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Thailand is often referred to as The Land of Smiles and is a favourite with travellers due to its laid-back culture and geological position at the heart of the Southeast Asia backpacking trail. Thailand has managed to resist colonisation over the decades and despite an influx of tourism, has retained a strong sense of cultural identity. This is visible in the wide variety of things to do in Thailand, from visiting sparkling temples and world-famous national festivals to eating delicious food and relaxing on pristine beaches. Although the country’s political history has been shaky and is often determined by military coups, Thai people are united by their love of the monarchy and the Buddhist faith.
Here at the best things to do in Thailand:
a. Cultural Activities
1. Visit The Grand Palace In Bangkok
The Grand Palace in Bangkok is one of the top attractions in the country. The palace was built in 1782 and for over one hundred and fifty years, the palace was home to the Thai King, the royal family and the Thai government. The palace is surrounded by an almost two kilometres long wall and inside the complex, you can find countless important buildings. The most important building is the Wat Phra Kaew, home to Thailand’s most important Buddhist relic, the Emerald Buddha. In 1925, the Thai King moved to another permanent residence and over the years, the palace only has ceremonial purposes. Nowadays, the Grand Palace is a tourist attraction, but visiting this 24,4 hectares complex is an absolute must and therefore highly listed in our best things to do in Thailand article. The Grand Palace is located in the middle of (the older parts of) Bangkok. The entrance fee is 500 THB and the palace maintains a strict dress code policy. Due to its popularity, it’s highly recommended to visit the Grand Palace as early as possible. The Grand Palace opens its doors at 08:30.
One of the absolute top things to do in Thailand is visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
2. Explore The Ruins Of Ayutthaya
Before Thailand became Thailand as we now know it, the region was divided by several kingdoms over the years. One of these kingdoms was the Ayutthaya Kingdom with the capital Ayutthaya. Thanks to its strategic location - Ayutthaya was located close to both important rivers as the ocean - the city Ayutthaya became one of the richest cities on the planet. Ayutthaya was the epicentre of tradings with West-Europe countries. But the Ayutthaya Kingdom got invaded by the Burmese and the city with all its gold got raided and looted. The people of Ayutthaya had to flee to what is now known as Bangkok. Nowadays, the ruins of Ayutthaya in the Ayutthaya Historical Park is one of the top things to do in Thailand. The ruins still show the beauty and the magnitude of the ancient city. Ayutthaya is located one hundred kilometres north of Bangkok and can easily be visited without a tour guide. If you are planning to visit Ayutthaya on your own, please read our Ayutthaya Day Trip Guide.
Note: the ruins of Sukhothai, which we also listed in this article, are more impressive. But due to the location and accessibility, Ayutthaya is for many tourists a more convenient option. If you're planning to visit the Northern parts of Thailand, Sukhothai should be on your list of things to do in Thailand. If you're planning to visit Bangkok (and other parts of Thailand except for the North), Ayutthaya is an excellent choice.
One of the magnificent temple ruins at the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
3. See Bangkok’s Most Iconic Temple, Wat Arun
Almost every magazine, blog, travel agency and every other marketing expression related to Bangkok will show you a picture of this iconic temple Wat Arun. Visiting this beautiful temple is absolutely one of the top things to do in Thailand. To understand the cultural impact, here is a brief history lesson: Under the command of General Taksin, the people from the Ayutthaya Kingdom fled to Thonburi after being attacked by the Burmese Army, as mentioned before in this article. Thonburi is located on the other side of the river seen from the modern parts of Bangkok. In the Ayutthaya Kingdom, there was a temple known as Wat Makok and General Taksin pledges to restore this temple in the newly established capital Thonburi. General Taksin succeeded and the temple became so meaningful, that for years, Thailand’s most sacred relic, the Emerald Buddha, was placed inside Wat Arun. One more cool detail about this beautiful temple is that Chinese porcelain merchants sailed through the Chao Phraya River and dumped their broken porcelain in the river. Wat Arun is completely decorated with a porcelain mosaic that was found in the river. Wat Arun can be accessed by the ferry at Tha Thien Pier and does not have an entrance fee. The ferry is located close to the Grand Palace, making it easy to combine these visits.
Bangkok's most iconic temple: Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.
4. Enjoy One Of Thailand’s Amazing Cultural Festivals
There is no better way to get a glimpse of a nations culture than visit one of the major cultural festivals a country has to offer. Throughout the year, there are several festivities held in the Land of the Smiles, from soaking wet water gun fights like Songkran to the horrifying festival were locals put blades through their cheeks called the Vegetarian Festival. We’ve already dedicated a complete article about these Thai Festivals, where you can find more information. The most important festivals take place on the following dates:
* Songkran (Thai New Year, everywhere in the country): 13 - 15 April
* Yi Peng (Lantern Festival, North of Thailand): 12 - 14 December
* Loy Kratong (Festival of Light, everywhere in the country): During the full moon of December
* Phi Ta Khon (Ghost Festival, Dan Sai): dates vary, either June or July
* Phuket Vegetarian Festival (Nine Emperor God Festival, Phuket): dates vary, around October
* Lopburi Monkey Buffet Festival (Lopburi): last Sunday of November
Yi Ping, an amazing cultural festival in the North of Thailand
5. The Archaeological Site Of Ban Chiang
In 1966, Steve Young discovered a large number of earthenware pots in the Udon Thani Province, close to the Laotian border. Locals already knew about these ancient artefacts, however, it only gained massive attention when the discovery of the American student reached world news. One year later, after scientific research, all sorts of prehistoric items were found, dating from the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. Bang Chiang can be seen as the largest and most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in South-East Asia. Most of these discoveries can be found in the Ban Chiang National Museum and give you an image of how people live over 5000 years ago. In 1992, Ban Chiang got listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Ban Chiang is not located on your standard-Thailand-traveling-route, however, if you are planning to visit Udon Thani, it’s highly recommended to make a stop at Ban Chiang.
