Your ultimate Thailand bucket list is here. When preparing for your Thai vacation, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to visit as there are so many beautiful destinations within this South East Asian country. I’ve assembled a whole bunch of travel bloggers to give you their tips on the best places to visit in Thailand to help you plan your next holiday!
Koh Lanta ticks all the boxes for us as a perfect island getaway. It’s not overly developed with very few buildings taller than two stories and has retained its rustic charm. We love the row of restaurants and bars that hug the coastline and spill onto the beach at Klong Dao. At night their lanterns and lights make it feel truly magical. It’s a wonderfully chilled-out vibe, but don’t expect any late-night parties.
As Koh Lanta is such a laid back island and the beaches on the East have a shallow gradient, Koh Lanta is popular for those travelling Thailand with kids.
If you can tear yourself away from the beach, head down to the colourful markets of Sala Dan by the ferry terminal. I also massively recommend taking a speedboat tour out to the other islands for a day of snorkelling and exploring hidden beaches and coves.
To get to Ko Lanta, you need to use a ferry (there is also a car ferry). There is no airport, but you can hire airport transfers from Krabi Airport on the mainland.
Contributed by Jenny from TraveLynn Family
Bangkok is a city that you can love or hate. In our opinion, this is a place worth seeing at least once in your life and then making your own opinion about it. Bangkok has everything that makes it a metropolis. It is crowded, loud, dirty, full of weird smells, and in all this, there are plenty of places where you can quiet down, enjoy delicious Asian cuisine, or watch locals and tourists from all over the world.
If you are visiting Bangkok and you definitely must see the Grand Palace and famous Buddhist temples – Wat Arun and Wat Pho with huge, golden reclining Buddha. They are beautiful, and their architecture, colors, and unique atmosphere contrast with the crowded city.
If you want to spend a lovely evening and admire the views of Bangkok at night, go for a drink at one of the many rooftop bars (they are pricey though!). We are not fans of the so-called entertainment district such as Patpong, but here is where you can feel like in the Hangover movie.
Contributed by Marta and Milosz from Backpackers WRO
Koh Yao Yai
I know it’s a tired travel cliché, but the island of Koh Yao Yai really is an unspoilt corner of Thailand. Sitting roughly equidistant to Phuket and Krabi in the Andaman Sea, to reach Koh Yao Yai you need to take a 25-minute speedboat journey from either island.
Running 30 kilometres in length, this lush, narrow strip of an island is fringed with gently sloping white sandy beaches and dense mangroves.
Life is laid back here. Koh Yao Yai’s slower pace and restrained development is likely to rest with its friendly 90% Muslim population, who live in the island’s wooden stilted homes.
Don’t come to Koh Yao Yai and expect a party scene. Alcohol can be tricky to come by outside of the resorts, but there is an occasional beach bar and the odd restaurant that will serve you a cooling beer.
Instead, come to Koh Yao Yai to relax, to walk along deserted stretches of sand or to explore the island on two wheels. If you’re in the mood for further exploration, enterprising local operators offer day trips including boat trips, diving excursions and off-roading adventures.
Contributed by Bridget from The Flashpacker
Phuket is most famous for its beaches and the crazy nightlife of Patong. And it’s true, if you are a fan of either you will love Phuket. Add to this a huge number of resorts to suit every budget, and it’s no surprise that Phuket is one of the most popular tourist spots in Thailand.
But there is also way more to Phuket than beaches and bars, and whether you are looking for culture, adventure or cuisine, you will find something to suit you in Phuket.
For a cultural fix, take a tuk tuk ride up to the Big Buddha, or take a heritage tour of Phuket Old Town, which has a surprisingly rich history and beautiful Peranakan architecture. Try to combine it with a visit to the weekend night markets, which kick off late afternoon on a Saturday and Sunday.
Of course food is a major highlight of visiting anywhere in Thailand, but thanks to Phuket’s Perankan roots, you can find a really interesting fusion of Chinese, Malay and Thai cuisine here. This unique combination earned Phuket recognition by UNESCO as the Creative City of Gastronomy in 2015. So as you stroll the streets of the Old Town, be sure to stop and try out some local dishes.
Another highlight is to get out and explore some of the surrounding islands, of Phang Nga Bay, including world famous James Bond Island. Or head further afield to the Similan islands for a day of snorkeling or diving.
Contributed by Marianne from Mum on the Move
Aonang is located about 40 mins drive from Krabi on the Thailand coast. It has traditional been popular with backpackers however I took my family of 5 and found Thailand’s best kept secret. We stayed at the Aonang Cliff Hotel which has an amazing elevated infinity pool overlooking the Aonang Beach and out to the limestone karsts just off shore. There are loads of different restaurants along the main street to suit all budgets. There are also various hotels and hostels that will also suit any budget.
