Explore /Thailand

Thailand /

Luxury Travel: All-time Favourites
Luxury Travel: All-time Favourites
Maria Pieri, Editorial Director for National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Find out why Thailand is Maria’s all-time favourite.

I was thoroughly spoilt on that first trip to Thailand. The hospitality, the people, the food, the sights – all were phenomenal. The highlight? A surprise beach barbecue, complete with ubiquitous lobster and the fresh smell of lemongrass, lime leaves and ginger. The trip shaped my memories and my thoughts of Asia in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I was lucky enough to return to Thailand this year with my family. On this visit, we combined Koh Samui with Chiang Mai – the interior of the country giving me another, entirely different, perspective. We planted rice in the paddy fields, cycled to the local temples, and practised Muay Thai. These days, Thailand hardly needs an introduction, yet it continues to offer something new to visitors every time they return.

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Explore /Thailand in depth

10 Locations

Bangkok

Non-stop Bangkok, Thailand's buzzing capital city, is an assault on the senses with its colourful nightlife and amazing cuisine. Shop in gleaming malls or bustling street markets perfecting the art of bartering. And take a thousand photos as you cruise along the Chao Phraya River and the canals of Thonbur, stopping en route at Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, where you can climb the steps to enjoy the view. The Grand Palace, Bangkok’s most famous landmark, continues to awe with its elaborate architecture and intricate detail, whilst the huge Wat Pho temple complex will astonish with its giant reclining golden Buddha. Wat Suthat, known for the towering red Giant Swing that stands at its entrance, is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok.

Phuket

Phuket has a lot to offer with its vibrant nightlife, markets, lavish resorts and some of Thailand's best beaches. For fabulous views visit the lighthouse at Phromthep Cape, or take a cruise excursion to Phang Nga Bay, a.k.a. James Bond Island and for some shopping visit charming Phuket Town. Witness turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs in Hat Nai Yang National Park, or explore Khao Phra Wildlife Park, site of the Nam Tok Ton Sai waterfall and home to the Gibbon Project. Over thirty Buddhist temples are dotted around the island, including Wat Phra Thong with its half-buried Buddha statue and Wat Phra Nang Sang which features some fascinating frescoes and Buddha heads that date back 3,000 years. The snorkelling is superb in Koh Waeo National Park, where the coral lies only one to five metres below the surface.

Koh Samui

Beautiful white sand beaches, clear warm water; lush tropical gardens and gentle ocean breezes await you at this idyllic destination. Team up with local guides to explore the pristine Ang Thong National Park by sea canoe, passing through deep ravines and stopping off at enchanting locations such as the Green Lagoon, keeping your eyes open for dolphin, sea turtles and the majestic Whale Shark. Perhaps the island’s most popular attraction is the Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai – a wonderful place to sit and contemplate. For something a little different take an elephant ride or visit Heaven’s Garden, an unusual art gallery set in a secret garden high in the rolling hills of the interior.

Krabi

Set on the southern Andaman coast and accessible by long tail boats, Krabi has attractions ranging from hot springs and sea caves to dramatic limestone cliffs and flourishing coral reefs. Famed for its photogenic sunsets, the island boasts four national parks including the rainforest habitat of Khao Sok and the natural springs of Than Bokkhorani. Inside Tiger Cave are what appear to be large tiger paw prints embedded in the stone. Krabi itself is a charming riverside town with picturesque markets and Ao Nang offers a seaside strip of bars, restaurants and gift boutiques. For more enlightened recreation visit the temple of Wat Tham Sua with its 1,272 steps to reach the “footprint of the Buddha”.

Koh Yao Noi

A quiet refuge from vibrant Phuket, this is a large, rugged island for kayaking, hiking, snorkelling, swimming and leisurely exploration. Traditional rubber farms dot the tranquil landscape, their tapping buckets hanging from the trunks; water buffalo meander slowly around. The beaches are mainly on the east coast, whilst the west coast is blanketed in rice fields and lined with mangroves. Restaurants and bars can be found dotted along the coastline.

Khao Lak

An area of outstanding beauty, an hour north of Phuket, Khao Lak offers pure white beaches, cascading waterfalls, spectacular forests and an abundance of wildlife. Five national parks include the rainforest of Khao Lak and Khao Sok as well as Thailand’s largest natural mangrove system. The Surin and renowned Similian Islands are also close by and excellent for diving; kayaking tours bring the chance to visit sea caves and spectacular limestone islands. Further highlights include the Siam Safari elephant camp and treks through the Chalong Highlands. In the historic town of Takuapa, several original teak houses and the Governor’s residence remain.

Koh Lanta

Reached only by boat, in an archipelago protected by the Mu Ko Lanta Marine National Park, Koh Lanta is unspoilt and laid back. The island is blessed with powdery white beaches and charming little restaurants serving freshly caught seafood to order. Its sinuous central mountain range is covered by virgin rainforest which can be explored on an elephant trek. Carrier can provide you with a driver to take you to sites of interest such as visiting the Old Port, a traditional coastal village with stilt houses. There are many nearby islands to discover, with a half day cruise recommended to Koh Haa where the swimming and snorkelling is unsurpassed.

