Thailand has been a popular tourist destination for many years and although things have changed since the hippie days and $1 beach huts, Thailand still has lots to offer every type of traveller. There are endless places to visit in Thailand, from islands and beaches to cities and villages, this is a country you could return to again and again.
In this post, I’m going to list the top places to visit in Thailand this year. Read on and start planning your trip to the Land of Smiles!
1. Bangkok (The City of Angels)
The capital city of Thailand is a must-see for sure. If you’re arriving by air, chances are you’ll be landing in Bangkok, but if you come to Thailand by boat, train or bus from a neighbouring country, make sure you make your way to the big city.
Bangkok is unlike any place I’ve ever been to — it’s a city that never sleeps. The streets are bustling with people going to work, vendors selling their goods, and motorbikes zipping by. The street food in Bangkok is the best in the country, the parties and nightlife are amazing and there’s a unique blend of modern commercialism and historic sites.
Not only is the vibe incredible and the food fantastic, but there are endless things to do in Bangkok. Don’t miss the Chatuchak weekend market, the Royal Palace and the parks (Lumphini is great). Also, make sure to have a drink at Moon Bar, cruise the Chao Phraya River, shop at the electronic mall…and so much more. Bangkok is definitely one of the top places to visit in Thailand.
In Bangkok, we stayed at and recommend D Varee Xpress and Siri Sathorn Executive Residence. Both of these accommodations are in Silom, a neighbourhood we’ve chosen to stay in during our past visits to the city. For all accommodation options in Bangkok, click here to see reviews and check prices on Booking.com.
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2. Hua Hin
Want to travel and vacation like the locals do? Hua Hin is one of the places to visit in Thailand to do just that! This is a popular weekend destination for Thais and expats, and if you’re looking for the best beach on the mainland, this is where you’ll find it. Hua Hin’s sandy stretch is 8 kilometers long, and if you arrive during the week, you’ll basically have the place to yourself.
Don’t miss Chopstick Hill and the Wat on top, the night market, the floating market, the historic train station, the nearby Rajabhakti Park and the popular Cha-Am resort area (which is around 20 kilometers north).
☞ Click here to see reviews and compare prices on accommodation in Hua Hin on Booking.com
3. Khao Yai National Park
Thailand is filled with natural treasures just waiting to be explored. If you’re interested in seeing Asian Elephants, gibbons, macaques, pythons, bears and more, then definitely check out Khao Yai National Park. This protected area spans 6,155 square kilometers (2,376 square miles) and was the first national park in Thailand. Today there are 127 parks in the country for you to explore.
You can camp with your own tent, rent a tent in the park, or stay in a cabin. If you prefer to stay outside of the park and visit during the day, there are many accommodation options along Thanarat Road, which runs from Pak Chong down to Mu Si and the Khao Yai gates.
Khao Yai National Park is a hiker’s paradise! There are numerous trails you can take via foot or bicycle, and lots of waterfalls to visit. A ranger is recommended for hiking. For our guide to the park, click here. Visiting this National Park is one of the best things to do in Thailand.
4. Koh Chang
This has to be one of the best islands and one of the top places to visit in Thailand. When planning an island-hopping getaway, most travellers think to head south to the Andaman Islands or the southern Gulf trio (Samui, Phangan & Tao)…but, there are some great places in the northern Gulf of Thailand! Koh Chang (Elephant Island) is one such destination.
Despite becoming more popular over the years, this mountainous island still retains its off-track vibe, depending on where on the island you visit. White Sands Beach has an amazing stretch of sand and while this is the busiest beach on the island, with the most resorts, there is still a backpacker scene at the far north end with huts available for rent.
If you’re looking for the party scene, then you’ll want to head to Lonely Beach. If you’re after a chilled out, low key place, then check out Bang Bao Beach and the southeastern villages.
As with many islands in Thailand, the best way to get around and explore Koh Chang is by motorbike. There are more than 5 waterfalls on Koh Chang with many of them on the east coast, which can all be explored by bike. Other days can be spent snorkelling, fishing, diving, sailing, joining a cooking class or just relaxing in a hammock on the beach.
Bonus Tip: If you’re going to Cambodia, this island is on the way and makes for a great stopover 😀
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5. Khao Lak
Located in the gorgeous Andaman Sea, Khao Lak offers travellers a diverse holiday. Whether you want to chill out on the beach, chase waterfalls, or do some awesome day trips to offshore islands, you’ll find it on Khao Lak.
Sadly, this island was hit hard during the 2004 tsunami with around 4,000 fatalities. These days, there is a proper tsunami warning system in place, and escape routes as well. Because of this tragedy, there’s actually a museum set up for visitors to better understand what happened back in 2004.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom here! The beaches of Khao Lak are stunning, the National Parks are a great spot for hiking and wildlife spotting, and the numerous waterfalls are a great place to relax and cool off.
You can also join a liveaboard boat and do some epic scuba diving around the Similan and Surin Islands! For eating, you’ll find an excellent night market and fantastic seafood restaurants. Regardless of the past natural disaster, this is still one of the best places to visit in Thailand if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday.
