With so many amazing destinations, it can be overwhelming to figure out the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers.
This Southeast Asia gem is bursting with culture, incredible food, and some of the most beautiful beaches and landscapes you’ll ever lay your eyes on.
I actually lived in “The Land of Smiles” for a few months and have visited numerous times. Yet, I still feel like I haven’t scratched the surface of some of the most beautiful places in Thailand.
So, I’ve teamed up with some of my travel blogging friends to give you the inside scoop on some unique places in Thailand that you’ll want to add to your list.
Here are 24 of the best places in Thailand that you’ll love exploring as a first time visitor! (This list will inspire you even if you’ve been to Thailand before).
In This Post:
Best Places to Visit in Thailand for First Timers Map
Here’s a map to help you visualize these beautiful places in Thailand. Click on the map, and you can explore each location in more detail.
24 Best Places to Visit in Thailand for First Timers
Best Places to Visit in Thailand for First Timers: Cities, Towns, and Provinces
1. Hat Yai – Where Thailand Meets Malaysia
By Marya of The BeauTraveler
🚗 How to get there: Hat Yai is a large city in southern Thailand near the Malaysian border. You can reach Hat Yai by flying into Hat Yai International Airport or by taking a bus from Bangkok or other cities in Thailand.
🥣 What to eat: Being the city with the highest Malay-Muslim and Chinese-Thai populations, Hat Yai is also one of the best places in Thailand, with foods influenced by Malay and Chinese delicacies. Stop by Chen Loong Boat Noodle in Kho Hong district for breakfast or lunch. The latter has been in business for over 30 years, making it one of the most popular local food stalls in Hat Yai!
On this list of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers, Hat Yai is perhaps one of the most underrated.
Even though Hat Yai may not be as popular as other cities in Thailand, the Songkhla Province’s capital city has the uniqueness that makes it worth a visit when you travel around the country.
Located in Southern Thailand close to the Malaysian border, Hat Yai is known as a favorite weekend getaway destination for Malaysians.
The city can be reached by car from Penang in Malaysia in around 4 hours, and there are many things to do to explore Hat Yai for the weekend.
Don’t miss Hat Yai Municipal Park, the locals’ favorite recreational park that offers many activities for kids and adults. Close to the welcome gate, you can have a picnic by the lake or take a nice stroll while enjoying a glass of Thai tea from the local stalls around the park.
There’s also a cable car that you can take up to the hill where you can see the statue of King Rama V, as well as visit the Brahman Shrine and Goddess Guan Yin statue made of jade.
2. Bangkok – The Capital City and a Cultural Melting Pot
By Disha of Disha Discovers (me)
🚗 How to get there: Getting to Bangkok is easy as it’s served by two international airports – Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang International Airport. Once you’re in the city, the best way to get around is via taxi or Grab (similar to Uber).
🥣 What to eat: The street food scene in Bangkok is incredible! Be sure to try Pad Thai, spicy papaya salad, and fried banana pancakes. This Bangkok midnight food tour is an exciting way to try the most legendary street food in the city.
There’s a big possibility that your Thailand adventure starts in the buzzing capital city of Bangkok.
From the moment you arrive, you’ll be enveloped in the chaotic yet intoxicating energy of this metropolis.
This vibrant city has something for everyone, from historic temples and floating markets to delicious street food and vibrant nightlife.
The best place to start your Bangkok exploration is at the Grand Palace, a magnificent complex of temples and pavilions that have served as the official residence of the King of Thailand since 1782.
Nearby, you can also visit Wat Pho, home to an enormous reclining Buddha statue and one of the largest collections of Buddha images in Thailand.
No trip to Bangkok would be complete without a ride on a traditional longtail boat through the city’s famous canals. Glide past floating markets and observe local life as it unfolds before your eyes.
Last but not least, for a different perspective of Bangkok, head to one of the city’s many rooftop bars for stunning views of the skyline as the sun goes down.
3. Chiang Rai – A Gateway to Northern Thailand
By Jack and Abbie of A Couples Calling
🚗 How to get there: Chiang Rai International Airport is the best way to get there as it has many direct flights from domestic and international airlines.
🥣 What to eat: If you’re a big foodie, Chiang Rai will be your paradise! You’ll find plenty of delicious Thai food throughout the city, although the best place to grab a cheap meal is the Grand Bazaar or the stalls lining the street. There are so many fantastic authentic dishes to try, but you NEED to go for Sai Ua or Khao Soi. Sai Ua is a dish based on spicy sausage, while Khao Soi is a Northern noodle curry.
