Saturday, 14 Dec 2019

The best places to visit in Thailand, from beach raves to ancient caves

With its clear turquoise seas, white sand beaches, jungles, stunning wildlife and delicious dishes, Thailand is any traveller’s dream destination. However, with tourism being one of Thailand’s major industries, there are many inauthentic traps you can easily find yourself falling in to. That’s if you don’t follow our guide on how to navigate one of South East Asia’s most beautiful countries without emptying your bank account! Here are the best places to visit in Thailand, plus what to do, where to stay and all importantly, what to eat when you get there!

best places to visit in thailand, golden temples with a statue

? @cadop

  1. Bangkok

Start in Thailand’s buzzing capital city, Bangkok. Flying to Bangkok airport is the most cost-effective way to start your backpacking trip around Thailand. If you’re not feeling up to working out Bangkok’s public transport system, catch a taxi to your hostel. There are always taxis parked outside the airport, but make sure you ask a few about the price of your journey before getting into a car. As with anywhere in the world, taxi drivers might try and make a bit of extra cash off of sleep-deprived travellers with a bum bag stuffed full of foreign money!

best places to visit in thailand, man in yellow shirt standing by temple

? @_nana.kweku_

  • Khaosan Road

Top of your list of places to visit in Bangkok should be Khaosan Road. Khaosan Road is home to everything a traveller could ever desire. Cheap, tasty restaurants, massage parlours, clothes shops, bars and clubs. There are plenty of places to grab a Singha, Leo or Chang beer and sharpen up your pool playing skills. Check out Gypsy’s Lips bar for strong, scrumptious cocktails and good music, or Brick Bar for a taste of live Thai bands.

best places to visit in thailand, tuk tuks and people on khaosan

? @evankrause_

While you’re in Bangkok, make sure you go to the Jim Thompson House Museum. It is one of the best places to see beautiful Thai and Buddhist sculptures, stunning Thai paintings and Chinese ornaments. The house beautifully captures important moments in both Thai and Asian history. The museum costs only 200 baht (£2.50) to enter, or 100 baht (£5) if you’re under 22.

  • Or Tor Kor Market

Bangkok’s Or Tor Kor Market is worth having a look around for its huge variety of fresh produce. Try some dragon fruit here! They look like the love child of a Pokémon and a pink cactus, and they taste like heaven. You can grab dragon fruit smoothies from vendors at the market.

  • Somtum Der, Sala Daeng

One of the best things to do in Thailand is to eat! I dare you not to get addicted to gaeng daeng (red curry). Eating this wonderfully spicy, coconut milk-y dish in Thailand makes even the best Thai curries you can find in England seem like sorry comparisons. Travel to Bangkok’s Somtum Der, Sala Daeng for tasty pad Thai, gaeng keow (green curry) and delicious gaeng daeng (red curry).

 best places to visit in thailand, thai curry dish

? @oelli

Where to stay?

If you’re looking for a cute, chilled out Bangkok hostel where you can get some R&R in between exploring the vibrant capital, take a look at Laksameenarai Guesthouse. The guesthouse is preserved in the architectural style of the old Siam houses, making you feel as if you’re staying in a traditional Thai family home. Mixed dorms start from £5 a night.

However, if you want somewhere a bit more sociable, go to NapPark Hostel. It’s easy to meet fellow travellers in NapPark’s friendly environment. The hostel hosts its own happy hour and there’s a delicious restaurant next door. It’s far too easy to end up spending a week here by accident! Large mixed dorms start from £5 per night.

best places to visit in thailand, nappark hostel dorm room

? NapPark Hostel

How long to spend?

Give yourself a full four days to settle and explore Bangkok.

Check out all of our hostels in Bangkok
  1. Krabi

In my opinion, the true magic of Thailand lies outside of its busy capital. Head south to Krabi to explore the land of mangrove forests and hidden lagoons in what’s undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Thailand.

best places to visit in thailand, phra nang beach, krabi, thailand

? @sumit_ac

  • Mangrove Kayak Tour

Take a Kayak out to Ao Thalane, home to the most beautiful mangrove forest in Thailand. While cruising along on the calm flat waters, gaze across the treetops, where you can see kingfishers, herons and monkeys. There are many small caves and secret lagoons that you can discover around this area too, so prepare to unleash your inner explorer.

