What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
Our guide on the best things to do in Thailand
You’ll never run out of adventures in Thailand. A foodie haven, on city streets you’ll find delectable food stalls with plates that burst with delicious flavours, balancing sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. Street food tours are an absolute must in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, with your guide helping to seek out dishes and stalls well beyond the main tourist areas. You can then get stuck in yourselves: a cooking class is often the highlight of a trip, providing the perfect souvenir – the ability to reproduce authentic Thai dishes when you get back home!
The Land of Smiles is littered tip to toe with heritage sites. Thailand’s most famous historical sites include the glittering Grand Palace in Bangkok, the ruins of ancient capital Ayutthaya, and Chiang Rai’s striking ‘White Temple’. Laidback northern capital Chiang Mai boasts 300 temples alone – you don’t have to visit them all! – while for contemporary history visitors can take in Kanchanaburi, learning about the real ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, and the enjoying a run on the infamous ‘Death Railway’.
Thailand offers plenty for nature lovers too. Khao Yai (2 hours’ from Bangkok) and Khao Sok (close to Phuket and Khao Lak) offer dense jungles, towering waterfalls, and elusive wildlife such as gibbons, sun bears, tropical birds, and wild elephants. For up close elephant interaction, head to Chiang Mai and visit responsibly run elephant conservation centres where you can spend the day feeding, bathing, and playing with these majestic pachyderms.
And of course, at the end of a tour there are just the 1,400 tropical islands to choose from. Our specialists will help you to find your own slice of paradise, whether you’re looking for the full run of amenities and activities on Phuket or Samui, staggering natural scenery in Krabi or Phi Phi, or totally unspoilt and underdeveloped up-and-coming islands such as Koh Jum or Koh Mak.
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Best activities in Thailand
UTC can arrange an enticing variety of tours and activities across Thailand. We’ve picked our just a few of our favourites below. There’s plenty more to recommend though; let us know what excites you most about Thailand, and we’ll map out the perfect itinerary.
Bangkok’s Majestic Historical Sites
One of Thailand’s most iconic sites, the Grand Palace was built in 1782 as the official residence of the Kings of Siam. It’s still the spiritual heart of the Thai monarchy and houses several impressive buildings such as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Phra Kaew. Nearby Wat Arun is a glittering site, particularly gorgeous at night-time. To experience a more traditional side of Bangkok visit the bustling flower markets or take a boat trip through the maze-like ‘khlongs’ (canals).
Outer Bangkok’s floating markets
Thailand is famous for its floating markets, where you’ll find traditional longtail wooden boats bobbing through tight canals, laden with colourful produce. Damnoen Saduak, closest to Bangkok is the busiest, while travelling slightly further out brings you to the quieter and more authentic Amphawa market. The latter can also be paired with the famous ‘railway’ market in Maeklong.
Wildlife & Nature
Wildlife and nature are a key attraction in Thailand, with national animal elephants (‘chang’ in Thai) very much central to this. We insist on always promoting ethical, authentic elephant interaction so please ask our specialists on their recommended parks. Chiang Mai in the north, Chiang Rai on the borders with Myanmar and Laos, and Khao Sok to the south are prime regions for getting up close with these beautiful creatures.
Rural tours around Chiang Mai
Thailand’s northern capital Chiang Mai is a laidback, atmospheric alternative to Bangkok, with its historic centre, numerous attractive temples, and bustling weekend markets. The city is ringed by lush hills and picturesque farmland, so makes a great base for day trips. Rafting, trekking, village visits, and extended tuk tuk driving tours (guide-driven or – should you wish – self-drive!) are just a few of the many exciting activities on offer.
Visit the ‘Golden Triangle’
The Golden Triangle refers to the point where Thailand, Laos and Burma meet, at the intersection of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. The area has quite the suspect history – at one time the world’s largest opium-producing region – and your time here will see you learn about this illicit trade whilst also enjoying boat tours, mountain scenery, hikes, and local culture. If you’re staying in one of the luxury lodges in the area you’ll also be able to enjoy in-house elephant activities.
Thailand’s National Parks
Thailand is littered with lush national parks boasting dense jungles, steamy mountains, hiking trails, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. Khao Yai is around two hours’ from Bangkok to the east, while Erawan and Sai Yok are three hours’ to the west, accessed via the historic city of Kanchanaburi. Khao Sok in the south offers staggering karst scenery and memorable floating accommodation on Cheow Lan Lake. These national parks typically house around 70 mammal species including elephants, gibbons, bears, and deer, as well as over 400 tropical bird species.
The south of Thailand contains over 1,400 tropical islands which vary in size and development: from the bright lights of Phuket and Samui, to hundreds of tiny islets populated by nomadic sea-fishing communities…or no-one at all. Island-hopping tours are one of the best activities on offer during any extended beach stay, with most top beach hotels able to arrange day trips out to a series of pristine isolated coves where you can find your own private paradise.
Thailand is one of the world’s most colourful and vibrant destinations both on land…and under the water. The country is a global leader in diving and snorkelling tourism, with many enthusiasts coming back year-after-year to dive new sites or explore old favourites. Koh Tao, Khao Lak, Koh Yao, Koh Phi Phi are just a few excellent bases for your underwater adventures, with great diving off-island or providing access to protected marine reserves Ang Thong, Phang Nga, and the Similan and Surin islands.
Food & Drink
Thailand is a leading destination for foodies, with an endless list of culinary masterpieces to sample, and the most delectable street food on the planet. One of the best souvenirs is to learn Thai cooking…and impress your friends and family when you get home! There are a great many courses and classes on offer countrywide; make sure to ask our specialists for their personal recommendation.
Food & Drink
Street Food Tours
The Thais are a busy and energetic bunch, and with many living in small and multi-generational homes there’s neither the space nor the time for home cooking. As such dining out – the cheaper and faster the better – is a central part of Thai culture. A typical street food market will offer a huge range of mouth-watering cheap eats: rich curries, spicy salads, grilled meats and seafood – all cooked hot and fresh to order. Exclusive guided tours can be arranged throughout the country, with Bangkok and Chiang Mai particularly good places to dive in!
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