From Aonang Beach you can very cheaply get a long boat to many of the islands including Railay Beach, Phi Phi Island, Koh Lanta, Phuket and many others. Just go to the shed with the glass window at the end of the main street, tell them where you want to go and then line up on the beach with your ticket and you’ll soon be told which long boat is yours. We went over to Railay Beach for a few hours and it was very cheap, only a few dollars and Railay Beach was spectacular.
Contributed by Sally from Our 3 Kids VS The World
Ubon Ratchathani is a small town located on the east side of Thailand. If you’re planning on visiting Laos next, it would be a smart stop on the way.
Ubon Ratchathani is off the beaten path. Most people never heard of it which is why you should go. Take a break from the crowds and experience the real Thailand.
Ubon Ratchathani has a lot to offer for travelers who are seeking something unique, different. I found the largest food market there – in fact, I was the only foreigner there.
I rode a bicycle around the countryside, I learned how to harvest food with the local kids and more importantly, I learned how to cook delicious Thai dishes. There are beautiful temples in the area as well as a special candle festival. Imagine seeing a parade with huge chariots made of candles.
Ubon Ratchathani is an excellent destination – especially for those who have been to Thailand before. If you want to connect with the locals while escaping the touristy spots, you’re going to love this city.
Contributed by Melissa from Nomad Life 101
Koh Phangan may be famous for its monthly Full Moon parties attracting backpackers from all over the world, but once you look beyond that, you’ll discover an amazing little paradise island with a spiritual heart.
Yoga centers and tattoo salons outnumber the party spots and cater to completely different type of travellers. Add kilometers of perfect beaches, lush greenery covering the whole middle and east of the island and you have the perfect definition of a paradise. Stunning sunsets can be observed from western beaches of Koh Phangan or from sunset bars, some of them perched high atop a mountain and offering absolutely breathtaking views.
When days spent at the beach spent sunbathing or snorkeling become too much of a routine, vibrant villages provide enough entertainment. Cool cafés, restaurants and markets full of locals and travellers add yet another dimension to a holiday on Koh Phangan.
Koh Phangan is conveniently located near Koh Samui and Koh Tao islands, but also the unique Marine National Park called Mu Koh Ang Thong made up of 42 little islands.
Contributed by Veronika from Travel Geekery
Koh Phi Phi
Thailand is full of unforgettable destinations, but Phi Phi Island is what most picture when the Southeast Asian country is mentioned.
Crystal waters that stretch over the horizon, golden sands and plenty of wildlife in the area. Even though Maya Bay was recently closed to tourism, there’s still a lot to see.
Phi Phi Island is home to some of Thailand‘s best scuba diving and snorkeling, along with other activities over the island. Take the short hike to the lookout over the main Phi Phi Don Island – the only one in the small cluster that is inhabited.
Monkeys are common sights on a number of beaches in the islands that lay around 40km south of
Krabi in southern Thailand.
In the end, Phi Phi Island is a fantastic place to visit if you’re after that vision of an island paradise in Southeast Asia. There is something on offer for each and every traveler and promises a memorable
Contributed by Ben from Horizon Unknown
Chiang Mai is located in the north of Thailand and is a charming old riverside city surrounded by lush green mountains and jungle. Chiang Mai is a mix of modern and historic, and the pace of life is much more relaxed than Bangkok. The old walled city is surrounded by a moat and holds over 300 beautiful temples, whilst trendy Nimmanhaemin Road has many galleries, cute cafes and boutique shops.
There are heaps of great activities and day trips to enjoy when visiting the city. Foodies will love the great street food scene here, plus a huge variety of excellent cooking classes and food tours. Elephant Nature Park is located a short drive out of the city and is home to many free-roaming rescued elephants, whilst Doi Inthanon (Thailand’s highest mountain) is a great day trip for jungle trekking and visiting waterfalls
Nocturnal activities include the epic Sunday Walking Street and the daily Night Bazaar which both sell traditional Thai gifts, clothing and more. Chiang Mai also has some great festivals throughout the year including the famous Yi Peng festival. This is celebrated in November and thousands of floating lanterns are released into the night sky.
Contributed by Caroline from CK Travels
Simply put, Thailand is a dreamy destination. It has beautiful scenery, delicious food, hospitable people, and gorgeous islands. Choosing which islands to visit in Thailand is overwhelming as there are so many amazing ones to choose from. With that being said, you should definitely add Koh Samui to your itinerary.