See Also: The Essential Traveller’s Guide to Khao Lak
☞ Click here to see reviews and compare prices on accommodation in Khao Lak on Booking.com
6. Koh Muk (Koh Mook)
If you’re looking for a less developed, beautiful island, then definitely check out Koh Muk! Located south of Koh Lanta in the Andaman Sea, you’ll find this small, idyllic island.
The jumping-off point for Koh Muk is the city of Trang, with a boat to the island taking only around 30 minutes. Once you arrive on Koh Muk, get ready for some serious relaxation. This is one of the most chilled-out places to visit in Thailand.
This is an island that moves at a slow pace. You’ll find small villages, empty beaches and friendly locals. Koh Muk offers numerous types of accommodation from simple huts and bungalows to air-conditioned resorts (just a couple). This is definitely the place to get a hut on the beach and simply enjoy the view. If you’re feeling a bit more active, consider doing a snorkelling day trip, or visiting Emerald Cave.
☞ Click here to see reviews and compare prices on accommodation on Koh Muk with Booking.com
This funky hippie village in Northern Thailand is a place you won’t want to miss. Sure, it’s become more popular over the years, but it’s still a great place to chill out in a cheap hut alongside the river. Pai is surrounded by rice paddies, jungle and waterfalls, making this a great place to get away from it all.
Don’t miss Pai’s nighttime walking street and market, Pombok and Mo Paeng Waterfalls, hot springs, the canyon, and of course, hanging out at one of the many cafes and bars. For such a small town, there are numerous things to do in Pai to keep you busy. This is one of the best places to visit in Thailand if you’re looking to chill out away from the beaches.
☞ Click here to see reviews and compare prices on accommodation in Pai on Booking.com
8. Chiang Mai
Another popular place to see in the north of Thailand is Chiang Mai. This destination has recently become a hotspot for digital nomads due to its solid internet, excellent amenities, affordable accommodation and entrepreneurial scene.
However, it’s still an awesome place for travellers to visit! Chiang Mai is a walled city offering many things to do within the city itself, plus some great day trips.
If you’re a foodie, you won’t be disappointed in Chiang Mai, which offers cuisines from all around the world, plus some incredible Thai food as well. If you’re curious how the tasty Thai meals are prepared, join a cooking class and learn how to make Pad Thai, spring rolls, curry and more.
Also, make sure you don’t miss the night market, Wat Chedi Luang, Muay Thai boxing and getting a Thai massage. Yep, there are loads of cool things to do in Chiang Mai!
For day trips outside of Chiang Mai, I recommend visiting the Bo Sang Handicraft Centre which makes beautiful umbrellas from scratch, and the Elephant Nature Park which is a rehabilitation center for abused and mistreated elephants.
As an awesome 4 day trip, you can rent a motorbike and ride the Mae Hong Son Loop from Chiang Mai, which takes in Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son and Pai.
☞ Click here to see reviews & compare prices on accommodation in Chiang Mai on Booking.com
9. Railay (One of Our Favourite Places to Visit in Thailand!)
Technically Railay isn’t an island, but since you can only access it by boat, it feels like one. This awesome destination is located in the Krabi area of Thailand and is a must-see for rock climbers, backpackers and holidaymakers.
Limestone karsts jut out of the sea providing an incredible scene as you arrive by boat. The beaches here are beautiful and the lush, mountainous backdrop is pretty spectacular.
There are 4 beaches to visit on Railay, and all of them are easy to reach. West Railay is the main beach that you’ll arrive at and offers the most restaurants and accommodations. East Railay is where many of the backpacker accommodations are, but the beach there isn’t great for swimming.
Tonsai is the backpacker and rock climbing hub, and to get here you need to do a jungle hike, walk around at low tide, or take a boat. And finally, Phrah Nang beach is a stunning place that offers cave swimming…and a cave with wooden penis statues.
Beyond the beaches, don’t miss hiking to the Railay viewpoint (which is a difficult climb, but worth it) and if you’re up for it, check out the lagoon while you’re up there. You should also check out Diamond Cave (stalagmites and stalactites) and Princess Cave (penis statues).
Finally, if you’re feeling active, you can go kayaking for the afternoon, followed up with a beautiful sunset. Don’t miss Railay, it’s definitely one of our favourite places to visit in Thailand. Learn more about planning a trip to Krabi here.
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10. Koh Samui
If you’re looking for a more upscale holiday with a pristine beach, then Koh Samui is the island you’re after. We spent 1.5 months living here as Digital Nomads and enjoyed our luxury villa in the jungle, our motorbike rides to the beach, the night markets and of course, the lovely Thai people.
We stayed in the Lamai area, which we found to have a good mix between having enough to see and do, but not being overcrowded.
On Koh Samui, you’ll want to check out the night markets which are in different towns: Bophut (Fridays), MaeNam (Thursdays), Lamai (Sundays), Chaweng (food court daily, shopping stalls closed Fridays and Sundays).
