Thailand is an enthralling country of jungle-clad hills, sweeping sandy beaches and buzzing cities. We’ve rounded up the most amazing places in Thailand to experience the very best of this diverse nation.

1. Experience The Buzz Of Bangkok

Thailand’s capital is a mishmash of high-rise glass buildings and street-level alleys stuffed with shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. There’s a buzzing nightlife scene around Khao San Road where buckets of cocktails are served to a backdrop of banging music until the early hours of the morning. Winding canal-ways are home to floating markets and water taxis, perfect for sampling daily life in the city.

The stunning temples of Wat Po and the Golden Mountain Temple are a must-see for anyone interested in Thai culture, and the Royal Palace is a sprawling complex of great halls, shrines and ancient monuments.

Bangkok is the perfect introduction to Thailand. Anyone visiting for the first time should spend some time here to get a sample of the cuisine, nightlife and historic sights all in one place.

2. Find Serenity In Chiang Mai 

In the north of the country, the city of Chiang Mai holds dozens of temples within its ancient city walls. Wat Chiang Man is the oldest, dating back to the 11th century. Night markets buzz to life as the sun goes down and this is the best place to sample the north’s impeccable food. Curries topped with crispy noodles and spicy sausages are some of the regions finest dishes.

Chiang Mai is the ideal destination for foodie fanatics, anyone looking to find serenity in ancient temples and those looking to get close to nature.

3. Trek At Mae Wang National Park

Trek through jungle-clad hills, and stay in homestays in hilltribe villages of the Karen people for an authentic experience. Ethical elephant sanctuaries dot the fringes of the jungle and offer the chance to bathe and feed these revered animals. Bamboo rafting and canoeing the rapids of the Ping River are a great way to watch the jungle scenery go by.

Without electricity, wifi and phone signal, this is the ultimate escape from the modern world.

4. Relive The Hippy Heyday In Pai

Nestled in the northern province of Mae Hong Soon, Pai is a small town where you can still experience the hippy roots of Thai travel. The vibe is hammocks overlooking rice fields and rolling hills, and laid-back cafés serving fresh fruit smoothies.

Trek out to the breathtaking waterfalls that dot the surrounding area or chill out in some natural hot springs. Hit the central Walking Street at night to shop for baggy elephant trousers, trinkets and street food. Tubing on the river Pai in inflatable rubber rings is a unique way to see the countryside drift by with an air of fun.

Pai is perfect for anyone who wants to take a trip back in time to the backpacking heyday of Thailand and doesn’t mind the basics when it comes to accommodation.

5. Get Close To Nature In Khao Sok National Park

In the heart of southern Thailand, Khao Sok National Park sprawls across hills, a jungle and a stunning man-made lake. There are several ethical elephant sanctuaries within the National Park, such as Elephant Hills, where you can feed and bathe rescue elephants.

See the amazing jungle scenery from a traditional bamboo raft, floating down a calm river. Or, explore the Khao Sok lake under your own steam by canoe. Surrounded by complete silence save for the twitter and cheep of the jungle you might spot hornbills, monkeys or even a clouded leopard if you’re lucky. Accommodation is available in the form of floating tents on the lake, only accessible by boat, for the ultimate glamping experience.

If you want to discover Thailand’s diverse wildlife and don’t mind the idea of creepy crawlies in the jungle, a trip to Khao Sok is a must.

6. Party Up A Storm On Koh Phangan

Legendary Full Moon parties take place once a month in Thailand and those who like to party make a special pilgrimage to Koh Phangan. This island off the east coast is set in shimmering tropical water, so chilling by the beach by day is the best way to get over the hangover of the night before.

By day you can explore the forested interior of the island, where beautiful waterfalls cascade into natural swimming pools. By night it’s time to hit the beach bars and clubs where international DJs pump out the tunes until dawn. At Full Moon, head to Hat Rin Beach for the ultimate rave. Fire breathing, glow paint, buckets of cocktails and dancing until dawn are all on the agenda.

Koh Phangan is a must for any social butterfly looking for the best party on Thailand.

7. Slow The Pace On Koh Lanta

Made up of two different islands, Lanta Yai and Lanta Noi, Koh Lanta is a great place to sample Thai island life. This west-coast island is quiet, and you won’t find any clubs, even in the main town. Laid-back beach bars made for cold beers and reclining at sunset are dotted along the sand at Lanta Yai’s Long Beach.

Night market stalls and seafood restaurants on wooden stilts over the water make for a pleasant evening in Lanta Old Town. Days on this island are easily filled relaxing on the beach, taking day trips by boat to the little limestone islands in the Andaman sea and snorkelling off the island’s coast.

If you’re looking to escape it all, head to Koh Lanta.