The archaeological site of Ban Chiang.
6. Visit The Forty-Six Meters Tall Reclining Buddha At Wat Pho
In 1788, Wat Phodharam was being restored and after finishing the restoration and expanding the temple, Was Phodharam was renamed Wat Pho. This temple is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok and is home to over a thousand Buddha statues. But Wat Pho is most famous for its large reclining golden Buddha, which is forty-six meters long and fifteen meters high. Because of this enormous statue, visiting Wat Pho is highly recommended in Thailand. But the temple complex has several other buildings that are worth visiting. You will also notice Chinese influences throughout Wat Pho as Bangkok always had Chinese immigrants and merchants in the city.
What most people don’t know is that Wat Pho was also the first public university in Thailand with majors such as religion, science and literature. It is said that the traditional Thai Massage was developed at this university. Inside the temple complex, you will find the Traditional Thai Massage School where the majority of the masseuses in Bangkok got their official license. Visitors of Wat Pho can visit this school and get a proper Thai massage.
Visiting Wat Pho and its impressive reclining Buddha should be one your list of things to do in Thailand.
7. The Astonishing Phimai Historical Park
Where the temples in the Ayutthaya Historical Park were inspired by Angkor Wat, the temples at Phimai are actual Khmer temples from the Khmer Empire of which the famous Angkor Wat was the capital. It was built during the 11th and 12th centuries. The temple complex of Phimai, located on the east side of Thailand in the Isaan region, was the one end of the ancient Khmer Highway that connected Phimai with Angkor Wat. As it was once ruled by the Khmer, the temple has all the Khmer influences, however, the temple has always been built as a Buddhist temple, instead of a Hindu Temple. Phimai Historical Park is perfectly maintained and fully restored and Phimai Historical Park is much quieter than other historical parks. In the historical park, you will be able to find the Phimai National Museum which displays all sorts of artefacts that were found nearby the Ban Prasad archaeological site. Phimai Historical Park is a bit difficult to reach as it’s not on your typical itinerary, however, it’s most definitely worth the visit.
One of the many temples at Phimai Historical Park.
8. Explore The Beautiful Temples In Chiang Mai
With over three hundred temples, Chiang Mai is a great place to explore the wide variety of temples, including golden mountain-top pagodas, hidden tunnels and crumbling chedis. Most of these temples were built between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries, giving these temples a rich history. Here are some of the most important temples:
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: the most famous temple in the city which enshrined a piece of shoulder bone of Buddha, making it the holiest temple in town. Visiting Was Phra That Soi Suthep is highly recommended.
Wat Suan Dok: the other half of Buddha’s sacred shoulder is enshrined in this temple, which is a forty-eight golden Chedi.
Wat Chiang Man is Chiang Mai’s oldest temple and home to one of Thailand’s greatest treasures: a pocket-sized Buddha statue carved from quartz crystal.
More temples and history lessons can be found in our article about the most important and most beautiful temples in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai has some of the most diverse and most beautiful temples in the country.
9. The Temples Of Former-Capital Sukhothai
Sukhothai was, similar to Ayutthaya, the former capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, in this case, the Sukhothai Kingdom. Like any other kingdom, a capital was formed and impressive temples were built. What makes the Historical Park of Sukhothai so unique is that most of the temples have persevered, contrary to the Ayutthaya Historical Park. The Ayutthaya Historical Park was destroyed by the Burmese Army. Because of this, historians got a much better understanding of the past and Sukhothai can be seen as one of the most important historical places in the country. Besides the fact that the temples are in beautiful shape, the modern city of Sukhothai is not built around the historical park, which is the case in Ayutthaya. At Sukhothai, you not only have beautiful temples, but the scenery is impressive too. The best way to explore Sukhothai is by hiring a bike and cycling through the park. As visiting Sukhothai is not convenient for the majority of the tourists, for example, visiting Ayutthaya can easily be done from Bangkok, Sukhothai gives you a more authentic experience and therefore highly recommended as one of the top things to do in Thailand.
If you plan to visit Sukhothai, have a look at our article about the top things to do in Sukhothai, where we dive deeper into the Historical Park, recommend another Historical Park nearby and tell you all about the best food you can find in this popular tourist destination that still remained its local vibe. And make sure to try the famous Sukhothai Noodles.