Chiang Rai is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers.
It’s the most northern major city in the country and is the perfect spot to visit if you’re looking to learn about Thailand’s culture.
Offering plenty of attractions, delicious local dishes, and a relaxed atmosphere, you’ll want to spend at least a couple of days here.
The best things to do in the city include visiting the Baan Dam Museum, wandering down Chiang Rai Walking Street, and relaxing at Pong Phrabat Hot Springs.
However, it’s the temples in Chiang Rai that really steal the show!
The two main temples are Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) and Wat Rong Suea Ten (the Blue Temple).
During your time in the city, you’ll also want to visit the temples of Wat Huay Pla Kang, Wat Phra Kaew, and Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong.
4. Chiang Mai – A Mix of Culture, Nature, and Delicious Food
By Reshma of The Solo Globetrotter
🚗 How to get there: You can fly into Chiang Mai International Airport or take an overnight train or bus from Bangkok.
🥣 What to eat: Chiang Mai’s street food scene is amazing! Make sure to try some Khao Soi, a coconut curry noodle soup, and Kaeb Moo which is crispy pork rinds.
Chiang Mai is one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers who want to trade the beaches for mountains and lush forests.
The winding roads offer stunning mountain views, pleasant weather, delicious food, cheap accommodations, and many attractions making it a favorite destination for families, solo travelers, couples, backpackers, and digital nomads.
Don’t miss exploring the massive and beautiful Buddhist temples, including the hilltop Wat Phra Doi Suthep, 14th-century Wat Phra Singh, and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang.
Renting a bike is the best way to wander around Chiang Mai. Visit the highest peak in Thailand, located at the pretty Doi Inthanon National Park.
Shop to your heart’s content for hand-made souvenirs and artwork at the famous Sunday Market on Walking Street, a top attraction. It is also the best place to savor delicious street food.
Plan a day trip to Chiang Dao, a small village surrounded by lush paddy fields and limestone cliffs. It is one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Thailand, where you can choose from various activities, from enjoying a relaxing stay to going rafting or hiking in the hills.
5. Krabi – The Outdoor Adventure Capital of Thailand
By Bradley of Dream Big Travel Far
🚗 How to get there: Fly into Krabi Airport.
🥣 What to eat: For a scrumptious culinary experience, stop by Maharat Market and try all the different street seafood they offer!
Famous for its breathtaking ocean views and beaches, Krabi is a relaxing port town in southwestern Thailand, located on the Strait of Malacca.
With as many charming bars and restaurants as numerous diving sites and nature treks, it’s a wonderful place for party animals and adrenaline junkies alike.
Its history dates back to the late 18th century during the Rattanakosin Period when they set up an elephant kraal to supply elephants for the bigger towns.
Krabi is also home to the world-renowned Phi Phi Islands, famous for being the shooting location of Leonardo DiCaprio’s film “The Beach.”
Here, you will find countless opportunities for hiking, scenic boat trips, shopping trips in the village market, temple-hopping, and more. Their iconic jagged karst limestones are truly a sight to behold.
Don’t miss Railay Beach, either. Its west side is much more isolated and serene and is only reachable by boat.
It features dramatic rock structures and the impressive Diamond Cave, a panorama of geological formations set against a backdrop of azure waters.
For those with plenty of time to spare, exploring Thailand in three weeks can be a memorable experience. Two days should be enough to see all that this coastal town has to offer.
6. Buriram – A Small, Secluded City in Northeastern Thailand
By Allan of Live Less Ordinary
🚗 How to get there: The easiest way to get to Buriram is by flying into Buriram Airport.
🥣 What to eat: Be sure to try Isaan food and the revered fiery staples of Thai street food including Som Tam Papaya Salad and Spicy Laab Salad.
Buriram is often overlooked by travelers, but it’s one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers who want to get off the beaten path.
Northeastern Thailand, aka Isaan, is the least explored region of Thailand due to its expansive size and hard-to-reach destinations.
This also makes it one of the more adventurous and exciting regions to explore for travelers.
Buriram, Thailand’s City of Sports, is known for its huge stadiums that host global events, including big regional football events and the Moto GP.
Buriram has always been a popular local attraction in the region located by the Cambodian borders and on the Ancient Khmer Highway connecting it with Angkor Wat.
