Top 10 Places to Visit in Thailand

by Rich Jones

Thailand has long been a favorite destination for backpackers and travelers from every walk of life. Some see it as a rite of passage to explore on gap years from college, while others want to explore its rich history, spicy food, and distinct culture. Thailand is famous for its temples, lush green forests, and colorful festivals. From huge cities, like the capital, Bangkok, which never seems to sleep and is always a riot of noise and people, to remote islands, like Krabi, where the air is clean, and the rock formations are stunning, it’s not difficult to find something to love in this unique and diverse nation. Let’s take a look at the top 10 places to visit in Thailand!

#1 – Wat Pho, Bangkok

First on our list of the top 10 places to visit in Thailand is Wat Pho. A visit to Wat Pho to experience the wonder of the Reclining Buddha is one of the best places to visit in Thailand for couples. It’s a beautiful, opulent temple and a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon with your significant other. Wat Pho is located a little south of the Grand Palace, on Rattanakosin Island. It can be reached by taking a short boat ride from Taksin Pier.

Wat Pho is one of more than 40,000 temples in Thailand, but it has the distinction of being the oldest and the largest in the nation. The highlight of the temple, aside from the colors, smells, and sheer luxury (it’s one of only a handful classed as good enough for the Royal Family to visit), is the enormous 150 feet (46 meter) long golden Reclining Buddha statue. It’s something that has to be seen with your own eyes and is one of the most unforgettable sights in Thailand.

#2 – Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai 

Doi Suthep is a mountain west of the city of Chiang Mai, where the temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Temple is located. From the car park to the entrance pagodas, there around 309 steps, but you can take a tram if that feels like too much work in the Thai heat. After all, it wouldn’t be one of the top 10 places to visit in Thailand today without a little modern convenience and accessibility!

The Temple is situated in the confines of Doi Suthep National Park, which also includes Chiang Mai Zoo, Huay Kaew Waterfall, and Chiang Mai Viewpoint. As well as the Temple, it’s worth taking time out to explore the rest of the park while you’re in the area. The Temple steps are guarded by fierce-looking ornamental snakes, which run the entire length of the staircase. The stairs lead to the incredible Golden Pagoda, which stands at 52 feet (15.8 meters) high. The grounds have a smaller replica of the Emerald Buddha, as well as numerous other statues and artifacts.

It’s a beautifully calm space – as you would expect – and the location among the twin granite peaks of Doi Suthep makes it all the more special. Doi Suthep is one of the best places to visit in Thailand on a honeymoon and regularly welcomes newlyweds from around the world.

#3 – Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

Next up on our list of the top 10 places to visit in Thailand is one that’s all about nature. The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is one of several rehabilitation and rescue centers across the county. Although keeping elephants is technically illegal in Thailand, sanctuaries like this one provide a safe place for elephants to retire to and recover without the fear of being hunted.

It’s here you can volunteer to look after the massive creatures and interact with them. You’ll also learn why they’re so important to Thailand and the wider world. The Nature Park relies on visitors to assist with the day-to-day programs, and it’s not often you will get the chance to be so close to these incredible animals. It’s truly an unforgettable experience, and more so if you get to watch the babies running around and having fun. It’s one of the best places to visit in Thailand with friends as everyone gets to join in the fun.

#4 – Phimai Historical Park

Phimai Sanctuary is a Khmer ruin, based in the town of Phimai in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima. It may look familiar to anyone who’s seen Angkor Wat, and this is because the design of the main tower at Phmai was later used in the Cambodian World Heritage Site. The complex is the largest of the Khmer ruins in Thailand, and measures at an impressive 3,200+ feet (1,000 meters) long and almost 2,000 feet (600 meters) deep. It’s one of the best things to do in Thailand and is relatively easy to access, too!

#5 – Nakhon Si Thammarat

Nakhon is a city in southern Thailand and is one of the most ancient cities in the nation, as well as one of great historical significance. That alone, however, is not enough to earn it a place on our list of the top 10 places to visit in Thailand. What is, however, is that it’s one of the best places to visit in Thailand with family, as there’s plenty to keep everyone busy for a few days.

The city was previously surrounded by walls, and the north wall can still be seen today. Wat Phra Temple Mahathat is the most important place of worship in the southern provinces and features a huge stupa (mound) with more than 170 smaller stupas surrounding it. Chedi Yak is the second-largest pagoda in Nakhon province, and the Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan is a beautiful royal temple. All can be viewed over a day if you’re short of time, though we recommend a more leisurely pace to really take everything in. These aren’t the only things to see and do in the city, but they are the most-visited attractions, and truly worth seeing at least once in a lifetime.

#6 – The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Bangkok is the epicenter of much that happens in Thailand, and this is where the Royal Family resides. It’s also the capital city. With all of these factors combined, it’s a no-brainer to include Bangkok on our list of the top 10 places to visit in Thailand. The revered King of Thailand and his family have their official residence at The Grand Palace, with their private quarters at the compound at Dusit Palace. The Grand Palace was the main residence of the Royals and various government agencies until 1932. These days, it’s mainly used for official state events and as a visitor attraction.

Instead of being a palace within walled grounds, as many are, the location has various quarters and is a compound of numerous buildings. There are several distinct quarters, including the Outer and Middle Courts, and the wonderful Temple of The Emerald Buddha. The Palace has a strict dress code, however, so long trousers are required for men and no low-cut tops, bare arms, or short skirts/dresses for women.  Other than these restrictions, the palace is accessible and truly an impressive site. A visit to the Grand Palace is one of the best things to do in Thailand, hands down!