The Historical Park of Sukhothai is much better preserved, resulting in fine details of the former capital.
10. Party Until Dawn At The Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan
The most popular beach party in Asia is the Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan. The party is organized since 1983, when back then, only a small group of travellers attended the laid-back party. Over the years, the Full Moon Party gained popularity and nowadays, each month around 20,000 to 30,000 party people will party all night long. The complete beach at Haad Rin Beach is covered with stages where DJ’s play different types of music, such as EDM, Techno and Reggae. Most people are covered in fluorescent paint and drinking buckets with strong liquor. If you are a party-type, attending the Full Moon Party is one of the top things to do in Thailand. Here are some things that you need to know about attending the Full Moon Party. Most hotels demand that you stay at least three nights before the Full Moon Party due to popularity. These hotels are often sold out, so making a booking in advance is highly recommended. If you take the night train to Surat Thani in order to get to Koh Phangan, you need to make sure you buy the train tickets in advance as this train is completely sold out right before the Full Moon Party. During the days before the Full Moon Party, there are several other parties on the island, such as the Jungle Party and the Waterfall Party. The Full Moon Party is held at Haad Rin Beach, so booking a hotel close to this beach is recommended. You can check which date the Full Moon Party is held on the Official Website of the Full Moon Party.
The famous Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan, one of the highlight when it comes to nightlife in Thailand.
11. Pub Crawl At Bangkok’s Crazy Khao San Road
For the majority of young backpackers, Khao San Road is the first destination in Thailand. This famous street is located in Bangkok and is a popular place thanks to its cheap accommodations, food and drinks. From here, attractions such as The Grand Palace and Wat Arun are easily accessible. But in the evening, Khao San Road transforms into a pub street where visitors can enjoy cheap drinks, loud music and eating fried bugs. Even if you are not intending to party, visiting Khao San Road in the evening is a fun thing to do. We dedicated a complete party guide to Khao San Road where we recommend the best bars and must-visits. Some of the highly recommended bars to visit are:
* Khao Sahn 1986
* Super Flow Beach Club
* Khao San Center and Lucky Beer
* The One
If you are staying near Khao San Road, make sure to visit one of the restaurants listed in our best restaurants near Khao San Road article.
The famous backpacker street Khao San Road in Bangkok transforms into one big street party every evening.
12. Clubbing As Locals Do At RCA, Bangkok
Royal City Avenue, also known as RCA, is a street where Bangkokians like to party. Here you can find several clubs, with Onyx and Route66 as the most popular ones. Route66 is a club with three different areas and has a more laid-back atmosphere compared to Onyx. The three different areas consist of Thai live music, EDM and Techno. Onyx is completely different from loud EDM, famous DJ’s and the so-called ‘see and being seen’ atmosphere. Onyx is the largest club in Bangkok and attracts hi-so Bangkokians. Make sure to arrive on time as RCA is closed at two o’clock as well as most tables are already given away. What I mean by that is that it’s common in Thai clubs you buy a bottle of liquor together with a set of mixers. If you do so, you will get a table somewhere near the dance floor. The best tables are given away early. In order to get to RCA, it’s recommended simply to take a taxi.
Onyx at RCA is one of the best clubs Thailand has with international DJ's and amazing special effects.
13. Party At Koh Phi Phi Don
Koh Phi Phi Doni is a beautiful island located in the east of Thailand in the Andaman Sea that is home to some of the most beautiful beaches of the country and during the day, you should enjoy this natural beauty of clear water, white beaches and palm trees. But in the evening, you must visit the beach bars as the nightlife at Koh Phi Phi will give you the ultimate holiday experience. You can simply sit on one of the lounge pillows and enjoy a cheap cocktail. In general, the bars are open until two o’clock at night, which means that most bars are already getting crowded as soon as the sun sets. Popular bars are Sun Flower Beach Bar, Phi Phi Reggae Bar, Slinky Bar and Ibiza Beach Club. Do all these bars have a laid-back atmosphere? No. Koh Phi Phi is a perfect mixture of laid-back beach bars and EDM-pumping bars. And even though the music should be turned off at two o’clock at night, there are plenty of bars open until the last customer leaves the bar. Have fun!
14. See the sunset at one of Bangkok’s rooftop bars
Seeing the sunset from a rooftop bar is absolutely one of the top things to do in Thailand. Bangkok has over twenty rooftop bars that will give you a perfect view of the city and the majority of these rooftop bars have a happy hour, so you can enjoy the sunset with a nice cocktail for a bargain. Visiting a rooftop bar is not suitable for parties, but is perfect to relax and watch the world go by. One of the most famous rooftop bars in Bangkok is the Skybar at Lebua, as it appeared in the famous movie The Hangover 2. A drink costs you around 700 THB and the dress code they maintain is strict, meaning that you can’t wear flip-flops, tank tops or shorts. In my personal experience, it is way more fun to dress up nicely as visiting a rooftop bar is not something you do every weekend. The whole atmosphere is special, so dressing up a little bit is part of the excitement. Other rooftop bars, such as Octave Rooftop Bar in Thonglor are more accessible with a less strict dress code and more affordable drinks (around 400 THB per cocktail).
