Ranking as one of the most visited destinations in South East Asia, Thailand has a lot to offer tourists. From bustling cities and ancient temples to pristine stretches of coastline and natural beauty, there’s something for everyone here. Every type of traveller enjoys their time ranging from the tourist looking to stay in the beachside Thailand vacation rentals to backpackers on a shoestring. But in Thailand, it can be difficult to know where to start. Check out the following must-visit destinations on your trip to this exotic spot in Asia.
Bangkok, the bustling and chaotic capital, attracts millions of tourists each year. Apart from having an exotic experience in a land that feels very different to back home, Thailand’s sprawling city of 8 million offers a range of fun things to do. Most people start by visiting the Grand Palace, a gigantic structure in Central Bangkok that was once the residence of a former king. Inside, visitors will see several pavilions, royal regalia as well as an overview of the country’s history and culture. Nearby, check out Bangkok’s most famous temple sat along the side of the river: Wat Arun. You can also head to the Wat Phra Kaew to see the reclining Buddha. Those looking to learn more about Thailand’s rich and diverse history can check out the National Museum. Apart from these attractions, sample the street food, enjoy the rooftop bars and watch Muay Thai boxing.
The former capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, also called the Siam Kingdom, for over 400 years is one of the most popular day trips from Bangkok. Built in 1350 and developed into a prosperous and affluent city with several palaces and hundreds of temples, Ayutthaya was once a focal point in South East Asia. Flash forward to the middle of the 18th-century and the once great city was sacked and all but destroyed by the invading Burmese armies. Today, the ruins of this great city remain and provide an intriguing place to visit for fans of history. The ancient capital is just 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Bangkok and accessible on the bus or train. Alternatively, book a tour from one of the many operators in the capital.
Northern Thailand’s gem: Chiang Mai. The small town is a haven for backpackers and expats in the budget-friendly and culturally diverse region. Not only are the prices of accommodation along with food and drink much lower than other parts of the country, making friends and meeting people here is also easy. With such a thriving expat community here for the modest lifestyle and favourable climate, there’s little wonder why the region is so famous. Chiang Mai’s must-do activities include visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, visiting the Maesa Elephant Camp, and riding a boat along the romantic Mae Ping River. San Kamphaeng Road bursts with life and activity while Warorot Market provides an excellent place for souvenir shopping.
Located in the northern part of Thailand, this UNESCO-listed citadel boasts the impressive title as the first capital of Thailand. Dating back to the 13th-century, the historical citadel contains ruins of palaces and temples giving visitors a window into the former life of this 800-year-old city. The most famous attraction inside the complex is also Sukhothai’s largest and most renowned temple: Wat Mahatat. But exploring the historic core isn’t the only highlight. Many tourists like the small town feel and often rent a motorbike and explore the surrounding mountains and countryside. You should consider spending at least one night in Sukhothai.
Koh Samui can be described as the very definition of a tropical paradise. With its endless beaches and reputation for being a party capital, the island has become very popular with backpackers and younger travellers. But it’s not all about relaxing on Chaweng Beach while sipping a beer before heading to the nightclubs. The island also features a range of spas and health retreats that appeal to the older and more sophisticated crowd. For this reason, Koh Samui has an unusual mixture of tourists giving its diversity as a travel destination. The small island features several temples, small Thai fishing villages filled with charisma and waterfalls.
Phuket is arguably the most famous island in Thailand. With a reputation for having an active nightlife along with gorgeous beaches overlooking the Andaman Sea, Phuket rates as one of the best places to visit in all of South East Asia. Favourite activities are relaxing on the beaches and taking part in some of the water sports including banana boating and jet skiing. Now combine this with the diversity of accommodation choices from hostels and homestays to villas and resorts and tourists can have any vacation they desire in Phuket.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is one of Thailand’s most famous islands among both backpackers and solo travellers. The younger crowd creates a more energetic environment which contributes to its active nightlife. If you’re looking to meet other travellers and enjoy a few drinks while dancing the night away, Koh Phi Phi is perfect for you. Apart from lounging on the beach all day, other must-do things here including taking boat trips and snorkelling off the coast.
Now that you have an idea of where to go in Thailand, you can start planning your dream trip. All first-time visits should include at least a day or two in Bangkok. Beach lovers can check out Koh Samui, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi while those looking to experience history and culture will enjoy Ayutthaya and Sukhothai.