Wondering what are the best places to visit in Thailand? This article helps you make the right decision on picking the best places during your trip to this beautiful country. Thailand is one of the most popular destinations in the world thanks to its beautiful landscapes and islands, its world-famous food and its notorious party scene and nightlife. Compared to surrounding countries, Thailand is a great all-rounder as it offers all lot of everything. One of the great advantages of Thailand is that it offers a great infrastructure and getting from one place to another is often comfortable, safe and relatively quick. In this article, we first cover the more common places to visit in Thailand that for first-timers are highly recommended to visit. In the second part of the article, we cover places to visit in Thailand for experienced travellers and those who are seeking for not so common places to visit in Thailand.
COVID-19 Update: Currently, the borders of Thailand are closed for tourists and it's uncertain when the borders are open again. Nobody knows the answer. We all have to wait until further notice. Tourism is one of the industries that got hit hard because of the virus and for a country depending on tourism so much like Thailand, it will have major consequences. This article will be updated regularly to give you the most recent information, but keep in mind some country's highlights may be closed. Some tourist-depending places such as Phuket are suffering tremendously and many businesses in Patong are permanently closed.
The best places to visit in Thailand are:
For the majority of the tourists, Bangkok is the first stop during their trip to Thailand, and many will stay here the first few days. The capital is chaotic (and for some too chaotic), but has so many amazing things to offer. The city is known for its temples, sky bars, nightlife, markets and (street) food. Absolute highlights are The Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, night markets such as Ratchada and Srinakarin, Chinatown and Chatuchak Weekend Market. For more information, I would recommend reading our top things to do in Bangkok, where you can find other recommended activities such as visiting a Muay Thai match or visiting the highest building of Bangkok, the Mahanakorn. When booking a hotel, make sure you are located close to a BTS Station. The BTS is a Skytrain that runs through the city and is the most convenient way of transport. For more information, check out our Bangkok Public Transport Guide 2020. If you are curious about the best food in Bangkok, check out our Top 22 best local Thai restaurants in Bangkok.
Why Bangkok is one of the best places to visit in Thailand:
- (Street) food, with Chinatown as a great example!
- City highlights such as The Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho
- An excellent party scene with popular places such as Khao San Road, Sukhumvit Soi 11, Thonglor & Ekkemai
- Rooftop bars such as Octave Rooftop Bar, Skybar at Lebua and Above Eleven
- Night markets with Ratchada Train Market as the most popular one
Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn
Bangkok, the Grand Palace in front of the picture, the skyline in the back
2. Chiang Mai
Located in the north, Chiang Mai is a hugely popular destination and one of the top places to visit in Thailand where you can find mountains, jungle, temples and elephant sanctuaries. This city has a much more laid-back vibe, which attracts many young travellers and ex-pats. From here, these young adventurers often rent a motorbike and will take the Mae Hong Son Loop, which is a 600 kilometres scenic route from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon National Park, Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son, Pai and back to Chiang Mai. Other highlights are jungle trekking, visiting Sunday Walking Street Market, visiting the Long Neck Tribe and visiting the famous and beautiful temples of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is also a perfect place to explore the famous Northern Thai Cuisine, for example, with Khao Soi as the most famous Northern Thai dish that is hugely popular among foreigners. For more local eateries, check out our article about the best local Thai restaurants in Chiang Mai.
Note (air-quality advice): right before the raining season starts during the burning season, the air quality in Chiang Mai is among the worst in the world (with air quality levels labelled as hazardous) as many farmers burn their fields. It's advisable to avoid Chiang Mai between the end of February and April.
Why Chiang Mai is one of the best places to visit in Thailand:
- Surrounded by the jungle, activities such as jungle trekking is highly recommended.
- Visit beautiful temples such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Suan Dok and Wat Umong
- Take the Mae Hong Son Loop and drive through the Doi Inthanon National Park
- Explore the Northern Thai Cuisine with Khao Soi as a must-try!
Famous temple in Chiang Mai
Doi Inthanon National Park close to Chiang Mai
3. Koh Lanta
Thailand has over 1,400 islands and people are always looking for the most remote and undiscovered island they can find. Once the discovered island is too touristy, people are going to look for another island. This happens all the time and the island that everyone is talking about nowadays is Koh Lanta. Koh Lanta is an island in the Krabi Province and is simply stunning with white sand beaches and crystal clear water. The island is well-developed but not too crowded, so it still has that ultimate laid-back atmosphere. There are island-hopping tours that will bring you from Koh Lanta to some remote and uninhabited islands. Other recommended activities are snorkelling, scuba diving, exploring the island by motorbike and kayaking.
