Thailand has arguably been synonymous with island hopping. You can’t blame its visitors for marketing the Southeast Asian country to others as the ultimate island-hopping destination, though. With pristine islands that many and worthwhile activities that diverse, Thailand is truly a one-stop spot for the vacation-thirsty.
However, there are more things to do in Thailand than good old island hopping. The country is rich in culture, heritage, and tradition, as evident in the numerous museums that house artifacts and stories of old.
Thailand is also a prime location for spiritual revival, curiosity, and meditation. Chat with a monk, visit notable temples, or go on a silent retreat; whichever you need to gain the utmost peace of mind, Thailand has its ways to give them to you.
Moreover, your personal list of what to do in Thailand will surely have definitive ties with nature. Be it your first time to try surfing or are in pursuit of being a yoga teacher, the country provides the rich playground that best suits your wants and needs.
Don’t even get me started with gastronomy. Thai cuisine is global, and where else can you taste the best guay teow or the most authentic pad thai than in the country that birthed numerous international chains of restaurants?
All of the things to do in Thailand would require you to have three things: likeness for culture, love for nature, and longingness for adventure. If you have all those three, we present you with your complete list of what to do in Thailand.
Top 30+ UNIQUE Things to do in Thailand
Explore Phi Phi Islands
What is there to see in Koh Phi Phi? Something special, I suppose, otherwise a visit to it won’t be regarded as one of the must-do in Thailand.
The Phi Phi Le National Park alone is a complete standout, so much so that it acted as Leonardo Dicaprio’s piece of paradise in the movie The Beach. Cruise on a longtail boat, visit the stunning Maya Bay, and see why more and more people are enticed to check out what they only see in the tapes.
Here’s a spoiler: it does live out its wondrous reputation.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Phi Phi Island
Visit the White Temple in Chiang Rai
Pay a visit to the White Temple just 15 kilometers away from the bustling town of Chiang Rai. Its true name is Wat Rong Khun, a temple in Thailand that stands out from the rest.
The uniqueness of this temple is attributed to the mastermind behind the masterpiece, Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The incorporation of white color and glass pieces in its entirety symbolizes the purity and wisdom of Buddha. Each visitor is encouraged to take a moment of reflection and immerse in the solitude of the temple.
Extensive restoration was done after the White Temple was damaged by the massive 2014 earthquake in Thailand.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Chiang Rai
Go Island Hopping
If you are thinking of what to do in Thailand besides temple visits, island hopping comes next to none. Most of the country’s hundreds of islands face the Andaman Sea, providing a pristine marine ecosystem to the best parts of Thailand.
Creative and careful planning must be done to create the best island-hopping itinerary that suits your travel timeframe. Stay for a week and get to explore one province’s tropical gems; allot a month and get to see the best island escapades that Thailand has to offer.
Learn how to Scuba Dive
Learning a new skill is best done in a gorgeous environment. Take scuba diving, for instance. Your best bet to mastering the ins and outs of this worthwhile sport in no time is by providing yourself a pristine playground. Good thing, we have Thailand for that.
Scuba diving in Thailand can be done all year round. There are several diving institutes that teach and certify aspiring scuba divers in many parts of the country.
The Chumphon Pinnacle in Koh Tao is frequented by many because of the Gulf of Thailand’s vibrant marine ecosystem. The waters are pleasantly calm, too, making it one of the best places in the world to practice scuba diving and get certified.
Visit the Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai
Meeting an elephant eye to eye has remained to be one of the top things to do in Thailand despite receiving outstanding frowns from animal advocates. Over the years, caretakers and tours have proven to be more ethical in handling interaction between visitors and elephants.
The key to an ethical elephant experience is ample research. Before you visit one of the many elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, it is good to know what activities are included in their package.
Hug an elephant, give it a mud spa, and learn how you can better support the welfare of these animals as you spend time with them.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Chiang Mai
Visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok
Bangkok’s Grand Palace – Is it worth cramming over for? You might think the extensive grounds of the palace are adequate to accommodate the high influx of tourists pouring over Bangkok every single day. Truthfully, it isn’t the case.
More than the grandiosity, the historical and cultural richness of the Grand Palace is definitely worth your patience. Come to Wat Phra Kaew and see the famous Emerald Buddha stationed there, drawing in visitors who wish to see the highly-revered Buddha statue in all of Thailand.
When coming to the Grand Palace, ditch the roads and ride a river taxi. Cruise through the Chao Phraya River and enjoy a scenic route by boat.
Visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
When planning on what to do in Thailand, including a visit to the Wat Phra Kaew. See the artistic pagodas, holy statues, and outstanding murals that make up this unmissable temple.
Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok is home to one of the most revered Buddha images in all of Thailand. Situated within the grounds of the Grand Palace, the temple shows the Phra Kaew Morakot – a meditating Emerald Buddha carved from a single piece of jade.
The King of Thailand replaces the golden cloak adorning the Emerald Buddha thrice a year. In fact, he is the only person allowed to be near the image.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Bangkok
Go on a Thai cooking class
While it is certainly fulfilling to have a taste of authentic Thai cuisine right where it originated, you can take it up a notch and enroll in a Thai cooking class during your visit to the country. Learn the beauty of creating flavorful dishes yourself with the help of a local chef.
Visit a Thai market and immerse yourself in a world of distinct spices and fresh produce. Share your passion for food with like-minded individuals and enjoy a day of learning and tasting some of Thai’s well-loved dishes.
Have the best memorabilia you can garner from your Thailand trip and prepare the dishes you learned for your friends and family back home.
Explore the night markets
In Bangkok, there is no surplus of night markets to visit. In fact, they are often regarded as some of the best markets in all of Southeast Asia. Enjoy a wide selection of vintage finds, street foods, and fast fashion all in one big shopping destination.
It is essential to do some research before visiting a night market in Thailand. Chatuchak, for example, is open only on weekends. During your trip, dedicate one Friday and come here to shop, haggle, eat and have a lot of wholesome fun.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Bangkok
Try out the famous street foods
There are things to do in Thailand which, if there is any form of special powers to require it, we could have just done so. One of the activities we would deem essential is trying out famous local street food during your visit.
Thailand has been known worldwide to have delicious authentic cuisine, and a great way to immerse yourself in their rich food culture is by hitting the streets hungry.
Bangkok is the best place to be introduced to Thai street food. From the ever-present curry rice dish called Khao gang to the glorious mango sticky rice, your palate better is ready for a whole lot of new flavor.
Go rock climbing in Railay beach
This is definitely not the rock climbing you’re used to in the city. This hardcore activity takes you to the most natural venue to do so, and Thailand just happens to have some of the best limestone cliffs that are perfect for the sport.
Railay Beach in Krabi is a favorite among outdoor rock climbers. Several climbing schools offer professional services to those whose bucket list includes being able to conquer the cliffs of Railay. There is a suitable wall for everyone, all promising a breathtaking view of the turquoise waters kissing the blue sky for those brave enough to reach the top.
Attend a full-moon party
A full moon is never just a natural occurrence in Thailand. Every month, it is a ritualistic call to party and has easily become one of the top things to do in Thailand. Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan is the place to be, a thriving party scene that gets filled with adrenaline-filled visitors ready to dance in the moonlight.
The streets are filled with vendors selling what will become your official Full Moon Party attire, all in striking neon colors and loud texts. Artists swarm to paint your body with glow-in-the-dark hues while mixers offer you a beach pail of cocktail that is essentially good for a party of five.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Koh Phangan
Have fun with water during Songkran
The Songkran Festival is one of the things you should not miss if you are visiting Thailand during the Thai New Year, which happens every April. Prepare to get soaking wet as people throw buckets of water to anyone on the streets; childlike ones will have water guns aimed at all partying targets.
Avoid Phuket at all costs – that is, if you are not keen to celebrate Songkran for days. People are in water battle mode for at least a good three days, showering passersby with good fun and warranted laughter.
There is more to Songkran than just water throwing, though. Some areas in Thailand prefer to celebrate the traditional way – by visiting the elderly and spending time at the Buddhist temples.
Visit Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai
Doi Suthep is one of the three places that comprise the 100-square mile Doi Suthep National Park in Chiang Mai, the two being Doi Pui and Doi Buakha.
The Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the main highlights of the national park. The temple is frequented by pilgrims and visitors that come from different parts of the globe. A gold-plated Chedi is a true sight to behold in the morning, its blinding glory standing in competition with the rays of the majestic sun.
Walk further and see the charming Bhubing Palace. The Royal Family of Thailand comes to the palace yearly for a quaint vacation.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Chiang Mai
Go on a scooter trip around the mountains in Northern Thailand
Some of the fun things to do in Thailand call for the adventurer in you to spring forward and just go. This is exactly what this activity is going to ask from you: be spontaneous and ride a scooter across northern Thailand, one mountain at a time.
