Long a favorite destination with backpackers and luxury travelers alike, Thailand is at the top of many a bucket list. With its stunningly clear waters and white-sand beaches, delicious food, and fascinating culture and history, it’s no wonder travelers of all kinds rave about visiting Thailand.
In this ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Thailand, we share everything from bustling cities to tiny villages and beach towns, and exactly why these unforgettable spots should make it on your Thailand itinerary. Plus, keep reading for our tips for first-time travelers to Thailand!
Best Places to Visit in Thailand
Located in the south of Thailand along the Andaman Sea, the Krabi province is home to more than 200 stunning islands, making it one of the best places to visit in Thailand for international travelers looking for an unforgettable beach escape.
Much of Krabi’s coastline consists of white sand beaches, and its sheer, vertical limestone cliffs are a favorite among climbers. The best snorkeling in Thailand is found in the coral-fringed waters of the Phi Phi islands, a well-known island destination in Krabi.
The capital city of the Krabi province, Krabi city, is the perfect spot for exploring this favorite corner of Thailand.
Surrounded by lush jungles and national parks, plus the stunning Railay Beach and countless historic temples, this is a popular spot for long-term expats and digital nomads as well.
Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok is one of the most popular travel destinations. With a population of over 8.4 million, it is a frenetic metropolis known for its vibrant street life and cosmopolitan ambiance. It also serves as the gateway to the rest of the country.
The majority of visitors to the country begin their Thailand travel experience by exploring Bangkok and its abundance of floating markets, incredible temples, and royal palaces.
Bangkok is also home to the famous Wat Pho temple with its massive reclining Buddha, a must-see when visiting the city. The intricate Wat Arun Temple of Dawn, which is located right in the midst of the city, is another must during your Thailand trip.
Looking for a beach getaway not too far from Bangkok? Consider Koh Kood, one of Thailand’s nicest yet least-touristed islands.!
3. The Grand Palace
Thailand’s Grand Palace in Bangkok is located in the heart of the city, but it deserves its own spot on this list of best places to visit in Thailand for its sheer size and draw as an attraction. One of the top destinations for travelers in Thailand, you can easily spend hours exploring and marveling at this royal estate.
The elegant and magnificent 150-year-old Palace, home to the Thai King, the Royal Court, and serving as the administrative seat of government, is adorned with exquisite decorations from floor to ceiling.
4. Chiang Mai
With its historic buildings, dense tropical forests, temples, and hill treks, Chiang Mai is easily one of the best places to visit in Thailand. It offers an entirely different side of the country than cosmopolitan Bangkok or beachy Krabi.
Located in the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai is home to more active Buddhist temples than any other city in the country. Its Saturday night market is famous among travelers, particularly those looking to try the incredible variety of delicious street food available at affordable prices, including pad Thai, samosas, sweet roti, and chicken satay.
Chiang Mai is also an incredible digital nomad hotspot for remote workers – one of the most famous in the world.
Though Thailand hasn’t yet released its long-awaited digital nomad visa, Chiang Mai remains one of the best cities for digital nomads, with its affordable cost of living, great community, and unending activities and attractions.
5. Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is a natural paradise in the far north of Thailand, surrounded by stunning mountainous areas that provide breathtaking hiking trails close to the borders of Laos and Myanmar. This small city is packed with temples, villages, and cultural attractions.
Chiang Rai is best known as the home of the stunning and unique White Temple – know as Wat Rong Khun – and travelers that make it to Chiang Rai will never forget this impressive, ornate temple, itself one of the best places to visit in Thailand.
Chiang Rai also has frequent impressive festivals that are well worth a visit.
Another of Thailand’s well-known attractions is Ayutthaya, which housed the country’s government for 417 years. Located just over an hour outside of central Bangkok, Ayutthaya makes an incredible day trip from Bangkok and is easily accessible by inexpensive group excursions from the city.
Visiting Ayutthaya, you’ll be impressed by the remains of Siam’s second capital. These majestic buildings have stood for many years, and you’ll enjoy exploring the city, taking in the stunning architecture, and learning about Thailand’s glorious past.
7. Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Pha Ngan, the fifth-largest island in Thailand, is made up of a variety of white-sand beaches, green jungles, and undulating hills.
Ko Pha Ngan is considerably less developed than its neighbor Ko Samui, yet it still has a wide range of activities for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Because Ko Pha Ngan is home to over 30 different tropical beaches, beachgoers are spoiled for choice.
Ko Pha Ngan is a popular place for divers. The island is close to some of the most renowned dive destinations in the Gulf of Thailand, including Sail Rock.
Famous for holding the fabled Full Moon Party, Ko Pha Ngan is well known for being a party destination and has backpacker hostels, bars, and clubs to match its reputation.