For beaches, Lamai beach is beautiful with the center to southern end being the best places for swimming. Chaweng beach has incredibly powdery white sand backed by hotels and palm trees. Lipa Noi is a pristine spot on the west coast with just a couple of accommodation options, I highly recommend checking out that beach for a peaceful afternoon. Mae Nam is another great area with a pretty 7 kilometer beach, numerous restaurants and funky beach bars.
Make sure you rent a motorbike during your stay and drive the shortcut to Mae Nam from Lamai. This ride is absolutely stunning and virtually vehicle free! Finally, don’t miss the Namuang Waterfalls 1 & 2 (18m and 80m respectively), and Hin Lad Waterfall (a secluded spot). There are lots of fun things to do in Koh Samui to keep you busy.
*Bonus, there are numerous things to do in Koh Phangan, which is the neighbouring island with Koh Samui. Hop on a 30-minute boat ride and check out Koh Phangan for the day.
See Also: A Digital Nomad Guide to Living on Koh Samui
☞ Click here to see reviews & compare prices on accommodation on Koh Samui on Booking.com
11. Koh Lanta
The more popular neighbouring hotspots of Phuket and Koh Phi Phi tend to make it onto most traveller’s itineraries, but less developed Koh Lanta is still worthy of a visit. The west coast of the island is dotted with beautiful beaches, many of which are practically empty. Don’t miss Kawkwang, Khlong Dao, Long Beach, Bamboo Beach and especially, Mu Koh Lanta National Park.
Once you have your fill of beach time, head to the old town for a stroll, join a cooking class, do some yoga, explore the markets, and of course, make sure to watch sunset from one of the many funky beach bars. There are lots of things to do in Koh Lanta, click here to learn more.
☞ Click here to see reviews & compare prices on accommodation on Koh Lanta on Booking.com
12. Koh Kood (Koh Kut)
We travelled to Koh Kood during our very first year-long trip in 2008. Although things have definitely changed on the island since that time, it’s still a relatively off-track destination with hardly any development compared to other islands in Thailand.
Koh Kood is one of the places to visit in Thailand if you’re interested in relaxed evenings, lazy beach days and enjoying the peace and quiet. It’s not a place for partying, shopping or nightlife.
The west and south coasts of the island are where you’ll find the accommodation and the best beaches. There aren’t any beaches on the east coast, while the center of the island is pretty much filled with an impenetrable amount of rubber plantations and dense jungle. Klong Chao waterfall is located on the west coast of the island, in the center, and is the most popular waterfall on Koh Kood.
☞ Click here to see reviews & compare prices on accommodation on Koh Kood on Booking.com
13. Koh Lipe
Little Koh Lipe sits in the southern Andaman Sea, actually quite close to Langkawi Island in Malaysia. This 2 kilometer by 1 kilometer island may be small in size, but surprisingly there are quite a few things to do in Koh Lipe.
Apart from spending hours on end soaking up the sun on some of Koh Lipe’s incredible beaches, you’ll also find lots of activities on offer here. For starters, you can rent a kayak and explore the nearby islands, which are just a quick 10 minute or so paddle away. The water around Koh Lipe is calm, making kayaking a breeze.
Another option is to hike to the Koh Lipe viewpoint for excellent views over nearby Koh Adang. The sunset is good from here as well, but be prepared to hike back in the dark. If you’d like to visit Koh Adang, hire a boatman from the pier for 100 baht per person.
Once on the island there are 3 viewpoints you can hike up to, with the third one taking around an hour to reach. As with any tropical hike, make sure you have a sufficient amount of water, a hat, bug spray and sunscreen.
☞ Click here to see reviews & compare prices on accommodation on Koh Lipe on Booking.com
14. Chiang Rai
If you’re visiting the north of Thailand (and you should), then you can’t miss Chiang Rai. This small city is about a 3 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai and is worth the 185 baht. Chiang Rai is most famous for its aptly named White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), which is blindingly white!
Even if you think you’ve seen way too many Wats and you’re “templed out”, don’t miss this unique site. The carvings here are ornate and detailed, and although photography isn’t allowed inside, you’ll get more than enough incredible photos of the outside.
There are numerous other things to do in Chiang Rai including the clock tower, Baan Dam Museum, the bustling night market and Khun Korn Waterfall. Chiang Rai is also known for its lychees and pineapples, so make sure to visit one of the many farms and villages surrounding the city.
☞ Click here to see reviews & compare prices on accommodation in Chiang Rai on Booking.com
15. Historic City of Ayutthaya
If you’re interested in history, culture, and ruins, this is a site you won’t want to miss during your travels in Thailand. Ayutthaya was founded in c. 1350 and was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. What you see today are the remains, which have been restored and are protected by UNESCO.
At the Ayutthaya Historical Park you’ll find statues of reclining Buddhas, seated Buddhas, headless Buddhas, a Buddha face that have been absorbed by tree roots, numerous stupas and much more. The ruins here are incredible and can be visited on a day trip from Bangkok.
