Top 5 Thailand Destinations

Top 5 Thailand Destinations

Map of Thailand - Most Popular Tourist Destinations

The Most Popular Thailand Destinations

There are many fascinating places to visit in Thailand but its the seaside resorts that attract the majority of foreign visitors. While the main draw of these areas is sunny tropical beaches, their well established popularity with overseas tourists also means there are other advantages.

World-class hotels, all manner of international cuisine, supermarkets that stock imported goods and widely-spoken english all help to ensure foreigners don't have to go without their home comforts while on holiday.

Excluding the capital Bangkok, statistically the most popular Thailand tourist destinations are : Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Krabi Province (includes Phi Phi). Of these only the ancient Thai capital of Chiang Mai is not a beach resort. There are many other popular alternatives but well over half the people who visit the country will spend most of their holiday in one of these places.

The following lists brief descriptions of the top five Thailand Destinations including information on things that are important to many such as dining, nightlife and available activities.

Phuket

Thailand's Biggest Island
Phuket Beaches

Probably the most famous of the Thailand beach resorts, Phuket is a very scenic island about 50kms long by 20 kms wide that is connected to the mainland by a road bridge. Phuket's hotels are spread all over the island allowing visitors to choose from some beautiful secluded getaway spots or from several small towns that offer more opportunity for shopping and nightlife.

Phuket's Main Tourist Areas

The town of Patong with its huge beach and frenetic nightlife is by far the most popular area. Smaller towns Kamala, Karon and Kata all have access to arguably nicer and less crowded beaches and suit those who prefer a more peaceful location while still being able to enjoy some choice of nightime entertainment

For those that prefer even more seclusion there are some very upmarket hotels in remote areas of the island that offer self-contained resort holidays with multiple restaurants, shoppping and bars all being contained within the hotel grounds.

Things to Do on Phuket

Beach activites - Banana boats, jet skis, para gliding and wind surfing are available at the busier beaches such as Patong and Karon.

Scuba diving - Day and live-aboard trips abound from a host of dive-tour operators. The main dive season runs from November to April

Land and Sea Tours - Explore the island or board one of many day tours around the amazing islets off the coast of Phuket.

Fishing - Day fishing trips to suit all grades of fishermen from big game to family fun.

Golf - There are six very good golf courses on Phuket. Reasonable prices, warm weather and great facilities make Koh Phuket a golfers paradise.

Dining & Nightlife : Restaurants can be found all over the island with a huge array of international cusine being available in the main tourist towns in addition to the excellent Thai food. Countless small and friendly Thai-style bars provide fun night entertainment.

Additional Notes : Phuket has something to suit most tastes whether you are a party animal or just looking for a peaceful tropical getaway. Different locations will suit different people so it may be a good idea to read about where to stay in Phuket before you book your Phuket accommodation.

Koh Samui

A Smaller Alternative to Phuket
Chaweng on Koh Samui, Thailand

Thailand's second largest island is roughly circular in shape being about 23 km at its widest point which makes it about half the size of Phuket. White sand beaches, warm blue seas, lively nightlife and a great choice of top-class resorts all helps make Samui one of Thailand's most popular destinations.

Samui's Main Tourist Areas :

The 5km Chaweng Beach is the busiest area and has great nightlife including lots of open air bars, restaurants and even discotheques.

The smaller beaches of Lamai and Bhoput each have villages offering entertainment and shopping on a smaller and quiter scale than Chaweng.

For visitors looking to escape the crowds completely there is a good choice of hotels located in the most peaceful parts of the island.

Things to Do on Koh Samui

Beach activites - Speedboat charters, jetski rentals, windsurfing, banana boats.

Scuba diving - Samui has excellent suba diving with plenty of day trips available.

Land Tours - A good range of tours including offroad 4x4 ones are available taking in sights such as the Big Buddah and the Namuang Waterfall. Elephant treks are also available.

Golf - Santiburi Beach Resorts, Golf & Spa, one of the most luxurious hotels on the island has an excellent 18 hole golf on-site

Other Activities - Aquarium, tiger show, monkey's at work, snake farm

Samui's Dining & Nightlife : Chaweng and, to a lesser extent, Lamai have very lively nightlife with a great choice of international and Thai restaurants to choose from. Smaller villages at the less crowded beaches also have some very good dining establishments but in a more peaceful environment.

Additional Notes : Samui is a similar holiday experience to Phuket but its smaller size and slower pace of life makes you more aware of being on an island.

Chiang Mai

Thailand's Old Capital in The Northen Hills
Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Unlike the other destinations listed here, the ancient capital city of Chiang Mai is located far away from the sea in the hills of northern Thailand. Its mix of beautiful scenery and the architectural reminders of its rich history particularly appeals to people looking for a more cultural experience on their holiday. However, there is still plenty of fun to be had once the sight seeing is done with a wide range of daytime activities available as well as a good number of night time venues.

Chiang mai's Main Tourist Areas

Within Chiang Mai city is "The Old City" which is deliniated by a rectangular moat and the ruins of an ancient wall. The eastern side surrounding Tha Pae Gate is the main tourist area being home to many hotels and a centre of night life. The well-known Night Bazaar shopping area is within walking distance and is also a popular area to stay.

Not far away is the winding Mae Ping River that offers a quieter alternative with several very nice hotels and restaurants that have riverside views. Chiang Mai is quite a large city and hotels are spread throughout but visitors who stay in the areas mentioned should have few problems communicating, finding international cusine or nightlife fun.

There are also some fabulous Chiang Mai resorts outside the main city such as Four Seasons in Mae Rim that appeal to people who want to enjoy the peaceful Chiang Mai countryside far from the crowds in absolute luxury.

