Thailand is one of the most popular destinations in South East Asia and travellers around the globe visit for a multitude of reasons. Whether you are seeking a tropical island paradise with incredible marine life or rock climbing and trekking through mountainous jungle, Thailand can easily accommodate you.
For those who want to experience local culture on their travels, Thailand’s stunning temples, traditional ceremonies and colourful festivals will not disappoint. Bangkok is an urban sprawl, famous for nightlife where anything goes, and for those who prefer to full moon party on a beach, there are numerous islands to choose from.
With such an array of things to do and see, planning a trip to Thailand can be more challenging than one might expect! Fear not, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular highlights to choose from to make sure you don’t miss out!
1. Scuba Diving and Snorkelling
Admittedly we might be a little biased and this isn’t something you do on land BUT if you are a certified diver and you are heading to Thailand then you absolutely need to make time to go diving. If you are not yet a certified diver, there’s no better place to get started! Thailand’s warm tropical waters, calm conditions and great visibility make it an ideal place to try diving for the first time or sign up for your PADI Open Water Diver course and get certified.
Not only is Thailand home to vibrant coral reefs in marine protected areas, it boasts incredible marine life which includes leopard sharks, sting rays, sea turtles, schooling fish, manta rays and did we mention whale sharks?
If you haven’t decided where in Thailand to visit yet, these are some of the diving hotspots: Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Similan Islands, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Chang, Richelieu Rock, Koh Racha, Koh Lanta, Koh Lak, Pattaya and Koh Lipe. Find out more about these famous Thai diving regions here.
If diving is not your thing, you don’t need to miss out on seeing the underwater world. Thailand’s shallow reefs, sheltered bays and coral gardens are idea for snorkelling and freediving too!
2. Jungle Trekking and Waterfalls
Thailand’s lush tropical rainforest makes for spectacular trekking and the Erawan National Park is a great place to start. The park is also home to Erawan Falls which is a group of seven waterfalls complete with stunning plunge pools. Plan to spend a day trekking here and check out each of the water falls and swimming pools – there’s no better way to cool off.
3. Rock Climbing in Krabi
If you are an adrenaline junky and you are looking for action and adventure make sure that Krabi is on your bucket list. The south of Thailand is famous for its exceptional rock climbing and the beach town of Krabi has climbs for all levels from beginners upwards. Railey Beach and Tonsai Beach are two of the most famous spots and the climbs here are almost all right on the beach or facing the ocean giving stunning views – but don’t look down!
4. Visit Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep is a mountain located 12km (7.45 miles) from Chang Mai. The peak of Doi Suthep is over 1,645 meters (5,400 feet) and the view from the summit is incredible, but that’s not the only highlight. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a temple from the 13th century which is also located on the mountain and is known for its large white elephant shrine. There are a lot of steps involved in the trek and you do need to be of a reasonable fitness level. However, if you would prefer to conserve your energy, there’s also a tram which will do the hard work for you.
5. Get a Thai Massage
Also referred to as a “Lazy Man’s Yoga” the Thai style of massage stretches your body while working on your body’s pressure points to focus energy levels. A Thai massage is not necessarily the most relaxing of massages but a skilled practitioner will leave you feeling thoroughly invigorated, rejuvenated and balanced.
6. Explore Bangkok
Bangkok is not for the faint hearted – it’s busy, chaotic, noisy and even a little bit crazy but it’s definitely an experience! Thailand’s capital city would takes weeks to explore fully so decide what you want to see and stick to your plan – it’s easy to get side tracked.
The Grand Palace is located in an area of more than 218,000 square meters in the centre of Bangkok. The Grand Palace was the home of the king, the Thai government and the royal mint for well over a century and there’s plenty to see and do here.
Shop ‘Till You Drop! Whether you want to visit traditional markets or a luxury shopping mall, Bangkok is a haven for shoppers. Gaysorn Shopping Centre and Siam Paragon are luxury Malls where you’ll find the shiny glass store fronts of brands such as Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Bangkok also has a bustling China Town and the Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest outdoor market in the world.
Shopping doesn’t stop when the sun goes down in Bangkok, this is when the night markets are just getting started. The lively Patpong Night Market is among one of Thailand’s most famous night markets and unlike in Siam Paragon, the Louis Vuitton’s here are not the real deal. In addition to the fake brand name items, you can also find souvenirs, DVDs, clothes, jewellery, carved soaps and other handmade items. Be prepared to bargain!
Shoppers shouldn’t leave Bangkok without checking out Damnoen Saduak which is the city’s most famous floating market. Sellers have their goods, produce, handicrafts, souvenirs and clothes piled on traditional longtail boats as they jockey for space on the water.
7. Find Your Favourite Street Food
Each region and city in Thailand has local specialty dishes which they are best known for and you’ll find sellers on street corners, at night markets and at the side of the road selling their wares from carts or small food stalls. Some of Thailand’s most famous street food dishes include Pad Thai (traditional Thai noodles), Som Tam (papaya salad) and Thai fish cakes. If you have a sweet tooth, look out for Roti Gluay – Thailand’s version of a banana crepe!
8. Get Soaked During Songkran
Songkran is the Thai New Year which is celebrated from the 13th to the 15th April across all of Thailand. Traditionally water would be sprinkled throughout the festivities to help wash away bad luck, negative energy and sins. However, the sprinkling of water has somewhat increased over the years and now in many cities huge water fights breakout which will bring traffic to a standstill. Whatever you are doing during Songkran, prepared to get wet!
9. Visit Pai
Pai is a small town that was made famous by appearing in famous Thai movies including The Letter and Ruk Jung. Located just below the border with Myanmar, Pai was inhabited by the Shan people but it’s now enjoying the benefits of tourism. Pai has retained its cultural and traditional small town vibes and a stay here is a great way to wind down and relax.
10. Visit Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park covers 2,168 square kilometres and if you like trekking, exploring outdoors and being close to nature, you’ll need to add this to your bucket list. The park was the first park to be established in Thailand and it comprises grasslands, rivers, waterfalls and rain forests which are home to an estimated 300 species of birds. It’s not only birdlife that thrive in Khao Yai, bears, elephants, deer, gibbons and macaques can be found here too!
11. Take a Trip to Wat Arun
Did you know that Thailand is home to over 31,000 Buddhist temples? Wat Arun is named after Aruna, the God of Dawn and the temple is impressively located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. At the entrance to the temple are a pair of mythical giants which are believed to guard the tower and the temple’s tower is ornately decorated in porcelain tiles.
12. Go to a Full Moon Party
The original full moon parties took place on Koh Phangan and this island is famous for its monthly beach festivities where, in high season, up to 30,000 people attend. Full moon parties are not for everyone, but if you want to dance the night away, the beaches of Koh Phangan are the best place in Thailand to do it.
13. Take a Trip To The City of Ayutthaya
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya was originally the capital of Thailand. The city was founded in 1350 by King U Thong, however in 1767 the Burmese army marched on the city and destroyed nearly every part of it. The ruins of the city are preserved in this beautiful historical park.
Are you ready now to explore Thailand on land and underwater? No matter what activities you decide to do in Thailand, you’ll soon discover why it’s known as ‘The Land of Smiles’. The people here are warm-hearted, friendly and welcoming, which just adds to everything else that Thailand has to offer its visitors!