The journey to Ayutthaya takes about an hour by minivan, which can be taken from Mo Chit bus station. Once you reach the site, you’ll probably want to hire a tuk-tuk, or a bicycle to explore the ruins. Alternatively, there are fully guided tours that you can easily organize from a tour agent in Bangkok (be sure to check ratings & recommendations before booking)
While you can walk to some of the areas, Ayutthaya is quite spread out so hiring transport is a wise choice for those hot days.
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16. Koh Tao
The “Turtle Island” is definitely one of the best places to visit in Thailand. It’s also one of the best places in the world to get scuba certified. There are numerous dive shops that offer open-water courses at very reasonable prices. Plus, it’s possible to actually learn in the sea instead of in a pool. That definitely gives you a heads up once you’re actually ready to dive.
Not interested in diving? No worries! Plenty of visitors to Koh Tao skip out on the scuba diving. There are many more things to do in Koh Tao including hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and even playing mini-golf.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation, you can find that here as well. Koh Tao has some great beaches to chill out on, or you could just hang by the pool all day sipping tropical drinks.
As an island that’s very much on the “Banana Pancake Trail”, Koh Tao also has quite the party scene. The Koh Tao pub crawl is recommended if you’re looking for a wild night out. Buckets of booze, ladyboy cabaret shows, and fire twirlers. It’s sure to be a crazy night.
This city is actually called Nakhon Ratchasim, but it’s more commonly referred to simply as Korat. Thanks to its accessibility to Bangkok, it’s the perfect place to begin a trip in the Isaan (Northeast) region of Thailand.
Isaan is one of the places to visit in Thailand if you’re looking to escape the hordes of bucket-drinking backpackers and selfie-snapping tour groups. You won’t find many banana pancakes here, but you will find some of the best food in Thailand. Load up on some Pad krapao moo (spicy minced pork cooked with basil), which will only cost you about a dollar here.
The most visited attraction is a statue of Thao Suranaree, a local heroine who helped defeat an attack from intruding Laotian forces in 1826. You’ll see locals kneel before the statue making offerings of flowers and incense. There’s even a small museum here that details her famous victory.
As with other Thai cities, you’ll also find plenty of temples, markets, and parks to explore in Korat. If you want to see what life is like in Thailand without mass tourism, this is a great place to visit. From here you’ll also have easy access to places like Khao Yai National Park and Phimai Historical Park.
18. Mae Hong Son
One of the best adventures you can take in Thailand is riding the 1,864 curves of the Mae Hong Son Loop. Rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai, pick up a map, and hit the road on this epic loop around Northern Thailand.
This motorbike journey is named after the province that you spend much of the trip riding through. The capital city goes by the same name, and you’ll definitely end up spending at least a night here if you do the loop.
While you’re in this small Thai city in the mountains, be sure to check out the picturesque pond and the temple. It’s illuminated at night and is a beautiful sight. There’s also a small night market here where you can score some tasty and cheap Thai street food.
With a couple of days here, there’s plenty more to see and do. You can ride up to a hilltop temple for some incredible views, see a cave full of fish, or relax at a mud spa.
Many backpackers also use Mae Hong Son as a jump-off point for treks in the surrounding area. Every tourism office in this small town can help arrange trekking trips, so get out there and see some of the countryside – one of the best places to visit in Thailand for sure!
Lopburi is one of the oldest cities in all of Thailand and is a former capital. While it has a long history, these days it’s known for the large population of crab-eating macaques that call the city home. The monkeys are everywhere you look in the Old Town. They’re naughty monkeys, too, so keep an eye on your bag and hold on to your hat/sunglasses.
It’s not all monkey business in Lopburi, though. There are several historical sights worth visiting here, including King Narai’s Palace and the Phra Kan Shrine. There’s also good hiking and rock climbing just outside of the city if you’re looking for some more excitement.
If you’re interested in visiting Lopburi, a good idea is to combine a stop here with a trip to the ruins in Ayutthaya. Both are connected to Bangkok by train and you can hit them both in just a few days before heading back to the capital.
20. Khao Sok National Park
Many travellers to Thailand like to spend some time on both coasts and do a bit of island hopping. Why not take a break between all that beach bumming and do some hiking in a national park? Khao Sok is very easy to visit for a few days when travelling between the coasts.
This park is home to Thailand’s largest virgin forests, plenty of waterfalls, and a few caves. There’s also a beautiful lake with floating guesthouses. This is one of the best natural places to visit in Thailand.
There are plenty of hiking trails in Khao Sok that you can follow on your own. If you’d like to learn more about the environment and the wildlife here, you can easily hire a guide to take you through the park. Don’t skip out on this natural wonder on your way from island to island.
This is one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand, and may just be the king of Thai islands. Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and is probably the most popular among travellers. Home to world-class beaches, a wide variety of activities, and some incredible choices for accommodation, dining, and nightlife, it’s no wonder so many people flock to Phuket.
The western part of the island is the most developed for tourism. Here you’ll find the town of Patong, which is known as one of the party capitals of Southeast Asia. If you’re looking for a good time, you’ll most certainly find it here.
