One of Southeast Asia’s gems is the “Land of Smiles.” Thailand is well-developed and offers a wide range of contemporary conveniences thanks to the country’s thriving tourism sector, but it’s also still wild enough to provide off-the-beaten-track adventure and once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities. Thailand will not disappoint, whether you come for the world-class beaches in the south or the mountain villages in the north.
Cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai are hives of activity and commerce, but until you’ve gone on a mountain trek or had a close encounter with an elephant or a brazen monkey who’s always looking to steal your lunch, you haven’t truly experienced the country. There are also must-visit markets in Bangkok. Each of Thailand’s attractions is unique and offers a satisfying and memorable experience in its way.
1. Railay Beach
Some of Thailand’s most well-known beach resorts are located in the province of Krabi, with Railay topping the list as one of the most beautiful. Even before your feet touch the sand, Railay, regarded by many as one of the best beaches in the nation, lives up to its promises of white sand, turquoise water, and the sensation that you’ve found a piece of paradise. The journey on a long-tail traditional boat to the island from Krabi town and Ao Nang is just as magical as what you’ll find when you reach the shores.
While the island’s beach may be the main draw for tourists, Railay is also a popular destination for rock climbers who are eager to take on the island’s soaring limestone cliffs.
2. Koh Phi Phi
The reason the Phi Phi Islands are one of Thailand’s most well-liked vacation spots is due to the area’s crystal-clear water, gentle sand, and breathtaking views that never end. You can rent a kayak to get here or hire a small wooden boat to take you there to get to Phi Phi Don, the biggest and only island that is continuously inhabited. Monkey Beach is arguably one of the most entertaining locations on Koh Phi Phi, where you’ll come face to face with a lot of macaques waiting to steal your lunch.
3. The Grand Palace, Bangkok
Its historical significance and masterful craftsmanship make it the top tourist destination in the city. The grounds are a labyrinth of royal halls, temples, and historic artifacts, with Wat Phra Kaeo—said to contain a piece of either the enlightened Buddha’s hair or bone—being the most significant. To do the Grand Palace justice, allow several hours, but if you’re up for more walking afterward, you can easily visit some of the other important landmarks in the area. Just a few minutes away are the well-known Wat Po and Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn.
4. Sunday Walking Street, Chiang Mai
Every tourist to Thailand looks forward to finding affordable, delectable food, and Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Walking Street has plenty of both. Here, vendors sell a wide variety of snacks, often for less than $2 each, including the well-known pad Thai and chicken satay as well as samosas, fried bananas, sweet roti, and fresh fruit shakes.
Thailand’s well-known southern beaches are largely to thank for the nation’s reputation as one of stunning scenery and hospitable people. Because of this, few people are aware that the vast north is also home to breathtaking locations that are completely different from one another. The mountainous, jungle terrain of northern Thailand is distinctive, especially in the western area close to the Burmese border. Pai, in the province of Mae Hong Son, is the ideal starting point from which to take in the natural beauty of the nation as well as the renowned Thai hospitality and cuisine.
6. Wild Elephants at Khao Yai National Park
In Thailand, elephants are revered, and there are numerous temples and royal palaces that display statues and paintings of them. However, nothing compares to the opportunity to observe elephants in their natural habitat for the ultimate experience, and Khao Yai National Park offers a fantastic opportunity to do just that.
Elephants can be seen here ambling along rivers, along with exotic birds of prey, monkeys, and a wide variety of other tropical animals that live in the park. Numerous waterfalls can be found in the park, including the 150-meter-tall Haew Narok and the even more well-known Haew Suwat, which was featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach.
7. Sukhothai Old City
Sukhothai is a popular destination for history buffs and photographers because it provides many lovely photo opportunities on a smaller scale than Ayutthaya. Despite having endured centuries of conflict and exposure to the elements, the ruins of this ancient city stand proudly today. A lot of money has been spent on preserving and restoring Sukhothai’s Old City, one of Thailand’s most important historical sites, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The most impressive of Sukhothai’s numerous wats is Wat Mahathat. The temple, which was established sometime in the 13th century and houses Buddha relics, is surrounded by enormous standing Buddha statues, stucco sculptures, stupas, and other structures.
8. Historic City of Ayutthaya
Visitors can wander the eerie but romantic ruins of the former capital in Ayutthaya, which offers a magnificent window into the splendor of ancient Thailand. Old palaces and temples in Ayutthaya serve as evidence that it was once Thailand’s most significant city. The park is covered in over a hundred wats, chedis (stupas in Thai style), prangs, and thousands of Buddha statues. Some sights are particularly beautiful and should not be missed, such as the temple housing the 12-meter-long reclining Buddha and the tree roots encircling a Buddha’s head.
9. Beaches of Koh Samui
The second-largest island in the nation, Koh Samui, is home to some of Southeast Asia’s most exquisite golden coastline. Every beach on Koh Samui has something unique to offer: some are perfect for quiet seclusion, while others are crowded with people, activities, and water sports.
The largest and busiest beach on the island is Chaweng, which is also home to some of the best restaurants, the best shopping, and a ton of attractions. Why some of the island’s best resorts are situated here may be explained by the turquoise blue waters and palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze. Just south of Chaweng Beach is Lamai Beach, which is a bit more compact and more reasonably priced but is still crowded in the afternoon as day-trippers arrive.
