10 Must-Visit Places in Thailand

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There are plenty of must-visit places in Thailand, a country that serves as a perfect introduction to the backpacker’s paradise of Southeast Asia. Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand offers a blend of exoticism for those seeking something different from their familiar surroundings. Delight in its delicious cuisine, with the iconic pad Thai taking center stage. Explore landscapes where rivers, mountains, waterfalls, and valleys converge. Discover ancient temples and cities, experience the warm hospitality of the Thai people, and to top it all off, indulge in the beauty of its pristine beaches and idyllic islands, bathed in turquoise waters. It’s sure to be the perfect finale for your journey.

The best time to visit Thailand is between November and March, when temperatures are pleasant and the landscapes are at their most stunning. While there’s no bad time to visit this country, if you want to avoid rain, it’s best to steer clear of the monsoon season from July to October, when showers may disrupt your travel plans.

Bangkok

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is a city that may not immediately captivate you, perhaps due to its perpetual pollution, chaotic traffic, and constant humidity. However, we assure you that it’s worth giving it a chance. As you start exploring its streets, getting lost in the markets, visiting the incredible temples, immersing yourself in its culture and way of life, you’ll begin to find order within that personal chaos, eventually wishing to stay for more days.
In addition to being one of the must-visit places in Thailand, Bangkok is the perfect gateway to Southeast Asia, with more Westernized infrastructure compared to its neighboring countries while still preserving many of its Eastern traditions. Some of the best places to see in Bangkok include the Grand Palace, Chatuchak Market, Khao San Road, the klongs (canals) of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Pho and Wat Arun temples, Chinatown at night, and the city’s panoramic views from observation decks such as the Bayoke Tower or Sirocco.

Grand Palace of Bangkok

 

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, the northern capital and another of the top places to visit in Thailand, brings together everything a traveler dreams of finding in a magical and nature-filled setting. In this city and its surroundings, you’ll encounter incredible Buddhist temples and palaces, embark on treks through mountains, rivers, and jungles, as well as indulge in bargain shopping and local crafts at markets, some of which are open at night. You’ll also have the opportunity to savor the trendy culinary scene or relax with a traditional Thai massage.
One of the most famous excursions from Chiang Mai is Doi Inthanon National Park, located at the highest point in the country, where you can admire beautiful temples, waterfalls, and breathtaking vegetation.
In addition to these temples to see in and around Chiang Mai, it’s worth visiting the sacred mountains of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui, where you’ll find a stunning temple and a village inhabited by the Hmong tribe.
Two of the most well-known activities, often offered by many companies, are riding elephants or visiting the long-necked women. However, we personally do not recommend these experiences due to the cruel treatment of the animals and the women involved.
If you’re not taking a train or bus route from Bangkok to northern Thailand, the best way to reach Chiang Mai is by one of the many daily flights from Bangkok. The flight takes approximately one hour. Upon arrival at the airport, you can take a bus or taxi to the city. For visiting the more remote areas outside the capital, if you don’t want to rent a motorbike or car, you can hire a taxi or tuk-tuk. Always agree on a price before boarding a taxi or tuk-tuk.

Chiang Mai

 

Phi Phi Islands

The Phi Phi Islands, located in an archipelago in the Andaman Sea, are the most famous and another must-see destination in Thailand. These four islands, Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi Leh, Koh Pai or Bamboo Island, and Koh Yung or Mosquito Island, are renowned for their paradise-like beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters. They gained extreme fame when the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed in Maya Bay on the island of Koh Phi Phi Leh.
Due to their popularity, it is advisable to visit Maya Bay early in the morning by negotiating with a local boatman or during the evening to avoid being surrounded by hordes of tourists. Two islands with quieter beaches are Koh Pai and Koh Yung, while the largest island, Koh Phi Phi Don, is where you’ll find accommodation, restaurants, and a lively nightlife, especially in the Tonsai Beach area.
If you’re seeking tranquility while staying on this island, it’s best to choose Loh Dalum Bay, which is much quieter. Additionally, in Koh Phi Phi Don, you can book diving or climbing excursions and visit beautiful spots such as the Phi Phi View Point, Long Beach, and Monkey Beach.
The best way to reach the Phi Phi Islands is by taking a speedboat excursion from Krabi, Phuket, or Koh Lanta. Another option is to arrive by ferry from these three places and stay on Koh Phi Phi Don to explore these beautiful islands at your own pace.

Phi Phi Islands

 

Sukhothai, one of the places to visit in Thailand

Located between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, the Sukhothai Historical Park is another must-visit destination in Thailand. These ruins, situated about 12 kilometers from the current city of Sukhothai, were the capital of the Kingdom of Thailand during the 13th and 14th centuries.
The main temples and sites to see in Sukhothai, a UNESCO World Heritage site, include Wat Mahathat, Wat Trapang Thong, Wat Si Siwai, Wat Si Hong, Wat Si Sai, and Wat Shapan Hin, which are spread within a walled area of 3 square kilometers.
In addition to the aforementioned temples, we recommend not to miss other interesting ones such as Wat Si Chum and Wat Phra Luang. Since they are located further away, it is almost mandatory to rent a bicycle or a tuk-tuk to visit them.
We arrived in this historic city on a route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, combining train and bus. Keep in mind that Sukhothai does not have a train station, but you can reach it by bus from the nearby city of Phitsanulok, which takes about an hour. Once you are in the city, you can rent a tuk-tuk to take you to the ruins and even for the whole day for a more comfortable visit.

