Thailand is a wondrous nation filled with beauty and culture, and there are so many things to see there that you can easily spend months taking it all in. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to have a hit list of must-see spots across the country so that you know the best places to stop by on your trip.
So, where are some of the must-see places to check out in Thailand when you visit? Spectacular sights in Thailand include national parks, beaches, temples and palaces, markets, nightclubs and red-light districts, cities and villages, and museums.
Whether you’re looking for traditional tourist spots in Thailand or seeking something a little more off the beaten track, there are tons to see across the country. Read on to find out more about the different attractions you can visit on your trip to Thailand.
National Parks of Thailand
Thailand is one of the most beautiful tropical nations in the world, with tons of evergreen and monsoonal forests. Contrary to popular belief, Thailand’s forests are not considered rainforests since they have a distinctive dry season each year. Thailand’s national parks are home to a dizzying array of wildlife and plants, as well as regional temples and villages that were incorporated.
Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai
The Elephant Nature Park elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai is one of the most famous elephant-oriented wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Unlike some Thai “sanctuaries” where elephants are forced to perform for tourists, the Elephant Nature Park is ethically oriented and allows visitors to bathe elephants, feed them, and watch them frolic in their natural habitat. Vegetarian lunches are provided.
Bridge over the River Kwai
No trip to Thailand would be complete without a selfie at this iconic warm film landmark. While the bridge is not as spectacular in real life as it was on film, there are plenty of day and half-day tours available that can explain the significance of the bridge in history as well as give visitors some scenic views of the river Kwai itself. Nearby there is a souvenir market at Kanchanburi to pick up some mementos for the site.
Erawan Falls is easily one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the planet. Consisting of seven tiered waterfalls, Erawan Falls is an excellent escape for adventurers who prefer to get a little muddy, as this trek involves some hiking deep into the forest. Luckily the hike pays off with one of the most beautiful, crystal-blue pools in all of Thailand for you to swim in at your leisure. There’s a reason hundreds of visitors a day make the hike.
Bat Caves – Khao Yai National Park
There are many fantastic things to see at Khao Yai National Park, but witnessing thousands of bats swarming out of their caves at sundown has to be one of the best ones on the list. Khao Yai National Park also features another famous landmark from Danny Boyle’s The Beach—the notorious hazing waterfall Haew Suwat. Many different types of wildlife can be seen in Khao Yai’s forests, including bears, monkeys, and Asian elephants.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Full of photo ops, Doi Inthanon is covered up with idyllic forests, rural villages, montane farms, and waterfalls. Doi Inthanon National Park contains Doi Inthanon Mountain, the tallest peak in Thailand and easily one of the most spectacular views in the country. Birdwatching is a popular activity in the park due to the wide variety of wildlife present, and another major attraction is the Siamese sakura blossoms blooming in late January and early February.
Thailand is renowned for its beautiful forests, and a traveler could easily spend weeks in the national parks of Thailand without ever stepping foot in Bangkok.
Beaches of Thailand
Thailand contains some of the most famously beautiful beaches in the entire world, including some that have been made famous in blockbuster films. Beaches in the country are notoriously cheap to frequent, with plenty of parties and drinks to go around for sun-dazed tourists to spend their money on.
Maya Bay is the mythical secluded Thai beach that was made notorious by the dystopian thriller film The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio in 1999 and based on the cult classic backpacking novel by Alex Garland. Safe to say, no tropical getaway to Thailand is complete without checking out this wonder of the modern world if you want to say you found the perfect beach.
Full Moon Party at Koh Phagan
While a bit touristy, no trip to Thailand is complete without attending one of Koh Phagan’s famous full moon beach parties. An established tradition since 1985, this monthly party is mostly attended by visiting tourists, but that doesn’t stop the Full Moon Party from being the wildest rave you’re likely to see in Thailand. Along with regular dancing to electronic and reggae music, visitors can expect to see fire eaters, poi dancers, and other entertainers.
Koh Tao Scuba Diving Tours
Koh Tao has some of the most breathtaking scuba diving in the world, and it is also a good spot for visiting tourists because SCUBA certification can be bought cheaply here. Koh Tao features scuba diving over Thailand’s shallow coral reefs, which are teeming with exotic sea life. In other words, it’s the most gorgeous place in the world to learn to scuba. If you’ve already been certified in Open Water, a fun dive in Koh Tao shouldn’t run you over around twenty to forty dollars.
Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands are a cluster of Thai islands that are a perfect choice for tourists who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok or Pattaya and hit the beach. Maya Bay is only one of the many beaches to be found at Phi Phi, and one extremely fun away to get around the Phi Phi islands is to take Bob’s Booze Cruise. This alcoholic party boat features multiple stops in the islands that include monkey selfies, snorkeling, and unlimited liquor.
Whether you’d rather snorkel or rave, there are more activities to do on Thailand’s beaches than many people can handle.
Temples and Palaces of Thailand
Thailand’s temples are centuries old and contain some of the most impressive architecture on the face of the Earth. Constructed in all kinds of precious materials from marble and gold to emerald, a tour of Thailand’s temples alone is well worth the trip.
Ayutthaya is the old Siam capital of Thailand that was destroyed by British forces during the occupation in the 18th century. Despite that, Ayutthaya contains one of the largest groupings of historically notable temples in all of Thailand. While entrance to the Ayutthaya Historical Park is free, there are small fees for entry into the individual temples.
Wat Phanan Choeng Buddha
Speaking of Ayutthaya temples, there is one temple, in particular, that is absolutely a must-see in Ayutthaya, and that is the Wat Phanan Choeng Buddha. This massive gilded sitting Buddha is guaranteed to be one of the most incredible things you see on your trip to Thailand. To avoid crowds, visits to Wat Phanan Choeng Buddha are best on the weekdays and booked in advance. It’s well worth the reservation, however.
Lopburi Monkey Temple
Lopburi isn’t technically a monkey village, but it may as well be—the hairy little critters have officially taken over. A trip to Lopburi isn’t for the faint-hearted. The monkeys at the temple can be known to be extremely pushy with visitors, even aggressive. If you have food, they’ll steal it. If you have a hat, they’re going to rip it off your head. If you have sunglasses, prepare to lose them. At turns exasperating and hilarious, a trip to Lopburi is something you’ll never experience anywhere else in the world.
Tiger Cave Temple at Krabi
Some visitors might be disappointed to learn that there are not actual tigers at Tiger Cave, but this Buddhist temple is awe-inspiring anyway. This temple is a heck of a climb at over 1,200 steps but makes up for it with its spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and sneaky monkeys. Admittance to the temple is free, but donations to the resident monks are encouraged.
Doi Suthep is a temple located in the hills high above Chiang Mai, and this ancient landmark dates back to the 14th century, making it one of the most sacred and holy spots in all of Thailand. Not only does Doi Suthep offer a tour through one of the most fantastic Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia, but it also offers one of the most beautiful hawk-eye views of the cityscape of Chiang Mai.
Wat Pha Sorn Kaew
Also known as the “Temple on a Glass Cliff,” the modern architecture used to design this Buddhist temple makes it a unique destination in comparison to other temples found across Thailand. The Five Buddhas of Wat Pha Sorn Kaew are one of the coolest things you’ll have the privilege of seeing, and incomparable to any other Buddhist architecture you might find in the region. Wat Pha Sorn Kaew is one of Thailand’s most modern Buddhist structures and was only elevated to temple status in 2010.
Grand Palace, Bangkok
You’ll have to dress up to attend, and it’s arguably one of the more crowded attractions in Thailand no matter what time of year you go, but you shouldn’t pass up the chance to get a look at the Grand Palace no matter how long you have to wait to get in. While the Thai king and his court are no longer located on the grounds, this just gives thousands of visitors a year the chance to see this jaw-dropping complex of palatial buildings.
Since Thailand’s temples are considered religious spaces, it’s essential to be respectful when visiting these monuments.
Markets of Thailand
Thailand is famous for its busy open-air markets where you can buy just about anything if the price is right. Merchandise ranges from vintage clothing and handmade jewelry to CDs, artisan crafts, produce, and street foods. Tourists should remember that haggling is considered part of the game in Thai markets, so don’t overpay if you don’t have to.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai
The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar (or just Night Bazaar for short) is a market in Chiang Mai famous for its artisan crafts and painted portraits. The Night Bazaar is a great place to pick up souvenirs for friends and family back home since it is packed to the gills with knock-off designer products, bootleg stalls, jewelry, clothing, and more. Visitors should be prepared to haggle or get taken for much more than the value of their purchases, though vendors have a good reputation for not hassling tourists too much.
Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok
It is impossible to visit Bangkok without making at least one visit to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. The major downside is that it’s only open on the weekend, but it’s well worth the effort to make sure you’re in Bangkok during your trip when it’s on. The Chatuchak Weekend Market is so large it’s almost impossible to shop the entire market in a day, so plan on spending a whole weekend here if you can.
