After strict border restrictions for the last year, Thailand is finally opening up to tourists again. From 1 July, it is unrolling a programme for safe tourism, with the island of Phuket the only destination initially open to holidaymakers.
With this in mind, here are our top 10 recommendations for places to visit in Thailand:
10 – Koh Chang
First on our list is the golden beaches of Koh Chang. Koh Chang translates to ‘Elephant Island’ in Thai and derives from its elephant-shaped headland, which includes some breath-taking viewpoints. As it’s Thailand’s second largest island, and due to its accessibility from Bangkok, the island can get crowded during high season. But, don’t let this deter you – there are plenty of hidden hotels and secluded beaches that will give you all the privacy that you need. Conversely, if you’re looking for a good party White Beach boasts incredibly fire shows and late nights.
9 – Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park is located in the district of Nakhon Ratchasima – the benefit of this is that the district is rarely visited by tourists and the experience is a lot more authentic. You will be able to enjoy the local Isan food here, coupled with grand faux European buildings.
Khao Yai National Park boasts several waterfalls hidden inside the tree-lined forests. At 80m high, the Haew Narok waterfall is the largest in the park and a must visit. Although not as high, the picturesque Haew Suwat Waterfall is also worth visiting; it was the setting for the waterfall jump scene in the movie, The Beach, featuring a very young Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio.
If you’re lucky enough, you will be able to see wild elephants who roam across the National Park – a must see for any visitor to Thailand.
8. Chang Mai
Nestled and surrounded by the mountains of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is beautiful and unique which offers rolling landscapes, hill tribes and countless adventures. Chiang Mai is a large and culturally important city where historical and modern Thai architecture and traditions coexist.
During a walk around the historic centre, you will find the old city walls and dozens of beautiful ancient temples. The most famous of these temples, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, lies outside Chiang Mai on a mountainside overlooking the city. Modern-day Chiang Mai offers artisan markets, an abundance of massage and spa parlours, botanical gardens and an elephant nature park where visitors can bathe and feed elephants. A must visit, and the largest city, in the golden triangle
Our list could not be complete without the capital city, Bangkok. Located in Central Thailand, Bangkok is a sprawling city offering something for everyone. The famous tourist street, Khao San Road, is a good place to begin with its interesting sites and cheap shopping and nightlife. The city is well known for its myriad of temples such as the sacred Wat Phra Kaew, which contains the Emerald Buddha. Watch out for some brilliant hotel deals in Bangkok, as you’re never too far away from a 5-star hotel.
Wat Arun Ratchawararam is a must-visit, so is Jim Thompson house if you are looking for some cultural visits. If shopping is your thing, then Bangkok is the place for you. The city hosts numerous state-of-the-art shopping malls, with Siam Paragon, CentralPlaza WestGate and Iconsiam getting an honourable mention.
6. Ko Samui
Despite being Thailand’s third-largest island, Ko Samui was largely unknown to tourists until the two intrepid backpackers boarded a coconut boat and landed there in the 1970s. Word soon spread about the island’s magnificent beaches, and today Ko Samui is one of the most popular travel destinations in all of Asia. Ko Samui offers a more convenient travel experience than other islands as you can fly directly onto the island from Bangkok and other regions around Thailand.
If you’re looking for a beautiful, but more developed and commercialised island, Ko Samui is the one for you. It offers a number of quiet and secluded beaches, however, there are large hotels and chains over here. Saying that it gets the balance just right. Well-developed beaches like the four-mile-long Hat Chaweng have spots where visitors can relax away from the crowds. At the southern end of the beach around a small headland is Little Chaweng or Chaweng Noi. Offshore are two small islets, one of which can be reached by wading.
Visitors who prefer a more social travel experience won’t be disappointed either. Na Thon, Ko Samui’s transportation hub, is full of lively restaurants and bars. Samui also has several important Buddhist temples worth visiting. Wat Khunaram features mummified remains of revered monks. Constructed in 1972, the Wat Phra Yai temple features a 3 meter (9 foot) high seated Buddha figure known as the “Big Buddha.”
