34 Amazing Places to Visit in Thailand & 6 to Avoid!

Khao Sok National Park Cheow Larn Lake

Most lists of places to visit in Thailand will include overrated tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Koh Samui and Phuket… places that we would seriously recommend you avoid! If you’re looking for an honest list of the best places to visit in Thailand, including some alternative destinations that aren’t swarming with tourists – this is the list for you! 

Don’t forget – As well as giving you some suggestions for must-visit places in Thailand, jump down to the bottom of this article for places that we suggest you don’t visit! 

This guide was written with the help of the South East Asia Backpacker Community – a great place to get tips and advice on travelling the region.

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The Best Places to Visit in Thailand

Places to visit in Northern Thailand

1. Chiang Mai

  • Location: Northern Thailand
  • Visit for – Markets, massage, temples, yoga, cooking classes, trekking, elephants, cafe culture.
Trekking in Mae Wang, Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand!

Chiang Mai is the unofficial capital of Northern Thailand, sometimes nicknamed the ‘Rose of the North’. Despite what other travel guides will tell you, Chiang Mai is not a small quaint city with quiet streets full of old-fashioned Thai charm. It’s a large, modern and busy city with bustling markets, hipster cafes and a variety of cultural activities that lure tourists from all over the world.

There are many reasons to base yourself in Chiang Mai for a while. The city has amazing (cheap) street food, markets and just outside the city, there is spectacular countryside to explore. One of the best things to do is go trekking or mountain biking in the national parks around the city. 

Also see: Chiang Mai Trekking Guide

2. Pai

  • Location: Northern Thailand
  • Visit for – Hippie and backpacker vibes, live music, hot springs, motorbike adventures.
A view across Pai Canyon
Pai Canyon, just outside of Pai village.

Many travellers fall in love with the bohemian town of Pai, set in a lush green valley surrounded by rice fields, mountains, waterfalls, hot springs and canyons. In recent years the town has become a hotspot for backpacker nightlife (and mushroom shakes!). There’s also an active live music scene in Pai village which attracts local and international musicians alike.

The best thing to do in Pai is to hire a motorbike (or a bicycle, if you’re feeling energetic), and explore the stunning countryside around the town. Within minutes, you can get away from the touristy centre and discover intriguing back roads that lead to hill tribe villages and stunning mountain vistas.

3. Chiang Rai

  • Location: Northern Thailand
  • Visit for – The White Temple, alternative art scene, chilled vibes, hill tribe treks.
Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is famous for its jaw-dropping White Temple.

If you didn’t enjoy the noise and traffic of Chiang Mai, you may prefer the quieter town of Chiang Rai, situated just a few hours north. Chiang Rai is famous for the incredible White Temple and juxtaposing Black House, two absolute must-visit attractions in the area.

While the actual town of Chiang Rai isn’t that much to write home about, the city makes a great base for further explorations into the nearby countryside. There are several hill tribe villages located around Chiang Rai and treks in the area offer homestays and the chance to learn more about the history of these indigenous communities.

4. Chiang Dao

  • Location: Northern Thailand
  • Visit for – Birdwatching, nature, mountain trekking, caves, relaxation.
A mountain in the background across a valley, Chiang Dao
Chiang Dao, Thailand.

Chiang Dao is a true hidden gem that’s located just two hours north of Chiang Mai. This beautiful tiny village is famous for nature and bird watching. Visitors to the area can climb the imposing Doi Chiang Dao for a physical challenge and amazing views of the surrounding countryside (guided treks only).

If you’re looking for something less exhausting, why not visit Chiang Dao cave and temple, a 12km chamber filled with impressive stalagmites and stalactites. There are also hot springs in the area for a taste of relaxation in the heart of nature.

5. Mae Hong Son

  • Location: Northern Thailand
  • Visit for – Beautiful landscapes, trekking, great food, motorbike adventures, local way of life.
The best way to explore Mae Hong Son is on two wheels!

Three hours by road West from Pai towards the Burmese border, you’ll find Mae Hong Son, one of our favourite spots in Thailand. The town is located on a pretty lake and there are some great restaurants and a fun local market taking place each night. The town has a real local feel and none of the tacky nightlife of Chiang Mai.

