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The 10 Most Spectacular Spots in Thailand You Have to Experience—and When to Go

In Europe
February 24, 2024

From the bustling markets of Bangkok to the serene beaches of Phuket, the stunning nation of Thailand offers a diverse range of experiences for every type of traveler. Rich in history and dotted with ancient temples, it allows visitors to immerse themselves in a tapestry of traditions and customs. The lush jungles and picturesque islands provide myriad adventure opportunities for nature enthusiasts. And for any foodie, taking a cooking class while in Thailand is basically a must. Thai cuisine tantalizes the taste buds with its bold flavors and aromatic spices wherever your explorations throughout this incredible country lead.

Related: These Are the 10 Best Places to Visit in Europe’s Hottest Destination

Whether exploring the historic wonders of Ayutthaya, partaking in water activities in Krabi, or simply relaxing on the pristine beaches, Thailand’s allure lies in its ability to instill every type of traveler with a sense of wonder. With so much to offer and only so much vacation time, it can be daunting to know where to start—which is why we’ve rounded up the 10 best places to check out for every type of traveler in the Land of Smiles.

Best for Vibrant City Life: Bangkok

Bangkok's Rod Fai market is one of several sensory overload stops spread throughout Thailand's colorful capital. 

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Bangkok’s Rod Fai market is one of several sensory overload stops spread throughout Thailand’s colorful capital.

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A trip to Thailand is not complete without diving into the high energy of the bustling capital, Bangkok, where historic palaces coexist with modern skyscrapers. Begin by exploring the iconic Grand Palace, an architectural masterpiece that houses the revered Emerald Buddha. Then get lost in the vibrant Chatuchak Weekend Market, where you can shop for local crafts, textiles, and dig into some delicious street food. Take a longtail boat ride through the winding canals of the Mae Klong River, stopping at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market for fresh mango, sticky rice, and epic photos. For a culinary adventure, savor street food delicacies at Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, and indulge in rooftop dining at Vertigo at Banyan Tree, offering panoramic city views.

Where to Stay: Ariyasomvilla Boutique Hotel

A historic villa in the middle of bustling Bangkok, Ariyasomvilla Boutique Hotel offers a tranquil oasis with its charming boutique setting. The intimate hotel, housed in a restored family home, features spacious rooms and suites, a lush garden, and a spa. Guests can enjoy a traditional Thai afternoon tea by the koi pond—a peaceful retreat from the high energy of the city.

Best for Night Markets: Chiang Mai

Beauty, charm, and history are reflected everywhere in northern Thailand's cultural hub of Chiang Mai. 

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Beauty, charm, and history are reflected everywhere in northern Thailand’s cultural hub of Chiang Mai.

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Nestled in the mountainous north, Chiang Mai exudes a laid-back charm with its historic temples and mist-covered landscapes. Explore the intricate architecture of Wat Phra Singh, a Royal Buddhist temple dating back to the mid-14th century, still holding court in the western end of the old city. Then embark on an adventure to the nearby Doi Suthep mountain for panoramic views of the city. Don’t miss the vibrant Night Bazaar for local crafts and delicious street food, or dinner at The Riverside, a restaurant set in a restored teakwood house. One of Chiang Mai’s signature dishes, khao soi, is a must-try at Khao Soi Lam Duan Fa Ham.

Where to Stay: 137 Pillars House

Combining colonial charm with modern luxury, 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai offers a stunning experience just a few minutes walk from the historical Wat Gate Temple and Ping River. Set amidst a tropical garden, each spacious suite at 137 Pillars comes with a private veranda and outdoor garden shower. The hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Palette, also serves delicious Northern Thai cuisine.

Best for Beach Culture and Island Hopping: Phuket

Ko Phuket is Thailand's largest island and your enchanting beach headquarters along the country's southern Andaman coast. 

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Ko Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and your enchanting beach headquarters along the country’s southern Andaman coast.

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Known for its stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. Relax on the pristine sands of Patong Beach, then explore the vibrant markets and nightlife of Bangla Road, or grab sunset cocktails at Baba Nest, perched atop a cliff with panoramic ocean views. Take a morning boat trip to the Phi Phi Islands for crystal-clear waters and breathtaking limestone cliffs. Then make time for a relaxing afternoon stroll around Phuket’s historic downtown, stopping along the way to sip Thai coffee while exploring its bustling streets and rows of shops. Phuket also has a burgeoning cocktail bar scene, with stylish spots like The Library that are worth grabbing a fancy drink at.

