Best Places to Visit in Thailand
From the temples and night markets of Chiang Mai to the famous party island of Phuket, there is plenty to explore in this spectacular country. In fact, there is such a diverse range of landscapes that you could easily spend a few months here. However, it’s definitely possible to see all the highlights in 2-3 weeks. Alternatively, pick one of the best places to visit in Thailand and stay here to really explore.
As the capital and epicenter of Thailand, Bangkok really is the best jumping-off point to see the country. In this city of chaos and confusion, the atmosphere, music, smells, and sounds are totally unforgettable. Because of this infectious nature, many people come for a few days and end up staying for weeks.
Bangkok is also referred to as ‘The Venice of the East’ because of its many canals which cross the city. Take a boat ride along the waters to see colorful floating food markets or enjoy a tuk-tuk ride through the city, stopping off for street food, handicrafts, and clothes (don’t forget to negotiate!). Finish the trip with an evening drink at one of the chic rooftop bars for amazing skyline views.
Tip: No trip to Bangkok would be complete without a visit to the incredible temples. Our favorite was Wat Benchamabophit because of the quiet and beautiful location on the city’s edge. This was easily one of the best places to visit in Thailand!
Where to Stay in Bangkok
We recommend the Sukhumvit area, which has great connections for exploring the city. There are lots of accommodation options around here.
If you’re after more of a party vibe, then choose somewhere near the infamous Khao San Road.
2. Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is loved for its cooler climate and slower pace of life, making it one of the best places to visit in Thailand. The cultural gem of the north is certainly more relaxed. However, it is easy to fill your days (and nights) looking at the many temples and night markets and exploring the handicraft shops and bookstores.
For coffee lovers, there is a fantastic cafe scene! You can try locally sourced beans and famous dishes like the Chiang Mai specialty Kow Soy (curried broth noodles served with crunchy pickled veggies). Delicious!
Chiang Mai is also the ideal gateway to the beauty of the northern mountains, where you can explore remote natural areas.
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
We recommend staying in the Old Town. This is the best place for first-time visitors as you are close to everything, including the famous Sunday Night Market.
For something more alternative and trendy, choose the Nimman neighborhood, which also has many great shops and cafes.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the cities is the peaceful Pai, a cool hippie town with a lovely night market and restaurants. This place is all about its surroundings, with plenty of rice paddies and stunning nature to see; it certainly tops the list of best places to visit in Thailand!
For those first-time bikers, this is a great place to start, as the roads are very quiet. You can easily rent a motorcycle from the main street in Pai and go and explore the countryside. For example, breathtaking sights like Pai Canyon, which is incredible at sunset (and the bonus is it’s free!).
If motorbiking isn’t really your thing, opt for a peaceful stroll along the picturesque rice field walkway and Bamboo Bridge. Or, for the more adventurous, enjoy the popular activities of tubing or rafting down the river.
Where to Stay in Pai
Pai is a top-rated backpacker destination, so there are many hostels, guesthouses, and villas to choose from. Many of these are the typical bamboo huts you’ll find dotted among the rice paddies.
This massive island may have a reputation for being the party destination of Thailand. However, there’s so much more to discover! The nature here is spectacular, with jungles, beaches, small islands, traditional villages, national parks, waterfalls, and incredible wildlife.
If you want to have the chance to see elephants in an ethical environment, then visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. This retirement home for older and injured elephants works tirelessly to rescue these majestical creatures from the logging and tourism industries.
Within Phuket Old Town itself, discover incredible street art with an organized tour or just explore yourself. As you wander the streets, you’ll notice the architecture and culture slightly differ from mainland Thailand. This is because of the Chinese, European, and Malay influences.
Where to Stay in Phuket
There is plenty of choice for accommodation in Phuket Old Town. Situate yourself here to be close to the lovely architecture, colorful buildings, and vibrant weekend night market.
If you prefer a more laidback beach stay, then take a look at Kata or Karon Beach.
Krabi town, the capital of the province, is the perfect base for exploring the extraordinary nearby islands and mangrove forests. Visitors are spoilt for choice with the stunning white sandy beaches, turquoise ocean, and stunning limestone cliffs. There is also a lively town with a great food scene, night markets, and incredible temples. The diversity of this area makes it one of the best places to visit in Thailand!
Island living is really the best thing about Krabi, and there are plenty of choices for day trips to smaller neighboring islands such as Phi Phi and Hong. Spend your days island hopping, snorkeling, and rock climbing, and end the day with a sunset kayak tour and a beach bbq. Bliss!
Where to Stay in Krabi
There are three main areas to choose from in Krabi, each with its own character. Ao Nang is the most developed, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and cafes.
If you prefer the backpacker vibe, then Krabi Town is a good option and is slightly cheaper. For those with a bigger budget, Railay has stunning scenery and beautiful sunsets too.
6. Khao Sok
Khao Sok is a vast national park and one of the most unique and exciting places to visit in Thailand. It has two main areas: Khao Sok Riverside within the main town and Cheow Lan Lake, a beautiful man-made lake (also used to power the region) that is deep in the jungle.