The surrounding Buriram Province is home to fascinating Khmer temples, including Phanom Rung Historical Park and Muang Tam Sanctuary.
Additionally, the city is a convenient base to experience real rustic rural Thailand due to its setting between endless rice fields and is steeped in local Buddhist culture and rural Thai tradition.
Buriram is off the beaten path, so this means tourist attractions remain relatively untouched by mass tourism, and the charm of rural Thai living life remains.
7. Hua Hin – A Seaside Resort Town South of Bangkok
By Brodi of Our Offbeat Life
🚗 How to get there: The fastest and easiest way to get to Hua Hin is via taxi from Bangkok. You can also take a bus or train.
🥣 What to eat: Try some seafood Pad Thai at the night markets, as it’s often caught fresh that same day!
Hua Hin is one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers for a number of reasons.
First, the summer palace of King Rama IV is located here. The palace is now a museum and is open to the public.
When the Royal Family is not vacationing at the palace, it is occasionally open for high tea. Tickets to tea must be booked well in advance if you’re interested in that.
Second, Hua Hin has some of the best beaches in Thailand. The beaches here are not as crowded as those in other parts of the country and offer a more relaxing experience. Yet they are just as beautiful as the famous southern beaches, so visitors get the best of both worlds.
Finally, Hua Hin is home to night markets, which are a must-see for any visitor. The night markets offer a wide variety of goods, ranging from clothes to souvenirs, and are a great place to bargain for good prices.
Hua Hin is an ideal destination for those who want to experience the best of Thailand. From its historical significance to its natural beauty, there is something for everyone in Hua Hin.
8. Pai – A Small Mountain Village in Northern Thailand
By Alex and Leah of Alex and Leah On Tour
🚗 How to get there: The best way to get to Pai is by taking a bus from Chiang Mai.
🥣 What to eat: Pai is an excellent place to try some of the local specialties like Khao Soi (a coconut curry noodle soup) and Sai Oua (a northern Thai sausage).
If you’re looking to visit one of the most unique and best places to visit in Thailand for first timers, there really is no better place than Pai.
Situated in northwest Thailand close to the Myanmar (Burma) border, Pai is a small mountain village that’s bursting with authentic Thai culture.
It’s surrounded by beautiful rice fields, stunning mountains, and some of the best hot springs in the country.
Although it can be quite touristy at times, Pai still manages to hold onto its small-town charm and is an excellent place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
If you only have a short stay in Pai, one of the best things you can do is take a tour of the village. Here you’ll be able to see and walk across the incredible Bamboo Bridge, explore the Pam Bok Waterfall and enjoy watching the sunset over the Pai Canyon.
However, the best thing you can do is to go Tipsy Tubing. You essentially float down a murky river, in and out of reeds, but with alcohol in hand. If you’re traveling with a group of friends or want to get to know people, there is no better activity!
9. Loei – A Quiet Province in the Mountains of Northeastern Thailand
By Noel of Travel Photo Discovery
🚗 How to get there: You’ll have to take the train from Bangkok to the closest train station in Loei which is Udon Thani. From there, you’ll take the bus to Loei.
🥣 What to eat: The food in Loei is unique as it’s influenced by the Lao people who live here. Make sure to try some of the local specialties like Khao Piak Sen (Lao-style noodle soup) and Goong Foi (fresh baby shrimp from the Mekong River that’s fried).
Of all the most authentic places to visit in Thailand, the Loei region is probably the least visited and off-the-beaten-path area to visit in the region.
You’ll be surprised that most tourists in this region tend to be only Thai people visiting the main attractions in the area.
The main attraction to experience is the Mekong River that divides Thailand and Laos in this region of Loei.
You can also explore the many small coastline towns, cruise the river and enjoy the low-key lifestyle, architectural, historical sites, natural parks, and landscapes to visit.
The most important parks and attractions to visit include Phu Ruea National Park, Phu Tok Mountain, and the various ethnic tribes like the village of Ta Dam, which is open for visitors to explore and enjoy the tribes here.
If you’re looking for the most extraordinary and best places to visit in Thailand for first timers, you won’t be disappointed by these top attractions to visit in Northern Thailand.
10. Kanchanaburi – For History and Nature Lovers
By Abi of I’m Going On An Adventure
🚗 How to get there: Take a train or bus from Bangkok.
