Thailand is a collage of animated scenes that comprise bustling modern cities crowded with motorbikes and tuk-tuks, Buddhist temples tended by orange-robed monks, hill tribes selling handicrafts, lush landscapes dotted with traditional farming villages, ancient ruins and stunning coastlines peppered with gorgeous beaches and blue lagoons. Such a captivating portrait explains why Thailand is Southeast Asia’s most popular travel destination. This overview of the best places to visit in Thailand shows where to find the cultural, historic and natural attractions. For an insight into Thailand’s most popular islands & beaches see also this island list.
The northernmost city in Thailand, Chiang Rai serves as the main commercial hub of the Golden Triangle, which contains the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. A busy town offering something for everyone, Chiang Rai is often used as a base for exploring the surrounding region. The town itself is quiet during the day when most of its package tourists are out on day trips, but at night the neon lights flash on and souvenir stalls and restaurants spring into action.
Once just a quiet village in northern Thailand, Pai is now a booming town that is part of the Mae Hong Son Loop stretching between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. Noted for its picturesque valley and relaxed atmosphere, Pai is a favored destination among backpackers and tourists wishing to explore the region. With Pai’s location in the foothills of the mountains, there are several options for trekking and visiting hill tribes. Also just outside the city are elephant camps, hot springs, and beautiful waterfalls. Additionally, the Pai River offers tubing and whitewater adventures.
Sitting on an extinct volcano in northeastern Thailand, Phanom Rung is a Hindu shrine complex regarded for its outstanding architecture. Located near the village of Nang Rong, this temple sanctuary was built by the Khmer culture between the 10th and 13th centuries as a dedication to the Hindu god, Shiva. Constructed of sandstone and laterite, Phanom Rung was built to represent Mount Kailash, the sacred home of Shiva. The complex faces east, and four times a year the sun shines through all 15 sanctuary doorways. During these events, the park extends its hours, and locals celebrate the Phanom Rung Festival around the April alignment, with ancient Brahmin ceremonies and modern sound-and-light shows.