Best things to do in Thailand

updated 10/12/2022
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The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Thailand

, your essential guide for visiting Thailand .

1. Visit Ko Kood island

Koh Kood Thailand, Beach © Sarutipong/Shutterstock

When choosing from all the things to do in Thailand, you won't want to miss Ko Kood. The fourth-largest island in Thailand

, forested Ko Kood (also spelt Ko Kut and Ko Kud) is still a wild and largely uncommercialised island. Though it’s known for its sparkling white sand and exceptionally clear turquoise water Ko Kood is as much a nature-lover’s destination as a beach-bum’s.

Discover more divine beach destinations in Thailand

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Where to stay in Ko Kood:

  • TA YAI HOMESTAY
  • Located 300 m from Ao Noi Beach, TA YAI HOMESTAY provides accommodation with a restaurant, a garden and an ATM for your convenience. The homestay features both WiFi and private parking free of charge. Some units are air conditioned and include a patio and/or a seating area with a flat-screen TV.

  • Small Guest House Koh Kood
  • Set within 1.3 km of Klong Chao Waterfall and 2.2 km of Ban Lak Uan, Small Guest House Koh Kood offers rooms with air conditioning and a private bathroom in Ko Kood.

  • Koh Kood Beach Resort
  • Koh Kood Beach Resort is 4 km away from Klong Yai Kee Waterfall. It boasts an outdoor swimming pool. Guest rooms come with a private balcony overlooking the sea. The resort provides free Wi-Fi in the lobby area and free two-way shuttle service from the resort to Ao Salad Pier.

2. Explore the temple ruins at Ayutthaya

Buddha Head in tree roots, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya © Khoroshunova Olga/Shutterstock

When you're planning what to do in Thailand, river boats and bicycles are the perfect way to explore the scattered temple ruins of this former capital. Ayutthaya comes alive each year for a week in mid-December, with a festival that commemorates the town’s listing as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The highlight is the nightly son et lumière show, featuring fireworks and elephant-back fights, staged around the ruins.

To get the most complete impression of Ayutthaya check this tour of Ayutthaya.

Where to stay in Ayutthaya:

  • One Dhatu Ayutthaya Premium Homestay
  • Offering city views and a terrace, One Dhatu Ayutthaya Premium Homestay offers accommodation situated conveniently in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, within a short distance of Wat Mahathat, Chao Sam Phraya National Museum and Ayutthaya Historical Park.

  • Patone Hostel
  • Located in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, less than 1 km from Wat Mahathat, Patone Hostel provides air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge. Located around 1.2 km from Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, the hostel with free WiFi is also 1.8 km away from Ayutthaya Historical Park.

  • Baan Canalee
  • Located in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, 1.4 km from Wat Yai Chaimongkol, Baan Canalee (บ้านคานาลี) provides accommodation with free bikes, free private parking, a garden and a terrace. All rooms feature a kitchenette and a private bathroom. The accommodation offers a shared kitchen and free WiFi.

3. Vegetarian Festival, Phuket

Vegeterian festival - the best thing to do for people who have given up meat © Shutterstock

During Taoist Lent, fasting Chinese devotees test their spiritual resolve with acts of gruesome self-mortification. For nine days, usually in October or November, the celebrations for Ngan Kin Jeh – the Vegetarian Festival – set the streets of Phuket buzzing with processions, theatre shows and food stalls.

Also, don't miss on the oportunity to experince Thailand cuisine with this Phuket old town 15-taster food tour.

Where to stay in Phuket:

  • Mei Zhou Phuket Hotel - SHA Plus
  • Less than 3 km from Rassada Pier, Mei Zhou Phuket Hotel - SHA Plus offers well-appointed rooms with free Wi-Fi and comfortable seating areas. An outdoor spa pool is also available.

  • Peranakan House - SHA Plus
  • Boasting a bar and a terrace, Peranakan House - SHA Plus is set in Phuket Town, 3 km from Prince of Songkla University and 3.3 km from Chinpracha House. This 3-star hotel offers room service and a kids' club. The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre and a 24-hour front desk.

