Best things to do in Thailand
Find out more about those top places in Thailand
Located in mountainous northern reaches of Thailand, Chiang Mai, the country’s second city, is famed for its laid back attitude and gilded temples. While Thailand’s rapid post-World War Two development has transformed Chiang Mai into a sprawling metropolis, the historic center, which is encircled by a serene moat, remains remarkably unchanged with the streetscape primarily comprised of traditional wooden houses and peppered with dazzling Buddhist temples, including Wat Phra Singh. What is more, the city itself is lorded over by Thailand’s most sacred temple, the 13th century Wat Phra That Doi, which forms a truly astonishing collection of golden pagodas. Chiang Mai is also the gateway for the Thai Highlands, where hiking trails snake through picturesque rice paddies and enchanting ancient villages.
Perched above the hyper-modern metropolis of Chiang Mai, the glorious temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of Thailand’s most spectacular sights. While the temple is one of the country’s most revered, it is best explored as part of a tour that encompasses the surrounding Doi Suthep National Park, where vast bamboo forests conceal plunging waterfalls and unrivaled wildlife.
Once the largest structure in Chiang Mai, Wat Chedi Luang is a monolithic piece of 15th century Thai architecture. Towering over the Old City, the temple is primarily made of brick and stucco and while it may look plain in comparison to the city’s other places of worship, the sense of history surrounding it is awe-inspiring. To understand the site’s complex restoration process, guided tours are recommended.
Undoubtedly the most sacred site in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Singh is everything you could wish for from a Buddhist temple and more, lavishly decorated monastic buildings pepper the complex; lush gardens are filled with tropical bird life; and gilded pagodas rise into the sky. The main attraction is the Lai Kam Assembly Hall where murals depict daily life in Thailand hundreds of years ago.
Surrounding the evocative Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the Doi Suthep National Park is Chiang Mai’s pristine backyard. Tours of the park take in its towering bamboo forests, numerous unspoiled waterfalls, including the iconic Bua Tong, and its spectacular fauna.
Located south of Chiang Mai, the spectacular White Temple, known locally as Wat Rong Khun, is one of the newest addition to the city’s unrivaled clutch of Buddhist temples. Construction on the site began in 1997 and the building is coated in a dazzling array of mirrored chips that give the impression of gleaming white porcelain.
Face some of Thailand’s most ferocious white water rapids on the Mae Taeng River on this adrenaline filled rafting tour.
Treat yourself to one of the world’s most relaxing experiences with a Thai massage while in the glorious city of Chiang Mai. With options ranging from a classic oil massage to herbal massages and traditional tok sen, the award-winning spas of the city have a treatment for everyone.
Go beyond the usual pad Thai with this vibrant Chiang Mai street food tour. Starting in the center of the city expert guides will take intrepid foodies to hidden stalls and buzzing street-side restaurants to eat local dishes, including khao soi (an aromatic coconut curry) and gai yang chicken (a barbecued chicken served with a zingy papaya salad).
Playing an integral role in Thai folklore for the past millennia, the Chiang Dao caves are one of Northern Thailand’s most historic locations. Equipped with headlamps and caving equipment, local guides take you through the labyrinth of stalactite and stalagmite-clad tunnels to sacred Buddhist shrines located deep in the mountain.
The city of Pattaya is a hidden gem located on the eastern Gulf coast of Thailand, it started as a little village but has since transformed into an industrial city, with a population of over 300,000 people it is still very much a growing city.
Understandably Pattaya cannot be compared to Bangkok, Thailand’s capital or other top Asians cities but it still has some wonder tourist sites. The city is known for its many sacred temples, beautiful museums and floating markets.
The Sanctuary of Truth is perhaps the most famous building in Pattaya. Standing at 105 meters tall the building is made entirely of wood and all of its detailed carvings are handmade. The temple was the idea of Thai businessman Lek Viriyaphan in 1981 and the temple is main goal is to depict that all the world’s religions lead to one truth. Although construction of the temple started as far back as 1981 the temple is still uncompleted with projected completion being in 2050.
One of the things Thailand is known for is its floating markets, the Pattaya Floating Market is no doubt its most known. Officially known as the Four Regions Floating Markets, it is separated into four different parts with each representing and selling goods from the four major parts of Thailand (south, northeast, central and north). The entire market covers an area of 100,000 square kilometers and features many stores selling different items. Asides the buying and selling that goes on in the Market there also some other side attraction like the wood carving museum and cultural performances by locals.
