To Stunning Islands

Travel experts share the best places to visit in thailand, from bustling cities to remote islands to small towns..

By: Meagan Drillinger Published: Feb 19, 2024 10:00 AM UTC

Best Places To Visit In Thailand — From The Oldest National Park With To Stunning Islands

Thailand is so much more than a travel destination — visiting is a bona fide rite of passage. From hostel-hopping backpackers to well-heeled five-star hotel aficionados, there’s something for everyone in “The Land of Smiles.”

My most recent trip to Thailand was in early 2022 when the country implemented strict entry requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, I was one of a few hundred thousand tourists who were allowed into the country, and it felt like I had many of the typically crowded attractions all to myself.

The beauty of Thailand is that it will show you different sides of itself no matter how many times you visit. From the idyllic white-sand beaches and palm-fringed islands in the south to the misty hillsides and temple-peppered mountains of the north, the rattle and hum under neon lights of nonstop Bangkok , and the ruins of ancient cities surrounded by jungle, Thailand never disappoints.

So, what are the best places to visit in Thailand? I reached out to a Thailand travel expert and threw in a bit of my own first-person experience to help you narrow down this ever-growing list.

Here are the 20 best places to visit in Thailand

Places to visit in Thailand

For most travellers, an adventure in Thailand will likely kick off in the nonstop, energetic capital city, Bangkok. A dizzying destination and one of my favourite international cities, Bangkok is full-on sensory overload — but in the best way. Dig into sizzling street food; meander back alleys and bustling thoroughfares in search of small markets, shops, and hidden temples; cruise along the Chao Phraya River, and grab a cocktail at the dozens of sky-high rooftop bars.

Tip: Book a room at the Capella Bangkok or Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok — two iconic luxury hotels with stunning locations perched on the Chao Phraya River.

Book your stay at Capella Bangkok via Booking.com

Book your stay at Capella Bangkok via agoda.com

Book your stay at Mandarin oriental via Booking.com

Book your stay at Mandarin Oriental via agoda.com

Wat Sun

Second to Bangkok on most visitors’ lists is the northern city of Chiang Mai . Many travellers even prefer Chiang Mai to Bangkok for its relatively slower pace of life. The spectacular city is bursting with temples (Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a must) and humming with restaurants and bars.

“I would say for anybody, whether it’s their first time or a repeat trip to Thailand if you have been there or you haven’t, [you have to visit] Chiang Mai,” said Grant Ekelund, Travel + Leisure A-List advisor and senior travel consultant and Asia specialist at InsideAsia. “It’s such a neat city. It’s one of those destinations that has something for everyone … Are you a foodie? Do you want to hike? See cool temples? Have amazing trekking opportunities? It can all be done [here], and it slots into any itinerary perfectly.”

Book your stay at Chiang Mai Marriott Hotel via Booking.com

Book your stay at Chiang Mai Marriott Hotel via agoda.com

Koh Phi Phi

Places to visit in Thailand

Thailand has more than 1,400 islands scattered around its coastline, but few are as famous or iconic as the Phi Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea. Comprising two islands — Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh — Koh Phi Phi is known for its natural beauty, excellent diving, and raucous party scene. For the latter, Phi Phi Don is the most famous. Phi Phi Leh, meanwhile, is uninhabited and beloved by those looking to disappear into nature. It was blasted into the public eye about two decades ago when Leonardo DiCaprio’s character went in search of an island paradise in the film “The Beach,” which is set in real-life Maya Bay.

Book your stay at SAii Phi Phi Island Village via Booking.com

Book your stay at SAii Phi Phi Island Village via agoda .com

Beach

While we’re on the topic of Koh Phi Phi, we’d be remiss not to mention Krabi, one of the best places to visit in Thailand, province as a whole. Located in southern Thailand, bordering the Andaman Sea, Krabi is home to many of the beautiful beaches and islands that make Thailand famous.

“I’ve been booking many [trips to] Krabi lately,” said Ekelund. “It ticks a lot of boxes for people. You’ve got the beauty, cool cliffs, and interesting geology. It has a beach, but it’s for people who don’t want to simply park it on the sand for 10 days. Krabi offers activities and more.” Some highlights include the beach town of Ao Nang, as well as islands like Phuket, Koh Lanta, Koh Yao Yai, Koh Lipe, Railay Beach, and several national parks.

Book your stay at Anana Ecological Resort Krabi via Booking.com

Book your stay at Anana Ecological Resort Krabi via agoda.com

Koh Yao Noi

Places to visit in Thailand

My first trip to Thailand was to the small island of Koh Yao Noi back in 2013. One of the most beautiful islands in Phang Nga Bay, Koh Yao Noi is flecked off the coast of its sibling island, Koh Yao Yai. Sandy beaches and small fishing villages comprise most of the land here, along with the luxe Six Senses Yao Noi resort tucked along the eastern coast. The property’s infinity pool is legendary for its explosive sunrise views that blur the distinction between the sky and the sea.

Book your stay at Six Senses Yao Noi via Booking.com

Book your stay at Six Senses Yao Noi via agoda.com

Buddha

Many Thai cities have the ability to make visitors feel like they’re stepping back in time. But few create the illusion as vividly as Ayutthaya . Once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, the ruins of Ayutthaya are breathtaking and hauntingly beautiful. It’s only an hour from Bangkok, making it an easy day trip or a great overnight excursion.

Book your stay at Sala Ayutthaya via Booking.com

Book your stay at sala ayutthaya via agoda.com

Places to visit in Thailand

Sukhothai is another beautiful ancient city and one of the best places to visit in Thailand. “Sukhothai is for people who like history. I was taken by how beautiful the area is and how extensive the ruins are,” said Ekelund. “We cycled around the ruins with a guide and got a great sense of the history. Sukhothai is much more rural and harder to reach, meaning it has fewer tourists. You also don’t have a city built up around it.”

Book your stay at Sukhothai Treasure Resort & Spa via Booking.com

Mae Hong Son Loop

Yellow Flower

Of all the places I’ve visited in Thailand, none stick with me as much as the Mae Hong Son Loop. This 300-mile (482 km) route is most often tackled by travellers on the back of motorbikes looking to brave the mountain switchbacks that descend into the thick jungle and pass from small village to small village. It’s not a journey to be taken lightly — motorbike experience is strongly recommended — but those who make the trip are rewarded with spectacular scenery and access to remote communities.

shop the best travel experiences here

Khao Yai National Park

Places to visit in Thailand

Thailand has more than 100 national parks. The oldest is Khao Yai National Park, which also happens to be the country’s third-largest. Within the park lies a web of hiking trails, secret waterfalls, and herds of elephants.

“Khao Yai has a lot of bat caves, too, which is one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced,” said Ekelund. “I stood there for 30 minutes while an unending stream of bats flew over my head. It was all so beautiful. It’s a beautiful park with waterfalls, trekking, and hiking. Plus, it’s just a couple of hours [by car] from Bangkok.”

Thai Dragon

Approximately two hours southeast of Chiang Mai is the city of Lampang. Much like many large cities in Thailand, Lampang has its fair share of temples, street food, and markets. But unlike the others, it feels like a place where time has stood still. Just listen for the sound of clip-clopping horse carts, still used for transportation, and you’ll understand what I mean. Because of Lampang’s integral role in the teak trade, many migrants from Myanmar made this northern city home, and you’ll find teak mansions and Burmese-style temples everywhere.

Book your stay at The Space Hotel via Booking.com

Book your stay at The Space Hotel Lampang via agoda.com

Places to visit in Thailand

Chiang Rai, a northern Thai city, is often glossed over as most visitors opt to stop in Chiang Mai instead. “I am always struck by how chill Chiang Rai is,” said Ekelund. “It’s a relaxing place to be and has cool stuff to do. It’s a great city to walk through the neighbourhoods and see people living their daily lives. I enjoyed the mountains, nearby villages, and opportunities for cultural exchange.”

Book your stay at The Heritage Chiang Rai Hotel and Convention via Booking.com

Book your stay at The Heritage Chiang Rai Hotel and Convention via agoda.com

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James Bond Beach

No list of best places to visit in Thailand would be complete without Phuket. While Phuket has a reputation for being crowded with resort after resort, the truth is it’s for a reason — the island is a beautiful place to be. Thailand’s largest and most easily accessible island brings visitors in by the millions each year for its wide array of hotels, white-sand beaches, parties in Patong, colourful snorkelling, and eclectic culinary scene.

Book your stay at JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa via Booking.com

Book your stay at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa via agoda.com

Places to visit in Thailand

Thailand’s second most popular island sits off the country’s eastern coast in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Samui is wreathed in bone-white sandy beaches, peppered with temples, veined with hiking trails, and splashed with fabulous resorts and energetic beach towns and villages.

“It’s hard to beat Koh Samui. It’s just beautiful,” said Ekelund. “If you want easy access without a full resort stay, I recommend Anantara Bophut . You can walk to Fisherman’s Village, and you won’t feel like you’re ‘stuck’ at a resort. If you want a full resort experience, I like Banyan Tree Samui for its private beach and spectacular rooms.”

Book your stay at Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort

Book your stay at Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort via agoda.com

Book your stay at Banyan Tree Samui via Booking.com

Book your stay at Banyan Tree Samui via agoda.com

Underwater Diver

The tiny island of Koh Tao, located in the Gulf of Thailand and not too far from Koh Samui , is one of the country’s best locations for diving and snorkelling. In fact, most avid divers will tell you that Koh Tao is their destination of choice in Thailand. The palm-fringed island is best known for its abundance of sea turtles.

Book your stay at Jamahkiri Spa & Resort via Booking.com

Book your stay at Jamahkiri Spa & Resort via agoda.com

Kanchanaburi

Waterfall

Shrouded in thick jungle and sliced by miles of track belonging to what was once known as the “Death Railway,” Kanchanaburi has a dark and tragic history. The infamous train route, which crosses the River Kwai, was built from 1940 to 1943 by prisoners of war taken by the Japanese in World War II. Today, only a small section of the rail route is open and takes travellers on a journey through the mountain cliffs and bamboo forests of Kanchanaburi. “If you’re into history, beautiful vistas, trains, and wildlife, you can get all of that in Kanchanaburi. It’s a place not many tourists go, either, so it has a lot to offer,” said Ekelund.

Book your stay at Dheva Mantra Resort via Booking.com

Book your stay at Dheva Mantra Resort via agoda.com

Places to visit in Thailand

Trang is the province directly south of Krabi, which means it has the same beautiful stretch of Andaman Sea coastline, except with a fraction of the crowds. There’s no shortage of islands to explore around Trang, like Koh Kradan and Koh Muk. Koh Muk’s crown jewel is the secret Emerald Cave, which can be entered via a dark tunnel that leads to a protected beach surrounded by towering limestone cliffs.

Beach

Located in the province of Phang Nga, Khao Lak can be thought of as Phuket’s much quieter cousin. Less than two hours from Phuket International Airport, Khao Lak is home to miles of sprawling, empty beaches, plus it offers easy access to beautiful national parks.

“I’ve been hyping Khao Lak quite a bit for people who want something quieter,” said Ekelund. “You have easy access to the Phuket International Airport, but it’s much more chill than the other Andaman Islands. It has beautiful beaches, good infrastructure, a great spot for dining, and it’s not hard to get to.”

Book your stay at JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort and Spa via Booking.com

Book your stay at JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa via agoda.com

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Places to visit in Thailand

Whether or not you drive the Mae Hong Son Loop, you’ll want to stop in Pai when visiting northern Thailand. Once a sleepy community of expats, Pai has morphed into a must-visit backpacker destination. Visitors will find funky cafes and coffee shops, endless bars, guest houses, hostels, and a dispensary or two, particularly now that cannabis is no longer considered a narcotic in the country.

Book your stay at The Oia Pai Resort via Booking.com

Book your stay at The Oia Pai Resort via agoda .com

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Places to visit in Thailand

South of Bangkok, the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan is best known for the glamorous, frenetic beach town of Hua Hin. The province runs down the skinny arm of the country, bordering the Gulf of Thailand on one side and Myanmar on the other. Here’s where you’ll find Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park , Thailand’s first marine national park. The park’s top attractions include a series of spectacular caves and a sprawling freshwater marsh. Visitors can enjoy the park’s beaches, islands, walking trails, and thick mangrove forests. It’s just an hour from Hua Hin and about 3.5 hours from Bangkok.

Places to visit in Thailand

This long, skinny island, also in the province of Krabi, flies under the radar, but it’s one of my favourite places in the country. Koh Lanta is home to beautiful beaches, great restaurants, and the Mu Ko Lanta National Park, an amazing spot for diving and seeing undeveloped beaches.

Book your stay at Pimalai Resort & Spa via Booking.com

Book your stay at Pimalai Resort & Spa via agoda.com

( Feature Image Credit: EPasqualli/Getty Images)

This story first appeared on travelandleisure.com

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10 of the best things to do in Thailand

Chawadee Nualkhair

Dec 21, 2023 • 9 min read

top 10 places to visit thailand

Experience the best of Thailand with this guide to the top things to do © Jackyenjoyphotography / Getty Images

People may think of Thailand as a food-focused destination, or a place for great nightlife or even a wellness center and somewhere to go and be pampered.

The truth is, Thailand is all of those things and more. You could be snorkeling in bright blue waters near a glorious beach , hiking to Thailand’s highest temples, slurping down a roadside bowlful of spicy noodles , plying the city’s waterways in a long-tail boat or simply dozing off next to a pool with a book on your chest.

Create your own adventure to remember in the Land of Smiles with our guide to the best things to do in Thailand.

1. Make your way to a temple

Thailand is home to more than 40,000 temples, which makes the decision on exactly where to visit that much more difficult. Although most people will say that visits to Bangkok’s Grand Palace and Wat Pho are musts, some other temples scattered throughout the kingdom might end up being the ones to lodge themselves permanently in your memories.

In the far Northern town of Chiang Rai , Wat Rong Khun – otherwise known as the “White Temple” – features a “bridge of rebirth” that takes visitors over a “lake” of outstretched hands representing human suffering. Further south near Pattaya , the Sanctuary of Truth stands as Thailand’s largest wooden building, painstakingly carved using traditional techniques. And on the border between the North and Northeast regions in Phetchabun, Wat Phra Thad Son Kaew  displays a series of giant Buddha images sitting in each other’s laps inspired by Russian nesting dolls, surrounded by Gaudi-like mosaics and a vast tapestry of stunning mountains.

If you do decide to stay in Bangkok, Wat Arun (aka “Temple of the Dawn”) is a beautiful and less-touristy temple on the banks of the Chao Phraya, while Wat Po also houses a massage school said to have been the birthplace of Thai massage.

Fishing village of the Koh Panyee settlement built on stilts in Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

2. Island hop in the Andaman Sea

This is what the kingdom is likely most known for: its dramatic, green-speckled islands and celadon waters. The best place from which to experience this is Phuket , Thailand’s largest and most-visited island. From its two marinas, you can hire a boat to survey the Andaman Sea and its many blessings, including the iconic  Ko Khao Phing Kan (also known as James Bond Island) featured in the movie  The Man With a Golden Gun (1974), which resembles a tree-furred exclamation point (one of many striking limestone karsts) in Phang Nga Bay .

Planning tip: Boat rentals can range from US$60 a day on a fishing boat to US$140 a day on a “luxury” cruiser with lunch and dinner included. You can also head to Rassada Pier to take a ferry to tour Phang Nga Bay as a day trip. Book a ticket online in advance in case they sell out.

3. Shop at one of Thailand's best markets

Thais love to shop, so it’s little surprise that Thailand is liberally peppered with markets of all types, from morning fruit markets to weekend craft markets to raucous night markets and even all-hours markets. The most famous of these is probably Bangkok’s 24/7 Flower Market , where a panoply of gorgeous blooms makes ideal Instagram fodder against the background of the Chao Phraya River. Also in Bangkok,  Or Tor Kor is widely considered – even among persnickety Thai aunties – to be the best food market in the country, especially revered for its traditional sweets and pristine produce. 

Up North, Chiang Mai’s Saturday Walking Street  and  Sunday Walking Street are predictably famous, but the Walking Street in Chiang Khan on the banks of the Mekong is just as extensive and far more picturesque. If it’s crafts you’re looking for, Cicada Market in the beach resort town of Hua Hin offers art, clothing and knick-knacks and is only a short walk from the beach. And if it’s a floating market that floats your boat, tree-lined Khlong Lat Mayom is only 1.5 hours from Bangkok and is far less touristy than Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market  and the floating markets of Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa . All are worth visiting, but beware of crowds.

Two people in silhouette stand on a large rock in a pool with a waterfall flowing nearby

4. Splash around in a waterfall

If you loved to splash around in fountains as a kid, then Thailand’s many, many waterfalls will surely delight your inner child – or even your actual child. From close to Bangkok (in Khao Yai National Park , a 2.5-hour drive from Bangkok) to its farthest reaches (in Ubon Ratchathani , on the edge of Thailand’s northeast), Thailand has a waterfall to suit any type of swimmer or nature lover, from little paddlers to experienced hikers.

Made famous by the movie The Beach  (2000), Khao Yai’s Haew Suwat is not necessarily Thailand’s most towering waterfall (it’s 20m/66ft high), but it does host an emerald-green pool perfect for midday dips. Located in Erawan National Park in western Kanchanaburi , the eponymous Erawan Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in the country, thanks to its seven mighty tiers and the tiny fish that nibble at your toes at the bottom. Meanwhile in the far northeast lies the isolated Soi Sawan waterfall in Ubon Ratchathani , near where wildflowers bloom in the cool season and numerous hiking trails lead to amazing viewpoints.

Planning tip: If you do plan to beat the heat with a quick plunge, bring a towel and a swimsuit, but remember that changing rooms are few and far between. 

5. Learn more about Thailand at its top museums

Thailand is chock-a-block with museums, but some are far less stultifying than others. Belying the image of a fusty old building harboring ancient relics from a far-off land, Museum Siam in Bangkok tells the story of how the “Land of Smiles” came to be through a series of creative, interactive exhibits geared mainly at children. Also in Bangkok, the Jim Thompson House Museum keeps the spirit of the Thai silk tycoon (and rumored CIA agent who disappeared in 1967) alive by making his former home and collection of art and antiques accessible to the public. And only 40km (25 miles) southeast of Bangkok, Muang Boran (the Ancient City) is a faithful reconstruction of Ayutthaya-era Siam, set over 200 acres and labeled the world’s biggest open-air museum.

Detour: If you can make it out of the Bangkok area, the lengthily titled Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre and Memorial Walking Trail , situated 100km (62 miles) from Kanchanaburi, was created in memory of the WWII POWs who helped build the Burma-Thailand railway, also known as the “Death Railway” immortalized in the 1957-film Bridge Over the River Kwai .

A hiker takes some tentative steps out onto a suspended wooden walkway that clings to the side of a mountain

6. Take a hike along trails and through forests

In spite of its reputation as a classic fly-and-flop destination, Thailand also manages to be generously laden with hiking trails tailored to all levels of experience. Only 25km (15.5 miles) south of the resort town of Hua Hin, Pranburi Forest Park features a 1km-long (0.6 mile) boardwalk along mangrove forests and pine trees, allowing even toddlers the chance to stretch their legs while surrounded by greenery.

Up north, close to Chiang Mai, the 13km (8-mile)  Buddha’s Footprint Trail  is a simple out-and-back walk popular among birdwatchers for the diversity of both wildlife and foliage on display (a guide is required and can be hired among the Hmong villagers). 

Meanwhile, adrenaline junkies – and devout Buddhists or meditation enthusiasts – will love Wat Phu Thok , also known as the “Lonely Mountain” and located in Northeastern Bueng Kan. Visitors are encouraged to ascend a 359m-high (1,200ft) peak by way of steps, carved paths and eventually rickety-looking wooden slats. The experience, meant to mirror the seven levels to nirvana, is supposed to encourage meditation and focus on the “now” as walkers negotiate every strenuous (and occasionally daunting) step.

Local tip: Walkers who are afraid of heights should steer clear of the Lonely Mountain or ascend only the first few levels. The seventh level is said to be riddled with snakes, so no need to go further than the sixth.

7. Cruise Bangkok's Chao Phraya River

Before it became known as a mecca for traffic jams, Bangkok was once described as the “Venice of the East,” crisscrossed with canals branching from the Chao Phraya River , which once served as the kingdom's main artery of commerce and diplomacy. Although far fewer Thais use the Chao Phraya as part of their daily lives today, it remains a potent reminder of the city’s waterborne past. 

Many boats – from small long-tailed boats to water buses to larger dinner cruise-type ships – ply the waters for visitors in search of a glimpse of Bangkok’s past, or who simply want to avoid the traffic. The most famous of these boats is likely the Chao Phraya Express Boat . From downtown Sathorn, the boat goes as far as the northern suburb of Nonthaburi, and prices range from 16 to 33 baht.

Local tip: You can also rent your own long-tail boat for a cruise of the city’s many canals for 2,000–5,000 baht, depending on the size of the boat. Reserve online to secure a spot.

People sit at outside tables enjoying street food meals

8. Taste Bangkok's best street food in Chinatown

Rejuvenated after a COVID-era economic slump, Bangkok’s street food scene is newly vibrant, especially in areas like the Old Town , along Charoen Krung Road, on Bantadthong Road, and by the Victory Monument . The birthplace of Thai street food (and restaurants) is Chinatown – also known as Yaowarat. Chinese–Thai dishes like oyster omelets, soup noodles, rice porridge and black sesame-stuffed dumplings tempt passersby along Yaowarat Rd, which becomes a neon-lit roadside buffet at night. Just remember: many street food stalls are closed on Monday, so be sure to check your chosen vendors beforehand.

Planning tip: While in Chinatown, check out one of Bangkok’s hippest nightlife spots, Nana Road (in Chinatown, not on Sukhumvit). Here, famous watering holes like Tep Bar , Teens of Thailand and the taxes-themed TAX rub shoulders with picturesque shophouses and noodle joints.

9. Cycle around some incredible ruins

Before Bangkok was even a gleam in King Rama I’s eye, the country’s capitals lived further up from the Chao Phraya River, first in Sukhothai and then in Ayuthaya . Now both UNESCO World Heritage sites, their ruins testify to the power and beauty of what was formerly known as Siam. Ranging over 70 sq km (27 sq miles), Sukhothai Historical Park showcases Wat Mahathat at its center, arranged like a lotus among 193 ruins. Visitors can explore the grounds by rented bicycle before heading to Ramkhamhaeng National Museum . 

At the larger Ayutthaya Historical Park, active from the 14th to 18th centuries, 425 unearthed archaeological sites include Vihara Phra Mongkol Bophit, home to one of Thailand’s largest bronze Buddha statues. You can also hire a bicycle to survey the park or head on out with a guide, and even rent traditional Thai costumes for a photo shoot.

10. See marine life on a snorkeling or diving trip

Marine life lovers or even avowed “water babies” will find all that they desire under the Andaman Sea or Gulf of Thailand. With its warm water, striking coral reefs and many manta rays and whale sharks , Thailand is thick with top-tier diving sites for all experience levels off of Phuket , Ko Phi-Phi , Ko Tao and Ko Pha-Ngan . If it’s snorkeling you’re after, the waters of Ko Chang and Ko Tarutao Marine National Park host bountiful marine life in clear blue water. 

Local tip: For the most part, October to April is considered prime diving season, while May to September is deemed best for snorkeling.

This article was first published August 2021 and updated December 2023

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Visit Thailand: Top 25 things to do and must-see attractions

The 25 best things to do in thailand (bucket list).

You’re looking for the best places to visit in Thailand?

You’re at the right place!

No matter if you prefer to visit cities such as Bangkok , Chiang mai or Chiang Rai , historical sites ( Ayutthaya and Sukhotai) or to relax at the beach ( Phuket , Koh Lanta , Koh Samui islands and more!) , you will find the perfect destinations for your holidays in this article.

In order to help you plan your stay , I have prepared for you this guide of the 25 best things to do in Thailand , with all points of interest and must-see attractions.

And to make thongs even easier for you, I have also written detailed itineraries in Thailand, from 1 week to 1 month . You will find them at the end of this article.

You will see, planning your trip to Thailand will be super easy!

So, where to go in Thailand?

2. Kanchanaburi and the Bridge Over the River Kwai

3. ayutthaya, 5. sukhothai, 6. chiang mai, 7. chiang rai, 8. trek in the northern mountains, 9. mae hong son province, 13. ao nang / railay, 14. koh phi phi, 15. koh lanta, 16. ko yao noi, 17. koh samui, 18. ko pha ngan, 19. the similan islands, 20. the national parks of thailand, 21. pattaya, 22. seeing elephants in thailand, 23. diving in thailand, 24. enjoy a thai massage, 25. discover thai cuisine, bonus: festivals and celebrations in thailand, going to thailand: flight prices, thailand tours, you’re traveling to thailand these articles will help you, the best places to visit in thailand.

In order to help you plan your stay in Thailand, I have prepared detailed itineraries depending on your trip duration . You should read them after reading this article.

You can find them here, simply click on the orange links to read the articles:

  • Itinerary: One week in Thailand – Perfect to visit Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai!
  • Itinerary: 6,7 or 8 days in Thailand – 2 itineraries to the southern islands, starting from Phuket or Krabi
  • Itinerary: 10 days in Thailand – The perfect itinerary to discover the best of Thailand!
  • Itinerary: 2 weeks in Thailand – Discover Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, + Best Southern islands!
  • Itinerary: 15 days in Thailand – The best itinerary to visit the most beautiful Southern islands
  • Itinerary: 3 weeks in Thailand – Discover the best of Thailand in 20-21 days
  • Itinerary: 1 month in Thailand – The most complete itinerary to visit Thailand!

They will allow you to plan your trip very easily!

And if you have any question, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section, at the end of the article. I would be glad to help you plan your stay.

Let’s start this Thailand travel guide with Bangkok, the capital city.

When you will arrive in Bangkok, you will directly be struck by the noises, smells, traffic jams and crowds. In other words, you will be immersed in the atmosphere of this very dynamic city !

If you visit the center or the north during your trip to Thailand , there is a good chance you will land in or leave from Bangkok. Take the opportunity to spend 2 or 3 days there , while you recover from jet lag and adjust to Asia.

Even if opinions are mixed about the biggest Thai city, it remains a must-see for a trip to Thailand.

Here are the Best Places to visit in Bangkok:

  • The Royal Palace (or Grand Palace) : an emblematic site, one of the most visited in Bangkok. Inside, you can admire the temple of the Emerald Buddha, a museum and several pavilions with impressive scenery.
  • Wat Arun : this Buddhist temple is located along the river, on the other side from the Royal Palace. It includes a central Prang (a tower) 82 meters high, entirely covered with small pieces of colored porcelain and statues.
  • Wat Pho is the third most famous temple in Bangkok. There you can see the famous 45 meters long reclining Buddha statue.
  • Khao San Road : formerly a backpacker area, Khao San Road is now visited by all categories of tourists. Very lively, there are shops, bars, restaurants and guest houses where you can stay in Bangkok at a low cost.
  • The Golden Mount : built on a hill, the temple offers a panoramic view of the entire city.
  • Chinatown : the lively and crowded Chinatown district, with many street stands and shops. There, you shouldn’t miss the Wat Traimit, a temple housing the world’s biggest golden statue (5.5 tons!).
  • The weekend market in Chatuchak : with its 15,000 stands, this market is the largest in Thailand and even in all of Asia. And as its name suggests, it only opens on weekends. Divided into several parts, you will find absolutely everything there: clothes, souvenirs, shoes, food, jewellery…
  • The Siam district features many shopping centers including the MBK Center or Siam Paragon. This is the most famous area for shopping in Bangkok.