A popular location for adventurous travellers, Pi has changed a lot from a quiet village in northern Thailand. Pai is now a booming town that is part of the Mae Hong Son Loop stretching between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. Noted for its picturesque valley and relaxed atmosphere, Pai is a favoured destination for those wanting to escape to the spiritual mountains.
Due to Pai’s increasing influx of tourists, the city has increased in tourism facilities with numerous hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and bars. Pai’s Wednesday Market is a popular attraction, which draws crowds from other villages around the Pail Valley.
4. Khao Sok National Park
The second National Park on our list, Khao Sok is the oldest rainforest in the world. Its imposing limestone cliffs and abundance of nature make it a must-visit destination for those around Surat Thani. The 160-year-old National Park is situated in a man-made lake and is only accessible through a long-tail boat.
Besides the picturesque scenery, many people visit Khao Sok for diverse wildlife. It’s believed that over five percent of the species on the planet live within the park. It’s common to see small creatures like Malaysian tapirs, wild boars, and pig-tailed macaques, although sightings of larger animals like Asian elephants and tigers are rarer.
A must-do when visiting the park is to stay on the floating bungalows. Don’t expect WiFi or plug sockets (or even a comfortable night’s sleep), but waking up to a beautiful sunrise with the bird call is an unforgettable experience.
3. Koh Phi Phi
Hidden off the south-eastern coast of Phuket in the Krabi Province is the idyllic Phi Phi Island archipelago. The largest island is Ko Phi Phi Don, a popular vacation destination famed for its sun-soaked beaches, beautiful limestone cliffs and laid-back atmosphere.
Tonsai Bay and Long Beach attract the most tourists, while secluded beaches like Phak Nam Bay offer a tranquil escape away from the crowds. It’s also possible to hike up to Phi Phi Viewpoint, which boasts dramatic 360-degree views over the entire island.
Maya Bay was the most visited part of the island after it starred as the stunning backdrop for the movie, The Beach. However, due to the mass influx of tourism, the Thai authorities have closed off the island since June 2018 as the footfall was damaging the precious coral reef, and tourists were not respecting the island as they should have. Since then, its ecosystem and coral have begun to return, and tourists may be allowed to come back soon. You are still able to visit the cove by boat, however, you are unable to cross the rope and enter the bay itself.
2. Koh Mak
Located a short boat journey away from Koh Chang (or Trat), Koh Mak is a beautiful little undeveloped island located nearby Kod Kood. If you have been looking for an island that takes you back to the days before tourism boomed in Thailand, this is your pick.
Much of the island (approximately 90%) is covered in coconut plantations. Don’t go expecting jungle-clad mountains with hidden waterfalls here. There are amazing beaches right around the island. The main spot (which is still fairly undeveloped) is Suan Yai Beach on the west coast.
1. Ko Pha Ngan
Topping our list is the incredible island of Ko Pha Ngan. Pha Ngan hosts the world-famous and incredibly Full Moon Parties on Hat Rin beach, but don’t let this put you off visiting the island is large parties aren’t your thing. Pha Ngan perfectly captures the mix between a party island and zen getaway. The north of the island boasts some of Thailand’s most beautiful tranquil beaches.
9. Khao Yai National Park – https://www.planetware.com/wpimages/2019/11/thailand-khao-yai-national-park-exploring-visitors-guide-haew-narok-haew-suwat-waterfalls.jpg
8. Chang Mai Royal Flora Park – https://www.greenprophet.com/wp-content/uploads/two-pagoda-at-the-inthanon-mountain-at-sunset-chiang-mai-thailand.jpg
2. Koh Mak – https://dynamic-media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-o/1c/4c/54/6b/seavana-beach-resort.jpg?w=900&h=-1&s=1