There’s so much to see and do in Thailand, but we’ve narrowed it down to the best of the best. Check out our Top 10 Thailand Experiences, showing everything from temples, to scuba diving, to epic motorbike rides, to the wild nightlife of Bangkok.
Thailand is an incredible country to visit, offering something for every type of traveler. Whether you’re looking for sun and sand, adventure, culture, or just a good time, you can find it in the Kingdom of Smiles. For me, Thailand will always hold a special place in my heart – it was the first country I truly went backpacking in, and my first experience with Southeast Asia. Since then, I’ve spent many months exploring this wonderful country and its neighbors. Having traversed the country, from the southern border with Malaysia to taking the slow boat along the Mekong River into Laos, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had countless life-changing travel experiences in Thailand. It’s too hard to rank them, but I’ve managed to whittle the list down to ten of the best. Here they are in no particular order:
There’s just something magical about the temples of Bangkok. From the massive reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, to the stunning views of the Chao Phraya River and the city from atop Wat Arun, to the sparkling beauty of Wat Phra Kaew and the Emerald Buddha that it houses, Bangkok’s temples should be atop every traveler’s list. While you probably won’t be able to visit all 400, you should at least check out these five:
Jungle Trekking in Chiang Mai
Known as Thailand’s 2nd city, Chiang Mai offers tons of adventures – zip-lining, white water rafting, mountain biking, and so much more. Those really seeking to get out there and experience nature should sign up for a multi-day trek through the jungle. Staying in simple village huts, jumping into waterfalls, and getting up close and personal with elephants, this is an experience you’ll be talking about for years to come.
Diving Ko Tao
Ko Tao (Turtle Island) in Thailand kicks out some of the most scuba certifications in the world every year. There are tons of shops to choose from, courses are cheap, dive sites are abundant, and there’s plenty to keep you occupied on land in between dives. See what it’s like getting scuba certified on Ko Tao in this short video:
Ruins at Sukhothai/Ayutthaya
History and culture buffs shouldn’t leave Thailand without at least visiting one of the ancient capitals to explore the ruins. Ayutthaya is a short train ride away from Bangkok and is easily doable as a day-trip. Sukhothai is a bit further away, but makes for a great stop in between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Cruise around on a bicycle or in a tuk-tuk and take in the scenery of former Thai kingdoms.
Mae Hong Son Loop
Riding the 1,864 curves of the Mae Hong Son Loop in Northern Thailand is an adventure like no other. Starting and ending in Chiang Mai, you’ll reach the highest point in the country, drive through national parks, explore caves, waterfalls, remote villages, and so much more. You’ll also pass through Pai, a little hippie mecca and one of my personal favorite places in the country.
Partying on Ko Pha Ngan
For backpackers making their way across the famed Banana Pancake Trail of SE Asia, there are a few essential stops – sunrise at Angkor Wat, tubing in Vang Vieng, and of course, the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan. Every month, 30,000+ people descend on Haad Rin Beach to dance the night away under the glow of the full moon. There’s more to the island’s nightlife than just the lunar bash, though – try the Jungle Experience or the Waterfall Party for a totally different vibe.
Exploring Ko Tarutao
Once a prison, Ko Tarutao is now a national park and the perfect place for travelers seeking an island free of bucket-schwilling backpackers and Chinese tour groups. Save for a few simple bungalows and one restaurant, there has been no development on this island – no knick-knack shops, no bars, and believe it or not, no 7-11s. Rent a bike and head off to explore this rugged and beautiful island, or hire a boat to cruise you through the mangroves.
Black & White in Chiang Rai
Outside the northern city of Chiang Rai, you can experience two very contrasting artists’ visions by paying a visit to the White Temple and the Black House. Dubbed the “Heaven and Hell of Architecture,” one seems like something out of a dream, while the other more closely resembles your nightmares. Unlike anything you’ve ever seen, these two ongoing projects make for a fascinating day-trip in Chiang Rai.
Chillin’ in Ton Sai
With towering karst peaks and crystal clear waters, southern Thailand’s Krabi province just might be the most beautiful part of the country. There are plenty of options for traveling in this area, from the popular beach town of Ao Nang to the famous Phi Phi Islands. Of all the options here, though, my favorite is definitely Ton Sai. Accessible only by boat, this tiny village is home to world-class rock climbing, simple backpacker bungalows, and a handful of chilled out bars that’ll make you never want to leave.
The nightlife of Bangkok is the stuff of legends. There are Happy Hour cocktails at rooftop bars with amazing views of the city. Cheap booze, weird street food, and a wild dance party can be found nightly on Khao San Road. Expats and in-the-know travelers catch an early buzz on Soi 11 at Cheap Charlie’s. Bands and DJs turn it up to 11 in the city’s countless clubs. And, of course, there are ping pong shows and dancing ladyboys vying for the attention (and Baht) of sexpats in the go-go bar areas of Patpong and Nana Plaza.
It’s hard to believe that all of those things can be done in one country, but it’s true. If you’ve been to Thailand, we’d love to hear what your favorite experiences were – leave us a comment below!