Thinmgs to Do in Chiang Mai

Sight-Seeing Tours - Elephant treks, hill tribe visits, temple and city tours, river cruises

Adventure activities - off-road buggy and motorcycle tours, white water rafting, zip lining, rock climbing, mountain biking, trekking

Golf - A choice of six golf courses are in the Chiang Mai area in some very scenic settings.

Chiang Mai Dining & Nightlife : Restaurants and bars aimed at foreigners line the eastern side of the moat with the busiest road of rowdy bars being Loy Kroh Road near Tha Pae Gate. There are also quite a few riverside restaurants with nice ambience as well as evening dining cruises. Of course, for Thai food lovers, the whole town is a paradise of northern Thai cuisine.

Additional Notes : Chiang Mai offers a chance to really experience Thai culture in a pleasantly laid back atmosphere. The residents are used to foreign visitors and are friendly without so much of the hard-sell tactics that can be experienced in the other tourist hot spots.

Krabi Province & Ao Nang Beach

Stunningly Beautiful and Relatively Peaceful
Ao Nang Beach at sunset

Three hours drive south east from Phuket is the province of Krabi. Its an area of some truly stunning scenery dominated by majestic limestone formations, sheer cliffs and dark-forested hills.

Krabi Town is the capital but the most popular place to stay is Ao Nang Beach, a small tourist village in a fabulous location surrounded by jungle-covered hills and cliffs.

Krabi's Main Tourist Areas

Ao Nang township is where most of the hotel accommodation, tourist shopping and night entertainment is. Ten minutes away by water taxi are the Railay Beach resorts which have the advantage of exclusive access to one of Thailand's best beaches.

There are some other attractive beaches such as Tubkaak that have also have top class resorts nearby which suit people looking for the ultimate in peace and tranquility.

Krabi Town, which is about 20 minutes drive from Ao Nang, has generally cheaper accommodation but lacks the beautiful surrounding scenery of other Krabi locations.

Things to Do in Krabi

Scuba diving - one of the best places for scuba divers to base themselves being only an hour or two away from many of the absolute best Andaman diving sites. Further afield but still within day-trip distance are the islets of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang that are frequented by manta rays and whale sharks

Sea Tours - you can hire a long-tail boat and crew for the day to visit some of the many nearby islands with their attractive crescent-shaped beaches or go on guided launch trips that show the most popular ones. Also popular are the sea kayak tours that allow close examination of the wildlife and stunning natural formations present in some of the limestone islands such as caverns and and overhanging cliffs.

Fishing - sea fishing charters or freshwater fishing lakes where you are just about guranteed to catch something.

Other Attractions - tiger temple, monkey island, hot springs.

Dining & Nightlife : Ao Nang township has many excellent restaurants serving both Thai and international cuisine.

There are two main areas of bars that provide lively music and hostesses to entertain but there are also many quieter establishments to be found along the beach road that may suit couples and families more.

Additional Notes : Krabi is only about three hours drive from Phuket and, although not as famous or popular, is considered by many to be even more attractive. Its quieter with a lot less adult themed nightlife making it very popular with families and couples seeking a romantic holiday. More information can be found in our Quick Krabi Guide.

Pattaya

Bangkok's Nearest Beach resort
Pattaya in Thailand at night

About two hours drive south east of Bangkok is the nightlife capital of Thailand, Pattaya City. It has two large beaches which, although pleasant, do not compare with the likes of Phuket or Samui. But its the outrageous nightlife that is undoubtedly the main draw for most foreigners. Countless beer and gogo bars can be found throughout the city with the main area called Walking Street being a neon assault on the senses that many never forget.

Pattaya's Main Tourist Areas

Main Tourist Areas : South Pattaya near the beach and main nighlife area of Walking Street is most popular with nightlife lovers but, as bars and restaurants can be found all over the city and also because the "baht bus" transport system is easy to use and cheap, means there are plenty of other good areas to stay that have easy access to the party life.

Jomtien with its nicer beach and quieter nightlife is popular with people who want to get away from the noise and bustle of Pattaya but is still only 15 minutes away from Walking Street by baht bus.

Things to Do in Pattaya

Beach activites - All the usual beach entertainment including banana boats, jet skis, para gliding and wind surfing are available at both Pattaya and Jomtien Beach.

Scuba diving - Day trips to the nearby gulf islands offer some good diving with decent water clarity at times. There is also a choice of wrecks to dive.

Other activities - Great bargain shopping, elephant park, fishing, bungy jumping, water parkSight seeing - Underwater World, tiger zoo, The Sanctuary of Truth, Million Years Stone ParkGolf - There are a large number of championship standard golf courses are nearby which, together with low costs, make Pattaya a popular choice for golf fanatics.

Dining & Nightlife : Pattaya has a huge number restaurants run by expats from all over the world so there are few cities that have such a variety of genuine international cusine available which, combined with innumerable Thai eateries, makes Pattaya a fantastic place for food lovers.

Pattaya's main draw is its outrageous and noisy nightlife. Well over a thousand bars operate throught the city with the busiest centre being Walking Street at the southern end of Beach Road. This neon-lit party paradise throbs with the music from bars, discos and gogo bars every night of the week. There are, however, many other altenative areas in town with night venues to cater for people of all tastes.

Additional Notes : Pattaya is well known for the adult theme of its night entertainment but it is easy to avoid this side of the city's character if you wish and simply enjoy yourself as you would at any other beach resort and it does have the advantage of being quite a bit cheaper than the other popular Thailand destinations. Information on the best locations in which to stay can be found in the Where to Stay in Pattaya Guide.

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