🥣 What to eat: There are many dishes to try in Kanchanaburi, from fried rice and noodles to bbq fish, dumplings, seafood, grilled sausages, and gluttonous rice balls. The crowning glory is the deep-fried chicken feet, crunchy and chewy, they are surprisingly good!
Kanchanaburi is one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first-timers who want to learn about Thailand’s dark history.
The city has an incredible past which is both sad and amazing. Unknown to most, it played a massive role in the Second World War, being an entry point for the forced labor of allied Prisoners of War (POWS) who suffered immensely during the Japanese occupation.
Most of the attractions in Kanchanaburi tell a story of suffering and defiance, all of which can be found in the many museums dotted around the city.
There is also the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, where thousands of POWs have been buried; a very sad but memorable place to visit.
Other things to do in Kanchanaburi include a visit to the Death Railway and The River Kwai Bridge (made famous by the film “Bridge Over The River Kwai”).
On a more upbeat note, there is a fantastic waterfall located 1.5 hours outside the city known as Erawan Waterfall. This is probably one of the best waterfalls in Thailand and requires the whole day to be completely explored!
Not only does Kanchanaburi make for a great educational and natural experience, but it also has an epic night market. The night markets sell it all, but there is a large focus on food.
Best Places to Visit in Thailand for First Timers: National Parks and Historical Sites
11. Ayutthaya – An Intriguing Historical City
By Paul D’Souza of Paulmarina
🚗 How to get there: Ayutthaya is most popularly done as a day trip from Bangkok, which is plenty of time to explore the temples. Ayutthaya is fifty miles away from Bangkok, and you can take a bus, ride a train, or hire a driver for the day. Alternatively, you can go on a guided tour from Bangkok without having to worry about logistics.
🥣 What to eat: King River Prawns are abundant in the rivers in Ayutthaya, and they’re a specialty of the province. Enjoy grilled prawns, or try a typical local prawn dish with a spicy tamarind sauce.
Ayutthaya is a large temple and monument complex located an hour north of Bangkok. The Ayutthaya temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and consist of active and ruined temples.
It was the thriving capital of the Kingdom of Siam at its peak and was an important trading post for the West and the East.
In 1767, the Burmese army destroyed the entire city. Today, there are still active and restored temples, as well as various ruins.
Wat Phanan Choeng is the oldest temple in Ayutthaya Historical Park (built in 1324), and it houses a massive golden Buddha.
Wat Mahathat is one of the famous temple ruins in Ayutthaya. Most visitors come to see the etching of Buddha’s head on a tree trunk.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram is one of the most beautiful and popular temples in Ayutthaya, and it’s also one of the biggest. It was built in 1630 to honor the king’s mother, and it’s especially beautiful at night when it’s lit up.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is an active monastery and temple complex that’s well-known for its large Buddha statue. It’s said that if you put a coin on the foot of the statue, you’ll receive good luck.
Last but not least, Wat Phutthaisawan is over 666 years old and is known for its remarkable white prang (tower or pagoda).
All in all, you’ll learn a lot about the history of the Kingdom of Siam, which is key to understanding Thai people, their culture, and their heritage.
12. Sukhothai Historical Park – A Glimpse Into Thailand’s Rich Past
By Soumya of Stories by Soumya
🚗 How to get there: Fly into Sukhothai Airport from Bangkok and then take a 45-minute taxi ride to the historical park.
🥣 What to eat: Don’t forget to try the special Sukhothai rice noodles or Kuay Tiao Sukhothai, which is a delicious mix of noodles, ground peanuts, beans, chili, and lime.
Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers who love history.
Dating back to the early 13th century, Old Sukhothai was the illustrious capital of an ancient kingdom by the same name in northeastern Thailand.
The archaeological site is full of ancient temple complexes; some of them in Khmer style and others in a novel Sukhothai style that originated here.
One of the most iconic temples is Wat Mahathat or the Temple of the Great Relic.
Wat Si Sawai is a beautiful Khmer shrine that was once dedicated to Lord Shiva of the Hindu Trinity but later converted into a Buddhist temple.
Don’t miss the unique temples of Wat Sorasak and Wat Chang Lom, which are adorned with several elephant sculptures.
Old Sukhothai is special because this was the first official Kingdom of Thailand.
The Kingdom of Sukhothai had tremendous influence over the evolution of the Thai language, art, architecture, and even law in later years.
The Sukhothai Period is often considered to be a golden time in the history of Thailand.