It has an airport which makes fairly accessible. The beaches in Koh Samui will spoil you. The sand is ultra-soft and white and feels like powder. The water is a gorgeous shade of blue and it’s crystal clear. In addition, Koh Samui has great nature. The Namuang Waterfalls are easy to get to and has striking cascades.
Fisherman’s Village in Bophut is a fun area of the island that comes alive on Friday evenings. It becomes a walking street and has several street food vendors and boutique shopping stands.
Lastly, Chaweng is a true gem on this island. The beach is insanely pretty and it has tons of restaurants and bars. It also has a night market where you can try authentic Thai cuisine for the fraction of the price you would pay in a restaurant. Koh Samui is one of those places you visit that you visit and you don’t want to leave.
Contributed by Disha from Disha Discovers
One of the best places to visit in Thailand is Koh Larn Island just off the coast of the Pattaya. Among the six beaches located on Koh Lan’s coastline, the most popular are Samae and Tawaen, where most of the accommodation and restaurants can be found. As most of the tourists tend to stay here, this area is the best place to book tours around the island as well as rent banana boats and speed boats.
The smallest beach, Tien Beach is the best place for people looking for some peace and quiet. Usually empty after 5 PM, this is also the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Another small beach to check out is Nual Beach, which is known for the macaques that scavenge the area. Just 35 kilometres away from town, this is the perfect place for intimate sunsets and being one with nature.
There are many awesome things to do in Koh Larn. Also know as a coral island among locals, it is known for its beautiful underwater world. Whether you fancy going on a snorkeling tour or hopping on a glass-bottom boat, the corals of Koh Larn Island must not be missed.
Contributed by Karolina and Patryk from Lazy Travel Blog
Koh Tapu (James Bond Island)
You cannot afford to miss James Bond Island while traveling in Thailand. The real name of this island is Koh Tapu which is a subpart of Phang Nga Bay. The island came to the limelight after its appearance in the 1974 James Bond film ‘The Man with the Golden gun’.
Lots of travelers visit this beautiful island to get a picture postcard photo of the striking scenery created by the towering vertical karsts and emerald green water.
Phang Nga Bay is just 40 km away from Phuket. There is a total of 100 plus islands in this area and James Bond Island is the most popular island among all. There are many tour operators who conduct a full day or half-day tour around Phang Nga Bay.
These organized tours are the most convenient way to visit James Bond Island. This kind of organized day trips includes hotel pick-up, minivan transfers to Phang Bay, a long-tail boat or speed boat to James Bond island and many more. A buffet lunch and entry fees of Phang Nga National Park is also included in the day trip cost.
Tips: James Bond Island is a very popular beach in Phuket and extremely crowded. Try to get there as early as possible to avoid the crowd. It will be a perfect day trip if you add Khai and Hong Island in your James Bond Island tour.
A full day James Bond Island Tour costs around 1000-1500 Baht depending on the number of travelers and type of boat.
Contributed by Trijit from Budget Travel Buff
About 300 years ago, Ayutthaya was the largest city in the world, holding more than a million inhabitants. Sadly, this magnificent city was reduced to ruins when it was sacked by Burmese soldiers in 1767. The ruins that remain today are mostly stone temples and palaces, since all the other buildings were made of wood and thus burned to the ground.
Sitting just 80 kilometers from Bangkok, Ayutthaya has become a popular day trip among visitors to the country. I recommend staying overnight here, however, as this will allow you to enjoy the sunset and see the temples lit up at night, without the crowds. Wat Ratburana is particularly atmospheric in the evening, with its beautiful stucco decorations.
And be sure not to miss the towering Buddhist stupas of Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which served as the Royal Chapel. If you’re looking for the famous ancient Buddha face surrounded by the roots of a tree, you’ll find it at Wat Phra Mahathat.
Once you’ve finished exploring the temples, a good place to head for dinner is a restaurant called Malakor, which has great views of Wat Ratchaburana. Vegetarian and vegan travelers in Thailand should note that meat can be replaced with tofu in most dishes here.
In the north of Thailand, you’ll find a lesser-known island by the name of Koh Kut. It’s a larger Thai island, with songthaews needed to get to your hotel or bungalow and additional transportation if you want to go exploring—which you should. Because the beautiful turquoise water by the dock you’ll be dropped off at is not the only beautiful beach on this island.
The best part about Koh Kut’s beaches? They are fairly devoid of tourists. You won’t see the touristy towns on this island either.
It’s got a relaxed vibe that hasn’t succumbed to the stream of 7-eleven’s that you’ll find on other larger, more developed islands. And contrary to what you might find on the Internet, there aresome affordable places to stay here.