If you want more information about Bangkok, you should read my detailed article: The 20 best things to do in Bangkok.

Bangkok Grand Palace

Kanchanaburi is located 130 km northwest of Bangkok .

Even if you have never heard this name, you have probably heard about the Bridge Over the River Kwai, one of the most important tourist and historical site in Thailand. It’s the symbol of the city’s tragic past during the Second World War.

In Kanchanaburi, the Japanese army enslaved thousands of prisoners of war to build more than 400 km of railway line between Thailand and Myanmar. Between disease, brutality and malnutrition, more than 16 000 people have died during the construction.

Of the 688 bridges built by the Japanese army, it was the only steel bridge built in Thailand.

If you are interested in history, you should really visit Kanchanaburi and its main points of interests:

  • The railway museum, about the history of “the death railway” and the harsh living conditions of the prisoners
  • The Allied Military Cemetery, where the graves of nearly 7,000 soldiers are located
  • Jeath War Museum, where you can see letters and personal belongings of prisoners
  • World War II Museum and its view over the famous bridge
  • And of course don’t forget to cross the bridge itself!

In addition to the Bridge Over the River Kwai, there is another (more cheerful) place to visit in the surroundings of Kanchanaburi: Erawan National Park.

Erawan waterfall , a 7-level waterfall, is the main attraction of the park. There, you can take a dip, walk on a botanical trail along the river and see a few caves.

Kanchanaburi Erawan waterfall

The Historic City of Ayutthaya is located about 75 km north of Bangkok .

Former capital of the Kingdom of Siam , and for a long time an important economic and commercial centre , this UNESCO World Heritage Site is clearly one of the best places to visit in Thailand!

As Ayutthaya is easily accessible from Bangkok by bus (1h30), train (2 h) or car (45 min), it’s the perfect day trip destination.

In Ayutthaya Historical Park , you can discover dozens of ruined temples spread over fifteen sites. It’s very large, so it will take you about a full day to visit the 6 main temples.

To visit them, you should buy the 220 Bahts pass, it’s the most convenient. However, if you don’t want to visit them all, you can also purchase each ticket separately.

Here are the 6 temples included in the pass:

  • Wat Mahathat: one of the most famous, you have maybe already seen the picture of Buddha’s head statue enclosed in the roots of a tree.
  • Wat Ratchaburana and its very well preserved Trang (tower)
  • Wat Phra Si Sanphet, in my opinion one of the most beautiful in Ayutthaya
  • Wat Phra Ram
  • Wat Maheyong
  • Wat Chai Watthanaram, to see at sunset

To visit Ayutthaya, you can rent bicycles (50 bahts per day), a motorcycle , or take a tuk-tuk tour . If you come by car , you just have to park your car in the car parks located at the entrance of each temple.

As some temples are really far from each other, I don’t recommend walking between the sites.

As several rivers are crossing in Ayutthaya it’s also possible to discover some of the temples by boat. The best time to do this is fore sure at sunset!

You will find every information you need to visit Ayutthaya in my article: How to visit Ayutthaya?

Ayutthaya

If you’re wondering about the best things to do in Thailand around Ayutthaya, you can go to Lopburi , an hour’s drive away.

Lopburi, one of the oldest cities in the country hosts a few ruined temples. However, they aren’t the main attraction there!

Most visitors actually come to see the numerous monkeys who colonized the area . There are literally hundreds of them among the ruins.

The most famous site, both for the monkeys and for its architecture, is Prang Sam Yot

Store your food in your bag and be careful with your hat and sunglasses.

Lopburi, the city of monkeys

If you want to visit temples during your trip to Thailand, you can also visit Sukhothai .

Sukhothai Historical Park is located in northern Thailand, 400 km from Bangkok, and 280 km from Chiang Mai.

Like Ayutthaya, Sukhothai is a former capital of the Siam kingdom and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The site features several ruined temples spread over 3 areas:

  • The central area (entrance at 100 Baht): it’s the most interesting, you will find there the largest and best preserved temples. On foot, allow about 2 hours to visit the temples. You can also rent a bike, but to be honest, it’s not very convenient for such short distances.
  • The North zone (entrance to 100 Baht) mainly includes 2 temples, the most famous being a giant 15 meters high sitting Buddha. To get there from the central area, you will need a bike or a car.
  • The West zone (entrance at 100 Baht): As the ruins are far from each other, it’s best to visit it by car. But, honestly, apart from Wat Saphan Hin and its Buddha statue located on the top of the hill, there isn’t much to see.

It will take you about 4 hours to visit the 3 areas by car and a full day by bike. It’s really a must see during road trip in Thailand !

You can find detailed information about Sukhotai in my article: How to visit Sukhothai Historical Park?

Sukhothai

You want to discover the North of Thailand? Then you should head to Chiang Mai.

As the city has an international airport, you can arrive there directly by plane, usually after a transfer in Bangkok. It’s also possible to reach Chiang Mai by bus or train from Bangkok, and of course by car.

Here are the best things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Enjoy a walk in the old town, where most temples are located. This includes the famous Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chiang Man
  • Take a Thai cooking class: the city is the main destination in Thailand for this activity
  • Discover the local markets: between Warorot Market, the Night Bazaar and Saturday/Sunday Night Markets, there are enough to keep you busy!
  • Go to Huay Lake to eat in bamboo huts by the water. It’s Thai people’s favorite place to go out on weekends
  • Head to Doi Suthep Temple , located 10 minutes by car from the city, in Doi Suthep National Park.
  • Visit Bhubing Palace and stroll through the flowered gardens of the Royal Family’s winter palace
  • Going to an elephant sanctuary (without riding them!).

If you want more details about the best things to do in Chiang Mai, you should read my article: Visit Chiang Mai: The definitive guide .

Chiang Mai Doi Suthep

Chiang Rai is the other major city in northern Thailand .

It’s located 200 km northeast of Chiang Mai and has an airport with daily flights to Bangkok or southern islands such as Phuket or Krabi . You can also reach it by bus or car, but there is no railway station (the nearest one is in Chiang Mai).

What to see in Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand

  • The white temple or Wat Rong Khun: this is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why travelers go to this city. The White Temple is known worldwide and I must admit that its reputation is well deserved. It’s truly impressive!
  • The blue temple or Wat Rong Suea Ten: as you may have guessed, everything here is blue, from the giant statues at the entrance to the Buddha! A very nice site to visit and the entrance is free.
  • The Night Bazaar: this night market is the perfect place to buy all kinds of souvenirs. It’s cheaper than the one in Bangkok and prettier.
  • Go to Singha Park to take the classical picture of the great golden lion at the entrance. If you continue down the road, you will arrive at a scenic point overlooking a tea plantation. There is also a farm with animals.
  • The Black House Museum or Baandam Museum: a rather unusual place with small houses decorated with crocodile skins and other objects that are quite “dark” and original.
  • Khun Korn Waterfall , the largest waterfall in the Chiang Rai area, is easily accessible and can be reached by foot in about 30 minutes from the car park.
  • The Huai Pla Kang / the Wat Huai Pla Kank / The big pagoda: a group of 3 gigantic and totally different monuments located in the same place. It’s impressive to see and very pretty.
  • The Mae Fah Luang Garden can be found on top of Doi Tung mountain . Stroll through the beautiful flower park and visit the Doi Tung Royal Villa, the residence of the Princess’s Mother.

You will find every information you need to visit Chiang Rai in my article: The 17 best things to do in Chiang Rai .

Chiang Rai white temple

You should take advantage of your holidays in Northern Thailand to go on a trek . It’s the perfect region for these kinds of activities!

Many tour companies offer treks of various lengths and difficulty levels to explore the mountains and meet the region’s ethnic groups .

You can visit Akha, Karen (a tribe famous for its “women with long necks”, also known as “giraffe women “) or Kahu villages and maybe even sleep in a local house .

These treks are increasingly being organized with an emphasis on ethical and sustainable development (for the most part, at least). The money raised is used to finance health centers or to provide scholarships.

thailand mountain trek long neck minority

Mae Hong Son is one of the most isolated province in Thailand . It stands on the border with Burma.

Pai, the best-known city in this region, is located 145 km northwest of Chiang Mai. It’s popular with Thai people (who are not afraid to travel all the way from Bangkok!) and tourists.

There are no major tourist attractions there. People simply come to Pai for its unique Hippie and bohemian atmosphere as well as to relax and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the surrounding area.

And if you want to go out at night to eat or have a drink, you will find plenty of options to choose from.

Last but not least, Pai is also known for its drug trafficking.

Around Pai , you will find several waterfalls, hot springs, a few temples and Pai Canyon , a famous place to admire the sunset.

Landscape Mae Hong Son

Isan, a region located northeast of Bangkok, i s somewhat overlooked by tourists in Thailand . It’s however a great place to visit if you want to get off the beaten track or have already visited Thailand’s more popular tourist areas on a previous trip.

There, you will find Khao Yai National Park , considered as one of the most beautiful national parks in the world and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

This large 2,100 km² area is ideal for hiking and is home to many animals , including tigers, leopards, pythons (a little bit scary, I must admit!) but also gibbons and birds.

The best way to discover Isan is to rent a scooter or a car and go on an adventure through the authentic villages and the magnificent landscapes deserted by tourists.

And while you’re in the region, you shouldn’t miss The city of Nang Rong and its Khmer temples.

Although they aren’t as famous as Angkor temples in Cambodia, they are nevertheless worth a visit.

To admire them, you will need to go to Phanom Rung Historical Park . Built on the top of a volcano, it towers above the surrounding area and is home to several temples.

Isan Khmer Temple

I can’t write a travel guide about Thailand without mentioning Phuket.

Located in the South of the country, in the Andaman Sea , it’s the largest island in Thailand and definitely one of the most touristic.

In Phuket, all the activities are concentrated on the West side of the island, specifically near Patong.

If you want to go to the bar or to a nightclub, you should head to Bangla Road. In Patong you will also find a very popular beach , as well as many hotels for every budget , from large resorts to small guesthouses.

If you enjoy entertainment and partying , this is the perfect place!

You prefer to relax and enjoy the calm? No problem, there are also quieter beaches on the island, such as Kata beach or Nai Harn beach. However, don’t expect to have the beach all to yourself!

In Phuket, you will also be able to do many activities: rock climbing, kite-surfing, paragliding, inner tubing, four-wheelers, bungie jumping, zip lining, high ropes courses, and scuba diving.

An important tip: always be cautious about the quality of the equipment , and try to inquire about the agency’s reliability. Each year, accidents happen because the safety regulations are not always followed.

In Phuket, you can also visit Phuket Town, a pleasant old town with pretty buildings in Chinese-Portuguese style architecture and a main street lined with cafés and trendy boutiques.

From Phuket , you can also go on day-trips to the neighboring islands , such as James Bond Island or Koh Phi Phi (continue reading for more details).

If you want more info about the best things to do in Phuket, you should read my article: Visit Phuket: the definitive guide .

Phuket plage

Krabi is located in front of Phuket , on the other side of the Andaman Sea.

Krabi’s claim to fame is the karst formations that border its coast , as they greatly contribute to the spectacular beauty of the landscape.

Things to do in Krabi, Thailand:

  • Tiger Cave Temple or Wat Tham Suea : Climb the 1,237 steps to reach the top and enjoy the stunning view of the area.
  • Khao Kanab Nan: These karstic rocks shaped like crab claws are the town’s emblem.
  • Wat Kaew , a white temple found in Krabi Town.
  • A day trip to the islands – The most popular one is the 4-island tour: Turtle Island, Chicken Island, Tup Island and Mor Island.
  • The Night Market, for discovering the local cuisine.
  • The Tab Kak Hang Nak Nature Trail hike: Climb for 4 km and then enjoy the view from the summit.
  • Emerald Pool: a natural emerald-green pool, perfect to take a dip!
  • Khao Phanom Bencha National Park for a stroll in the tropical forest.
  • A trip to Koh Phi Phi

Eager to know more about Krabi? All the info you need to plan your stay is in my article: Visit Krabi: the definitive guide.

Krabi

Ao Nang is located about 20 kilometers from the town of Krabi. If you’d like to go to the beach during your stay in Krabi, it’s the closest spot in the area.

In Ao Nang, you will find long beaches of fine sand and clear turquoise waters. Many cafés, restaurants, and tour agencies can be found on the main street bordering the beach. It’s also where you will find hotels for any budget .

Along with swimming, you will also be able to enjoy many activities: scuba diving, kayaking through the mangrove, snorkeling, kitesurfing, and biking.

From Ao Nang, you can reach Railay , a large peninsula that can only be reached via long-tail boats. It will take you less than 10 minutes to arrive at Railay West Beach.

This beach, surrounded by huge karstic cliffs , is stunning! Right behind the beach, you will find shops, restaurants and hotels.

While visiting Railay, you should also go to Phra Nang Beach. Often listed amongst the most beautiful beaches in the world , it’s truly magnificent, despite being very busy!

Last but not least, Railay is a great destination in Thailand for all rock-climbing lovers. Around 700 paths are available to chose from, with options for both beginners and experts.

Railay beach

The islands of Koh Phi Phi, located in the Andaman Sea, between Phuket and Koh Lanta, are one of the most beautiful places to visit in Thailand.

These islands are well-known thanks to the movie “The Beach” , featuring Leonardo Di Caprio. The famous Maya Bay Beach on Koh Phi Phi Leh has quickly become the place to see during a tour in Southern Thailand.

Over 8 years, nearly 5,000 visitors walked up and down the beach every day.

As you can probably guess, this mass tourism had disastrous consequences for the local ecosystem and the corals. It got so bad that the Thai authorities had to take action, and thus the beach has been closed to the public since 2018.

But don’t worry, you can still see the beach from the boat during your day-trip!

There are also some very beautiful beaches on Koh Phi Phi Don , the second island. Here again, you can enjoy many activities: water-skiing, wakeboarding, paddle boarding, scuba diving or snorkeling . Rock climbing is also quite popular.

You will have no difficulty finding accommodation on the island, given the ever-increasing number of hotels or youth hostels.

You will also have no problem finding places to go out and party . Koh Phi Phi is very lively and its nightlife is one of the best in Thailand!

However, if you’re looking for peace & quiet, you’d be better off visiting another island in Thailand.

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Lanta is another beautiful island to visit during your trip to Thailand.

Located around 70 km to the south of Krabi , in the Andaman Sea, you can easily reach it by boat from Krabi or Phuket.

If you’re looking for a Thai island with dazzling sandy beaches that are not too crowded , it’s an excellent choice. The further away from the port you go, the quieter it gets!

The best way to visit Koh Lanta is to rent a scooter for the day and go explore the beaches. Here are my 3 favorites on the island:

  • Khantiang Beach: A very pretty beach topped by the Diamond Cliff bar/restaurant, one of the best places to admire the sunset.
  • Khlong Chak Beach: A smaller and more intimate sandy beach.
  • Bamboo Beach: A large and wild sandy beach, bordering the jungle. It was practically empty when we were there in January (tourism high-season in Thailand).

From Koh Lanta, you should really take the 4-island tour :

In a day, you will visit Koh Chueak, Koh Waen, Koh Muk and Koh Ngai islands. You will leave with the boat in the morning and stop several times for snorkeling and beach-exploring on the four islands, before returning to Koh Lanta around 16h.

From Koh Lanta, you can also go on a day trip to Koh Rok island . The tours offer several snorkeling stops around the island and some time to enjoy the beach.

You plan to visit Koh Lanta during your trip to Thailand? Then you should read my detailed article: The 15 best things to do in Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta

Let’s now talk about my favorite island: Ko Yao Noi. I have been really lucky to discover this little paradise during my trip!

It’s a bit less known compared to the other islands I told you about. I had never heard about it before organizing my trip to Thailand and stumbled upon it by chance.

Ko Yao Noi (Don’t confuse it with its neighbour, Ko Yao Yai!) is located just 30 minutes aw ay from Phuket in speed boat.

It’s the perfect island to relax in a bungalow by the seaside during your holidays. The beaches are really nice!

You can easily tour the island on scooter to discover the beaches such as Long Beach or Luild Beach for example.

But you should above all do the boat day excursions to discover the other islands. There are several possible options with different choices of islands to see.

My favorite passed by Monkey Island, Ko Pak Bia, Ko Lao Lading and Ko Hong . The scenery was really stunning, it was for sure one of the best moments of my trip.

Another excursion from Ko Yao Noi takes you to 4 islands + James Bond Island. The scenery is very nice as well, even if James Bond Island is super touristy.

You can find detailed information about Ko Yao Noi in my article: The best things to do in Koh Yao Noi.

Koh Yao Noi

Koh Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand.

After Phuket, it’s the second largest island .

Koh Samui attracts a wealthy clientele who come to enjoy the beaches and the 5-star hotels and luxury spas. The goal? Relaxation and tanning!

And at the end of the day, the island will come alive: Koh Samui is the perfect place to party all night long!

During the day, you shouldn’t miss the Big Buddha Temple and Na Muang waterfall, 2 major tourist attractions you can discover on a day trip.

koh samui

Ko Pha Ngan is located next to Ko Samui.

The famous Full Moon Party takes place on this island. Every month, on the night of the full moon, a gigantic party attracting thousands of people is held on Haad Rin beach . Music, dancing, games, and of course free-flowing alcohol are on the menu!

And if you want to enjoy the beautiful beaches of the island , you should rather avoid the full moon party dates.

thailand full moon party

The Similan Islands are located northwest of Phuket, in the Andaman sea.

This archipelago of 9 islands is a protected zone that makes up the Similan Islands Marine National Park .

It’s the ideal place to go diving in Thailand , the Similan Islands being among the 10 most beautiful sites in the world . The water is particularly crystalline and populated by many fish and corals.

To discover the islands and explore the seabed, the easiest way is to opt for a day trip from Phuket or Khao Lak . The tour includes transfers to the port, breakfast, boat trip, lunch and snorkeling in 3 or 4 different places

And of course you can also do “real” scuba diving with air tanks . Dozens of diving centers offer it.

Iles Similan

There are several national parks in Thailand , both lands and sea. They all offer breathtaking landscapes and a perfect opportunity to discover the flora and fauna of the country.

Here is a list of the most beautiful parks to visit in Thailand:

  • The Similan Islands National Marine Park that I mentioned above.
  • Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site located east of Bangkok.
  • Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai Province. There, you can find the country’s highest mountain, known as “The Roof of Thailand”.
  • Erawan National Park and its many waterfalls
  • Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park near Ko Samui
  • Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani Province, where you can discover one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests
  • Doi Suthep National Park , near Chiang Mai

Note that collecting flowers, pebbles, shells or coral as well as feeding fishes is strictly forbidden in all Thai National Parks

It’s also prohibited to use drones.

Doi Suthep National Park Thailand

Pattaya, located less than 200 km away from Bankgok, is Thailand’s main seaside resort .

The city mainly attracts tourists coming to have fun and enjoy the crazy nightlife in gogos-bars or other cabarets featuring shemales . Its reputation is rather sulphurous and prostitution is particularly present.

Here are the 5 best places to visit in Pattaya, Thailand:

  • Pattaya Walking Street , the pedestrian street, with its trendy shops and restaurants
  • The Sanctuary of Truth , built of wood and adorned with many statues
  • The Floating Market
  • The Nong Noon Garden , a beautiful botanical garden

In Pattaya, you will also find many shopping centers and several golf courses .

Pattaya

You may have the opportunity to see elephants during your stay in Thailand.

I insist a lot on the word “see”, as I don’t recommend you to ride elephants for a safari . You probably now how these elephants are treated, So I really don’t encourage you to participate.

Please note that an elephant would never naturally agree to carry you on its back, only mistreated elephants do so. So don’t listen to what their owners tell you.

Several sanctuaries around the country recover and take care of abused, beaten or abandoned elephants. You could spend half a day or day, helping the staff to feed or wash them .

In Chiang Mai, Elephant Nature Park , is one of the most famous for its ethics. Everything is done to ensure the elephants live in an environment as close as possible to wild conditions.

Elephants Thailand

If you go to Thailand to dive and snorkel, you will be delighted. The destination offers some of the most beautiful diving spots in the world.

From all the islands, whether Phuket, Ko Samui or Koh Lanta, you can observe the seabed equipped with masks and snorkels or, for the more adventurous, try scuba diving.

Here are the most famous diving places in Thailand:

  • Ko Tao, about 1h30 from Koh Samui. This island is a world famous place to learn scuba diving.
  • Similan Islands, west of Phuket and Khao Lak
  • Ang Thong National Park, also towards Koh Samui
  • The Surin Islands, near the Similan Islands

Plongée Ko Tao

After a long day spent visiting, nothing beats a good massage to get back on track for the next day!

In Thailand, you will find many massage parlours and most hotels also offer this service.

Foot, leg and back massage, no matter what you prefer, you will have the choice! The great news is that Thai massages are very affordable: prices start from 250 Bahts (about 7-8 euros) for one hour.

Of course, there are also more luxurious versions: 5-star spas are a great place to get a massage in an idyllic setting, in the middle of lush gardens or by the sea.

Thai massage

During your trip to Thailand, you will also have the opportunity to discover local gastronomy

Of course, we have all seen picture of scorpion skewers , grilled crickets or even lively big worms presented on tourist markets. Fortunately, this kind of food is most of the time a tourist attraction and isn’t very representative of Thai cuisine.

There is one thing I will tell you right away: Thailand is one of the best travel destination for food lovers!

During the month I spent there, I tested all kind of street food and restaurants. Although most dishes are quite simple, based on meat + rice or noodles, they are always topped with many vegetables and spices and are very tasty!

So here is a brief overview of the dishes you can enjoy in the country:

  • Fried rice, a sautéed rice with vegetables and meat (choice of chicken, pork, beef or sometimes shrimps)
  • Pad Thai: generally fried noodles with shrimp, eggs, peanuts and soy sprouts
  • Pat See You: large noodles sautéed in soy sauce
  • Pat Krapao: with chicken and basil
  • Le Lap Mou: minced meat with aromatic herbs, served with rice
  • Som Tam, a papaya salad with fish, lemon and chili sauce. Tastes great, but you need to like spicy food!
  • Tom Kha Kai: a chicken soup with coconut milk
  • Kaeng Phed : a red curry with chicken or pork
  • Khao Niao Ma Mouang or sticky rice with coconut milk and mango: a dessert you can find everywhere in Thailand

Thai cuisine

Now, you know everything about the best places to visit in Thailand.

However, there are also many festivals and events happening throughout the year!

Here is the list of the most famous festivals in the country:

  • Songkran: the Thai New Year (in April) is celebrated with giant water battles taking place in the cities.
  • Krathong Law: the world famous lantern festival, featuring thousands of lanterns illuminating the sky and rivers. It celebrates the end of the rainy season in November.
  • The Flower Festival takes place in Chiang Mai for 3 days in February.
  • The international kite festival (in March – All over the country).
  • The vegetarian festival: In order to purify themselves, participants will not eat meat for 9 days. The ceremonies are particularly impressive, especially when people in trance pierce their skin with various objects.
  • Chinese New Year usually takes place at the beginning of February. Celebrations are being held in Thailand’s major cities.
  • Lopburi Monkey Festival, a giant banquet is organized to thank the monkeys for attracting so many tourists. Takes place in November.

Krathong Thailand

And you, what would you like to visit during your trip to Thailand?

Flight prices to Thailand vary widely, so it is a good idea to compare them as soon as possible. To do this, you can use our flight comparator, in partnership with Skyscanner . It’s the best way to pay the best price!

When you get the results, don’t hesitate to check out multiple website to make sure there is no hidden fee.

On Voyagetips.com , I give you all my best tips and itineraries to plan your trip to Thailand by yourself. (All my Thailand travel guides are here)

However, if you prefer to book a Thailand tour with a travel agency , I recommend you to check the 10 best Thailand tours by clicking the button below:

Thailand travel Guides

  • Buy the Lonely Planet Thailand guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk
  • Buy the DK Eyewitness Thailand guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk

Discover all my articles about Thailand : All my articles to help you plan your trip to Thailand are listed there.

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Best places to visit in Thailand

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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Oana

Very nice article to visit Thailand, very documented and very complete! thanks for your patience to elaborate it so well! very helpful for my upcoming trip in Thailand!

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10 Great Places to Visit in Thailand

Where to Go in Thailand?

top 10 places to visit thailand

Andrew Watson / Getty Images

Choosing from the many great places to visit in Thailand is tough, especially if you only have a short time in the country. There's a reason why Thailand consistently remains one of the most visited countries in the world!

Along with ideal weather, islands, and other lures, Thailand can be a very affordable destination .

Planning a dream trip to Thailand has never been easier. But first, you're going to have to choose from among these top destinations once you're ready to leave Bangkok .

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Although still busy with traffic, Thailand's northern capital of Chiang Mai has a completely different vibe than Bangkok.

Slightly cooler weather from the green hills and plenty of tourist activities keep visitors coming in growing numbers. A large community of entrepreneurs and artists have chosen to call Chiang Mai home, invariably attracted to that vibe and friendliness felt in the north .

Northern Thailand's many ethnic hill tribe people and Burmese residents have contributed to the local culture and food.

Try to visit Chiang Mai on a weekend to take advantage of the walking street markets; each is held in a separate place on Saturday and Sunday. The nightlife in Chiang Mai isn't nearly as rambunctious as that in Bangkok or the islands, but there are options.

Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok is easy. Take the train if you have time to enjoy the countryside, otherwise, grab a cheap flight from NokAir or AirAsia.

Some Reasons to Visit Chiang Mai:

  • Many temples
  • Northern Thai, Lanna, and Burmese cultures
  • Cheap shopping and night markets
  • Cafes with local coffee and good restaurants
  • Outdoor and adventure opportunities

Scott Biales / Getty Images

The little riverside village of Pai was once a quiet destination for backpackers and "hippies" only a short while ago. Today, Pai is thriving with tourism, but some of the holistic health culture remains. You'll find plenty of places for yoga, tai chi, health retreats, and organic juices.

Surrounded by mountains and green scenery, Pai enjoys fresher air than Chiang Mai (outside of the burning season), and life moves a bit slower than in the big city. Oddly enough, nightlife for backpackers is arguably better in Pai than in Chiang Mai!

Getting to Pai from Chiang Mai takes a little under four hours. The drive has scenic points and potential stops along the way. If you're an experienced enough driver , rent a scooter in Chiang Mai, point it north, and enjoy a beautiful drive to Pai .

Some Reasons to Visit Pai:

  • Fresh air and green scenery
  • Waterfalls and hot springs
  • Friendly Lanna and Northern Thailand culture
  • Organic food, juices, yoga retreats, and holistic health options
  • Good motorbiking in the area
  • Backpacker nightlife

Although technically not an island, Railay feels like one. It's a peninsula surrounded by mountains and only accessible by small boat .

With ridiculously photogenic limestone rock formations, Railay in Krabi is a major rock climbing destination in Southeast Asia. You can even scramble and boulder along one of the beaches. Deep-water soloing is also an option.

Even if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, the limestone cliffs jutting from blue water provide unforgettable scenery often featured on Thailand postcards and in more than a few movies .

Some Reasons to Visit Railay:

  • Rock Climbing and bouldering
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Numerous beaches and small, hidden coves

Located only a short, two-hour train ride away from Bangkok, Ayutthaya was the ancient capital of Siam for 417 years before it was sacked by Burmese invaders. The capital was later moved to site of modern-day Bangkok.