The easiest way to explore the ruins of Sukhothai is by bicycle. It is also the most efficient use of your time.
13. Similan Islands – Off the Beaten Path Paradise in Thailand
By Giorgy of G-Extreme Travel
🚗 How to get there: You can visit the islands one of two ways: stay on a live-aboard boat or take a day trip from the mainland. If you choose the day trip option, make sure you take a high-speed boat so you can see as many of the islands as possible.
🥣 What to eat: As the Similan Islands are uninhabited, there are no restaurants or food stalls. Be sure to pack enough snacks and drinks for your day trip!
The Similan Islands are an earthly paradise in the heart of the glistening Andaman Sea, and they’re one of the most unique places in Thailand.
This little archipelago is made up of nine uninhabited islands, each more beautiful than the last. Together, they form the Similan Islands National Park, which is one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers.
The Similan Islands are the perfect travel destination for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts, offering crystal clear shallow waters with incredible coral reefs and good underwater visibility of up to 100 feet (30 meters)!
The marine life is something out of this world, and it’s comparable to the magical underwater of the Galapagos Islands! Some of the islands that comprise the Similan Islands are regarded as one of the top ten diving sites in the world.
If you don’t enjoy being in the water, you can still enjoy nature and wildlife. The islands have a Jurassic Park vibe, and they’re well populated with tropical singing birds, giant friendly monitor lizards, and more.
The Similan Islands National Park is a protected area, so it’s important to be respectful of the environment and wildlife. In order to be preserved, nothing can be taken from the islands and left on them. Don’t touch the wildlife and marine life, and don’t walk on the coral.
Note that the park is closed during the rainy season, which is typically from mid-May to mid-October. You also have to have a national park admission ticket, and scuba diving insurance is mandatory if you’re staying on a live-aboard boat.
Lastly, you won’t find any accommodations on the island, and a live-aboard boat is your best bet if you want to stay overnight.
14. Khao Sok National Park – A Stunning National Park in Southern Thailand
By Erika of Erika’s Travelventures
🚗 How to get there: The closest town to the park and the starting point for most of the 2-day, 1-night tours is Khlong Sok in the Surat Thani province. Because Khao Sok is a popular tourist destination, Khlong Sok can be easily reached using tourist transportation (bus or van) from other popular destinations in southern Thailand like Krabi, Phuket, Surat Thani, and even Bangkok.
🥣 What to eat: Khao Sok Village is right outside the gates of the national park, and there are a few cafes and restaurants.
Known for its gorgeous Cheow Lan Lake, jungle views, wild animal sightings, and cave systems, Khao Sok National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Thailand and definitely one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers.
To experience the most of this national park, most visitors take part in a 2-day, 1-night tour of Khao Sok.
Although it’s difficult to pick a highlight of visiting Khao Sok, staying in one of a string of overwater bungalows as part of the overnight tour has to be one of the top and most famous experiences in the park.
All of the other amazing things to do here revolve around enjoying the outdoors and the natural wonders of Thailand.
You can go on wildlife spotting excursions where you can see many types of native birds and monkeys, and also ride Thai longboats around Cheow Lan Lake to admire picturesque limestone rock formations jutting out of the water.
You can also embark on a trek through a cave system in the park. In the evening back at the floating bungalows, everyone gathers at the large dining area and enjoys grilled, freshly caught fish and a variety of Thai curries, including vegetarian options.
15. Khao Yai National Park – A Must-Visit National Park Near Bangkok
By Margarita of The Wildlife Diaries
🚗 How to get there: Located 2.5 hours north of Bangkok, you can take a bus or train to Pak Chong (the town closest to the park) from Bangkok.
🥣 What to eat: There are several restaurants in Pak Chong, and you’ll find delicious, traditional Thai food.
Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima province is the best park in Thailand for spotting wildlife.
You can see gibbons, giant squirrels, sambar and barking deer, the magnificent Great hornbills, and a plethora of other bird species.
Khao Yai is also an excellent place to see wild Asiatic elephants. A sighting is not guaranteed, of course, but they are frequently seen in the park.
For the best chance of seeing the elephants, spend a few days in the area and take a couple of day tours to the park.
Beyond wildlife spotting, Khao Yai is also home to four waterfalls, including the Haew Suwat waterfall, made famous by the movie “The Beach.”
Waterfalls are at their best during the rainy season when they turn into thundering torrents framed by lush green forests shrouded in mist.