Visit a rooftop bar in Bangkok is highly recommended!
15. Party in Phuket
Nightlife in Phuket is automatically associated with Bangla Road. This four hundred meters long street close to Patong Beach is where you go for a crazy night of clubs, bars and beer gardens. Bangla Road might have a notorious name, but compared to Walking Street in Pattaya or Nana Plaza in Bangkok, the street is much friendlier for any type of traveller. Clubs like Illuzion, Seduction and Tiger are the most popular places to dance until four o’clock at night. At the beginning of the street, you will find several beer gardens which start to get crowded around seven o’clock in the evening. There are alternative spots in Phuket, such as Kata and Kamala Beach, where you can find beach clubs, but if you really want to party, you must visit Bangla Road. Phuket has also a copied version of the Full Moon Party which is an excellent place to party, but we still recommend attending the original Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan.
The famous Tiger Bar at Bangla Road
16. The insanely 'Party Island' Koh Samui
What Bangla Road is for Phuket, is Chaweng Beach for Phuket. In the evening, this area transforms into a complete party heaven with all sorts of bars and clubs. Koh Samui can still be seen as the top place in Thailand to party and in Chaweng Beach there is a flavour for every type of party-goer. From go-go bars to large EDM clubs, Koh Samui has it all. Popular places are Ark Bar and Green Mango, but in this area, you can find plenty of great bars. An alternative to Chaweng Beach is Lamai Beach, located south of Chaweng Beach, which is only a little bit quieter than Chaweng Beach. If this is all too wild for you, visiting one of the beach clubs is a great option where the atmosphere is more relaxed but the DJ will still keep you awake.
17. The most beautiful Railay Beach
Located southwest of Krabi, Railay Beach is one of the most famous and most beautiful beaches in Thailand. The real name of this island is actually Laem Phra Nang and this small island has four beaches of which Railay West is the most famous one. In every magazine, blog or video about tourism in Thailand, people use pictures or videos of this magnificent beach as it is simply picture-perfect with crystal clear water and pearl white sand. At the island of Laem Phra Nang, no busses and cars are allowed and the island is only accessible by boat. The other beaches Laem Phra Nang has to offer are Railay East, Ao Phra Nang and Ton Sai. Railay Beach is commonly known as the most beautiful beach in Thailand and every tourist organization recommends this beach. The result is that the island is packed with tourists, which is the only downside of Railay Beach.
One of the most popular beaches in Thailand, Railay Beach.
18. Ko Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi can be seen as one of the top destinations in Thailand when it comes to beautiful beaches. It was here where the legendary movie The Beach, with young Hollywood star Leonardo Di Caprio, was shot. Koh Phi Phi is actually an archipelago with Koh Phi Phi Don the largest and only inhabited island. As Koh Phi Phi is such a popular destination, tourism has made its impact. The most famous bay in Thailand, Maya Bay was recently closed until May 2021 for ecological recovery. But that didn’t stop its visitors as Koh Phi Phi has so many beaches to offer with pearl white sand, crystal clear water, limestone cliffs and palm trees. Popular beaches can be found at Loh Dalum Bay, Bamboo Island, Long Beach and Monkey Beach. Koh Phi Phi is also known for its nightlife which is described in the previous paragraph, making this island a great place to enjoy some of the nicest views the country has to offer and simultaneously have some of the coolest beach parties of your holidays. If this is not your thing, I would recommend visiting other islands, like Koh Kood, Koh Lipe or Koh Lanta.
The iconic limestone cliffs at Koh Phi Phi
19. Bottle Beach at Koh Phangan
Bottle Beach is the most beautiful island Koh Phangan has to offer located in the northeast of the island. The original name of the beach is called Head Khuat and the beach is relatively quiet, especially compared to other popular beaches in Thailand. While the majority of the visitors of Koh Phangan is visiting the island to attend the Full Moon Party, the small island does have more to offer, like this Bottle Beach. As the water is perfectly clear, Bottle Beach is an excellent place to snorkel, although the coral has been damaged over the years. Bottle Beach has a nice laid-back atmosphere with several bars and restaurants. It’s a great place to simply enjoy the nice weather with an ice-cold beer.
20. Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park is a stunning archipelago of forty-two small islands with beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, limestone cliffs, greenery and palm trees. The National Park is located east of Koh Samui and is therefore highly recommended as a day trip when you are relaxing in one of the many luxurious resorts Koh Samui has to offer. As the National Park is a protected area, Ang Thong offers a huge variety of exotic wildlife and sea creatures, making it a perfect place for snorkelling and scuba diving. As it’s a protected area, only a few tour operators are licensed to enter the park, making sure the human impact on this beautiful park is minimized. During the day trip, you will visit two islands, Koh Mae and Koh Wua Talap, which takes you to the breathtaking Blue Lagoon. In the famous book of The Beach, which was later filmed with Leonardo Di Caprio, the writer Alex Garland was inspired by the Blue Lagoon. In the movie, they used Maya Bay in Koh Phi Phi to visualize Alex Garland’s definition.
