What To Do in Thailand: The Highlights

Thailand offers it all, as a country with striking contrasts, the busiest streets of Bangkok with skyscrapers, ancient temples and shopping malls. Brilliant green rice paddies, mountainous landscapes and stunning islands. No matter where you go you’ll find a wide range of delectable cuisine to fuel outdoor adventures. Like snorkelling, diving, sea kayaking, hiking, mountain biking and wildlife watching. See our what to do in Thailand: The Highlights Guide.

Bangkok, Thailand
Doi Angkhang, Thailand

Sightseeing in Bangkok

The capital city offers a long list of attractions, including the Grand Palace, its most iconic landmark with its magnificent Thai architecture. Thailand’s most popular attraction, it was built in 1783 as the royal residence. Visitors can explore the palace complex which includes the sacred Emerald Buddha. Wat Pho is home to the famous reclining golden Buddha, another must-see.

Traveling like the locals is the best way to see the sights, getting a glimpse of daily life touring in a tuck-tuck, via water taxi and by the BTS Sky Train. If you visit the Jim Thompson House, and you should, you’ll arrive by traveling through a “klong,” or narrow backwater canal, to view the vast collection of Southeast Asian art in the historic wooden colonial-style building.

Visit the Doi Angkhang Communities

Doi Angkhnag, often referred to as “Little Switzerland” is located near the Burmese border, with rolling hills and a climate that’s ideal for producing a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Visitors can explore The Royal Project by hiring a bike. The plantation was set up to teach villagers alternatives to opium farming and is filled with peaches, strawberries, and lychees. This is also a great place to delve into local culture by visiting the Phumanee hill tribes. You’ll get a glimpse of daily life, watching the men farm the land and the women prepare meals, while cattle wander around.

Chang Mai, Thailand
Samui, Thailand

Explore Colorful Markets and Ancient Temples in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the capital of northern Thailand, just an hour’s flight from Bangkok. While it’s the second largest city in Thailand, it’s much more laid-back, offering a more traditional, authentic feel minus the high-rises. It’s home to over 300 temples, including Wat Suthep, a 14th-century temple guarded by twin dragons nestled high in the hills above the city. Some of the most mouthwatering cuisine can be found here too, sample it at the night market near the river. With such a vast array of stalls, you can try all sorts of tempting Northern Thai fare, a fusion of flavors influenced by Laos and Myanmar.

Relax on the Beach

The Andaman coast is lined with sun-soaked white sands and crystal-clear water, with the Krabi province especially enticing. Gazing out at the endless turquoise sea, the only thing interrupting the view are the hundreds of uninhabited islands and limestone karsts. If you like to snorkel or dive, Phang Nga Bay is ideal, stretching between Krabi and Phuket. An island-hopping tour can bring you to a number of the islands, with a picnic lunch enjoyed on a deserted beach the perfect way to spend the day.

Khao Sok Lake, Thailand
Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

Make Friends with an Elephant

Elephants are Thailand’s sacred animal symbol. Thankfully there are ethical ways to meet them, with an increasing number of elephant sanctuaries started here, including Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, which rescues and rehabilitates those who’ve been injured in the wild or forced to endure poor living conditions in illegal logging camps. You’ll get to know the animals by feeding and helping to care about them. Elephant Hills is another sanctuary that offers a genuine conservation experience with two tented camps set up in the jungle inside of Khao Sok National Park. The main camp is similar to what the Elephant Nature Park offers, learning how to care of the elephants. The other is a floating village in Cheow Larn Lake where you can jump into the water right from your tent and fall asleep to the sounds of the gibbons.

Hike Khao Yai National Park

One of the best hikes within easy reach of Bangkok can be enjoyed in Khao Yai National Park, about a 2.5 hour’s drive away. Both day treks and night safaris are available, so you might want to plan an overnight stay. The park is home to wild elephants, gibbons, deer, and wild boar. After dark, heading out with a guide in a Jeep, you can see some of the nocturnal creatures like gaur, the largest bovine in the world, along with elephants.

See Two Other Countries at the Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle where Thailand meets Laos and Myanmar, with the Mekong River former the border. Standing on the banks of the river in Thailand, Myanmar can be seen to your left, and Lao to your right. The area is also home to dazzling natural beauty, riverfront eateries and street markets where you can buy a handful of juicy grilled cicadas for a dollar.