Raining season advice: islands such as Koh Lanta are extremely beautiful when there is no cloud in the sky and the sun is shining. Many people will say that when they were visiting Thailand during the raining season, they only had a few rain showers a day and that is was not that bad. I personally disagree, especially when you are on the islands. During raining season there will be a lot of rain, hence the name “raining” season. If you do have the option to make a trip to Thailand between December and May, do so. Your vacation will be even more memorable.
Why Koh Lanta is one of the best places to visit in Thailand:
- A beautiful island that is not overcrowded with tourists, yet it's much more developed than other popular islands.
- Ultimate island for relaxing and enjoy white sand beaches and crystal clear water.
- Water(sport) activities such as kayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling, island-hopping.
Ayutthaya is a city north of Bangkok and it used to be the capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It was one of the richest cities in Asia back then, with temples covered in gold. But in 1785, the Burmese army conquered the capital. Nowadays, you can find the ruins and remains of the old capital in the Historical Park, located in the centre of Ayutthaya. For most tourists, visiting Ayutthaya is a day trip from Bangkok and will return back to Bangkok in the evening. Others will take the train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya in the morning, and take the night train to Chiang Mai later that day. If you do so, you can rent a locker at the train station to put your bags there. More details can be found in our Ayutthaya Day Trip article, where you can also find the history of the most impressive temples. Also, Ayutthaya is famous for its huge river prawns and their boat noodles and trying these foods during your is something I would definitely recommend. For more information, check out our article about what food to eat in Ayutthaya or pick a restaurant in our article about the best restaurants in Ayutthaya.
Why Ayutthaya is one of the best places to visit in Thailand:
- A city with a rich history with the Historical Park as the city's highlight.
- Perfect to visit as a day trip when you're staying in Bangkok or when you're planning to go further to the North.
- Food highlights in this city are the huge river prawns and the boat noodles.
Ayutthaya Historical Park
Phuket is one of the top places to visit in Thailand as it’s a full-grown tourist destination with resorts, restaurants, activities, nightlife and even an international airport. For some, Phuket is too touristy, but for many, Phuket is a carefree destination. Phuket itself is an island on the west coast of Thailand and is surrounded by 32 smaller islands. Visiting these beautiful islands is highly recommended, as well as spending a day on beaches like Freedom Beach, Kata Beach and Karon Beach. Other top activities are visiting the Big Buddha, partying at Bangla Road, visiting Phuket Old Town, shopping at Phuket Town Weekend Night Market and visiting Phang Nga Bay. It’s important to know that if you are travelling as a family, it’s better to stay in Kamala. If you are travelling with a group of friends and like to party, it’s more fun to stay in party areas such as Patong. Also, if you are travelling from North to South, it’s good to know that you can fly back to your country with Phuket International Airport, instead of travelling back to Bangkok first.
Why Phuket is one of the best places to visit in Thailand:
- A full-grown tourist destination that's excellent for a carefree holiday at one of the many resorts the island has to offer.
- From Phuket, take a boat trip to one of the many beautiful islands such as Koh Raya and Koh Phi Phi or Phang Nga Bay.
- Visit Phuket Old Town and the Phuket Town Weekend Night Market
- Party until dawn at Patong.
- Visit the Big Buddha.
Phuket has plenty to offer, including luxurious resorts
Big Buddha in Phuket
Bangla Road in Patong
6. Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is a popular place to visit in Thailand thanks to its famous monthly full-moon party. Three days before the actual party, the island fills up with travellers who want to party. It’s important to know that you need to book a room in advance and book at least three nights before the actual full-moon party, otherwise it’s almost impossible to get a room on the island. During these three days, there will be other parties organized as well, such as the Waterfall Party and the Jungle Party. The full-moon party will be held on Haad Rin Beach, where everyone is covered in fluorescent paint and drinking buckets of mixers. Is the full-moon party the only thing Koh Phangan has to offer? No. There is also a half-moon party. But seriously, other highlights are the Paradise Waterfalls and visiting Mae Haad Beach. Koh Phangan has a laid-back vibe that attracts many foreigners to stay awhile and enjoy this paradise-life, with digital nomads in particular. We would also highly recommend taking a boat trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park, which is also available at Koh Samui.
Why Koh Phangan is one of the best places to visit in Thailand:
- The official Full Moon Party will be held every month at Haad Rin Beach in Koh Phangan, arguably, the best party Thailand has to offer.
- Enjoy a laid-back utopic lifestyle with beautiful beaches.
- Visit Paradise Waterfalls and Mae Haad Beach.
- A day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park.
Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan
Pai is a popular destination in Thailand not only because of the locals but of the travellers themselves as well. Somehow they managed to create a unique, almost hippiesque, environment where everyone is extremely relaxed to and with each other. In Pai, you can find plenty of small local bars with live music and cool parties. But it’s not only the atmosphere that makes Pai such a nice place to visit in Thailand. Visiting the Pay Canyon, Wat Phra That Mae Yen, Yun Lai Viewpoint are absolute highlights, but also visiting the nearby waterfalls and hot springs are recommended. Many of its visitors are riding the so-called Mae Hong Son Loop on their motorbikes and often stay in Pai a few days. During this scenic route, you will see the beautiful landscapes that Pai has to offer.
The landscapes around Pai are stunning
Evening Market in Pai
Kanchanaburi is the third largest province in Thailand and is home to some of the country’s finest nature as well as the place in Thailand where you find a rich history of the Second World War. The province itself runs all the way to the Thai-Myanmar border, where you find three different national parks, Khao Laem National Park, Sai Yok National Park and Erawan National Park. The last-mentioned National Park is where you find Kanchanaburi’s most popular waterfalls, the Erawan Waterfalls. The other two national parks are the lesser-known and are ideal for those who want to visit places in Thailand that are not spoiled by tourism. The majority of the tourists start their adventure in Kanchanaburi Tambon Ban Tai area, where you can find the famous Bridge Over The River Kwai, the Kanchanaburi War Cemetry and the Death Railway Museum, remains of the gruesome history by the Japanese during World War Two. The best way to get to Kanchanaburi is by train or bus. Make sure to visit one of the restaurants we recommend in our articles about the best restaurants in Kanchanaburi and restaurants with a stunning view in Kanchanaburi.
Why Kanchanaburi is one of the best places to visit in Thailand:
- The highlights of Kanchanaburi are the Bridge Over The River Kwai, Death Railway Museum, Erawan Waterfalls.
- Kanchanaburi is home to beautiful nature that can be easily explored with organized tours.
View on the Bridge Over The River Kwai during sunset.
The War Museum at Kanchanaburi.
The War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi, where many young men are buried.
Kanchanaburi is home to incredible nature. Many restaurants next to the river have beautiful sunset views.
9. Hua Hin
Hua Hin is a popular destination in Thailand for both foreigners as Thai. It’s a three-hour drive from Bangkok, making it a perfect place to spend the weekend near the beach for Bangkokians. But Hua Hin is more than just an escape from Bangkok. International tourists often stay in nice resorts close to the beach with restaurants serving tremendous seafood. It’s this luxury, cleanness and quietness that attracts relative older tourists and families so you won’t find much nightlife here. That does not mean Hua Hin is a boring place. Almost the whole year you can kitesurf in Hua Hin and the city also has the biggest water park in the country. You can easily visit one of the national parks located relatively close to Hua Hin, such as the Kaeng Krachan National Park. For more information about Hua Hin, check out our article about our top things to do in Hua Hin.
Why Hua Hin is one of the best places to visit in Thailand:
- A clean, relatively quiet city near the beach that's perfect for relaxation.
- Recommended activities are Kitesurfing, visit Kaeng Krachan National Park, visit Thailand's best waterpark, winetasting at the vineyard.
Hua Hin Viewpoint
Phraya Nakhon Cave, close to Hua Hin, has a temple inside the cave
Oceanside Beach Club at Hua Hin
10. Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is an all-time favourite for many travellers for its beauty. But it’s not a remote island with empty beaches such as Koh Lanta. The reason for this is that the island is much smaller and widely known, resulting in a more crowded island. The popular Maya Bay, famous from the movie The Beach, has recently been closed because of this. With that being said, Koh Phi Phi is still a great place to visit Phi Phi Le National Park, snorkelling in Hat Yao, scuba dive, hike to Ao Lo Dalam, swim at Pileh Bay Lagoon and hike to the Viewpoint. In the evening there are many parties to find near the beach and you can find pool parties at Ibiza House. Koh Phi Phi is located between Phuket and Koh Lanta in the Andaman Sea and is an island often visited by boat tours from these two islands.
Koh Phi Phi
11. Koh Tao
Koh Tao, also known as Turtle Island, is the place in Thailand - and probably everywhere in Asia - to get your PADI Open Water certification. It takes 3-4 days to become an open water diver and during the course, you will perform five dives of which four are in the open ocean. With crystal clear water and enthusiastic and experienced diving teachers, getting your certificate is such a fun activity. You will find many young travellers at Koh Tao and obviously, that means that you will find many beach bars here as well. Koh Tao is located close to Koh Phangan and Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand and is considered a more relaxed alternative to Koh Phi Phi.
Scuba diving in Koh Tao
12. Khao Sok National Park
Throughout Thailand, you can find many national parks. All these parks are perfectly organized, clean and worth the visit. But the most beautiful national park in Thailand is Khao Sok National Park, which is located north of Phuket. Hiking through the jungle, spotting wildlife, canoeing, sleep in tree houses or on a floating house on a large lake…these are all things that Khao Sok has to offer. As it is such a popular place to visit in Thailand, make sure that you book the tours and the accommodations in advance. Most visitors will stay between two and four days.
