One-of-a-kind sights and experiences are around just about every corner when you fancy yourself a seasoned traveler. There’s the Great Wall of China running along the northern borders of China. There are breathtaking pyramids in Egypt. There’s Machu Picchu in Peru. The list is virtually endless.
Then there’s Thailand. This beautiful southeast Asian oasis and hot pot of culture and shockingly peaceful people has more unique things to see and do than you can possibly fit into one trip. To help narrow it down a bit, we’ve gathered 10 things to do in Thailand – many of which you can do with your children, too! (If these aren’t enough, here are 16 more!)
From the lush green mountains of Phuket Island to the absolutely charming elephants found throughout the region, you’ll want to plan your next trip before your first trip even ends! Before your actual vacation, let’s take a virtual trip through some of the best things to do in Thailand.
1. Wade into one of the world’s most recognized (and pristine) natural backdrops.
Whether you’re a beach-loving nomad, a #travelgram follower, or just a huge fan of The Beach, there’s no chance you haven’t seen the iconic photos forever coming out of the Phi Phi Islands. A “things to do in Thailand” list wouldn’t be complete without a traditional longtail boat ride to the famous Maya Beach in Koh Phi Phi Island, Krabi, Southern Thailand. Bonus: We have a deeper dive into the Top 5 Thailand Islands ready for you.
2. Pay a visit to Phuket’s Big Buddha.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include Big Buddha as one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring things to do in Thailand. Arguably one of the island’s most famous, important, and revered Thai landmarks, this site brings you to the top of Nakkerd Hills (between Chalong and Kata). In addition to its top-of-the-mountain location, the huge image is 45 meters tall – making it easily seen from far away.
3. Visit the markets – both in ‘locals’ areas and touristy areas alike.
One of the most readily available (and some would argue, culturally immersive) things to do in Thailand is to shop. Mingle with the locals, buy handmade goods, grab some (dried) spices to bring home with you, barter with the sellers, and experience a slice of real Thai cities. (Pictured: “Lard Yai,” an old town night market located in Phuket.)
4. Spend time (and even volunteer!) with the elephants.
Easily one of the most sought after things to do in Thailand, getting up close with local wildlife (elephants, specifically) is more accessible than you’d think. Tucked in the lush green mountains of Northern Thailand sits a family-created village that exists solely to allow elephants to flourish in their natural habitat. While you’re here, you’ll even have the opportunity to help give these gentle giants a bath!
5. Learn to cook iconic (and scrumptious) Thai dishes.
With certain groups and on certain trips, you absolutely can learn how to cook like a local. Try your hand at barbecuing in Bangkok or go a little off the beaten path and whip up your own quick stir fry! (If cooking isn’t really your thing, ordering some authentic Pad Thai is a must when it comes to foodie things to do in Thailand – but, we’ll get to that shortly).
6. Visit a Thai temple or two.
Chock full of history and culture, temples dot the landscape of Thailand from coast to coast. Even if you’re on an elephant-based adventure (which many Thailand trips are), be sure you take enough time to add ‘temples; to your list of things to do in Thailand. Equal parts history and art, each temple is slightly different from the next and has stories all its own. Pro tip: Do your research before visiting! Some temples have very strict dress codes & policies – and you will be turned away if you don’t abide by them.
7. Travel locally… like a local.
Depending on where you are, you’ll either be a stone’s throw (definitely walking distance) from markets and entertainment, or deep in the throes of gorgeous wildlife. So long as you’re not heading anywhere it would be prohibitive, give local travel methods a try! “Riding a scooter” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of things to do in Thailand. But, truly, it can be an absolute experience zipping around, weaving through locals and tourists alike, and exploring places you’d otherwise never venture on foot.
8. Take your taste buds on an adventure.
Whether you like it spicy or sweet, fried or stewed, fresh or preserved, Thailand literally has something just for you. Better yet, there’s an extensive number of locations for you to try nearly any local delicacy. Grab some street food on the go from friendly local vendors. Sit down for an elegant meal and a luxury resort or an upscale restaurant. Stop by for a bite a local restaurant. Any way you cut it, “eating” will fast become one of your favorite things to do in Thailand.
9. Slow down for a stroll through national parks and ancient ruins.
Thailand’s history is rife with diverse landscapes and quintessentially Thai architecture. With absolutely no shortage of beauty (or size!), Thailand boasts multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In addition to the many opportunities to learn and experience Thai culture, you’ll find some incredible biking and hiking trails rounding out as much time as you like to spend on historical things to do in Thailand.
10. Pause in Chiang Mai to learn from monks.
Completing this edition of “things to do in Thailand” is an experience you won’t have many other places. Learning from genuine monks isn’t something you can do just anywhere. This isn’t a “tourist attraction,” show, or entertainment venue. These are real life monks, imparting real life wisdom and sharing their culture with those who seek enlightening experiences. Traditional Buddhist monks are waiting to teach you about Buddhism in Thai society!
There are so, so many more great things to do in Thailand – a list of 10 would never cover them all. If experiencing as many of them as you can in one built-for-you trip, take a look at our Thailand – Cultural Kaleidoscope vacation.
Been to Thailand? What was your most memorable experience? Looking forward to visiting for the first time? What will make it onto your list of things to do? Share with us in the comments below!