Thailand is a vast country with many attractions but broadly speaking, travellers generally hit the beaches, do city tours to see the temples and palaces, or go inwards into the forested hillside. The most picturesque beach destinations in Thailand are Krabi, Phuket, and Pattaya. Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are popular choices for families and those who love nature and culture.
Centrally located Bangkok offers a fascinating mix of history, architecture, shopping, and entertainment. But Thailand is also home to many smaller countryside and historical cities like Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya. Here are 23 top things to do in Thailand:
Indulge in water sports at Krabi and Phuket
Popular water sports in Thailand include snorkelling, diving, swimming, fishing and sea kayaking. We recommend testing the waters in Phang Nga Bay in Phuket and Phi Phi Island in Krabi.
The paradise in Leonardo Di Caprio starrer ‘The Beach’ was none other than Krabi’s Maya Bay. The turquoise waters bordered by soaring cliffs are perfect for snorkelling, diving and sea kayaking. As you plunge into the water, get ready to see boulders covered in coral and vivid schools of fish.
Trek through the wilderness in Chiang Mai
An offbeat way to get to know Thailand is to hike through its scenic jungles and mountains. Chiang Mai is a good starting point for many hikes but there are also wonderful trails to be found in Chiang Dao, Chiang Rai, Nan and Soppong.
You might encounter local village tribes and magical waterfalls on these treks. You can even go white-water rafting on the Mae Taeng River and zip-line through the forests of Mae Sa Valley.
Visit Long Neck Karen village
Thailand is home to many ancient tribes who still reside in its beautiful villages. The women of Long Neck Karen village don lovely coiled necklaces that makes their necks long and slender. During your visit, you can try the heavy golden-coloured necklaces for yourself and buy one if you like. They might go well with a traditional Thai skirt and blouse!
Pamper yourself with spa therapies in Koh Samui and Phuket
Luxury resorts in Thailand pride themselves on their lavish spas and well-trained masseurs. Don’t leave the country without experiencing the magic of an authentic Thai massage and several other beautifying and rejuvenating treatments at Santiburi Beach Resort & Spa, Koh Samui and Aleenta Phuket Resort & Spa, to mention a few.
Set in the midst of the resort gardens, Santiburi Spa is reminiscent of the ancient Thai capital Ayutthaya. A must-do in Phuket is a hydrotherapy spa session at Ayurah Spa & Wellness Centre, housed within the magnificent Aleenta Phuket Resort & Spa.
Shop to your heart’s content in Bangkok
Choose between floating markets, night markets, weekend bazaars and high-end malls to fulfil your need for retail therapy. Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, Weekend Walking Street Market in Chiang Mai and the Ao Nang Market in Krabi offer great collections of souvenirs, handicrafts and accessories. Cicada Market in Hua Hin is a must visit for luxury shopping.
Marvel at beautiful temples in Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai
Thailand’s Buddhist temples (or wats in local language) are its biggest attraction. With gleaming golden exteriors and lofty Buddha statues, these temples are a study in intricate architecture. Wat Phra Sri Sanphet in Ayutthaya, Wat Pho in Bangkok and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai are among the most breath-taking Thai temples.
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet lay in ruins after the Burmese conquest in 1767 but some of its chedis and mandapas have been partially restored. Doi Suthep is striking for its golden colouring and hilltop location. Bangkok’s Wat Pho is better known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, which is 46 metres in length.
Meet elephants at national parks in Chiang Mai
The Thai elephant is one of the country’s national symbols and it can be a wonderful experience bathing with these creatures or helping to feed them. Support the animals by picking a place that believes in responsible tourism. Elephant National Park near Chiang Mai and Elephant Hills at Khao Sok National Park are good choices.
Voyage along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok
A luxury cruise along the Chao Phraya River offers you mesmerising views of the lit-up temples from the top deck. Feel the wind lift up your hair and sip on a cocktail as you watch musicians perform live. Dinner cruises are a sensory experience, and offer local as well as international cuisines.
We also recommend watching the Siam Niramit Show, and the cultural performances accompanied by gourmet dinner at Sala Rim Naam Restaurant at the riverside Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Get a Taste of Royalty at Dusit Palace and The Grand Palace in Bangkok
Frescos and murals tell stories of Siamese kings at Ananta Smakom Throne Hall, the erstwhile reception hall of Dusit Palace. Built by Italian architects who favoured the neoclassical and Renaissance architectural styles, the palace is a treasure trove of royal artefacts.
The Grand Palace used to be the residence of Thailand’s royal family, and its tall golden turrets are breath-taking from the outside. Within, you find the Emerald Buddha Temple, the Royal Throne, and beautiful gardens.
Join a Thai cookery class at Kata Beach, Phuket
The white-sand Kata Beach is a perfect family destination. Lined with pretty palms, attractive restaurants and souvenir shops, Kata Beach promises to keep you busy. The cookery class at The Boathouse Phuket starts with a visit to the local market, followed by a chef-guided session where you prepare a four-course Thai meal and have it for lunch later with some Thai wine!