Where to Stay: Trisara

Perched on a private bay along Phuket’s northwest coast, Trisara is a luxurious haven featuring contemporary Thai design. The resort’s private pool villas and suites boast breathtaking ocean views and Thai-style details. Guests can indulge in exquisite dining experiences at their signature seafood restaurant, Seafood at Trisara, or unwind with rejuvenating spa treatments at the resort’s spa, which overlooks the Andaman Sea. Between its pristine beach, infinity pools, and attentive service, Trisara offers an amazing experience in Phuket.

Best for Thrill Seekers: Krabi

The limestone-walled shores of Krabi are a prelude to its spectacular, island-studded bay.

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The limestone-walled shores of Krabi are a prelude to its spectacular, island-studded bay.

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With its dramatic limestone cliffs and emerald-green waters, Krabi is a stunning province in southern Thailand that includes over 80 smaller islands. The region is a must for adventure enthusiasts, offering world-class rock climbing opportunities on Railay Beach, mesmerizing snorkeling and diving sites around the Phi Phi Islands, and lush jungles with hidden waterfalls for hiking enthusiasts. Embark on a boat tour to the famous Four Islands, including Phra Nang Cave Beach and Chicken Island, for an unforgettable experience.

Where to Stay: Nakamanda Resort & Spa

Tucked away on the pristine Klong Muang Beach, Nakamanda Resort & Spa in Krabi offers a secluded and luxurious escape. The boutique resort features spacious villas with stunning sea views, private pools, and traditional Thai decor. Guests can indulge in holistic spa treatments, savor gourmet cuisine at the on-site restaurant, and take in breathtaking sunsets from the resort’s beachfront setting.

Best for Northern Charm and Nature: Pai

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Pai’s hidden hot springs.

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Nestled in the lush mountains of Northern Thailand, Pai exudes a tranquil charm with its breathtaking landscapes, verdant valleys, cascading waterfalls, and lush rice paddies. The town’s laid-back atmosphere and welcoming community make it an inviting haven for relaxation. Travelers can explore vibrant local markets, where artisans showcase handmade crafts, and indulge in a diverse culinary scene featuring both traditional Thai dishes and international cuisine. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are ample opportunities nearby for excursions to hot springs, explore hidden caves, or take a scenic drive along winding mountain roads. Pai also boasts a thriving arts and music scene, with numerous cafes and bars hosting live performances. When you get hungry, try local dishes at Na’s Kitchen or vegetarian options at Earth Tone.

Where to Stay: Reverie Siam Resort

Among Pai’s tranquil hills, the Reverie Siam Resort is a boutique resort that captures the essence of Northern Thailand’s natural beauty, surrounded by lush gardens and rice paddies. With its serene atmosphere, personalized service, and unique design, Reverie Siam provides the ideal haven for those seeking a peaceful retreat in Pai.

Best for Culture and History: Ayutthaya

Nearly 500 historical sites have been discovered in an around Ayutthaya, including over 40 temples. Above, one of its most spectacular ones, Wat Chaiwatthanaram. 

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Nearly 500 historical sites have been discovered in an around Ayutthaya, including over 40 temples. Above, one of its most spectacular ones, Wat Chaiwatthanaram.

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Once the flourishing capital of the Kingdom of Siam, Ayutthaya is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site adorned with ancient temples and ruins. Explore Wat Mahathat with its iconic Buddha head entwined in tree roots, then take a boat cruise along the Chao Phraya River for a unique perspective of the historical city. Enjoy excellent grilled river prawns with views of the water at Ruanthai Kungao, or freshly made roti with candy floss at Roti Sai Mai Mae Pom.

Where to Stay: Sala Ayutthaya Riverside Boutique Hotel

Overlooking the Chao Phraya River, Sala Ayutthaya Riverside Boutique Hotel blends modern design with historical surroundings. The hotel’s contemporary rooms and suites offer stunning views of Ayutthaya’s ancient temples, and guests can relax by the riverside pool or enjoy riverfront dining at the on-site restaurant.

Best for Quintessential Island Life: Koh Samui

Koh Samui. The Gulf of Thailand's most famous beach vacay isle hosts over 2.5 million annual visitors—and a reference in Meet the Parents that never gets old. 

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Koh Samui. The Gulf of Thailand’s most famous beach vacay isle hosts over 2.5 million annual visitors—and a reference in Meet the Parents that never gets old.

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A tropical paradise in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui offers palm-fringed beaches and lush jungles. Relax on the famous Chaweng Beach, then explore the mystical Secret Buddha Garden hidden in the island’s interior. Adrenaline seekers can try a canopy tour and ziplining adventure. When you get hungry, make sure to dine at the trendy Coco Tam’s for beachfront vibes on Bophut Beach or enjoy seafood at The Jungle Club with panoramic island views.

