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Really enjoyed Thailand beaches
  • Katie James
  • From England
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1. Hike in Chiang Mai

A hiker capturing the beauty of Chiang Mai from the top in Thailand.
Step into a world of lush jungles, misty mountains, and ancient secrets on a hike in Chiang Mai.

Once the capital of the Lanna kingdom, Chiang Mai has an easy-going charm. Walk in the old quarter, admire the traditional wooden houses, and explore the surrounding mountains — there are many enjoyable things to do in Chiang Mai, a traveler's favorite destination. The day hike from Wat Pha Lat to Wat Doi Suthep will take you past lush evergreen forests and hill-tribe villages. Another popular hike along the slopes of Doi Suthep Mountain is around Huay Tung Tao Lake. The nearby and easily accessible Doi Inthanon National Park also has many beautiful trails, including to the top of Thailand’s highest mountain.

 Alternative destinations:

  • Khao Sok National Park: Arguably the best place for a jungle trek in southern Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is home to nearly 50 species of mammals, including cloud leopards and gibbons. The park has several trails (each around 12km long), and you’ll likely pass dense forests and waterfalls.
  • Krabi’s Tiger Cave Temple: It may be a short climb to Krabi’s Tiger Cave Temple (1260 stairs) but the incline is steep. From the summit, you will be rewarded with stunning views. The trek (both sides) can be easily completed in half a day. 

Best season: November to February. This is the dry season in northern Thailand and the best time of year for trekking as temperatures are moderate and it’s not too humid. 

Thailand Trekking and Hiking Tours

2. Go island hopping in Phuket

Tropical beach paradise with beach swing with girl in white shirt
Enjoy the golden sands and turquoise waters on Phuket's renowned beaches, making unforgettable memories while soaking up the sun during your trip to Thailand.

Island hopping is one of the best things to do in Thailand. Phuket is Thailand’s largest and most popular island. You can spend weeks and still not cover all the attractions and things to do in Phuket. It’s also an excellent base for discovering other, smaller islands. If you’re a James Bond fan, check out Koh Tapoo, better known as James Bond Island. Phi Phi Islands also draw boatloads of tourists, especially the two islands called Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. Phi Phi Don is where the most fabulous parties happen. Phi Phi Leh is quieter and has the stunning Maya Bay.

Alternative destinations:

  • Koh Samui: Once it drew backpackers and the hippie crowd but after a makeover, Koh Samui now has some of Asia’s most sought-after luxury beach resorts. Koh Samui is your best bet if you’re looking for a comfortable (albeit more expensive) beach holiday with many spa and wellness retreats and exclusive ocean views.
  • Koh Pha Ngan: The party never stops at Koh Pha Ngan. If you think you’re a party animal, wait till you see the creatures of the night dancing and drinking nonstop under a full moon here. There are quieter spots and spas on the island for dealing with the after-party hangover.

Best season: December to February. If you’re coming from Europe or North America, you’ll find the ‘cooler’ months on your trip to Phuket a bit like peak summer in your part of the world. In short, ideal for island hopping.

3. Explore the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Ayutthaya Historical Park
Uncover the grandeur of Ayutthaya, the breathtaking ruins of Thailand’s old capital. Explore this UNESCO gem and feel the echoes of its majestic past.

Founded in 1350, the historic city of Ayutthaya was one of the capitals of the Siamese kingdom. From the 14th to the 18th centuries, it was one of the world’s greatest urban centers, home to a million people and a global trading hub. The city was devasted after the Burmese army raided it in 1767, forcing the inhabitants to flee. Today, the Ayutthaya Historical Park is a sprawling archaeological site, its reliquary towers and massive monasteries giving an inkling of its golden age. Top sights include the Royal Chapel, built in the era of King Borom Trai Lokkanat; Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the most important temple of the Ayutthaya kingdom; and Vihara Phra Mongkol Bophit, where you can see one of Thailand’s largest bronze images of the Buddha.

 Alternative destinations:

  • Historic Town of Sukhothai: Sukhothai was the capital of Siam’s first kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries and the city pioneered a distinct style of Thai art and architecture. The extensive current-day ruins were historically three closely linked ancient towns, Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet, and include remains of more than 20 historical sites within the old walls and dozens of sites within a 5km radius. 
  • Ban Chiang Archaeological Site: Located in the northeastern province of Udon Thani, Ban Chiang is the most important prehistoric site in Southeast Asia. The finds unearthed from over 300 excavated settlements include painted ceramic pottery, metal tools, jewelry, and evidence of farming.

Best season: January to February. December tends to get crowded, so you’re better off seeing the architectural wonders of Ayutthaya a bit later but before it starts to get unpleasantly warm. If you’re willing to put up with sudden downpours, May to October can make for a visually dramatic and much cheaper trip to Ayutthaya.

Thailand Cultural, religious and historic sites Tours

4. Try scuba diving in Koh Tao

A man scuba diving on clear coral reef in clear blue water in Koh Tao.
Explore the depths of Koh Tao, a haven for scuba divers seeking crystal waters and vibrant reefs.