8. Discover Ancient History In Ayutthaya

Once the thriving capital of Siam, Ayutthaya’s centre is now home to sprawling ruins. The crumbling stone temples and palaces date back to the 14th century and you could spend days exploring every nook and cranny. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, the Historic Park has been reclaimed by nature in places, making for dramatic photographs.

There’s a floating market in the city, serving excellent value bowls of noodles. Ayutthaya is set on the confluence of three rivers, so admiring the ancient city from the deck of a river cruise is a relaxing way to sightsee.

History buffs and anyone interested in Thailand’s ancient past should put Ayutthaya on their list.

9. Find The Best Beaches At Phi Phi Islands

Ask anyone where the best beaches in Thailand are, and they’ll pretty much unanimously say Koh Phi Phi. The Phi Phi islands were the famous filming location for Danny Boyle’s The Beach, and are located in a protected marine park.

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Top Tip: You can’t stay overnight of Phi Phi Leh, the smallest and most idyllic of the islands, but day trips here can be done by speedboat.

Accommodation is available on Phi Phi Don, where you can bag a budget beach bungalow or live it up in a boutique hotel. Days can be spent on the spotless beaches, or snorkelling and diving the reefs between the islands. As a protected marine park, Phi Phi islands are home to stunning sea-life like hawksbill turtles, reef sharks and barracuda.

Koh Phi Phi is one of those bucket-list destinations. Anyone who’s had a tropical beach fantasy or enjoys snorkelling and diving should visit this place.

10. Experience World-Class Diving On The Similan Islands

The best scuba diving in Thailand, if not South East Asia, can be found in the waters of the Similan Islands. The best way to experience this underwater playground is on a liveaboard boat. Trips run from Khao Lak to this cluster of islands scattered away out in the Andaman Sea.

The Similans are a national park, meaning the swimming-pool-blue waters are protected and filled with unique marine life. Accommodation can be found on three of the eleven islands, and comes in the form of beach bungalows with basic amenities, or rustic campsites.

For a true desert island escape, head to the Similans. Or hop on a liveaboard and spend your days diving some of the best spots in the world.

11. Have The Best Of Everything In Phuket

White sandy beaches, crystal clear sea, a party town and wildlife experiences — Phuket has a little bit of everything. Yoga retreats and romantic escapes hug the cliffs of the rugged coastline on the east of the island. Here you’ll discover hidden bays and sunset views right out to the horizon.

On the west coast the buzzing beaches of Patong, Kata and Karon are lined with all-inclusive resorts that take the fuss out of any beach-side holiday. Bangla Road comes to life at night with neon lights and buzzing clubs. During the day you can while away the hours on stretches of pristine beach, hit a beach club for a day session or head inland to the jungle interior to elephant sanctuaries and treks to stunning viewpoints.

Phuket has a resort vibe, and is perfect for anyone who wants an introduction to Thailand for the first time.

12. Find Paradise In Ao Phang Nga

Famous for its recognisable backdrop in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, Ao Phang Nga Bay is a protected area of limestone pillars jutting out from crystal water. Day trips here from the coast at Khao Lak and Phuket can be made by speedboat. But a more leisurely way to experience this area is by camping overnight on a deserted beach and drifting through the peaceful water by kayak.

13. Embrace A “City of Sin” In Pattaya

Once considered a seedy port city, Pattaya has blossomed into a vibrant hub with electric nightlife and city beach to rival Rio. An easy hop from Bangkok, this is a great place to get to the ocean without having to take an internal flight or long overland journey.

By day you can experience some of the best water sports in Thailand as the beach is packed with vendors offering wakeboarding, jet skiing, bodyboarding and wind-sailing just to name a few. The city still has one foot in old traditions with an atmospheric floating market and number of serene temples.

Pattaya is perfect for anyone who wants to experience Thai life by the sea without having to travel far from Bangkok.

14. Escape The Crowds At Khao Lak

While sunseekers flock to Phuket and Krabi, there’s a little overlooked nook of the west coast. Khao Lak’s long sweep of idyllic beach is fringed by boutique hotels with views out to the Andaman Sea.

Close to the Phi Phi Islands, Khao Sok National Park and the Similans, this is a great place to base yourself and discover the very best of southern Thailand. Take a day trip to James Bond Island, or head into Khao Sok for bamboo rafting and elephant washing.

Khao Lak town itself has a good variety of laid-back bars, restaurants a little shops. This is the perfect place for anyone looking for a beach-side escape without the crowds.

15. Explore The Temples Of Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai in the far north of Thailand is best known for it’s hauntingly beautiful Wat Rong Khun, or White Temple. The ivory-coloured front of this intricately carved building makes it one of the most spectacular sights in the country. At the other end of the spectrum, the Black Temple in the heart of Chiang Rai is an impressive gothic dreamscape of carved dark wood and animal bones. You can also get a taste of Thailand’s northern cuisine in the Night Bazaar.

