What are the most beautiful places in Thailand? It’s hard to narrow it down, to be honest. With thousands of temples, tons of gorgeous scenery from north to south, and glistening beaches with towering karst islets, the unique landscape is what has made Thailand so famous worldwide.
I’ve spent a cumulative 5 months on the move in Thailand now, and after much research, have found some seriously beautiful spots. Most of my suggestions are places that are out of the ordinary and will have fewer tourists. I tend to like places that are farther off the beaten path and provide a bit more breathing room.
With that in mind here are 20 of Thailand’s most beautiful places in order from north to south. I bet there are a few, or maybe a bunch, on this list that you haven’t seen before!
1. Mae Hong Son
The cascading mountains of the province of Mae Hong Son, bordering Myanmar, are like a storybook with their misty mountains. It’s a gorgeous journey here from Pai for those who are comfortable driving a car or motorbike. Once there, visit one of the many caves, hot springs, and nature parks. Even if it’s just for a day, driving through there from Pai is a fantastic way to pass the time.
2. White Temple Chiang Rai
Thailand is full of ornate temples, but when it comes to originality, the White Temple wins out. This contemporary style Buddhist temple is unique with its shape, structures, the dazzling white and silver adorning the outside, and the trippy mural on the inside. The style is unlike anything else you’ll see in Thailand, that’s for sure! More on it here.
3. Pai Canyon
Pai is a hippie paradise where you can find yoga, a circus school, a land split serving up all things hibiscus, a couple of lovely waterfalls, one of which you can even slide down, and some lovely countryside. But the most unique aspect of Pai is its canyon, with sharp slopes of orange rock winding like a labyrinth. It’s free to enter and easy to get to on a motorbike, like most of Pai’s best attractions.
4. Silver Temple Chiang Mai
The Silver Temple is a unique temple to visit in Chiang Mai in contrast to the gold featured on most temples in the vicinity. The outside is intricate, with allegories of the Tipitaka and the world capitals displayed on the walls.
I wasn’t a fan of the ‘no women allowed’ policy inside the temple. Women still have to pay full price for admission to the temple grounds but aren’t allowed to go inside the main hall. I also just don’t get it, based on my understanding of Buddhism it doesn’t seem necessary, but it’s not my culture and I had to respect it. Still, it’s so unique I put it on this list. It’s an easy and quick pit stop near the South Gate in Chiang Mai and only cost 50 baht.
5. Doi inthanon
Doi Inthanon National Park has it all – multiple waterfalls, a nature trail, Thailand’s tallest peak, Sakura blossoms in January, and the famous King and Queen pagoda near the top. It’s a 3-ish hour drive from Chiang Mai to the east and a lovely day or overnight trip. More on that and a few of the other day trips listed below here.
6. Doi Chiang Dao
Hiking this mountain was a highlight of Thailand’s north for me. It’s the third tallest peak though it’s easily more beautiful than Doi Inthanon’s peak with its starlike shape. The hike can be done as an overnight or day trip, departing from Chiang Mai in the early morning. Find more on how to climb it here.
7. Wat Chaloem
Thailand’s floating pagodas are about as dreamy as it gets. Though remote and only easily accessible with a car from Chiang Mai, Wat Chaloem is one that most foreign tourists still don’t know about. Take a truck ride to the top and climb the 500 meters of stairs for a stunning view of the entire surroundings including the white pagodas – all of which were carried up by hand! Find more info on how to get there here.
8. Emerald Lake
Very few non-Thai tourists know about this jungle sinkhole that filled in with crystal clear, deep blue water and huge catfish. It’s considered sacred by the locals and to my knowledge, is the only one in Thailand. It’s somewhat difficult to get to and only makes sense in a car or on a motorbike with tires that can handle mud and dirt. For those who do make it, you’ll be visiting something that’s still a hidden gem in Thailand. Go before the word gets out! Find more info, and a map, here.