Sukhothai

 

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe, a small island located in the southern Andaman Sea, is another paradise and must-visit destination in Thailand. Known as the Thai Maldives, this island still offers a certain tranquility with its white sandy beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters.
However, the growth of tourism in recent years, especially between the months of November to May, has also increased the dining and hotel options, gradually affecting the tranquility that once characterized the island.
One of the best things to do in Koh Lipe, besides relaxing on its beaches, is snorkeling, kayaking, or scuba diving. You can also take boat trips to the neighboring islands or indulge in delicious Thai seafood cuisine. Exploring the island on foot is also a delightful experience, as its small size allows easy access to most places, including Sunrise Beach, Pattaya Beach, and Sunset Beach.
The best way to reach Koh Lipe, another must-visit place in Thailand, is by plane, arriving at Hat Yai or Trang airports. It’s worth noting that airlines like Airasia or Nok Air offer combined packages that include van and boat transfers to Koh Lipe. If you’re traveling independently, you’ll need to reach the Pak Bara pier to catch a boat to the island, which takes less than 2 hours.

Koh Lipe

 

Ayutthaya

One of the best things to do in Bangkok or if you’re on a route towards northern Thailand is to visit the ancient city of Ayutthaya, located about 80 kilometers from Bangkok, along the Chao Phraya River. Here, you can witness the remains of several temples that were built during the 12th and 13th centuries when Ayutthaya served as the second capital of the Kingdom of Siam after Sukhothai.
This complex, one of the top places to see in Ayutthaya, features several must-visit temples such as Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Wat Na Phramen, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, the monastery Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Wat Lokaya Sutha with its enormous reclining Buddha, and Wat Mahathat, the most famous temple where you can find a Buddha head entwined within the roots of a tree.
Just like in Sukhothai, it is recommended to get around Ayutthaya by bike or tuk-tuk, especially during the hotter seasons.
There are several ways to reach Ayutthaya from Bangkok, with the most common and affordable option being by train, which takes about an hour and a half. Other options include taking a minivan or booking a river cruise along the Chao Phraya River that includes lunch.

Ayutthaya

 

Khao Sok National Park

Located in the southern part of the country, Khao Sok National Park is an incredible and vast natural reserve and another must-visit place in Thailand. In this park, you can engage in a variety of activities such as jungle trekking, immersing yourself in the diverse flora and fauna, exploring caves adorned with stalagmites and stalactites like Waranam Cave or Coral Cave, kayaking or bamboo rafting along rivers, or taking a boat ride on the stunning Cheow Lan Lake.
As a unique and fascinating experience, you can even spend a night in one of the floating houses on the lake. To reach this national park from Bangkok, you can take an overnight bus that takes approximately 16 hours. Another more comfortable option is to take a night train with sleeper beds, which takes around 12 hours, or you can choose to fly, both of which will take you to Suratthani. From there, you can combine your journey with a minivan ride that will take you to the park in about 2 hours.

Khao Sok National Park

 

Chiang Rai

While the gem and most famous place in northern Thailand is Chiang Mai, if you have more days, it is recommended to venture to the province of Chiang Rai, which borders Laos and Myanmar and is another must-visit place in Thailand.
Away from the crowds of Chiang Mai, in this area, you can enjoy the landscapes, temples, and several highly recommended treks with more tranquility. The most iconic place in the area and one of the must-visit places in Thailand is the Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, which, although unfinished, will leave you speechless.
Another interesting site in the area is the Golden Triangle, a point where you can see the coasts of Laos and Myanmar while taking a boat trip along the Mekong River.
Other places to see in Chiang Rai include the Black House, the Blue Temple, Wat Phra Kaew, the Buddha Cave or Phra Cave, the landscapes of Mae Salong, the views from Doi Tung Mountain, and the night market in the capital.
You can travel from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by bus from the Arcade Bus Station, which takes about three hours. If you are in Bangkok, you can reach Chiang Rai by plane from Don Mueang Airport.

Chiang Rai

 

Koh Tao

The island of Koh Tao, located on the east coast and known as the diving mecca, is another beautiful place to visit in Thailand. Many tourists and backpackers have their first diving experience on this island, thanks to the clear visibility of its waters and the numerous diving schools that offer affordable prices for dives or scuba diving courses.
In addition to diving, we recommend not to miss out on some of the island’s beaches, such as the lively Sairee Beach or the peaceful Freedom Beach, Thian Og Bay, Tanote Bay, Thian Og Bay, and Ao Leuk, as well as some hidden coves like Banana Rock, Mao Bay, and Mango Bay, which can only be accessed on foot.
Another must-visit place in Thailand that you can’t miss, and where you can capture a postcard-worthy photo of Koh Tao, is Nang Yuan. It is formed by three islands connected by white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.
To reach Koh Tao, the best option is a combination of airplane and boat, either from Chumphon Airport or from Koh Samui, which is the faster alternative. While there are taxis available on the island, it is recommended to rent a bicycle or motorbike for getting around.

Koh Tao

 

Pai

Another one of the best places to visit in Thailand near Chiang Mai is the backpacker village of Pai, a small hippie town with just two streets. It attracts artists and bohemians and is known for its painting stalls, local crafts, wooden eateries serving vegetarian food, cafes, massage parlors, and a night market.
While we can’t deny that the best way to experience Pai is by renting a motorbike and exploring the surrounding areas, where you’ll find Pam Bok Waterfall, Mor Paeng Waterfall, the Buddhist temples of Chedi Phra That Mae Yen and Wat Klang, and the Chinese village of Santichon Village, among other interesting places.
The best way to reach Pai is by van from the Chiang Mai bus station. After a winding journey of about 3 hours, you’ll arrive at this unique village that has become one of the must-visit places in Thailand.

 

 

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