21. Koh Kood
Finding a remote island that is not consumed by mass tourism is getting more difficult every year. But that does not mean there are none left. Koh Kood, located close to the Cambodian border, is such a place and is gaining popularity of the last years. That does not mean you’ll find countless hotels, in fact, during low season it’s difficult to find a place to stay, but popularity means that proper roads are build and other facilities that make the island even better. Koh Kood is known for its beautiful beaches, jungle and waterfalls. The absolute highlights when it comes to beautiful beaches are located in the southwest of the island. Klong Chao Beach is the most popular beach the island has to offer, where you can find several luxurious hotels. Other beautiful beaches are Ao Khlong Hin, Ao Tha Khian and Ao Jark. In order to get around the island, it’s highly recommended to rent a motorbike, which can take you to remote beaches and beautiful waterfalls such as the Khlong Can and Khlong Yai Kee waterfalls. Without renting a motorbike, getting around the island is difficult. In order to get to Koh Kood, you need to take the ferry from Laem Sok and will take you to the island in two hours.
The beautiful beach at Koh Kood, definitely worth the travel.
22. Sunrise Beach at Koh Lipe
Located in the south far end of Thailand close to the Malaysian border, Koh Lipe has some of the finest beaches Thailand has to offer. It is here where you can find most likely the whitest beaches of the country and Sunrise Beach is the most beautiful of all four beaches Koh Lipe has to offer. Koh Lipe is gaining popularity over the last few years and you can find plenty of luxurious resorts here nowadays. As the water and marine wildlife are so impressive, Koh Lipe can be seen as one of the top destinations in Thailand to scuba dive. Similar to other remote islands, Koh Lipe has a laid-back atmosphere and is almost like a bounty island. The other recommended beaches at Koh Lipe are Sunset Beach and Pattaya Beach. As the names already suggest, it is here where you must see the sunrise and the sunset. Koh Lipe is only accessible by boat, which can be taken from Pak Bara Pier on the mainland.
Sunrise Beach at Koh Lipe
23. Spot Wildlife and Waterfalls at Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park is the oldest national park in Thailand and is located relatively close to Bangkok. Only a three-hour drive will take you to this beautiful national park. What makes this national park so special? Khao Yai National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, beautiful nature and waterfalls. The park is well-maintained with asphalt roads and great facilities. You can discover the park on your own by car, but the majority of its visitors will book a tour in front of the park. Although everyone hopes to spot wildlife, the chances of seeing wild elephants or other large animals are very low. If you do want to spot these animals, you must take the night safari. The park has several trekking routes which we recommend exploring these routes with a tour guide. These trekking routes will give you the best chances to see (smaller) wildlife during the day. As mentioned, the park is also known for its waterfalls. The most popular waterfalls are Haew Narok Waterfall, which is the largest waterfall in Khao Yai National Park, and the Nam Tok Haew Suwat Waterfall, which is a twenty-five-meters high waterfall known from the movie The Beach. It was here that young Leonardo Di Caprio had to jump off the waterfall in order to survive. Keep in mind that the Haew Narok waterfall may be closed during the hottest month of the year which is April.
If you are extremely lucky, you can spot wildlife in Khao Yai during the day. Otherwise, take the night safari to spot the wild.
24. Visit Thailands most beautiful national park, Khao Sok
Probably Thailand’s most beautiful national park, Khao Sok is an absolute must-visit when it comes to scenery. Khao Sok National Park is located north of Phuket, is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and is home to incredible wildlife, caves, waterfalls and the famous Cheow Larn Lake. As this national park has so much to offer, from canoeing, cave explorations, jungle trekking and boat tours through the mangrove, it’s highly recommended to stay at this national park for several days. Throughout the National Park, you can find all sorts of accommodations including sleeping on a floating hut on the Cheow Larn Lake or in a luxurious treehouse. As Khao Sok National Park is on everyone’s top things to do in Thailand list, it’s highly recommended to book both the accommodations as well as the tours in advance. The majority of these accommodations also provide transport from and to the national park.
Thailands most beautiful National Park: Khao Sok
25. Mae Salong Tea Plantations
Mae Salong is located in the hills of the Chiang Rai Province, a four-hour drive from Chiang Mai, close to the border of Myanmar and Laos. Back in the days, this area was known as the Golden Triangle due to producing of opioids which were exported to every corner of southeast Asia. Nowadays, in this area, some of the finest tea leaves in the world are getting produced. What makes a visit to Mae Salong so unique, is the fact that it will take you to some of the most picturesque landscapes the country has to offer. During a day trip, you will visit some tea plantations as well as the local tea market and the Hall of Opium, a museum about opium in Sop Ruak.
26. Island Trip To Surin Island
When visiting Phuket, it's highly recommended to visit Surin Island, a small island part of Mu Ko Surin National Park where you can find the last sea gipsies known as the Moken. These sea gipsies became internationally known after a documentary of the BBC (a short video is placed under this paragraph). The national park is impressively beautiful and has some of the best coral you can find in Thailand and seeing small Nemo fishes during snorkelling is a guarantee. Many tourists in Phuket choose between a day trip to Surin Island or a day trip to the Similan Islands of which the Similan Islands is the most popular one. The Similan Islands have prettier beaches, but for snorkelling and having the chance to meet the friendly Moken sea gipsies, Surin Island is your best option. Booking a trip to Surin Island is simple as all hotels and tour operators in Phuket will offer you this trip, varying in different price classes and quality. During our stay in Phuket, we booked a full tour at Wow Andaman (not an affiliate link or whatsoever) and the quality of the tour was outstanding, which included breakfast, snorkelling, lunch buffet, helpful staff, unlimited drinks and plenty of life vests. The best time to visit Mu Ko Surin National Park and Surin Island is between November and April, outside of the rainy season.
