In a two-week visit (the average holiday duration in the ‘Land of Smiles’) you will most likely visit one or two destinations in Thailand. Well – at least that’s what we do. And, once we have settled in and familiarised ourselves with the locality, we explore the best places and neighbouring areas.
This post will help you determine which popular Thailand destinations are best suited for you.
Top Thailand Destinations
A hundred words, superlatives, opposites, praise and criticism would be inadequate to describe Bangkok, the world’s most visited city in 2017! This bustling ancient yet modern city has parts of the best cities in the world and a little of the worst.
Best for & What to expect:
- The Grand Palace for architectural splendour that will leave you breathless.
- Buddhist temples for the ultimate in beauty and serenity.
- Floating markets for an unforgettable and unique shopping experience.
- Dining for treating your palate to some of the best cuisines and street food in the world.
- Nightlife for letting your hair down.
- Rooftop bars for a relaxing evening after an action packed day.
- Shopping for almost anything that the world has to offer.
- Ayutthaya for exploring the magnificent ruins of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Even a year in Bangkok would not give you enough time to cover all it has to offer. There is so much you can do. You can explore the Grand Palace and Bangkok’s famous temples. Watch a Muay Thai fight at Lumphini Stadium. Spend an evening in Khao San Road – the backpacker capital of the world. Enjoy the carnival atmosphere at Soi Cowboy. Explore Bangkok’s canals (klongs) on a longtail boat. Treat yourself in Bangkok’s Chinatown, one of the largest in the world… The list goes on and on.
And, if at times you feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city (like us), you can take a break in Lumpini Park (Bangkok’s Central Park). At over 500,000 sq. meters, this park offers many quiet spots to relax and watch the world go by.
If you like big cities and everything that comes with them, Bangkok is the place for you.
Although Pattaya’s nickname ‘Sin City’ is enough to keep some people from visiting, there is a lot more to Pattaya than its ‘Walking Street’, outrageous nightlife and adult entertainment. Over the last decade, Pattaya has changed for the better.
Best for: Experiencing the Best & Worst of Thailand, Nightlife, Bars & Restaurants, Beaches, Water Sports, A Quick Escape from Bustling Bangkok.
Pattaya is Thailand’s most popular party and budget destination. Being only a 2 hour bus drive from Bangkok’s airports, it is a favourite for those who land in Bangkok for a short holiday and want to spend time on a beach. But Pattaya is not for the faint hearted, or for those looking for a quiet family holiday. Clearly not.
Pattaya’s Walking Street is Thailand’s most famous walking street. Other cities have their own, but none of them can compete with Pattaya’s 500 meter long Walking Street.
The nearby islands of Ko Larn, Ko Sak and Ko Krok are great options to experience Thailand’s pristine beaches. The Sanctuary of Truth, a fascinating temple carved entirely from wood, is our favourite construction in Thailand. The Wat Khao Phra Bat Temple is a great place to view stunning statues and enjoy scenic views. Pattaya’s Floating Market, Buddha Mountain (Khao Chi Chan), and Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden are other popular places to visit in Pattaya.
Pattaya can get crowded and noisy. If you wish to be close enough to the city centre yet enjoy a quiet holiday, consider staying at Jomtien beach.
Pattaya is our favourite shot holiday destination in Thailand. If you are on a budget, and want to party, Pattaya is the place for you.
With over 150 islands dotting its nearly 100-mile shoreline, spectacular beaches, elegant limestone cliffs, national parks, lush jungles and exotic wildlife, caves and waterfalls, Krabi is the perfect place for the adventure junkie as well as those looking for a peaceful holiday in a stunning beautiful location.
Best for: Beaches, Nature, Outdoor Activities – Climbing, Snorkelling & Diving, Night Markets, A Quiet & Peaceful Holiday.
Thailand’s best beaches are easily accessible from Krabi. Railay is a must visit for rock climbers, and its white-sand beaches are simply stunning. Day trips to Phang Nga Bay (James Bond Island) and the famous Phi Phi Islands can be easily arranged from Krabi. If you simply want to live on a beach, Ko Lanta is a budget option. Ao Nang is the place for party lovers.
The Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Seua) is a major draw of Krabi. It can be reached by car and then a flight of 1272 steps. The Thung Teao Forest National Park is home to stunning flora and fauna. You can also hike to Khoa Ngon Nak Viewpoint and visit the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary. Taking a dip in Krabi’s Hot Springs (Klong Thom), and visiting the geological wonder at Krabi Shell Cemetery (Susan Hoi) are other great options.
Krabi’s night market is our favourite. The food is superb and the ambience perfect.