The real joy of Mae Hong Son is the surrounding countryside, speckled with hill tribe villages, waterfalls, hot springs, cave temples and other treasures, such as the amazing bamboo bridge. Hire a motorbike and explore to your heart’s content finding empty mountain roads and places that farangs (foreigners) rarely go.

6. Phayao

  • Location: Northern Thailand
  • Visit for – Local vibes, lakeside walks, markets, cheap guesthouses.
Phayao, Thailand
The beautiful lakeside town of Phayao sees few tourists.

Head East from Chiang Mai by bus or motorbike and you will come across the little-visited lakeside town of Phayao – perfect if you’re looking for an authentic slice of northern Thai life. The little town is a popular weekend getaway for Thai locals and there are many fish restaurants around the lake where local families like to enjoy a fishy feast at lunchtime! National Parks, caves and waterfalls in this area abound so be sure to explore by motorbike or bicycle.

7. Mae Sot

  • Location: Northern Thailand
  • Visit for – Burmese food, multicultural experience, border crossing.
A pagoda in Mae Sot
Mae Sot offers an interesting fusion of Thai and Burmese culture.

For a taste of Myanmar in Thailand, visit the quirky border town of Mae Sot with its interesting Burmese culture, delicious food and mix of ethnic minorities. While Mae Sot isn’t the prettiest town, we encourage you to linger awhile, soak up the atmosphere and visit the local markets (especially the huge border market which sells all kinds of weird (and illegal) stuff!

With its proximity to troubled Myanmar, Mae Sot has an interesting ethnic makeup which is quite unusual in Thailand. Looking out over the River Moie from Thailand to Myanmar you can’t help but wonder at the plight of people who have crossed that border in the past seeking refuge and a better way of life.

8. Nan

  • Location: Northern Thailand
  • Visit for – Off the beaten track experience, amazing motorbiking, local markets, national parks.  
The open roads of Nan Province, Northern Thailand.

A wild mountainous landscape with amazing national parks, hill tribe villages and waterfalls, Nan Province is a little-visited area of North Eastern Thailand where locals will be amazed to see a tourist! The area is absolute heaven for motorbikers with windy roads that climb high into the hills and offer stunning mountain views. The town itself offers a glimpse of authentic Thai culture with the Nan morning market and the monk walk at 6 am where local monks ask for alms from the local villagers. This is a side of Thailand far removed from the touristy South!

9. Mae Salong

  • Location: Northern Thailand
  • Visit for – Tea plantations, amazing countryside, Chinese temples.
Across a valley in Mae Salong
The scenery around Mae Salong is spectacular.

Right on the Northern Thai border with Burma near the Golden Triangle, the strange little town of Mae Salong feels more like China than Thailand with its tea plantations and Chinese Temples. The scenery around here is spectacular and it gets pretty cold in the winter. There are a few cheap guesthouses in town, though most visitors just pass through during a motorbiking trip in the North of Thailand. This town is way off the beaten track so you certainly won’t find many backpackers up here!

10. Isaan

  • Location: North-Eastern Thailand
  • Visit for – Rice fields, local way of life, off the beaten path experiences.
A shot across rice paddies at dusk in Isaan
Isaan, Thailand, where the rice fields go on forever.

North-Eastern Thailand, also known as Isaan, is a special side of Thailand that backpackers rarely get to see. This huge region is a vast empty area of rice fields that go on forever and authentic farming villages where it’s very rare to see a foreign face. (You will find a handful of foreigners teaching English in local schools in the area.)

This area of Thailand was once part of Laos and so much of the area shares cultural similarities with the country, such as the language of Isan (which is similar to Laotian) and many of the local dishes, such as sticky rice and papaya salad, or Som Tam. If you’re looking for a real off the beaten track experience in Thailand, then Isaan is for you.

11. Nong Khai

  • Location: North Eastern Thailand (on the border with Laos)
  • Visit for – Border crossing into Laos, markets, riverside walks, unusual temples.
Statues in Nong Khai
Some of the unusual statues in Nong Khai.

Before heading into Laos, many backpackers stay at the lively border town of Nong Khai, home to the mysterious ‘fireball festival’ which takes place every November, one of Thailand’s most famous festivals. Nong Khai is a lively little town with great guesthouses, bustling markets and cheap street food. It’s a great place to soak up some Thai culture, take a boat cruise on the Mekong or hire a bicycle and explore the town’s many temples. Don’t miss a visit to the unusual Buddha Garden (Sala Keoku) with its bizarre Buddhist and Hindu sculptures.