Where to stay?

Situated in the centre of Krabi, Pak-Up Hostel is surrounded by markets for you to explore. The hostel has a shared kitchen and amazing facilities. The staff will even help you arrange the next steps of your travels. Dorms start from £9.

How long to spend?

Stay in Krabi for two nights.

best places to visit in thailand, girl on sitting on beach eating pad thai

? @cwithoutborders

Check out all of our hostels in Krabi
  1. Phi Phi Islands

Thailand is famous for its islands, and Phi Phi is a collection of six of the best. If you’ve watched Leonardo Di Caprio in The Beach, you might recognise these paradise scenes!

  • Tham Phaya Nak, Viking Cave

Take a boat out to the limestone cave on Ko Phi Phi Don. Known in Thai as Tham Phaya Nak, Viking Cave gets its name from the paintings on the walls – one spectacular boat painting has been likened to a Scandinavian drakkar. You can also see scaffolding around the outside of the cave, which is in place for local people to collect swiftlet birds’ nests. These edible nests are prized in China, as they are thoughts to promote good health.

best places to visit in thailand, monkey sitting on girl's shoulder on the beach

? @reneegoesroaming

Where to stay?

Rest your head at the friendly Voyagers Hostel. The staff here are guaranteed to look after you. Dorms start from £14 a night.

How long to stay?

Spend three nights island hopping and relaxing around Phi Phi.

Check out all of our hostels in Koh Phi Phi
  1. Koh Pha Ngan

Koh Pha Ngan is well known for its monthly Full Moon Party, an all night event full of glow sticks and booze by the bucket load (literally). Spend a night here if you’re looking to dance until the early hours, and maybe a day or two to recover. There’s a big wellness community here with countless yoga studios and vegan cafes, so it won’t take you too long to get back on your feet.

best places to visit in thailand, two people on a swing on the beach in koh phangan

? @liammiguelweale

  • Take a Cooking Class

Koh Pha Ngan is so much more than just a party island. Unexpectedly, it’s awash with amazing cooking classes. Learn how to cook all your favorite Thai dishes at Jang’s Thai cooking school.

Where to stay?

Book a bed at Echo Beach Backpackers. Relax in a hammock by the beach with a cocktail from the hostel’s bar. The full moon pre-parties at the hostel are some of the best on the island and dorms are ridiculously cheap, starting from £3 a night.

best places to visit in thailand, echo beach backpackers social area on the beach

? Echo Beach Backpackers

How long to spend?

Spend a night or two dancing on Koh Pha Ngan.

Check out all of our hostels on Koh Pha Ngan
  1. Koh Tao

On Koh Tao you can sunbathe on Freedom Beach’s white sands, watch vivid pastel sunsets from John Suwan Viewpoint and swim in crystal clear waters.

best places to visit in thailand, girl standing on beach near slanted palm tree in koh tao

? @melina.be

  • Scuba Diving

The best thing to do on Koh Tao is to scuba dive. Among Koh Tao’s coral reefs you can see sting rays, banded sea snakes, schools of mesmerising multi-coloured fish, turtles and even sharks. There are many scuba diving organisations to choose from, but I suggest looking for one that is partnered with marine conservation programmes and ocean cleanup schemes. If you’re serious about learning how to dive, check out Eco Koh Tao.

  • Babaloo Restaurant

There’s a range of amazing restaurants to choose from on Koh Tao, but I highly recommend heading to Babaloo Restaurant to try homemade, vegan-friendly Thai cuisine. The charming candle-lit restaurant is not far from Koh Tao’s central strip and dishes are wonderfully cheap, ranging from £2-£6.

Where to stay?