Important: it is possible to sleep at Mu Ko Surin National Park in either a tent or a small bungalow. Many visitors regret they haven't booked a night at Surin Island once they've seen the beauty of the island.
The beautiful waters of Surin Island
You can find the last sea gipsies known as Moken at Surin Island.
Moken kids at their local school.
27. The White Temple
Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, is an astonishing temple in Chiang Rai. As the name already suggests, the temple is completely white, to show the purity of Buddha. The temple was built in 1997 and designed by the famous artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The temple is still a work in progress and in 2020, the White Temple will finally be finished. The White Temple completely stands out due to its form and details. Every aspect of the temple is a religious symbol. As the temple was designed by an artist, you can expect less conventional details inside the temple and the artists placed some form of humour in his work. For example, the murals inside the temple have modern fiction figures painted on the wall, including Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda and Neo from the Matrix. This unusual yet interesting detail makes the White Temple some of the most fascinating temples in Thailand.
The White Temple in Chiang Rai, unique in its kind.
28. A Boat Trip Between The Lime Stones Of Phang Nga Bay
North of Phuket, between Phuket and Krabi, you find this extraordinary landscape of limestones popping out of the ocean. It is here where the famous James Bond movie called The Man With The Golden Gun was shot and one of the major highlights of the boat trip is visiting this so-called James Bond Island. You can easily book a tour from your hotel or from many tour operators, however, if you're planning to rent a car in Phuket, it's really easy to organize this trip by yourself. Drive to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint, where you can book a private boat for 2000 THB, which takes you to six different highlights of Phang Nga Bay, including the fishermen village completely built on the open water. This private longtail boat is suitable for up to eight passengers. Before you take the boat trip, or after, depending on your preference, you can visit Samet Nangshe Viewpoint. A pick-up truck will take you to the top of the steep hill, and after a bumpy ride, you have the perfect sight of the natural beauty of Phang Nga Bay.
James Bond Island at Phang Nga Bay
Samet Nangshe Viewpoint
29. Koh Lanta
Maybe this island does not have the picture-perfect beaches like Koh Phi Phi, even though the beaches at Koh Lanta are still beautiful, but what makes Koh Lanta so special is the laid-back atmosphere and the quietness compared to other beaches listed in this article. You won’t find much nightlife here, meaning that you won’t find many party-like young backpackers here. The island has more to offer than only beaches, as it’s one of the largest islands in Thailand. Visiting Koh Lanta Old Town is a must, as well as visiting the national park. The best way to get around the island is by renting a motorbike and discovering one of the remote beaches the island has to offer. Or simply go straight to the most popular beaches: Klong Dao Beach, Katiang Beach Phra Ae Beach.
Koh Lanta is known for its laid-back atmosphere.
30. Visit the Death Railway
Day trips from cities like Bangkok are among the popular things to do in Thailand as the country offers proper transportation and countryside villages often has plenty of cultural and historical activities to offer. One of these popular day trips is a visit to Kanchanaburi, which is a three hours drive from Bangkok. Here you will find the Erawan Waterfalls and the Death Railway. During World War II, prisoners of war including Thai, British, Americans and Dutch, were forced to build a railway between Thailand and Burma. Under the worst circumstances created by the Japanese, these men build a 415 kilometres long railway which took the lives of 15,000 people. After World War II, the people who died were reburied among three fields of honour, including one in Kanchanaburi. Due to the popular Hollywood movie The Bridge On The River Kwai, the Death Railway become recognized by the West. In Kanchanaburi, visitors can see that exact bridge. Visiting the Death Railway shows you the dark history of the country during World War II.
The death railway at Kanchanaburi
31. Visiting one of the popular floating markets
Floating markets are often associated with Thailand and throughout the country, you will find several great floating markets. But over the years, these floating markets become so popular that nowadays tourists complain about these markets being too touristy. But from the local’s perspective, the markets will only sell products its visitors might buy, as the locals have to make a living. When a floating market becomes so popular among tourists, the locals will sell you touristy goods, because, at the end of the day, they still need to make a living. My advice is to be a little bit open-minded to this, so you can still enjoy a visit to one of the popular floating markets the country has to offer.
The majority of the floating markets are located in or near Bangkok. Damnoen Saduak is by far the most popular floating markets in Thailand. It’s located one hundred kilometres from Bangkok which is about a one-hour-drive. The market offers a wide variety of food, drinks and souvenirs, hence the ‘too-touristy’ aspect. Ten kilometres from this market is Amphawa Floating Market, which is focused on food, in particular seafood and Thai desserts. But even Amphawa Floating Market is overly crowded right afternoon. Alternatives are Taling Chan Floating Market and Bang Krachao Floating Market, which both are located in Bangkok. All details about these floating markets can be found in our article about the best floating markets in Bangkok.