Where to Stay: The Library

Situated on Chaweng Beach, The Library stands out with its minimalist design and bold, red-themed aesthetic. The boutique resort’s unique red pool creates a striking contrast against the white sand of the beach beyond. Guests can enjoy beachfront dining at The Page restaurant or unwind at The Lib, the hotel’s library-inspired lounge.

Best for Beachside Nightlife: Pattaya

Pattaya at night.

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Pattaya at night.

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Known for its vibrant nightlife, offshore isles, and full gamut of aqua-adventures off its coral-studded gulf shores, ranging from diving and snorkeling to kitesurfing and sailing, Pattaya is one lively coastal city from dawn to way past dusk. It boasts picturesque beaches such as Jomtien and Wong Amat, and, beyond beachside relaxation, the city offers lively evenings, featuring world-renowned cabaret shows, bustling night markets, and an eclectic selection of bars and clubs. Pattaya also holds cultural treasures, including the Sanctuary of Truth, a stunning wooden temple museum, and the vibrant Floating Market, where you can experience traditional Thai crafts and cuisine. Enjoy seafood at Rimpa Lapin or sip cocktails at Horizon Rooftop Bar at the Hilton for stunning ocean views.

Where to Stay: Sea Sand Sun Resort & Villas

Sea Sand Sun Resort & Villas is a 5-star beachfront boutique resort with elegant villas and suites. The resort features a private white sand beach, a spa, and dining options overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.

Best for Lanna Northern Thai Culture: Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai's White Temple—Wat Rong Khun.

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Chiang Rai’s White Temple—Wat Rong Khun.

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One of the northernmost cities in Thailand, Chiang Rai is visited by many specifically for its iconic White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), an architectural masterpiece known for its intricate design and Buddhist spiritual significance. Another must-see is the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten) for a contrasting burst of color, unique artwork, and modern design. Nature lovers can explore the Golden Triangle, where the Mekong River converges with the Ruak River, offering panoramic views and opportunities for boat excursions. Chiang Rai is also dotted with lush greenery, tea plantations, and hill tribe villages, providing a gorgeous backdrop for hiking and cultural experiences. Dine at Chivit Thamma Da Coffee House for a unique culinary experience, or try Northern Thai dishes at Larb Sanam Keela.

Where to Stay: The Legend Chiang Rai

Set along the Mae Kok River, The Legend Chiang Rai combines traditional Lanna (Northern Thai) architecture with contemporary comfort. The boutique resort’s spacious rooms and villas offer panoramic river views, and guests can unwind in the infinity pool or indulge in spa treatments inspired by ancient Thai rituals.

Best for Diving and Snorkeling: Ko Phi Phi

Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi

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Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi

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Comprising a group of islands, Ko Phi Phi is known for its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life. The archipelago offers a diverse range of activities, from snorkeling and diving in vibrant coral reefs to exploring hidden lagoons and caves. Make sure to snorkel in Maya Bay, famous for its role in The Beach. Then hike to the viewpoint on Ko Phi Phi Don for breathtaking panoramic views of the archipelago. Indulge in romantic dining at View Point Restaurant, which offers incredible views, fresh seafood, and traditional Thai cuisine, before heading into town to experience the vibrant nightlife in Tonsai Village, which provides a nice contrast to chill days spent on the beach.

Where to Stay: Zeavola Resort

On the pristine shores of Phi Phi Don, Zeavola Resort offers a luxurious and eco-friendly experience in a tropical paradise. The resort’s rustic-chic villas are nestled among lush gardens and feature traditional Thai design elements. Guests can enjoy direct beach access, dine at the acclaimed Baxil restaurant, and explore the vibrant marine life while snorkeling in the nearby Andaman Sea.

When to Visit Thailand

Thailand is beautiful all year long, but the ideal period for travel is typically during the cool and dry season, from November to February. During these months, the country experiences pleasant temperatures, lower humidity, and minimal rainfall, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities and exploring the diverse landscapes. However, if you enjoy lively festivals and vibrant cultural celebrations, visit during the Songkran Festival in April. The monsoon season from June to October brings heavy rains, particularly on the west coast, but also means you’ll experience lush, green scenery and fewer crowds.

Flights to Thailand

Most travelers opt to fly into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). While there are other international airport options, such as in Phuket (in the south) and Chiang Mai (north), Bangkok remains the primary entry point thanks to its central location and extensive flight connections.

In terms of flight pricing, you’ll be able to find the cheapest tickets during the low season, which corresponds with the monsoon season in Thailand from June to October. A better option for finding budget-friendly flights is to look for deals during shoulder seasons, such as late February to March or late October to early November, which may offer a balance between reasonable prices and more favorable weather conditions.

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