  • HOMA - SHA Extra Plus
  • Located in Phuket Town, 3.6 km from Thai Hua Museum, HOMA - SHA Extra Plus provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre.

4. Discover Khmer ruins

Phimai, Thailand © Paahboobkk/Shutterstock

The Khmers of neighbouring Angkor left a chain of magnificent temple complexes across the northeast, including this one at Phimai

. Hemmed in by its old city walls and encircled by tributaries of the Mun River, the small modern town of Phimai is dominated by the charmingly restored Khmer temple complex of Prasat Hin Phimai.

No one knows for sure when the prasat was built or for whom, but as a religious site it probably dates back to the reign of the Khmer king Suriyavarman I. Parts of the complex are said to be older than Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

Thailand is undoubtedly an exotic destination. If you are looking for another unusual places to travel to - check out our list of the most exotic travel destinations

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5. Browse Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak Weekend Market. Bangkok © Shutterstock

Chatuchack market is Bangkok’s most enjoyable – not to mention hot and exhausting – shopping experience. Chatuchak is divided into 27 numbered sections, plus half a dozen unnumbered ones, each of them more or less dedicated to a particular genre.

The demarcation is nothing like as clear-cut as the market’s website would have you believe, but if you have several hours to spare, it’s fun just to browse at whim.

The market’s primary customers are Bangkok residents in search of idiosyncratic fashions including second-hand clothing and homewares, but Chatuchak also has plenty of collector- and tourist-oriented stalls.

Best buys include antique lacquerware, unusual sarongs, traditional cotton clothing and crafts from the north, silver jewellery, and ceramics.

6. Wat Pho

Wat Pho in Bangkok. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha © Dmitry Rukhlenko/Shutterstock

Admire the Reclining Buddha and the lavish architecture, and leave time for a relaxing massage.

Wat Pho is the oldest temple in Bangkok and is older than the city itself, having been founded in the seventeenth century under the name Wat Photaram. Dubbed Thailand’s first university, the wat is still an important centre for traditional medicine, notably Thai massage, which is used against all kinds of illnesses, from backaches to viruses.

7. The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace at the heart of Bangkok © apiguide/Shutterstock

The country’s most unmissable sight, incorporating its holiest and most dazzling temple, Wat Phra Kaeo

. No visitor should miss this huge complex, which encompasses the country’s holiest and most beautiful temple.

Hanging together in a precarious harmony of strangely beautiful colours and shapes, Wat Phra Kaeo is the apogee of Thai religious art and the holiest Buddhist site in the country. Built as the private royal temple, Wat Phra Kaeo occupies the northeast corner of the huge Grand Palace. The official opening marked the founding of the new capital and the rebirth of the Thai nation after the Burmese invasion.

Immerse yourself in the cultural and historical heritage of Bangkok byexploring the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha Temple and Wat Pho.

Find more great places to stay in Bangkok.

8. Enjoy Khao Yai National Park

Thailand's first national park Khao Yai - © Shutterstock

Easy trails and tours, night safaris and a healthy cast of hornbills and gibbons - Khao Yai National Park encapsulates the phenomenal diversity of Thailand’s flora and fauna. It’s one of the very few national parks to maintain a network of hiking trails that visitors can explore by themselves, passing dramatic waterfalls, orchids and an abundance of wildlife.

Take a break from Bangkok and spend the day in nature, exploring Khao Yai National Park.

Where to stay in Khao Yai:

  • The Gallery Khao Yai Hotel and Residence - SHA Plus
  • With Khao Yai National Park reachable in 46 km, The Gallery Khao Yai Hotel and Residence - SHA Plus provides accommodation, a restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, a bar and a garden. The lodge features both WiFi and private parking free of charge.

  • InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, an IHG Hotel
  • Set in Khao Yai, 45 km from Khao Yai National Park, InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, an IHG Hotel offers accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre.

9. Marvel at Nakhon Si Thammarat

Wat phra mahathat woramahawihan Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Thailand © sarayut_sy/Shutterstock

Home to superb food and the chief religious and cultural riches of the south - tucked away beneath the islands - Nakhon Si Thammarat, the south’s second-largest town, occupies a blind spot in the eyes of most tourists.