One of Pattaya’s most visited tourist attractions is the mind-blowing statue called “Big Buddha”. The Big Buddha is an 18-meters-tall gold painted Statue of the Buddha situated at the top of the Pratumnak Hill. Also known as the “Luang Phor Yai” it is the main attraction of the Wat Phra Yai temple built in the 1940s. It is regarded as a sacred place and often visited by monks and locals who come to pray. To get to the Big Buddha there a series of stairs well-designed with artworks, both handrails are made of 7 shining snakes which emerge from the mouth of a dragon. The temple also features 7 other images of Buddha each representing the days of the week.
Not your typical art gallery, this one place that is better experienced in person. The Art in Paradise was established to bridge the gap between art and its viewer. Its artworks have a three-dimensional design to it that makes it look realistic so when visitors take pictures, its seem like they are part of the art itself. The building which is split into 10 theme sections and has over 100 art pieces each. The Art in Paradise is well suited for all members of the family.
Situated in the Royal Garden Plaza, this museum was inspired by Robert Leroy Ripley’s book “Believe it or Not!” and it was perfectly designed to give visitors a shocking and surreal feeling as they explore it. Separated into 10 areas the museum is filled with facts and exhibits that you probably never knew existed. It star attractions include the Titanic made from more than a thousand matchsticks and its Infinity Maze.
Sprawling across the flat lands of the Chao Phraya delta, Bangkok, the vast capital of Thailand, is one of Asia’s great mega cities. Renowned for its multifaceted cuisine, backpacker culture and Buddhist heritage, Bangkok is Thailand’s most dynamic city where nonstop change brushes up against timeless traditions. For foodies, Bangkok is a dream with roadside stalls serving up noodle dishes with the freshest vegetables and sweet, sour and salty herbs and Michelin starred restaurants popping up in the city’s many luxurious mega malls. What is more, history is all around, especially in Banglamphu neighborhood dominated by iconic Golden Mount Buddhist temple. Bangkok is also one of Asia’s best cities for nightlife, in part due to its popularity with western backpackers who congregate in the hedonistic neon lit streets around Khao San Road.
Set in the heart of Bangkok, the golden pagodas of the Grand Palace are one of Southeast Asia’s most breathtaking sights. Although today the palace is only used for official functions, it was the official residence of the Kings of Siam between 1782 and 1925. It is no surprise then that the gilded complex is steeped in history and intrigue that visitors can explore thanks to expert local guides.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, known locally as Wat Phra Kaew, is the spiritual epicenter of Thai Buddhism. Adjoining the gilded Grand Palace, the temple is no less spectacular with an endless array of golden pagodas and dazzling shrines. For the best experience, make sure to explore the grounds with a local guide who will explain the significance of the diminutive Emerald Buddha statue that sits pride of place in the main place of worship.
Perched on the banks of the languid Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun, known in English as the Temple of Dawn, is one of Bangkok’s standout attractions. As one of the most important temples in Thai history, it is fittingly decorated in a phantasmagoria of sea shells, porcelain tiles and gigantic statues while vertiginous stair cases allow visitors to climb up the structure itself. As the temple is removed from the center of the city, the most enchanting way to visit is via a traditional long tail boat tour.
Southeast Asia’s iconic floating markets are a wonderful assault on your senses: the aromatic smells of ground spices fill the air; freshly caught fish are cooked over coal stoves; and vividly green vegetables are traded between boats. The best of these in Bangkok is undoubtedly the charmingly off-beat Tha Ka, which is best explored with the help of a local guide.
Located in the shimmering Wat Traimit, the Golden Buddha, officially named Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon, is Bangkok’s most enigmatic attraction. For centuries hidden behind a false plaster wall, the 3 meters tall and 5.5 tonne solid gold Buddha was only rediscovered in the mid-20th century following renovation work. For a unique experience, combine a visit to the Golden Buddha with tours of Wat Pho and Wat Benchamabophit.
After serving in the forerunner to the CIA in Japanese occupied Thailand during World War Two, Jim Thompson settled in the country and became one of the world’s premier silk entrepreneurs. With his vast personal wealth he collected one of Asia’s most diverse collections of art, which is now displayed to the public at his former home in Bangkok. Alongside world-famous pieces of art, the house also includes a museum dedicated to his life and dazzling antique furnishings.