The most famous floating market in Thailand: Damnoen Saduak
32. Eat, shop and drink at Thailand’s popular night markets
Night Markets can be found in almost every larger town and are compared to floating markets more authentic. The reason for this is that floating markets were created when transport over the water was more convenient than transport of land. So in a way, floating markets are kept alive to attract tourists. Night markets on the other hand really fulfil a need: it’s a gathering of vendors selling a huge variety of goods, which often are cheaper than anywhere in town. And locals love night markets! Popular night markets in Bangkok are Ratchada, Srinakarin and Chang Chui Plane Night Market. Popular night markets in Chiang Mai are the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and Sunday Walking Street. Other popular night markets are Cicada Market in Hua Hin and Fishermans Village in Koh Samui. If you are on the hunt for great street food, craft beer, live Thai music, souvenirs and antiques, these markets are the place to go. If you are in Bangkok, I would recommend reading our article about the best night markets in Bangkok, which contains seven different and unique night markets the city has to offer.
Visit a night market in Thailand is highly recommended, with amazing street food, live music and cheap drinks!
33. Waterpark Hua Hin
While Hua Hin might be associated as a destination for retired people due to its calm environment, the city does have some great activities to offer. One of these activities is a visit to Vana Nava Water Jungle, a waterpark that’s fun for any age. Vana Nava Water Jungle is the largest waterpark in the country and offers high-quality water slides and water activities. The eye-catching Abyss is one of the top attraction in this waterpark with speeds up to 45 kilometres an hour and makes you spin vertically. In total, there are nine of these adult rides in the park that will guarantee a fun day. For the younger kids, there are six attractions available including the Rain Fortress with several small waterslides just for kids as well as a 31-metres waterfall. Tickets are available on the Official website of Vana Nava Water Jungle and cost 1,200 THB per adult.
The waterpark in Hua Hin is a fun activity for both young and old!
34. Attend a Muay Thai evening
Sports-enthusiasts should consider attending a Muay Thai game, which is the national sport of Thailand. Throughout the country, you can find several places where fights are being held, but keep in mind that some of these fights at popular tourists destinations, for example, the one in Koh Phi Phi, are just for tourist entertainment. For more authenticity, you must go to the Muay Thai capital of the world: Bangkok. The most popular arena is the Rajadamnern Stadium, located close to Khao San Road. Here, the athletes will fight for the title at the highest level possible. Several nights per week, around eight games are being held per night with fighters of all ages. Tickets are available on the Official Website of Rajadamnern Stadium. The second class, lower-tier tickets are the best option as the view is optimal to watch the game. The other stadium where the official games are being held in the New Lumpinee Stadium. There is an alternative, which are the games being held on Sunday in the Channel 7 Stadium. Attending the games at Channel 7 Stadium is free, however, due to popularity, you have to be there hours before the games start in order to get a seat.
Attending a Muay Thai game is highly recommended in one of the large stadiums or small local halls.
35. Jungle Trekking
While the south of Thailand is known for its beautiful islands, the north of Thailand is known for its jungles. This diversity, all in one country, makes Thailand such a great country to visit. If you are heading towards the north, jungle trekking is highly recommended. From unique plants to large wildlife and beautiful caves to gigantic waterfalls, beautiful nature can be explored with jungle trekking. Together with a guide and fellow companions, you will trek through the jungle for the whole day, with the possibility to sleep at a Hill Tribe Village as well. The Jungle Trekking in the north will take place in Pha Dang National Park and the Doi Inthanon area. Alternatives are jungle trekking in the earlier mentioned Khao Sok National Park and Khao Yai National Park, which are not located in the north.
Explore nature and wildlife with guided jungle treks.
36. Siam Niramit
Siam Niramit is a spectacular show that takes you on a journey to the Thai culture. During the show, which takes around ninety minutes, three acts are being held: Thai history and their kingdoms, the rise of the religion and the origins of the Thai festivals. The show is being held every day and you can watch this spectacular show in both Bangkok and Phuket. What makes this show so unique, are the special effects and extensive details. Expect flying dancers, lanterns, swimming performers and beautiful costumes. A minor detail that might give you the idea of how immense this show is, is that Siam Niramit has the largest indoor stage in the world. You can buy the tickets on the Official Website of Siam Niramit. There are several seat options available. Personally, I would recommend the golden-seat tickets, which is right behind the front row seats. This gives you the best overview of the complete show.
Amazing acrobatic performance can be seen at Siam Niramit.
37. Scuba Diving in Koh Tao
Assuming that you’ve never dived before, Thailand is one of the best places to get started. For those of you who already have their PADI Open Water, I would suggest reading further on the extensive guide for dive spots from Adventure in You. The best place to visit is Koh Tao, as this small island has crystal clear and shallow water and throughout the whole year, you can scuba dive here. It’s commonly known that the best place to get your PADI Open Water, which is the official certification that allows you to scuba dive, is Koh Tao. Due to the high competition of scuba dive instructors and companies, the prices are relatively low under the best circumstances for a beginning diver. For right under 10,000 THB, you can follow a three-day course that will get you a PADI Open Water certificate. Another cool thing about Koh Tao is that it attracts a lot of young travellers and in the evening, you can have a fun evening at one of the beach bars located on the island.