Initially founded in 1350, Ayutthaya was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the numerous temple ruins scattered throughout the modern city. Ayutthaya is an amateur archeologist's dream and is probably the closest thing to an Angkor Wat that can be found in Thailand. Sukothai , another ancient capital with ruins, is a great alternative.

Some Reasons to Visit Ayutthaya:

  • Archeology and ancient temple ruins
  • Thai history and culture
  • A famous tree that has grown around a Buddha statue's head
  • To get out of Bangkok quickly and find Thai culture

Kanchanaburi

Located only two hours by bus from Bangkok and set on the famous River Kwai, Kanchanaburi is another relatively nearby option for escaping the hustle in Bangkok.

Kanchanaburi is rich with World War II history . It's home to the most famous bridge constructed as part of the "Death Railway" intended to connect Bangkok and Rangoon (now Yangon). The bridge was made famous in the 1957 movie, The Bridge On the River Kwai , inspired by a French novel. Historically, a few things are "off" — but that barely deters visitors who come to see the renowned bridge.

A couple interesting museums and beautiful national parks with swimming under waterfalls make Kanchanaburi a hit with war history buffs and backpackers.

Some Reasons to Visit Kanchanaburi:

  • World War II history
  • Trains and unique railroad lore
  • Erawan National Park and Sai Yok National Park
  • Elephant sanctuaries
  • A quick escape from Bangkok​

Islands in Thailand

Dave Stamboulis Travel Photography / Getty Images

Thailand is blessed with gorgeous islands of all sizes and temperaments in both the Andaman Sea (west side) and in the Gulf of Thailand.

While some islands host raging beach parties , others are famous for their serenity. You can choose among large and small, easily accessible or difficult to reach — all affect the personality of the island. Inexpensive diving and snorkeling opportunities abound!

Although islands aren't technically the best place for real cultural interaction — or cheap shopping — they're a requisite addition to any vacation in Thailand. But consider saving the islands for last. Once there, you won't want to go anywhere else!

Some Reasons to Visit the Thai Islands:

  • Beaches of all types
  • Excellent snorkeling and diving
  • Beach parties and nightlife
  • Family-friendly beaches
  • The Sanctuary health retreat on Koh Phangan

jean-claude soboul / Getty Images

Chiang Rai, located just northeast of Chiang Mai , is an increasingly popular alternative to Chiang Mai for travelers interested in Thai culture with a few less tourists.

Not to say that Chiang Rai isn't busy — it is. But the small-town vibe and temples hold their own appeal. A cultural center, museums, and two famous attractions (the White Temple and Black House) are well worth making the trip north.

Some Reasons to Visit Chiang Rai:

  • Peaceful temples
  • Waterfalls and a national park
  • The White Temple
  • The Black House (Baan Dam)
  • Night Bazaar, street food, and shopping

Khao Sok National Park

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

Although neither the largest nor oldest of the national parks in Thailand , Khao Sok is a memorable favorite and great place to visit for many visitors. It's nothing like the popular Doi Inthanon National Park in the north.

Officially declared the 22nd national park in Thailand on December 22, 1980, Khao Sok is a 285-square-mile nature refuge in the south of Thailand. The park is famous for floating bungalows and a picturesque lake.

With a little luck and timing, you may even catch a rare Rafflesia — the heaviest flower on earth — in bloom.

Some Reasons to Visit Khao Sok National Park:

  • Rainforest scenery
  • Limestone formations and a beautiful lake
  • Rafflesia flowers
  • Jungle trekking and river canoeing

Mae Hong Son

Located in the very northwest corner of Thailand near the border of Myanmar (Burma), Mae Hong Son is a fairly quiet town mostly still off the tourist radar.

As Pai — located south of Mae Hong Son on Route 1095 — grows more and more popular, Mae Hong Son becomes even more of an appealing alternative for travelers who want to step off the Banana Pancake Trail and see some "authentic" parts of Thailand.

The residents of Mae Hong Son are genuinely happy to show you around their green province. If you're comfortable, motorbiking is the best way to explore the area.

Some Reasons to Visit Mae Hong Son:

  • Caves and waterfalls
  • Thai, Karen, and Burmese cultures
  • Escape masses of tourists farther south

Barry Kusuma / Getty Images

Isaan is a region consisting of 20 provinces in the very northeast of Thailand. It borders Cambodia and Laos.

Although Isaan is the largest region in Thailand, tourism has yet to have as much impact as it has had elsewhere in Thailand. A small community of expats and volunteers call the region home, but for the most part, Isaan remains lightly touristed. Visitors to Isaan can still enjoy meeting locals who are happy to see farang wandering their towns.

Isaan has very close cultural ties to Laos. The local Isaan dialect is actually a derivative of the Lao language rather than Thai, although it is still written using the Thai alphabet.

Isaan is home to delicious dishes that are distinct from other famous Thai cuisine. Food from Isaan is celebrated throughout Thailand as some of the best. Isaan dishes are often enjoyed with sticky rice ( khao niaow ).

Some Reasons to Visit Isan:

  • Friendly people
  • Famous food such as som tam (papaya salad) and laap (meat salad)
  • Unique culture
  • Green countryside

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Exploding with vibrant history, culture, and natural beauty, these are the best places to visit in Thailand for your first-timers .

The best places to visit in Thailand

Thailand is a country steeped in stunning beauty, magical history, and rich, cultural traditions. This country, in Southeast Asia, has become a hugely popular destination for travelers thanks to its low crime rate, affordable lifestyle, and huge variety of places to visit in Thailand.

My family absolutely adored our time in the country. We visited famous cities such as Chiang Mai, and Bangkok, and wandered through historic centers including Ayutthaya . We hiked to mountain caves in Koh Sok National Park, experienced ethical elephant sanctuaries, and even chilled out on the islands and beaches of Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands. It was a country that we absolutely fell in love with, not just for the range of attractions, but for the warm people, mouthwatering food, and how easy it was to travel through Thailand.

I spent weeks touring the country with my family, exploring where to visit in Thailand to have the most phenomenal and memorable travel experience. If you’re looking at where to visit in Thailand for your travels, I’ve got you covered

Why Should You Travel To Thailand?

Table of Contents

Wandering Wagars at Sticky Waterfall in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand shocked us.

This massive Southeast Asian country quickly became one of our favorite family travel destinations . Thailand ranked up with the Philippines , Iceland , and Peru among the top. The country has become massively popular among ex-pats searching for affordable, beautiful, and safe destinations. And after seeing this for myself, I can understand its popularity.

Thailand is a huge country. You’ll find vastly different experiences in the northern, central, and southern regions. The northern regions of Thailand have stunning forests, unique tribal cultures, and vast, mountainous landscapes that have helped the country protect its borders for so long. Here you’ll find many of the country’s ancient Buddhist temples, mountaintop monasteries, and unique cultures such as the long-neck Karen hill tribes .

In the center of Thailand lies the massive economic hub of Bangkok, the most populous city in the country. Here you’ll find some of the country’s award-winning food experiences, great shopping, and crowded markets. But venture off the beaten path and you’ll also find historical treasures such as the Bridge over the River Kwai and the Death Railroad as well as beautiful national parks and river lodges.

Southern Thailand offers up some of the world’s most pristine beaches, intensely beautiful islands, and fascinating communities that live like nowhere else on Earth. You’ll find the region has its own unique cuisine that food lovers will adore while still retaining those magnificent Thai flavors.

The fact is that Thailand is, quite simply, a pleasure to explore. Everywhere that my family went, we encountered warm, wonderful people, inspiring stories, and those precious moments that lead to memories that last a lifetime. If you travel to any of these incredible places to visit in Thailand, you’ll come home with countless stories to tell.

What Is The Best Time To Visit Thailand?

Elephant Hills floating lodge in Koh Sok National Park

Thailand is a world-class destination that offers amazing travel experiences year-round. However, you’ll find that choosing the times that you visit Thailand will greatly impact your experience.

For the best weather, November through May is the dry season for most of Thailand. The exception to this is southern Thailand , where you’ll find cities such as Ko Samui, Phuket , and Ko Tao. In this region, the rainy season is from October through December .

Thailand is notoriously hot and humid. So if you’re looking for the coolest temperatures in Thailand, consider a visit between November and February. These months tend to offer the most comfortable temperatures. They average in the low 80s with little rain and humidity.

Thailand sees its hottest temperatures between March and April. However, if you’re looking for smaller crowds and lower prices than the November-to-February peak travel time, this makes for a great option. April tends to be the best time for shoulder-seasoned travelers. There are many great festivals and the heaviest rains are usually still a month away.

The Best Places To Visit in Thailand

If you’re planning your travels and are wondering where to visit in Thailand, you’ve come to the right place. Below, I lay out all of the best places to visit in the country and what makes each one so special.

A boy looks at a tall Buddha Statue at Royal Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen temple in Bangkok, Thailand

The sprawling capital of Thailand, Bangkok will be the start and end point for most visitors to Thailand. But Bangkok is far more than a jumping-off point for the best destinations in Thailand. Bangkok is a destination on its own worthy of a few days of your Thailand itinerary.

Bangkok is a fast-moving, exciting city of over eight million people. It’s where you’ll find some of the best hotels in Thailand, and some of the most exciting things to do.

The city is connected by a network of canals and rivers that meander through neighborhoods and past golden temples. The rivers are dotted with Bangkok’s famous floating markets, royal palaces, and awe-inspiring temples. Tucked amidst glass skyscrapers are food markets, incredible parks, and some of the most mesmerizing Buddhist temples in Thailand.

Among the top things to do in Bangkok are visits to the Grand Palace, a monumental complex that houses Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha). You’ll also find famous streets such as Khao San Rd, and the epic Chatuchak Market with its labyrinth of over 8,000 stalls.

The best street food in Thailand can be found in Bangkok, as well. Stroll down any side street and you’re sure to find vendors dishing out delicious local delicacies. Areas like Khaosan Road and Chinatown are great places to start.

You can find our guide to visiting Bangkok with kids right here .

A Buddhist monk walks past a golden temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is among the most popular places to visit in Thailand. This stunning city in northern Thailand is centered by an old city, surrounded by moats and walls, dating back to 1292. The city is packed with ancient Buddhist temples such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang. You’ll also uncover incredible food experiences and narrow lanes packed with unique shops.

Chiang Mai is a city built to explore. But the region surrounding it makes Chiang Mai a hub for day trips as well. Near Chiang Mai are fascinating attractions including the Doi Suthep hiking trail that takes adventurers to the mountaintop monastery known as Wat Phra That Doi.

If you love experiencing unique cultures, Chiang Mai is what most visitors use as a base to visit the hilltop Karen tribes. Most of these communities were created by refugees fleeing nearby Myanmar (Burma). There are several different Karen communities with unique cultures all living in the mountains near Chiang Mai and their stories are as fascinating as those of Thailand itself.

Our visit to the Karen hill tribes near Chiang Mai opened up some debate surrounding ethical tourism. You can read all about our visit the Karen hill tribes near Chiang Mai here .

Woman wandering among temples in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Home to one of the most iconic experiences in Thailand, the ancient city of Ayutthaya is one of the must-see stops in the country. The city, founded in 1350, is about 50 miles north of Bangkok. In the 14th century, Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, and today it is home to some of the most magnificent temples in Thailand.

At the heart of the city is Ayutthaya Historical Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site. This massive collection of temples, reliquary towers, and wats is one of the most sought-after experiences in Thailand.

Wat Phra Mahathat is among the most famous sites in Thailand. Nestled within the complex is the head of a statue of Buddha that nature has attempted to reclaim. Now, the peaceful visage peeks out from among a nest of roots, drawing visitors by the thousands.

Other awe-inspiring things to do in Ayutthaya include a visit to Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, which is the home of a giant reclining Buddha and the statues of dozens of sitting Buddha statues, many of which have been draped in golden sashes.

You can read our complete guide to Ayutthaya here .

Kanchanaburi

Boy riding the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

History and nature buffs will find Kanchanaburi to be one of the top places to visit in Thailand. This region of the country has risen to fame due to its dark connections to the country’s Japanese occupation during WWII.

Kanchanaburi is home to the infamous Bridge of the River Kwai and much of the horrific “death railway” linking Myanmar(Burma) to ports of Southern Thailand. The railway was built using forced labor provided by Allied prisoners of war and Chinese slaves. In the process, thousands of prisoners perished under inhumane working conditions.

Today, the narrow bridge brought to fame by the Hollywood movie can be sauntered across at leisure. Other stops along the way include the Kanchanaburi war Cemetery and “Hellfire Pass” one of the most tragic sections of the railway line.

It’s not all dark tourism in Kanchanaburi though. The province is home to the Erawan and Sai Yok National Parks. These stunning Thailand National Parks are home to magnificent waterfalls such as Erawan Falls, a seven-tier wonder in the depths of the rainforest. You’ll also find wondrous cave systems and beautiful resorts floating right on the river.

You can check out our complete guide of things to do in Kanchanaburi, Thailand here .

Thai dancer in Pattaya, Thailand

The small city of Pattaya is Bangkok’s beach getaway. The city, which is about an hour and a half south of Thailand’s capital draws visitors from the city in droves on weekends and holidays. If you have a chance to make the journey during the week, you may feel like you have it all to yourself.

Apart from beautiful beaches, this Thai holiday destination also features beautiful islands, glass-bottom boat tours, and the Chanthaburi Sapphire Mine, where you can enjoy tours.

Those visiting Thailand with kids might get a kick out of Siam Pattaya. This outdoor park has an impressive display of miniature monuments from around the world. Among them are the London Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Angkor Wat, and even the Bridge of the River Kwai.

Among other touristy attractions are a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum and a 3D museum known as “Art in Paradise.”

Wat Plai Laem in Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui is an island located off the shores of Suratthani in southern Thailand known for having some of the best beaches in the country. This resort island is cored by luscious green mountains, rainforests, and soft, white sand beaches where you can catch some of the best sunsets in the world.

Koh Samui is one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand for family vacations. Along with the natural beauty of the island are resorts that are home to some of Thailand’s best spas, and stunning temples such as Wat Phra Yai, home to a nearly 40-foot-tall statue of Buddha

A visit to Koh Samui wouldn’t be complete without exploring some of the marvelous islands and archipelagos nearby. The area is where you’ll find Ang Thong National Marine Park, which covers 42 islands. This protected area is home to sharks, rays, turtles, and countless species of birds.

Longtail boat at sunset in Koh Tao, Thailand

North of Koh Samui off the western coast in the Gulf of Thailand sits the island of Koh Lanta. The island is part of the same archipelago as its southern neighbor but is a significantly smaller and more relaxing destination.

Although you can see the entire island in less than a day, it’s a popular destination for multi-day getaways, especially for those who want to unwind amidst a jam-packed Thailand itinerary.

Koh Tao is among the best SCUBA diving destination in Thailand. With endless visibility, bright corals, and fascinating shipwrecks, the reputation of this tiny island is catching on among visitors to Thailand. Underwater explorers will often come face-to-face with massive grouper, barracuda, peaceful whale sharks, eagle rays, black-tipped reef sharks, and other fascinating undersea creatures.

Giant Buddha in Phuket, Thailand at Sunrise

One of the most famous tourist destinations in Thailand, the island of Phuket hosts the most popular beaches in the country. Not only are there a wealth of incredible things to do in Phuket such as a nearly 150-foot Buddha on Nakkerd Hill that gazes out over the island.

Phuket draws visitors by the thousands thanks to its dramatic scenery that has been the backdrop of famous Hollywood movies including Khao Phing Kan, otherwise known as “James Bond Island,” and  Phi Phi Ley, made famous in the Leonardo di Caprio movie “The Beach.”

Exploring the amazing day trips from Phuket is one way to experience this glorious region on the west coast of southern Thailand. But don’t miss exploring the city itself. Phuket is home to a wealth of wonderful shops, restaurants, temples, and outdoor markets that shouldn’t be missed.

You can read our guide to the best things to do in Phuket here .

Limestone cliffs of Krabi, Thailand

Located off the eastern shores of Phang Nga Bay across from Phuket are the 200 islands and vast forests of Krabi Province. Known for its luxurious beaches, the shores of Krabi are also popular for their dramatic landscapes. The shoreline features rugged limestone cliffs that drop majestically into the ocean. The cliffs often draw rock climbers from around the world.

Krabi day trips include some of the most popular ones in Phuket as well such as the Phi Phi Islands and Koh Panyee  a fascinating Muslim village floating deep in Phang Nga Bay. Krabi province is also home to the majestic Thung Teao Forest Natural Park.

This incredible park is home to mostly virgin rainforest and features magnificent warm water pools, a 1.7-mile hiking trail, and crystal-clear ponds that are very popular swimming holes. Visitors can wade in nearby waterfalls and experience some of the wonderous and unique flora and fauna of the park.

Sukhothai Thani

Lotus bud tower Wat Chedi Chet Taeo near S Si Sachanalai, Thailand

Home to Sukhothai Historical Park, the 13th-century ruins of the Sukhothai Kingdom, the small town of Sukhothai Thani is one of the most fascinating places to travel in Thailand. The park is home to 193 ruins dotted across 26 Buddhist temples. Among them are the remains of a royal palace and a series of dramatic stupas.

What draws most visitors to Sukhothai Thani is Wat Mahathat. This gorgeous temple features a pillared pavilion centered by two nine-meter tall Buddha statues. Among some of the other popular attractions are Wat Si Sawai, which is the park’s oldest temple and sits in the middle of a lake, and Noen Prasat, which was once a royal palace.

A boy plays guitar with a woman from the long-neck Karen tribe in Chiang Rai, Thailand

The city of Chian Raig is the northernmost major city in Thailand. Sitting close to the borders of both Myanmar(Burma) and Laos and surrounded by lush national parks and filled with historic Buddhist temples, this is one of the most sought-after, but rarely visited places in Thailand.

Chiang Rai draws visitors with a penchant for exploring. Lam Nam Kok National Park, which is just 30 minutes from the city, features a series of cascading waterfalls. Among the most popular is the 230-ft Khun Kon waterfall, which drops dramatically into a shallow stream.

Chiang Rai is also known for its access to some of Thailand’s most vibrant hilltop communities including the Karen, Akha, Hmong, Lahu, Lisu, Palong, and Mien (Yao) tribes. Some of these villages require long hikes to reach, but they offer some of the most authentic and unique experiences in Thailand.

Kao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Phraya Nakhon Cave in Kao Sam Roi Yot National Park Thailand

There are many amazing national parks in Thailand, but Khao Sam Roi Yot is one of the most impressive. The park, whose name translates to “Mountain of 300 peaks”) is packed with pristine beaches, impressive caves and caverns, and the largest freshwater marsh in Thailand.

The park offers camping near Thung Sam Roi Yot Freshwater Marsh where visitors will have easy access to hiking trails and swimming holes and epic views of the mountain range.

One of the biggest draws of Kao Sam Roi Yot National Park is Phraya Nakhon, an immense cave system. The cave itself isn’t the top draw though, within Phaya Nakhon sits a delightful royal pavilion that’s often bathed in light from above.,

Running through the center of the park is the Khao Daeng Canal. Visitors can take a boat tour through the park and experience the dense mangrove forests right to the beautiful coastal waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

Khao Yai National Park

Elephants in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand

Three hours northeast of Bangkok is Khao Yai National Park, home to one of Thailand’s largest populations of wild elephants. The park, which covers a massive 1,250 square miles is jam-packed with mountains, rainforests, and grasslands.

Along with the 140-200 elephants that roam free within the park are gibbons, jackals, the Malayan sun bear, and the Asiatic black bear. and for those chasing scenes from the movie “The Beach,” the park is also home to the breathtaking Haew Suwat Waterfall.

Among the most popular experiences here are hiking and mountain biking. Visitors can also hire a park ranger who can bring them to rarely visited sections of the park including watering holes that are popular with the wildlife of the park.

Lee wine Rak Thai Chinese settlement near Pai, Thailand

The town of Pai sits in the northwest section of Thailand just a short distance from the border with Myanmar(Burma). This quaint town, 3 hours from Chiang Mai, has become one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand thanks to its relaxed pace.

Pai offers a glimpse of the “less-touristy” side of Thailand. The city is surrounded by lush hills teeming with waterfalls and crisscrossed with scenic hiking trails. Among the attractions surrounding Pai are Pai Canyon, which is home to a 3.7-mile hiking trail with mind-blowing views and some of the best sunsets in northern Thailand.

Other attractions that draw visitors to Pai are the scenic rice terraces, the towering Wat Phra That Mae Yen temple, the immense Tham Lod limestone caves, and the Pai hot springs, which offer travelers the chance to relax after a long day of exploring.

A boy holds a giant clam near Koh Lanta, Thailand

Situated off the coast of Krabi province in Phang Nga Bay is Koh Lanta, an often overlooked island destination in Thailand with magical beaches, incredible parks, and beautiful towns.

Koh Lanta offers a southern Thailand getaway that is far more peaceful than the bustling cities of Phuket and Krabi. The island, which sits just a short distance from the mainland, and is connected by a bridge, offers an easy escape that still gives you access to the mainland attractions.

Koh Lanta is over 18 miles long and features some excellent small resorts, lots of fantastic, locally-run restaurants, and countless quaint shops and markets.

One of the most famous spots to visit in Koh Lanta is Koh Lanta National Park. Koh Lanta National Park consists of a series of 16 major islands (and several smaller ones) off the southern shores of Koh Lanta. Nearly half of the island park is covered in lush rainforest and mangrove forests. It’s a wonderful destination for laid-back travel and popular with ex-pats.

Koh Sok National Park

Kevin Wagar at Elephant Hills Sanctuary in Koh Sok National Park in Thailand

Although far from the most famous places to visit in Thailand, Koh Sok National Park is one of my personal favorites. The park is located just an hour and a half from the town of Suratthani.

This massive rainforest is packed with incredible plants and animals, including a small population of wild elephants. Among the limestone hills, waterfalls, and hiking trails are a series of jaw-dropping floating lodges in Cheow Lan Lake where guests can enjoy kayaking, nature trails, and guided boat rides through the flooded wilderness.

One of the park’s biggest attractions is Elephant Hills, a luxury lodge and elephant sanctuary where former working elephants, along with their mahouts (trainers/caregivers) are rehabilitated and given shelter and food. Visitors have the chance to feed and interact with these magnificent animals in a safe and ethical way.

Are You Ready To Visit These Incredible Places in Thailand For Yourself?

Thailand was a magical destination for family travel. The hot weather, brilliant beaches, delicious food, and stunning history were just the icing on the cake. If you’re looking for a memorable travel destination, these stunning places to visit in Thailand are sure to delight

If you love family travel as much as we do, please join our  Family Travel Support Group on Facebook . You can connect with more family travelers just like you who love to explore the world.

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An Ultimate Guide to the 18 Best Places to Visit in Thailand

Best Places To Visit In Thailand

Thailand is home to so many places with unique beauty and charm. From the beaches of Phuket to the temples of Bangkok to the natural wonders of Khao Yai – there are so many amazing places in this country that you will be torn over which one to visit first! But if you only have a short time in Thailand, then how do you choose? And that’s why we’ve put together this list of the 18 best places in Thailand .

Every corner of Thailand has something special and unique about it, but these locations stand out from the rest as being some of the most beautiful or interesting areas in the country. Thailand’s history, culture, tradition, and natural beauty are things to swoon over.

And the festivals will keep you in a happy mood all day. So if you’re going to be traveling in Thailand for just a short time, then read on for insider tips on where you need to go.

WHAT IS COVERED IN THIS ARTICLE?

The 18 Best Places to Visit in Thailand

1. the ancient city of ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is known as the “Cradle of Thai Culture.” Much of what we know as Thai culture today is derived from this city and its inhabitants. Ayutthaya also served as the capital city of Thailand for over 400 years. The old city is filled with ancient temples, palaces, and beautiful architecture that you would expect from such an important place. The city has a rich history and is famous for its annual Carnival festivities in December.

Ayutthaya is also an excellent place to learn about Thai culture and way of life. For history lovers, this will be the highlight of your trip. The old city of Ayutthaya is one of the most visited places in Thailand. It’s also one of the most beautiful places in the country. A visit to Ayutthaya is a must if you’re only going to be in Thailand for a short time. And for someone with a vast interest in history, Ayutthaya is a place that must not be missed.

2. Khao Yai National Park

Khao-Yai-National-Park

Khao Yai National Park is Thailand’s first and largest national park. This beautiful park is the perfect place to get away from the noise and hustle and bustle of city life. The park is home to many rare plant species and it is also home to many rare animal species.

Khao Yai is often called the “Land of a Thousand Elephants.” This is due to the fact that herds of wild elephants are often seen roaming through the park. Khao Yai is a great place to hike or go on an adventure.

There are many hiking trails that lead through beautiful landscapes. There are also many guided nature walks that you can take. Khao Yai is one of the most visited places in Thailand. And for a good reason. This national park is a photographer’s paradise. There are many beautiful landscapes to be found within the park. If you like hiking, wildlife, or photography, then this is the place for you.

3. The Ruins of Sukhothai

The-Ruins-of-Sukhothai

Sukhothai was once the capital of the first unified Thai kingdom. There are many beautiful temples and ruins to be found throughout the city. The most famous of these is the Sukhothai Historical Park. This park is home to many ancient temples, and it is one of the most popular places in Thailand for tourists to visit.

The park is home to the largest Buddhist temple in Thailand – the Wat Mahathat. This temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful places in Thailand.

The ruins of Sukhothai are one of the most visited places in Thailand. This beautiful city is a must-see if you’re going to be in Thailand for a short time. The ruins of Sukhothai are a great place to get a feel for Thai history and culture. If you plan your visit during the Buddhist holidays, then you will also get to witness amazing celebrations and festivities.

4. Phuket Island

Phuket-Island

The island of Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. This tropical paradise has everything you could ever want from a tropical holiday. Phuket is home to beautiful beaches, tropical forests, and a rich culture. If you’re looking to relax, then the beaches of Phuket are the perfect place to go.

You will find that there are many different styles of beaches in Phuket. There are beaches that are great for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and much more.

There are also plenty of beaches that are great for just relaxing and taking in the views. If you like being on the water, then Phuket is the perfect place to visit. And if you’re not a fan of the water, then don’t worry.

There are also many other places to visit in Phuket. If you like hiking, then Phuket is also the place for you. There are many beautiful tropical forests on this island where you can go on an adventure.

5. Hua Hin: Thailand’s oldest beach resort

Hua-Hin

Hua Hin was Thailand’s first beach resort. This coastal city is full of charm and culture. This is a great place to visit if you want to experience Thailand as the locals do. There are many different things to do and see in Hua Hin.

This coastal city is full of beautiful temples, lots of interesting markets, and delicious street food. Hua Hin is a nice place to visit at any time of the year. Located on the Gulf of Thailand, this region experiences two monsoon seasons every year. However, these two monsoon seasons are very different from one another.

The Southwest monsoon is known as the rainy season and lasts from May until September. The Northeast monsoon is the hot season and lasts from October until February. This means that if you visit in the right season, you will get to experience warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine.

6. Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan: The Beaches You Must Visit!

Places To Visit In Thailand

There are so many beautiful beaches in Thailand. But if you only have a short time in Thailand, then you need to visit these two beaches. These two beaches are home to some of the most stunning and picturesque beaches in all of Thailand. Both beaches have clear blue waters and white sand. And both beaches are great for swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling.

Doi Tung Beach is on the island of Ko Samui. This beach is known for its stunning scenery. There are also many Buddhist temples and waterfalls nearby. If you like to explore, then this is the beach for you! Lamai Beach is on the island of Ko Pha Ngan.