Imagine driving thousands of kilometers for a week (or more) armed with only your small rented vehicle, a couple of bags and instruction from the universe to go for it. The question is no longer “Is it doable?” as many travelers have gone to do it, most of them starting from Chiang Mai and back.
The question is, “Are you fun enough?”
Have a relaxing massage
After a full day of exploring Thailand, what better way to relax your bones than to have a well-deserved authentic Thai massage? Nuat phaen thai is well-loved worldwide, as evident in the many Thai massage-dedicated parlors present in various countries around the globe.
What makes Thai massage special? It involves a lot of pulling and stretching, I must say. It is the least gentle way of relaxation, and yet you feel invigorated after your local masseuse walks on your back and cracks all your joints. Worry not, for the therapists are well-trained to use their body parts to knead and flex your muscles.
Explore some of the famous national parks in Thailand
One interesting stuff to do in Thailand is to visit at least one of the numerous national parks that feature the wide variety of flora and fauna considered as the country’s gems. Whichever island you intend to stay, a nature reserve is definitely one trek or ride away.
You can bathe in the emerald green pools of the Namtok Phlio National Park. You can also hike the trails that bring you to the most beautiful parts of the Erawan National Park.
How about getting lost in Kaeng Krachan National Park, the largest and arguably the richest in wildlife in all of Thailand?
Chase waterfalls around northern Thailand
Northern Thailand has an overwhelming number of waterfalls, both unassuming and the towering. Many of these falls reward the eager trekker with a majestic view to marvel at and a refreshing pool to swim in.
Khun Korn is an easy addition to your northern Thailand itinerary. It is one of the top free things to do in Thailand, and with a beauty that grand, you might just ask to pay for such a gratifying experience. This 70-meter waterfall lies in Chiang Rai, tucked in the bamboo-filled jungle that makes up the green Khun Korn Forest Park.
Go on a beach holiday in Koh Lanta
The best things to do in Thailand may be varying among travelers who have seen its beauty, but many (if not all) will agree: you must embark on a holiday journey to Koh Lanta.
Located in the beautiful province of Krabi, Koh Lanta is characterized by its stunning beaches partnered with a positive atmosphere oozing from the locals. It is made up of two major islands, Koh Lanta Yai from the south and Koh Lanta Noi from the north.
Should you wish to steer clear from the usual crowd that desires the same experience, head over to Relax Bay. The name states its promise itself: relax on makeshift bamboo “bar areas” and enjoy the cozy atmosphere by the bay.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Koh Lanta
Check out the Floating market in Bangkok
Floating markets have undeniably been synonymous with a visit to Thailand. A picture-perfect invitation to this Southeast Asian gem often comes with an inviting photograph featuring vendors on colorful boats selling Thai food and trinkets along the waterways.
The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is frequented by many and is almost always included in the list of things to do in Thailand for first-timers and return visitors alike. Enjoy fresh produce being stir-fried right before your eyes. Indulge in local dessert flavors, which include the bestselling coconut ice cream.
While these items can easily be bought on land, the beauty of taking part in a heritage that has long been part of the Thai culture is a truly priceless experience.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Bangkok
A visit to the historic city of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is among the worthwhile activities to do in Thailand. A UNESCO World Heritage Site can be found within the ancient city. The Ayutthaya Historical Park is home to four main temples – Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mahathat, and Wat Ratchaburana. Lovers of history and archaeology will surely find the park interesting and stimulating.
Spot one of Thailand’s most beloved temples, the Wat Phra Mahathat. Have a look at the widely-photographed statue of a Buddha’s head depicted to be peeking through the growth of a tree. Several theories have tried to reason out the existence of such fixture, to no avail. The truth surrounding its conception remains a mystery, and a part of us are glad it is so.
Go on a yoga retreat in Pai
Practice the art of yoga in the most serene setting there is in all of Thailand. Head to the rural town of Pai, located in the Mae Hong Soon Province, and is notorious for luring short-term travelers into staying for a week (and a month) more.
Break your usual jam-packed itinerary and settle for a multi-day package that involves daily exercises, healthy meals, and even cooking classes. Go home feeling more refreshed and energized than ever – as what a proper vacation should do.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Pai
Go on a monk chat
Do it for spirituality or for your naturally-curious mind. A monk chat is easily one of the must-do things in Thailand. Chiang Mai temples are the common venues for this rewarding activity. Sit down and converse with a spiritual monk and learn anything you might be wondering about, be it Buddhism or life in general.