Get your PADI Open Water at Koh Tao.
38. Kitesurfing in Hua Hin
Where Koh Tao is widely known for the amazing scuba dive facilities, is Hua Hin widely known for the amazing kitesurfing facilities. Similar to Koh Tao, Hua Hin does not have a specific season where people can learn how to kitesurf, but instead, you can kite surf throughout the whole year. Another similarity to Koh Tao is the shallow water. All these optimal factors make Hua Hin the best place in Thailand to learn how to kitesurf. A three-day course will cost you around 11,000 THB and under strict guidelines with a maximum of two students, you will learn the basic steps of kite surfing. After finishing the course, you will get an IKO certificate, which is the PADI equivalent of kite surfing.
Throughout the whole year, you can (learn how to) kitesurf in Hua Hin.
From small meditation courses for beginners to complete multi-day meditation retreats in luxurious resorts, Thailand has everything you need to find your inner self. Meditation is not an activity most tourists directly think of when visiting Thailand but is an important aspect of life for Thai. For those who have never meditated, it’s highly recommended to follow a course first. Those who are experienced in meditation can join a meditation session at a temple. Keep in mind that men and women are separated in these temples, so if you travel as a couple, you won’t be able to meditate together. More information can be found on the Rough Guide's Guide to Meditation in Thailand.
Learn how to meditate in Thailand.
40. Follow a cooking-course
Home to one of the most famous cuisines in the world, not only tasting Thai food is one of the best things to do in Thailand, but learning how to cook Thai food is really fun too! Throughout the whole country, you can easily find a local business offering these nice classes. The whole afternoon, you shall create your own curries, pad Thais or other tasty Thai dishes. At the end of the cooking class, you will get a recipe book with authentic Thai dishes. Once you are back home, you can impress your friends and family with all your new cooking skills.
41. Get a traditional Thai massage
Getting a traditional Thai massage should be one of the things to do in Thailand, as this famous massage technique was developed in this country. As mentioned before in this article, the Thai Massage got its origins from Wat Pho and still at this day, you can get one of these famous massages at the official Thai Massage school at Wat Pho. But throughout the whole country, you can find massage shops, some of them authentic, others more for pleasure. A full Thai massage experience might take up to two hours and will treat the whole body including fingers, feet and ears. Because of the unusual positions and close contact, some first-timers might be a bit uncomfortable with this massage. The traditional Thai is an oil-free massage where the therapist will stretch, compress and bend your body in different positions by using their own body weight to put pressure on muscles and pressure points. After a proper Thai massage, you will definitely feel ten years younger!
Get rejuvenated with a proper Thai massage.
42. Ride the Mae Hong Son Loop with a motorbike
Who’s in for an adventure? Although we strongly advise not to drive a car or rent a motorbike in most parts of the country due to some of the highest road traffic fatalities in the world, we do recommend you take the Mae Hong Son Loop. The Mae Hong Son Loop is a six-hundred kilometres road trip from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, to Pai and back to Chiang Mai. During this trip, you will encounter some of the most beautiful landscapes the Northern Thai region has to offer, including caves, waterfalls, Pai Canyon, hot springs, lakes and mountains. The Mae Hong Son Loop will also take you to remote villages, local temples and amazing restaurants. One more tip: make sure you have solid health and travel insurance, just in case something goes wrong.
One of the most popular scenic routes in Thailand: the Mae Hong Son Loop.
43. Explore the local cuisine Thailand has to offer
The Thai cuisine is a world-famous cuisine that is known for its sweetness, sourness, spiciness and saltiness thanks to the use of incredible (Thai) herbs. Visiting Thailand without exploring the local cuisine is something you will regret. For many of Thailand’s visitors, the lack of knowledge and the fear of trying something completely new results in only eating what you already know. We believe that is a pity, as you have no idea what you miss. That’s why we created TopTravelFoods, a food review platform that helps travellers find the best local food during their holiday in Thailand. Instead of recommending good restaurants, we recommend the best food these restaurants have to offer. All of these recommendations are rated and reviewed by fellow food lovers and travellers. With TopTravelFoods, you will never get stuck wondering what to order again and you can try new amazing foods that are recommended by others. The app is available for iOS and Android and is completely free.
iOS: Download TopTravelFoods for iOS
Android: Download TopTravelFoods for Android
There you have it, our list of the best things to do in Thailand. Hopefully, this will bring you plenty of inspiration to plan an amazing trip to the Land of the Smiles. If you can't get enough of this, I would suggest you read one of our following articles:
The Best Itineraries for Bangkok
What Food You Must Eat in Bangkok
The Best Local Thai Restaurants in Bangkok
The Best Local Thai Restaurants in Chiang Mai
The Best Local Thai Restaurants in Ayutthaya
The Best Local Thai Restaurants in Pattaya
The Best (Local Thai) Restaurants in Kanchanaburi