This is a great beach if you want to relax and do nothing. The beach is very quiet, and it is a great place to take in the views. If you want to see Thailand’s beautiful beaches, then these two are the places for you!

7. Bangkok: The City You Must Visit At least Once

Bangkok

If you love culture and history, then Bangkok is the city for you. This is a city that has been around for thousands of years, but it has also been able to keep its modern charm. Bangkok is a city with lots of culture and history.

There are many old temples and palaces to visit in the city. These old monuments tell the story of how the city has grown and changed over the years. Bangkok has a unique charm that you won’t find anywhere else in Thailand. And it is one of the most visited places in the country.

So if you’re only going to be in Thailand for a short time, then you should absolutely visit the capital city. Bangkok is a city that never sleeps. With its bustling streets, busy markets, and colorful buildings, Bangkok has something for everyone.

You can walk around the city’s many markets , experience the lively street life, or take in incredible views of the city from tall buildings. You could spend hours just wandering through Bangkok’s streets, but it’s not necessary to do so.

If you have time to spare, consider visiting one of Bangkok’s top attractions: the Grand Palace or Wat Pho. The Grand Palace is home to Wat Phra Kaew, or the “ Temple of the Emerald Buddha .”

This temple houses one of Thailand’s most revered Buddha images, an eight-meter gold statue that is worth seeing by itself. Wat Pho is Thailand’s oldest temple and famous for its Buddha image carved from a mountain of solidified sweat and blood.

8. Chiang Mai

Chiang-Mai-Phra-Mahathat

While the capital city of Bangkok may be the best known, the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai is also a popular tourist destination. Chiang Mai is a city in northern Thailand, known for its historic temples and the nearby Mae Khao crater.

Chiang Mai is known for its temples and bustling nightlife scene. It’s easy to see why this city has become a cultural hub in Thailand. If you’re interested in learning more about Thai culture, this is the best place to start.

While Chiang Mai is a growing city, there are still many things to do that can help you enjoy your time here. You can visit local markets, museums or art galleries. Chiang Mai has several universities, as well as one of Thailand’s largest markets and Chinatowns.

It is also known for its street food and festivals. You can check out some of the traditional festivals that take place in Chiang Mai throughout the year.

If you’re looking for a fun place to stay in Chiang Mai, you should consider booking a room at a guesthouse instead of a hotel. This way, you’ll have more space and freedom to decide what activities you want to take part in during your stay.

After being occupied by Japan during World War II, Chiang Mai reverted to Thai control after the war. It continued to grow through immigration and commerce, becoming one of Thailand’s most important cities by the mid-20th century.

The city has been nicknamed “The Northern Capital” because it serves as an important educational center, commercial hub, transportation hub and health tourism destination.

9. Pai: An idyllic mountain village only 2 hours from Chiang Mai

Pai-Chiang-mai

Pai, a town of about 10,000 inhabitants, located in the Mae Hong Son province of north-east Thailand is one of the cutest villages of the country. It is a very popular destination for backpackers and tourists because it’s only 2 hours away from Chiang Mai.

This idyllic mountain village known for its lovely weather all year round is surrounded by mountains and lush landscapes. Discovered by backpackers in the early 1990s, Pai’s popularity has been growing continuously.

Waterfalls and caves, and the weekly events such as Friday night markets are great ways to enjoy the uniqueness of the village. You can buy some traditional handicrafts for local souvenirs or to send back home with others. If you require some to reflect on yourself, head to Pai, one of the most serene places to visit in Thailand.

10. Ko Chang: A beautiful elephant shaped headland

Ko-Chang

If you go to Ko Chang, you will notice a beautiful series of caves and caverns that are the result of millions of years of limestone deposition. Some of these caves and caverns are still being used by the local elephant population.

Relatively less inhabited by humans, Ko Chang remains to be one of the most notable places to visit in Thailand to see the elusive white stilt and the elusive dugong.

You can go on a day trip to Ko Chang from Ao Nang for the best experience. A speed boat will take you to this beautiful elephant shaped headland within 20 minutes. However, a longtail boat will take 2 hours to reach. You can enjoy the scenery of the mangroves and beaches or dive at the coral reef.

You can also plan your stay at the several small resorts and hotels, most of which have good views of the ocean and the headland. The large number of animals, unexplored lands, and beautiful beaches make Ko Chang a remarkable tourist destination.

11. Krabi: A home to several breathtaking beaches and islands

Krabi

Krabi is a little-known gem of a destination that is quickly becoming a favorite among travelers. The city is surrounded by beautiful beaches and lush vegetation, making it a perfect place to relax and enjoy nature.

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, there are also plenty of exciting activities to do in Krabi. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a fun adventure, Krabi has something for everyone.

This island is a must-see for any traveler, and its beaches and islands are some of the most beautiful ones in Thailand. If you’re looking for a beach vacation that’s a little more upscale, there are plenty of options for you here.

Located on the west coast of southern Thailand, Krabi is surrounded by stunning coral reefs and has plenty of activities to keep you entertained. For a little luxurious trip, check out some of the luxury hotels in Krabi or explore the local markets for authentic Thai goods.

Other than all these, the world class Thai cuisine of Krabi makes it one of the most remarkable places to visit in Thailand .

12. Kanchanaburi

River-Kwai-Kanchanaburi

If you’re looking for a unique and exciting travel destination, look no further than Kanchanaburi in Thailand. This ancient city is known for its scenic beauty and history is a great place to explore if you’re looking for something different.

Located just 123 km west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is a great base for exploring the Thai countryside. It’s not only famous for the bridge located over the River Kwai, but also for its scenic places and ancient cemeteries.

The infamous Hellfire Pass, beautiful floating guesthouses, and gleaming monasteries, and WWII cemeteries are some of the most notable reasons to visit this part of the country. Also, the waterfalls in Sai Yok National Park and the Erawan National Park located just out of the town can be refreshing additions to your trip.

The perfect blend of natural beauty and unique culture makes Kanchanaburi one of the most beautiful places to visit in Thailand.

13. Chiang Rai

Chiang-Rai

Chiang Rai is a famous tourist destination in northern Thailand, and for good reasons. The city is surrounded by stunning mountains and has a laid-back atmosphere that is perfect for relaxation. For a unique travel experience, you can consider visiting Chiang Rai! You’ll be amazed at how different this city is compared to other parts of Thailand.

With a population of about 200,000 people, Chiang Rai is known for its beautiful scenery and friendly people. Moreover, it’s only a two-hour flight from Bangkok , which makes it an easy option for travelers from all over the world. The agricultural lands, plantations, scenic villas, and beautiful mountain ranges altogether make this destination popular among tourists

14. Pattaya City: Enjoy the pulsating nightlife

Pattaya-city

The alternative beach town of Pattaya has become a popular tourist destination in Thailand. Its proximity to Bangkok makes it convenient for visitors who want to explore the city without having to deal with the hustle and bustle of the capital.

The city is known for its wide array of nightlife, including dozens of bars, clubs, and other entertainment options. There are also numerous hotels and resorts that cater to tourists from all over the world.

The city’s most famous attraction is undoubtedly its renowned beaches. Boasting more than 400 kilometers of coastline, Pattaya Beach is one of the largest beaches in all of Southeast Asia. It is also one of the most famous beaches in the world, thanks to its high concentration of sex tourism and adult entertainment options.

However, visitors should be warned that some establishments along this stretch of coast have been known to engage in underage sex abuse activities.

Other popular attractions include Pattaya Jomtien Beach, which is famous for its beautiful scenery and white sand; Bang Lamung Beach, which has lush vegetation and crystal clear waters; Pattaya National Park, which offers visitors a chance to experience nature at its finest; and Pattaya City Center, which houses many shops and shopping malls.

The city also has a number of museums, including The Queen Sirikit National Museum and King Chulalongkorn Museum.

15. Mae Sariang: Home to many beautiful landscapes

Mae-Sariang

The beautiful province of Mae Sariang is located in the eastern part of Thailand. An outstandingly rich area that was once famous for its jasmine fields and spice plantations, Mae Sariang has now become well known for its attractions such as a wide variety of waterfalls, mountains, caves, lakes, and a plethora of beautiful beaches.

There are three main cities in the province: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Mae Sariang. The province is also home to several other smaller towns, including Pai, Chiang Khong, and Hmongkong.

Mae Sariang is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand due to its numerous attractions, such as beaches with clear turquoise waters, waterfalls, and caves. Because the province is relatively close to Bangkok and there are direct flights available between the two cities, it’s very easy to visit Mae Sariang even if you’re not from Thailand.

16. Isaan Region: Known for Buddhist temples and surreal statues

Nong Bua Lam Phu at Isaan Region

The northeastern region of Thailand is known as the Isaan region. It covers parts of the provinces of Nong Bua Lam Phu , Loei, Khon Kaen, and Udon Thani. The area is known for its strong agriculture and is also home to a large number of small-scale industries. The people are generally hardworking and friendly but can be a bit rough around the edges.

Isaan is a fusion of three cultures of Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. You can explore villages and temples to experience the multicultural environment. Fishing and cycling tours are some of the most notable activities of the region. Also, you can get a taste of Lao cuisine without the need to go to Laos.

There isn’t really much to do in Isaan when it’s raining, so make sure to bring an umbrella along! The best time to visit the region is during the cool season between November and February, when temperatures aren’t too hot, and humidity isn’t too high. Make sure to bring mosquito repellent when you’re out and about in Isaan–the insects are fierce here!

17. Koh Tao: Labeled as “Death Island”

Ko-Tao

The island of Koh Tao is a small, low-key destination with a laid-back vibe. The island has an abundance of beautiful beaches and stunning scenery, but it’s not the kind of place you’ll be rushed to see. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy paradise at your own pace. Koh Tao is often referred to as the “Pearl of the Andaman Sea,” and for a good reason.

The island is known for its pristine white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and stunning scenery. There are also plenty of activities to keep you busy on Koh Tao if you want to get away from the beach.

There are several different ways to get to Koh Tao. If you’re flying into Bangkok, you can take a short ferry ride over from the mainland. If you’re taking a flight into nearby Phuket, there are several flights every day that will get you there in just over an hour. Once on the island, you can rent a car or arrange for rides with other travelers.

There are also plenty of accommodation options in Koh Tao, so you can find one that suits your needs. Ko Tao is one of the most popular destinations in Thailand for scuba diving and snorkeling tours. Hiking, bouldering, and rock climbing are some other activities that you can try out.

Now, the question that arises in most travelers mind is- is Koh Tao safe? The island is popularly known as “Death Island” due to the sudden disappearances and death of tourists back in 2014. It’s been several years since that incident, so there’s nothing to worry about right now. Koh Tao is safe to visit, just don’t involve yourself in daily politics.

18. Phitsanulok: Where history meets tourism

Phitsanulok

Phitsanulok is a city in Thailand with a population of 474,065 people. It is the capital of Phitsanulok Province and is located in the Northeast region of the country. Phitsanulok was once known as ‘The Town of Angels’ because of its many Buddhist temples. The town’s name comes from a type of tree called the phi tsan uk, which means “tree of angels”. The town was also known as ‘The Town of Springs’ because of its many natural springs.

Phitsanulok has several universities including Phitsanulok University, Phitsanulok Rajabhat University, and Phitsanulok Folk Arts University. It is also home to the National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Traditional Thai Medicine, and National Institute of Forensic Science.

There are also several museums, including the Sai Akson Museum, Luang Pradit Worawut Museum, Khun Yuam Phra Mongkhonthorn Temple, and Khorat Chao Samakhom Cemetery.

Phitsanulok has easy access to Bangkok via train or bus. It’s also close to other important cities, including Chiang Mai and Nakhon Pathom. So whether you’re planning a short trip or a long stay, Phitsanulok is worth checking out.

Etiquettes to follow in Thailand

As a traveler, you know that the key to a successful trip is being observant of local customs and etiquette. In Thailand, there are a few specific rules that you need to be aware of in order to have a smooth and enjoyable experience. So, let’s see what are these etiquettes:

  • Don’t insult the Thai royal family publicly, privately, or anywhere on social media. It can result in getting jailed for a long time.
  • Cover up while entering temples.
  • Take your shoes off while entering people’s homes, temples, shops, and offices.
  • Don’t touch anyone with your feet.
  • Don’t touch anyone’s head.
  • Always use your right hand to pass things.
  • Return smiles, greetings, and show respect to monks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best places to visit in thailand with family.

The best places to visit in Thailand with family are Ko Samui, Chiang Rai, Bangkok, Phuket, and Hua Hin.

What are the best places to visit in Thailand for couples?

Thailand is a very romantic destination. Couples can visit Phuket, Krabi, Bangkok, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai for a romantic getaway.

What is the best time to visit Thailand?

Mid-November to early April is the best time to visit Thailand. During these months, the weather is warm.

The next time you are in Thailand, make sure to stop by these 18 best places to visit in Thailand. They are guaranteed to be worth your time and will help you get the most out of your vacation. From ancient ruins to wildlife sanctuaries, these places will leave no stone unturned when it comes to exploring Thailand’s amazing landscape.

So whether you’re looking for something new or want to revisit an old favorite, this list definitely has something exciting for you. Are any of these places on your list? Let us know which one is most important to visit first when visiting Thailand.

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Best things to do in Thailand

Book your individual trip , stress-free with local travel experts

  • roughguides.com
  • best-things-to-do-in-thailand

written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 29.09.2023

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The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Thailand , your essential guide for visiting Thailand .

1. Visit Ko Kood island

2. explore the temple ruins at ayutthaya, 3. vegetarian festival, phuket, 4. discover khmer ruins, 5. browse chatuchak weekend market, 7. the grand palace, 8. enjoy khao yai national park, 9. marvel at nakhon si thammarat, 10. wat phra that doi suthep, chiang mai, 11. thai cookery classes in chiang mai - the best thing to do in thailand for culinary enthusiasts, 12. try the mae hong son loop, 13. discover nan, 14. traditional massage - one of the things to do in thailand for sure, 15. full moon party at hat rin, ko pha ngan, 16. relax on the beaches of ko lanta, 17. rainforest trekking, 18. ride the death railway, river kwai, 19. rock-climbing, 20. sukhothai, tailor-made travel itineraries for thailand, created by local experts.

Chiang Mai Safari Adventure

5 days  / from 1180 USD

Chiang Mai Safari Adventure

The perfect trip for some family fun and adventure, lovely Chiang Mai with its lush valleys and national parks ticks all the boxes. Expect majestic cliff-top temples, sprawling national parks and exciting safari adventures.

Thailand's Islands and Highlands

12 days  / from 2750 USD

Thailand's Islands and Highlands

Experience the best of Thailand as you discover glitzy Bangkok's temples, markets and waterways. Compare the bustling, lively capital with the glorious rolling hills and lush interior of mountainous Chiang Mai before heading south to beach bliss and unexpected cultural delights in hedonistic Phuket.

Thailand Discovery

12 days  / from 2450 USD

Thailand Discovery

A great way to discover Thailand, take in the Central Plain and Bangkok, the north with Chiang Mai and the south at the lively resort of Phuket.

Tailor-made trips for   Thailand

Koh Kood Thailand, Beach © Sarutipong/Shutterstock

Koh Kood Thailand, Beach © Sarutipong/Shutterstock

When choosing from all the things to do in Thailand, you won't want to miss Ko Kood. The fourth-largest island in Thailand , forested Ko Kood (also spelt Ko Kut and Ko Kud) is still a wild and largely uncommercialised island. Though it’s known for its sparkling white sand and exceptionally clear turquoise water Ko Kood is as much a nature-lover’s destination as a beach-bum’s.

Discover more divine beach destinations in Thailand .

Where to stay in Ko Kood:

  • TA YAI HOMESTAY

Located 300 m from Ao Noi Beach, TA YAI HOMESTAY provides accommodation with a restaurant, a garden and an ATM for your convenience. The homestay features both WiFi and private parking free of charge. Some units are air conditioned and include a patio and/or a seating area with a flat-screen TV.

  • Small Guest House Koh Kood

Set within 1.3 km of Klong Chao Waterfall and 2.2 km of Ban Lak Uan, Small Guest House Koh Kood offers rooms with air conditioning and a private bathroom in Ko Kood.

  • Koh Kood Beach Resort

Koh Kood Beach Resort is 4 km away from Klong Yai Kee Waterfall. It boasts an outdoor swimming pool. Guest rooms come with a private balcony overlooking the sea. The resort provides free Wi-Fi in the lobby area and free two-way shuttle service from the resort to Ao Salad Pier.

buddha-head-tree-wat-mahathat-ayutthaya-thailand-shutterstock_303034259

Buddha Head in tree roots, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya © Khoroshunova Olga/Shutterstock

When you're planning what to do in Thailand, river boats and bicycles are the perfect way to explore the scattered temple ruins of this former capital. Ayutthaya comes alive each year for a week in mid-December, with a festival that commemorates the town’s listing as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The highlight is the nightly son et lumière show, featuring fireworks and elephant-back fights, staged around the ruins.

To get the most complete impression of Ayutthaya check this tour of Ayutthaya.

Where to stay in Ayutthaya:

  • One Dhatu Ayutthaya Premium Homestay

Offering city views and a terrace, One Dhatu Ayutthaya Premium Homestay offers accommodation situated conveniently in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, within a short distance of Wat Mahathat, Chao Sam Phraya National Museum and Ayutthaya Historical Park.

  • Patone Hostel

Located in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, less than 1 km from Wat Mahathat, Patone Hostel provides air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge. Located around 1.2 km from Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, the hostel with free WiFi is also 1.8 km away from Ayutthaya Historical Park.

  • Baan Canalee

Located in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, 1.4 km from Wat Yai Chaimongkol, Baan Canalee (บ้านคานาลี) provides accommodation with free bikes, free private parking, a garden and a terrace. All rooms feature a kitchenette and a private bathroom. The accommodation offers a shared kitchen and free WiFi.

street-food-bangkok-thailand-shutterstock_709048096

Vegeterian festival - the best thing to do for people who have given up meat © Shutterstock

During Taoist Lent, fasting Chinese devotees test their spiritual resolve with acts of gruesome self-mortification. For nine days, usually in October or November, the celebrations for Ngan Kin Jeh – the Vegetarian Festival – set the streets of Phuket buzzing with processions, theatre shows and food stalls.

Also, don't miss on the oportunity to experince Thailand cuisine with this Phuket old town 15-taster food tour.

Where to stay in Phuket:

  • Mei Zhou Phuket Hotel - SHA Plus

Less than 3 km from Rassada Pier, Mei Zhou Phuket Hotel - SHA Plus offers well-appointed rooms with free Wi-Fi and comfortable seating areas. An outdoor spa pool is also available.

  • Peranakan House - SHA Plus

Boasting a bar and a terrace, Peranakan House - SHA Plus is set in Phuket Town, 3 km from Prince of Songkla University and 3.3 km from Chinpracha House. This 3-star hotel offers room service and a kids' club. The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre and a 24-hour front desk.

  • HOMA - SHA Extra Plus

Located in Phuket Town, 3.6 km from Thai Hua Museum, HOMA - SHA Extra Plus provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre.

Phimai historical park on blue sky background, An ancient stone castle, World heritage in north east of Thailand © Paahboobkk/Shutterstock

Phimai, Thailand © Paahboobkk/Shutterstock

The Khmers of neighbouring Angkor left a chain of magnificent temple complexes across the northeast, including this one at Phimai . Hemmed in by its old city walls and encircled by tributaries of the Mun River, the small modern town of Phimai is dominated by the charmingly restored Khmer temple complex of Prasat Hin Phimai.

No one knows for sure when the prasat was built or for whom, but as a religious site it probably dates back to the reign of the Khmer king Suriyavarman I. Parts of the complex are said to be older than Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

Thailand is undoubtedly an exotic destination. If you are looking for another unusual places to travel to - check out our list of the most exotic travel destinations .

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Chatuchak Weekend Market. Bangkok © Shutterstock

Chatuchak market is Bangkok’s most enjoyable – not to mention hot and exhausting – shopping experience. Chatuchak is divided into 27 numbered sections, plus half a dozen unnumbered ones, each of them more or less dedicated to a particular genre.

The demarcation is nothing like as clear-cut as the market’s website would have you believe, but if you have several hours to spare, it’s fun just to browse at whim.

The market’s primary customers are Bangkok residents in search of idiosyncratic fashions including second-hand clothing and homewares, but Chatuchak also has plenty of collectors- and tourist-oriented stalls.

Best buys include antique lacquerware, unusual sarongs, traditional cotton clothing and crafts from the north, silver jewellery, and ceramics.

reclining-buddha-wat-pho-bangkok-thailand-shutterstock_98302424

Wat Pho in Bangkok. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha © Dmitry Rukhlenko/Shutterstock

Admire the Reclining Buddha and the lavish architecture, and leave time for a relaxing massage.

Wat Pho is the oldest temple in Bangkok and is older than the city itself, having been founded in the seventeenth century under the name Wat Photaram. Dubbed Thailand’s first university, the wat is still an important centre for traditional medicine, notably Thai massage, which is used against all kinds of illnesses, from backaches to viruses.

Wat Phra Kaeo, Temple of the Emerald Buddha Bangkok, Asia Thailand © apiguide/Shutterstock

The Grand Palace at the heart of Bangkok © apiguide/Shutterstock

The country’s most unmissable sight, incorporating its holiest and most dazzling temple, Wat Phra Kaeo . No visitor should miss this huge complex, which encompasses the country’s holiest and most beautiful temple.

The Rough Guides to Thailand and related travel guides

In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

The Rough Guide to Thailand

Hanging together in a precarious harmony of strangely beautiful colours and shapes, Wat Phra Kaeo is the apogee of Thai religious art and the holiest Buddhist site in the country. Built as the private royal temple, Wat Phra Kaeo occupies the northeast corner of the huge Grand Palace. The official opening marked the founding of the new capital and the rebirth of the Thai nation after the Burmese invasion.

Immerse yourself in the cultural and historical heritage of Bangkok by exploring the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha Temple and Wat Pho.

Explore the best accommodation options in Bangkok with our guide to where to stay in Bangkok .

Landscape of vineyard at Khao Yai National Park, Nakhon Ratchasima - Thailand © berm-teerawat/Shutterstock

Thailand's first national park Khao Yai - © Shutterstock

Easy trails and tours, night safaris and a healthy cast of hornbills and gibbons - Khao Yai National Park encapsulates the phenomenal diversity of Thailand’s flora and fauna. It’s one of the very few national parks to maintain a network of hiking trails that visitors can explore by themselves, passing dramatic waterfalls, orchids and an abundance of wildlife.

Take a break from Bangkok and spend the day in nature, exploring Khao Yai National Park.

Where to stay in Khao Yai:

  • The Gallery Khao Yai Hotel and Residence - SHA Plus

With Khao Yai National Park reachable in 46 km, The Gallery Khao Yai Hotel and Residence - SHA Plus provides accommodation, a restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, a bar and a garden. The lodge features both WiFi and private parking free of charge.

  • InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, an IHG Hotel

Set in Khao Yai, 45 km from Khao Yai National Park, InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, an IHG Hotel offers accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre.

Wat phra mahathat woramahawihan Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Thailand © sarayut_sy/Shutterstock

Wat phra mahathat woramahawihan Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Thailand © sarayut_sy/Shutterstock

Home to superb food and the chief religious and cultural riches of the south - tucked away beneath the islands - Nakhon Si Thammarat, the south’s second-largest town, occupies a blind spot in the eyes of most tourists.

Nakhon’s neglect is unfortunate, for it’s an absorbing place. The south’s major pilgrimage site and home to a huge army base, it’s relaxed, self-confident and sophisticated, well known for its excellent cuisine and traditional handicrafts.

To get to know Thailand better, read 18 facts you didn't know about Thailand.

Where to stay in Nakhon Si Thammarat:

  • Grand Fortune Hotel Nakhon Si Thammarat

Situated in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 4.3 km from Ban Hua Trut, Grand Fortune Hotel Nakhon Si Thammarat features accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. Each accommodation at the 5-star hotel has garden views, and guests can enjoy access to a bar and to a garden.

  • Toledo Pool Villa

Set in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 2 km from Ban Na Khian, Toledo Pool Villa offers accommodation with a fitness centre, free private parking, a garden and a terrace. This 3-star hotel offers room service, luggage storage space and free WiFi. The hotel has family rooms.

  • Natural High Beach Cafe and Homestay

Located in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 800 m from Ban Samphao, Natural High Beach Cafe and Homestay provides accommodation with a bar, free private parking, a shared lounge and a garden.

Wat phra that doi suthep temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand © Shutterstock

One of the most beautiful temples of Chiang Mai - Wat Phra That Doi Suthep © NS Photograph/Shutterstock

A jaunt up Doi Suthep, the mountain which rises steeply at the city’s western edge, is the most satisfying brief trip you can make from Chiang Mai. Beautiful Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, dominates the hillside and gives a towering view over the goings-on in town. This is the north’s holiest shrine, its pre-eminence deriving from a magic relic enshrined in its chedi and the miraculous legend of its founding.

It’s northern Thailand’s most important place of pilgrimage. The best-known processions are Makha Puja, the anniversary of the sermon to the disciples, and Visakha Puja, the anniversary of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.

This tour to Chiang Mai will help you to get a full experience.

Prawn Amok is a major national culinary tradition in Cambodia, and also popular in Laos and Thailand © sakadaphoto/Shutterstock

Famous Thai food called Hor Mok - Steamed fish curry in banana leaf cups © Shutterstock

Of the many courses on offer in the town, cookery classes are the most instantly gratifying and popular. The most popular course is how to cook Thai food (especially at the cluster of small schools on and around Soi 5, Thanon Ratchdamnoen), followed by Thai massage.

Chiang Mai offers a balmy escape from Bangkok’s humidity. Check our 5-day tailor-made tour to Chiang Mai.

Where to stay in Chiang Mai:

  • Premier Hostel Chiang Mai

Located in Chiang Mai, 100 m from Chang Puak Market, Premier Hostel Chiang Mai offers air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge.

  • Dream Garden Villa Hotel Night Bazaar ChiangMai

Set in Chiang Mai, less than 1 km from Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and 1.7 km from Tha Pae Gate, Dream Garden Villa Hotel Night Bazaar ChiangMai offers accommodation with free WiFi, air conditioning, a shared lounge and a garden.

  • Merchant Villa- SHA Extra Plus

Located in Chiang Mai, 1.6 km from Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Merchant Villa- SHA Extra Plus provides accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a bar and a shared lounge.

rice-field-mae-hong-son-thailand-shutterstock_1142634371

An agricultural tourist attraction during the rainy season, Mae La Noi, Huay Hom district, Mae Hong Son © napat intaroon/Shutterstock

A spectacular 600km trip, winding over steep forested mountains. Two main roads head in opposite directions from Chiang Mai over the western mountains, meeting each other in Mae Hong Son. The heart of Thailand’s most remote province offers the irresistible prospect of tying the highways together into a 600km loop.

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Peaceful city of Nan © Shutterstock

Set in rich mountain scenery, with a strong handicraft tradition and some intriguing temples. Ringed by high mountains, the small but prosperous provincial capital of Nan, 225km northeast of Lampang, rests on the grassy west bank of the river. The town comes alive for the Lanna boat races, usually held in late October or early November.