Khong Lat Mayom Floating Markets
These floating markets on the river are one of the more unique sights to take in while you’re in Thailand, and you’re unlikely to see anything similar elsewhere. Visitors can feast on roasted fish, coconut pancakes, and a variety of other Thai peasant foods while visiting the markets. Most boat tours feature a visit to local attractions other than the floating markets such as orchid farms and nearby temples.
Pak Khlong Talad (Flower Market)
There are lots of markets in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand, but none are quite like the Pak Khlong Talad. This market supplies fresh-cut flowers to the entire city of Bangkok, making it a marvel to the senses. There are also many other agricultural products to be found, as well as jewelry and other small crafted gifts.
As long as you come to Thailand’s markets ready to buy, you’re sure to come away with something you can’t live without.
Nightclubs and Red-Light Districts of Thailand
Thailand’s technically-illegal sex trade is also one of its most significant tourist attractions, and there are plenty of areas in Pattaya and Bangkok where you’ll find women and ladyboys willing to show you a good time for the right price. Even if you’re not interested in private time, just buying a few lady drinks and taking in the sights can be an entertaining experience for all (adult) ages.
Bangla Beach Road, Phuket
Patong Beach is one of the more touristy beaches in Thailand, but the real attraction and the main draw in this area centers around the Bangla Beach Road or Soi Bangla, a long strip of boisterous nightclubs, bars, go-go joints, and other wild venues. Like Mardis Gras in New Orleans, but every night, Bangla Road is a riot of neon, cheap drinks, and ear-splitting music.
Pattaya Red Light District
No trip to Thailand is truly complete without taking an adventure into its sleazier side, and Pattaya fits the bill. Whether or not you’re prepared to take a Thai bar girl home with you, just visiting the red-light district and taking in the sights is a trip of a lifetime. Dubbed the “sex capital of the world,” Pattaya’s red-light district is a fun place to visit, but don’t go unless you’re prepared to fend off enthusiastic working girls.
Nana Plaza is a multistoried building in the heart of Bangkok’s red-light district that features a pulsing web of nightclubs, bars, neon, “ten baht shots,” and go-go dancers. Despite the adult atmosphere, all kinds of tourists visit Nana Plaza to participate in its lively and bawdy nightlife. Whether you plan to participate in Thai sex tourism or just want to press your nose against the glass, Nana Plaza is a fun outing in Bangkok.
No trip to Bangkok is complete without a trip to a gentleman’s club, and Pegasus Club is the classiest of them all. This opulent (some would say garish) burlesque club features some of the most decadent interior architecture in all of Bangkok. While the Pegasus Club might be one of the pricier clubs you’ll end up attending in Thailand, its cost is well worth the price of admission when you see the quality of the girls available. The karaoke is pretty good, too.
Best known as one of the iconic locations in the hit movie comedy The Hangover 2, Sky Bar is a world-famous rooftop bar located at the sixty-third floor of a skyscraper, offering some of the best views of Bangkok in the world. The drinks can be expensive in comparison to drinks found at other dives in Bangkok, but with the view, the cocktails are well worth the price of admission. Sky Bar is guaranteed to be unlike any other bar you’ve seen in your life.
If sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll are more your style than forests and temples, Thailand has more parties than you’ll know what to do with.
Cities and Villages of Thailand
Thailand has equally as many beautiful urban and residential spaces as it does natural ones, so it pays to take a few day trips to some of the more famous villages in the country. Visiting in the backcountry of Thailand is one of the best ways to experience some of its more rural and rustic experiences.
Unlike bustling Bangkok, Pai Village is a backpacker’s paradise, and this hippie mecca has a much more mellow, laid-back vibe than the more metropolitan parts of Thailand. Pai Village features several unique attractions of its own, including hot springs, scenic gorgeous, pastoral Chinese village backdrops, and the Mo Paeng Waterfall. There’s also a nearby four-star resort featuring a spa, restaurant, and free Wi-Fi.
For those tourists who want to head off the beaten path and see more of northern rural Thailand as opposed to its neon-backlit cities, Isaan is the way to go. Not only is this scenic village suburb of Bangkok right out of a pastoral painting, but this region also features some of the tastiest, most authentic Thai food in the country. Isaan is also a great jumping-off point for tourists who would like to make day trips to nearby Laos or Cambodia.
