With Thailand proving difficult to enter throughout most of the pandemic, travelers would be forgiven for forgetting what made it such a top spot in the first place. Whether for its bustling cities and markets to unrivaled beach and mountain getaways, Thailand is truly a must-visit destination in every sense of the phrase. Now that it’s even easier to visit, here’s a reminder of what Thailand has to offer – these are the top 5 places you should visit this year.
Where better to start than the country’s capital and the world’s most visited destination in 2019?
Bangkok is a city of juxtapositions, where tradition meets modernity, rich meets poor and East meets West. From nights on the top floor sipping fancy cocktails to panoramic views, to scuttling around some of the country’s biggest and best markets, Bangkok caters to all tastes and all kinds – and there’s so much more to see than just Khao San Road. Michelin Star-quality food is equally likely to be found on the street as it is inside a lavish restaurant, and the city’s various malls provide an almost unrivaled shopping experience.
If premium malls and luxury experiences aren’t your thing, Bangkok has an endless supply of natural spaces and cultural experiences to drink in. Walks around Lumphini Park are the perfect antidote to an overdose of over-development, whilst cycles around Bang Krachao – Bangkok’s Green Lung – open doors to a side of the city few go on to explore. Jaw-dropping temples such as Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Royal Palace never cease to amaze, whilst the awe-inspiring Ayutthaya Historical Park is just a short drive north of the city.
Those heading up north for mountains and elephants might just find themselves surprised when they touch down in Chiang Mai. Whilst the city has the two in abundance, it also has so much more. Home to a noticeably young and trendy crowd, Chiang Mai – which is easily accessible by flights from Bangkok and other airports in the country – is every bit a city as it is the gateway to the countryside. Chiang Mai’s cooler climate makes exploring the city a pleasure, with hip coffee houses nestled between its sprawling streets and boutiques and malls in abundance.
However, just a short journey out of the city leads you to another world. The rolling hills, mystical mountains, and traditional temples that can be found in Chiang Mai are among its major attractions, and its world-famous elephant sanctuaries provide travelers with memories that don’t infringe upon morals. Perfect for nature lovers, the jungles and waterfalls of Chiang Mai make for a pleasant change to Thailand’s much-vaunted beaches and are some of the country’s most amazing features.
Thailand’s south is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches – and several of them are located in Phuket. Thailand’s largest island, reachable through its international airport, overland, or via boat, Phuket is home to plenty of coves, beaches, and bays that capture sunsets and hearts in equal measure. Patong Beach is home to the island’s most famous – or infamous – nightlife, with nights out on Bangla Road the type you don’t forget in a hurry, but more wholesome experiences can be found across the island, in parts such as Kathu, Kata, and Nai Harn. Phuket is truly what you make of it, with all kinds of travelers and experiences catered for, and is worth its place on any traveler’s bucket list.
Phuket’s easterly neighbor, Krabi province has long since been a favorite of travelers to the Land of Smiles. Despite being wildly popular, Krabi has avoided the kind of rampant over-development that critics of Phuket complain about, and has retained all of its charms. Home to some of the country’s top beaches, travelers never cease to be wowed by beaches such as Klong Muang, Ao Nang, and Tub Kaek – and those are just the beaches on the mainland.
The peninsula of Railay – accessible only by boat due to being cut off by the types of towering limestone cliffs that are atypical across the province – is arguably home to the country’s best beaches, whilst islands such as Koh Phi Phi have helped put the province on the map for decades. You won’t find sprawling malls here, but there are enough climbing, trekking, and kayaking activities to keep even the most active of travelers busy for weeks. Krabi’s airport is well served by others in Thailand, and trips to Railay and Phi Phi are easy to source when in the province.
Located on the opposite coast to Phuket and Krabi, Koh Samui – and its sister islands Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan – is an unskippable destination for many travelers.
The three islands each have their own vibe that helps to set them apart from some of the country’s other hotspots. Whilst Koh Samui offers more of a city atmosphere akin to Phuket, Koh Pha Ngan is home to several wellness resorts, a laid-back vibe, and the notorious Full Moon Party. Koh Tao, the smallest of the three, is a great starting point for some of the country’s best diving spots. Koh Samui has its own airport, but the island is also reachable via ferry from the port in Surat Thani.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com