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Our regional guide to Thailand: explore Bangkok and beyond

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Travel in Thailand is as much about immersing yourself in its unique culture as it is about enjoying its tropical waters and laid-back beach life. With its gorgeous Andaman Coast and sublime islands, this is one of the most popular countries in the world for a sun-soaked holiday. But there’s more to Thailand than its (admittedly) incredible beaches.

Thailand has retained a distinct culture, cuisine and way of life. Buddhism is the predominant religion here, so much of the local colour stems from its traditions. Temples decorate the skyline, orange-robed monks glide the streets, and a busy calendar of festivals adds to the party. The Thai people are famously friendly, and the cuisine is known the world over for its sophistication and high-impact flavours.

The Thailand tourist infrastructure is well developed and there is much to pack into your travels here. To help you choose, we’ve put together a guide to the best places to visit in Thailand. From city slicking in Bangkok to touring the cultural highlights of the north and succumbing to the magnetic draw of the southern isles, here come the very best things to do in Thailand.

View of Doi Inthanon National Park in Thailand

The vibrant charms of Bangkok

Many people begin their Thailand trip in Bangkok (although some might opt to skip straight to the beach). The country’s capital is frenetic, sprawling, hot, humid and potentially overwhelming. Yet, spending time here is a real feast for the senses, and if you skip it you’ll miss out on an exuberant introduction to life in Thailand. Spend a few days making the most of its cultural treasures, feasting at top-draw restaurants and buzzing street food stalls, and meeting some of its many colourful characters.

Get out on the water

Bangkok’s waterways are almost as well-used as the roads and offer a different view of the city. The river is a great way of getting from A to B, either on a zippy long-tail boat or the larger express boats. Alternatively, book a sunset dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River and watch the sky turn shades of pink and apricot over the rippling water.

Wat Arun Temple in Bangkok, Thailand

Find a moment of peace at Wat Pho

The sprawling 16th-century complex of Wat Pho offers a calm escape from the rush of the city outside. Here you’ll find the famous 45 m sculpture of a reclining Buddha, resplendent in all its golden glory. Linger a while in the cool prayer halls and meander past serene shrines dotted throughout the extensive grounds.

Shop all day and all night

The vast, open-air Chatuchak Weekend Market is packed with everything under the sun, and more. Spend a day wandering its many shady aisles and bartering over everything from tropical fruits to home decor and antique trinkets. In the evening, Bangkok’s night markets are the place to be for street food and socialising. Strings of pretty lights sparkle amongst the stalls, and the convivial atmosphere will likely entice you into a few extra purchases.

Steet food by night in Thailand

Heading South

Find your beach bliss in tropical Phuket

The best things to do in Phuket revolve around its outstanding beaches. This is Thailand’s largest island and there’s a sandy stretch here to suit everyone, from glitz and glamour party beaches to laid-back, jungle-fringed coastline. Don’t miss a visit to the underwater world around Phuket, either: the water sport opportunities are incredible so, whether scuba diving or snorkelling, make sure to add one on to your Thailand itinerary.

Hike into Khao Sok National Park

Once you’ve had your beach fix, head inland to the lush tropical jungle of Khao Sok National Park and spend a few days discovering its treasures. Here you can kayak down the Sok River, trek through the virgin jungle, and discover some incredible flora and fauna along the way. This dense and ancient jungle shelters stalking tigers, striking hornbills, and the giant and extremely rare Rafflesia flower that can grow to several feet in diameter.

Go off-grid on Koh Mook Island

For a different flavour of beach, add a visit to Koh Mook Island to your Thailand trip. This tiny Andaman isle off of the southern coast is low-key and unspoilt. Spend a couple of days luxuriating in the peace and quiet, treading barefoot on soft sandy beaches, swimming through sea caves, and getting a taste of authentic village life.

Hidden beach in Koh Mook, Thailand

Make your way North

Step back in time in Ayutthaya

Heading North from Bangkok, a visit to historical Ayutthaya offers fascinating insight into the past. This was the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam, and it’s home to many splendid temples, monasteries and palaces to marvel at.

Cross the bridge over the River Kwai

The town of Kanchanaburi in central Thailand is best known for its prominence during World War II, when the so-called Death Railway was built and so many soldiers lost their lives. Visitors can visit the bridge over the River Kwai and learn all about this tragic chapter of history, but also relax and enjoy the serenity of the river and its lush setting.

Orange-robed Buddhist monks

Chill out in Chiang Mai

This charming city is the capital of the North and deserves its place on every Thailand tour. It is far more laid-back than Bangkok, with a cooler mountain climate and a relaxed pace of life. It makes a great base from which to explore the surrounding countryside, visit hill-tribe communities and go hiking in the hills. It is also a favourite amongst visitors for its Thai cooking classes and thriving traditional craft scene.

Chiang Rai

Still further north, not far from the mountain border with Myanmar, is Chiang Rai. Here you’ll find the elaborate White Temple, the Wat Huay Pla Kang: Goddess of Mercy Temple, as well as the Mae Fah Luang Cultural Park, with its lush gardens and treasure trove of traditional folk art. This is another great base for exploring the more hidden corners of northern Thailand.

Steps to the Wat Huay Pla Kang: Goddess of Mercy temple in Chiang Rai

Make it happen

Travel in Thailand offers so many varied experiences, from culture and cuisine to nature, landscapes and beaches. Get in touch with one of our local travel experts today and start planning your ultimate Thailand itinerary.

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