If you have time, don’t miss a dusk tour to Khao Luk Chang Bat Cave to see over two million wrinkle-lipped bats come out of their cave on the side of a mountain and fill the sky like a giant undulating ribbon. If you a keen to witness one of nature’s great spectacles, this is it.
Best Places to Visit in Thailand for First Timers: Beautiful Islands
16. Koh Samui – A Tropical Island Paradise
By Disha of Disha Discovers (me)
🚗 How to get there: The best way to get to Koh Samui is by flying into Koh Samui Airport, which is served by direct flights from many destinations and is a hub for Bangkok Airways.
🥣 What to eat: Be sure to try fresh seafood and sticky rice with mango for dessert.
If you’re looking for the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers, head to the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand.
I once called this tropical oasis “home,” and it’s ringed with sandy beaches, sheltered coves, and lush jungle-covered mountains. It truly is one of the most beautiful islands in Asia!
The beaches on Koh Samui are some of the most beautiful in Thailand. Popular spots include Chaweng Beach, with its long stretch of white sand and lively atmosphere, and Lamai Beach, a quieter alternative with stunning rock formations.
When you’ve had your fill of beach time, head inland to explore some of Koh Samui’s jungle-covered mountains and waterfalls. The waterfalls at Na Muang are particularly spectacular.
For something truly special, take a boat ride to the nearby Ang Thong Marine National Park, an archipelago of 42 limestone islands with dramatic cliff formations, hidden lagoons, and white sand beaches.
For a dose of culture, take a stroll through Fisherman’s Village, a quaint beachfront area with traditional Thai-style rustic buildings, restaurants, and boutique shops.
17. Koh Lipe – A Slice of Island Bliss in the Andaman Sea
🚗 How to get there: Koh Lipe isn’t easy to get to, but it’s definitely worth the effort. You’ll probably have to use a combination of transportation to get there. From Bangkok, book a domestic flight to Trang or Hat Yai. Then, you’ll have to take a bus and then a speedboat. You can also take a speedboat from Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Lanta. Lastly, you can fly into Langkawi, Malaysia, and then take a speedboat from there.
🥣 What to eat: Since you’re on an island, you have to try the seafood. Make sure to try the grilled squid, which is a local specialty. You can find it at most restaurants on the island.
Koh Lipe is definitely one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers.
This small island is located in the southernmost part of Thailand, not far from the Malaysian border.
Due to its fascinating underwater world, it’s one of the famous hotspots for divers and those who love snorkeling!
Koh Lipe is especially known for its intact nature. The island is part of Tarutao Marine National Park, a nature reserve that consists of 50 other islands, islets, and countless reefs.
Another great thing about Koh Lipe is that there are beautiful reefs directly on the beaches, which are great for snorkeling. This is perfect for those who don’t want to take a long boat ride to get to the best snorkeling spots.
In addition, Koh Lipe has gorgeous snow-white sandy beaches, where the palm trees and the warm, turquoise sea conjure up a first-class paradise. This dreamy island invites you to relax and forget about the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The ingenious thing is that Koh Lipe is tiny, and you can explore all the beautiful bays of the island on foot.
There is also a cool walking street named Koh Lipe Walking Street in the middle of the island, where you can find fabulous restaurants, bars, and stores.
18. Koh Chang – A Relaxing Island Getaway
By Annelies of Travelers and Dreamers
🚗 How to get there: There are two main ways to get to Koh Chang. The first way is to take a bus from Bangkok to Trat and then take a ferry from there. The second way is to fly into Trat and then take a ferry to Koh Chang.
🥣 What to eat: Try Kuay Teaw (noodle soup) and Kanom Krok (small coconut and rice flour pancakes).
Koh Chang is one of the islands located in the Gulf of Thailand and is the third largest island in Thailand after Koh Samui and Phuket.
It’s also known as “Elephant Island” due to its shape which resembles an elephant. Koh Chang is a part of the Mu Ko Chang National Park and is covered with lush green rainforest.
Whether you’re a beach bum, avid hiker, or wellness seeker, Koh Chang will have something for every kind of traveler.
If you love hiking, make sure to hike up Klong Plu Waterfall. It’s one of the most popular hikes on the island, and it’s a quick 15-minute walk to the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls.
Kai Bae Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on Koh Chang and is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing.
If you’re looking for a more secluded beach, then head to Khlong Prao Beach which is located on the west coast of the island.
