Best Places to Visit in Thailand

With a history that spans centuries and an exotic and friendly culture, Thailand welcomes travelers with tropical beaches, chaotic cities and world-renowned culinary traditions. But with all that Thailand has to offer, you might be overwhelmed by where to head first. U.S. News considered attractions, seasonality, food options and more to determine the best places to visit in Thailand. Have a favorite? Vote below to help decide next year's list. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)

SUMMARY

Best Places to Visit in Thailand

  • Chiang Mai
  • Bangkok
  • Phuket
  • Trang
  • Railay Beach
  • Ayutthaya
  • Phang Nga
  • Similan Islands Marine National Park
  • Ko Chang
  • Khao Sok National Park
  • Phi Phi Islands
  • Pattaya City
  • Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Phitsanulok
  • Ko Tao
  • Kanchanaburi Province
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    Chiang Mai

    #1 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Chiang Mai is a welcome reprieve from the commotion of Bangkok. Here, you'll be treated to beautiful, mountainous landscapes and an Old City full of historical temples, such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang. Night markets are also a must-do in Chiang Mai, so pencil in time for the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar (one of Thailand's oldest and most well-known night bazaars) and the Sunday Walking Street. And no matter what, leave time for a visit to Elephant Nature Park for some R&R with Thailand's gentle giants.

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    Bangkok

    #2 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Thailand's capital city is nothing short of exhilarating. The city offers a hearty mix of big-city bustle and modern sights, such as the Jim Thompson House, alongside ancient attractions, including Wat Arun and Wat Pho. While here, be sure to visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market – one of the largest street markets in the world – and eat multiple meals at one of Bangkok's 300,000 street food stalls. Just don't forget to pack modest clothing for visits to sacred sites, or you won't be admitted.

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    Phuket

    #3 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and also the most popular with travelers. The island draws visitors in with its many white sand, turquoise-water beaches and relatively low travel costs, including everything from food to hotels. Hit up highly regarded Patong Beach, party the night away in the Patong district or head inland to Phuket Town to experience more local culture and find cheaper lodging options. No visit would be complete without taking a boat tour to other islands in the area to swim, snorkel or scuba dive.

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    Trang

    #4 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Trang's secluded beaches and stunning islands have made it an up-and-coming travel destination. The dramatic surrounding landscapes (think: lush jungles and limestone mountains) contrast beautifully against the beaches' white sands and crystal-clear waters. You can spend days hopping between islands to see and do all that Trang has to offer, including snorkel around Ko Kradan, swim to a hidden beach cave on Ko Mook and hike through the jungle on Ko Ngai. And after you've gotten your fill of sun and sand, head to one of Trang's 10 districts to immerse yourself in Thai culture.

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    Railay Beach

    #5 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Railay Beach features four stunning stretches of sand to sink your toes into. Railay West and Phra Nang Beach are two of the peninsula's most popular beach spots, offering luxury resorts, soft sand and jaw-dropping views of limestone cliffs. Tonsai Beach is more laid-back and budget-friendly thanks to its quieter, more removed location. Meanwhile, Railay East is where you'll find some of the area's best nightlife venues. Regardless of which beaches you choose to visit, you'll have access to some of Thailand's best rock climbing locations, plus various walking paths and coral reefs.

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    Ayutthaya

    #6 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Those with an interest in Thai history should make a beeline for Ayutthaya. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed city, which was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Siam, is packed with monasteries, temples, statues and archaeological ruins. Must-visit sights include Bang Pa-In Palace, Wat Lokaya Sutha, Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Chaiwatthanaram, where you'll find 120 sitting Buddha statues. Once you've gotten an overview of Ayutthaya's past, shop for souvenirs and grab a bite to eat at Ayothaya Floating Market.

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    Phang Nga

    #7 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Although the region was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Phang Nga has recovered and rebuilt. During the cool, dry season (from November to February), tourists descend upon the province to check out protected areas like Surin Islands Marine National Park (or Mu Ko Surin National Park, as it's locally known). Hiking, diving and snorkeling are excellent ways to explore while admiring southern Thailand's natural beauty. Don't forget to save time for a visit to James Bond Island in picturesque Phang Nga Bay before leaving.

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    Similan Islands Marine National Park

    #8 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Located off of the coast of Phang Nga, Similan Islands Marine National Park (which also goes by Mu Ko Similan National Park) attracts scuba divers in droves. Water lovers can spend hours admiring the park's coral reefs and marine life, while beach bums can pass the time soaking up some sun on the Similan Islands' unspoiled stretches of white sand. And for bird-watchers, the park offers ample opportunities to search for various species that call it home, including Nicobar pigeons and roseate terns. Keep in mind, though, that the park closes annually during monsoon season (from May to mid-October).