Places to visit in Central Thailand

12. Bangkok

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Nightlife, shopping, street food, massages, temples and culture.
Bangkok is one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand is a mix of traditional and modern.

Any article about places to visit in Thailand simply has to include Thailand’s crazy capital. Some travellers love it, some hate it – personally, I love it! Yes, it’s polluted, dirty and noisy, but if you know where to go… it is possible to find respite from the hustle and bustle in the city’s parks, green areas and canal sides. Hell, there’s even an aeroplane graveyard

For me, what makes Bangkok great is the diversity of the different areas… from the backpacker hub of Khao San Road to the trendy district of Thonglor and the bustling streets of Chinatown. Wherever you go, the city is full of amazing street food, great restaurants, shopping, nightlife, cafes, temples and markets. In the most surprising of areas, you’ll find the traditional lurking next to the modern… and the unique Thai way of life is never far away. 

Heading to Bangkok? See this guide to planning your Bangkok itinerary.

13. Ayutthaya

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Ancient temples, cycling, culture, history, great photos, markets.
Buddha's head in a bodhi tree at Ayutthaya
The famous stone Buddha’s head in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

If you’re looking for a taste of ancient Thai history and culture, travel just one hour north of Bangkok to visit Thailand’s former Siamese capital, Ayutthaya. Here you can take a walk or a cycle amidst time-worn temples and ancient kingdoms. Don’t miss the amazing vision of a stone Buddha’s head that, over the years, has been completely entwined in the roots of a Banyan tree. Due to its proximity to the capital, Ayutthaya can be visited on a day trip from Bangkok, but for those who want to linger by the ruins, there are many great and cheap guesthouses in town.

14. Sukhothai

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – More ancient temples, cycling, cheap guesthouses, culture, history.
Buddha statue across a pond in Sukhothai
Sukhothai is steeped in ancient history.

Halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, you’ll also find the even older Thai capital, Sukhothai with its 70km historical park and hundreds of temple ruins. The ancient city makes a great stopover for backpackers who are travelling by train or bus from Central to Northern Thailand.

Sukhothai Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to the 13th century. It was built during the reign of King Ramkamheng, one of the most important Kings of Thailand (or Siam, as it was then called). The city is a must-stop for all history and culture enthusiasts and there are some great cheap guesthouses if you fancy spending the night,

Also read: Ayutthaya vs. Sukhothai – Which ancient capital should I visit?

15. Phimai

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – History, nature, solace, local feel, Indiana Jones vibes.
Birds fly around a tower of a temple in Phimai
Don’t miss Phimai Historical Park!

More ruins and cultural interest, (this time from the ancient Khmer Empire), can be found as you head North East from Bangkok towards the little-visited province of Isaan. The underrated Phimai Historical Park is Thailand’s answer to Angkor Wat, though nowhere near as famous. While the site is not as grand and extensive as the Temples of Angkor, it does have one advantage – lack of crowds! Here at Phimai, you can wander around the ruins by yourself and enjoy the silence. Plus, it only costs 100 THB to enter. The town itself is very small and understated and offers a nice change from more touristy parts of Thailand.

16. Khao Yai National Park

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Trekking, nature, wildlife, bat caves, waterfalls. 
A waterfall at Khao Yai National Park
A hidden waterfall in Khao Yai National Park.

If you’re looking for outdoor adventure and fresh air, head east from Bangkok just three hours to Khao Yai National Park for awesome trekking and nature trails. The park is massive and home to wild animals such as the Asiatic black bear, guar gibbon and Asian elephant. The vegetation is lush and green and there are some beautiful waterfalls that you can trek to, one of which featured in the film The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Don’t miss the famous bat cave where you can see thousands of ‘wrinkle-lipped’ bats fly out of the cave at sunrise to feed – an amazing sight! While there are shorter trails you can do alone, a guide is recommended for longer trails into the jungle.

17. Kanchanaburi

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Super cheap guesthouses and street food, history, nature, motorbike adventures.
Erawan Waterfalls, Kanchanaburi
The beautiful Erawan Falls in Kanchanaburi.

