Spanning a total of 513,120 km², Thailand is one of the biggest countries in the world. As such, it boasts a wide range of attractions and things to do. From exploring ancient temples to indulging in delicious street food, there is something for everyone in the "Land of Smiles."
Northern Thailand is known for its lush green landscapes, while southern Thailand has more beaches and tropical islands. The country's big cities are filled with modern infrastructure and ancient temples and ruins that showcase the country’s rich culture and history.
That is why we have decided to write this article on the 20 best things to do in Thailand, so that you know you know exactly what to do on your first trip to Thailand!
20 Best Things To Do In Thailand
Visit Maya Beach
Located in southern Thailand on the island of Koh Phi Phi Le, Maya Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand. It was made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio's movie The Beach and has since been a popular destination for travelers worldwide.
The beach was closed in June 2018 for conservation to replenish the Bay's coral reefs and marine life. It was closed for a total of four years and finally reopened in 2022, so now is really the best time to visit before it gets too overcrowded again!
The beach is stunning with its clear blue waters and white sand. Though you can't get into the water, it is still a great place to take a photo and experience the limestone formations around the bay.
Explore A Floating Market
Floating markets are one of the most unique things to do in Thailand. There are several throughout the country, but Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is the most popular and easily accessible from Bangkok.
A floating market is essentially a fresh fruit and vegetable market that takes place in shallow canals. Vendors will float their boats up and down the canals, each offering different items for sale. There is something for everyone here, from fruits and vegetables to souvenirs and clothes!
Floating markets are great places to come for some bargains and take in the sights and sounds of traditional Thai life!
Enjoy The Pristine Beaches in Phuket
The island of Phuket is located in the Andaman Sea and is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations. Its pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, and tropical jungles offer something for everyone.
One of the best things to do in Phuket is simply relax on one of the many beaches. Whether it’s the lively Patong Beach or the quieter Kata Noi Beach, there’s a beach for every type of traveler. There are also plenty of watersports for visitors to enjoy, and even parasailing if you wish! You can enjoy the sun and sand while sipping on some fresh coconut water for something more relaxing!
Phuket also boasts amazing nightlife and plenty of islands nearby to visit. Whether it’s island-hopping, partying, or simply chilling on the beach, it is definitely worth visiting Phuket!
Eat Street Food In Chinatown Bangkok
No Thailand trip is complete without sampling the country's diverse street food. Luckily, Bangkok’s Chinatown district is the perfect place to try some of the most delicious dishes in the city.
The street vendors here offer a wide range of Thai dishes, from Pad Thai and Som Tam (green papaya salad) to freshly-made Thai desserts. It’s a great way to get an authentic taste of Thailand and also explore the vibrant Chinatown area.
If you want to try street food in Chinatown, make sure you come at night with an empty belly. You'll find street after street just packed with vendors selling a variety of Thai food. It is fun and satisfies your stomach!
If you like street food so much, you can even take a Thai cooking class to learn more about Thai cuisine.
Go Explore Pai Canyon
One of the most iconic natural landmarks in Northern Thailand is Pai Canyon. Located in the northern province of Mae Hong Son, this majestic canyon is known for its deep and dramatic ravines, unique formations, and stunning sunsets.
Pai Canyon isn't very big, but visitors can walk around and check out the different vistas. There are also plenty of spots for picnicking, so visitors can make the most out of their visit.
The best time to visit Pai Canyon is at sunset. The light casts a beautiful orange glow over the canyon, making for some truly stunning photo ops. So don't forget to bring your camera!
Visit James Bond Island
James Bond Island, or Koh Tapu, is a small island on Phang Nga Bay's east coast. The island was made famous when it featured in the James Bond movie “The Man With The Golden Gun” and has since become a popular tourist destination.
The best way to visit Bond Island is through a boat tour from Phuket or Krabi. Visitors can swim on the beach at Bond Island, but the beach is quite small, so most people just put on their bikinis for an iconic photo with the epic rock formation and crystal clear water.
A small hiking trail also takes visitors to another beach on the island. Along the trail, there are different vistas for the iconic limestone formation that juts out of the water, so it is definitely worth the physical effort.