10. Doi Suthep
The second-largest city in Thailand’s second largest mountain range, Doi Suthep, is home to Chiang Mai’s most well-known wat. Doi Suthep is a wonder of intricate religious carvings and a favorite destination of devoted Buddhists and tourists from all over the world. A visit here means seeing monks pray, witnessing worship rituals, and having the opportunity to take in the expansive view of Chiang Mai city.
11. Floating Markets
The floating markets in Thailand provide a fascinating opportunity to do some eating and shopping while supporting regional producers and getting a closer look at a traditional way of life. While some of the markets do appear to cater more to the tourist crowds, others provide a pleasant authentic travel experience that involves boarding a boat and letting your guide lead you through canals, where you’ll see traditional houses on stilts and run into vendors offering goods from their boats. To visit a floating market, you’ll need to get up early because vendors set out in their large wooden boats first thing in the morning with their wares, including fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, and mouthwatering dishes.
12. Climbing at Tonsai Beach
Tonsai Beach has long been recognized as a climbers’ paradise. Tonsai Beach is one of many destinations that offer stunning routes. Tonsai Beach has stunning limestone cliffs hugging sandy coastlines and turquoise waters. One of the best things about climbing here is that you can do it alone, with a partner, or in a club once you get there. If you need a refresher course, you can also find one here without any trouble.
13. Kanchanaburi Bridge
The Kanchanaburi bridge was intended to be a part of the Thai-Burma Railway, but it was never built. It is better known to many as “the bridge over the River Kwai.” During World War II, Japanese forces used forced labor from Allied POWs to construct a railway connecting Thailand and Burma. The bridge, also known as the “Death Railway,” saw the deaths of over 12,000 Allied prisoners during its construction and reconstruction, which took place over the course of one year.
14. Waterfalls at Erawan National Park
The Erawan National Park is home to a variety of caves, trails that wind through dense deciduous forests, and wildlife including wild elephants, gibbons, and great hornbills. But the majority of tourists come here for the waterfalls, particularly the seven-tiered Erawan Falls.
15. Maruekhathaiyawan Palace
This distinctive teak palace, which was constructed as the summer home of King Rama VI, who ruled until 1925, is magnificent in many ways. The king initially commissioned its construction as a result of the advice of his physician, who believed that the king’s rheumatoid arthritis would benefit from an airy seaside climate.
In Hua Hin, a sleepy seaside town about three hours south of Bangkok, the palace was subsequently constructed. Also, there are a lot of things to do in Hua Hin. Today, families and tourists who want to enjoy the beach in a laid-back setting away from the crowds flock to Hua Hin.
16. Khao Sok National Park
The ecosystems in Khao Sok National Park combine in a very unusual way. In addition to a limestone mountain range covered in karst formations, numerous kilometers of trails, and even a river you can explore in canoes or bamboo rafts, the park is home to a rainforest that is older than the Amazon. Sightings of Malayan sun bears, tigers, and wild elephants are common in the park once you enter the dense evergreen rainforest.
17. Ao Nang
The beach town of Ao Nang on the mainland serves as one of the most crucial anchors for Krabi’s islands. Many tourists depart from this pier to travel to the farther-flung and more inaccessible beaches, including Railay, Koh Poda, and the beaches of Koh Phi Phi. However, Ao Nang is a destination unto itself, offering a wealth of things to see and do right here on the mainland.
Since Ao Nang is a busy port, the bay is frequently practically overflowing with longtail boats waiting to ferry tourists out to sea. The long, wide beach is constantly bustling with activity, from tourists and sunbathers to food cart vendors.
18. Hua Hin Beach
Huge beach in Hua Hin. It extends from the northern Klai Kangwon Palace to Khao Takiab. It is without a doubt one of Thailand’s top attractions, but there are a few things to keep in mind. The sand is true as soft and bleached white as they claim, but due to its beauty, it has undoubtedly grown more crowded over time. Numerous beach restaurants and hawkers who charge exorbitant prices for food and drinks line the white sand. Moreover, it might be challenging to locate a quiet swimming hole.
19. Prasat Hin Phimai
The ancient cities of Thailand are some of the most stunning and intriguing in the entire world. Sukhothai and Ayutthaya are two of the most well-known historical sites in Thailand, but Prasat Hin Phimai is also a stunning historical park that is well worth your time. One of the biggest Hindu Khmer temples in the nation is located in the Phimai Historical Park. It was created in the eleventh or twelve century. In actuality, a prehistoric Khmer road connected it to Angkor. If you’ve ever been to Angkor Wat or seen images of it, you’ll be familiar with its exquisite, elaborate architecture.
20. Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is probably what comes to mind when you close your eyes and imagine the southern seas of Thailand. The enormous bay is renowned for its towering limestone cliffs, electric blue water, tropical lagoons, dense jungle forests, and small islands. It is situated between the southern Thai mainland and the island of Phuket.
Ao Phang Nga National Park, which protects the bay’s natural beauty, is also located there. Many visitors to Thailand take a day trip or an island-hopping tour to explore the bay. James Bond Island is one of the most well-known islands because of its inclusion in the movie The Man with the Golden Gun.