A backpacker favourite three hours West of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi provides dirt-cheap accommodation and access to beautiful countryside; waterfalls, endless rice fields and fruit trees. The town is famous as the home of River Kwai Bridge, part of the Thai-Burmese railway that was built from 1942-45 during World War II. The railway has a dark history that claimed the lives of an estimated 100,000 workers and prisoners of war who toiled on the tracks in terrible conditions. You can visit the bridge and the museum in Kanchanaburi to learn more.

Kanchanaburi is also a beauty spot where you will find one of Thailand’s most visited waterfalls, Erawan Falls, a seven-tiered waterfall situated in a lush jungle setting. 

18. Sangkhlaburi

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Burmese culture, lakeside views, wide open countryside, multiculturalism.
The wooden bridge at Sangkhlaburi seen in the mist
The wooden bridge at Sangkhlaburi seen in the mist.

From Kanchanaburi, head even further East towards the Burmese border and you’ll come across Sangkhlaburi, a little-visited tranquil town with amazing scenery and interesting cultural diversity. The little town is set on Khao Laem Lake and is famous for its bamboo bridge that is believed to be the longest in Thailand. The bridge connects Thailand to Myanmar and has been a lifeline for Burmese people seeking refuge. The countryside around Sangkhlaburi is unspoilt, beautiful and great for trekking or mountain biking. 

19. Koh Samet

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Flashpacking retreats, weekend breaks from Bangkok, white sand beaches, seafood.
A deserted beach with white sand, Koh Samet
A deserted beach with white sand, Koh Samet.

Koh Samet is a tiny island that is actually the closest island to Bangkok (three hours by car and boat). For this reason, the island has become a popular destination for resident Bangkokians to escape the city during the weekend. There are many fancy resorts and expensive restaurants on the island, but if you hunt around, you can still find cheap accommodation and more local food. 

The entire island, which is part of Khao Laem Ya-Koh Samet National Park,  is undeniably beautiful with its white-sand beaches, lush green jungle and turquoise waters. So, if you have a few days to spare at the end of your trip and you want to get some beach time in whilst staying close to Bangkok, Koh Samet is a great choice!

20. Koh Chang

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Beaches, backpacker vibes, parties, sunsets, escapism.
Chilling out at Lonely Beach, Koh Chang
Chilling out at Lonely Beach, Koh Chang.

It will take you around five hours by bus and boat from the Thai capital to reach the island of Koh Chang (Elephant Island in Thai). The island is the second-largest island in Thailand, next to Phuket, but has not been ruined quite as much as Phuket – yet!

The backpacker hangout is Lonely Beach on the East coast where you’ll find cheap guesthouses, reggae bars and beach parties at certain times of the year. A bit further up on the East Coast, you’ll find White Sand Beach, the most touristy part of the island where you’ll find posh hotels and expensive restaurants. However, for a real feeling of escapism, hire a scooter and head over to the undeveloped East of the island and enjoy deserted red sandy beaches and a local way of life. It’s a world away from the busy West side!

21. Koh Kood 

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Deserted paradise island, kayaking, waterfalls, swimming, escapism.
Opt for a taste of rustic Thailand in Koh Kood.

Koh Kood (also called Koh Kut) is an island, practically devoid of tourists, just a two-hour boat ride from the larger island of Koh Chang. (Like Koh Chang, the island is located in Trat Province, and is closer to Cambodia than it is to Thailand.) Visitors to the island will find deserted beaches, mangrove forests and empty roads great for exploring by motorbike.

Don’t miss the stunning Khlongchao Waterfall (especially in the rainy season) where you can swim in an idyllic lagoon in the heart of the jungle. The beaches of Koh Kood are to die for and if you’re feeling adventurous why not hire a kayak to explore the island’s coastline to find hidden beaches where your footprints will be the first on the sand. A truly off the beaten track paradise!

22. Koh Si Chang

  • Location: Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Off the beaten track island, tourist escape, white sandy beaches, swimming, nature.
Koh Si Chang, Thailand - A Hidden Island Paradise near to Bangkok!
Koh Si Chang, Thailand – A Hidden Island Paradise near to Bangkok!

Koh Si Chang (not to be confused with the larger island of Koh Chang) is another tiny island in Thailand where you can escape the crowds and enjoy an off the beaten track island experience. Just a few hours by bus and boat from Bangkok, the island is primarily a fishing island and the tourist scene has taken longer to develop here than in other parts of the country – though unfortunately, it’s on its way!