Koh Kut is a hidden gem and a great place to explore if you’re looking for a beautiful island that’s a little off the beaten path.
Contributed by Ashley from Jetset Jansen
Krabi is a coastal province in South Thailand with beautiful beaches like Ao Nang and Noppharat Thara beach. What sets it apart from other beach destinations of Thailand, is its laid-back nature and rural setting.
Just like the nearby Phuket Island, it’s a two-hour ferry ride away from the famous Phi Phi islands. However, Phuket usually wins the popularity contest resulting in far less tourist traffic to Krabi. This is a huge plus for people looking to get away from the crowds.
In spite of the rural setting, Krabi has a lot of interesting things to offer. You can visit the nearby Tiger Cave temple which has stunning views of the surrounding mountains or soak in the hot springs at Emerald pool. You are also a short ferry ride away from Railay island. To discover all the things to do in Krabi, visit the linked article.
Contributed by Pari from Traveling Pari
Koh Mook is one of the best places to visit in Thailand, not only because it is not very many tourists that choose to stay there, but also because of Emerald Cave. The mesmerizing cave can only be reached by sea and includes a swim or a kayak trip through the 80 meters long cave and into an opening where a white sanded beach is surrounded by steep cliff walls and lit up only by the rays of the sun.
This is the main tourist attraction on Koh Mook, but most travelers visit the cave on a day trip from other nearby islands like Koh Lanta, and miss out on the rest of the island. If you visit the cave in the early morning, you can get there before the crowds and enjoy this piece of paradise all by yourself.
There are plenty of other things to do on Koh Mook too. There are a few jungle treks to hidden beaches and as tourism hasn’t taken over the island you can forget about buying those elephant pants or a t-shirt that says “I love Koh Mook”. There is actually quite a local feel to the island except for a few resorts on the beachfront.
Contributed by Linn from Brainy Backpackers
One of our favorite places in Thailand that is often overlooked by tourists, is Sukhothai, Thailand. Sukhothai is a great stop along the way from Bangkok to Chang Mai. The ancient historic city is one of the former capitals in Thailand and has a deep history. In fact, it’s sometimes referred to as the Angkor Wat of Thailand.
One of the things we loved the most about Sukhothai was the fact that the ancient city ruins are spread out over a large area. So renting a motorbike to cruise around and explore was a lot of fun. Since this city is off the beaten tourist track, we were surprised by how few people were there. We literally had almost every temple to ourselves!
You can easily spend all day exploring the ancient structures in Sukhothai. And after a full day of sightseeing and cruising around on the motorbike, you have to cap it off with dinner that includes the famous Sukhothai Noodles. Named after the city, these noodles are absolutely delicious. In fact, we had them for lunch and dinner both days we were there.
Contributed by Josh from Peanuts or Pretzels
We’re sure you’ve heard of the Maldives – but did you know there is a Thailand destination known as the Maldives of Thailand? Koh Lipe needs to be on your Thailand bucket list. It’s the most southern island in Thailand and it’s easy to add to your list of islands to hop to.
While in Koh Lipe, day trips surrounding the island are the most popular. We recommend looking into a day trip because it is the best way to explore the Tarutao National Park and partake in the island’s most popular activity of diving. When you’re ready to relax, check out any of the island’s three beaches – Pattaya, Sunrise and Sunset. Sunrise is our absolute favorite!
Koh Lipe is a small island, so getting around is easy. The restaurants serve up incredible local cuisine and there are plenty of chill beach bars to hang out at. Kop Lipe has it all and we hope you pay it a visit!
Contributed by Hannah and Adam from Getting Stamped
Chiang Rai is a must-visit destination in Northern Thailand. This city is the address of stunning and weird temples, delicious food, hill tribes, and gorgeous nature. To explore all the attractions I recommend staying in Chaing Rai for at least 3 days. But the truth is that with so many amazing places to visit in Thailand, it’s hard for a traveler to stay that long in every destination. If you are short on time, another option is to go on a day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and enjoy the best of the city in one day.
When planning your visit to Chiang Rai you must add to your itinerary a stop at the world-famous White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suae Ten) and the Black House (Baan Dam Museum). These are the main attractions in Chiang Rai, and you’ll spend 1 to 2 hours in each place.
The White Temple is known for its magnificent exterior with hypnotizing details and shining mirrors. While the outside is very impressive, the inside is weird with drawings of extraterrestrial things and Hollywood sci-fi characters. The White Temple is a place of art more than a religious temple, so be prepared to wait in the queue to get in and for taking photos. On the other hand, the Blue Temple is stunning and very religious, rich in details and packed with locals praying.