16. Become A Castaway On Koh Lipe

Cast out on the water near the Malaysian border, Thailand’s most southern island is the perfect escape. Less developed than the big hitters of Koh Lanta, Koh Samui and even Koh Phi Phi, the atmosphere on this idyllic dot of land is that of slowing down and chilling out. Yoga classes, beach clean-ups and admiring the sunrise from powdery white sand are all you need to fill the days.

17. Live It Up On Koh Samui

One of the largest islands off the east coast of Thailand, Koh Samui has a bit of everything to offer. Of course, the beaches are tropical fantasy-like and you can find hidden little bays or chill out on long stretches of sand with bars and restaurants to sustain you.

Resort hotels, boutique retreats, wellness centres and budget beach bungalows make up the array of accommodation for all styles of travel. At night there’s a lively bar and club scene at Chaweng and Lamai, and Koh Samui throws legendary Full Moon parties to rival Koh Phangan’s.

18. Discover Wildlife At Kui Buri National Park

Touching the border with Myanmar, the Kui Buri National Park is a sprawling protected area teeming with some of Thailand’s best wildlife. A mix of dense forest and open spaces, a trip here is the best opportunity to see wild Asian elephants and gaurs.

19. Hit The Shops At Hat Yai

Nestled near the Malaysian border, Hat Yai is a bustling city where travellers often stop on their way between Malaysia and Thailand. With buzzing night markets and walking streets lined with stalls selling everything under the sun, it’s worth spending a few days here for the shopping alone.

Street food vendors ply shoppers with spicy southern curries and you can bag some of the best bargains on the streets of Hat Yai. One of the most enthralling scenes can be found at the busy floating market, one of the best in Thailand, where women sell regional goods from wooden boats.

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Top Tip:  The floating market operates between Friday and Sunday, so it is best to visit Hat Yai at the weekend.

20. Easy Access To Thai Island Life On Koh Chang

A little bit different from other Thai islands, Koh Chang has a National Park in its centre fringed by idyllic tropical beaches. It’s also one of the closest islands to Bangkok, out in the Gulf of Thailand. Trekking trails meander up and down the island’s lush interior leading to secret waterfalls plunging into natural swimming holes. Bang Bao fishing village, built around long piers with stunning views, practically drifts out to sea, and backpackers enjoy a party lifestyle on Tha Nam (Lonely Beach).

21. Chase Waterfalls At Erawan National Park

Erawan National Park, to the west of Bangkok, is a wonderland of beautiful waterfalls and dramatic caves. The seven-tiered Erawan Waterfall cascades into pools an other-worldly shade of blue. This has to be one of Thailand’s most picturesque natural pools, just begging for a dip. All kinds of tropical bird-life rustles in the trees, so it’s also a twitcher’s paradise. There are extensive cave networks filled with rock paintings and underground rivers to make you feel like an intrepid explorer.

Head to Erawan National Park to get off the beaten path and discover something new.

22. Chill On The Beach At Krabi

Once ignored in favour of Phuket and the islands, the Krabi coastal region in the south has really come into its own. There’s a thriving nightlife scene to rival Phuket and a stretch of golden beach surrounded by stunning natural scenery. Tuck into fiery southern curries in the abundant beach-side restaurants and hit the bars and clubs of Railay Beach and Ao Nang for night out to remember.

Speedboats and long-tail boats line the piers, ready to whisk you away to the idyllic islands of the Andaman Sea for blissful day trips. Those that want to sample the diverse nature of swampland can kayak around the mangrove swamps south of Krabi Town.

23. Experience Wilderness And Seaside Fun At Hua Hin

This beachside paradise on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand was once a favourite retreat for the royal family. Bangkok residents still flock here to catch some fresh ocean air and hit the beach. It’s an easy drive from the capital, so if you have limited time in Thailand this is an excellent beach option with an old-world feel.

Hua Hin is also a great place to base yourself to explore Khao Sam Roi National Park where a Buddhist temple sits dramatically inside a huge cave and walking trails host a plethora of wildlife.

24. Find Modern History At Kanchanaburi

The province of Kanchanaburi, touching the Myanmar border, is punctuated with memories from World War II. The most famous being the Bridge over the River Kwai, part of the Thai-Burma railway (aka Death Railway) built by prisoners of war. There’s a memorial museum dedicated to those that lost their lives during the railway’s construction and a peaceful war cemetery.

You can take the train straight from Bangkok, and it’s possible to see the sights on a long day trip, but to immerse yourself in the region’s turbulent history there are plenty of places to stay in Kanchanaburi Town. A longer stay will reward you with tranquil hiking paths, and perhaps even exploring an ancient Khmer temple on the banks of the river Kwai.