Pattaya is a former fishing village just an hour and a half from Bangkok that turned into a popular oceanfront getaway from the city. You will find colorful street food stalls and vendors, sunchairs and umbrellas, and beautiful seaside hotels everywhere.
Even if you’re not into hitting the beach, Pattaya has plenty of other things to do. Other activities in Pattaya include visiting the Wat Phra Yai Temple, also known as Big Buddha Hill.
This 18-meter giant golden Buddha statue on a hillside over the town is stunning and offers great views of the bay and beach.
Phuket, a popular beach vacation destination for travelers from all over the world, is home to some of the country’s most well-known beaches. One of the best places to visit in Thailand for a beach escape, in Phuket you’ll find backpacker hostels, luxury hotels, and everything in between.
As you soak up the sun, take in Phuket’s tranquil surroundings, the clear waters, and the cover of the palm trees.
One of Thailand’s most well-known locations, Wat Chalong is the largest temple in Phuket and is home to a stupa thought to hold a fragment of the Buddha’s skeleton.
10. Koh Samui
The second-largest island in Thailand, Koh Samui is a popular beach destination located in the Gulf of Thailand, along the country’s east coast.
While fifty years ago, even reaching the island’s center required strenuous hikes through the dense jungle, now the island is a popular destination, home to a great mix of both luxury hotels and backpacker spots.
Popular activities on Koh Samui include beach-hopping, shopping at the markets, and the famous Full Moon Party, one of Thailand’s most famous parties. Whether you’re interested in dancing the night away or relaxing on a beach, Koh Samui is one of the best places to visit in Thailand.
11. Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park, the third largest national park in Thailand, is located within the impressive Sankamphaeng Mountain Range. The park includes a mix of evergreen rainforests and billowing grasslands that will impress you no matter what corner of the park you visit.
In the dense jungles of Khao Yai National Park, there are a number of hidden waterfalls as well, and hiking to them is a favorite activity for visitors. The largest waterfall in the park, Haew Narok, is 260 feet tall.
The charming Haew Suwat Waterfall, though not as tall, is nevertheless beautiful and well worth seeing; it served as the backdrop for the waterfall leap sequence in the film The Beach.
Another draw of the Khao Yai National Park is the profusion of animals. Asian black bears, sambar deer, and freshwater crocodiles are just a few of the animals that can be seen roaming the area. It’s also one of the few locations in Thailand where larger species like elephants and tigers can be frequently spotted in the wild.
12. Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi – or, the Phi Phi islands – is a group of dreamy islands just a 45-minute boat ride from some of Thailand’s favorite beach destinations like Phuket.
However, proximity isn’t all that draws travelers here – this stunning archipelago of six islands is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand.
While only one of the Phi Phi islands is inhabited (Koh Phi Phi Don), you can visit the incredible natural beauty of these others easily. One of the most popular day trips in Koh Phi Phi is to Maya Bay, with its beautiful white-sand beach surrounded by soaring cliffs and turquoise waters.
While Koh Phi Phi is accessible by day trips from Krabi or Phuket, spending the night in Koh Phi Phi Don allows you to enjoy this incredible tropical destination much better.
13. Mae Hong Son Loop
Located in the mountainous north of the country adjacent to Chiang Mai, the Mae Hong Son loop is a popular destination for travelers looking to delve deep into nature. You’ll see lush jungles, rice paddies, waterfalls, wildlife, and much more, all while spending the night in small villages and homestays along the way.
Most popular with travelers on motorbikes, travelers can also trace the route by car or as part of a guided excursion.
14. Koh Lipe
As Thailand’s most southern island, Koh Lipe is a bit off the beaten path and slightly more challenging to get to than some of the other attractive islands on the Andaman Sea side of the country. However, don’t let this stop you from adding “Thailand’s Maldives” to your itinerary – this lush beach paradise is unforgettable.
Spend your days in Koh Lipe jumping between the tiny island’s three main beaches, lounging in a hammock at your hostel, or snorkeling and scuba diving in the clear waters.
Whether you plan to continue south to Malaysia or make your way back to mainland Thailand, you won’t want to leave Koh Lipe.
Read More: 22 Best Island Vacations Around the World
15. Hua Hin
In many ways, the beach resort town of Hua Hin is similar to Pattaya: located near to Bangkok, it’s a favorite spot for a quick getaway from the city. However, Hua Hin is much more laid back than busier Pattaya, and a favorite for those looking to disconnect.
While it doesn’t have the stunning beaches of the islands and resort towns of the south, Hua Hin is a perfect choice if you’re looking for a quick escape from Bangkok by the beach.
Places to Visit in Thailand
Thailand is a land of incredible landscapes, with everything from white-sand beaches to soaring mountains and dense jungles, making it the perfect destination for travelers looking for a wide range of unbeatable experiences.
By visiting some of these incredible destinations in Thailand, you’ll get an impressive mix of vistas and activities sure to inspire you to return to this unforgettable country.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.