Visitors to Koh Si Chang can enjoy crystal clear waters, sandy beaches and beautiful nature. Make friends with the local wild boar population who you’ll see around the island… apparently, they even come and sit next to you while you are sunbathing on the beach!

23. Prachuap Khiri Khan

  • Location: South Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Local Thai beach vibes, cheap accommodation, seaside resorts, seafood, monkeys.
Ao Manao Beach (Lime Bay) in Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand.
When it comes to beaches, you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere more beautiful!

While many tourists visit the rather seedy coastal destination of Hua Hin, we much prefer the lovely seaside town of Prachuap Khiri Khan with its understated beaches, lively markets, cheap restaurants and laid-back town. Ao Manao (Lime Bay) is one of Thailand’s best beaches and really offers a glimpse of how Thai locals do ‘beach life’. Buy a bottle of whiskey, a bucket of ice, sit under the shade of the trees and feel like a local! While you’re there see if you can spot the Dusky Leaf Monkeys in the trees above your head. 

24. Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

  • Location: South Central Thailand
  • Visit for – Camping, nature, deserted beaches, cave temples.
Phraya Nakhon Cave - Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Phraya Nakhon Cave, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.

The little-visited Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park can be easily reached from Hua Hin or Prachuap Khiri Khan and is one of the loveliest and least visited national parks in Thailand. Camp overnight on a deserted beach and visit the legendary Phraya Nakhon Cave, a huge cave that’s home to a magical hidden temple. There are many hiking trails in the park and a viewpoint where you can gaze out at the jungle-clad limestone mountains for miles. Again, watch out for those pesky monkeys in the trees!

Places to visit in Southern Thailand

25. Krabi

  • Location: South Thailand (West Coast)
  • Visit for – Amazing scenery, long-tail boats, beaches, rock climbing, island hopping.
Castes seen across the water in Krabi
Krabi is famous for its limestone karst scenery.

Krabi is a province in Southern Thailand, famous for its limestone karst scenery. The province comprises well-known islands such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Ngai and Koh Jum, as well as the mainland beaches of Railay and Ton Sai. The province is also home to Krabi Town, a large market town that serves as a transport hub for the other destinations in the province.

Krabi is an absolute must-visit destination during any trip to Thailand, whether you’re into island hopping, rock climbing, boat trips, snorkelling, diving or just beach bumming. There are also hot springs, caves, mangrove forests and temples in the area which are well worth exploring. Picture postcard scenes guaranteed!

26. Railay

  • Location: South Thailand (West Coast)
  • Visit for – Rock climbing and reggae bars.

Railay and Ton Sai are two beautiful beaches located in Krabi Province that can only be reached by long-tail boat. (It’s around a 20-minute boat ride from Krabi Town.)  As there is no road access (and therefore no cars) the beach destinations enjoy an isolated island vibe and the scenery is truly some of the most spectacular in the country. The high limestone cliffs offer some of the best rock climbing in the world and there are hundreds of routes for beginners and advanced climbers alike.

While the chilled vibes of Railay and Ton Sai used to be hugely popular with backpackers, in recent years the price of accommodation has increased substantially forcing budget travellers elsewhere. For the cheapest digs, try the bungalows away from the beach on the Ton Sai side.

27. Koh Lanta

  • Location: South Thailand (West Coast)
  • Visit for –  Beautiful beaches, great diving and delicious food. 
Bamboo Beach Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is home to some of the best beaches in Thailand!

If you’re looking for a beautiful island on the west coast of Thailand with gorgeous beaches, excellent diving and great restaurants, head to Koh Lanta. A large island with a national park at its southernmost tip, Koh Lanta offers a great blend of chilled-out island vibes, a low-key party scene (don’t miss Mong Bar), a local charm and possibly the best beaches in Thailand!

Hire a motorbike to explore the island’s hidden gems from Tiger Cave to Khlong Chak Waterfall and take a trip north to Lanta Noi to escape tourists completely. If you’re looking for beaches, the best ones can be found on the South West coast of Lanta Yai island (Bamboo Beach is our favourite)! There are plenty of smaller islands off the coast of Koh Lanta which you can visit by longtail boat and even stay the night if you’re in search of that private castaway island feel.

