Whether you’re starting to plan to travel Thailand or are already there, there are several places in Thailand that you should not miss. I have compiled a list of 12 must-visit places, and this list has become so epic, because I have joined forces with a number of travel bloggers who share their favourite spot to visit. This means that you will not only hear from me, but others in the industry who share their experiences traveling in this beautiful country.
Our post is extensive so it has been split into 2 parts. Our first post focuses on places to travel in northern and central Thailand, and our second post focuses on travel in the south of Thailand.
So as you plan to travel Thailand, here is our list of places that you must visit in the north and central part of the country.
Table of Contents
Lauren & Ben from Television of Nomads picks Chiang Mai
Otherwise known as “the rose of the north,” Chiang Mai is a peaceful sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. For those seeking relaxation, the walled historic center of Chiang Mai’s Old Towns charms travelers with dozens of temples, markets, and street food galore. For those seeking adventure, Chiang Mai is the perfect starting off point for jungle trekking with bamboo rafting and hill-tribe homestays.
While the old city center is bustling with backpacker rooftop bars and family-friendly day excursions, it’s also very easy to escape the tourist areas and discover a more authentic local Thai flavor. A quick journey out of the city center will take you to rolling foothills and lush greenery (and waterfalls, if you know where to look!). It’s also where you’ll find some of the best temples, such as the monumental Wat Doi Suthep soaring 1,073 meters in the sky, or the sprawling and somewhat hidden Wat Umong nestled away in the back roads.
From the comfortable and calming to the exciting and exotic, Chiang Mai is the perfect getaway for any traveler!
Rabeang Palak Treehouse
Sarah from Blonde Moments picks The Rabeang Palak Treehouse
Have you ever thought of spending a few days in a treehouse? I have, and a dream came true when I stayed at the Rabeang Palak Treehouse Resort – located in a very small village 70 kilometers in the north-east of Chiang Mai. The resort actually offers a shuttle service, but I would really recommend going there by scooter. There are so many things to explore on your way there, but also once you get to the resort itself. It is just so nice to be so close to nature. With minimal electricity and no internet – you will have time for yourself to relax & rejuvenate.
Barbara from Jet Settera picks Pai
Pai is a charming mountain village in the North of Thailand about 3 hours away from Chiang Mai. I took a mini van to reach Pia, the road was very winding so I would not recommend the journey to people with a sensitive stomach. The trip was really scenic.
Once I arrived to Pai, I was so astonished by the beautiful scenery of the surrounding mountains, that I quickly forgot about the pain it took to reach the village. In Pai I rented a beautiful bungalow on the river. The village was a really wonderful place to relax and recharge. There were lots of health food restaurants and yoga places. It is the kind of place that tourists visit to disconnect from the real world.
There was a street market on the main street every night where I could buy all sorts of souvenirs and local food for dinner. I also rented a motorbike to explore the mountains and the nearby villages. Biking through the mountains allowed me to interact with the locals and see their lives. I saw beautiful waterfalls, elephants, hot springs and the jungle.
Pai was a very memorable place and certainly the highlight of my trip to Northern-Thailand.
Yours Truly, Raya, picks Nan
Located in the far north of Thailand, the province of Nan is for the traveler who enjoys cultural history with a splash of lush nature and mountainous ranges, minus the mass tourism. It is only about a 1-hour flight from Bangkok, and airlines such as Air Asia offers 4 flights daily making it easy to reach Nan. Plus, Nan provides easy access to Laos, as it is a 150 km drive from the city centre of Nan province and it is a beautiful scenic drive.
Before the 20th Century, Nan was actually its own independent Kingdom, one of the last kingdoms to be officially incorporated into Siam. And when you visit Nan, you’ll see its history through a beautiful showcase of temples, and art.
Ban Rak Thai
Andrea from Andi on Adventure picks Ban Rak Thai
Many tourists flock to Chiang Mai or Pai in northern Thailand. But travel beyond Pai to the Myanmar border and you’ll run into the small Chinese village of Ban Rak Thai (aka Mae Aw).
This quaint village is made up of descendants of Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) soldiers who fled from Communist rule in 1949 into the jungles of Myanmar. In the early 1960s, when the Chinese forces invaded Myanmar in an attempt to crush the KMT, the soldiers fled south into Thailand and settled on the border. The Thai government allowed them to stay with the agreement they would protect the Thai border from Communist threats.
They settled the village along a beautiful lake with scenic mountain views into Myanmar. Small Chinese tea houses and restaurants line the lake, along with some very basic overnight accommodations.
Getting there is not easy but well worth the effort. Rent a scooter from Pai and cruise through mountains toward Soppong. About an hour past Soppong, look for signs to Fish Cave – Ban Rak Thai is the next right turn. The road winds high into the mountains and drops down into the beautiful, undiscovered gem – Ban Rak Thai.
Ashley from Forever Fernweh picks Chiang Rai
Located about a three hour bus ride north from the Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai offers urban Thai life on a smaller scale.
Things are simpler here. The night market offers a few basic northern Thai dishes (try the Hot Pot). The shops are stocked for tourist and locals alike. There are only a few attractions but they are worth the trip.