#7 – Kanchanaburi

Those who are fond of so-called “dark tourism” as well as historians will no doubt already be aware of the Death Railway in the city of Kanchanaburi, as well as the famous bridge over the River Kwai. The railway was built during World War 2, between 1942 and 1943, and it gets its name from that fact that more than 110,000 people died during its hasty construction. The deceased were mainly of southeast Asian descent, as well as Allied Prisoners of War, who were forced into slave labor to ensure its speedy construction.

The bridge over the River Kwai was also built by POWs to aid supplies to Japanese troops during the conflict. The original bridge was eventually destroyed, and the one that stands in place is a replacement.  For macabre tourists and those interested in the history of the nation, this is one of the best places to visit in Thailand. But that’s not the only appeal of this region, with plenty of natural beauty to enjoy as well (such as forest waterfalls and hideaways pictured above).

#8 – Khao Sao Dao Waterfall

Clocking in at number 8 on our list of the top 10 places to visit in Thailand is Khao Sao Dao Waterfall. This 16-tiered waterfall is part of the Khao Sao Dao Wildlife Sanctuary, and sits near Khao Sao Dao Nua mountain, which rises to some 5,100 feet (1,556 meters) above sea level. The waterfall is the most popular attraction in the heavily forested area and, in order to see it fully, there’s a good deal of walking involved. However, for most tourists, it’s well worth the effort!

The waterfall is really spectacular, and definitely one of the best natural sites in Thailand. Pro tip: at the 15th level of the falls, there’s a pool for swimming, and it’s a good reward for (almost) making it all the way to the top!

#9 – The Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is one of the most unique places to visit in Thailand. It’s not the easiest place to get to, but it is certainly worth the journey. The Golden Triangle is the place where Thailand meets the borders of Laos and Myanmar. It gets its name from the fact that Chinese traders used to go there to buy opium with their gold. Until Afghanistan took over production, this area was where most of the world’s heroin came from.

The so-called Triangle is several hundred thousand square miles in size overall, and takes in mountains ranges and the Mekong and Ruak Rivers. There are several ways to reach the area, including a regular bus from Chiang Mai. Don’t let the drug history put you off visiting, as it does attract a lot of tourists and is a safe place to explore in a group. We wouldn’t recommend you go on your own, though.

#10 – White Temple, Chiang Mai

Finally on our list of the top 10 places to visit in Thailand is the White Temple. Also known by its official title, Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple is undoubtedly one of the most jaw-dropping sights in Thailand, if not the whole of Asia. It is, in a word, incredible. And we’re not being dramatic.

The temple was designed and its building funded by Thai artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat, who was born in the city. Construction started on the temple in 1997, but changes and additions continue to be made. The brilliant white exterior reflects the purity of Buddha, and the tiered roof and exterior are covered in serpents, which are a symbol of luck in Thailand. There are actually nine buildings in the complex, with the temple being the highlight. A visit is one of the best things to do in Thailand, and the trip to Chiang Mai is well worth the effort.

What is the most beautiful place in Thailand?

Of course, that’s a bit of a subjective question, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. Railay Beach gets a lot of attention for its incredible white sands, crystal clear water and amazing rock formations. Also known as Rai Leh, it is located at the southern end of Thailand. It often makes the lists of top natural sites to visit in Thailand. For attractions, Chiang Mai’s White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is often considered the most beautiful temple in the nation.

Is Thailand a great place to visit?

Yes! Thailand has amazing food, beautiful beaches, friendly people, and a whole lot of unforgettable experiences to offer. The culture and history is unique, and definitely worth a visit, even if you only see the places on our list of top 10 places to visit in Thailand.

What is the best city to visit in Thailand?

It’s difficult to think of traveling around Thailand and not visiting the capital city of Bangkok. Although it’s a constant maze of traffic and people, it has to be seen to be believed. The night markets and food are worth going for alone. A few days (or nights) in the bustling capital is one of the best things to do in Thailand on your travels. It’s pretty much a “must” for any trip to Thailand.

Is Thailand cheap to visit?

Flights to Thailand can be relatively inexpensive, especially if you visit off-season. Staying there can also be really cheap if you stay in standard resorts and hotels. Higher-end and more remote areas tend to be more expensive as demand outstrips supply.

What should I avoid in Thailand?

Avoid sleeping on beaches and traveling in remote areas on your own. Avoid upsetting your hosts by doing anything inappropriate and always adhere to the customs of the area you’re in. That’s fairly good advice for visiting any foreign country. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, and you’re usually safe in packs or groups of other tourists especially.

Is Thailand expensive for tourists?

On the whole, Thailand is inexpensive for Western tourists. Thanks to favorable exchange rates and relatively low prices, it’s cheap to eat and drink, and transport is generally cheaper than you get back home.

How many days do you need in Thailand?

Thailand is a huge country, and transport can be slow and sometimes inefficient. Depending on how much of the nation you want to travel, a week or two exploring a specific area can be enough. If you want to do some island hopping while you’re there, this can add on some serious hours. Ultimately, most people’s trips are governed not by how long it takes to see everything, but how long they have to take vacation and travel. With that information, you can use our list of the top 10 places to visit in Thailand and craft an itinerary that is both enriching and relaxing to fit your schedule.

Conclusion

Often, when people think of Thailand, they think of The Beach movie, or the Full Moon party, and it’s discounted by anyone older than 25 as a ‘party destination.’ While it certainly has that side to it, there’s so much more to the country than that.  Thailand is a diverse country, with thousands of ancient temples, modern cities, and fabulous fresh food. It’s a paradise for shoppers, those who want the peace and quiet of all-inclusive beach resorts, and travelers who want to find adventure in hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking. Thailand is definitely a bucket-list destination, and we hope we’ve given you a little inspiration on some of the amazing places to visit in Thailand on vacation.

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