Where to stay in Nan:

  • CuteinNan Hostel

Set in Nan, 3.9 km from Wat Phra That Chae Haeng, CuteinNan Hostel offers air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge. Around 1.6 km from Nan, the property is also 3.1 km away from Ban Na Tho and offers free WiFi. Attractions in the area include Ban Du Nua (1), 4 km away, or Ban Pua Chai, located 5 km from the property.

  • River Valley Resort

Set in Nan, 7.7 km from Wat Phra That Chae Haeng, River Valley Resort offers accommodation with a garden, free private parking, barbecue facilities and a terrace. The property is around 1.9 km from Ban Nam Lom, 1.9 km from Ban Hua Wiang Nua and 3.3 km from Nan. Rooms come with a patio with a garden view.

  • Bee Bee Home

Set 1.2 km from Ban San, Bee Bee Home offers accommodation with a garden, barbecue facilities and a 24-hour front desk for your convenience. The homestay features both WiFi and private parking free of charge.

massage-tropical-spa-thailand-shutterstock_54187237

Most traditional Thai massage spas are simple without too much decoration © Tatiana Belova/Shutterstock

Combining elements of acupressure and yoga is a pleasantly brutal way to end the day. With their focus on indulgent self-pampering, spas are usually associated with high-spending tourists. The treatments on offer at Thailand’s five-star hotels are often a little different from those used by traditional medical practitioners. They have long held that massage and herbs are the best way to restore physical and mental well-being.

Spiritual practices and meditation are integral parts of Thai culture.

beach-party-shutterstock_513989302

Hat (Haad) Rin beach © NicoElNino/Shutterstock

Nightlife is concentrated at Hat Rin, climaxing every month in a wild full moon party on the beach. A couple of smaller outdoor parties have now got in on the act: the Half Moon Festival (twice monthly, about a week before and after the full moon) and the monthly Black Moon Party, both at Ban Tai on the south coast.

Where to stay in Ko Pha Ngan:

  • Sand Terrace Beach Bungalows

Set in Koh Phangan, within a few steps of Baan Tai Beach and 200 m of Baan Kai Beach, Sand Terrace Beach Bungalows offers accommodation with a terrace and free WiFi as well as free private parking for guests who drive.

  • Laewan Guesthouse

Located in Koh Phangan, within a few steps of Baan Tai Beach and 1.2 km of Thong Sala Beach, Laewan Guesthouse provides accommodation with a shared lounge and free WiFi throughout the property as well as free private parking for guests who drive.

  • Castaway Beach Bungalows

Castaway Beach Bungalows are Eco friendly, all built from sustainable and renewable materials. Situated just right on the beach, Castaway Beach Bungalows are built in a traditional wooden style.

Family sunset on the beach in Thailand Koh Lanta island © Adel Newman/Shutterstock

Family sunset on the beach in Thailand Koh Lanta island © Adel Newman/Shutterstock

A popular choice for families, with its many long beaches and plentiful but low-key resort facilities makes Ko Lanta one of the best islands in Thailand and one of the best things to do in Thailand for a beach-lovers. Although Ko Lanta can’t quite compete with Phi Phi’s stupendous scenery, the thickly forested 25km-long island has the longest beaches in the Krabi area.

The island is especially popular with families, in part because of the local laws that have so far prevented jet-skis, beachfront parasols and girlie bars from turning it into another Phuket, though resort facilities are expanding fast.

Hop on a long tail boat and spend a full day snorkelling and discovering the unique beauty of Ko Lanta.

Where to stay in Ko Lanta:

  • Lanta Mermaid Boutique House

Lanta Mermaid Boutique House is located along Klong Dao Beach, a 3-minute walk from the beach and 2 km from Ko Lanta Pier.

  • Diamond Sand Palace - SHA Plus

Located a 2-minute walk from Klong Dao Beach, Diamond Sand Palace features bungalows with balconies and cable TVs. Traditional Thai massage services and cooking classes are available to guests.

  • Lanta Just Come Hotel

Just a 5-minute walk from Klong Khong Beach, Lanta Just Come Hotel offers free Wi-Fi in its public areas. Its rooms feature a blend of modern and traditional Thai furnishings.

Traveller taking photo in rain forest in Thailand © TZIDO SUN/Shutterstock

The tropical rain forest © Shutterstock

Walking through the beautiful, rainforested scenery of northern Thailand’s mountains comes with the bonus of getting to know the fascinating hill tribes.

Many travellers’ itineraries take in a few days’ trekking in the hills and a stint snorkelling or diving off the beaches of the south. Trekking is concentrated in the north, but there are smaller, less touristy trekking operations in Kanchanaburi, Sangkhlaburi and Umphang.

Read more about trekking in Thailand.

Spend a full day trekking, and exploring Haew Narok and Haew Suwat Waterfalls.

trains running on death railways track crossing kwai river in kanchanaburi thailand this railways important destination of world war II history builted by soldier prisoners © banjongseal324/Shutterstock

Death Railway, River Kwa i © banjongseal324/Shutterstoc k

Thailand’s most scenic train journey is also its most historic, using the track constructed by World War II POWs. The two-hour journey along the notorious Thailand–Burma Death Railway from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok is one of Thailand’s most scenic and most popular train rides. Three trains operate daily along the Death Railway in both directions, but they often run very late.

Discover the stunning River Kwai and its surroundings with this 3-day tailor-made trip.

Railay beach in Krabi, Thailand © Shutterstock

Railay Beach © King Ropes Access/Shutterstock

Even novice climbers can scale the cliffs at Ko Yao Noi , Phi Phi or the Railay peninsula for an unbeatable perspective on the Andaman seascape.

The limestone karsts that pepper southern Thailand’s Andaman coast make ideal playgrounds for rock-climbers, and the sport has really taken off here in the past fifteen years.

Most climbing is centred around East Railay and Ton Sai beaches on Laem Phra Nang in Krabi province, where there are dozens of routes within easy walking distance of tourist bungalows, restaurants and beaches.

Try this rock climbing tour at Railay Beach in Krabi.

Sukhothai Wat Mahathat Buddha, Thailand © Shutterstock

Ruins of Sukhothai © ploypemuk/Shutterstock

For a brief but brilliant period (1238–1376), the walled city of Sukhothai presided as the capital of Thailand but by the sixteenth century the city had been all but abandoned to the jungle. Now an impressive assembly of elegant ruins, the Old City, 58km northwest of Phitsanulok, has been preserved as Sukhothai Historical Park and is one of Thailand’s most visited ancient sites.

Hire a bicycle to explore the elegant ruins of Thailand’s thirteenth-century capital.

Experience the best places to visit in Nothern Thailand with our tailor-made 7-day tour.

Where to stay in Sukhothai:

  • Phiphu Art and Gallery Boutique Sukhothai

Set in Sukhothai, within 1.4 km of Sukhothai Historical Park and 500 m of Ban Dan Lan Hoi, Phiphu Art and Gallery Boutique Sukhothai offers accommodation with free bikes and free WiFi throughout the property as well as free private parking for guests who drive. The property is around 2.8 km from Mueang Kao, 4.3 km from Ban Pak Khlong and 6.3 km from Ban Rong Pla Thong.

  • The Nature Sukhothai

With Sukhothai Historical Park reachable in 12 km, The Nature Sukhothai features accommodation, a restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, a bar and a shared lounge. Free WiFi is available throughout the property.

  • Mango House

Situated in Sukhothai, 13 km from Sukhothai Historical Park, Mango House features accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a shared lounge and a garden. The property is located less than 1 km from Sukhothai, 4.3 km from Ban Khwang and 4.4 km from Ban Kluai. The resort provides city views, a terrace, a 24-hour front desk, and free WiFi is available.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Thailand without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

Ready for a trip to Thailand ? Check out the snapshot of the Rough Guide to Bangkok or the Rough Guide to Thailand . If you travel further in Thailand, read more about the best time to go , the best places to visit and the best things to do in Thailand. For inspiration use the Thailand itineraries from The Rough Guide to Thailand and our local travel experts . A bit more hands-on, learn about getting there , getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

We may earn a commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image: Phi Phi Leh, Thailand © Dan Mammoser/Shutterstock

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Beyond Bangkok: 17 Best Places to Visit in Thailand

By: Author Hannah Lukaszewicz

Posted on Last updated: 7 March, 2024

Beyond Bangkok: 17 Best Places to Visit in Thailand

Are you planning a trip to Thailand and having trouble deciding where to go? We get it. There are so many amazing places to visit in Thailand that it can be hard to narrow it down to a one—or two-week itinerary.

We’ve spent over four years traveling and living in Thailand, so we know a thing or two about this amazing country. We’ve visited all the tourist spots and more. Thailand is one of our favorite Asian countries, and it is a place we call our second home.

Venture beyond Bangkok’s vibrant capital and discover the enchanting cities and towns that showcase Thailand’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty, from charming historical towns to lively Thai islands.

We’ve put together this list of the best places to visit in Thailand to help you plan the perfect trip. Are you looking to go island hopping and visit some of the best islands, or visit Northern Thailand and experience more nature and Thai culture?

Quick Answer: Best Places in Thailand

*Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. We use Safety Wing travel insurance . 

Best Places to Visit in Thailand

Golden sunset over the city of Bangkok viewed from a rooftop Sky Bar

Almost all trips to Thailand start in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok. Bangkok is a city you either love it or hate it. We LOVE Bangkok. It is our favorite big city in the world.

The food, the temples, the sky bars, the luxury hotels, the noise, the smells, the sounds, the traffic, the shopping, the chaos—all of it makes for a great few days. A few of our top places to visit are Wat Pho Temple, a boat ride along the Chao Phraya River, people-watching on Khaosan Road, happy hour at a Skybar for sunset, Chinatown, and more.

We always like to hire a private guide for the day, and it is super affordable. This is the BEST way to see Bangkok. A private guide will take you to a list of attractions you pick. Get a true glimpse into Thai culture in this one-on-one experience. We booked this private Bangkok tour online .

When it comes to visiting Thailand (Siam), Bangkok is a must-see destination. Known for its bustling street markets, ornate temples, and vibrant nightlife, Bangkok offers a unique blend of traditional culture and modern attractions.

From exploring the historic Grand Palace to shopping at the iconic Chatuchak Weekend Market, there is no shortage of things to do in Bangkok .

One of our favorite things to do is eat; everywhere you go, there is delicious street food in Bangkok. Before going, make sure to read our What to Eat in Bangkok travel guide , which will explain different Thai foods to try and the best places to eat in Bangkok.

Best Tour in Bangkok – over 2,000 five-star reviews

Sunrise Beach of Koh Lipe - Best beach in Koh Lipe

2. Koh Lipe

The #1 best place to visit in Thailand is Koh Lipe . There is no other island in Thailand that will compare. If you’re looking for gorgeous turquoise blue waters and white sand beaches, this is your place.

If you are looking for that perfect relaxing beach vacation, add Koh Lipe to your Thailand itinerary. We suggest staying on Sunrise Beach, where a beachfront room at a 3-star hotel will cost you $125+ during the high season. Click here to check rates . They have the best hotel options & prices in Thailand.

Koh Lipe doesn’t typically get overcrowded because it isn’t the easiest island to get to. The only way to Koh Lipe is by boat, and the nearest airport is 1.5-2 hours from the Pak Bara pier. Don’t let this discourage you. It’s worth the trip. Click here to book Koh Lipe ferry tickets .

The island is small enough that you can walk everywhere. There are motorcycle taxis but no other vehicles on the island. More reasons to love Koh Lipe: you can get an hour massage on the beach for $12 USD an hour, rent a private boat to explore the nearby islands for the day for $50, and make sure to get a bowl of the Penang curry.

Drone photo of an expedition cruise El Nido to Coron - Tao Cruises

Koh Tao is a picturesque island in Thailand known for its stunning beaches, vibrant marine life, and world-class diving opportunities. Whether you’re an experienced diver or just looking to relax on the sandy shores, Koh Tao has something for everyone.

Don’t miss out on exploring the underwater world with a diving excursion, where you can swim alongside colorful coral reefs and exotic fish. If diving isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the crystal-clear waters by snorkeling or simply lounging on the beach. Ko Tao is truly a tropical paradise waiting to be explored.

If you want to visit some of the best islands in Thailand , take a ferry to Ko Samui or Koh Phangan .

If you have heard of the full moon party in Thailand, it is happening over on the nearby island of Koh Phangan. Different travelers like different things. If a loud party island isn’t your thing, make sure to avoid Ko Phangan during the full moon or head to one of the Koh Phangan beaches .

sunrise at Lamai beach one of the best beaches in Thailand.

4. Koh Samui

There’s more to Koh Samui than being Thailand’s second-largest island. It’s also one of the best places to visit in Thailand for families with kids who are looking for a beach vacation. If you are traveling with kids or an extended family, it’s one of the most popular places in Thailand to rent a house for a longer period of time.

Situated in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui’s sandy beaches and tropical atmosphere attract backpackers, families, honeymooners, and everyone in between. Whether you’re hitting up the beaches or partying late into the evening, the activities in Koh Samui are endless.

The island is also filled with stunning cultural landmarks, including the impressive 12-meter tall golden Buddha. You should also visit the Secret Buddha Garden, which is located deep inside a lush, green forest.

When the sun sets, head to Chaweng Beach. You’ll find plenty of lively bars, restaurants, and clubs that sell cheap drinks and mouth-watering dishes. If you’re looking for fun and entertainment, then you’ll be happy to know that the parties don’t stop until the early hours of the morning.

Couple standing on the beach in Maya Bay - Koh Phi Phi Leh - Top tourist attractions in Thailand

5. Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi is a stunning island in the Andaman Sea known for its crystal-clear waters, vibrant marine life, and picturesque beaches. There is no airport on Koh Phi Phi. You have to take a ferry to Phuket from Phuket, Krabi, or Koh Lanta.

Ko Phi Phi was the first island in Thailand we visited. When planning our honeymoon in Thailand , a trip to the famous Maya Bay was a must. Many travelers want to visit the famous Maya Bay, made famous by the movie “The Beach,” or snorkel in the turquoise waters to discover colorful coral reefs.

For those seeking adventure, hiking to the top of Phi Phi Viewpoint offers panoramic views of the island and surrounding ocean. With its laid-back atmosphere and breathtaking natural beauty, K oh Phi Phi is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Thailand.

Railay Beach Thailand large exposed rock face white sand beach and tropical waters make for a perfect honeymoon destination

You could easily spend several weeks or months exploring Krabi alone. This southwestern region of Thailand is enormous, with dozens of sights, attractions, and tourist attractions.

No visit to Krabi would be complete without seeing the city center, Krabi Town. You can kayak, shop, and get massages right there on Ao Nang Beach, Krabi Town’s largest waterfront beach. Two other beautiful beaches only accessible by boat to visit are Railay Beach and Tonsai Beach.

Krabi is also home to dozens of tropical islands (200 to be exact). You can rent a long-tail boat and spend the day island hopping, or you can choose your favorites and relax for a long weekend at a beachside resort or bungalow.

Ang Thong Marine Park View

7. Ang Thong National Marine Park

Thailand is home to some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world, and Ang Thong National Marine Park is no exception. This tropical archipelago is comprised of 42 islands and is home to white-sand beaches, jagged limestone rocks, and cascading waterfalls.

If you’re coming from Samui, there are only a few islands within boating distance. Koh Wua Ta Lap and Koh Mae are two of the most popular destinations for travelers who have limited time to spend in Ang Thong National Marine Park.

Besides the scenic views and pristine beaches, Ang Thong National Marine Park is also flooded with exotic wildlife. It’s not hard to spot long-tailed monkeys, sea turtles, eagles, and even otters during your time in the park.

Since the area is protected by the government, access is strictly regulated.  You must book a pre-arranged tour by an official government-approved boat. We highly suggest booking in advance. This is the Ang Thong National Marine Park Tour we booked .

Panvaree Resort Overwater Villas in Thailand on Khao Sok Lake

8. Khao Sok Lake

Khao Sok Lake, located in southern Thailand, is a hidden gem in Thailand for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Surrounded by lush rainforest and limestone cliffs, this picturesque lake offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

There are a ton of unique things to do at Khao Sok Lake, such as kayaking, hiking, and wildlife spotting. We enjoyed going out on a private boat tour of Khao Sok National Park. We spent the entire day cruising around the lake.

Some of the most unique hotels in Bangkok are here. Stay in an overwater bungalow in Thailand or a floating bubble. The floating bungalows provide a unique way to experience the beauty of the lake, with stunning sunrise and sunset views.

For those looking to truly immerse themselves in nature, Khao Sok Lake is a must-visit destination in Thailand. If you are staying in Krabi and want to visit Khao Sok Lake, you can take this day tour from Krabi.

Hannah standing in front of a temple in Chiang Mai with her new Sak Yant Tattoo

9. Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, known as the cultural capital of Thailand, is one of the best places to visit in Thailand for those looking to immerse themselves in the rich history and traditions of the country.

For those open to tattoos and a unique Thailand souvenir, consider getting a Sak Yant tattoo in Chiang Mai as we did. Getting a tattoo by a monk that you didn’t pick, and you don’t know what it is or where on your body he’ll put it. Now that is awesome and super unique!

From exploring ancient temples in Chiang Mai like Wat Phra That Doi Suthep to wandering through the bustling night markets filled with local handicrafts and delicious street food, there is no shortage of things to do in Chiang Mai to enjoy in this vibrant city.

Take advantage of Chiang Mai’s proximity to lush jungles and mountains, with tons of outdoor activities like trekking, zip-lining, and even visiting rescue elephant sanctuaries. You could spend your whole time in Chiang Mai or take a day trip to nearby Chiang Dao Valley or Chiang Mai.

With its laid-back atmosphere and welcoming locals, Chiang Mai is sure to leave a lasting impression on any traveler looking for an authentic Thai experience.

It left such a last impression we kept coming back! Chiang Mai is extra special to us, as we called it home on and off for four years. Chiang Mai is a big city with all the big city amenities. There is a large expat community in Chiang Mai; Chiang Mai is safe, and there is an abundance of tasty Thai food and Western restaurants, too; it is super affordable, and the list of why we love Chiang Mai could go on and on.

Sunset over the white temple in Chiang Rai Thailand is a great destination for honeymooners

10. Chiang Rai

When planning a trip to Thailand, consider including Chiang Rai on your itinerary. This charming city in the northern part of the country is a hidden gem known for its stunning temples, lush landscapes, and rich cultural heritage.

One of the must-see attractions in Chiang Rai is the famous White Temple, a unique and intricate masterpiece that is unlike any other temple in Thailand. You can also visit the colorful Blue Temple and the mystical Black House, which showcases a collection of dark and unconventional art pieces.

For nature lovers, this small group tour to the Golden Triangle , where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet, offers breathtaking views of the Mekong River and lush green hills is a must. Chiang Rai offers a blend of culture, history, and natural beauty that will leave you mesmerized.

If you are staying in Chiang Mai, you can easily take a day trip to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai on a tour like this . There are also tons of buses to Chiang Rai, or you can rent a car and drive like we did.

Have you ever seen luxury hotels in Thailand with an elephant park on the property? The most famous and ethical elephant hotel in Thailand is the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort , 90 minutes outside of Chiang Rai.

Pai Canyon Thailand view with the sunsetting

The infamous drive to Pai from Chiang Mai has 762 curves . Yes, you read that right 762! All those curves are worth it. The drive from Chiang Mai to Pai takes about 2 to 3 hours. In the past, you could fly to Pai from Chiang Mai on a small plane, but currently, it doesn’t appear you can, and those flights were often canceled.

As you wind your way through the valleys and mountains of northern Thailand, you’ll come across Pai, a relaxed backpacker town located on the banks of the Pai River.

During your visit to Pai, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Pai Canyon. There are plenty of hiking trails and dirt paths that take you through lush jungles and rolling hills. The sunrises and sunsets from the top of the canyon also boast some of the best views in all of Thailand.

For something more adventurous, head to Mo Paeng Waterfalls, the ideal setting for jungle hiking and swimming. Another option is to go tubing or whitewater rafting down the river. Several shop owners and operators along the river provide rentals and tours.

If you’d rather spend the time relaxing, you can also visit the tranquil Tha Pai Hot Springs. It’s one of the most popular activities in Pai!

view point at Doi Inthanon National Park in Northern Thailand

12. Doi Inthanon National Park

As one of the most picturesque natural reserves in Thailand, Doi Inthanon National Park is a sprawling region full of natural wonders. Nicknamed “the roof of Thailand,” Doi Inthanon is a great day trip from Chiang Mai that is under two hours away.

The park is known for being part of the Himalayan Mountain range. It’s also home to Doi Inthanon Peak, the highest mountain in the country.

There are also several waterfalls throughout the park, including the cascading Sirithan Waterfall. The park is also filled with wildlife, from wild boars and deer to blackbirds and rose finches. We recommend this day tour from Chiang Mai or this tour that visits Toi Inthanon and an Elephant Sanctuary .

Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park Thailand Place to Visit

13. Ayutthaya

The historic city of Ayutthaya is considered one of Thailand’s most prosperous. Founded in 1238, It is known for its ancient temples and ruins. Although the Burmese destroyed it in the mid-1700s, it remains one of the best examples of Thai history and architecture.

Most visitors come to Ayutthaya to see the Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the center of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. This archeological site is filled with stone temples, giant towers, and historic monasteries.

Some of the best things to see in Ayutthaya are the Phet Fortress, Phra Chedi Suriyothai, and Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit. You can also visit three royal palaces – the Grand Palace, Chantharakasem Palace, and Wang Lang Palace.

Try to be there for sunrise at Ayutthaya for the gorgeous reflections in the pond. It makes for great photos. If you have ever been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, it reminds me of this.

view looking over a lilly pad covered lagoon on to a Buddha statue in the Acient Thai city of Sukhothai - Top Attractions in Thailand

14. Sukhothai

As the Kingdom’s capital during the 13th and 14th centuries, Sukhothai is a rare glimpse into Thailand’s ancient past. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ruins of Sukhothai city have over 20 temples and countless monuments and shrines. Sukhothai sits on an island surrounded by the Pa Sak, Chao Phraya, and Lopburi Rivers.

The most impressive thing to see in Sukhothai is Wat Mahathat, an old temple which contains a beautiful Buddha statue. The architecture and art in Sukhothai have also left their mark on Thai culture. Known for its distinct brick and carved stucco look, Sukhothai’s design has influenced many other temples around the world.

waterfall in Erawan National Park in Thailand

15. Erawan National Park

There are hundreds of waterfalls in Thailand, but none are more beautiful or powerful than the Erawan Falls. Named after the three-headed elephant in Hinduism, Erawan Falls is a majestic seven-tiered waterfall full of emerald green waters and white rapids.

As you make your way through the park, you can stop by the different levels of the pools for a quick, refreshing dip. With the lush jungle as your backdrop, there’s nothing more relaxing than the sound of cascading water.

Erawan National Park is also home to four caves. Once you enter the cave, you’ll be surrounded by dramatic limestone stalactites and stalagmites. Ta Duang Cave is worth visiting for the rock paintings and sculptures tucked inside the cave.

Khao Yai National Park Thailand waterfall

16. Khao Yai National Park

The third largest national park in Thailand is Khao Yai National Park. This vast and biodiverse park is located just a few hours from Bangkok, making it a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Khao Yai is full of lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and diverse wildlife and offers visitors a chance to explore the beauty of Thailand’s natural landscapes. Different travelers like different things, if you like hiking, bird-watching, or simply enjoying the peace and quiet of the great outdoors, Khao Yai National Park has it all.

Huay Mae Kamin Waterfall in Sriagarindra Dam National Park in Thailand

17. Kanchanaburi

Nestled in western Thailand, Kanchanaburi is a picturesque destination known for its lush landscapes, historic sites, and outdoor activities. One of the most famous attractions in the area is the Bridge over the River Kwai, a World War II landmark that draws in history enthusiasts from around the world.

Visit the Huay Mae Kamin Waterfall, a gorgeous seven-tier waterfall in Sriagarindra Dam National Park, one of the best waterfalls in Thailand. Embark on a scenic train ride through the countryside on the Death Railway. With its mix of cultural heritage and natural beauty, Kanchanaburi offers a truly unforgettable experience for travelers looking to delve into Thailand’s rich history and scenic wonders.

To top off your trip, stay in one of the many unique River Kwai overwater bungalows. They are way more affordable than you think. This overwater bungalow in Kanchanaburi is on our bucket list.

Thailand is a beautiful country with an abundance of beautiful places to explore. From the Thai capital of Bangkok to the serene beaches and islands and the cultural Buddhist temples of Chiang Mai, there is something for everyone.

The key to experiencing the best of Thailand is to do your research and plan accordingly. So, whether you’re a foodie, an adventurer, or a culture enthusiast, Thailand has it all. As the saying goes, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

So, pack your bags and experience the wonders of Thailand for yourself. As one of the top tourist destinations in the world, it’s no wonder why people keep coming back for more. Who knows, you may end up like us and end up moving to Thailand.

As you embark on your journey, remember to keep an open mind and embrace all that Thailand has to offer. As one of the most visited countries in the world, Thailand truly has something for everyone. So, don’t just read about it. Go and experience it for yourself.

Go and create your own unforgettable memories in the Land of Smiles.

What is your favorite place in Thailand? The beaches, Central Thailand, Northern Thailand, or Bangkok? Do you know of a hidden gem in Thailand? Leave a comment below!

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The 35 Best Things to Do in Thailand

Gabby Boucher

  • Last Updated: April 25, 2023

Make the most of your time in the Land of Smiles with our expert guide to the best things to do in Thailand, South East Asia!

Whether you’ve been to Thailand or not, you probably know how beautiful it is just from photos and travel guides. 

Longtail boats resting atop white sand, limestone cliffs towering above a turquoise sea, glittering temples protruding from a rich green forest.

These sights are enough to make you book a flight to Thailand right on the spot. 

But once you arrive, you may be wondering what to do in Thailand. Now that you’ve made it to this picturesque southeast Asian country, how do you make the most of your time?

There are so many incredible activities in Thailand that cater to all types of travellers. 

There’s rock-climbing and cliff-jumping for the thrill-seekers, meditation retreats and temple tours for the spiritual travellers, cooking classes and night markets for the foodies and scuba diving and sea kayaking for the ocean enthusiasts. 

Table of Contents

1) Scuba Diving in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand

2) motorbike along the mae hong son loop, 3) get a drink at sky bar in bangkok, 4) island hopping in the south, 5) admire the white temple, 6) hike to the phi phi viewpoint, 7) explore a night market, 8) take a thai cooking class, 9) get a thai massage anywhere, 10) ride the thai-burma railway, 11) go rock climbing in krabi, 12) book a meditation / yoga retreat, 13) sea kayaking in the marine parks, 14) watch a muay thai boxing match, 15) get a sak yant tattoo, 16) visit a national park, 17) take a street food tour, 18) witness a fire show on the islands, 19) experience the multiculturalism of trang, 20) visit the ancient capital of ayutthaya, 21) eat pad thai, 22) dance all night at the full moon party, 23) see the big buddha of phuket, 24) attend a ladyboy show, 25) go to the floating market in bangkok, 26) soak in some hot springs, 27) walk along the bridge over river kwai, 28) visit the golden triangle, 29) stay in a luxury island resort, 30) take a temple tour, 31) visit the grand palace, 32) visit an elephant sanctuary, 33) get your heat pumping with some cliff diving, 34) check out the bangkok airplane graveyard, 35) stay in a floating raft house, the best things to do in thailand.

Thailand is such a diverse country packed with a thriving sense of culture, and you may find yourself on sensory overload at times. 