28. Khao Lak

  • Location: South Thailand (West Coast)
  • Visit for – Diving liveaboards.
Similan Islands, Thailand.
Donald Duck Bay, Similan Islands, Thailand, reached from Khao Lak, Thailand.

Khao Lak is located in Phang Nga Province, just a one hour drive from the largest Thai island of Phuket. The area is home to three national parks, gorgeous tropical islands and a stunning seascape of limestone karsts rising dramatically out of turquoise waters.

Khao Lak is the jumping-off point for the Similan and Surin Islands, which are famous destinations amongst divers and widely considered to be the best place for diving in Thailand. Many divers flock to Khao Lak to do diving liveaboards and there are plenty of dive schools that will take you for multi-day boat trips to explore the pristine reefs and diverse underwater life. Watch out for reef sharks!

29. Koh Lipe

  • Location: South Thailand (West Coast)
  • Visit for – Beautiful beaches, snorkeling, seafood barbecues.
Two boats on the beach at Koh Lipe
Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe.

As you head further down South towards the Malaysian border, you will come across the island of Koh Lipe, which has become more and more popular in recent years. A tiny island blessed with beautiful beaches of white powdery sand and clear turquoise seas, it’s no wonder that Koh Lipe is so popular. There’s not much to do on the island apart from sunbathe, swim, snorkel and dive, but then isn’t that what paradise is all about? It’s an easy ferry ride from here to Malaysia if you’re planning to backpack there next.

30. Chumphon

  • Location: South Thailand (East Coast)
  • Visit for – Deserted beaches, local vibes and national parks.
The beach at koh chumphon national park
Chumphon, Thailand is a hidden gem!

The underrated town of Chumphon, on the mainland, is a neglected destination as most people who visit here stay only for a few hours. Tourists arrive off the overnight bus or train from Bangkok and jump straight on the morning ferry to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.

Those who decide to stick around for a while will be rewarded with cheap accommodation, friendly locals, deserted beaches, national parks, mangrove forests, caves, hot springs and rainforests. The best way to explore Chumphon is by motorbike which can be hired from guesthouses and travel agents in the town.

31. Koh Phangan 

  • Location: South Thailand (East Coast)
  • Visit for – Moon parties, yoga, spirituality.
Full-Moon-Party Koh Phangan, Thailand
Full-Moon-Party Koh Phangan, Thailand

The island of Koh Phangan lures thousands of backpackers each month to experience the most famous beach party in the world – the Full Moon Party. (These days, there’s also the Half Moon Party, Black Moon Party, Blue Moon and Pirate Moon Party!) However, parties aren’t the only thing the island is renowned for.

Recently, a rather controversial new-age community of yogis and hippies has sprung up on the West coast of the island bringing tantra, reiki, ecstatic dance and a whole host of other new age therapies that attract spiritual seekers in their droves. Although busier and more developed year on year, Koh Phangan is still home to beautiful beaches, jungle-clad scenery and crystal clear waters. 

32. Koh Tao

  • Location: South Thailand (East Coast)
  • Visit for – Diving, snorkelling and chilled nightlife.
Diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

The turtle shaped island of Koh Tao is the most popular (cheapest) place for backpackers to get certified to dive in Thailand. There are almost 100 dive schools located on this tiny island, so if you’re planning to learn to dive whilst in Koh Tao, be sure to read our beginners’ guide to diving in Koh Tao here. Along with the diving scene, Koh Tao also offers a lively nightlife, a variety of restaurants and cafes, some beautiful beaches and great snorkeling.

Tip: Be sure to take a day trip to the beautiful Ang Thong Marine Park while you’re in the area.

33. Khanom

  • Location: South Thailand (East Coast)
  • Visit for – Pink dolphins, empty beaches and mangrove forests.
The view across the water at Khanom
Khanom is home to pink dolphins.

Located on the mainland, Khanom is a hidden gem that’s overlooked by most travellers in favour of the more popular Gulf Islands. However, those who stop here a while will be rewarded with empty beaches, mangrove forests, waterfalls, beautiful landscapes and the unusual opportunity to spot pink dolphins! In recent years, the small fishing town has become home to a burgeoning expat scene who enjoy the less crowded beaches and local vibes of the area. Don’t tell them we sent you!

