Ah, Thailand - the fabled Land of Smiles. This corner of Southeast Asia is a traveler's favorite for a whole load of reasons. It’s got mystical Buddhist temples, cotton-white beaches that slope into turquoise seas, and soy-sizzling street food markets where you’ll taste the best darn noodles you ever had.

This guide is a 101 to the best places to visit in Thailand. It ranges from the UNESCO-tagged town of Chiang Mai in the north, through the mist-gathering Tenasserim Hills along the Burmese border, through electrifying Bangkok, and down to the islands of the Andaman. It brims with oodles of travel inspo for everyone from partiers to relaxation lovers, culture buffs to families. Let’s begin…

When to Visit Thailand

It’s no secret that most people come to Thailand to chase the sun. That makes the dry season that runs between November and April the peak season. It’s the best for exploring the sparkling sands of the Andaman islands, though you should hold off until after Christmas if you’re keen to hit the Gulf isles - Koh Samui, Koh Phangan. They tend to have a mini rainy season in December but go full sunbathing mode after the holidays.

Up north, things are cooler all around and there’s a slightly longer dry season that lasts from November to around May. Watch out for the so-called burning season in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. It occurs in February and March when local farmers come out to burn their crops after the annual harvest. It can cloud up the skies and make everything smell smoky. Not ideal.

Who Should Visit Thailand?

Thailand cut its teeth as a backpacker destination extraordinaire. The first hippies came in the 1960s and they never really stopped coming. Then you had films like The Beach, which solidified the country’s place on the Banana Pancake Trail - the classic budget traveler route through Asia. That crowd is still very well catered for, particularly in party destinations like Koh Phangan and the Phi Phis.

However, Thailand is about much, much more than Full Moon shindigs. It’s got something for all sorts. Families are sure to enjoy the chill vibes of islands like Koh Lanta and Koh Chang. There are the likes of Phuket for the luxury seekers who want ocean-side villas with infinity pools. Then - of course - there’s the stacks of history and the enthralling Buddhist heritage, which culture buffs can unearth in Bangkok, Sukhothai, Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya and beyond.

25 of the Top Destinations to Visit in Thailand

Here’s the good part. From the bamboo bars of Koh Lipe to the jungle-shrouded villages of Chiang Mai, our list of the 25 top destinations in Thailand covers the creme-de-la-creme of the legendary Land of Smiles. 


Photo Credit: Jakob Owens

Location: Central Thailand

Best time to visit: November and December

A bucket-list metropolis and the most-visited city on the planet, Bangkok is one you’ll never forget. Hit Khaosan Road to party with the backpackers in gritty beer bars. Visit Chatuchak to shop through the biggest bazaar in Southeast Asia. Wonder at the gold-tipped stupas and reclining Buddha statues of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. It’s endless!

Koh Lanta

Photo Credit: Sua Truong

Location: Andaman Sea

Best time to visit: Dry season, from November to March

Koh Lanta has it all. The long, dogleg of an island curves down the Andaman Sea in a show of gleaming yellow-sand beaches. There’s a town here to suit just about every type of traveler. Romantic types can hit Kantiang for sugar-soft sands and lux hotels. Partiers should go to Khlong Kong for all-night beach raves. Those looking to chill can try Long Beach.

Chiang Mai

Photo Credit: Peter Borter

Location: Northern Thailand

Best time to visit: November to December. Try to avoid February as it’s the start of the burning season

Chiang Mai was once the heart of the Lanna Kingdom. It’s on the cusp of the mountains in Northern Thailand, hemmed in by national parks and temple-topped peaks. The Old Quarter is the main draw here. It’s an enchanting mosaic of timber-built homes that date back 500 years or more. The Night Bazaar happens near the southern gate; a cacophony of electronics stores and vintage clothing outlets that goes on until past midnight.

Koh Phi Phi

Photo Credit: Jonny Clow Ju

Location: The Andaman Sea

Best time to visit: Between November and March

You’ve probably already seen Koh Phi Phi on postcards of Thailand or somewhere in the travel brochures. It’s pure drama from start to finish, lurching from the central Andaman Sea with vine-strewn karst cliffs. The main island is Phi Phi Don, now something of a party mecca with fire shows on the beach. Be sure to boat out to smaller Phi Phi Leh, which has idyllic lagoons filled with coral gardens and sharks.

Koh Samui

Photo Credit: Yavor Punchev

Location: Thai Gulf

Best time to visit: January to March

Just a mention of the name Koh Samui is usually enough to conjure images of perfect beaches flanked by granite boulders and seas of gleaming sky blue. That’s right on the mark, since this island is the original vacation mecca of the gulf region. The most popular areas are Chaweng on the east coast and Bo Phut on the north coast.