Nakhon’s neglect is unfortunate, for it’s an absorbing place. The south’s major pilgrimage site and home to a huge army base, it’s relaxed, self-confident and sophisticated, well known for its excellent cuisine and traditional handicrafts.

To get to know Thailand better, read 18 facts you didn't know about Thailand.

Where to stay in Nakhon Si Thammarat:

  • Grand Fortune Hotel Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Situated in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 4.3 km from Ban Hua Trut, Grand Fortune Hotel Nakhon Si Thammarat features accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. Each accommodation at the 5-star hotel has garden views, and guests can enjoy access to a bar and to a garden.

  • Toledo Pool Villa
  • Set in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 2 km from Ban Na Khian, Toledo Pool Villa offers accommodation with a fitness centre, free private parking, a garden and a terrace. This 3-star hotel offers room service, luggage storage space and free WiFi. The hotel has family rooms.

  • Natural High Beach Cafe and Homestay
  • Located in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 800 m from Ban Samphao, Natural High Beach Cafe and Homestay provides accommodation with a bar, free private parking, a shared lounge and a garden.

10. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

One of the most beautiful temples of Chiang Mai - Wat Phra That Doi Suthep © NS Photograph/Shutterstock

A jaunt up Doi Suthep, the mountain which rises steeply at the city’s western edge, is the most satisfying brief trip you can make from Chiang Mai. Beautiful Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, dominates the hillside and gives a towering view over the goings-on in town. This is the north’s holiest shrine, its pre-eminence deriving from a magic relic enshrined in its chedi and the miraculous legend of its founding.

It’s northern Thailand’s most important place of pilgrimage. The best known processions are on Makha Puja, the anniversary of the sermon to the disciples, and Visakha Puja, the anniversary of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.

This tour to Chiang Mai will help you to get a full experience.

11. Thai cookery classes in Chiang Mai - best thing to do in Thailand for culinary enthusiasts

Famous Thai food called Hor Mok - Steamed fish curry in banana leaf cups © Shutterstock

Of the many courses on offer in the town, cookery classes are the most instantly gratifying and popular. The most popular course is how to cook Thai food (especially at the cluster of small schools on and around Soi 5, Thanon Ratchdamnoen), followed by Thai massage.

Chiang Mai offers a balmy escape from Bangkok’s humidity. Check our 5-day tailor-made tour to Chiang Mai.

Where to stay in Chiang Mai:

  • Premier Hostel Chiang Mai
  • Located in Chiang Mai, 100 m from Chang Puak Market, Premier Hostel Chiang Mai offers air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge.

  • Dream Garden Villa Hotel Night Bazaar ChiangMai
  • Set in Chiang Mai, less than 1 km from Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and 1.7 km from Tha Pae Gate, Dream Garden Villa Hotel Night Bazaar ChiangMai offers accommodation with free WiFi, air conditioning, a shared lounge and a garden.

  • Merchant Villa- SHA Extra Plus
  • Located in Chiang Mai, 1.6 km from Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Merchant Villa- SHA Extra Plus provides accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a bar and a shared lounge.

12. Try the Mae Hong Son loop

An agricultural tourist attraction during the rainy season, Mae La Noi, Huay Hom district, Mae Hong Son © napat intaroon/Shutterstock

A spectacular 600km trip, winding over steep forested mountains. Two main roads head in opposite directions from Chiang Mai over the western mountains, meeting each other in Mae Hong Son. The heart of Thailand’s most remote province offers the irresistible prospect of tying the highways together into a 600km loop.

13. Discover Nan

Peaceful city of Nan © Shutterstock

Set in rich mountain scenery, with a strong handicraft tradition and some intriguing temples. Ringed by high mountains, the small but prosperous provincial capital of Nan, 225km northeast of Lampang, rests on the grassy west bank of the river. The town comes alive for the Lanna boat races, usually held in late October or early November.