Relax on Railay Beach
It is no question that Thailand is known for its beaches, but along its hundreds of beaches, Railay Beach is certainly at the top of it. Located in Krabi province and accessible only by boat, Railay Beach is a picture-perfect paradise with stunning limestone cliffs and beautiful turquoise waters.
Visitors can take advantage of the calm waters for swimming or kayaking and explore nearby caves and rock climbing spots. There are also plenty of beach bars and restaurants here serving some dishes seafood and Thai dishes.
One of the best activities in Thailand is to go island hopping. The country is blessed with stunning islands, and plenty of tour operators offer day trips from Phuket and Krabi.
Island-hopping is a great way to explore different beaches and get a taste of each island. Many of the tours will stop at Phi Phi Island, Maya Bay (made famous by “The Beach” movie), and the smaller, lesser-known islands such as Koh Yao Yai.
Most island-hopping tours will also include snorkeling spots so visitors can get close to some of the country's beautiful underwater life!
Visit The Grand Palace In Bangkok
One of the most stunning cultural landmarks of Thailand is the Grand Palace. It is located in Bangkok and has served as the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782.
The Grand Palace is a stunning complex made up of several buildings, pavilions, courtyards, and gardens. Visitors can explore the historical buildings, marvel at the intricate decorations and take in the grandeur of this iconic site.
The complex also houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand’s most important and sacred Buddhist temples. Be sure to dress appropriately before entering the temple. Covering your shoulders and knees is a must!
If you like the Grand Palace, make sure you check out Wat Pho and the reclining Buddha!
Check Out Bangkok Rooftop Bar
One of the best things to do in Thailand is to admire the stunning cityscape of Bangkok, and there is no better place to do so than in one of the rooftop bars. At these rooftop bars, visitors can enjoy a delicious cocktail, music, and great conversation with friends while marveling at the beautiful skyline of Bangkok.
Many rooftop bars are scattered across the city, but some of the more popular ones include Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower, Octave Rooftop Lounge & Bar, and Veritgo. Each rooftop bar has its own unique vibe and offers stunning views of the city skyline.
Be sure to dress accordingly to these venues as most of them have a smart-casual dress code.
Visit Khao Sok National Park
Thailand has many national parks, but none is as incredible as Khao Sok National Park. Located in the Surat Thani province, it is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and features towering limestone formations and a lush green jungle. It is even older than the Amazon Rainforest!
There are many things to do in Khao Sok National Park. Visitors can explore the many hiking trails, the stunning Cheow Lan Lake or go jungle safari.
If your budget allows it, we recommend you to stay in one of the floating bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake. You can go kayaking on the lake and watch the breathtaking sunrise over the rock formations in the morning. It is an experience that is most definitely worth splurging on!
If you like unspoiled national parks, make sure you check out Khao Yai National Park and Erawan National Park as well!
See The White Temple In Chiang Rai
There are plenty of temples in Thailand, but none is as unique as the White Temple in Chiang Rai. Also known as Wat Rong Khun, this temple was designed and completed in 1997 by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.
The temple is completely white, adorned with intricate details and glass fragments, which twinkle when the sun hits them. The temple also has some surreal elements, such as a bridge leading to the gates of heaven and an “ocean of hands.”
It is quite different than the typical temples in Thailand, which are usually red or gold. Still, make sure you dress appropriately before visiting the temple. Covering your shoulders and knees is a must!
Visit An Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Visiting the elephant jungle sanctuary phuket is one of the most rewarding experiences when in Thailand. The country is home to many ethical elephant sanctuaries that are committed to rescuing and rehabilitating elephants from unethical tourism practices.
Visitors can feed, bathe at these sanctuaries, and trek with them. It is an incredible opportunity to connect with nature and learn about the importance of elephant conservation in Thailand.
Many sanctuaries offer a “no riding” policy, so make sure you do your research before visiting one! Riding the elephants is not good for their health, so avoiding any sanctuaries offering this activity is best.
The best place in Thailand to experience the elephant jungle sanctuaries is Chiang Mai such as the Elephant Nature Park. There are many ethical ones around Chiang Mai due to the more ideal environment for the elephants. Try not to go to one near the beaches because that is where elephants naturally live!
Check Out Koh Panyi Island
Koh Panyi Island is one of the most unique places to explore when visiting Thailand. This island is a Muslim fishing village that was built entirely on stilts and consists of more than 200 homes, a mosque, and even an elementary school.