The wildlife is phenomenal, with elephants, gibbons, tigers, and many exotic birds living on the shores of the lake. Lining the water’s edge are charming fishing villages, some of which float on the water itself.
To explore Khao Sok, go hiking along the jungle trails or kayaking on the still waters, cruising through mangrove swamps, ancient jungle, and stunning rainforest canopies. With little to no light pollution, Khao Sok is also one of the best places in Thailand for star-gazing.
Where to Stay in Khao Sok
There are many guesthouses and hotels to choose from, but for something different, try a Bamboo bungalow! You can even stay in a floating raft house for a unique experience and wake up to the sounds of wildlife.
7. Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon is one of the most beautiful national parks in Thailand! Situated in the north of the country, it is famous for its incredible temple complex at the top of Thailand’s highest mountain. From the summit, enjoy the stunning views over the region, making it one of the best places to visit in Thailand.
The most impressive part of the temple complex is the Royal Twin Pagodas, a must-see at sunrise! Take a hike along the nature trails, where you can take photos from the many viewing points along the way. To get the most out of your trip, we recommend hiring a local hill tribe guide to teach you about the region and its culture.
Where to Stay in Doi Inthanon
We recommend you book in advance as the park has limited accommodation options. You’ll find guesthouses, campsites, and homestays, paticularly in the village of Baan Khun Klang, which has more options.
8. Koh Lipe
Part of the Tarutao National Park is Koh Lipe: a ‘paradise’ tropical island close to the border of Malaysia. It really is the perfect island getaway and one of the best places to visit in Thailand! This off-the-beaten-track location has jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches with soft white sand lined with pretty palm trees and clear turquoise water.
While in Koh Lipe, we recommend doing as little as possible! Swing in a beach hammock, sip coconut juice, and take in the stunning surroundings with a book in hand. Alternatively, discover the island by bicycle; this can be covered in 30 minutes, and there are very few cars around.
Where to Stay on Koh Lipe
The best area to stay is Sunrise Beach which is a beautiful area away from the busier harbor. Here there are plenty of accommodation options to suit all budgets as well as many local restaurants and cafes.
9. Khao Yai
Khao Yai is a huge national park (the third largest in Thailand!) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a favorite for those who want to see wild elephants, gibbons, and many exotic birds. However, above all, it’s the best place to see bats in their natural habitat, home to the famous Khao Luk Chang Bat Cave, which houses 3 million bats!
Additionally, if you like hiking, Kao Yai is one of the best places to visit in Thailand because of its fantastic nature trails.
Tip: To give you a greater chance of spotting the wildlife, take a guided tour, either private or group. We recommend doing this also to see the incredible scenery and learn about the area’s stunning waterfalls, dense forest mountains, and valleys.
Where to Stay in Khao Yai
If you want to camp inside the national park, there are two camping grounds and a few other basic places to stay, which can be booked through the Park’s website. However, most hotels and other accommodation options are outside the park boundaries.
If you love history, you will be blown away by Ayutthaya – a vast archaeological site and undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Thailand. Awarded UNESCO status, this ancient city is home to six main temples, numerous Buddha statues, enormous Buddhist monasteries, and imposing shrines.
It is possible to explore the park by bicycle or tuk-tuk or alternatively take a guided tour. Another option is to discover the city from a different perspective and take a boat tour where you can also see the floating markets and try the famous boat noodles.
Any time of day is great for visiting Ayutthaya. However, the sunset is exceptional. Head for Wat Chai Watthanaram, a beautiful spot by the river, to see the illuminated temples as the sun goes down.
Tip: If you are staying a while, check out nearby Lopburi. This ancient city is just one hour away and is the home of hundreds of monkeys!
Where to Stay in Ayutthaya
It is possible to visit on a day trip from Bangkok, as the complex is only an hour away. However, we recommend staying a night or two, giving you the opportunity to see the temples at sunrise too.
Tip: It is best to choose accommodation close to the historical park for easy access.
11. Koh Tao
Beautifully nestled in the Gulf of Thailand is the palm-fringed paradise island of Koh Tao. It takes its name from the many sea turtles that live on its shores, a characteristic that definitely makes it the best place to visit in Thailand! It’s also well known for its tropical coral reefs, which you’ll find in the clear waters. This fantastic sea life makes it the perfect place for snorkeling, diving, and paddleboarding, especially if you want to get your PADI license.
Tip: Koh Tao is really small, meaning everything is accessible by motorbike or walking. Spend your days traversing across the island, taking in all the incredible scenery and stunning viewpoints that look out across the ocean and coastline.
Where to Stay on Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a popular backpacker destination, so there are many accommodation options for all budgets.
Sairee Beach, in particular, is a great place to stay and is very popular for its great nightlife, restaurants, and bars. For a quieter experience, try Chalok Baan Kao Bay, with its lovely beaches, or Mae Haad Bay, for its incredible sunsets.