The Best Places to Visit in Thailand and Where to Stay While you are There
Looking for luxury in the Land of Smiles? Bored of the bar scene? Thailand beckons discerning travellers with its rich tapestry of culture, captivating landscapes, five-star hotels and a warm hospitality that has earned it the well-deserved moniker.
With a frosty British winter well and truly on its way, we wouldn’t blame you for craving an escape to warmer climes over the coming months. With both bustling cities and pristine island getaways within easy reach, it’s no surprise Thailand is top of many-a travellers’ bucket lists.
From lavish resorts perched on pristine coastlines to opulent jungle retreats hidden deep within lush rainforests, Thailand also happens to be home to a plethora of luxury five-star lodgings, with its unique blend of tradition and modernity providing an unforgettable backdrop for any trip.
So whether you plan on traversing the mystical temples of Bangkok, or would rather fly-and-flop one of the country’s many paradise islands, all bases are covered.
With most flights landing in the capital of Bangkok, spend a couple of days exploring this sprawling metropolis home to more than 10 million souls. Brimming with historic sites, stylish hotels, a buzzing culinary scene and plenty of great shopping, start your trip on Rattanakosin Island, the heart of historic Bangkok where you can visit the Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew, which houses the country’s most revered religious icon, the Emerald Buddha. There are also plenty of markets to get lost in (Tha Prachan Market is a top pick), while a river boat cruise can also be a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Where to stay in Bangkok: Perfectly positioned on the banks of the Chai Phraya River, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is five-star luxury at its finest. Renowned for its glitz, glamour, exceptional dining and stellar service, it’s no wonder it has been the elite’s hotel of choice for more than 150 years. Arrive by boat for a truly unique experience.
Just a three-hour drive or a short flight from the capital, the stunning seaside resort of Hua Hin transformed into a chic retreat for Bangkok residents following the 1920s thanks to the construction of summer palaces by the Thai royal family. Today its perfect white sand, high-end hotels and seafood shacks draw visitors looking for a relaxed beach break complete with lively markets, good golf courses and a trendy crowd without the pretence.
Where to stay in Hua Hin: Just like the Cambodian temple it was inspired by, The Barai is the perfect sanctuary in which to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. Home to just eight huge suites and one of Thailand’s most visually-impressive spas that offers several sophisticated wellness programmes, guests even get their own personal butler who is always happy to go the extra mile in the name of great service.
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While Koh Samui may be one of the country’s more touristy islands, it’s popular for very good reason. Nestled off the coast of eastern Thailand, dense green jungle comes surrounded by a ring of white, powdery sand, surrounded by an endless sea of azure ocean. Whether you simply want to sit back and relax, sample some of Thailand’s best cuisine, are in search of hiking and other outdoor pursuits, or even want to hole up in a luxury wellness retreat for a week, there’s something for every traveller.
Avoid Chaweng with its Irish pubs and Full Moon parties and instead head to the likes of Choeng Mon Beach, Taling Ngam Beach and Bo Put for a more upscale experience.
Where to stay on Koh Samui: An exquisite property carved out of an old coconut plantation, Ritz Carlton Koh Samui is by far the swankiest place to stay on the island. Just 15 minutes from Koh Samui airport, and built around a private, picturesque bay, it may be home to a fairly sizable 175 keys spread across suites and pool villas, yet it still manages to feel intimate. Expect fitness facilities, private pools and an awe-inspiring spa.
All twisty limestone sea stacks, luminous green water, peroxide blonde sand and raggedy coastlines, Phuket is perhaps the most famous of all Thai islands, and it’s not hard to see why.
If snorkelling is your thing, then you’ll want to head to the Surin and Similan Islands for eclectic marine life (think leopard sharks, colour-changing octopus and huge green sea turtles) while, down south you can trek up to the Big Buddha which sits on a hilltop alongside the Wat Chalong temple.
If nature calls then be sure to head north to the expansive rainforest of Khao Sok national park, a rainforest older than the Amazon, and for splurge-worthy beach resorts well, quite frankly, they are everywhere. The Thalang district is a great starting point.
Where to stay on Phuket: One of the most exceptional places to stay in the whole of Thailand, Six Senses Yao Noi boasts five-star amenities, great sustainability credentials and the best view of Phang Nga Bay on the island. The perfect place to disconnect, with qi gong, yoga, mini-massages and water sports on tap, a highlight has to be the insanely beautiful hilltop infinity pool, while there's also a gorgeous white beach which only guests have access to.
A feast of natural beauty, Phang Nga is one of the best places to travel if you’re looking to have a white sandy beach all to yourself. Not far from Phuket, meaning you can combine both islands during one stay, the bay's distinctive cliffs, unique cave systems and interesting archaeological sites make for one of south-east Asia's most striking maritime landscapes.
It’s also where they filmed James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974 and later Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997, so if it’s good enough for 007…
Where to stay on Phang Nga: A secluded boutique resort amidst 10 acres of trimmed and tailored tropical gardens, The Sarojin comes designed in a contemporary Asian style with all the trimmings. We’re talking unique private dining settings on secluded white beaches, residences with private swimming pools and an utterly serene spa, no wonder it gets fully booked months in advance.
When is the best time to visit Thailand?
Thailand’s dry season runs from November to April, making these months the best time to visit for good weather. Avoid May to October, when rainfall can be heavy, and monsoons blow in from all directions.