Hua Hin

Walk through the quiet winding streets of this friendly coastal village, sampling delicious seafood in restaurants built on stilts overlooking the brightly lit fishing boats on the Gulf of Thailand, or play a round of golf on one of the several international standard links. The oldest and most traditional of Thai resorts and a long-time favourite of Siam nobility Hua Hin provides an ideal getaway from the teeming metropolis of Bangkok. Barter in the lively night markets and take a leisurely drive though the rice paddies and pineapple plantations to see the glorious scenery of Prachuap Kiri Khan and Phetchaburi. Within a few kilometres there are also floating markets, amusement parks, sheep farms, water parks and elephant camps.

Golden Triangle

At the point where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma converge, and historically infamous for its connection to the opium trade, the Golden Triangle has been transformed into a landscape of coffee, tea and fruit plantations in neat terraced fields. Exotic hill tribe crafts of jewellery, silverware, textiles and embroideries can be purchased alongside produce from local farms. High on the list of must-sees is the Doi Tung Royal Villa, set beside the Mae Fah Luang Garden and nearby arboretum, each proffering a rich variety of plant species including wild orchids. Learn to ride an elephant and take a gentle bamboo-raft river ride at the Chiang Dao Elephant Camp, or go trekking in the Doi Inthanon Park which encompasses the highest peak in Thailand.

Chiang Mai

Considered Thailand’s cultural capital, the 700 year-old city of Chiang Mai is the springboard for an array of exciting activities, primarily elephant trekking and white water rafting. In and around the city itself, Buddhist temples abound – Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep being perched near the summit of Doi Suthep Mountain. Nature lovers will enjoy Doi Intanon National Park with its dramatic mountain scenery, ancient evergreen forests, rare birdlife and spectacular waterfalls. Take a scenic walk along the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail or relax on a river cruise by long-tail boat to visit the Karen Hill tribe Village. A must do is a visit to the many buzzing markets to buy local handicrafts and to enjoy the local street cuisine.

Thailand /Hotels

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Thailand /Itineraries

Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Yao NoiCity, Beach & Island Escape

An assault on the senses, Bangkok's gleaming malls and bustling street markets are a perfect introduction to this country of resplendent heritage and perfect white sand beaches. Must-sees include the intricate detail of the Grand Palace and the reclining golden Buddha at Wat Po. Leave the city ...

Bangkok, Golden Triangle, Chiang Mai, Koh SamuiThailand Experience

This multi-centre itinerary provides the perfect getaway. It begins with the liveliness of colourful Bangkok where street food and night markets are waiting to be experienced. Explore Bangkok's temples of the old town and the Grand Palace, before enjoying a stay at an enchanting tented camp in the ...

Thailand /Best Experiences

Top 5 things to do in Thailand /

  • Join a Thai cookery class, visiting a local market to source ingredients with the chef before learning to prepare some delicious dishes
  • Charter a yacht for a sunset cruise before enjoying dinner on a private island
  • Submit to a Thai massage, or for the ultimate indulgence book a spa retreat at one of the world's leading destination spas
  • Hire a long tailed water taxi and discover the intimacy of traditional Thai life and the magnificent sights on the Chao Phraya River 
  • Play a round of golf on awarding courses in Chiang Mai, Hua Hin and Phuket for both beginner and experienced golfers

Thailand /When is the best time to visit Thailand

Thailand is generally very hot and humid with distinct dry and rainy seasons. The best time to visit most resorts, including Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, is from November to March, with the exception of Koh Samui which is best visited from December to August. However, with ever-changing weather patterns and excellent offers, it is well worth considering a holiday during the shoulder seasons

Thailand /Reviews

Thailand, Cambodia, Laos. Three destinations that, even to the most seasoned traveller, bring a pang of anticipation. Our Reservations Manager, Vicki Holding experienced each distinctly different destination, here are her top five highlights. ... more

Vicki   Holding

Indian Ocean, Arabia, Indian Subcontinent, Far East & Australasia

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Thailand
Motorbikes darting through traffic in bustling city centres, picture-perfect beaches and sumptuous cuisine are synonymous with Thailand. I had always wanted to experience the true essence of this exotic and historic destination and my recent trip did not let me down.... more

Sally   Yendley

Indian Ocean, Arabia, Indian Subcontinent, Far East & Australasia

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Thailand
My most recent trip sets me in the heart of the Golden Triangle – the point where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma converge – and with an arrival that is incredibly James Bond-esque. In traditional Thai longtail boats we are zipping through the waters of the Mekong River, the lush Thai landscape racing past. ... more

Thailand
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You might like to know /

Approximate flight times
London to Bangkok 11 hours 30 minutes / London to Koh Samui 14 hours / London to Phuket 15 hours
Time Difference
GMT + 7 hours

Thailand /Essentials

Passports & Visas

British passport holders do not require a visa.

Multi-centre Options

Although Thailand is often visited as a single centre beach holiday, many visitors choose to combine two or three destinations. A city break in Bangkok followed by a relaxing beach resort makes for the perfect twin centre, whilst we would also highly recommend including a visit to the resorts in northern Thailand. Alternatively, it is possible to combine two or more islands or beach resorts.

Thailand /News

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