Visitors can explore the maze-like network of wooden walkways as they pass by bustling markets, seafood restaurants and souvenir shops.
Koh Panyi is the perfect place to learn about traditional Thai culture, which has remained largely unchanged for many years. You can also take a boat trip around the island and pass by some of Thailand's most stunning limestone formations.
Experience A Thai Massage
One of the best things to do in Thailand is to experience a Thai massage. It combines elements of Indian Ayurvedic medicine and yoga with traditional Chinese acupressure massage to help to reduce stress, improve circulation, relieve muscle tension, and increase flexibility.
Unlike typical massages that only target certain areas of the body, Thai massages have a more holistic approach to address the individual's entire well-being. At the end of a Thai massage, you will feel relaxed and rejuvenated in a different fashion than you would normally expect from a massage.
There are many places in Thailand to get a Thai massage, but we recommend you to seek out a reputable spa. This way, you can avoid the dodgy massage parlors and get an amazing and authentic experience.
Go To A Full-Moon Party on Koh Phangan
The Full Moon Party on the island of Koh Phangan is one of the most famous and wild events in Thailand. It takes place on Haad Rin Beach every month, and it attracts up to 30,000 people from all over the world!
The party begins just after sunset and goes on until sunrise. There are fire shows, live DJs, and lots of food and drinks to enjoy. Be sure to dress up in white, as this is the unofficial color of the party!
Full Moon Parties can get quite wild, so it’s best to go with a group of friends and look out for each other. Being mindful of your belongings is also important as pickpocketing is quite common at the party.
However, you should still make sure to take in an amazing atmosphere and incredible vibes that come with the epic Full-Moon Parties!
Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand from 1350 to the 18th century, and it is now one of the country’s most important historical sites. It is filled with ancient ruins, temples, and palaces that will give you a glimpse into the country’s past.
Though most of the landmarks are now left in ruins after the Burmese invasion in 1767, they are still a sight to behold. The most well-known ruins include Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, and Wat Mahathat.
Ayutthaya is easily accessible from Bangkok and makes for a great day trip or overnight stay. You can rent a bike and cycle around the historic center of Ayutthaya, a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Thailand.
It is one of the places you must visit when you are in South East Asia
Try Muay Thai
If you are looking for something adventurous to do in Thailand, make sure you try Muay Thai. It is Thailand's national sport and has become a very popular activity among tourists. It is an intense yet fun way to get in shape while learning some self-defense techniques!
There are many Muay Thai classes around the country. You can choose to take a group class or even private lessons. Most of the instructors will speak a basic level of English, so you don't need to worry about miscommunication. There is also no sparring, so you don't have to worry about getting injured.
And if you would like to learn more about the sport, there are also several stadiums where you can watch a professional Muay Thai fight and learn about its deeply rooted culture.
Party on Khao San Road
Khao San Road in Bangkok is the most famous party destination in Thailand. It has been a popular hangout spot for backpackers since the 1990s, and it has now become an iconic symbol of Bangkok’s nightlife.
The street is filled with bars, clubs, restaurants, and street vendors selling all kinds of food and souvenirs. You can even find the famous insect vendors selling things like scorpions, tarantulas, and other gnarly items for tourists to try.
Khao San Road is always buzzing with people and it can get quite crowded at times. But don't let this put you off! Experiencing the chaos at Khao San Road is one of the most unique experiences in Thailand and is not to be missed!
Visit Doi Suthep Temple In Chiang Mai
Doi Suthep Temple is one of the most iconic and sacred temples in Thailand. It is located in Chiang Mai, about a 30-minute drive from the city center. It is perched on top of Mount Suthep and offers breathtaking views of the city.
The temple is especially spectacular during sunset when its golden roof shines against the orange sky. The temple grounds also contain various shrines and statues where you can learn about Thai Buddhism and local culture.
Doi Suthep has become a pilgrimage site for many Buddhists and is quite popular among tourists. Be sure to dress modestly when visiting the temple, as it is a place of respect and reverence.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Thailand. From exploring the country's national park to discovering the modern attractions of Bangkok, travelers are never going to run out of things to do. Hopefully, with this article, you can get a better understanding of how to plan your Thailand itinerary and what to include!
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