Koh Tao is the smallest of the three most popular islands in the Gulf of Thailand, the other two being Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, and is regarded as one of the best diving destinations in Southeast Asia. Many visitors discover an underwater world for the first time in Koh Tao, and the diving courses are affordable. There are plenty of diving sites near the island and a short boat ride away. Sail Rock is suitable for all divers, and you may encounter barracudas, batfish and occasional whale sharks. Lighthouse is a gem on the east coast where you can see stunning soft corals and unicorn fish. A 40-minute boat ride from the island, Chumphon Pinnacle is suitable for advanced divers. You may bump into anemones, fusiliers, barracudas, groupers and razor fish here. 

Alternative destinations:

  • Similan Islands: This archipelago of 11 scenic islands in the Andaman Sea has large granite boulders under which reef sharks elegantly glide past. The Similans are also home to gorgeous corals, leopard sharks, whale sharks, spotted eagle rays and hawksbill sea turtles, making them a superb diving destination.
  • Surin Islands: Want to get away from it all and explore the magical underwater world near Thailand? Then head to Surin Islands, where a horseshoe-shaped reef attracts marine life such as whale sharks and seahorses. The islands are part of the protected Mu Ko Surin National Park.

Best season: July to September is the best time for diving. The seas are flat, visibility is at its highest, and the rain is manageable. Alternatively, December to February are warm; great months to explore Koh Tao.

5. Visit an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai

Mother and baby elephant bathing in the river in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Step into the serene world of Chiang Mai’s elephant sanctuaries, where you can bond with elephants in a caring and ethical environment.

If you throw a stone anywhere in Chiang Mai, it’s likely to hit two travel agencies promising the ultimate elephant sanctuary tour. But be warned, not all elephant ‘sanctuaries’ are ethical. So do your research and choose a sanctuary that actually takes care of these genial giants and does not allow elephant riding, performances, or other harmful touristy practices. That being said, visiting a sanctuary is a wonderful way to learn about elephants and, in some cases, help feed them (though the trend among ethical parks is to turn into an observe-only experience). You can choose between a day trip, or volunteer to stay longer in some sanctuaries. 

Alternative destinations:

  • Following Giants, Ko Lanta: Backed by World Animal Protection, Following Giants is now an observation-only sanctuary. Visitors can carefully follow elephants on a forest walk and see the animals from a safe distance.
  • Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Sukhothai: Visitors are encouraged to participate in various aspects of sanctuary life, including collecting food for elephants and taking care of grazing areas. You’ll have to sign up for a multi-day visit, as the sanctuary doesn’t offer touristy day trips.

Best season: October and November. These are good months to visit an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai to avoid the crowds and getting wet in the rain. The weather is tolerably warm too.

6. Discover the floating markets near Bangkok

Top view of floating market in Bangkok on a clear day.
Set sail around Bangkok's floating market, where vibrant boats are filled with exotic fruits, local cuisines, and beautiful crafts.

If you’re looking for a Venice-like experience, you’ll have to readjust your expectations. But the floating markets should be on your bucket list of things to do in Bangkok. Think of them as shopping malls, food courts, and vegetable markets floating in a whirl of color and chaos. Though often packed with tourists, you can still find calmer and smaller floating markets around the city. Damnoen Saduak, some 1.5 hours west of Bangkok, is the most famous floating market, but be prepared for noise and crowded boats. Amphawa Floating Market is slightly less touristy because vendors sell wares from their homes along the bank instead of boats. For a more relaxed experience, try the Bang Nam Pheung Floating Market, a smaller space with fewer boats.

Alternative destinations:

  • Cruise from Bangkok to Ayutthaya: While floating markets are limited to Bangkok and its surroundings, Thailand offers other boating opportunities. For instance, you could go on a luxurious cruise from Bangkok to the historical site of Ayutthaya, an engaging journey into the country’s past.

Best season: November to May. For obvious reasons, the dry season is the safest time to visit Bangkok’s floating markets.

7. Relax on the beaches in Krabi

A couple in the tropical beach in Railay Krabi during sunny day in Thailan
Enjoy the postcard-perfect beaches of Krabi, with their clear turquoise waters and dramatic limestone cliffs, as you relax and make lasting memories amid stunning natural beauty.

Krabi’s striking coral reef vistas, limestone cliffs, exotic temples and vibrant nightlife make it an instantly lovable destination. The white sandy beaches are among the finest in Thailand, attracting sun worshippers from around the world. Reachable by boat and surrounded by cliffs, Railay Bay is a picture postcard piece of land with many beautiful beaches. The most alluring among them is Phra Nang Beach, a visual landscape comprising turquoise waters and limestone karst. Spending a few hours at the white sandy beach at the tiny Bamboo Island is among the most memorable things to do in Krabi. Ao Nang Beach is a popular beach on the Krabi mainland, so it tends to be crowded and loaded with bars and restaurants.