Want to be a beach bum? Head to Lonely Beach. With its bohemian vibe and great beach bars, it’s the perfect place to relax, soak up some rays, and enjoy the nightlife scene.
19. Phi Phi Islands – Stunning Islands in the Andaman Sea
By David & Intan of The World Travel Guy
🥣 What to eat: The usual Thai classic dishes can be found on Phi Phi Don, and prices are very reasonable if you look around. Don’t forget to try the mango sticky rice!
The scenic Phi Phi Island definitely deserves a spot on this list of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers.
The main reason to go to Phi Phi is for the spectacular views and beaches, with turquoise water, lagoons, white sand, and limestone hills.
There are two main islands: Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. Don is the only island with hotels, accommodations, and restaurants, while Leh has famous sights like Maya Bay and the Pileh Lagoon.
These are arguably some of the most beautiful natural sights anywhere in Thailand!
You can go between the Phi Phi Islands easily by boat, and both islands are located relatively close to Phuket.
Lots of tourists come to Phi Phi on a day trip from Phuket, and you can see most of the highlights on a day trip, but there are also plenty of other things to keep you entertained for two or three days on the island if you want to stay longer.
20. Koh Phangan – The Party Island of Thailand
By Veronika of Travel Geekery
🚗 How to get there: Fly into Koh Samui International Airport and then take a fast boat to Koh Phangan.
🥣 What to eat: Koh Phangan doesn’t have any special dishes that originate from there, but you can find all the staples of authentic Thai food such as mango sticky rice, and Pad Thai, as well as some more unique dishes like Burmese tea salad at the amazing street food markets.
One of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers is Koh Phangan, a little gem in the Gulf of Thailand.
Neighboring the much larger Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan is known worldwide as the place for the legendary Full Moon Party.
A Full Moon Party is a massive beach party that happens once a month, coinciding with the full moon. These parties attract upwards of 20,000 people and go all night long!
While the Full Moon parties are one of the major Koh Pha Ngan attractions, there’s so much more to the beautiful island.
There’s lush nature, hiking trails, and beaches of all kinds including secluded ones, as well as all the typical tourist and digital nomad amenities such as modern cafés and places to work. There are just so many diverse things to do in Koh Phangan!
Koh Pha Ngan is also unique because of its spiritual vibe, especially the village of Sri Thanu and the surrounding areas where the hippies of the world gather.
Many people who feel lost in life go there in search of their true selves with yoga and mindfulness being the main buzzwords there. You can join any retreat you’d like from detoxing ones to yoga teacher training.
Koh Phangan has actually always been spiritual. It is believed that monks were its first inhabitants, and local Buddhist tradition has resulted in the building of nine temples, which is quite a lot on such a small island.
Whether you come to Koh Phangan to ponder the meaning of life, to enjoy some beach time, or to go to a Full Moon Party, you’re sure to have a great time!
21. Ko Racha Yai – An Unforgettable Island Escape
By Sam of Sam Lee Travel
🚗 How to get there: The easiest way to get to Koh Racha Yai is via speedboat from Phuket, where you can reach the tranquil island within 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can opt for a 1-hour traditional longtail boat ride.
🥣 What to eat: Make your way to Cliff Restaurant and treat your palate with a bowl of spice-rich, creamy Massaman curry.
Ko Racha Yai is a small island located seven miles away from Phuket.
It’s known as one of the most beautiful places in Thailand and is known for its crystal clear sea, pristine beaches, and chill vibes; a must-visit place for beach lovers or honeymooners!
Inhabited primarily by local fishermen and farmers, Ko Racha Yai has three equally stunning beaches: Ao Bungalow, Siam Bay, and Ter Bay.
Ko Racha Yai is crowded during the day with the presence of the day trippers, but when dusk settles, this beautiful island turns into a secluded haven with several bars and restaurants catering to the overnight guests.
Ko Racha Yai is also one of the top islands in Thailand for snorkeling and scuba diving thanks to the beautiful marine creatures and good in-water visibility. You can see the coral reefs and the fish swimming around without going deep into the water!
If you have time, go diving at its neighboring island, Ko Racha Noi, to have a chance of spotting a manta ray!
22. Phuket – A Mixture of Beaches, Culture, and Nightlife
By Lana of Wildflower in Wanderland
🚗 How to get there: Getting to Phuket is simple — fly into Phuket International Airport.