But Thailand truly has so much to offer, so pick what activities appeal to you the most and make sure you fit them into your schedule. 

From riding a motorbike around Northern Thailand, to touring a national park, to visiting a floating market or hitting up the Full Moon Party, here are 35 of the best things to do in Thailand!

READ MORE: Plan your trip to Thailand with our comprehensive Thailand Travel Guide !

Underneath the warm turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand lies a magical world of marine life.

Scuba diving in Thailand allows you to see it all up close, from colourful coral reefs to exotic fish to other sea creatures like turtles, sharks, and rays.

Some of the best places to scuba dive in Thailand are the islands of Koh Tao, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Lipe.

If you are an experienced diver and want a really unique experience, definitely think about doing a liveaboard . Thailand is one of the best, and most affordable, places to do one.

Visiting the Gulf for your diving? Don’t miss our guide on the top things to do on Koh Tao .

Renting a motorbike and zipping along country roads is a liberating way to explore northern Thailand.

The Mae Hong Son Loop is the best place to do this, as the roads are not very crowded and the green mountainous scenery is breathtaking.

A popular place to begin the loop is in Chiang Mai . From Chiang Mai you can pass northern Thailand towns like Pai , Mae Sariang, and Mae Hong Son.

Try to do the loop from Chiang Mai during the dry season to avoid too much rain, and be sure to stop off at some of the best waterfalls, caves, and villages in northern Thailand.

Mae Hong Son Loop 10 Things To Do In Chiang Mai

Visiting the Sky Bar in Bangkok is one of the coolest activities in Thailand.

As the tallest open bar in Thailand, and one of the tallest in the whole world, getting a drink at Sky Bar is surreal and almost futuristic.

The bar sits on the 63rd floor of an 820-foot skyscraper and is open daily from 5 pm until 12 am.

Thailand has over 17,000 islands, and it would be a shame not to see at least a few of them.

Big islands like Phuket and Koh Samui have their own airports, so they are easily accessible from the mainland.

Venture even farther away to witness some of the rugged tropical scenery of Thailand’s smaller islands.

You might see coconut palm forests, monkeys, limestone cliffs, picturesque bays, coral reefs, small local communities, and other hidden gems scattered throughout the ocean.

You can either venture out on your own in local boats or book an island-hopping tour; either way you are bound to see some spectacular views.

Heading out to James Bond Island is one of the most popular island tours you can do, so definitely add that to your South East Asia bucket list.

There are too many stunning temples in Thailand to list, but the White Temple in Chiang Rai is easily one of the most impressive.

Known as Wat Rong Khun in Thai, this exquisite Buddhist temple is adorned with incredible detail that is all painted white.

The image of the captivating building reflects in the surrounding pools, making it a gorgeous scene for photos.

The temple is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm.

Wat Rong Khun, Also Known As The White Temple

For one of the best views in Thailand, climb to the viewpoint on the island of Koh Phi Phi .

The hike only takes about 30 minutes and costs 50 Baht, and the panoramic view of the mountainous island, the palm forests, and the surrounding ocean will stick in your memory forever.

One of the best Thailand attractions to see is a night market.

Different locations all over the country host their own night markets, where you can shop for cheap souvenirs, eat delicious street food, and enjoy local entertainment.

There are countless night markets all over Thailand, but the Sunday night walking street market in Chiang Mai is one of the biggest and best ones.

After indulging in all the best Thai food , take your food experience even further and learn how to cook it yourself.

Taking a cooking class is definitely one of the best things to do in Thailand for food-lovers as it gives you a hands-on experience with the fresh ingredients and traditional cooking methods of the delicious Thai cuisine.

After working hard in the kitchen, you get to eat all the amazing Thai food you’ve cooked, so arrive on an empty stomach!

Book a Cooking Class in Chiang Mai Book a Cooking Class in Bangkok Book a Cooking Class in Phuket

Thai massage is an ancient healing tradition that is different from your typical massage.

The experienced local masseuses knead, twist, and bend your body into unique positions that help increase blood flow and strengthen the muscles.

Getting a Thai massage makes you feel rejuvenated and energized, and it is definitely something you should experience in Thailand.

You can even get a Thai massage in a temple at Wat Pho in Bangkok, or get a massage from women ex-prisoners in Chiang Mai.

READ MORE: Be sure to add these places to visit to your Thailand itinerary!

In the west of Thailand, the historic town of Kanchanaburi is home to the Thai-Burma Railway.

Also known as the Death Railway because of the World War II prisoners and labourers who built it, the railways stretches over cliffs, riverbanks, and farmland to connect Thailand with Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

Taking a slow journey on this train is one of the best things to do in Thailand for travellers who want to get off the beaten path and see a side of the country that most tourists don’t.

Planning A Trip To Thailand

Thailand’s massive limestone cliffs aren’t just perfect for photo opportunities, they are also perfect for rock climbing.

The Krabi area has some of the best rock climbing in all of southeast Asia, particularly in Ao Nang , Railay, and Tonsai .

There are plenty of climbing schools so you can take beginner classes if you’re not an experienced climber and you just want to try something new.

For those wanting to have a spiritual experience, or for those who just want to slow down and connect more, Thailand is an amazing place to do a retreat of some sort.

Whether it be a meditation course , a yoga retreat, or a general health and wellness getaway, the tranquil natural surroundings and friendly, educated local teachers of Thailand provide the perfect setting for anyone wanting to branch out from their normal routine.

Even if you just book a one-day course or a simple yoga class, putting the body and mind outside their comfort zones can help you grow as a person and gain a new perspective on life.

With so much incredible island scenery and marine life, you’ll want to experience the ocean in as many ways as possible while travelling through Thailand.

Sea kayaking is a fun and easy way to get out on the water and explore the islands.

Most island hotels and tour companies offer hourly kayak rentals, and some amazing places to kayak in Thailand are Koh Mook and Ang Thong National Marine Park near Koh Samui .

The national sport of Thailand is Muay Thai Boxing, a fast-paced combat sport that is fascinating to watch.

Most major cities around the country have nightly boxing matches. So buy a ticket to a Muay Thai fight, grab a drink and settle in to watch the quick and talented local athletes duke it out in the ring.

To really immerse yourself in the Thai culture, you can even take Muay Thai lessons and learn the basics from a certified trainer.

If you are passionate about tattoos, especially ones that reflect your cultural experiences abroad, an incredible way to commemorate your time in Thailand is to get a Sak Yant tattoo.

These sacred tattoos are designed and executed by a Sak Yant master, most of which are also monks.

The ink is made using natural local ingredients, and the whole process of getting the tattoo is quite spiritual.

You can read about the whole process of getting a Sak Yant tattoo in Chiang Mai here .

Sak Yant Chiang Mai

Thailand is home to some incredible national parks. These are amazing places for exploring Thailand’s wilderness and wildlife.

One of the best is Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand. As the country’s first national park, there is so much natural beauty to see in Khao Yai National Park.

The entire national park covers over 2,000 square km of ground, and there are lots of incredible waterfalls, hiking trails, forests, and mountains. Khao Yai National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other notable national parks to visit include Erawan National Park, Khao Sok National Park, and Ang Thong National Marine Park. Doi Inthanon National Park near Chiang Mai is also incredible.

The street food in Thailand is diverse and delicious, particularly in the massive and multicultural city of Bangkok.

Yaowarat is the city’s “Chinatown,” and the mixing of cuisines between the local Thais and the Chinese migrants creates a fusion of incredible street food.

From big cities like Chiang Mai, to small islands with white sand beaches, street food can be found at most of the best places to visit in Thailand.

Navigating the street food can be confusing if you’re a picky eater and if you don’t speak the language, so you may want to book a street food tour with an English-speaking guide to help you with this culinary adventure. Either way, make sure you eat street food often in Thailand!

While experiencing the crazy nightlife on the island of Koh Phi Phi, you have to witness one of the local fire shows.

Most nights around 10pm, experienced performers put on mesmerizing shows using fire-tipped batons that gleam against the night sky.

Just head down to the soft sand beaches and ask everyone where the next fire show is and you’re sure to find one that blows your mind!

READ MORE: When planning your trip, check out these great Thailand itineraries !

Thailand is full of tourist attractions, but you should try to venture out of the popular areas at least once to get a feel for the real Thailand.

Trang is a city in southern Thailand that is split into two parts: the more modern Trang City and the traditional Trang Old Town.

On both sides of the city, you’ll find an enticing mix of cultures, nationalities, and religions that reflect in the cuisine, the art, and the architecture of the area.

Be sure to taste lots of local food and check out the museums, the street art, the local markets, and the shrines, churches, and temples to absorb all the multiculturalism of Trang.

Back when Thailand was known as the Kingdom of Siam, Ayutthaya was its capital.

This powerful ancient city was ruined during a conflict with another Asian kingdom, but you can still see the majestic remains of the towering temples. Nowadays, the ancient city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a popular day trip frmo Bangkok.

Visiting Ayutthaya is one of the top things to do in Thailand, and booking a tour ensures that you’ll learn all the interesting history of the former capital.

Most people have probably tried pad thai at least once in their lives, but eating it in Thailand is a whole different experience.

The experienced locals toss fresh noodles, bean sprouts, egg, spring onion, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and tofu, chicken or shrimp together in a hot wok until the dish is cooked to perfection.

After paying the equivalent of a few dollars for this delicious meal, you can top your pad thai with crushed peanuts and fresh chilli before digging in.

I promise you, it will taste so much more authentic than your local Thai restaurant at home. Whether you’re in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, or a small town, pad thai is bound to be there.

Pad Thai Always Tastes Better In Thailand!

The island of Koh Pha Ngan is famous for its Full Moon parties, which are basically all-night dance parties held on the beach once a month during the Full Moon.

Painting your body in neon colours, drinking cocktails out of plastic buckets, and dancing until the sun comes up is a classic backpacker experience in Thailand.

Koh Pha Ngan also hosts Half-Moon parties that are still super fun but aren’t as big as the Full-Moon parties.

While visiting Phuket, Thailand’s biggest island, you have to head up to the Big Buddha for the best view.

Standing at 45 meters tall atop Nakkerd Hill , the gigantic Buddha is made of pristine white Burmese marble and appears to be watching over the island.

The Big Buddha is one of Phuket’s best attractions, so don’t miss it!

The local men who dress up as fabulous women and roam the streets of Thailand, known as ladyboys, are a beloved part of Thai culture.

In every major city around the country, ladyboys often put on magnificent shows for tourists to enjoy.

Chiang Mai in particular hosts an amazing Ladyboy Cabaret , where the local performers don glittering outfits, lip-sync or sing to popular songs, and dance their hearts out. The Chiang Mai parformers absolutely dazzle the crowd with their charisma and their stage presence.

READ MORE: Make sure you know these travel tips when visiting Thailand!

A popular way to sell local goods in Thailand is at a floating market.

Thais fill their longtail boats with fresh produce, spices, food, handicrafts, or other trinkets and drift along a river or canal, selling their products to people in other boats or on the sidewalk next to the water.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is Thailand’s biggest and most popular floating market, though there are others such as the Amphawa Floating Market.

These floating markets are located just outside Bangkok, so you can easily visit them on a day trip from the city .

There’s no better way to relax, renew and revive a jet-lagged body than soaking in warm, mineral-rich thermal water.

Kamphaeng Phet is a town in central Thailand, located between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, which has a beautiful natural hot spring.

Known as the Phra Ruang Hot Springs , these hot thermal waters have lots of health benefits and make for a soothing and enjoyable addition to a trip through Thailand. San Kamphaeng Hot Springs near Chiang Mai is another top choice.

When visiting Kanchanaburi , you’ll find that the Bridge on the River Kwai is the town’s most famous attraction.

It was built during World War II, and was the only steel bridge in Thailand at the time, as the rest were timber.

So make sure you walk across this iconic bridge before riding Kanchanaburi’s other famous attraction, the Thai-Burma Railway .

The Golden Triangle is the point where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet.

The Mekong River and the Ruak River both intersect here as well, and the landscape is full of hill tribes, green forests, and a sense of tranquillity.

This area used to be the centre of the opium trade but nowadays is just a beautiful and interesting tourist attraction.

Where 3 Become One

If you’ve ever dreamt of treating yourself to a luxury hotel on the beach, where you can drink cocktails by the pool and watch the sunrise or sunset from your king-sized bed, Thailand is the place to make this dream come true.

Five-star accommodation in Thailand is very affordable, especially compared to many other countries in the world.

So you can easily treat yourself to a fancy island resort for a night or two without going completely broke.

Thailand is crawling with temples, and for those who want a deeper insight into the history, culture, and traditions associated with certain temples, you can take a guided tour to learn from the local experts.

Thailand’s most famous temples have guided tours available, and most tours often offer lunch, transfers, and other fun cultural activities.

For example, you can book a tour that takes you to Chiang Rai’s most magnificent temples, including the White Temple , the Blue Temple , and the Black House .

You could also book a temple tour of Doi Suthep , one of the most sacred temples in Chiang Mai.

In terms of sightseeing, visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok is definitely one of the best things to see in Thailand.

The massive Grand Palace complex is home to the palace that used to house the King of Siam, as well as numerous temples and monuments.

The Emerald Buddha is one of the most famous places to visit at the Grand Palace. With its gigantic solid jade surface, the Emerald Buddha is a sight to behold.

Every inch of the Grand Palace is adorned with some sort of glittering, coloured decoration, and it is a truly stunning sight to see.

So even though the Grand Palace is a very touristy attraction, it is well worth it.

Bangkok's Grand Palace

Many travelers visit Thailand with the hopes of seeing elephants.

Luckily, Asian Elephants do live in Thailand, and you can see them in their natural habitats with local organizations such as Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai.

The key thing to remember, however, is to only visit places that put the wellbeing of the animals above everything else.

Never visit places that exploit the elephants, and never visit places that allow riding elephants.

But if you want to spend the day observing elephants, places like Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai is an ethical place to see these magestic giants.

For the adrenaline-seekers looking for some wild things to do in Thailand, go cliff-jumping on the island of Koh Phi Phi.

There are some amazing spots for cliff-jumping on this picturesque island where you can fly off rugged limestone cliffs and into the turquoise sea.

Just make sure you ask your hostel staff, your local friends, and even the local rock-climbing shop about where to jump so you stay safe.

In eastern Bangkok, you’ll find the strange yet fascinating Thailand attraction known as the Airplane Graveyard .

Old airplanes that have been put out of commission are scattered all around this empty block of land, as are some random airplane pieces like broken wings and ruined cabins.

Though Thailand is filled with ancient ruins and temples, it is pretty cool to see some ruins of the modern era while visiting Bangkok.

Alesha And Jarryd Md-82 Cockpit

Floating on the River Kwai in the town of Kanchanaburi, there are a bunch of charming bamboo houses that travelers can stay in for a unique accommodation experience.

Each little house is connected to the land by a small bridge, so the accommodation is very quiet and peaceful.

Staying in a floating raft house allows you to enjoy the lush jungle and mountains so you feel like you are one with the environment.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you book accommodation, tours or buy a product, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us keep creating more free travel content to help people plan their holidays and adventures. We only recommend the best accommodations, tours and products that ourselves or our fantastic editorial team have personally experienced, and regularly review these. Thanks for your support, kind friend!

Gabby Boucher

Gabby Boucher

Hi, We’re Alesha and Jarryd!

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We put together a team building event in Bangkok just around street food! There’s so many tasty dishes to get through if you can handle the spice!

That is amazing. There is so much yummy food there. 🙂

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13 Best Places To Visit In Thailand For First Timers

places-to-visit-in-thailand

For first-time travelers, the most memorable places to visit in Thailand might include the old towns with their temples and delicious Thai street food, the sandy beaches with palm trees and turquoise waters, or the bustling streets in Bangkok and the waterway through the floating market. This Southeast Asian treasure never fails to dazzle with its breathtaking beaches, awe-inspiring landscapes, tantalizing cuisine, and captivating cultural experiences.

This blog post will unveil the top 13 destinations in Thailand curated exclusively for first-time visitors. Let’s discover the mesmerizing allure of Thailand and craft memories that will stay with you forever.

Why Thailand Is The Perfect Location For Remarkable Adventures

Natural landscapes.

Thailand’s natural beauty sets the stage for amazing journeys. The country offers an array of landscapes, from the lush jungles of Khao Sok National Park to the pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters of the islands in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Adventurers can embark on thrilling activities such as trekking through dense forests, exploring hidden caves, snorkeling or diving among vibrant coral reefs, and even encountering majestic elephants in ethical sanctuaries.

Cultural Heritage

For those seeking cultural immersion, Thailand’s ancient temples and historical sites provide a window into its fascinating past. From the awe-inspiring Grand Palace in Bangkok to the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, travelers can explore the remnants of an illustrious history while marveling at the intricate architecture and spiritual significance of these sacred places.

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Thailand – A destination that you must visit once in your lifetime 

Exceptional Cuisine

Thai food is renowned worldwide for its bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and vibrant culinary traditions. Its harmonious blend of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors attracts many foodies with a symphony of tastes, creating the iconic Pad Thai, a stir-fried noodle dish with a perfect balance of tanginess and sweetness, or the aromatic and creamy Green Curry.

Welcoming Hospitality

Thailand’s warm and welcoming locals contribute to the uniqueness of the encounters. Whether participating in a traditional Thai cooking class, engaging with hill tribe communities in the north, or joining in the vibrant festivities during Thai festivals, visitors can connect with the locals, gaining insights into their customs, traditions, and way of life.

>> See Tour: Best Of Thailand

13 Perfect Places To Visit In Thailand For First-time Travelers

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Glorious Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai

  • Best for : Cultural Enthusiasts, Nature Lovers, Adventure Seekers
  • When to visit : During the cool and dry season, typically from November to February. 
  • What to do : Explore the iconic White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) for its intricate architecture and dazzling white exterior, discover the Golden Triangle through a boat trip on the Mekong River, trek through hill tribe to explore the picturesque countryside, experience the Night Bazaar with colorful stalls offering local handicrafts, clothing, and delicious street food. It’s a fantastic place to shop for souvenirs, enjoy live music, and savor the bustling atmosphere, etc.
  • Regional food to try : Sai Ua (Northern Thai sausage) and Khao Soi (coconut curry noodle soup)

In Chiang Rai, the mystical province nestled in the heart of northern Thailand, whether you seek cultural immersion, adventure, spiritual enlightenment, or simply a moment of serenity, this land beckons you with open arms. It’s a destination that caters to the discerning traveler eager to uncover hidden treasures beyond the beaten path. Prepare for a captivating journey filled with cultural wonders, breathtaking landscapes, and unforgettable experiences.

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Savor the vibrant street food in Chiang Mai

  • Best for : Cultural Enthusiasts, Nature Lovers, Family Travelers
  • When to visit : The cool and dry season from November to February.
  • What to do : Immerse yourself in the rich heritage of Chiang Mai by exploring its awe-inspiring temples, participate in an authentic Buddhist meditation retreat, embark on a trek through lush jungles, Indulge in the vibrant markets and culinary delights of Chiang Mai, learn to cook authentic Thai dishes in a traditional class guided by expert chefs, etc.
  • Regional food to try : Khao Soi (coconut curry noodle soup) and Kaeb Moo ( crispy pig rinds )

Chiang Mai , the city of peace, offers a captivating blend of ancient traditions and breathtaking landscapes. It is a perfect destination for every wanderlust-filled soul who seeks tranquility, exploration, or a taste of authentic Thai culture. Tourists might effortlessly be captivated by the city’s ancient temples and cultural heritage, revel in the abundance of outdoor activities, from trekking to ziplining, or explore meditation retreats and engage with Buddhist traditions.

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Discover the ultimate relaxation destination at Pai Hot Spring

  • Best for : Nature Lovers, Adventure Seekers, Relaxation Seekers
  • When to visit : The best time is from November to February, when the weather is pleasantly mild.
  • What to do : Trek through lush jungles to marvel at the stunning Pai Canyon, visit local villages to interact with the friendly locals and even participate in handicraft workshops, pamper yourself with a traditional Thai massage, practice yoga amidst serene surroundings, or indulge in a soothing hot spring spa treatment, etc.

For years, Pai Town has been a popular destination in Northern Thailand for backpackers and alternative travelers. It is encircled by breathtaking mountains, rice farms, and some of the nation’s greatest hot springs. Prepare to be amazed by Pai’s breathtaking landscapes, cultural treasures, and exhilarating activities that will leave you craving for more.

>> See Tour: Northern Thailand Adventure & Pristine Beach

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Ancient Buddha statue in the Sukhothai Historical Park

  • Best for : History Enthusiasts, Nature lovers, Family Travelers
  • When to visit : During the cooler months, from November to February.
  • What to do : Immerse yourself in the magnificent World Heritage Site of Sukhothai Historical Park, visit the local communities and interact with the warm-hearted locals, experience traditional Thai arts and crafts, savor authentic local cuisine that will tantalize your taste buds, etc.
  • What to eat : Kuay Tiao Sukhothai , the Sukhothai rice noodles mixed with ground peanuts, beans, chili, and lime. 

One of history’s greatest treasures is Sukhothai, the ancient kingdom of north-central Thailand. With its awe-inspiring ancient ruins, serene landscapes, and warm hospitality, Sukhothai promises an unforgettable journey for all who seek to delve into Thailand’s glorious past. Come and experience the magic of Sukhothai, where time stands still and memories are made.

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Unique photography angle at Wat Chaiwatthanaram Temple, Ayutthaya

  • Best for : History Enthusiasts, Culture Seekers, Adventure Seekers. 
  • When to visit : From November to February, it is when the temperatures are comfortable without the scorching heat.
  • What to do : Wander through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ayutthaya Historical Park, marvel at the intricate architecture and ancient temples (Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, and Wat Chaiwatthanaram), embark on a serene boat ride along the Chao Phraya River, pedal through the city’s charming streets, encounter gentle giants at the elephant camps in Ayutthaya, etc.
  • What to eat : King River Praw n is Ayutthaya’s specialty, so you should try grilled prawns or a traditional dish with hot tamarind sauce.

The capital of the historical kingdom Siam is Ayutthaya, which nowadays is a collection of ruins and temples situated around one hour north of Bangkok. The enchanting allure of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, where echoes of the past whisper through magnificent downfalls and vibrant traditions, has welcomed curious tourists from all over the world. Pack your bags, embark on a journey through time, and let Ayutthaya weave its spell on you!

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Mysterious Demon Guardian at Wat Phra Kaew

  • Best for : History Enthusiasts, Foodies, Family Travelers
  • When to visit : From December to February, the best time for pleasant temperatures and clear skies.
  • What to do : Visit the awe-inspiring temples (Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaew), explore the bustling markets like Chatuchak Weekend Market or floating market, take a long-tail boat ride along the Chao Phraya River, explore the luxurious malls such as Siam Paragon and CentralWorld, etc.
  • What to eat : Try the fried banana pancakes , Tom Yum soup, mango sticky rice, spicy papaya salad , and Pad Thai when having a street food tour in Bangkok. 

Bangkok, one of the top places to visit in Thailand, is ready to welcome you with open arms. The seamless combinations of tradition and modernity allow this city to gain the fourth position in the top 10 most searched tourist locations globally, after New York, London, and Paris. Tourists surely can expect a one-of-a-kind journey in this captivating metropolis, whether it is a gastronomic pleasure, an exciting experience, cultural immersion, or just a fun trip.

Kanchanaburi

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The famous Bridge in River Kwai, a memorial of the Second World War

  • Best for : History Enthusiasts, Nature Lovers, Family Travelers
  • When to visit : From November to February, when the temperatures and rainfall in the town are moderate. 
  • What to do : Visit the iconic Bridge over the River Kwai (a poignant reminder of the World War II era), explore the nearby museums and learn about the construction of the Death Railway, delve deeper into history at the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, immerse yourself in nature’s wonderland at Erawan National Park, indulge in the serenity of Sai Yok Noi Waterfall, etc.
  • What to eat : Must-try foods include deep-fried chicken feet, fried rice, BBQ fish, and gluttonous rice balls.

Nestled in the western part of Thailand, Kanchanaburi is a haven for travelers seeking an escape from the bustling city life. Known for its historical significance, stunning natural beauty, and warm hospitality, this enchanting province offers a unique and authentic experience that will leave you in amazement.

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Escape to the ultimate haven of tranquility at Hua Hin Beach

  • Best for : Beach Lovers, History Enthusiasts, Family Travelers
  • When to visit : From November to February, when the weather is pleasant with sunny days.
  • What to do : Witness stunning sunsets at the iconic Hua Hin Beach, visit the stunning teakwood summer retreat Maruekhathaiyawan Palace, discover the architectural marvel of Wat Huay Mongkol, join thrilling adventures like kiteboarding or horseback riding along the beach, stop at Kaeng Krachan National Park for scenic hiking trails or waterfalls, etc.
  • What to eat : The fresh seafood Pad Thai at the night markets.

Discover the enchanting coastal town of Hua Hin, a renowned tourism destination that captures the hearts of visitors from around the globe. Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, Hua Hin offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach getaway or an adventure-filled holiday, Hua Hin has something for everyone!

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Embark on a journey to the awe-inspiring Phanom Rung Historical Park

  • Best for : History Enthusiasts, Adventure Seekers, Nature Lovers
  • When to visit : January, July, and August are ideal for Buriram travel.
  • What to do : Marvel at the awe-inspiring Khmer temples, witness world-class racing events and feel the roar of the engines, sample Buriram’s signature dishes, explore the lush Phanom Rung National Park, trek through picturesque landscapes and discover hidden waterfalls, participate in the world-famous Buriram Candle Festival, etc.
  • What to eat : Isaan food, Thai Papaya Salad , Spicy Laab Salad (Northern Thai Spicy Beef Salad), Koi Pla (spicy raw fish salad)

Although located in the northeastern region of Thailand as a small and secluded city, Buriram is well-connected by road and air, offering various accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury resorts and boutique hotels to guesthouses and budget-friendly accommodations, you’ll find a variety of choices in the city and its surrounding areas. Prepare to embark on a mesmerizing journey to Buriram, a captivating destination that will truly enchant your senses and leave an indelible mark on your heart.

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Uncover the beauty of the Andaman Sea on a boat tour in Krabi

  • Best for : Beach Lovers, Family Travelers, Nature Lovers
  • When to visit : From November to April, you can enjoy clear blue skies and explore the region’s wonders to the fullest.
  • What to do : Embark on an awe-inspiring journey to the iconic Phi Phi Islands, indulge in rock climbing adventures on Railay Beach, scale magnificent limestone cliffs and be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the Andaman Sea, escape to the secluded beaches of Koh Lanta or visit the enchanting Emerald Pool, explore the vibrant markets of Krabi Town, etc.
  • What to eat : Various seafood dishes in the Maharat Market.

Situated on the Strait of Malacca in southwest Thailand, Krabi is a laid-back port town renowned for its stunning beaches and ocean vistas. The well-known Phi Phi Islands is located in Krabi, attracting thousands of tourists with numerous activities like trekking, picturesque boat rides, village market shopping, temple hopping, etc. With its breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture, Krabi is a must-visit destination for every wanderer seeking an exotic getaway.