Despite a large amount of tourists, not all of Phuket is filled with knick-knack shops and go-go bars. Once you head into the interior of the island, you’ll find mangrove forests, fishing villages, and even a national park. It’s very easy to escape the crowds if you’re looking for more peace and quiet on your trip.
While the island itself is great, a major highlight of visiting Phuket is getting out in the water. You name it and they got it here – diving, snorkeling, yachting, parasailing, fishing – you can do it all in Phuket. There are also several smaller islands nearby that you can visit on a day trip. With so much to see and do, you could easily spend a week or more.
☞ SEE ALSO: 9 Reasons To Fall in Love With Phuket A Mini Guide to Phuket and A Mini Guide to Phuket
22. The Ancient City of Sukhothai
Before Ayutthaya, there was Sukhothai. Established in the 13th century, this was the first capital of Siam. Its name means “Dawn of Happiness,” and it’s said to represent a golden age in Thai civilization.
During the Sukhothai kingdom, the Thai alphabet and Theravada Buddhism were introduced. Art and architecture also flourished, as did trade. After two centuries of rule, this great empire eventually declined and became part of Ayutthaya.
These days, Sukhothai is a historical park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s much smaller than other famous ruins in the region such as Angkor Wat and Bagan, so you can easily explore in just a day.
The best way to see Sukhothai is on two wheels. Rent a bicycle and head out early in the morning to beat the heat and the tour buses. You might even have some of the temples all to yourself!
To get to Sukhothai, you can take a train from Bangkok or Chiang Mai to the nearby town of Phitsanalouk and then switch to a bus for another hour. Alternatively, you can just get a bus to the town. It’s best to go ahead and stay a night, as there are plenty of guesthouses and restaurants near the ruins.
23. Khon Kaen
If you’re planning on exploring the Isaan region of Thailand, you’ll probably end up in the city of Khon Kaen. While many people simply view this city as a place to catch a bus, there’s enough to do here to warrant sticking around for a day or two.
Those who plan on travelling overland through Laos or Vietnam may find Khon Kaen to be a useful and necessary stop. There are both Laotian and Vietnamese consulates in town where you can apply for a visa. Thankfully, there’s also plenty to do while you wait a few days for that shiny new visa.
Be sure to check out Wat Nong Waeng, which is home to a beautiful 9-story stupa. It’s full of important Buddhist sculptures and murals that detail the town’s history. From the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of the lake and the town. Speaking of the lake, it’s a very pleasant place for a stroll once you’re finished at the temple.
Perhaps the best part about visiting Khon Kaen is that it’s very much off the beaten path. Those looking for more authentic places to visit in Thailand will enjoy a visit here. Look up the tour operator Isaan Explorer if you’re interested in exploring more of the area, as they run some great trips.
24. Koh Tarutao
Would you believe me if I told you it’s possible to have a beach all to yourself on a Thai island? That’s just one of the many reasons Koh Tarutao is one of the best places to visit in Thailand. This former prison-turned national park in the far south of the country is a fascinating place to visit.
Once upon a time, this remote island was a prison and was home to several thousand inmates. They were deterred from plotting an escape thanks to the shark and crocodile-infested waters. When supplies ran out during World War II, inmates and guards alike either perished or turned to piracy. You can explore the former prison grounds, which look like a great place to shoot a horror movie.
Other activities on offer here include taking a boat cruise through the mangroves and into a cave or hiking up to the viewpoint. You’re sure to see a lot of wildlife during your stay as well – macaques, lemurs, hornbills, wild hogs, lizards, and more.
Unlike other Thai islands that are full of hotels, shops, and bars, life is simple here on Tarutao. Your only option for accommodation is camping on the beach or staying in rustic cabins that only get power a few hours a day. There’s one restaurant here, so you’ll need to be sure you don’t miss mealtimes.
If you’re looking for that Robinson Crusoe-esque trip, be sure to put Koh Tarutao at the top of your list of places to visit in Thailand.
Planning on visiting the islands off the Gulf Coast in Thailand? Well then you’ll already be passing through the city of Chumphon. Instead of quickly connecting to your ferry to Koh Tao or Koh Phangan, though, you may want to consider sticking around for a couple of days.
The area to the north of Chumphon is known as the Royal Gold Coast thanks to its abundance of unspoiled beaches. If you’re one of those people who would prefer a long walk on the beach to a wild party scene, you might just want to stick around here and skip the islands entirely. With snorkeling, canoeing, paragliding, cave exploring, and more, why would you want to leave?
Heading south, you can find the scenic Khao Phang Forest Park and Mo Ku Chumphon National Park. Both are excellent choices for enjoying some time out in nature. You can even camp out at the national park if you want to really get away from it all.
There are many ways to get in and out of Chumphon. Most travellers arrive via the overnight train from Bangkok. Once you’re here, you can easily hop a ferry over to the Gulf Coast islands or switch to a bus if you’re headed to the Andaman Coast. Whatever you do, be sure to give at least a night or two to Chumphon before moving on.