Khao Sok National Park
Sukhothai is a popular tourist destination as the city has a magnificent Historical Park of the ruins of the former capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The Historical Park is divided into five zones that you can explore by bike. When you compare the ruins of Sukhothai with the ruins in Ayutthaya, the Historical Park in Sukhothai is far more impressive and if you really want to see a piece of Thailand's history, Sukhothai is a must-visit. This is the main reason why people come and visit Sukhothai, although there are a few other highlights that are good enough to stay here a day or two. If you're up for a physical challenge, go and hike up the mountain at Ramkhamhaeng National Park. You can even sleep in a tent on the mountain. Another highlight is the Si Satchanalai Historical Park, another beautiful historical park with ruins of the Sukhothai Kingdom. More in-depth information about these highlights, including other recommendations can be found in our article about the top things to do in Sukhothai. When it comes to food, make sure you don't miss the famous Sukhothai Noodles, a regional speciality that you can basically find in every Thai restaurant in Sukhothai.
Why Sukhothai is one of the best places to visit in Thailand:
- Visit the magnificent Sukhothai Historical Park by bike, the most beautiful historical park in Thailand.
- Hike up the mountain at Ramkhamhaeng National Park, if you're up for a real physical challenge!
- Visit the alternative Si Satchanalai Historical Park.
- Taste the Sukhothai Noodles.
14. Koh Chang
Koh Chang is the second-largest island of Thailand, is located on the east side of Thailand and gained popularity in the last decade as backpackers we’re looking for alternative islands that are not touristy. Koh Chang is more of a jungle with here and there a few beautiful beaches, such as White Sand Beach, Lonely Beach, Klong Prao Beach and Kai Bae Beach. One of the nice things of Koh Chang is that also offers mountains and jungle treks, making it quite a diverse island. The downside of Koh Chang is that it’s not good to reach. The best way to get there is taking a bus or minivan from Bangkok to the pier at Ao Thammachat, which takes about five hours, or take a flight to Trat Airport, although the flight is pricey.
Pattaya, also known as Sin City, has a bad reputation because of its wild nightlife and red-light district. But it’s also a popular destination for tourists and Bangkokians who want to escape Bangkok. Believe it or not, Pattaya is also known for its quiet beaches, which you can find at Bangsaray Beach, Dongtan Beach and Koh Larn. You can also find beautiful resorts at Jomtien where you can simply relax and enjoy the beach life. Pattaya is also a great place to explore the Thai cuisine and with our extensive guide of the 27 best restaurants in Pattaya, we prove that there is plenty of choice for everyone, from extremely local Thai restaurants to comfort food created by Michelin-Star-Chef Harlan Goldstein. With that being said, many tourists who visit Pattaya want to experience the wild nightlife and if you are not into that, there are better places to visit in Thailand.
Notorious nightlife in Pattaya
16. Koh Kut
Around one and a half hour away from Koh Chang, you can find Koh Kut. This relatively undiscovered island is known for its beautiful beaches, jungle and waterfalls and is one of the quietest places listed in this article. Keep in mind that it’s not that well-developed as other islands. For example, during low-season, some accommodations are closed, and if you don’t have your own transportation, you won’t be able to see much of the island. But if you do like an off-the-beaten-path destination, Koh Kut is the place to go!
17. Koh Lipe
Perhaps the most beautiful island listed in this article is Koh Lipe. Far south in the Andaman Sea, close to Malaysia, you can find this small island that is known for its white sandy beaches and turquoise-blue waters. It has three beaches: Pattaya Beach, Sunrise Beach and Sunset Beach. In the evening you can enjoy a beer in one of the beach bars that are open until midnight. But the absolute thing you must do is scuba diving in Koh Life. It is here where you find the most beautiful parts of the ocean of the whole of Thailand.
18. Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park is the oldest national park of Thailand and is located northeast of Bangkok, which takes you around three hours to get there by minivan. The park covers more than two thousand square kilometres of forest and grassland. You can drive on an asphalt road through the park where, if you are extremely lucky, can spot wildlife. The hiking trails and the night safari have much better odds to spot some exotic animals. Throughout the park, you will find several waterfalls. The two noteworthy are the Haew Narok and the Haew Suwat. Keep in mind that in April, there won’t be any water falling down as it’s last month of the dry season.
Haew Narok Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park
Sometimes wild elephants are walking on the road of Khao Yai National Park
There you have it, our top 18 best places to visit in Thailand. Hopefully, you get enough inspiration for your next trip to Southeast Asia. If you are visiting Thailand, make sure to download our food app TopTravelFoods. The app is completely free and helps you find the best food during your trip.