>> Read More: Koh Phi Phi Travel Guide

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Stunning Sino-Portuguese architecture building in Phuket Old Town

  • Best for : Romantic Getaways, Family Travelers, Adventure Seekers
  • When to visit : From November to April, when the weather is pleasantly warm and dry.
  • What to do : Explore the sandy haven (Patong Beach or Kata Noi), take a trip to the famous Big Buddha perched on Nakkerd Hill, embark on a hiking trail to explore hidden waterfalls, go on an exhilarating snorkeling or diving expedition to discover vibrant coral reefs, wander through colorful streets lined with well-preserved Sino-Portuguese architecture, etc.
  • What to eat : Mee Hokkien (Hokkien-style noodles that have pork, seafood, wheat noodles with tasty broth)

Travelers worldwide are drawn to Phuket , a fascinating island getaway nestled in the blue seas of the Andaman Sea. This charming province in Thailand, also known as the “Pearl of the Andaman,” provides the ideal fusion of breathtaking natural beauty, a rich cultural legacy, and never-ending adventure.

> See Tour: Thailand Temples and Beaches

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Aerial panoramic view of Coral Cove beach

  • Best fo r: Family Travelers, Adventure Seekers, Beach Lovers
  • When to visit : From December to February, with idyllic weather and clear blue skies.
  • What to do : Relax on stunning beaches (Chaweng Beach, Bophut Beach, and Lamai Beach), discover hidden waterfalls tucked away in the lush jungle, visit the majestic 12-meter golden statue of Buddha Temple, explore the Fisherman’s Village in Bophut, Head to the lively streets of Chaweng or Lamai with an array of bars, clubs, and beachfront parties, etc.
  • What to eat : Fresh seafood and mango sticky rice

Koh Samui, a tropical paradise , offers an amazing trip to one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand. It is also highly renowned for being one of the most livable locations and the second-largest island in the country.  This charming “Island of Coconut Trees” is well-equipped with shops, dining options, and pubs. It even has its own airport. Discover the magic of Koh Samui and experience a slice of paradise in the heart of Thailand. 

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Unleash the adventurer within Khao Kho Hong Mountain in Hat Yai

  • When to visit : From November to February, when the weather is more pleasant.
  • What to do : Visit Hat Yai’s awe-inspiring temples and cultural sites, ascend to new heights at Wat Hat Yai Nai where a majestic golden Buddha statue gazes upon the city, marvel at the intricate architecture and ornate decorations of the Phra Maha Chedi Tripob Trimongkol, uncover a treasure trove of local products and souvenirs, immerse yourself in the electric energy of our bustling night markets, etc.
  • What to eat : Chen Loong Boat Noodle in Kho Hong district

Hat Yai, located in southern Thailand, is the largest city in the Songkhla Province and serves as a major transportation hub for the region. But in contrast to the well-traveled routes of major tourist destinations like Bangkok and Phuket, Hat Yai provides the allure of a genuine Thai experience that certainly creates a unique journey.

From avid shoppers and culinary connoisseurs to culture enthusiasts and nature lovers, our vibrant city promises an unforgettable escape for every wanderer.

>> See Tour: Thailand Holiday – Bangkok, Phuket & Koh Yao Yai 11 Nights

How To Fully Enjoy Your First Trip In Thailand

What to pack.

  • Lightweight Clothing : Thailand has tropical weather, so breathable items are appropriate. Some cotton T-shirts, shorts, skirts, active dresses with comfortable shoes or sandals are great options if you want to do a lot of walking. Also, swimwear is essential for stunning beaches, while a couple of long-sleeved shirts and pants are for visiting solemn places or local events.
  • Sun Protection : To shield oneself from the harsh sun, always carry a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with a high SPF.
  • Weightless Rain Jacket : Since Thailand occasionally receives rain, it’s a good idea to bring a small travel umbrella or a lightweight rain jacket.
  • Inspect Repellent : Bring an effective travel-sized insect repellent. A couple of long-sleeved shirts and pants might protect your skin, too. 
  • Travel-sized Amenities : Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, and a small first aid kit stocked with bandages, antiseptic cream, and any prescription drugs that may be required.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: You should carry a reusable water bottle for its convenience and to keep yourself hydrated. It’s also being kind to the environment.
  • Suitable Adaptor : To charge your electronics while in Thailand, pack a universal travel adaptor. Type A, B, and C outlets are used in this country.
  • Cash and Cards : Bring an international credit card and some Thai Baht for exchanges in small shops.
  • Important Documents : Remember to include your passport, travel insurance details, airline tickets, and copies of other necessary paperwork. Remember to check the latest visa requirements in Thailand . 

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Enjoy every moment while traveling to Thailand

What First Timers Should Know

  • It is not advisable to visit too many places for the first time.  It is impossible to see every temple, every island, and every city in Thailand in a single trip. To ensure that you don’t spend half of your trip to Thailand traveling instead of enjoying your destinations, choose your favorites and stick with them.
  • You should learn about the culture through the Internet before the trip.  Becoming familiar with Thai culture is worth the effort. Make sure you wear suitable clothing for visiting Thai temples (usually no shoes and long sleeves), and avoid touching monks if you’re a woman. 
  • Bargain is typical in Thailand marketplaces and smaller stores. But it’s crucial to do it with a smile and with respect.
  • Tipping is not required , but it is appreciated when someone provides excellent service. In restaurants and for services like massages or cabs, tipping is usual at roughly 10% of the total payment. 
  • Download the Grab application : You can book a car or bike on your phone and know exactly how much you will have to pay. 
  • The street food in Thailand is worth trying . But remember to select food stands where there is a significant turnover of food, as this indicates freshness, and pay attention to the sanitary and hygienic methods while preparing food.
  • But Thai food can be extremely spicy . With the typical individual, even a moderate spice may be excessively intense.
>> See Tour: Essential Thailand

Create Your Unique Journey In Thailand With APT

Thailand is a captivating destination that beckons first-time visitors with its diverse and enchanting attractions. From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the tranquil beaches of Phuket, and from the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya to the lush jungles of Chiang Mai, you can find the best places to visit in Thailand for your dream vacation. 

So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of exploration, and Craft Your Thailand Trip with Asia Pioneer Travel to unveil the treasures and create memories to cherish for a lifetime.

top 10 places to visit thailand

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10 best places to visit in Thailand on your next trip

Buzzing big-city life, brilliant beaches, luxe resorts and wildlife-filled national parks – the land of smiles really does seem to hold the key to happiness.

I am often asked why I keep going back to Thailand — it’s become an annual January tradition as I escape the drizzle and dreariness of a British winter. For me, it’s a country that wraps up everything I could want from a break into one package. For starters, it’s affordable — but with plenty of luxury options if you’re feeling flush. In the north you can pootle down rivers on bamboo rafts and see elephants washing themselves; you can hike in the mountains and stay with local villagers, or go wine tasting at vineyards (yes, vineyards, in Thailand). There’s endless sightseeing and history if that’s your thing; incredible food, which is surely everybody’s thing; and some of the world’s best beaches (with 1,430 islands, there are thousands of stretches of sand to choose from). I’ve visited as a backpacker, then around 15 times after that, and soon I’ll head there on my first trip with my own young family. There’s always more to see here, but if you start with a combination of the below, you’re onto a good thing. A very good thing. Here’s the pick of the best places to visit in Thailand.

This article contains affiliate links, which may earn us revenue

If you only have . . .

One week Bangkok and Koh Samui

Two weeks Bangkok, Hua Hin, Koh Lanta

Three weeks Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Golden Triangle, Phuket

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A tight budget Bangkok and Koh Phangan

Enjoying street food at a Bangkok night market

Some visit for the temples, others for the food, and for many it’s just a stop-off on the way to other parts of the country. To skip past Bangkok is a big mistake, though. This frenetic city is big on fun and full-on flavour (from some of the world’s best street food to incredible Michelin-star dining, with tasting menus that cost a fraction of what they do in Europe). There are backpacker hangouts, fancy rooftop and riverside bars, temples, floating markets where flowers, fruit and veg are sold from longtail boats, and a great hotel scene — go for something with a pool for that post-sightseeing cool off.

Make it happen

With its pool, excellent rooftop bar, huge breakfast buffet and an excellent gym, the Kimpton Maa-Lai hotel is one of the best in Bangkok

Not in the Guidebooks has an 11-day Off the Beaten Track tour of Thailand, including Bangkok and beaches

• Best hotels in Bangkok

2. Koh Lanta

Ko Lanta’s beaches are crowd-free

It takes a tiny bit more effort to reach Koh Lanta than Koh Samui or Phuket but your reward is fewer tourists and a vibe that feels like Thailand 30 years ago. Chilled fairy light-lit bars, zero jet skis and long beaches make this 15 mile-long island ideal for families and quiet-seeking couples looking to stay put for a couple of weeks. Keen to venture out? Lanta Marine National Park has great snorkelling and two of Thailand’s best dive sites — Hin Daeng and Hin Muang — are nearby.

One of the only luxe hotels on the island (and in my opinion, one of the best in the country) is Pimalai. It’s located on a glorious golden-sand beach, and villas are dotted across a jungle-covered hillside

Explore! has a 14-night Thai island-hopping trip, with several days on Koh Lanta

3. Koh Phangan

Visitors enjoy the Ko Phangan sunshine

Don’t dismiss Koh Phangan as a no-go just because of the wild full-moon parties on Haad Rin beach. This hilly, jungly island has some peaceful hangouts, like the palm-fringed Haad Khom beach to the north, and the peaceful, restaurant-filled village of Chalok Lam. Minibuses will transport you wherever you want to go, so even if neon paint and whisky buckets aren’t for you, then watching fire jugglers on a moon-bathed beach may well be.

Jute rugs, white bed linen and open-air rooms make Coconut Beach Bungalows a great choice for grown-up travellers on a budget. It’s family-run, with a great little restaurant, a friendly dog (and staff) and located on a quieter beach on the island

G Adventures has an eight-day tour taking in Koh Tao and two nights on Koh Phangan

Hua Hin station, said to be the prettiest in Thailand

Hua Hin’s handy location — 125 miles southwest of Bangkok — helped it grow from a sleepy fishing village into a popular beach destination for Thai royalty. The country’s railway line helped broaden its appeal (its station is said to be the prettiest in the country). A hundred years on and it’s still a popular getaway and worthy of its well-heeled crowds, with its long golden beaches, an excellent night market and hotels from some of the world’s coolest brands.

Guests return time and time again to the cluster of beachside cottages at Aleenta Hua Hin. It’s a little way from the city centre but ideal if you’re looking for a quiet retreat (with no TVs, either)

Intrepid Travel has a 12-day family-friendly tour of Thailand, including overnight trains, visits to elephant sanctuaries and time on the palm-fringed sands of Hua Hin

5. Koh Samui

Ang Thong National Marine Park

Yes, Koh Samui has seen some speedy development, but the result is an island jammed with some of the country’s most luxurious hotels, although there are plenty of budget options. If your priorities are sunbathing, spas and good food (there’s even a great vegan scene), then hole up here for a week. For something more taxing, venture out to see the limestone towers and crystal-clear snorkelling spots of the Ang Thong National Marine Park, or rent a car for some beach-hopping on the south coast. This is also your jumping off point for other islands — try Koh Tao for diving and smaller family run hotels.

For a private island experience (without having to book out the entire island) book into Cape Fahn. Every room has its own pool, although there are three more on the island if you prefer, and its restaurant is featured in Michelin’s Koh Samui guide

G Adventures’ eight-day Explore Southern Thailand trip has two days in Koh Samui, with time at Ang Thong

• Five of the best backpacking routes in southeast Asia

6. Chiang Mai

Buddhist monks collecting alms in Chiang Mai

Smaller, more relaxed and, dare I say it, cooler than Bangkok (helped by a younger population that includes 60,000 students), Chiang Mai blends the buzz of a city with the beauty of its surroundings — think hill-forest hiking and temple-topped mountains. Start off slow, with a boat trip on the Ping River, stock up on handicrafts in the night bazaar and relax with a good-value massage (or book a hotel with a spa — there are dozens of excellent options). While you’re here, use the city as a jumping-off point for treks in the north and day visits to the temple-packed sister city of Chiang Rai.

Find tranquillity at 137 Pillars House, a teak building constructed in the 1880s and restored into a serene space of suites, swimming pools and gardens, plus an excellent spa

Exodus Adventure Travels has a ten-day Treasures of Northern Thailand tour including Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi and Bangkok

Surin beach in Phuket

If you were to skip Bangkok entirely (and thanks to Phuket ’s international airport, you can), you may not feel like you’re missing out on that much after a week or two here. Yes, this is a place for beaches, not skyscraper city buzz, but there’s plenty to keep you entertained — excellent restaurants, markets, cookery schools, shrines, elephant sanctuaries, island-hopping options and a seemingly never-ending stream of luxurious hotels. For craft shops and budget beds, try staying in Phuket Town. Or, if you don’t plan on venturing out much, Mai Khao beach’s location close to the airport means you’ll be horizontal on your lounger in under an hour. For something quieter — and family-friendly — head north up the coast to Koh Lak, or inland for the rainforest of Khao Sok National Park. For an island experience without much effort, jump on a boat across the Andaman to Koh Yao Yai or Koh Yao Noi.

Flush foodies descend on Trisara Phuket, dining at the counter of its Michelin-star restaurant, Pru, and Michelin green star restaurant, Jampa. If it’s a little pricey to sleep here, then splash the cash for a special meal

Cosmos has a 14-day Tantalising Thailand tour, finishing up with three days soaking up the sun in Phuket

• Best hotels in Phuket

8. Golden Triangle

A giant Buddha at Sop Ruak in the Golden Triangle

Elephant sanctuaries, coffee plantations and slow, meandering rivers draw people to this forest-dense region in northern Thailand, on the border with Laos and Myanmar. There’s plenty to do here, from the Hall of Opium museum, which tracks the region’s turbulent history, to bike rides through the countryside, and from long-tail boat cruises along the Mekong to trips to mountain communities. Slow the pace and allow a few days.

Anantara and Four Seasons are your most luxe options here (with elephants on site), but Buakham Rim Khong is a more affordable option in Chiang Rai, with Mekong river views and food stalls just seconds away

Trailfinders has a 13-day Absolute Luxury trip with time in Bangkok, the Golden Triangle and Phuket

trailfinders.com

9. Khao Yai National Park

Haew Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park

“Great wine” may not be the first words that come to mind on a visit to Thailand, but there are some excellent tasting vineyards to visit in the Unesco-listed site of Khao Yai National Park, around a two-hour drive from Bangkok. It’s not the only reason to head here: serene hikes and horse rides, waterfalls (including the one from The Beach ), and wildlife including elephants, owls and bears. If you’re craving greenery, factor in a few days here.

Explore the area from one of the seriously chic safari-style tents at Marasca Khao Yai. Kids — and big kids — will love the luxe “glamper van”, plus playground, bike rental and veg picking

Tailor-made tours with Wild Frontiers can take in Khao Yai National Park, cities and islands. The Classic Thailand itinerary is a good place to start

10. Kanchanaburi

A longtail boat on the River Kwai at Kanchanaburi

The ominous-sounding “Death Railway” is what draws some people to this laid-back town. Built during the Second World War, the line crosses the Death Railway Bridge, and the nearby Jeath War Museum honours the prisoners of war who died building this Thai-Burma railway. Others come for more lighthearted fun, like sleeping in a floating glamping tent on the River Kwai, or cruising downstream on a bamboo raft, before a wander around the town.

Chez Bure is a pretty homestay option with a great location, just a ten-minute walk from the bridge

Intrepid Travel has a 12-day hike, bike and kayak trip taking in Kanchanaburi, the River Kwai, Chiang Mai and the northern hill tribes

• Best family hotels in Thailand • Best hotels in Thailand • Best beaches in Thailand

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18 Best Places To Visit In Thailand

O ne of the most exciting destinations in Asia, Thailand is beautifully set up for vacationers. With a tourism industry that is well developed, reliable transport options, mouthwatering (and fiery) food, a huge variety of scenery, and some of the most incredible temples in the world , the Southeast Asian nation is justifiably a place that many travelers to Asia yearn to see. It's a country where tourists could easily spend months hopping from sublime beaches to forested peaks, from frantic cities to tranquil countryside. It's also relatively inexpensive, with life in Thailand markedly more affordable than in the United States. 

Getting around the country is easy, with a far-reaching rail system, a good network of flights between destinations, and buses and boats connecting many spots. Given the vast range of places to see and the affordability of Thailand, visitors might find themselves more likely to run out of time before money, so savvy travelers will think about winnowing down their choices, focusing on specific sites worth seeking out. If you need to know where to go, the list below will certainly help — we've put this together based on personal knowledge gleaned when visiting the country while also focusing on the importance of having a good geographical spread and also to enable you, the reader, to have a range of experiences across different environments.

Read more: 22 Underrated Tourist Destinations In Asia To Add To Your Bucket List

This UNESCO World Heritage site, known officially as Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, lies a short distance north of Bangkok. A visit here will bring travelers close to the incredible ruins of what was once, many centuries ago, the capital of the Kingdom of Siam. Ayutthaya was founded in the mid-1300s and was a thriving center for four centuries before being destroyed in 1767 by the Burmese army. 

The site was chosen for many reasons. It was close to three rivers, allowing for marine trade but far enough from the sea and its tides to ensure foreign battleships couldn't reach here. Today, the park is a shadow of the former city in terms of size and scope, but walking around the towers and monastic buildings gives visitors a sense of the grandeur of the metropolis. Regional influences are apparent in the shapes of certain structures, especially some towers that recall the forms found at Cambodia's Angkor Wat.

The joy of the current Thai capital is that, day or night, there is always something to do. Bangkok, known by Thais as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (loosely meaning Big City of Angels), is a churning circus of delight, with sizzling street food, stunning temples, and shopping everywhere. The public transport system is extensive and inexpensive, with a great subway called the BTS Skytrain (which is technically overground) and cheap taxis. Bangkok is where to find arguably the most famous backpacker street in the world, Khao San Road, where banana-Nutella pancakes and cheap beer keep travelers happy. 

For more authentic city sights, temples like Wat Arun Ratchawararam, Wat Pho, and Wat Benchamabophit ("wat" is Thai for temple) will have visitors gazing in awe at the gilded spires and steep rooflines. Elsewhere, the street food in the Chinatown area called Yaowarat will have diners licking their lips, and shopaholics can splash the cash (or plastic) at the multi-story malls and sprawling night markets.

Temples are among the highlights of a trip to this laid-back city in the north. The 14th-century Wat Phra Sing is among the most revered shrines in Chiang Mai, its large Buddha idol sitting in a gorgeous hall decorated with ornate wood carvings and intricate murals. The statue is the focal point during the annual Songkran festival (marking Thai New Year) held every April and is paraded around town as part of the celebration. On the outskirts of town, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep has a long staircase leading to the main pagoda temple and statues of serpents visible on the sides. The views of Chiang Mai and the beautiful countryside surrounding it are breathtaking. 

Visitors looking to stock up on gifts can find endless choices at Sunday's Thapae Walking Street, a vast evening market where crafts, clothing, and more wait to be snapped up. Be sure to try the food in Chiang Mai, where Lanna cuisine (named for the culture in this part of Thailand) is less sweet than the dishes further south, using more herbs and not as reliant on coconut milk.

A three-hour drive northeast of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is another serene city packed with heritage. It also shares its name with the province near Thailand's borders with Myanmar and Laos. There are many mountains here, making for some beautiful natural scenery. One of the most spellbinding sights is Wat Rong Khun, a temple that is a brilliant white color, a color intended to represent the purity of Buddha. Located around 8 miles from Chiang Rai, the temple buildings and statues sparkle in the sunlight. Glass is embedded in the white plaster, making the whole place seem ethereal and otherworldly. 

Another nearby temple with an extraordinary hue is Wat Rong Suea Ten. This time, the color is a deep, rich blue, seen on statues, roofs, and buildings. Chiang Rai has fantastic trails for countryside hiking and options for arranging trips to visit people living in the mountain communities around the city.

Close to the Malaysian border, Hat Yai has excellent markets and a fascinating mix of cultural influences. The large university here ensures that there is a strong educational presence in the city, and Hat Yai is also a hub for transportation in the south. Shoppers will enjoy the wares at busy markets like Kim Yong Market and Santisuk Market, with the latter especially popular for electronics. 

While other parts of Thailand are notable for their striking Buddhist temples, Hat Yai's most appealing religious structure is the Songkhla Central Mosque, a few miles north of the city. It has a grand gold dome in the center and four soaring minarets around its perimeter, while a reflecting pool in the front helps to frame the structure (the reflections of the mosque in the water are riveting). Hat Yai also has Buddhist temples, with the more than 100-foot-long reclining Buddha statue at Wat Hat Yai Nai being particularly impressive. For amazing city views, take a cable car ride to the hills above Hat Yai. Be aware that the cable car doesn't run in bad weather.

The part of Thailand where, historically, the Thai royal family would spend summers is located less than three hours southwest of Bangkok by car. Visitors will find much to enjoy here beyond the beaches, which are predictably pretty, with the calm water of the Gulf of Thailand providing excellent swimming. A little north of the city, Maruekhathaiyawan Palace was constructed in the 1920s, repurposing teak from another palace to create its breezy, bright form. Visitors can pay a small entrance fee to tour the building, known as the "Palace of Love and Hope." 

As in many Thai cities, shopping isn't just restricted to the daytime. The Hua Hin night market offers clothing, crafts, jewelry, and many places to eat, with seafood especially popular. For some unique outdoor exploration, Wat Khao Takiap sits on a hill just south of Hua Hin and has fabulous city views and the remarkable sight of a giant Buddha statue by the waterfront, set among a jumble of imposing rocks.

Kanchanaburi

Moviegoers of a particular generation will likely remember the epic film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," a tale set during World War II where prisoners of war were enlisted to build a bridge by their Japanese captors. While the film was a work of fiction, it was loosely based on a true story. The actual bridge is very real, located in Kanchanaburi province, not far from Bangkok. It has become quite the tourist spectacle, even spawning an annual River Kwai Bridge Festival that honors those who perished here in the war and features performances, cultural shows, and fireworks. 

Many soldiers from that era are buried in the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, while the Jeath War Museum looks at the harsh conditions that prisoners had to endure. The countryside here is a welcome relief from the urban landscape, and visitors will see forests and rivers, experience cooler air than in nearby Bangkok, and have the chance to raft and hike.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Getting to this park from Hua Hin is simple as it is less than 40 miles from the seaside city. For a sense of what to expect here, visitors only need to look at the park's name, which loosely translates to "The Mountain with 300 Peaks." The incredible, moody limestone karsts that are the hallmark of certain parts of coastal Thailand are on show here, as well as small bays and stretches of empty beach. There are also sections of mangroves, marshy areas, and canals. 

The main spot that attracts most visitors is Phraya Nakhon Cave, a mammoth chamber where light manages to stream in, a cave that has its own environment, with plants growing within. There is even a structure inside the cave built to celebrate a former king who visited the park many years ago. Elsewhere in the park, travelers can find more caves to explore and a massive area of wetlands.

Khao Yai National Park

For visitors to Bangkok wanting to immerse themselves in nature, Khao Yai National Park is a tremendous option, situated around 90 miles to the northeast. Khao Yai is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site together with the Ta Phraya National Park to its east and is prized for its rich plant life and extensive selection of mammals, birds, and reptiles. This is an important habit for wildlife, including many endangered species. 

While travelers might not see the Siamese crocodile, the most endangered of all the animals here, they can visit knowing that it still lives in the park, as do the leopard cat and the banteng, a type of cattle indigenous to here. Khao Yai is also the only place on Earth where the white-handed and pileated gibbons share habitats and cross-breed. Numerous environments appear throughout the park, from tropical rainforests to sweeping grasslands and dry evergreen forests, another reason for the great diversity of flora and fauna in Khao Yai National Park.

An easygoing island (Ko, also spelled Koh, is the Thai word for "island"), this destination in Krabi province has fantastic beaches. Some see it as a more relaxed, less commercial alternative to Phuket, the larger island to its northwest. The languid pace of development here, for some, makes this a refreshing vacation spot, and its different beaches appeal to different types of travelers. Klong Dao, for instance, is set near the arrival point for most boats and has a good range of places to stay, making it a popular choice among families that visit.

Ko Lanta attracts many backpackers who come for some simple relaxation, and it's also a big draw for divers, primarily for the clear water and vibrant reefs. The small islands south of Ko Lanta, past the lighthouse, are also excellent spots for snorkeling and diving. Access to the island, which has a mountainous spine that gives it a real sense of drama, requires getting on a long-tail boat or ferry.

This island is possibly the most deluxe in the country. Visitors are lured here by the fabulous beaches, especially during the drier months of December through August, with the first few months of each year especially busy. Much of the activity of Ko Samui centers around Chaweng Beach, a sweeping stretch of sand that extends for miles along the sea. This is the beating heart of the island, a neighborhood with beach clubs, plush resorts, restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping, and bustling nightclubs. There is even a water park, excellent watersports adventures, and mini-golf courses in this part of the island. 

A much quieter option is Lamai Beach, another gorgeous area of sun, sea, and sand. At the southern end of the beach, travelers will find the large, weathered boulders known as Hin Ta Hin Yai (this translates to "Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks"), mammoth granite formations that have been colored and eroded by the forces of wind and seawater.

Keen divers will be all too aware of the charms of Thailand's waters, especially this idyllic chain of islands. Derived from the Yawi word for "nine," Similan refers to a group of islands established as a national park in 1982. While Ko Similan is just one of the islands in the archipelago, it is often used to help identify the greater sum and is part of the official marine park name — Mu Ko Similan National Park. 

This is one of the best diving locations in the world, with rare types of coral and a vast array of marine creatures to see. Divers can look for sponges, whale sharks, dolphins, turtles, eels, lobsters, and more. Limits are placed on the number of visitors, with only 525 divers allowed daily, though many more can swim, snorkel, and admire the water. There is very limited lodging on the islands, with only bungalows and campsites available, so visitors usually stay at Khao Lak on the mainland.

Not far from Chiang Mai, this town is an excellent place to experience pastoral Thailand. Pai is well accustomed to overseas visitors and has a developed tourism scene. Travelers come here to explore the countryside, to go rafting in the river, and for the ability to really get close to nature by camping in the region. 

In terms of traditional sights and constructed landmarks, Wat Phra That Mae Yen is usually near the top of the list. Set up on a hill in a small village on the outskirts of Pai, this temple has fantastic city views, not least from the giant white Buddha that anchors the shrine. For another serene excursion, join the scores of travelers who head to the area's rivers to go tubing, a soothing, low-impact way to enjoy the splendid scenery. Fans of pachyderms can book a stay at Thom's Pai Elephant Camp,  where they can even learn what it takes to be a mahout, the official name for an elephant handler.

This is one of the most popular islands in Southeast Asia , with a coastline that curls and weaves, creating headlands, promontories, deep coves, tucked-away inlets, and a good selection of gorgeous beaches. At times, the size of the place might make visitors forget that Phuket is an island, the largest island in the country, no less. 

Size is also a talking point at Phra Phuttha Ming Mongkhon Ek Nakkhiri, known by many simply as Phuket Big Buddha, a complex with a mammoth statue of Buddhism's founder. The idol of Buddha is more than 150 feet in height and is built of concrete and marble. From its vantage point on Nakkerd Hill, the statue offers views of some of Phuket's most famous stretches of waterfront, like Karon Bay and Chalong Bay. There are many beaches around the island, from popular spots like Rawai and Mai Khao to hidden-gem refuges such as Banana Beach. Fans of sunsets should hit Laem Phromthep, in the island's south, for peerless views of the sun disappearing below the horizon.

