Whether you want to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of Bangkok’s vibrant markets or laze away the days on an idyllic beach, there are Thailand destinations to suit everyone.
From the remote, ethnic hill tribe villages in the mountainous north to the palm-fringed beaches in the south, Thailand has firmly made its mark as Southeast Asia’s premier tourist destination. It’s home to ancient architectural sites and elaborate temples, as well as glitzy shopping malls and soaring skyscrapers. National parks protect its wild beauty both above and below the water, with some of the world’s best snorkeling and dive sites to discover. Intoxicating street food stalls and floating markets display its rich culinary history, while fascinating festivals mark its calendar each year.
Phang Nga Bay
Home to what has been dubbed “James Bond Island” due to its appearance in “The Man with the Golden Gun”, the sheltered bay of Phang Nga is an idyllic destination to the northeast of Phuket. It features a number of spectacular limestone islands and sunken grottoes to explore, with sea kayak one of the most popular ways of getting around. It also boasts an impressive underwater landscape to discover while snorkeling or diving.
Ayutthaya Historical Park
Serving as the ancient capital of Siam from 1350 until it was ransacked by Burmese armies in 1767, the Ayutthaya Historical Park lies on an island formed by the confluence of the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak Rivers, just to the north of Bangkok. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed site includes the remains of palaces, monasteries and temples, with impressive prangs and Buddha statues which illustrate different architectural influences. Don’t miss the immense Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam, photogenic Wat Phra Si Sanphet or the headless Buddha statues of Wat Phra Mahathat.
Mu Ko Chang National Park
Composed of more than 50 islands in the Trat Province of eastern Thailand, Mu Ko Chang National Park features pristine beaches, lush waterfalls and outstanding snorkeling and diving in its offshore reefs. Ko Chang is its main island and renowned for its jungle-draped peaks, with a scattering of good hotels and restaurants to choose from. Relax on the beaches of Hat Sai Khao or Hat Kai Bae then head out on the water fishing or kayaking.
Khao Sok National Park
One of the largest remaining tracts of virgin rainforest in Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is a captivating destination for wildlife lovers and nature enthusiasts. A limestone mountain range provides a dramatic backdrop for walks here, taking you to cascading falls while spotting wild elephant, Mayalan tapir, pig-tailed macaque and white-handed gibbons. You can embark on a guided safari through the lowland jungles, then relax in a raft house on stunning Lake Khao Sok.
Northern Hill Tribe Villages
With ethnic minority groups originating from China, Burma and Laos, Northern Thailand is home to a number of fascinating hill tribes which have retained their traditional lifestyles. The Long Neck Karen, Hmong, Akha, and Lahu people all live here, each with their own distinct customs and way of life. Many are opening their villages to outsiders for visits or overnight homestays, with their remote location meaning that trekking through the rugged, mountainous terrain of northern Thailand is the best way to get there.
Thailand’s pulsing capital and its largest city, Bangkok’s ancient temples are juxtaposed against ultra-modern shopping malls and the country’s best dining experiences. It’s home to the elaborate Grand Palace which was built over successive centuries by the Thai royal family and the Emerald Buddha within Wat Phra Kaew, as well as the famous Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho and the soaring prang of Wat Arun. A short drive from Bangkok takes you to some of the country’s most exhilarating markets, including the floating markets at Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa, as well as the Mae Klong Railway Market which sprawls along a working train track.
Ko Phi Phi
Made famous as the filming location for the 2000 movie “The Beach,” Ko Phi Phi is a breathtaking archipelago of islands in Southern Thailand’s Krabi Province. It features soaring karst limestone mountains and idyllic stretches of beach, surrounded by the warm, turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea. You can join a day trip to go island hopping, including a visit to Ko Phi Phi Leh where the movie was actually filmed, or spend a few nights staying on Ko Phi Phi Don which has a good choice of hotels and restaurants.
Home to more than 300 Buddhist temples, unique artisan workshops and meditation retreats, Chiang Mai is the main hub of Northern Thailand. It has become a popular destination for alternative therapies, as well as being a foodie’s heaven, with its famous night bazaars a feast for the senses after dark. Take in the views from its spectacular mountaintop temple of Doi Suthep and coincide your visit with the annual Loi Krathong or Songkran festivals.
Sukhothai Historical Park
Comprising the ruins of the Siam capital during the 13th and 14th centuries, the Sukhothai Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in central Thailand. It includes more than 20 temples, a Royal Palace and ancient Buddha statues scattered throughout its five different sections, as well as the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum which details the culture and history of Sukhothai. Sukhothai’s architecture features influences from both Khmer and Sri Lankan styles, with the immense Buddha statues at Wat Si Chum among its highlights.
The town of Kanchanaburi lies to the northwest of Bangkok and is where the Japanese built the notorious Thai-Burma “Death Railway” using Allied POW labor during World War II. It was designed to connect Yangon with Bangkok and cost countless lives, with hundreds of Allied soldiers laid to rest at the War Cemetery here. Wander across the famous Bridge over the River Kwai and learn more about this somber moment in history at the JEATH War Museum, then continue on to the beautiful, seven-tiered Erawan Falls.