Across the Andaman Sea from the popular party island of Phuket is Krabi Province, which is undoubtedly one of Thailand’s foremost hidden gems. Blessed with awe-inspiring limestone cliffs, jungle-clad mountaintops, white sand beaches and rainbow colored coral reefs, Krabi is quintessential Thailand with a fraction of the visitor numbers of nearby regions. Krabi Town, the province’s picturesque capital, is the perfect base for excursions to the two hundred or so Andaman Islands that lie off shore or to the spectacular limestone backed beaches of Ao Nang and Railay. Beyond this, Krabi Province is Thailand’s adventure sports capital with ample opportunities to kayak through pristine mangrove swamps, snorkel or scuba dive amongst some of the world’s most biologically diverse coral reefs and climb the sheer rock faces of the region’s distinctive cliffs.
As one of Thailand’s most remarkable landscapes, the lush Phi Phi Islands are rightly one of Krabi’s biggest attractions. Tours of these tropical islands on speedboats encompass snorkeling in the dazzling coral reefs of Hin Klang, relaxing on the white sand of Maya Bay, which was where The Beach was filmed, and visiting Viking Cave, where thousands of migratory swallows nest.
Encircled by towering limestone cliffs, Railay Beach is only accessible via thrilling boat tours. What is more, the remote area is perfect for adrenaline pumping rock climbing, which can be undertaken with help of expert guides with state-of-the-art equipment.
Stretching from southern Krabi into the Andaman Sea, the collection of islands known as Koh Lanta are one of Thailand’s hidden gems. With a spectacular array of remote coral reefs, limestone cliffs and crystal clear water, the islands are sure to be a highlight of any trip to southern Thailand.
Topping a jungle-clad mountain and only accessible via a series of precipitous stairs, the Tiger Cave Temple is Krabi’s most iconic attraction. Known for its tiger paw prints inside a cavernous cave, the temple is best known for the towering golden Buddha statue that lords over much of the island.
Just off the coast of Krabi are an array of jungle-clad limestone islets, which form Thailand’s most iconic landscape. The most spectacular attractions in the archipelago are Koh Proda, Chicken Island, Tup and Phranang Cave Beach, all of which can be visited as part of a boat tour from Krabi.
The pristine rainforests of Krabi hide one of the island’s true hidden gems: the Blue Lagoon. More a collection of shallow fresh water pools set amongst lush tropical foliage, the lagoon is perfect for kayaking, which lets you get close to the remarkable wildlife and majestic scenery of Krabi.
Surrounded by the rich waters of the Andaman Sea, Krabi is one of Southeast Asia’s premier fishing destinations. Daily tours of the diverse waters take you to the best spots to catch numerous big game species, including iconic swordfish, marlin and barracuda.
With karst islands rising out of turquoise waters, golden sand beaches stretching for miles and rainforest-clad mountains, Phuket is a real life tropical paradise. Unsurprisingly, the Thai province has become saturated with visitors who arrive each year in their millions. However, away from the sin-city of Patong, renowned for its 24-hour party atmosphere, Phuket is a relaxed hidden gem with astonishing cultural riches and mouth-watering cuisine. Beyond the beaches, Phuket Town showcases the best of Sino-Portuguese architectural traditions while Buddhist temples in Chalong and Thalang rival any of those in Bangkok. What is more, Phuket’s cuisine is a melting pot of Thai, Chinese and Malaysian traditions producing culinary fusion that is equal parts disconcerting and delightful.
The sheer limestone cliffs, jungle-clad mountaintops, bio-diverse mangrove forests and sparkling turquoise waters of Phang Nga Bay are one of the world’s most iconic landscapes. To get to grips with the area’s magical birdlife, gravity defying geological formations and role in James Bond’s Man With a Golden Gun, tour the bay with an expert local guide who will take you off the beaten tourist trail.
For most visitors to Thailand visiting an elephant sanctuary is a must-do experience. One of the best places to do so is the ethical Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in scenic jungle-clad hills near Phuket, which is home to tens of elephants rescued from captivity and poachers. During tours of the wonderful sanctuary you will get the opportunity to feed the jungle giants bananas and sugar cane and get muddy with them in a mud spa.