Where to stay in Nan:

  • CuteinNan Hostel
  • Set in Nan, 3.9 km from Wat Phra That Chae Haeng, CuteinNan Hostel offers air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge. Around 1.6 km from Nan, the property is also 3.1 km away from Ban Na Tho and offers free WiFi. Attractions in the area include Ban Du Nua (1), 4 km away, or Ban Pua Chai, located 5 km from the property.

  • River Valley Resort
  • Set in Nan, 7.7 km from Wat Phra That Chae Haeng, River Valley Resort offers accommodation with a garden, free private parking, barbecue facilities and a terrace. The property is around 1.9 km from Ban Nam Lom, 1.9 km from Ban Hua Wiang Nua and 3.3 km from Nan. Rooms come with a patio with a garden view.

  • Bee Bee Home
  • Set 1.2 km from Ban San, Bee Bee Home offers accommodation with a garden, barbecue facilities and a 24-hour front desk for your convenience. The homestay features both WiFi and private parking free of charge.

14. Traditional massage - one of the things to do in Thailand for sure

Most traditional Thai massage spas are simple without too much decoration © Tatiana Belova/Shutterstock

Combining elements of acupressure and yoga, a pleasantly brutal way to end the day. With their focus on indulgent self-pampering, spas are usually associated with high-spending tourists. The treatments on offer at Thailand’s five-star hotels are often little different from those used by traditional medical practitioners. They have long held that massage and herbs are the best way to restore physical and mental well-being.

Spiritual practices and meditation are an integral part of Thai culture. Read more about meditation centres and retreats in Thailand.

15. Full moon party at Hat Rin, Ko Pha Ngan

Hat (Haad) Rin beach © NicoElNino/Shutterstock

Nightlife is concentrated at Hat Rin, climaxing every month in a wild full moon party on the beach. A couple of smaller outdoor parties have now got in on the act: the Half Moon Festival (twice monthly, about a week before and after the full moon) and the monthly Black Moon Party, both at Ban Tai on the south coast.

Where to stay in Ko Pha Ngan:

  • Sand Terrace Beach Bungalows
  • Set in Koh Phangan, within a few steps of Baan Tai Beach and 200 m of Baan Kai Beach, Sand Terrace Beach Bungalows offers accommodation with a terrace and free WiFi as well as free private parking for guests who drive.

  • Laewan Guesthouse
  • Located in Koh Phangan, within a few steps of Baan Tai Beach and 1.2 km of Thong Sala Beach, Laewan Guesthouse provides accommodation with a shared lounge and free WiFi throughout the property as well as free private parking for guests who drive.

  • Castaway Beach Bungalows
  • Castaway Beach Bungalows are Eco friendly, all built from sustainable and renewable materials. Situated just right on the beach, Castaway Beach Bungalows are built in a traditional wooden style.

16. Relax on the beaches of Ko Lanta

Family sunset on the beach in Thailand Koh Lanta island © Adel Newman/Shutterstock

A popular choice for families, with its many long beaches and plentiful but low-key resort facilities makes Ko Lanta one of the best things to do in Thailand for a beach-lovers. Although Ko Lanta can’t quite compete with Phi Phi’s stupendous scenery, the thickly forested 25km-long island has the longest beaches in the Krabi area.

The island is especially popular with families, in part because of the local laws that have so far prevented jet-skis, beachfront parasols and girlie bars from turning it into another Phuket, though resort facilities are expanding fast.

Hop on a long tail boat and spend a full day snorkelling and discovering the unique beauty of Ko Lanta.

Where to stay in Ko Lanta:

  • Lanta Mermaid Boutique House
  • Lanta Mermaid Boutique House is located along Klong Dao Beach, a 3-minute walk from the beach and 2 km from Ko Lanta Pier.

  • Diamond Sand Palace - SHA Plus
  • Located a 2-minute walk from Klong Dao Beach, Diamond Sand Palace features bungalows with balconies and cable TVs. Traditional Thai massage services and cooking classes are available to guests.