Motorbike Ride from Chiang Mai to Pai
Renting a motorbike can be kind of dodgy if you’re visiting in Thailand (partially because of rampant motorbike scams and partially because of the dangerous traffic) but the scenic road from Chiang Mai to Pai Village is almost worth risking your life over. The traffic in this part of Thailand is not as chaotic as in the city of Chiang Mai itself or other metropolitan areas, so even novice motor-bikers should be confident enough to brave the run.
Thailand’s answer to Central Park, Lumpini Park is a great place to get in some nature while luxuriating in the heart of Bangkok. Lumpini Park is named after Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, and is surrounded by a high wall that is accessible via six gated entryways. Attractions include a gym, a library, and an indoor dance hall. Weekend evenings are a great time to visit since an orchestra plays during the dry season.
In the hottest part of Thailand’s summers, city and village hubs can provide a wide variety of activities to stay entertained as well as some much-needed air conditioning.
Museums of Thailand
For those travelers who want to come away from Thailand with more than just souvenirs, there are plenty of informative museums available that do an excellent job of both entertaining and illustrating Thailand’s centuries of complex and illustrious history.
Thailand-Burma Railway Centre
The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, also known as the Death Railway Museum, is a private museum dedicated to preserving the history of the lives lost during Imperial Japanese occupation and the building of the Thailand-Burma Railway by prisoners of war and impressed Asian workers. This interactive museum is fully air-conditioned and provides a nice indoor respite during the steamy Thai summers if you’re visiting during one of the hotter parts of the year.
Museum of Siam
For those wanting a more educational slant to their Thailand trip, they shouldn’t leave the country without a tour through the Museum of Siam. This glittering modern landmark was established in 2005 and was provided to the people of Thailand to promote creativity and education in the Thai public. Museum of Siam offers a nuanced, complex account of Thai history that will leave you in awe of this mystical Asian culture.
Because there is so much to do in Thailand, it’s a good idea to plan to spend plenty of time there, so you don’t end up feeling rushed around. Take into consideration the amount of time it takes to travel between different areas of the country and be sure to factor that in when you’re figuring out your final itinerary, or you might find yourself over-committed and stressed out trying to see everything.
Tips for Traveling to Thailand’s Must-See Destinations
When traveling across Thailand, there are a few gems of knowledge that backpackers have picked up over the decades that can help travelers make their way more easily through the country. Here are some of the most critical tips to remember when planning a vacation to Thailand:
- Prepare for stomach upset. Don’t drink the tap water, but since everything in the country is cooked with tap water, be prepared to have diarrhea at some point on your trip anyway. That means keeping bottled water, antacids, and Pepto-Bismol or some other stomach relief medication with you at all times.
- Prepare to haggle. Even if negotiation isn’t in your nature, you should accept that haggling is a socially appropriate exchange in a Thai market, and you’re not going to hurt anyone’s feelings by trying to get a good deal. Keep in mind that almost everything is overpriced to account for the naivete of tourists.
- Prepare to give alms. It is considered good karma to donate to monks at the various temples across Thailand since these religious clerics mostly survive through alms, so be generous to help support the locals where you can. Keep in mind that your money probably goes a lot farther in Thailand than it does for you back home.
- Prepare for hiking. Some of Thailand’s national parks consist of some serious hiking treks, and you’re going to getting muddy, buggy, and wet. Making sure you have appropriate clothing for day trips into the jungle will guarantee that you don’t spend the entire hike chafing, bug-bitten, and miserable.
- Prepare to try new foods. Chances are most of the things you’ll see to eat in Thailand are foods you’ve never seen in your life (and many you’ll never see again). That means you should put your big kid pants on and try some new and exotic Thai dishes while you have the chance to experience them in an authentic setting.
- Prepare to be open-minded. Bangkok and Pattaya’s seedier districts can be surprisingly fun even for casual tourists who aren’t planning on bringing a lady home with them. Thailand’s famous ladyboys throw some of the most spectacular burlesque and cabaret shows in the world, not just Thailand.
Compared to other parts of the world, most of the attractions in Thailand are pretty cheap. That means you can cram many fantastic Thai destinations into a single trip if you plan well enough.
Thailand Has Some of the Most Amazing Destinations in the World
Whether your goal in life is to see one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, hike in some of the world’s most beautiful jungles, take photographs of the world’s most beautiful temples, or hang out with some of the world’s most beautiful women, it’s easy to say that Thailand has a little bit of something for everyone.
As long as you make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to experience everything and bring enough cash to spend, you’ll have so much fun in Thailand that you may never want to go home.