Happy to stay at a hostel that’s little out of the way from Koh Tao’s centre? Book a bed at Deishaview Jungle Hostel. This eco-hostel is nestled away in a hillside jungle and is surrounded by trees and greenery, so it’s peaceful and remote. Overlooking Chalok Bay, Desishaview Hostel is the perfect place to enjoy Koh Tao’s natural beauty. Dorms start at £8 a night.

best places to visit in thailand, deishaview jungle hostel

? Deishaview Jungle Hostel

How long to spend?

Spend three nights on Koh Tao. Then jump on a boat to your next destination!

Check out all of our hostels on Koh Tao
  1. Ko Wua Talap Island

This small island is the perfect place to fully relax. Tucked away from most of the tourist traps, you can grab a drink from Ko Wua Talap’s beach bar and enjoy Thailand’s unspoilt natural beauty. This slice of paradise is one of the best places to visit in Thailand that not every traveller knows about yet!

  • Ko Wua Talap’s Famous Viewpoint

Take a packed lunch and some sensible footwear with good grip, and walk the Viewpoint Hike to gaze across the sea. The trek takes around an hour and a half, but the view is definitely worth it.

best places to visit in thailand, view of islands at sunset

Where to stay?

If you love to camp, you can rent a tent for roughly 250 baht (£6.50) and spend a night under the stars.

How long to spend?

Spend a day enjoying the tranquillity of Ko Wua Talap Island, and get a boat back to the mainland in the evening.

  1. Sukhothai

On your travels around Thailand, make sure you visit the north! Thailand’s north is home to so many underappreciated must-see spots. Sukhothai is a beautiful, peaceful area off the regular tourist trail.

  • Historical Park

Sukhothai is an amazing ancient city and was the first capital of Thailand when it was known as Siam. The best thing to do in Sukhothai is to visit the Historical Park. Here you can see impressively preserved remnants of the ancient city.

best places to visit in thailand, statues and temples in sukhothai

Where to stay?

Spend a night at At Home Sukhothai. The cosy hostel will help arrange your travel to the Historical Park. They serve delicious breakfasts that you can enjoy overlooking their small lake, or in the hostel garden. Private rooms start from £18 for two people.

How long to spend?

Stop for a night and soak up as much history as you can.

Check out all of our hostels in Sukothai
  1. Chiang Mai

It’s a four-hour drive from Sukhothai to the largest city in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai. This vibrant, lively city is a must-see!

best places to visit in thailand, Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai

  • Wat Sri Suphan, the Silver Temple

Thailand has some of the best temples in the world. Chiang Mai’s Wat Sri Suphan is commonly known as the Silver Temple after its shiny exterior. The temple is covered in impressive handcrafted decoration and contains beautiful silver statues of Buddha. Although many parts of it have been repaired, the temple was originally built in the 1500s. There are key moments in Buddha’s life that are represented in the images all around. Take some time to fully appreciate the intricate details that decorate the temple walls.

  • Sunday Walking Street Night Market

Go to Chiang Mai’s buzzing Sunday Walking Street night market, found in Chiang Mai’s Old City. The market is packed with cute handicrafts and is a great place to buy presents to take back home. It starts at 4pm every Sunday and runs until around midnight.

Chiang Mai is the best place in Thailand to see wildlife! It’s likely you may have seen pictures of people petting tigers and riding sad looking elephants. These sleepy animals are often given sedatives to keep them calm. However, if you want to see Thailand’s wildlife it in its full majesty head over to Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park to see some very happy eles! You can learn about the elephants individually, feed them and watch them play in the river. This is one of my more expensive recommendations, with prices starting at 2,500 baht (£60), but a visit here is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

best places to visit in thailand, two big elephants and one baby elephant in between

? @davdalfons

Head to The North Gate Jazz Co-op to dance to some Northern Thai jazz. Crowds spill out onto the streets outside this popular spot that’s a great place to see talented musicians. Well known by travellers, you can meet plenty of people from all corners of the world here too.

Where to stay?

Book a stay at Big & O’s House 2. This welcoming hostel in Chiang Mai will make you feel like part of the family. They’re famous for their BBQ parties and there are beautiful balconies and outside areas where you can chat to other travellers. Dorms start from £8 per night.

best places to visit in thailand, wat chedi luang, chiang mai

? @ycchen

How long to spend?