34. Khao Sok National Park

  • Location: South Thailand (Central)
  • Visit for – Jungle treks, floating bungalows, nature walks, wildlife.
Cheow Larn Lake, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
Cheow Larn Lake, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

In between the skinny strip of land that separates the two coastlines of Thailand you’ll find beautiful Khao Sok National Park, one of the oldest rainforests in the world. The park is home to many wild beasts such as the Malayan Tapir, the Asian Elephant, Sambar Deer, Wild Boar, Pig-Tailed Macaque, White Handed Gibbon and even bears and tigers! It’s possible to go trekking in the park, guided or unguided, and many backpackers choose to spend the night in a floating bungalow on Cheow Larn Lake, a one-in-a-lifetime experience that brings you right to the heart of nature. 

6 Places to Avoid in Thailand

1. Khao San Road, Bangkok

Men's T-shirts for sale on Khao San Road
Khao San Road is like Marmite! Some love it, some hate it!

Bangkok’s backpacker ghetto of Khao San Road was voted the 9th worst place in Southeast Asia in our recent Readers Poll. Tacky, loud, dirty and seedy. Yet despite its brashness, there’s no denying that the area has a lot of things going for it for travellers; cheap food, cheap accommodation and cheap Thai massage! While we would recommend you located yourself in a different Bangkok neighbourhood, the street is worth walking down – just once in your life! Read our article on why one traveller loves the Khao San Road here.

2. Koh Phi Phi

Maya Bay Koh Phi Phi set to close April 2018
Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand.

Once a huge hit with young backpackers, Koh Phi Phi has recently become an island that many travellers are choosing to avoid due to the over-development of its undoubtedly beautiful landscapes (not to mention the price of its hotels!). The famous Maya Bay (AKA The Beach) was closed during the summer of 2018 to protect it from further damage to the fragile coastal environment. Once a true idyllic paradise, now a backpacker party zone with a huge waste disposal problem, unfortunately, Koh Phi Phi is what many people consider a ‘Paradise Lost’.

Read more: 7 Places in Southeast Asia Ruined by Overtourism.

3. Phuket

Nightlife in Patong, Phuket
Phuket isn’t popular with our readers!

Thailand’s largest island and its oldest in terms of tourism, Phuket is covered in fancy hotels, restaurants and tacky bars. Most of the island’s coast has been over-developed and the island’s culture has been obliterated everywhere apart from Phuket Town, which is a diamond in the rough. Phuket was voted 4th worst place in Southeast Asia in our Readers Poll.

4. Koh Samui

A man walks along a pier on Koh Samui
Koh Samui on a cloudy day.

Also making our list of worst places in Southeast Asia (13th place), the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand is definitely my least favourite island out of the three (Samui, Tao, Phangan). It’s a popular stag party place and is full of retired men with their Thai wives, a tacky bar scene and over-priced accommodation, especially in the island’s party hotspot of Chaweng. Having said that, the island is a great place if you want to do a health or fitness retreat or a Muay Thai boxing course.

5. Pattaya

Most backpackers avoid Pattaya.

Taking tacky and seedy to a whole new level, most backpackers don’t even bother with Pattaya, the home of Thailand’s sex industry. For an eye-opening experience, take a stroll down Walking Street during the evening to see old white men out on the prowl.

6. Hua Hin

While Hua Hin is celebrated for its sophisticated personality (think golf, horse riding and posh restaurants), we seriously wouldn’t recommend it to budget travellers. Expensive, tacky restaurants, it has the air of a seedy retirement town complete with gangs of old men looking for a happy ending.

What’s your favourite place in Thailand? Or where do you recommend new travellers avoid? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nikki Scott - Founder South East Asia Backpacker
Nikki Scott | Founder & Editor

Nikki is the founding editor of South East Asia Backpacker and The Backpacker Network. In her early twenties, she left her home in the North of England on a solo backpacking adventure and never returned! After six months on the road, she founded a print magazine that became legendary on the Banana Pancake Trail. The rest is history.

Find me: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

3 thoughts on “34 Amazing Places to Visit in Thailand & 6 to Avoid!”

  1. What a fantastic list and several thoughts I had have been confirmed about certain areas! We’re off to Khao Lak next week, thank goodness that made it onto the good list! Phew!

  2. Hi Nikki,
    You did it again! Amazing article, as always. Keep them coming. How are you? Hope to see you again one day. Take care.


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