Thailand’s ancient capital, Sukhothai, is often called Thailand’s Angkor Wat. Though nothing can compare to the real thing, the crowds at Sukhothai are much smaller and the ruins are a sight all their own. Rent a bike and cycle around the old ruins for a perfect day activity to break up the journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
10. Red Lotus Sea
Another remote but good one, the Red Lotus Sea is famous for sunrise during the lotus bloom from November to February. The open lotus flowers are made even more brilliant by the dazzling colors in the sky – a photographer’s dream. You can find it here in Udon Thani province. The best way to get there is to drive.
11.Wat Sirindhorn Wararam
Full disclosure, I’ve never been to this glowing wat but it made the list because look at it! The glowing Bodhi tree featured in the image above is only part of the glowing goodness – the ground sometimes lights up as well in swirls of blue. It looks like something out of a movie, especially during the Yi Peng lantern release. It’s located in Ubon Ratchathani Province near the border with Laos.
12. Erawan National Park
This national park is known for its light-colored baby blue waterfalls which cascade down seven tiers. It’s also famous for its caves, featuring streams and rock paintings. It’s also home to deer and elephants! Find it here.
13. Koh Chang
Koh Chang is affectionately called the ‘last cheap island’ by those who frequent Thailand. It’s true, the further you head south the more you’ll have to break your wallet open. For an island that’s closer to Bangkok, not as touristy as many of its southern neighbors, and equally gorgeous, take a look at Koh Chang. Lonely Beach, though not so lonely anymore, is a favorite amongst the backpacker crowd though there are white sand beaches just a songthaew ride away, too! Read more about Koh Chang here.
14. Surin Islands
The Surin islands are a stunning collection of rocky islets with some jungle here and there and spectacularly blue water. The more famous Thai islands are known for their sharp karst rock formations but the Surin islands feature flatter rocks, and better diving, too. Though remote, they’re worth a visit and typically included in most Similan Islands liveaboard itineraries.
Located on the mainland a short long tail boat ride over from Krabi, Tonsai is popular with rock climbers and slack-liners and those who want a more laid back experience than Tonsai’s neighbor, Railay. For those who don’t want to choose between the two, it’s a short jungle walk between Tonsai and Railay, which is worth it for the adventure to the Railay Lagoon as well.
16. Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Noi is my favorite Thai Island to date. It’s not a backpacker haven with thumping music or buckets in bars, but rather an island full of eco resorts and some nice peace and quiet. It’s also popular with climbers and yogis. I love that you can still get a beach more or less to yourself here, and it doesn’t take that long to get to from Krabi or Phuket, two major hubs for flights.
17. Koh Yao Yai
For an island with lots to explore and few other tourists, Koh Yao Yai fits the bill. Unlike its neighbors, Phuket and Krabi, Koh Yao Yai receives far fewer visitors and isn’t set up specifically for tourism, which lends itself well to getting beaches all to yourself, like the one pictured above, Laam Haed beach. Read more here.
18. Koh Pha-ngan
Though known for full moon party madness, Koh Pha-ngan is so much more than that. Some parts of the island, like Bottle beach, are so remote that they’re usually accessed by boat, or very bumpy dirt road. The island has so many gorgeous beaches and quiet places to relax. If the full moon party isn’t for you, or if it is, you have a reason to go either way!
19. Koh Tao
This lovely little island is a diver’s haven and, though not exactly under the tourist radar, still a gorgeous place to hang one’s hat. Rent a quad bike and tour around the island, learn how to SCUBA dive, or just chill on the beach. It’s perfect for all three!
20. Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe’s nickname is the Maldives of Thailand, and given that baby blue water, it’s easy to see why. Located south of Koh Lanta, it’s a bit out of the way of the usual tourist trail which has helped it stay so beautiful and pristine.
Those are some of my favorite beautiful places in Thailand, though my search is ongoing (and probably endless). Thailand has so many places to discover, and the best part is that many of them aren’t even known or popular with other tourists yet.
Want more visuals? Here’s a video with 8 stunning, hidden places in Thailand:
How many on this list did you know about, how many have you been to, and what would you add?