Krabi is our preferred Thailand destination for a long holiday. You’ll love it too, if you are looking for a quiet holiday with options for outdoor activities in a spectacular location.
Known as the ‘Rose of the North’, Chiang Mai is a flourishing city. Chiang Mai is a favourite amongst backpackers, long-term travellers, and those looking to pursue outdoor activities like trekking, rock-climbing and white-water rafting.
Best for: Lush Green Mountains, Trekking & other Outdoor Activities, Buddhist Temples, Night Markets, Street Food, Bargain Shopping and Good Climate.
Despite being Thailand’s fifth largest city, Chiang Mai still has a laidback feel to it. Life here is slow-paced. In the evenings, locals and visitors flock to the Night Bazaar to try delicious street food and enjoy a drink.
Chiang Mai is the most important cultural centre of Thailand. It has more than 300 temples including Wat Phra Singh, the Royal temple of the first grade, and the historic Wat Chedi Luang Temple.
Elephant Nature Park, a rehabilitation centre for mistreated elephants, and the Bo Sang Handicraft Centre, an umbrella factory, are great day trip options. You can also visit the Chiang Mai Night Safari – a nocturnal zoo. Taking a boat trip on the Mae Ping River and relaxing in the steaming water of San Kamphaeng Hot Springs are also popular activities.
40 miles from Chiang Mai is the Doi Inthanon National Park, a must visit for nature lovers. Beautiful waterfalls, hill tribes, smaller wildlife, deciduous evergreen forests can be seen here. The park is also home to Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon (2595 meters).
If you prefer mountains to beaches and are looking for a slow paced holiday with good weather, you should head to Chiang Mai.
Phuket is an island that has it all – magnificent beaches and stunning views, nature and nightlife, water sports and other outdoor activities – backed by highly developed tourism infrastructure – all concentrated in 210 square miles.
Best for: Nightlife, Bars & Restaurants, Beaches, Water Sports, Sight Seeing Tours and Night Markets.
In just a few decades, Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, has grown from a remote backwater island to one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
The Big Buddha – a 45-meter marble Buddha statue on a mountaintop is a popular place to visit. The serene Similan Islands, picturesque Phang Nga Bay, and picture perfect Phi Phi Islands, are easily accessable from Phuket. Island hopping tours can be arranged to explore them and other nearby islands and beaches.
The Karan Viewpoint and the Khao Rang Viewpoint offer spectacular views of Phuket. You can visit Phuket’s Elephant Sanctuary and Soi Dog Foundation, help at Gibbons Rehabilitation Project, or watch monkeys at Monkey Hill. Although unlikely – if you run out of activities, you can simply hire a bike and drive to one of Phuket’s many beaches and markets.
Phuket’s ‘Walking Street’, is one of the largest collection of bars, nightclubs and shows in Thailand. You can see ladyboys in Phuket’s famous Simon Cabaret Show.
There is never a dull moment in Phuket. If you always like to have something to do, Phuket is the place for you.
Koh Chang offers everything you can expect from an island – unspoiled beaches, lush jungles, beautiful mountains, cascading waterfalls, wildlife and a range of outdoor activities. The difference however is that Koh Chang offers a prettier, quieter, cleaner and budget version of it all.
Best for: Beaches, Nature & National Parks, Trekking, Snorkelling, a Quiet & Peaceful Holiday.
Since it takes longer to get to Koh Chang than it does to most places in Thailand, Koh Chang gets fewer tourists. This is also why it is cheaper and not as developed as the other top Thailand destinations. Exploring the island on motorbike is great fun. You can drive to View Point to enjoy spectacular views of nearby islands and explore villages and markets.
Day activities can include trips to the neighbouring unspoiled islands of Koh Kut and Koh Mak, and a visit to the beautiful Klong Plu Waterfall. A Sea Adventure Catamaran Tour, elephant trekking, snorkelling and fishing trips are also well-liked activities in Koh Chang. If you are looking to volunteer, Koh Chang Animal Project is a great option.
Kai Bae beach, Lonely beach, White Sand beach and Hat Khlong Phrao are popular beaches in Koh Chang. Lonely Beach (Hat Tha Nam) has a waterfront party scene that backpackers flock to.
If you enjoy outdoor activities in secluded places, and prefer finding your own way, Koh Chang is ideal for you.
Hopefully we have helped you determine which of the top Thailand destinations will suit you most. If you prefer to select your destination based on activities that interest you, please proceed to our things to do in Thailand page. If you are planning you trip, you can visit our planning a holiday page, or simply go to our introduction page for details about Thailand.