Still on the weird road, the Baan Dam Museum has a morbid collection with skeletons, animal skin in different houses spread through the beautiful garden. Go there with time to explore the museum and the green area around it.
Once you are in Chiang Rai you must try Khao Soi, this noodle curry-based noodle is mouthwatering and the perfect food to give you the energy to keep exploring the city.
Contributed by Natalie from Love and Road
Phanomrung Temple is a far-flung temple found in the lesser-explored region of Isaan along the Cambodia borders. And it is an ancient Khmer Temple found along what is known as the Ancient Khmer Highway, a 225-kilometre road leading through the Thai-Cambodia borders from the renowned temples of Angkor. And, like Angkor Wat, it shares similar influences as an ancient Hindu site which worships the revered Hindu God of Shiva.
The temple itself is located on a now extinct volcano, where a stairway, lined with stone serpent heads and carved pillars, leads to the upper sanctuary of the ancient temple. Through the building’s interior there are fifteen doorways, and once every year the sunrise will align with the doors, and the phenomenon is celebrated with a rather spectacular event (Phanomrung Festival), starting at sunrise, and ending at night with a dazzling display of sound, light and costume design beneath the backdrop of temple walls.
To reach the site the best route would be travel to Buriram Province where the nearest town would be Nang Rong where it’s easy enough to find tour options for the temples in the region.
Contributed by Allan from Live Less Ordinary
Thailand nowadays gets a pretty bad reputation as the destination for wild parties, overcrowded and dirty beaches, and over-tourism. While some of that is true, Thailand also has a lot of hidden gems, especially in the northern part. Pai, a small hippy town located in northern Thailand, is one of the places that you must visit in Thailand.
Though it still has its wild parties, Pai is most famous for its nature and homey vibe. Come to Pai to visit some of the amazing waterfalls in the area such as the Mo Paeng waterfall and the Pambok waterfall, both short rides away from the town itself. After you’ve spent a few hours at these waterfalls, go over to Pai canyon for some interesting geological features.
It is also one of the best places to watch the sunset! After sunset, go check out some of the local restaurants in the area. Cooked with many traditional homemade recipes, the dishes in Pai are something to drool over. An inviting town where the friendly locals will treat you like you are their own, Pai is a town you cannot miss in Thailand.
Contributed by Sean from Living Out Lau
Koh Ngai is definitely one of the best places to visit in Thailand. The views from this tiny island are incredible with stunning limestone islets rising out of the perfect calm blue sea. This island has no resident population, just a few hotels that are strung out along the beach. All development is low key and the island remains a quiet and unspoiled paradise.
You will probably be happy spending your time relaxing on the white sands of the main beach, soaking up the views, and taking a dip in the warm, shallow sea.
If you fancy a bit more activity there are some nice spots just off the beach where you can go snorkelling. It is also a great place to kayak and you can work your way around the island to see interesting rock formations, tiny coves and the aptly named ‘Paradise Beach’.
Whilst on the island you are sure to see hornbills and monitor lizards who live in the jungle fringes of the island. There are also thousands of fascinating hermit crabs that scramble along the beach at all hours.
All in all, it is the perfect island to visit and we recommend staying as long as you can. You can easily make day trips to Koh Mook and Koh Kradan if you can draw yourself away from the beauty of Koh Ngai.
Contributed by Chris from More Life In Your Days
Ko Tao, an idyllic tropical island paradise, is found in the Central Gulf Coast of Southern Thailand. It is a respite from the business of the nearby islands, far enough from civilisation while still being relatively easy to reach from Bangkok.
The white-sand beaches are surrounded by crystal-clear water, making the island famous as an easy, fun diving destination and giving the opportunity to see turtles, stingrays, barracudas, lots of small fish, and reef sharks. There are hardly any ocean currents and it is conveniently easy to choose from the wide selection of dive sites, shops, and schools.
Anywhere along the coast is a great spot for snorkelling, with Shark Bay of Haad Tien being the most popular. There are also a number of good viewpoints around the island. Other things to do include sailing, rock climbing, kayaking, and fishing. You could even learn some yoga or Muay Thai.
Contributed by Rai from A Rai of Light Travels
Thailand truly has something for every traveller. Foodies will delight in the incredible unique flavours of Thai cooking, city lovers will relish in the bustle of Bangkok and beach babies will adore the many beautiful islands that this South East Asian gem has to offer. There are so many places that need to be on your Thailand bucket list that you’ll want to visit over and over again.
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