The main sight is the White Wat, Wat Rong Khun, and it is a stunning piece of art. Built to show the path from hell to enlightenment, this temple doesn’t skimp on the details. Complete with Keanu from the Matrix and minions (yes they have made their way into Thailand temples), make sure to take your time here, there are millions of little details that you don’t want to miss.
However, what I really recommend is renting a car or scooter and getting lost in the back roads. You will stumble upon vast rice paddies with mountain backdrops, local small village temples that are as ornate as others in the big city, and hills upon hills of greenery that will take your breath away. Chiang Rai is the perfect way to end and reflect on your time through one of the most fascinating counties to travel.
Caroline from Nomad Bound picks Bangkok
Last year, Bangkok was the most visited city in the world. It’s easy to see why.
Thailand’s capital has an ancient culture, outstanding dining, world-class shopping, delicious street food and a vibrant nightlife. There is something for everyone in this city that never sleeps. The modern meets the ancient to enchant your senses. Sleek cosmopolitan skybars overlook classic Buddhist temples and chic mega-malls tower over traditional markets. Did I also mention that it’s affordable and easy to get around?
Bangkok has 2 airports: Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang. Skyscanner.com is the best site to use for flights. You can also travel there by bus or train.
And there are so many things to do in Bangkok, including:
- Visit the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun
- Go to Chatuchak, Pat Klong Talad, Ratchada Train or the Floating Market
- Tour the Chao Phraya River on a Boat
- Grab a Drink at a Skybar
- Check Out Bang Krachao Park & the Airplane Graveyard
- Nosh at Food Stalls in Chinatown or on Soi Petchaburi Road
- Get a Traditional Thai Massage
- Watch Muay Thai
- Drop by the Hello Kitty & Caturday Cafés
- Swing by Jim Thompson House
Gina from Gina Bear’s Blog picks Ayutthaya
Are you a history nut looking to get an amazing photo or have an exciting experience in a serene area without hordes of people?
Ayutthaya’s scenic and laid back atmosphere will help relax you and give a stark contrast to busy Bangkok. This great city boasts a history of once being the central trading capitol of Southeast Asia. When you get there, you can’t miss out on the floating market. After you pay 200 baht, you’re taken around by boat and dropped off to shop and eat lunch. You can see elephants and visit my favorite place, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.
To get there, you can take a minivan directly from Victory Monument in Bangkok for 60 Baht. The best part? It only takes an hour and a half and makes for an unforgettable day trip.
So our round up on some of the best places to visit in North and Central Thailand ends here. Here are some epic places to visit in the Southern part of Thailand.
Loved this post? Pin it, it’s more fun!
There’s so many great places in Thailand that I sadly never made it to! Maybe on trip number three…! 😀
When I think of thailand, I can hardly think of anything beyond Bangkok and Phuket. And something at the back of my mind says there has to be more. Now going to bookmark this post of yours . Will help plan my trip
Pinned this for my trip to Thailand in March! Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll have time to visit all of these places, but I’ll be in Bangkok and Chiang Mai for sure. I think I’d also really enjoy Ayutthaya as I am a history nut and not a big fan of overcrowded tourist areas. Thanks for sharing this.
Bangkok is my favourite city in Thailand but I will deffo head to these places on our next trip! Chiang Mai looks incredible with all the temples and that waterfall! I have never heard of Pau so thank you for sharing!
This is indeed lovely. I have fond memories of Thailand. I only made it to the Southern islands and Bangkok. I wish I had made it to Chiang Mai. I had heard so much about it. I loved getting a Thai massage in Bangkok! It was awesome and very reasonable.
One of our major regrets is not touring more of Thailand. We were country hopping to get to as many places as we could in 3 weeks. Sadly, we only visited Bangkok and weren’t really impressed. Should we ever find ourselves there again, this list will be a great reference! 🙂
Beautiful photos! I’m thinking about visiting Thailand sometime next year, and I’ll definitely be referring back to this post to help me plan. Thank you for including more than just the typical tourist spots!
Chiang Mai has been on my list for a while. How many days will be good here?
Loved the pics of Ayutthya… stunning … reminds me of Burma!
A great guide to have, this is wonderful. I will pin this after commenting. I would love to visit Pai. We have talked about Thailand but need to have enough time there to explore. Don’t want to see just the main things all tourists see.
So many fabulous places on Thailand it must have been tough to narrow it to 12. I went to Bangkok last year for the first time and loved it. I had no clue it was the most visited city in the world. I would also at Koh Phi Phi to the list.
Few people know that there can be so much more to Thailand besides the beaches. Very informative post. Love all the Buddhas.
It’s in every backpacker’s guide by now, but I really agree on including Pai. The atmosphere is something you definitely can’t put into words but have to experience yourself. Haven’t heard about the treehouse though, so that’s something I’d like to check out next time 🙂
Thailand has been on my list for far too long! I will definitely be saving this post for whenever I finally book my plane ticket there! I would absolutely love to stay in that cute little treehouse! And Ban Rak Thai sounds so interesting! I’m very surprised that the Thai government allowed them to stay on the border! Also Wat Phra Sri Sanphet looks absolutely stunning! Thanks so much for all these tips!
These are amazing list. Booked marked it for future reference.
Can’t believe i’ve only been to 3 places out of this list, when I often travel to Thailand! Thanks for the other recommendations! Have to roam more around in the north!