Koh Phangan

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Gottwald

Location: Thai Gulf

Best time to visit: January to March

Koh Phangan forged its reputation on the hedonistic Full Moon Parties that still happen on the beach of Haad Rin down south. You can go there for a night of boozing on the sands but then be sure to head north to the uber-calm enclaves of Haad Salad and Haad Yao, which are more about morning yoga classes and jungle treks than bucket cocktails. 


Photo Credit: Ronny Sison

Location: Northern Thailand

Best time to visit: November-January

Time slows as you weave up the winding roadway from Chiang Mai to Pai. This hidden mountain town is a hippy hub in the northern hills. It’s set on the babbling Pai River, has shops selling healing crystals and whatnot, and comes dotted with soothing hot springs. Choose here to escape the Rat Race.


Photo Credit: Tom Sakir

Location: Central Thailand, west of Bangkok

Best time to visit: October to November

The river town of Kanchanaburi can be reached on a wonderful historic railway line from Bangkok. It’s the gateway to the Erawan National Park, a hidden Shangri-La in the jungles with a seven-tier waterfall where you can swim. It’s also steeped in WWII history and has sobering exhibits that showcase the plight of POWs in Southeast Asia. 


Photo Credit: Aaron Thomas

Location: Central Thailand

Best time to visit: November to January

The one-time capital of the Kingdom of Siam is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to some of the most ancient temples and palace complexes in the country. You can spend a whole day cycling around them to discover the amazing stupas of Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Wat Phra Si Sanphet.

Koh Tao

Photo Credit: Darren Lawrence

Location: Thai Gulf

Best time to visit: January to April

The smallest of the three main islands in the Thai Gulf, Koh Tao is famed all around the world for its stunning coral reef systems. Today, it’s a scuba mecca to rival the Maldives, with more diving clubs than you can shake your pad Thai at. If you prefer to stay dry, then look forward to soaking up the rays on idyllic beaches like Mango Bay and Nangyuan Island Beach.


Photo Credit: The DK Photography

Location: Andaman Sea.

Best time to visit: November-March.

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and a veritable mecca for sun seekers and good-time holidayers. The west coast is where you want to be. It’s peppered with buzzy resort towns like Patong, but also has luxury enclaves like Nai Harn and Kata Beach. Be sure to take some time to dip into Phuket Town, which has colorful Chinese-style houses and a fantastic night market.


Photo Credit: Attapon Chootuan

Location: Northern Thailand

Best time to visit: Between November and February

Sukhothai is home to some of the most fascinating ancient relics in the Land of Smiles. The town - now largely in ruins - was the epicenter of the Sukhothai Kingdom, which ruled much of Southeast Asia throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. These days, the former royal capital has stirring temples like Wat Si Chum and others. 

Koh Jum

Photo Credit: Paul Szewczyk

Location: Andaman Sea

Best time to visit: November-March

Koh Jum remains one of the best-kept secrets of the Andaman Sea. A bijou island that’s still almost completely undeveloped, it has but a few small hotels and resorts clinging to a pretty western coast. The main town is a ramshackle array of fishing cottages inhabited by Thai sea gypsies. It’s all very authentic; very relaxing.

Khao Sok National Park

Photo Credit: Marcin Kalinski

Location: Southern Thailand

Best time to visit: November-March

Imagine kayaking over a mirror-like lake between serrated ranges of karst mountains and dashes of thick rainforests. That’s on offer at the Khao Sok National Park, which has risen to become one of the major adventure-travel destinations in Thailand. Try to spend a night in one of the overwater bungalows here for a true escape to nature.


Photo Credit: Dario Bronniman

Location: Andaman, South Thailand

Best time to visit: Dry season between November and March

Krabi Town is often seen as the gateway to the Andaman region. It’s true that seriously stunning islands await only a boat ride away - Koh Jum, Koh Lanta. But take some time here to enjoy the night markets by the pier and explore the resort of Ao Nang, which has rollicking night bazaars and oodles of shopping.

Koh Lipe

Photo Credit: Milos Prelevic

Location: South Thailand, Andaman Sea

Best time to visit: November to March

Ask anyone who’s been to Koh Lipe and they’ll probably say that the very best beaches in the whole wide world await on this isle. Part of the protected Tarutao National Marine Park, it’s swathed in coral reefs and beaches of pure alabaster white. 

Khao Lak

Photo Credit: Erik Karits

Location: Andaman 

Best time to visit: Dry season between November and March.