 Alternative destinations:

  • Tha Pho Beach: Located on the remote island of Koh Kood, this white sand beach has a dreamy, back-of-the-beyond feel. But beneath its tranquil waters is another world of sea turtles, stingrays and other majestic sea creatures.
  • Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach: If you’re in the mood for the slow life or a quiet swim, Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach in Koh Phangan is a lovely option.
  • White Sand Beach: White Sand Beach on Koh Chang is a picturesque beach with a vibrant nightlife that keeps the party animals awake under the moonlight.

Best season: November through March. As long as it’s not raining, the beaches of Krabi are always welcoming, which is roughly half the year.

Thailand Beach Tours

8. Explore the Golden Triangle

Aerial view of Mekong River in Chiang Rai on a clear day in Thailand.
Navigate the historic Mekong River and immerse yourself in a journey through captivating scenery and timeless cultures.

Once synonymous with opium cultivation, the Golden Triangle (known as Chiang Saen locally) is an area straddling the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. The rivers Mekong and Ruak meet here. The best way to experience the mighty Mekong River is by boat from Sop Ruak. For excellent views of the confluence of the rivers and surrounding mountains, head to the hilltop near Sop Ruak Market. It is hard to miss the somewhat garish golden monument of the giant Buddha called Phra Chiang Saen Si Phaendin. Chiang Saen’s ancient ruins are scattered around town. Among those still preserved is the fascinating Wat Chedi Luan Buddhist stupa.

Alternative destinations:

  • Phu Suan Sai National Park: This 117 square kilometers park forms a natural border between Thailand and Laos, extending to both countries. Look out for waterfalls and wildlife such as hyenas, hawks and big-headed turtles.

Best season: November to January. The weather in Chiang Saen is cooler than many other parts of Thailand but the air may be hazy in February and March.

9. See the temples of Chiang Rai

White Temple during a clear day in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Embark on a surreal journey at Wat Rong Khun, the dazzling White Temple, and marvel at its intricate white exterior, unconventional architecture, and symbolic artistic details that make it a mesmerizing cultural attraction.

Founded in the 13th century as a provincial capital of the Lanna kingdom in the hills of northern Thailand, Chiang Rai tour is still a bit off the tourist map and retains its old-world charm. It is home to some atmospheric temples like Wat Phra Kaew, surrounded by woods. There are also modern temples, like Wat Rong Seur Ten (Blue Temple), with an impressive Buddha idol. But Chiang Rai’s most famous ‘temple’ is the new-age Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), an art installation created by the Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.

Alternative destinations:

  • Wat Pho: Wat Pho, or the temple of the Reclining Buddha, near Bangkok’s Grand Palace, has a famous 46-meter-long golden reclining Buddha built by King Rama in the 19th century. It also has dozens of stupas and auspicious images.
  • Wat Pha Sorn Kaew: Wat Pha Sorn Kaew (Temple on a High Glass Cliff) is a recent addition to Thailand’s list of top temples. Colorful mosaic tiles brighten up the main pagoda and other buildings, with the five seated white Buddhas providing a serene contrast.  
  • Wat Phra Sri Sanphet: Ayutthaya’s Wat Phra Sri Sanphet has bell-shaped pagodas amid evocative ruins that are believed to be sections of royal houses of this historic city. It was once the city’s largest temple.

Best season: November to March. The cooler months after the rains and before the soaring heat are best for exploring Thailand’s temples.

10. Visit Bangkok’s museums

Bangkok National Museum on a clear day in Thailand.
Uncover centuries of Thai heritage at the Bangkok National Museum, home to captivating artifacts and exquisite art that tell the story of a nation.

Bangkok’s museums are an excellent introduction to Thailand’s history and culture. Topping the list is Bangkok National Museum, home to the most impressive collection of art and artifacts from around the country, including serene Buddha images, sculptures of Hindu deities, and King Ramkhamhaeng’s inscribed pillar. Museum Siam has a mix of antiques and modern art and uses technology artfully to tell the story of Thailand and its people. To get a feel of Thailand’s 20th-century art, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which houses more than 800 works.

Alternative destinations:

  • Thai-Burma Railway Centre Museum: Some 12,000 Allied prisoners and 100,000 Asian laborers perished during the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway during World War 2. The Thai-Burma Railway Centre Museum in Kanchanaburi explains the fraught history of this railway.
  • Hall of Opium: The Golden Triangle may have put its drug-smuggling past behind it but if you want to understand what poppy growing and trade meant for this region for hundreds of years, this museum in Chiang Rai provides the history and context.

Best season: January to March: These months are ideal for taking a trip to Bangkok’s museums while avoiding the December holiday crowds. But you can also visit these indoor spaces in the monsoon months.

Need help in planning a trip to Thailand?

From admiring beautiful temple architecture and lazing around stunning beaches to island hopping and spending an unforgettable day in an elephant sanctuary, there are many fun things to do in Thailand.

If you are looking for a more personalized experience, contact our travel experts for a customized trip to Thailand. For a seasonal overview of cool things to do in Thailand, see our article on the best time to visit Thailand. Our article on places to visit in Thailand will also come in handy.

Thailand Tours
Published by Astha Joshi, updated on June 10, 2024
Plan a custom-made trip to ThailandWe offer different tour types. You can also chat with a local travel specialist if you want a customized tour to Thailand.
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