🥣 What to eat: A must-try dish is Mee Hokkien, a very popular and unique dish in Phuket. Mee Hokkien, “Hokkien-style noodles,” features wheat noodles, greens, seafood, and pork in a delicious broth.
Phuket is one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand for first timers (and for good reason!).
Located on the trading route between China and India, Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, offers a very long and vibrant history.
Many people visit Phuket just to access the popular islands around it such as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Yao. Both can be easily reached from Phuket and offer many varied eating and shopping options.
However, Phuket is so much more than a base to explore nearby islands. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the marine life and clear-as-glass waters on a boat tour, or hire a kayak and explore dozens of hidden coves, bays, and islands.
Expect stunning sunsets over turquoise waters, epic festivals, and incredible authentic food.
Visit the Ming Mokol Buddha, a 148-foot white marble statue nestled high on Nakkerd Hill.
Phuket town has plenty of giant Buddhas, reclining Buddhas, and hill-top temples to choose from. Make sure you cover your arms and legs, maintaining respect.
A highlight on any Thailand itinerary, meeting the locals of Phuket is an experience you won’t forget.
You can hop on an organized tour of fishing villages or one of the infamous floating villages. You can learn how to harvest and cut coconuts, paint textiles, and many more unique skills.
23. Koh Mook – A Relaxing Island Hideaway in Southern Thailand
By Linn of Brainy Backpackers
🚗 How to get there: Koh Mook is accessible by a combination of ferry and bus from the mainland, Trang. You can also get a direct transfer from Koh Lipe.
🥣 What to eat: There are several small restaurants on the island serving Thai and Western food. You can’t go wrong with fresh seafood dishes such as Southern Thai-style shrimp curry.
One of the most epic places to visit is the lesser-known island of Koh Mook in Thailand.
Besides the famous Emerald Cave that you can only reach by boat plus swimming or by kayaking, most travelers overlook this gem of an island.
It’s completely understandable that you’d want to visit Emerald Cave. Imagine a 262-foot swim through the cave to reach a secret beach surrounded by steep cliff walls and only lit up by the sun beaming down from above. This is paradise.
However, its popularity makes it overcrowded, and the best way to explore this mesmerizing spot without the crowds is to rent a kayak and leave in the early morning from Koh Mook itself.
But, the island has a lot more to offer. There are incredible hiking trails in the dense jungle for the adventurous. Rent a scooter and explore the rest of the island, or relax at one of the empty, long white beaches.
Koh Mook is a traditional fishing island destination where you can still experience local life. Eat at small local restaurants and watch the local women and children pick shells at low tide for their dinner.
24. Koh Tao – An Island Paradise That Has It All
By Campbell of Stingy Nomads
🚗 How to get there: You’ll have to take a ferry from Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Chumpon (mainland), or Surat Thani (mainland).
🥣 What to eat: The street food here is fantastic in Koh Tao, and the duck Pad Thai is a dish not to miss!
Another island getaway that snags a spot on this list of best places to visit in Thailand for first timers is Koh Tao.
Located in the Gulf of Thailand in the Chumphon Archipelago, scuba diving in Koh Tao is excellent, and it’s one of the most popular locations for dive training in Southeast Asia.
The island is also well known for snorkeling, hiking, rock climbing, and bouldering.
In English, Koh Tao means “Turtle Island” because green and hawksbill turtles can be seen diving and snorkeling here, and the island’s shape resembles a turtle when viewed from Koh Phangan.
It’s a small island, only 8 square miles, and it has good roads making it excellent to explore by scooter.
A full or half-day snorkeling tour from Koh Tao is a good way to experience the island and marine life.
Mae Haad is the main town and ferry port where you will arrive on Koh Tao, and Sairee Beach is the liveliest and most vibrant area on the island, with many bars, restaurants, clubs, and dive shops.
Sairee Beach is also a great place to rent a kayak and paddle along the stunning coastline from.
Koh Nang Yuan is a small neighboring island of Koh Tao, and visiting this amazing little island is one of the most popular activities to do from Koh Tao.
Best Places to Visit in Thailand for First Timers Final Thoughts
These are just 22 of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers, but there are so many more incredible places to see in this beautiful country.
From the bustling city life of Bangkok to the laid-back beaches of Koh Samui and Krabi, there really is something for everyone in Thailand.
Have you been to any of these beautiful places in Thailand? Let me know in the comments below!
Best Places to Visit in Thailand for First Timers Final Thoughts
Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.