The 2004 tsunami hit Khao Lak pretty hard but the whole region has recovered well and there’s now a fantastic array of family-friendly resorts stringing its sands. Talking of those sands, they’re pure paradise stuff. They run from Coconut Beach in the north to Khao Lak Beach in the south, are super clean, and backed by runs of palms.


Photo Credit: Robin Noguier

Location: Krabi, Andaman Sea

Best time to visit: Dry season between November and March

Railey is a beach that’s tucked behind a wall of karst mountains at the end of Krabi Province. You’ll gasp as you purr around in the longtail boat to reveal a sliver of daffodil-tinged sand looked over by mighty turrets of stone. Look closer - they are often covered in daring rock climbers trying to conquer the top. 

Khao Yai National Park

Photo Credit: Nat Weerawong

Location: Central Thailand

Best time to visit: The Thai dry season, between November and March

Khao Yai National Park was established way back in 1962 as Thailand’s first ever official national park. It’s since been thrust into the limelight after the waterfall at Haew Suwat featured in the Hollywood cult flick The Beach. It’s also a mecca for birdwatchers and safari goers. 

Chiang Rai

Photo Credit: Peter Borter

Location: Northern Thailand

Best time to visit: October-February, to avoid the burning season

The city of Chiang Rai is an enigmatic destination that fuses the cultural wealth of Northern Thailand with adventures in the wild hills and jungles. The eye-watering White Temple usually steals the show - it’s one of the most photographed religious sites in Thailand. After that, venture out to the Golden Triangle to gaze at Burma and Loas, or launch longboat expeditions down the Mekong River.

Koh Chang

Photo Credit: Sua Truong

Location: Thai Gulf

Best time to visit: November-March, but consider skipping December, which is a mini wet season.

Koh Chang has just about everything you might want from a Thai island. It’s essentially one ridge of verdant mountains that slopes straight into the Thai Gulf. The western coast is dotted with sands that bear names like Pearl Beach and Lonely Beach - monikers that are well deserved. Overall, it’s a super-chill place where sunset beers and snorkeling sessions are the order of the day.

Koh Mook

Photo Credit: Pierrick Lemaret

Location: Andaman Sea

Best time to visit: November-March

Shh! Koh Mook is one of the secret islands of the Andaman region. It’s a rugged rock tufted in palm jungles with a chalk-white beachfront on one side. The other side of the island, which you can reach by hiking some wild forest trails, reveals soaring karst cliffs and the Emerald Cave - a paradise beach that’s set inside a deep cavern.

Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park

Photo Credit: Bloodua

Location: Thai Gulf

Best time to visit: The dry season (November-March), but dodge the mini dry season in December.

Made up of 42 islands and 102 square kilometers of coral reefs and mangroves in the midst of the Thai Gulf, the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park is a truly amazing place to explore. Come with the snorkels in tow to see parrotfish and brain sponges beneath the water. Go kayaking to find hidden beaches of wispy white and caves filled with hawksbill sea turtles.


Photo Credit: gnomeandi

Location: Lopburi province, Central Thailand

Best time to visit: January to February

Infamously taken over by a clan of cheeky crab-eating macaques, Lopburi is known as the city of monkeys. There’s an amazing ancient Buddhist temple complex where you can watch the creatures climbing the stupas, plus some enthralling urban food markets.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

Location: Chonburi province, eastern Thailand.

Best time to visit: The dry season - November to March.

Part party town, part family resort, Pattaya has grown into one of Thailand’s biggest sun and sand destinations since it was first discovered in the 60s. Today, you can party in the go-go bars of Walking Street or head to Jomtien Beach for stylish hotels on the edge of the Thai Gulf.

Thailand: From sun-splashed beaches to temple-topped mountains

This guide has hopped from the jungle-covered mountains that rise on the northern fringes of Thailand all the way to the turtle-swimming coral reefs of the far south. Along the way, we passed through all-night food bazaars in Bangkok and jaw-dropping temple complexes in the ancient capitals of old Siam, offering inspiration for a whole host of different travelers. 


How many days in Thailand is enough?

You could spend months on end in Thailand but we’d say around three or four weeks is the perfect length of a trip. That should give you just enough time to fit in the urban energy of the cities, the paradise beaches of the Andaman or the Thai Gulf, and the culture-rich north.

What is the best time of year to visit Thailand?

That all depends on what you’re after. The south of Thailand is probably the most popular region to visit. That’s where you’ll find the famous islands and beaches. The northern and central parts of the country, meanwhile, have more in the way of culture and history.

What is the best time of year to visit Thailand?

The peak season in Thailand runs from November to March, roughly in line with the main dry season. That’s generally the best time to visit because it means less rain and more sunny days without monsoon downpours.

Food + Travel
A catalyst for the people and places of travel.