Railay Beach

This peninsula in Krabi province can only be reached by boat, making it feel like an island, a trick of geography that might seem confusing until you get there. The broad, sandy beach on the west of the peninsula gently curls along the water across a narrow strip of land from the main ferry pier on the east, and since it faces west, the sunsets are spectacular. They are especially stunning at low tide when the sea recedes to leave small patches of water reflecting the sun as it drops, setting the ground ablaze in golds and pinks. 

The scenery is also hypnotic, with towering limestone cliffs at either end of the beach. These cliffs attract many visitors who come to Railay Beach primarily to climb the rocks but also to take advantage of the sumptuous sand and sea. A small cave shrine called Phra Nang is the sole traditional tourist site, a little haven that sailors particularly revere.

The center of life in the post-classical Sukhothai Kingdom, Sukhothai is another fascinating journey into the past. Along with other nearby towns, Sukhothai is a UNESCO World Heritage site, part of a nexus that was home to temples, monasteries, military outposts, and a governmental body, all of this existing more than 700 years ago. The grandness of the development will be evident during a visit to the Sukhothai Historical Park, where the temples, pagodas, large statues of Buddha, moats, and sturdy walls attest to the scope of this center. 

There are even remnants of a dam used to control the water supply, illustrating the advanced engineering and planning in place many centuries ago. One highlight is Wat Si Chum, a temple where a huge Buddha seems to fill the entire space. The statue is brightly lit from above as the shrine's roof is no longer intact, destroyed by the ravages of time.

Thung Teao Forest National Park

Krabi is a province that tourists often visit just for the beaches, including several spots mentioned in this list. But Krabi isn't all about the sea. Thung Teao Forest National Park is a deep dive into the wonderful world of flora and fauna, with walkways that pierce canyons of trees and waterways that delight for various reasons. 

The marquee attraction here is the emerald pool, also known as the crystal lagoon, a gorgeous body of water whose shimmering colors mesmerize all onlookers. It's also an excellent place for a refreshing dip and a beautiful spot for cooling off from the tropical temperatures. Other parts of the park offer stunning contrasts, from the whites of limestone cliffs to the dense green of thick jungles and forests and some seriously excellent birdwatching. While it doesn't really get cold here, be sure to spend some time in the natural hot springs that flow through sections of rock. There is never a bad time to experience natural hot springs, after all.

A low-key town southeast of Bangkok and close to the border with Cambodia, Trat has a seductive, easygoing charm about it, as it has yet to succumb to the lure of mass tourism. It also features some excellent shopping, a busy commercial center with plenty of trading in precious gems (there is a strong ruby mining industry in Trat province), and one that welcomes plenty of potential buyers and sellers from neighboring Cambodia. Some of that trade will be in fruits, as Trat is a powerhouse for growing produce, helped by consistent rainfall that keeps fruit trees healthy and hydrated. Among the sweet delights are longan, mangosteen, and salak, or snake fruit, named for its scaly skin. 

For many, Trat is just a stopover for a trip to nearby islands. The largest is Ko Chang, a destination with undulating mountains and hills, sheer cliffs, and large tracts of forest. There are also some astonishing beaches, especially along the west coast.

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Travel Tips

12 Best Places to Visit in South East Asia

By Rhiannon Bryant

Rhiannon is a Contiki Trip Manager in Asia who enjoys constantly being on the go. Exploring new places, tasting new foods and spending all her time between trips hiking, and on photography story telling journeys.

Published on Apr 04, 2024

South East Asia is composed of eleven countries with impressive diversity in religion, culture and history. SE Asian countries share an overlapping history with a mixture of cuisines and cultures influenced by many ethnic groups and ethnic minority groups. There are thousands of years of storytelling; tales of war tragedies, liberation and achievements.

These can be experienced today by sightseeing monuments, walking tours, bicycle tours, and jeep tours run by specialist guides explaining everything you need to know, incorporating food tastings, cooking classes, water puppet shows and circuses performed in intimate settings sharing folk stories with traditional instruments. The natural beauty of limestone karst islands, land locked countries, rivers, beaches, mountains and volcanoes can be explored by boat, hiking trips and scuba diving; on land and off land.

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Asian Adventure

1. palawan, the philippines.

The Philippines is one of the most talked about travel destinations at the moment, and we can see why with its beautiful white beaches . It’s definitely one of the best places to visit in South East Asia and you CANNOT miss a trip to Palawan. Palawan is one of the larger islands of the Philippines and it is a traveller’s haven. You could easily spend weeks here exploring all of the hidden beaches, taking boat trips around the islands and islets, exploring the hidden lagoons, scuba diving and snorkelling to see life under water, and watching the sunsets in the every afternoon.

One of the best places to catch sunset is Las Cabanas Beach in El Nido. And if you’re not afraid of early mornings, then the sunrise hike to Taraw Peak is a must do for your bucket list. Palawan is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, and the most popular destinations visited from here are El Nido and Coron.

One of the best times to visit Palawan is April, and make sure to do the underground river cruise, diving in Coron around the old war ship ruins, and try out Balabac for your off the beaten track activities with limited tourists around. It’s easy to explore the secluded beaches by kayaking around the coastlines, witnessing Indigenous  fishing communities, seeing limestone cliffs, exploring the marine reserves and testing out your diving skills at one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Tubbataha Reef.

Palawan is also actually home to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park. This underground river system is surrounded by well-preserved limestone formations, and a forest full of wildlife, making it a must visit destination for nature lovers.

Image source: Contiki

2. Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Sabah is a state of Malaysia located on the northern portion of Borneo, in East Malaysia. Sabah’s signature attractions range from nature-based activities like hiking, diving, visiting geoparks, and cultural attractions to promote the indigenous villages on the island.

Sabah is all about conservation and preservation making it an excellent holiday destination for sustainable tourism lovers. This tropical paradise has beautiful beaches, an abundance of marine life, striking sunsets, and a natural ambience. Some of the main attractions on the island are: Maliau Basin, Bohey Dulang, Danum Valley Conservation Area, Mount Kinabalu and the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

Wildlife safaris along the Kinabatangan River and Weston River give you the opportunity to see rare water bird species, fireflies, crocodiles, and if you’re lucky enough orangutangs too. Inland you can explore the tranquil rainforest of Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and Geopark: Kinabalu Park.

In Kinabalu Park you can face your fears on the world’s highest via ferrata, Mountain Torq, located at Mt Kinabalu’s Panalaban rock face. The walk starts at 3,200m above sea level and ends at 3,776m above sea level. If you’re into diving, a 45 minute flight from Kota Kinabalu will take you to Sipadan Island, renowned for being one of the world’s best dive sites. There’s 40 acres to explore, composed of corals, more than 3,000 species of fish, green and hawksbill turtles. You are permitted to have your Open Water Divers certification to dive in this zone. 

Malaysia and Singapore Highlights

3. kuala lumpur, malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur is a federal territory and the capital city of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur has undergone rapid development in recent decades and is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Towers. The Petronas Towers have become an iconic symbol of Kuala Lumpur and one of the main focal points around the city.

Below Petronas Towers is the popular KLCC, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, a multipurpose development area and one of the best shopping malls in the city. Kuala Lumpur is known for the cultural diversity and ethnic groups. The three major religions in Kuala Lumpur are: Islam, Hinduism and Tao Buddhism. A popular tourist site to visit in Kuala Lumpur is Batu Caves. The translation for Batu Caves is Rock Caves, and is famous for the Hindu shrine of the God Murugan. The statue was unveiled in 2006 and took 3 years to construct. The statue stands at 43m tall, and behind it lie the famous rainbow coloured stairs.

The Kuala Lumpur Central Market was built in 1888 originally as a wet market. Known to the locals as Pasar Seni, it is easily accessible on the major public transport lines and today is used as a centre for Malaysian culture, art, craft and cuisine. Getting off at Pasar Seni station, it’s a short walk to the market complex which has been newly renovated across 2023 and 2024. The market has a brand new Makan Hall (Food Hall), and an array of local shops, vendors and handicrafts.

The stalls rotate and feature locally made products from Malaysia. Here you can buy copper water vessels with health benefits, traditional batik styled clothing, enjoy delicious local foods like nasi lemak, asam laksa, and hydrate on fresh coconuts. There are small stationery shops with brightly coloured postcards for sale, and stamps making it convenient to ship home from here. Just a 5-10 min walk from Central Market is Chinatown. You can spend the afternoon here between the hustle and bustle of negotiating for knock offs at the market, taste testing more local treats, and spending the afternoon wandering around the old buildings, looking at graffiti temples and trying your luck to find the secret bars all around here.

Image source: Rhiannon Bryant

4. Singapore City, Republic of Singapore

Singapore is a sunny, tropical city-state island off the Malay Peninsula, and is one of the smallest countries in the world. Singapore is surrounded by 62 smaller islands, and famous for being a global financial centre.

It’s one of the most densely populated cities in the world, but at the same time is balanced with being one of the greenest places in the world. Known for the Jewel Waterfall in Terminal 1, of Changi Airport, having the UNESCO World Heritage Site Botanic Gardens, and of course the boat shaped hotel, Marina Bay Sands. The Marina By Sands opened in 2010, and at this time it was deemed the world’s most expensive standalone casino property at $8billion SGD. The resort includes 2561 rooms, convention centres, a museum, a theatre, restaurants, and bars in the 3 sky towers.

A must do when in Singapore is heading to the SkyPark observation deck to see the incredible views of Singapore, or head to Ce La Vie for an afternoon refreshment and watch the sunset over the skyscrapers of the city. Below Marina Bay Sands is the iconic Gardens by the Bay, home of the cloud forest which hosts many interactive shows throughout the year, and in the Supertree Grove you can see the nightly light shows at 7:45pm and 8:45pm.

The best place in town to experience a Hawker food centre is Lau Pa Sat, every cuisine you could think of is available, and easily accessible by public transport: the most efficient way to get around Singapore. A few days is needed to explore the city so you can properly get lost in the alleyways that surround Haji Lane, Arab Street, and Bali Lane. Here you will find boutique shops, vintage clothing stores, record shops, bakeries with fresh sweets, authentic Persian rugs, handmade perfumes and oils, textiles and walls lined with graffiti.

Singapore’s maritime past, as a port city has shaped the atmosphere and look of the city throughout the years. Dutch and Portuguese styled buildings, painted vibrant colours, that have gone from merchant sellers, to residential buildings, to touristic hot spots. Singapore is full of hidden pockets to explore like Little India and Chinatown, and how could you forget the wonderful museums, the world’s first ever night zoo, sky walks and cable car, man-made waterfalls, and the famous Raffles built in 1887 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.

Bangkok to Singapore Adventure

5. krabi, thailand.

It’s time to visit Krabi, Thailand . Known for its beautiful beaches this destination is definitely one of the best places to visit in South East Asia. Krabi has something for everyone, beaches, parties, hiking, lagoons, kayaking, Muay Thai, street food, rock climbing and more. Krabi province is split into Krabi Old Town, and Aonang.

Just a short long tail boat ride away is the mesmerizing Railay beach. Here you can enjoy the quiet beaches, explore the coastline and sip on fresh coconuts before heading back to Aonang for an evening of street food at the new Landmark Night Markets, watch the fire shows at Reeve Beach Club, bargain with the locals whilst shopping at all the local vendors, see live rock bands at Boogie Bar, and on the weekends witness the local Muay Thai fights happening at the stadium.

Not to miss is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the south: Tiger Cave temple. There aren’t any tigers (sorry) but you will get one of the best panoramic views you’ll ever encounter! It’s a challenging 1237 steps to the top, but totally worth it. This is a religious site, so templewear (shoulders and knees covered, loose clothing, covered mid-riff) is required once you reach the top.

If you’re after a challenging hike, you can try the Dragon Crest Trail (Ngon Nak Nature Trail), the round trip can take anywhere between 3-5 hours depending on your fitness levels. A nice easy walk can be found to the left of the main Aonang Beach, it’s called Monkey Trail and will take approx. 15-20 mins to walk over to the secluded private beach at Centara Grand.

Krabi Old Town is famous for its authentic flair. It’s best to visit the Old Town on the weekend to enjoy the local traditional markets, walk along the pier, explore the caves, or venture to some of the small Buddhist temples. Sound amazing? We’ve got plenty of Thai Island Hopper trips that’ll take you to Krabi and so many more gorgeous islands!

6. Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

Khao Sok National Park is located in Southern Thailand and is one of the best kept secrets the country has to offer. Aside from Thailand’s beautiful white beaches, there are approximately 150 national parks throughout Thailand, each with its own character and providing visitors with a number of unique experiences.

Khao Sok National Park is said to be the remnants of one of the oldest rainforests in the world, dating back further than the Amazon Rainforest. Not only is the National Park full of rainforests, it has jungles, breathtaking views, limestone karsts, deep valleys, lakes, caves and many wild animals. Khao Sok is an adventure lover’s heaven situated between Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui making it an easily accessible destination in Southern Thailand.

Surat Thani is a city close by which is a transport hub connecting all of the best places throughout Thailand, by air, road and marine options. One of the most interesting and stunningly beautiful places to see in the National Park is Cheow Lan Lake. A man-made freshwater lake that offers overnight stays on floating raft houses and luxury tents.

You can spend the afternoons exploring the jungle hikes, seeing Pakarang Caves (Coral Caves) full of stalagmites and stalactites. Khao Sok’s landscape blends tropical evergreen forest, and rainforest hosting about 200 different floral species per hectare marking it is a biodiversity haven. The rich habitat welcomes many species of wildlife including 48 mammal species, 311 bird species, more than 30 bat species, reptiles and insects and not to forget the unique Rafflesia.

Known for being the largest flower in the world, with a strong smell, the Rafflesia was named after the Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who was the leader of the expedition through this area in 1818. The Rafflesia is the official flower of the province of Surat Thani. These flowers are seasonal and most likely to be seen between January to March, sadly numbers are decreasing and becoming rare due to habitat losses and collection by humans. To uncover the Khao Sok National Park (and so much more), hop onto our Bangkok to Singapore adventure!

Thai Island Hopper West

7. chiang mai, thailand.

Hidden amongst the borders of the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Myanmar, Laos), lies a beautiful city in Thailand, Chiang Mai. One of the best times to visit Chiang Mai is during the high season, November-April. February being one of the most vibrant months for the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, or celebrating Songkran (Thai New Year) for a wet and wonderful celebration with parades and water fights.

Chiang Mai is one of the most historically significant cities in Thailand, and was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom (Kingdom of a million rice fields). Chiang Mai is now known as the culture capital of Thailand. Here you will find 33 Buddhist temples inside the walls of the Old City and one of the best bucket list items for Chiang Mai is Wat Chedi Luang. This Buddhist temple is still used for worship and practice today. Onsite you have the incredible opportunity to participate in Monk Chat, during the afternoon you can sit down and practice your Thai and help the Monks to practice their English.

When you stop in Chiang Mai, you’ll may want around 3-5 days to explore the city and the surrounds. There are Sticky Rice waterfalls, the Golden Stupah Doi Suthep, the National Park, street food tours, vespa tours, professional Muay Thai fights, lots and lots of markets (Saturday and Sunday walking street are the best) and a day trip to Chiang Rai to see the infamous White, Black and Blue Temples.

A must try food in Northern Thailand is Khao Soi. An egg noodle soup in a curry paste broth, served with meat, topped with crispy fried noodles, pickled veg and fresh limes. For all this and more, discover Contiki’s Northern Thai Highlights !

8. Luang Prabang, Laos

There’s no better time to visit one of South East Asia’s best kept secrets, Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang is often mistaken as the capital city of Laos. It was once the old capital, but is now known as the cultural capital. Luang Prabang is situated on the fork of two rivers in Laos, the Mekong and Nam Khan River.

Laos is a landlocked country heavily dependent on agricultural opportunities. The country is very mountainous with many different ethnic groups living along the river’s edge of the lowlands, the midlands and then the Hmong people who call the mountains home. Luang Prabang is a listed UNESCO world heritage site. The city is infamous for its French colonial styled buildings, beautiful Buddhist temples, romantic ambience and slow paced living. It’s a traveller’s dream and should be on your SE Asia bucket list. 

Contiki actually offers an in-depth travelling experience through SE Asia on the Cambodia and Laos Uncovered trip . The trip is 8 days long and starts off in the beautiful Luang Prabang, Laos and finishes in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This in-depth tour unveils the devastating periods throughout history which Cambodia and Laos have faced. It also highlights many positive aspects of tourism and includes multiple MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences to raise awareness and promote the importance of sustainable tourism and how to be involved.

Cambodia & Laos Uncovered

9. siem reap, cambodia.

Flying into Siem Reap is an eye-opening experience to the vastness of Cambodia. If you have flown from the capital city Phnom Penh, or other neighbouring countries like Thailand or Laos, you will see the flat plains of Cambodia, lined with hundreds and hundreds of Cambodia’s national trees from your flight; Borassus Flabellifer, a type of palm tree, known as a Tnaot in Khmer language.

These trees are iconic to Cambodia, and Khmer territory. And when you’re in Siem Reap, it’s time to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat. It is the largest religious monument in the world, and the only building on a national flag. Angkor Wat began construction in the 12 th Century by King Suryavarman II and was designed as a Hindu temple, the religion of the ruler at the time.

However, by the end of the 12 th Century through architectural differences it was then considered a Buddhist site. Angkor Wat is one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia, it consists of temples, basins, reservoirs, canals, and communication routes. For centuries it was the centre of the Khmer Kingdom.

Angkor Wat is historical proof of exceptional civilizations exemplifying cultural, religious and symbolic values, as well as containing architectural and artistic significance. Around the Angkor complex you will see lots of rice paddies. The communities who live in the complex area come from a long line of agricultural farmers who racticed rice cultivation, their ancestors dating back to the times of Angkor.

Siem Reap is a beautiful, laid back city with lots of activities to see and do. A 3-day pass for Angkor Wat is popular to explore all the ruins and temples, see sunrises and sunsets, explore Bayon temple with the many faces, or run through the ruins of Ta Phrom like you see on Tomb Raider.

10. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon up until 30 th April 1975, has long been one of the cultural, economic and political centres of Vietnam . Ho Chi Minh City’s dynamic cityscape draws together old and new Vietnam in the most compact of spaces which represent the city’s past and future.

The city has always been one of the best places to visit in South East Asia and you will always hear backpackers and travelers telling you about their Ho Chi Minh City experiences. The international airport Tan Son Nhat is open to 6 domestic airlines, and 40 international airlines, serving approximately 13 million international passengers and 15 million domestic passengers per year.

HCMC is an easily accessible point in Vietnam to start off your adventures, close to the Mekong Delta to fully immerse yourself in local cultural experiences, day trips to the Cu Chi Tunnels and War Remnants Museum, and see the mesmerizing A O Show Bamboo Circus at the Saigon Opera House. With HCMC as your starting point, once you get used to the chaotic traffic, the delicious new cuisine, handling a new currency and navigating your way through the city, you’ll have the confidence to tackle the rest of Vietnam’s best destinations.

Vietnam Experience

11. ha long bay, vietnam.

Ha Long Bay in northeastern Vietnam is a well-known UNESCO World Heritage Listed Site, and is famous for its limestone karts and mountains that rise up from emerald waters, formed thousands of years ago.

This archipelago of islands was named one of the ‘New 7 Natural Wonders’ of the world in 2011. The jaw dropping scenery in Ha Long Bay makes it a very popular destination for domestic and international travelers for day trips, or overnight stays on junk boats. As you sail through the limestone karst islands that surround you, see the green jungles, mountain tops and crystal clear waters you can’t help but feel you have stepped foot onto a movie set.

Ha Long Bay has hosted many film sets over the years, some of the most famous being Pan (2015) using the vast caves of Hang Son Doong with the underground rivers and reflecting pools which were perfect for bringing Neverland to real life, Kong: Skull Island (2017) and James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

Vietnamese folk stories say that the islands and islets of Ha Long Bay are the jewels that the dragon spat out when defending the Vietnamese against China. Ha Long translates to “descending dragon” to pay homage to the Mother Dragon for protecting the Viet people. Vietnamese people believe that they have dragon origins and that is why these creatures are used in storytelling and can be seen throughout history. This year during February, the Vietnamese people celebrated TET, and welcomed in the new year, the Year of the Dragon.

12. Bali, Indonesia

One of the most beautiful places in South East Asia, famous for its beautiful beaches, the luscious green rice terraces, and the gateway to Nusa Penida. Rice is an important staple food throughout Asia. The way the rice is cultivated varies depending on the different regions.

In Indonesia, rice terraces are step like fields which are carved into the hillsides. They allow for efficient use of limited land, and water resources in mountainous areas. The terraces decrease both erosion and surface runoff, and can easily support crops that require irrigation systems.

Subak is the Balinese word for the traditional irrigation systems that are used in the rice terrace farming, and it’s said to date back as far as the 8 th century. It is a popular farming technique used in Bali, and throughout Indonesia.

Two of the most beautiful rice terraces found in Bali are Jatiluwih and Tegallalang. Tegallalang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site offering visually delightful shaped rice fields. It’s approximately a 20 minute drive from Ubud making it one of the most popular and most accessible terraces to visit as part of a day trip. Ubud is a popular destination for yoga classes, health food cafes, retreats and getaways.

10 best islands in Thailand you need to visit

Philippines island hopping: your perfect 2-week itinerary, 6 best things to do in singapore, stop dreaming and make sh*t happen.

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COMMENTS

  1. 17 Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Ko Phi Phi. #8 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand. Ko Phi Phi features some of Thailand's most popular beaches. Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two main islands, is known for its lively party ...

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    Opt for the Thai "winter" of November to January or the rainy season. 3. Phuket. Best island for a blend of cultures. Although it is the biggest island in Thailand, Phuket hosts an entirely different culture from the rest of the country: a mix of Hokkien Chinese, Thai and Malaysian elements.

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    13. Chiang Rai. Akuppa / Flickr. The northernmost city in Thailand, Chiang Rai is the place to go to explore the Golden Triangle, which contains the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. A busy town offering something for everyone, Chiang Rai is often used as a base for exploring the surrounding region.

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    4. Koh Samui. Home to some of the best palm-fringed beaches in Thailand and plenty of luxury resorts, Koh Samui has a lot more to offer than sunbathing heaven. One of the most popular holiday spots in Thailand, Koh Samui is home to mountainous rainforests, postcard-worthy beaches, and breathtaking sunsets.

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    12. Climbing at Tonsai Beach. A climber at Tonsai Beach. With its stunning limestone cliffs hugging sandy coastlines and turquoise waters, Thailand attracts plenty of climbers all year long - and while there are many destinations that offer stunning routes, Tonsai Beach has long been considered a climbers' paradise.

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    Koh Phi Phi. Image credit: EPasqualli/Getty Images. Thailand has more than 1,400 islands scattered around its coastline, but few are as famous or iconic as the Phi Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea. Comprising two islands — Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh — Koh Phi Phi is known for its natural beauty, excellent diving, and raucous party scene.

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    Khao Sok National Park. Khao Sok National park is one of the most well-known natural places to visit in Thailand. One of the best places to visit in Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is located on the mainland in southern Thailand. It's a large rainforest that was made into a national park in 1980.

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    9. Cycle around some incredible ruins. Before Bangkok was even a gleam in King Rama I's eye, the country's capitals lived further up from the Chao Phraya River, first in Sukhothai and then in Ayuthaya. Now both UNESCO World Heritage sites, their ruins testify to the power and beauty of what was formerly known as Siam.

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    1. Wat Phra Chetuphon. 51,244. Points of Interest & Landmarks. Admission tickets from ₹1,764. One of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok features the famous Reclining Buddha, which is the largest in Thailand measuring more than 150 feet in length. See full details. See ways to experience (259) 2023.

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    Here are the 5 best places to visit in Pattaya, Thailand: Pattaya Walking Street, the pedestrian street, with its trendy shops and restaurants. The beach. The Sanctuary of Truth, built of wood and adorned with many statues. The Floating Market. The Nong Noon Garden, a beautiful botanical garden.

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    2. The Grand Palace. 35,829. Historic Sites. Established in 1782, this ceremonial residence of the Kings of Thailand features several magnificent buildings like the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Take your time to explore the imposing courtyards and visit the major landmarks within the Grand Palace complex.

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    Khao Sok National Park. TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre. Although neither the largest nor oldest of the national parks in Thailand, Khao Sok is a memorable favorite and great place to visit for many visitors. It's nothing like the popular Doi Inthanon National Park in the north.

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    Climbing Bun Tao (Sticky Waterfall) near Chiang Mai, Thailand. Thailand shocked us. This massive Southeast Asian country quickly became one of our favorite family travel destinations.Thailand ranked up with the Philippines, Iceland, and Peru among the top. The country has become massively popular among ex-pats searching for affordable, beautiful, and safe destinations.

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    2. The Grand Palace. 35,803. Historic Sites. Established in 1782, this ceremonial residence of the Kings of Thailand features several magnificent buildings like the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Take your time to explore the imposing courtyards and visit the major landmarks within the Grand Palace complex.

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    2. Khao Yai National Park. Khao Yai National Park. Khao Yai National Park is Thailand's first and largest national park. This beautiful park is the perfect place to get away from the noise and hustle and bustle of city life. The park is home to many rare plant species and it is also home to many rare animal species.

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    12 days / from 2750 USD. Thailand's Islands and Highlands. Experience the best of Thailand as you discover glitzy Bangkok's temples, markets and waterways. Compare the bustling, lively capital with the glorious rolling hills and lush interior of mountainous Chiang Mai before heading south to beach bliss and unexpected cultural delights in hedonistic Phuket.

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    33. Kaeng Krachan National Park. Located on the border with Myanmar, Kaeng Krachan is the largest national park in the country and one of the most natural places to visit in Thailand. It covers an area of 2,914 square kilometers spread across the provinces of Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan.

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    See ways to experience (158) 2023. 9. Siam Paragon. 10,489. Shopping Malls. This upscale shopping complex has high-end luxury brands and even fancy car showrooms under one roof. There is also a food hall and gourmet market, where you can find fresh-from-farm goods as well as an array of Thai and international food.

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    5. Koh Phi Phi. Koh Phi Phi is a stunning island in the Andaman Sea known for its crystal-clear waters, vibrant marine life, and picturesque beaches. There is no airport on Koh Phi Phi. You have to take a ferry to Phuket from Phuket, Krabi, or Koh Lanta. Ko Phi Phi was the first island in Thailand we visited.

  21. The 35 Best Things to Do in Thailand

    Table of Contents. The Best Things to Do in Thailand. 1) Scuba Diving in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand. 2) Motorbike Along the Mae Hong Son Loop. 3) Get a Drink at Sky Bar in Bangkok. 4) Island Hopping in the South. 5) Admire the White Temple. 6) Hike to the Phi Phi Viewpoint. 7) Explore a Night Market.

  22. 13 Best Places To Visit In Thailand For First Timers

    Koh Samui, a tropical paradise, offers an amazing trip to one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand. It is also highly renowned for being one of the most livable locations and the second-largest island in the country. This charming "Island of Coconut Trees" is well-equipped with shops, dining options, and pubs.

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    9. Khao Yai National Park. Haew Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park. GETTY IMAGES. "Great wine" may not be the first words that come to mind on a visit to Thailand, but there are some ...

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    Chiang Rai. A three-hour drive northeast of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is another serene city packed with heritage. It also shares its name with the province near Thailand's borders with Myanmar and ...

  25. 12 Best Places to Visit in South East Asia

    12. Bali, Indonesia. One of the most beautiful places in South East Asia, famous for its beautiful beaches, the luscious green rice terraces, and the gateway to Nusa Penida. Rice is an important staple food throughout Asia. The way the rice is cultivated varies depending on the different regions.