26. Koh Samet
If you’re looking for a quick island getaway from Bangkok, then Koh Samet just may be the Thai island for you. It’s about a 3-hour ride from the capital to Ban Phe, where you can catch a ferry to the island in just 20 minutes.
Famed for its silky white sand beaches and stunning coral reefs, Koh Samet deserves a spot on the list of the best places to visit in Thailand. It’s also far less developed than other islands, which makes for a far more laid back vibe.
Most of Koh Samet is actually classified as a national park, so you’ll need to pay an entry fee to visit the island. It’s well worth it to spend a few days relaxing on the pristine beaches, enjoying water sports, and sampling the island’s culinary and nightlife scenes.
27. Mae Sariang
Mae Sariang is a peaceful town in the mountains of northern Thailand. Those looking to escape the crowds and chaos of Chiang Mai will love taking a few days to explore the town and its beautiful surroundings. With plenty of waterfalls, rice paddy fields, caves, and a scenic lake, there are postcard-worthy images around every corner here.
One of the most popular activities in Mae Sariang is trekking to hill tribe villages. Unlike the “human zoos” that you’ll find in other parts of Thailand, these are authentic villages where tours are focused on cultural immersion and understanding.
If you visit Mae Sariang on the weekend, you can also experience the traditional markets. These are the best places to sample local food and purchase handicrafts directly from the villagers who travel to the market to sell their goods.
Mae Sariang is best visited as a stop on the Mae Hong Son motorbike loop. If you’re not up for riding the winding mountain roads, it’s also possible to get here by bus from either Chiang Mai or the city of Mae Hong Son.
28. Phimai Historical Park
Most travellers in Southeast Asia hope to visit the incredible temples of Angkor Wat. If you’re headed there from Thailand, you might as well warm up by seeing Phimai Historical Park. The Khmer temples here are some of the best-preserved in Thailand and are well worth a visit. One thing’s for sure – you’ll find way smaller crowds here than you will at Angkor Wat!
While you’re here, you can also check out the largest banyan tree in all of Thailand. There’s also a small museum, giving you plenty to do for a quick overnight stay. Be sure to check out the night market for some cheap and delicious Thai food. There are also a few bars here where you can catch some live music and have a drink with locals.
The best way to visit Phimai is on a longer trip through the Isaan region. It’s a great stop in between the bigger cities of Korat and Khon Kaen, as it’s only a few hours by bus or motorbike from each of them.
29. Similan Islands
This national park in southern Thailand is an archipelago of eleven islands. It started out as nine, which is where the name comes from – Sembilan means “nine” in Malay – but two smaller, remote islands were eventually added.
The Similan Islands are considered to be the best place to go scuba diving in all of Thailand. Most people visit the islands as part of a liveaboard diving trip from Phuket or Khao Lak. Note that you’ll also have to pay a national park fee and a daily usage fee, meaning this is definitely one of those trips you have to splurge on.
If you want to actually stay on the islands, your options are limited. The only two islands you can set foot on are Koh Miang (#4) and Koh Similan (#8). You can camp on either island and there are a few rustic bungalows for rent on #4. Staying a night or two means you can enjoy the islands in peace once the hordes of day-trippers leave.
In addition to the fantastic diving and all the marine life, you can also spot rare birds such as the endangered nicobar pigeon. Both islands also have walking trails that lead to gorgeous beaches and a few viewpoints where you can enjoy the sunset. For scuba divers, this is undoubtedly one of top places to visit in Thailand.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a place in Thailand where the temperature drops to zero degrees Celsius. That’s exactly what happens up in the mountainous province of Loei along the border with Laos. While most people look for places to visit in Thailand that are filled with sun and sand, Loei is a great choice for nature lovers looking to experience a different side of the country.
The town of Loei is where you’ll likely base yourself for adventures in the area. There isn’t a whole lot to do in town, but there are plenty of options for accommodation as well as travel agents arranging hiking trips to the mountains. You can even camp at the top of one nearby mountain called Phu Kradung.
About 80 km west of Loei is the town of Dan Sai, which is famous for its Phitakon Festival. Also known as the Ghost Festival, it’s highlighted by processions where people wear freaky masks and bells to chase away evil spirits. It then becomes a fertility festival, where people wave around comically large wooden phalluses. This is definitely one of the most unique festivals, and places to visit in Thailand.
Perhaps one of the coolest things about visiting Loei is that this small city in the mountains of northeast Thailand is home to an excellent craft brewery. Be sure drop by Outlaw Brewing to sample their delicious beers. After drinking Chang for a while, a sip of their IPA is nothing short of glorious.
31. Ao Nang
If you end up flying into Krabi and need a place to crash for a night or two before island hopping, Ao Nang is a great choice. This chilled-out beach town has plenty of places to stay, shop, eat, and party. It’s also a good base for further exploration of Krabi province and all that it has to offer.
While the beaches in Ao Nang aren’t amazing, the main draw here is the easy access to nearby islands and dive sites. Tour operators are a dime a dozen in this popular beach town, so it’s not hard to sign up for a day trip. You can even do cavern diving or take a marine safari to spot whale sharks and manta rays.