Sample the local street food
Street food in Thailand is diverse and delicious, and much cheaper than sit-down meals at restaurants. You can try street food at various stalls in major cities like Phuket, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. You will also find a wide variety of local delicacies at food markets. Popular dishes include barbecued fish, grilled chicken on skewers, stir-fried pork, and various noodle and rice dishes, not to mention fried bananas and papaya salad.
Take the Death Railway at Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi is a beautiful riverside town close to Bangkok. It played a pivotal role in World War II, and you can revisit history at the River Kwai Bridge, JEATH War Museum, and Don Rak War Cemetery. The ‘Death Railway’ or the Siam-Burma railway used to connect Thailand and Burma during times of war. Today, you can ride along the railway and visit Sai Yok Waterfall and Tham Krasae Cave along the way.
Take Instagram-worthy shots at Phimai Historical Park
Phimai Historical Park is the biggest Khmer temple in Thailand, located in a town of the same name. The huge complex houses stunning examples of Khmer architecture from the 11th and 12th centuries. Though the Khmer were Hindu, Phimai is a Buddhist temple. The temples are interspersed by pools representing the oceans enveloping Mount Meru.
Enjoy the Songkran water festival in April
Taking place from 13th to 15th April, the water festival of Songkran coincides with the Thai New Year. The event promises a lot of fun and amusement, with people soaking everyone around them with buckets of water and sprays from water pistols. The festival also has religious significance, with water being poured on the hands of monks and images of the Buddha.
Enjoy the Full Moon Party at Haad Rin, Koh Phangan
The Full Moon Party of Koh Phangan needs no introduction and is definitely among the top things to do in Thailand. Play fire-skipping rope and dance to psychedelic trance music at this famous night-long party. Stay at the quieter part of the beach, called Haad Rin Nai, for a breather from the party scene. Haad Rin is also known for its water sports and boating trips that let you explore the neighbouring waterfalls and sheltered beaches.
Hike through mountains at Lamai Beach, Koh Samui
Lamai Beach may be among the most famous beaches in Koh Samui but an unconventional way to explore the region is by hiking through its mountains. Dotted with fruit plantations and scenic viewing points, the trek brings you up close with the Thai way of life. Cool off with an indulgent stay at Santiburi Beach Resort & Spa or Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui. Walking Street near Lamai Beach is abuzz with activity on Sunday evenings.
Watch a ladyboy cabaret show at Patong Beach, Phuket
Patong Beach in Phuket features the most exciting slice of nightlife in Thailand with numerous bars and night clubs. The glamorous and funny ladyboy cabaret show at Phuket Simon Cabaret is a must-watch. With a dazzling display of costumes and colours, this is one evening you won’t forget. Book a stay at Soneva Kiri or Aleenta Phuket Resort and Spa for the ultimate luxury experience.
Experience Thailand’s famous festival of lights in Phuket
Loy Krathrong is Thailand’s own festival of lights, during which hundreds of beautiful lanterns dot the sky with their golden brilliance. What makes the festival truly unique and romantic is that there are also floating lamps lighting up the river. The lanterns and lights come alive simultaneously, making for a symphony of ethereal, manmade stars. Loy Krathrong occurs in November and takes place throughout Thailand.
Go on a night safari in Chiang Mai
The Chiang Mai Night Safari is only the second of its kind in the world, and a wonderful activity to undertake after the sun goes down. The zoo hosts more than 200 species from world over, including leopards, sloth bears, giraffes, zebras, and alpacas. The Predator Prowl Zone is particularly exciting with its population of carnivorous animals like lions and crocodiles.
Visitors ride through the zoo in a tram, and also have the opportunity to feed some of them. Most exciting is the Digital Zoo, where you can put on 3D glasses for a unique wildlife experience. There’s a multimedia fountain with laser water graphics as well.
Bathe in the Klom Thom hot springs at Krabi
Combine a visit to Krabi’s Emerald Pool with a dip in the natural hot springs of Klom Thom. The water is full of skin-friendly minerals and salts, and its location in the lush forest makes for a very peaceful experience. Immerse yourself in the warm, terraced stream and close your eyes as you listen to the birds and the rustling of the trees.
Embrace the Wilderness at Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai was Thailand’s first national park, and a wonderful attraction for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. Evergreen forests and grasslands constitute the sprawling park, whose highlight is the mountain peak of Khao Rom, standing 1,351 meters tall. The reserve is home to elephants, barking deer, civets, macaques, gibbons, bears, and jackals. There are also numerous waterfalls, watchtowers, and mountain viewing points in the park.
Get lessons in Muay Thai in Bangkok
Many tourists come to watch the Muay Thai boxing matches in Thailand, but why not pick up a few moves? At Chakrit Muay Thai School in Bangkok, you can enrol for an hour-long session with one-on-one training. Both learners and experts sweat it out at the school’s outdoor gym, with one session costing only 800 baht.
Go island hopping at Similan Islands
Just off the coast of Phuket, the Similan Islands are a cluster of scenic islands with many low-lying, foliage-covered formations. The gorgeous white sand beaches are dotted with corals and enormous boulders. Not too many travellers frequent the Similan Islands, making them particularly arresting and romantic.
Koh Similan is the best diving point on the islands and features striking marine life. Hiking to Sailing Boat Rock on the eighth island is a popular activity. Luxury travellers might also enjoy sailing in the crystal clear waters of the islands.