  • Lanta Just Come Hotel
  • Just a 5-minute walk from Klong Khong Beach, Lanta Just Come Hotel offers free Wi-Fi in its public areas. Its rooms feature a blend of modern and traditional Thai furnishings.

17. Rainforest trekking

The tropical rain forest © Shutterstock

Walking through the beautiful, rainforested scenery of northern Thailand’s mountains comes with the bonus of getting to know the fascinating hill tribes.

Many travellers’ itineraries take in a few days’ trekking in the hills and a stint snorkelling or diving off the beaches of the south. Trekking is concentrated in the north, but there are smaller, less touristy trekking operations in Kanchanaburi, Sangkhlaburi and Umphang.

Read more about trekking in Thailand.

Spend a full day trekking, exploring Haew Narok and Haew Suwat Waterfalls.

18. Ride the Death Railway, River Kwai

Death Railway, River Kwai © banjongseal324/Shutterstock

Thailand’s most scenic train journey is also its most historic, using the track constructed by World War II POWs. The two-hour journey along the notorious Thailand–Burma Death Railway from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok is one of Thailand’s most scenic and most popular train rides. Three trains operate daily along the Death Railway in both directions, but they often run very late.

Discover the stunning River Kwai and its surroundings with this 3-day tailor-made trip.

19. Rock-climbing

Railay beach © King Ropes Access/Shutterstock

Even novice climbers can scale the cliffs at Ko Yao Noi

, Phi Phi or the Railay peninsula for an unbeatable perspective on the Andaman seascape.

The limestone karsts that pepper southern Thailand’s Andaman coast make ideal playgrounds for rock-climbers, and the sport has really taken off here in the past fifteen years.

Most climbing is centred round East Railay and Ton Sai beaches on Laem Phra Nang in Krabi province, where there are dozens of routes within easy walking distance of tourist bungalows, restaurants and beaches.

Try this rock climbing tour at Railay beach in Krabi.

20. Sukhothai

Ruins of Sukhothai © ploypemuk/Shutterstock

For a brief but brilliant period (1238–1376), the walled city of Sukhothai presided as the capital of Thailand but by the sixteenth century the city had been all but abandoned to the jungle. Now an impressive assembly of elegant ruins, the Old City, 58km northwest of Phitsanulok, has been preserved as Sukhothai Historical Park and is one of Thailand’s most visited ancient sites.

Hire a bicycle to explore the elegant ruins of Thailand’s thirteenth-century capital.

Experience the best places to visit in Nothern Thailand with our tailor-made 7-day tour.

Where to stay in Sukhothai:

  • Phiphu Art and Gallery Boutique Sukhothai
  • Set in Sukhothai, within 1.4 km of Sukhothai Historical Park and 500 m of Ban Dan Lan Hoi, Phiphu Art and Gallery Boutique Sukhothai offers accommodation with free bikes and free WiFi throughout the property as well as free private parking for guests who drive. The property is around 2.8 km from Mueang Kao, 4.3 km from Ban Pak Khlong and 6.3 km from Ban Rong Pla Thong.

  • The Nature Sukhothai
  • With Sukhothai Historical Park reachable in 12 km, The Nature Sukhothai features accommodation, a restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, a bar and a shared lounge. Free WiFi is available throughout the property.

  • Mango House
  • Situated in Sukhothai, 13 km from Sukhothai Historical Park, Mango House features accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a shared lounge and a garden. The property is located less than 1 km from Sukhothai, 4.3 km from Ban Khwang and 4.4 km from Ban Kluai. The resort provides city views, a terrace, a 24-hour front desk, and free WiFi is available.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Thailand without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts

to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

Ready for a trip to the meditation centres and retreats in Thailand

? Check out the snapshot the Rough Guide to Bangkok or the Rough Guide to Thailand . If you travel further in Thailand, read more about the best time to go , the best places to visit and best things to do in Thailand. For inspiration use the Thailand itineraries from The Rough Guide to Thailand and our local travel experts . A bit more hands on, learn about getting there , getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image: Phi Phi Leh, Thailand © Dan Mammoser/Shutterstock

Travel advice for Thailand

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updated 10/12/2022
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