Spend a three-day weekend exploring Chiang Mai.

Check out all of our hostels in Chiang Mai
  1. Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son is a stunning mountainous region in the north of Thailand. The small rural town of the same name at the heart of the region is charming and peaceful. Located far away from the buzz of the big cities, you’ll fall asleep to the sound of chirping grasshoppers and croaking frogs.

best places to visit in thailand, man standing in fields in mae hong son

  • Bamboo Bridge

This beautiful bridge opens out across pristine rice paddies, allowing you to walk among the fields without causing any damage. The bridge leads up to a group of hilltop temples where you can look out across the mountains rising through the mist, and beautiful olive coloured vegetation.

Where to stay?

You can easily find a homestay in Mae Hong Son. You can stay with hill tribe families in this rural oasis to truly immerse yourself in the Northern Thai lifestyle. Staying with local families will give you a true insight into Thai culture.

How long to stay?

Stay for two nights in the tranquil Mae Hong Son.

best places to visit in thailand, girl sitting on fence overlooking hills and fields

  1. Pai

You’ll plan to stay for a night, you’ll end up staying a week. Pai is one of the best places to visit in Thailand – prepare for it to suck you in!

To reach Pai you’ll travel down the rolling hills and mountains that surround the secluded town. The geography of this area makes for stunning views. Explore jungles, waterfalls and rice paddies in this beautiful area. There’s a constant flow of travellers who come through Pai, so it’s a great place to meet people.

best places to visit in thailand, girl looking out at view of mountains and fields

? @laurengreen100

  • Mae Yen Waterfalls

Visit Pai’s waterfalls. Take a swimming costume, a packed lunch and plenty of water to hike to Mae Yen Waterfalls. It’s a about a three hour round trip to the waterfall, but the journey is half the fun. It’s better not to travel here in the dry season, as it is far too hot. Go in wet season instead and see beautiful flowers in bloom and butterflies along your journey.

  • Tham Lod Caves

Head to Tham Lod Caves for a unique experience. Tham Lod Caves is made up of three connected areas. Inside the cave you can find beautiful stalactites and stalagmites and there are still ancient drawings of deer on the walls.

  • Pai Canyon

Watch the sunset from Pai’s Canyon, an amazing place to drink a beer and enjoy the view.

best places to visit in thailand, girl standing on rock overlooking pai’s canyon

? @48dl_

  • Pai’s nightlife

Make the most of Pai’s vibrant nightlife – you might not expect it, but it’s one of the best places to bar hop until sunrise in Thailand! The varied scene means you can sit back, relax and enjoy an open mic jazz night, or dance to electronic music until the early hours of the morning. Don’t Cry is the most buzzing late night spot, an open-air reggae bar that’s always packed full of travellers and locals alike.

Where to stay?

Spend your nights in Pai at Darling Viewpoint Bungalows. The owners, Darling and her husband, have amazing stories to tell if you’re willing to listen. The hostel has its own pool, a large speaker for you to connect your own music to, and they’ll help you with renting bikes. Located up a little hill away from Pai’s main strip, the hostel has beautiful views across the town. Prices start at just £5 a night.

How long to spend?

Put aside a full four days to explore Pai (I’m sure you’ll end up staying longer).

best places to visit in thailand, sign of a person playing a guitar on side of the road

? @hopewarrenx

From its tranquil islands to buzzing cities, mountain hikes to massages, and historic towns to clubbing strips, Thailand certainly deserves a place on your travel bucket list. There are hidden treasures around every corner of this beautiful country. Tell us about the amazing places you discover in the comments below!

About the author:

Mira Mookerjee is a London born freelance writer. Her hobbies include fearing from her life on cheap flights, starting beefy books she probably won’t finish and talking about herself in the third person.

Keep reading: ?

? The 23 best hostels in Thailand for every type of traveller

? The ultimate guide to backpacking Thailand

? The 20 best destinations for backpackers to visit in 2020

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