Thailand has earned its place as a top tourist destination, but where should you go if you want to skip the crowds but still soak up the beauty? The country is full of unique towns and beautiful destinations outside of the typical tourist track. Step away from the beaten path and check out this list of 8 underrated spots and hidden gems in Thailand that will blow you away.
8. Chiang Rai
Located 535 miles north of Bangkok at the very northern tip of Thailand, this city is often passed over on travelers’ Thai itinerary. Full of beautiful, ancient temples (make sure you check out Wat Rong Khun), this northern city is a gateway to the surrounding area. Definitely explore the Golden Triangle, try rock climbing just north of the city, rent a bicycle to explore the city on the ground, wander the walking street fairs on Saturdays and Sundays, and visit Kun Korn, a beautiful local waterfall.
Found in western Thailand at the edge of the mountains, the beautiful small river city of Kanchanaburi is worth a visit. Kanchanaburi is best known for the bridge over the River Kwaithat for the connection with the historic Death Railway to Burma where thousands of prisoners of war and Asian laborers died during Japanese occupation in World War II. While in town, visit nearby Erawan and Srinakarind National Parks to see dazzling waterfalls and caves, and check out the elephant camps in the area.
Krabi is a beach town on the southwest coast that you won’t want to skip. Crystal clear waters, pristine beaches, and impressive seaside cliffs attract rock climbers, kayakers, scuba divers, snorkelers, and boaters alike. Nearby waterfalls and temples make for a one of a kind place; and you absolutely must head to nearby Railay Beach (only accessible by boat) for what is undeniably the best sunset in the country.
Sukhothai is a gorgeous small city in Lower Northern Thailand located near the ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai, the former capital of Thailand. The Sukhothai Historical Park and the Si Satchanalai Historical Park contain epic ruins that will take your breath away and transport you back in time. When visiting the ruins, rent a bike to cover more of the historic grounds, and visit the park at sunrise to see the stunning Buddha figures against the backdrop of the rising sun.
4. Nong Kai
Found along the banks of the Mekong River, the charming city of Nong Kai will give you a glimpse of life in the northern province of Isaan; a region with a strong cultural identity famed for its friendliness. Take in the river views, head to Phu Phra Bat Historical Park and check out the ancient and mysterious rock formations and visit Wat Khaek and Wat Pho Chai for some exquisite temples. Before you visit, see if you can plan to catch one of the famous annual festivals celebrated throughout the year such as the Anou Savari Festival, the Maekong Fireballs, Rocket Festivals, Rowing Festivals, or the Thai New Year.
Phetchaburi, the capital city of the Phetchaburi Province, is an ancient city found southwest of Bangkok. If you’re into ancient architecture, you will fall head over heels in love with the skyline of the city that features numerous temples and the former historic Royal Palace. Found on the River Phet and close to the Tham Khao Luang Cave that features an archaic Buddhist shrine, this beautiful city will give you plenty to explore.
2. Hua Hin
A favorite weekend destination for resident Bangkokians, the beach town of Hua Hin is a pretty escape from the city. If full moon parties are not your thing, get all the sun without the late night pandemonium at Hua Hin. Relaxed and friendly, this former fishing village about 125 miles from Bangkok makes a scenic stop on anyone’s Thailand itinerary. With a 3 mile stretch of white beaches and clear, turquoise waters, this destination will keep you busy with a vibrant night market, nearby Buddhist temples, waterfalls, elephant rides, scuba diving, and golf.
Built in a valley north of the bustling and popular city of Chiang Mai, the village of Pai is definitely worth the extra trip (even though you’ll have to endure a VERY windy road to get there). This hippie town is surrounded by lush jungle and provides a great home base to explore the beautiful area. Rent a motorcycle and check out Pai Canyon for some breathtaking views, take in a yoga class or two, and relax in the nearby hot springs.