The Robinson Crusoe-esque Surin Islands form one of the world’s most important marine national parks playing host to a dazzling array of coral reefs, tropical fish species and marine mammals. To explore the region’s extraordinary bio-diversity, guided tours from Phuket take you the premier snorkeling spot of Ao Mae Yai where you can experience the rich flora and fauna first hand.
As one of Thailand’s most remarkable landscapes, the lush Phi Phi Islands are rightly one of Phuket’s biggest draws. Tours of these tropical islands encompass snorkeling in the area’s dazzling coral reefs, relaxing on white sand beaches and visiting numerous historic attractions.
For those looking to learn about Thailand’s unique history without slogging through books the colorful Siam Niramit Show is an ideal experience. Showcasing the incredible martial arts and acrobatic skills of over 100 performers, the shows take you on a journey through the country’s immense culture and history.
One of Asia’s best museums of optical illusions, the Phuket Trickeye Museum is bound to enthral visitors of all ages. With thrilling waterfall simulations, exhibitions that take you back to the ancient world and 3 dimensional paintings that come to life, the museum is an unforgettable experience.
The Andaman Sea is one of the world’s premier scuba diving destinations. Tours of this remarkable stretch of water run daily from Phuket and allow you to explore the underwater phantasmagoria that are coral reefs, which is home to innumerable species of colorful fish, sharks, dolphins and turtles.
For thrill seekers, the Flying Hanuman attraction on Phuket's outskirts is a must. Set amongst lush tropical rainforest and with the utmost respect for the region’s bio-diversity, the rainforest adventure takes place high in the canopy through a series of adrenaline pumping zip lines and sky bridges.
To truly immerse yourself in the wilderness of the jungles that surround Phuket, white water rafting tours on the immense Song Phraek River let you experience the raw power of nature.
Perched atop the jungle-clad Nakkerd Hills and visible from across Phuket Island is the Big Buddha statue. The towering statue still under construction and will reach 45 meters tall when complete, offers remarkable views of the surrounding landscape and can be incorporated into tours of Phuket city.
Located just north of Bangkok, lies the enigmatic remains of Thailand’s former royal capital known as Ayutthaya. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, the ruins of hundreds of temples are strewn across a vast area, which is interspersed by pristine jungle. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, Ayutthaya was the dazzling capital of Thailand and the shimmering golden roofs of the temples were said to be visible tens of kilometers away. However, the city’s glorious heyday ended abruptly when in 1767 the Burmese sacked the city so completely it had to be abandoned. Today, the ruined city is best explored by bike or boat to get a full understanding of the vast scale of the former capital. While most visitors simply spend the day in Ayutthaya, it is worth far longer, as it is undoubtedly Thailand’s most magical attraction.
Covering vast swathes of the ruined medieval city of Ayutthaya, touring the Historical Park is one of Thailand’s most enigmatic experiences. Local guides will explain the rapid rise and fall of the grandiose former Thai capital, take you to a plethora of royal complexes that are now partially swallowed by the jungle and let you marvel at the bronze Buddha of Viharn Pra Mongkolborpit.
In the midst of the jungles of Ayutthaya, the temple of Wat Mahathat is testament to the immense wealth of the medieval Thai kingdom. Sprawling over a vast area, the temple complex is the most iconic in the area with numerous sandstone pagodas and Buddha’s heads peeking out of the foliage. For the best experience, explore the temple with a local guide who will tell you its story from its 14th century founding to the sack of the city by the Burmese.
Thanks to its towering central prang, the Wat Chaiwatthanaram Temple is one of Ayutthaya’s most memorable. Built in the 17th century by King Prasat Thong, the temple today stands as testament to the profound influence of Buddhism on Thai society.
Constructed as a cremation site for the first Ayutthaya’s monarch, King Ramathibodi I, the crumbling ruins of Wat Phra Ram ooze historical significance. As one of the ancient city’s oldest landmarks, expert guides are one hand to fill you in on the temple’s twisting history and cultural importance.
Known as the Summer Palace in English, the Bang Pa-In royal complex was first established in the 17th century with Rama IV and V adding much of the Thai infused Victorian architecture that visitors see today in the 1800s. Today a dazzling array of monuments in a hotchpotch of historical styles are spread across a perfectly manicured garden.