Ao Nang is the perfect place to stay before heading to the more scenic Railay/Tonsai area, as it’s just a 10-15 minute boat ride to get over there. You could also just visit Railay on a day trip if you prefer, as there are more tourist amenities and choices for accommodation/restaurants in Ao Nang.
Although not love at first sight, after a few days of roughing it in a shack without power in Ton Sai, you’ll probably be happy to return there for some much-needed A/C and WiFi.
Click here to see available tours in and around Ao Nang with Get Your Guide. Or, click the image below:
32. The Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle refers to the point where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. A day trip here is actually one of the most popular things to do in Chiang Rai.
Not too long ago, this corner of Southeast Asia was known for its cultivation and illicit trade of opium. You can learn all about the history at the Hall of Opium, an excellent and very informative museum.
There’s also a beautiful Buddhist temple set on a colorful ship along the river and plenty of other random attractions. To be fair, the whole area is somewhat of a tourist trap, but it’s worth visiting if you have a day to spare in the area.
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.
Kaeng Krachan is an excellent place to spot wildlife or do some bird watching. There are 57 species of mammals and more than 400 types of birds that have been spotted in the park. Wild elephants, clouded leopards, barking deer, and the white-fronted scops owl can all be spotted here.
The park’s headquarters and the visitor centre are located near the town of Baan Kaeng Krachan. There’s a campground here, and you can also arrange trips to the other parts of the massive park. Once you get deep in the forest, you’ll need a ranger or a guide to go on the trails. They can easily be hired once you’re in the park.
If you’re really looking to get out in nature and enjoy the great outdoors, Kaeng Krachan is easily one of the best places to visit in Thailand.
34. Koh Phangan (one of the best places to visit in Thailand for a party!)
The island of Koh Phangan is famous for its monthly lunar bash. The Full Moon Party is a rite of passage for backpackers making their way across the Banana Pancake Trail, and it’s an absolutely wild time. What started out as a few travellers with guitars around a campfire has morphed into a massive party with 30,000-something revelers descending upon Haad Rin Beach.
While it is tons of fun, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re prepared for the madness. Check out this guide to the Full Moon Party to get some tips on how to make the most of the experience.
One mistake that a lot of travellers make is simply breezing through Koh Phangan to hit the party and then head to another island. There are so many things to do in Koh Phangan to warrant sticking around for at least a few days, though. Don’t miss the world-class diving, excellent hiking opportunities, secluded beaches, rushing waterfalls, and so much more.
These days, Koh Phangan also attracts tons of digital nomads and yogis. There are several yoga studios located on the island and retreats go on year-round. It’s possible to find high-speed internet here now, and there are quite a few co-working spaces and cafes where you’ll find nomads working away.
Ask Thais where the most beautiful places to visit in Thailand are, and many will respond with the province of Kanchanaburi. The city of the same name is the capital, and it’s a great place to base yourself for some adventures to the surrounding national parks and waterfalls.
Those interested in WWII history will find Kanchanaburi a fascinating place to visit in Thailand. The bridge over the Kwai River was part of the infamous Death Railway. Japan had the railway built by hundreds of thousands of civilian laborers and POWs. It’s estimated that over 100,000 of them died as a result of the horrific conditions.
To learn more about what happened during the war in the area, you can visit the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre and the World War II Museum and Art Gallery. There are also two war cemeteries where thousands of POWs were laid to rest. For history buffs, this is definitely one of the best places to visit in Thailand.
In addition to all the historical sites, Kanchanaburi is located near several national parks. At Erawan National Park, you can see some of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of Thailand. While it’s possible to visit on a day trip, you may want to consider staying a night to experience the park minus the crowds.
One of the best places to stop along the Mae Hong Son Loop is the village of Soppong. The population here is comprised mostly of hill tribes and Burmese Shan and is only about 20% Thai. Unlike nearby Pai – which is now full of tourists – Soppong remains very much off the beaten path.
With a few days here, you can explore the many caves in the area and do a bit of trekking. The highlight is Tham Lod, which is also known as the Coffin Cave for its large collection of ancient coffins. If you come here around sunset, you’ll see the amazing sight of thousands of swifts returning to the cave as thousands of bats make their way out.
From Soppong, you can head out on single or multi-day trekking trips to hill tribe villages. Along the way, you’ll pass through some incredibly beautiful scenery. You’ll stay in remote mountain villages where your guide will teach you all about the unique local culture. When you’re ready to move on, you’ll be just a few hours away from Pai.
Whether you book a room there or not, be sure to stop by the Cave Lodge. They cook up some delicious Shan food, and the owner has some fantastic stories about his decades of living in the area and discovering several of the caves.
37. Nong Khai
Those looking to travel overland between Thailand and Laos might find themselves in the city of Nong Khai. It’s located along the banks of the Mekong River, just a quick ride from the Laotian capital of Vientiane.
One of the most interesting things about this city is its nickname – Naga City – which refers to the serpent guardians that are said to inhabit the river. You’ll see the giant serpents all over the city, as there are several statues of them.
