Thailand is a backpacker’s paradise. This friendly and affordable country has something for everyone, whether you like to dance all night under the full moon, relax on beautiful beaches, or zip-line through the forest, Thailand’s the place for you. Here’s a list of 10 places I think everyone needs to explore in Thailand.
As Thailand’s capital and its largest city it’s very easy to get to and travel from. There’s a nightlife scene that can perfectly fit everyone’s tastes from Koh San Road to Royal City Avenue (known as the RCA). The delicious street food will keep your wallets and stomachs full. With over 400 Buddhist temples it’s nearly impossible to visit them all, but be sure to step inside Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew. Before you head to the next city make sure you stop by one of the floating markets.
2. Chiang Mai
Being about 40 times smaller than Bangkok, Chiang Mai is the 2nd largest city in Thailand– crazy to think about! Famous for its floating lantern festival and Sunday night markets, there are always exciting things going on in Chiang Mai. In one weekend you can experience the village life by going on a hilltribe trek and take a Thai cooking class too.
For more things to do and see in Chiang Mai, check out our guide to the city.
3. Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is one of the northernmost cities in Thailand and is a little lesser known amongst travelers. You’ll want to go here to explore magnificent Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple. Phu Chi Fah, which means “mountain pointing to the sky”, is another amazing landscape that can’t be missed.
Located 762 road curves from Chiang Mai, Pai is a small hippie town– rent a scooter for about $5 per day and explore. Swim in waterfalls, visit Pai Canyon, eat at Love Pai Strawberry, and listen to music at Edible Jazz. Spend the night wandering Pai’s Walking Street where you’ll find amazing handcrafted jewelry.
5. Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park is for the nature lovers. Here you can hike through the jungle and spot hidden waterfalls and wildlife, and you might even run into a few wild elephants! Even though it is one of the most well known parks in Thailand, you’ll find very few tourists there, making for a unique and serene experience.
6. Koh Sok National Park
If you’re looking for a tranquil place to relax, Koh Sok National Park is it. Here you can take a long boat throughout the park, swim in the beautiful fresh water, jump off some cliffs, and end the day sleeping in a floating bungalow.
7. Koh Tao
Koh Tao is small island that provides the 2nd most scuba diving certifications in the world. Not to mention, it’s probably the least expensive place to get scuba certified. With over 50 dive shops to choose from, you’re bound to find the perfect one for you. You’ll get the chance to visit some of the best dive sites in the world including Chumphon, Shark Island, and the Twins. Be sure to keep your eyes open for whale sharks and giant groupers. Learn more in Nomadic Matt’s complete guide to diving in Koh Tao.
8. Koh Phi Phi
One of the most popular islands, Koh Phi Phi was made famous in the movie The Beach featuring the beautiful Maya Bay (where you can experience a sleep aboard). When you’re not sipping cocktails on the beach you can hike to the Phi Phi viewpoint, where you’ll get a beautiful panoramic view. You can also start your day on a charter boat that will bring you to snorkel at Bamboo Island, feed monkeys at Monkey Beach, and end the day sailing into the sunset.
9. Koh Phangan
Famous for its Full Moon and Half Moon parties, this island is where the party is always happening, from booze cruises during the day to jungle and beach parties at night. When you don’t feel like drinking you can enjoy a Thai massage on the beach or a yoga and detox retreat at The Sanctuary.
Railay, or Rai Leh, is the ultimate adventure destination. Located in Krabi, this is where all of your rock climbing fantasies can come true, from taking a beginner’s top rope course to an exhilarating deep water solo climb. It doesn’t hurt that Railay is pretty darn gorgeous too…