Thailand has it all – it is Asia in miniature. Well, maybe not exactly miniature: its 198,120 square miles are full of history, temples, beaches, jungles, delicious cuisine and, most importantly, a fun and friendly vibe. It makes for the most diverse holiday you’re ever likely to take. Experience the best of it with our tried and tested things to do in Thailand.
Bangkok is renowned for its heady freneticism, but that’s a big part of its exotic charm. After all, there aren’t many places where you can find vibrant night life amid ornate shrines, decadent temples and the winding canal network of the Chao Phraya River. The food is an eclectic mix of humble street food and gourmet cuisine too, while luxury malls vie for sales against independent boutiques and traditional floating markets.
How to do it: The best way to experience Bangkok is to get immersed in the bedlam: take a tuk-tuk tour through the crowds, sample exotic local dishes at the markets and take in as many temples and monuments as you can – the giant reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is not to be missed. For the best of Bangkok, and to experience Thailand beyond the bright lights of the capital, try our Bangkok, Jungle & Beach itinerary.
Laze on Koh Samui's beaches
If you’ve ever tried to conjure up images of white silica, fringed by swaying palms, chances are what you’re picturing is something from the east-coast isle of Koh Samui. Its sands – which meander along its Gulf of Thailand coastline for nine miles – are some of the most famous in the world, celebrated for their peace, relaxation and, in some places, wild beach parties.
How to do it: Koh Samui has plenty of beaches to choose from: surfers will delight at Chaweng, the sunsets are perfect at Lipa Noi, and peace and tranquillity exudes from Maenam. For real beach relaxation, try one of our Escape beach holidays to Kamalaya – a decadent spa resort set on postcard-perfect sands.
Meet an elephant in Khao Sok National Park
Framed by ancient rainforest and lofty limestone mountains, it’s no surprise that Khao Sok National Park is said to contain more than 5% of the world’s species, from the tiger to the sambar deer to white-handed gibbons. The endangered Asian elephant is perhaps its most famous resident though, and there are plenty of extraordinary opportunities to get up-close.
How to do it: On our Bangkok, Beach & Elephants itinerary you’ll enjoy a two night stay in the ethically-conscious Elephant Hills, where you’ll get to interact with elephants in their natural jungle setting.
Island-hop from Phuket
Phuket is incredible all on its own. There are the vast swathes of bleached sand, the dramatic limestone karsts and the colourful longtail boats that feature on all the postcards. But it’s not the only incredible landmass in south-west Thailand. Phuket is a great jumping off point for several other islands, from Phi Phi to Krabi to Koh Lanta.
How to do it: Our Island Explorer itinerary gives you four nights in Phuket, four nights on Phi Phi Island, three nights in Krabi and four nights in Koh Lanta – plenty of time to explore each isle’s snorkelling, kayaking and beach-lazing offering.
Visit a local village like Mae Kampong
Local villages and hill tribes showcase Thailand at its most authentic – taking you back to a time before the tourists descended and to a place where the country’s rich culture is at its brightest. The tiny mountain village of Mae Kampong is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai and offers delicious local coffee and an abundance of mêeang (pickled tea leaves).
How to do it: Our Temples, Palaces & Villages itinerary visits Mae Kampong, where you’ll learn about village life, trek to a waterfall and finish off the day with a delicious feast and homestay with a local family.
Go off the beaten track
Thailand tourism may be booming right now, but there are still some hidden gems to be discovered, especially when it comes to the country’s islands and beaches. Look beyond Phuket and you’ll find off-beat locations like eastern Koh Samet, south-eastern Koh Phangan and western Koh Yao Yai, ripe for discovering 2,000-year-old artwork, snorkelling in warm, teeming waters, trekking to secret waterfalls and getting your PADI.
How to do it: If all of the above sounds like you, our Undiscovered Islands itinerary fits the bill. Starting in Bangkok, it goes on to explore all of these regions, with four blissful nights in each secluded spot.
Book a Thai massage
There’s a reason Thai massages are so well-known around the world: they’re pretty amazing. In fact, for those seeking sublime relaxation, there’s nothing better. Tapping into Ayurvedic principles and acupressure, this traditional massage technique compresses, stretches and rocks the body to relieve aching muscles and leave you feeling completely stress-free.
How to do it: Many of our Thailand beach holidays take place in resorts that offer incredible Thai massages – the Six Senses Yao Noi is particularly impressive. For the ultimate luxury spa experience, opt for the Spa Pool Villa at the Banyan Tree Phuket, where your suite has a dedicated spa room surrounded by dramatic glass walls.
For more ideas on what to see and do in Thailand, see our Thailand holiday itineraries.