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    Ko Chang

    #9 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Named Ko Chang (or "Elephant Island" in Thai) because of its elephant-shaped headland, this large island is more secluded than Phuket but no less beautiful. Its west coast is dotted with stunning coastlines, small towns and a variety of accommodation options, while its interior offers tropical jungles and gushing waterfalls to trek through and to. But remember, Ko Chang's tourism infrastructure isn't as well developed as other Thai islands, so getting here is a bit more of a trek.

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    Khao Sok National Park

    #10 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Even if you don't consider yourself an outdoorsy person, a trip to Khao Sok National Park is sure to take your breath away. Home to limestone cliffs, awe-inspiring waterfalls and the world's oldest evergreen rainforest, Khao Sok is an incredibly bio-diverse area. Here, you'll find roughly 200 kinds of flora and more than 5% of the world's animal species, including tigers, elephants and 300-plus varieties of birds. The park sees a lot of rainfall year-round, so for the best chance of staying dry, time your visit during the dry season, which runs from December to April.

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    Phi Phi Islands

    #11 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    The Phi Phi Islands feature some of Thailand's most popular beaches. Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two main islands, is known for its lively party scene, hidden coves and deep coral reefs and gardens that are ideal for snorkeling and diving. Meanwhile, the smaller, uninhabited Phi Phi Leh is where you'll find verdant cliffs surrounding Maya Bay's beautiful white sand beaches, which you may recognize from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "The Beach."

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    Pattaya City

    #12 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Situated less than 100 miles southeast of Bangkok, Pattaya is the closest major beach destination to Thailand's capital city. Visitors can spend hours at the beach sunbathing or participating in water sports activities like windsurfing and water skiing before heading to the Art in Paradise Interactive Art Museum or the Sanctuary of Truth Museum to admire various works of art and architecture. Once the sun goes down, all of the action can be found on Walking Street, a 1,640-foot-long stretch of bright lights, nightclubs, restaurants and bars.

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    Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park

    #13 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park is a nature lover's dream thanks to its various ecosystems and diverse flora and fauna. Inside this expansive national park, which boasts nearly 31,000 acres, travelers will find everything from sea cliffs to rainforests to its two namesake mountains, plus wildlife like macaques, Malayan porcupines and crested serpent eagles. Visitors can take in the scenery during a guided hike, go for a dip in one of Ton Chong Fa Waterfall's ponds or relax at Khao Lak Beach or Small Sandy Beach.

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    Khao Yai National Park

    #14 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Khao Yai National Park boasts a number of impressive superlatives: It's the oldest and most-visited national park in Thailand, the country's third-largest national park and one of mainland Asia's largest intact monsoon forests. Plus, this stunning national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features more than 30 miles of hiking trails, some of which lead to breathtaking waterfalls. Keep in mind, though that guides are required for most of the trails. While exploring, you may spot some of Khao Yai's wild residents, including elephants, sun bears and several species of hornbills.

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    Phitsanulok

    #15 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Many travelers may head to Phitsanulok because of its proximity to various historical cities and national parks, but this city in north-central Thailand is an excellent travel destination in its own right. Here, you'll find a number of must-see attractions, including Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat (which houses one of Thailand's most well-known Buddha images) and the Sergeant Major Thawee Folk Museum (where visitors can learn more about traditional rural life in Thailand). When you've worked up an appetite from sightseeing, savor authentic Thai fare at Phitsanulok's Night Market.

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    Ko Tao

    #16 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Ko Tao (which means "Turtle Island" in Thai) is considered one of Thailand's top places to go scuba diving. Travelers flock here to take advantage of the crystal-clear water that surrounds the island and its white sand beaches, many of which provide easy access to colorful coral reefs. What's more, Ko Tao offers ample opportunities to enjoy a variety of other activities, including cliff jumping, hiking, stand-up paddleboarding and rock climbing. After a busy day outdoors, visitors can venture to Mae Haad to grab a bite to eat or to Sairee Beach to party.

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    Kanchanaburi Province

    #17 in Best Places to Visit in Thailand

    Thailand's third-largest province captivates travelers with its natural beauty. Its diverse landscape – which features everything from waterfalls, rivers and mountains to Neolithic caves and national parks – is ideal for an array of outdoor pursuits, including hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and fishing. But a trip here wouldn't be complete without visiting some of the area's World War II sites and museums. Start your history lesson at the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, an interactive museum that tells the tragic story of how the Thailand-Burma Railway was built. Then, stop by the JEATH War Museum to see a replica of a prisoners-of-war camp.

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