Wat Chedi Luang is frequented by visitors wanting to chat with monks in an informal setting. As they learn more about spirituality and Thai culture, the monks get to practice their English communication skills in the process.
Attend the lantern festival
The Thai Lantern Festival happens every year in different locations. Two simultaneous lantern festivals celebrated in Thailand are called Yi Peng and Loy Krathong.
Yi Peng is celebrated in the northern part of Thailand by the Lanna people. Chiang Mai has a big Lanna community; thus, the celebration of the Yi Peng Lantern Festival is a grand event that is looked forward to by many.
Loy Krathong, on the other hand, is held specifically along rivers. Loy translates to “float” while Krathong is a term for a small container. Basing from its literal meaning, people launch makeshift containers on the river to signify the release of negative thoughts and practices from their beings.
Go camping near Doi Inthanon
A lot of ideas concerning what to do in Thailand entails nature immersion and/or spiritual pursuit. Should you prefer the former, a visit to Doi Inthanon is a must.
Go ahead and experience camping at the Doi Inthanon National Park. Dubbed as the “Roof of Thailand,” the park is situated along with the soaring range where the highest mountain in Thailand belongs. Show up at the reception, pick a ground you will want to call home for a night and mark the tent yours. Sounds easy, right?
Prepare for a chilly day and an even chillier night during your camp out at Doi Inthanon. Disregard the cold shower; don’t mind the numbing air – the blooms and views at Doi Inthanon are totally worth the chills.
Stay in a hut by the beach
Nowadays, staying in a beachfront accommodation usually entails a hotel reservation in a savvy resort offering air-conditioned bungalows and glamping tents. In Thailand, there are still some beach huts that are stationed by the beach, offering you an old-fashioned tropical escapade.
Ko Lanta, Ko Phayam, and Ko Phangan are some of the few remaining places which have rustic huts that provide a basic yet charming way of spending the night (and day) overlooking the deep turquoise sea.
Imagine waking up to the sound of roaring waves, the white sandy beach a step away from your bed, and the beauty of earth’s paradise greeting you one good morning. Truly, these are what tropical dreams are made of.
Visit some of the hill tribes in Northern Thailand
Northern Thailand is home to different hill tribes that welcome visitors into their daily lives, offering a prized chance to catch a short glimpse of their vibrant worlds. The Karen hill tribe may as well be the most visited and documented groups north of Thailand.
Ethical issues have been repeatedly raised, pointing out the failure of the earning tour operators to cause an overflow in revenue to the concerning hill tribes. Good background research regarding the hill tribe visit you will be joining ensures an enjoyable and responsible way of meeting Northern Thailand’s living gems.
Visit the hot springs in Pai
The hot springs in Pai are what usually introduce this quaint town to tourists traveling around Thailand. While the best and well-maintained ones do come with corresponding entrance fees, there are also hot springs around the area, which can be enjoyed for free.
The Sai Ngam Hot Springs are most frequented by visitors. They are situated inside the Lum Nam Pai Wildlife Sanctuary. A visit to these hot springs is a must-do in Thailand not only for the undeniable beauty of the surroundings but also for the health benefits brought forth by hot spring bathing.
→ Where to stay: Best hotels in Pai
Go on a silent retreat with the Monks
To some, travel and vacation may mean seeking the utmost solitude and reaching the highest form of relaxation. You can do so by going on a silent retreat with the monks in Thailand. This meditation retreat promises to deliver positive life-changing outcomes to your general wellbeing.
Be surrounded by nature and nothing much, and get ready to be speechless (pun intended) once you see the venue, which will be your secluded home for a couple of days. Embrace the simplicity of the activities, the accommodation, and the food. You will be used to the beautiful solitude in no time.
Go on a meditation camp
Thailand has a distinct vibe of being a perfect venue for the utmost relaxation and soulful meditation. With its serene surroundings welcoming a steady flow of visitors wanting to escape the daily hustles and bustles of life, meditation retreats are on the rise, calling everyone who would wish to experience the true meaning of a “much-needed vacation.”
The Kamala in Koh Samui is one of the luxury properties that offer various packages for a multi-day meditation retreat in Thailand. Share the experience with a small group and yourself among the ocean and forest views that follow wherever you look. Your well-balanced itinerary will be filled with nature immersion, yoga practice, and healthy food.