The main attraction here is Sala Keoku, a park full of giant Buddhist and Hindu sculptures. Some of them tower as high as 25 meters. This and a similar park over on the Laos side of the border were built by Bunleua Sulilat, a mystic/spiritual leader whose mummified body is actually located here.
38. Ang Thong National Marine Park
One of the most stunning places to visit in Thailand. Just northwest of Koh Samui, you’ll find an archipelago of 42 islands that are collectively known as the Ang Thong National Marine Park. Of all the islands, only two are actually inhabited.
A boat trip around the islands is one of the most popular day trips from the nearby islands. Most trips include a visit to Koh Mae Ko (Mother Island), where a short hike brings you to a stunning emerald saltwater lake. It’s surrounded by some epic karst mountains and is definitely a postcard-worthy image.
After that hike, you’ll get to relax on the beach or do a bit of snorkeling. Whether on land or in the sea, you’ll spot a lot of wildlife here. Blacktip reef sharks and angelfish may swim by as you snorkel, and you’ll see dusky langurs and crab-eating macaques running by on the beach.
While most visitors simply come for the day, it’s possible to stay overnight. The park headquarters are located on the island of Koh Wua Talap, where you’ll find some rustic bungalows and a campsite. A few nights out here is a great escape from the crowds on nearby Koh Tao or Koh Phangan.
39. Phanom Rung Historical Park
Phanom Rung (Big Mountain Temple) is probably the most impressive Khmer temple in all of Thailand. This Hindu shrine is dedicated to Shiva and symbolizes his heavenly dwelling at Mount Kailash. It’s located on top of an extinct volcano and surrounded by rice paddies, which makes for incredibly beautiful scenery.
The best place to stay near the park is the town of Nang Rong. It’s not much of a tourist destination in and of itself, but it’s a nice place to crash for a night or two to experience a real Thai town minus all the bells and whistles that accompany mass tourism.
A quick stay in Nang Rong plus a visit to the historical park is a great addition to any itinerary through the Isaan region. It’s also a good warm-up for those headed to Cambodia to see the more famous temples at Angkor Wat.
40. Doi Inthanon National Park
Also known as the “Roof of Thailand,” Doi Inthanon National Park is home to the tallest mountain in the country. It’s located in Chiang Mai province and is a popular day trip from the city. You can also stop here as you ride the many curves of the Mae Hong Son Loop.
In this huge park, you’ll find several waterfalls, viewpoints, and hiking trails. There are also two pagodas that were built to honor the 60th birthdays of the late King Bhumibol and his wife, Queen Sirikit. There’s a lovely garden surrounding the pagodas and small shrines inside.
A major highlight of the park is the Giew Mae Pan Nature Trail. You’ll need to hire a guide to walk the trail, but it’s well worth it. The amazing views of the mountains along the trail alone make it worth the effort to get here. When considering places to visit in Thailand that are filled with natural beauty, Doi Inthanon National Park should be high on your list.
While it’s possible to reach the park via public transportation, your best bet is to hire a driver from Chiang Mai or rent a scooter to get yourself there.
41. Koh Si Chang
Not to be confused with the more famous Koh Chang, this small island is much closer to Bangkok and is also far less visited. If you only have a few days to spare from the city, Koh Si Chang makes a great choice for a quick island getaway.
There’s only one beach on the whole island and there aren’t any bars, so you don’t come here just to sunbathe and party. Days on Koh Si Chang are spent exploring the island’s many interesting attractions. There’s a colorful Chinese temple complex with several caves, Buddha images, and amazing views.
You can also check out the former summer palace of King Rama V. Take a few hours to enjoy a leisurely stroll around the stunning gardens, fountains, and ponds.
To get here, take a bus from Bangkok to the town of Sri Racha, catch a tuk-tuk to the pier, and then hop on a ferry. If you’re looking to experience a Thai island minus the buckets and go-go bars, look no further than the hidden gem of Koh Si Chang.
Things NOT to Do in Thailand
Thailand isn’t perfect, but nowhere is.
Unfortunately, Thailand is home to many animals shows and activities aimed at tourists, which involve monkeys, tigers, snakes and elephants. Consider where you want to spend your tourism dollars when you’re backpacking Thailand, and hopefully it’s not on activities that promote cruelty and captivity of animals.
When deciding on the places to visit in Thailand, please don’t go to zoos or aquariums, don’t pet tigers or ride elephants. Finally, avoid partaking in any sort of sex tourism in the country.
By avoiding these places and being aware of where your tourism dollars are being spent, you’ll deplete the market for these activities and help put a stop to them once and for all.
Ready for Thailand?!
We’ve travelled to Thailand over 7 different times for a total of around 6 months. Even though we’ve spent so much time here, there are still many different places that we need to see – it’s a place we could return to again and again.
Thailand is a country filled with natural wonders, welcoming people, world-class cuisine and epic adventures. Hopefully you’ll add Thailand to your travel list this year… and include some of our recommended places to visit 😀
What did we miss? What are your favourite places to visit in Thailand? Share with us in the comments below.
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