Inspiration Destinations Thailand The Best Places to Visit in Thailand: A First-Timer's Guide 

The Best Places to Visit in Thailand: A First-Timer's Guide 

March 20, 2024
A first-time traveller looks over Ang Thong Island National Park, just one of Thailand's beautiful nature reserves- Luxury Escapes

From brilliant beaches to Big Buddhas and everything beyond, if you’ve been dreaming of visiting Thailand for the first time, here is everything you need to know. 

Warm golden sands, spectacular skylines and sizzling street food: whatever you’re into, Thailand’s more than got you covered. The Land of Smiles has once-in-a-lifetime experiences in store for every type of traveller, but for first-time visitors, it can be hard to know where to start.  

We’ve broken down some of Thailand’s most popular destinations – from bustling Bangkok to party-happy Patong – to make your first escape a breeze. 

Scroll on to discover more. 

Bangkok 

Sun falls over Wat Arun, Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River - Luxury Escapes
Wat Arun, or Temple of Dawn, in Bangkok.

Nowhere else in the world does rooftop bars like Bangkok – and time spent sky-high is always rewarded here – but Thailand’s fast-paced capital is so much more. Whether you’ve got a day or a lifetime, time spent exploring the city is well rewarded: burn incense at Bangkok’s sprawling temples, lose yourself in its massive street markets, window shop at some of Asia’s most extravagant malls and graze your way through a staggering amount of street food.  

Chiang Mai 

Chiang Mai: the perfect place to see elephants in their natural habitat - Luxury Escapes

Thailand’s steamy northern province – where the country borders of Myanmar and Laos – is rich in ancient heritage. Once the capital of the medieval Lanna Kingdom, the city now proudly stands at the crossroads of history: historic temples rub shoulders with ultramodern coffee shops, and it’s possible to follow a day at the city’s famed hot springs with an evening exploring its electrifying nightlife. Chiang Mai is also famous for elephants; the city is home to many of the country’s most ethical and sustainable wildlife sanctuaries.

Koh Samui 

Koh Samui's traditional longboats and perfect beaches have become world-famous - Luxury Escapes

Koh Samui, Thailand’s second-largest island after Phuket, offers a uniquely Thai laidback vibe that first-time visitors can’t help but fall madly in love with. There’s a wide range of accommodation to suit every budget – from beachside bungalows to extraordinary five-star hotels – and experiences to match. Whether you’re dreaming of spending the day in a hammock, sea breeze tussling in your hair, or would prefer to spend the day partying at a beach club, Koh Samui’s got you covered. 

Khao Lak 

Khao Lak’s prime position on the country’s tranquil southwestern coast promises the quintessential Thailand beach experience, with plenty of world-class resorts offering privileged positions to soak up sun, surf and sand. But Khao Lak’s coastal-cool attitude belies another advantage – it's the perfect place to discover Thailand’s peerless natural beauty, with easy day trips including explorations of Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park’s crashing waterfalls and flying lemur-filled jungles and boat trips to the nearby idyllic Similan and Surin islands. 

Pattaya 

The grand old dame of Thailand resort cities, Pattaya still spellbinds visitors with an exhilarating old-meets-new spirit and golden shores as far as the eye can see. It’s also just a two-hour drive from Bangkok, making it the perfect second stop for travellers wanting to experience Thailand’s sunny side. Must-visits include the dramatic seaside temple The Sanctuary of Truth – carved entirely of wood – and Pattaya Floating Market, showcasing hundreds of vendors from across the entire country. 

Phuket 

The Big Buddha is one of Phuket's most notable landmarks - Luxury Escapes

Thailand’s premier island of adventure, Phuket dazzles with countless things to see, do and eat. It’s perfect for families looking for an approachable slice of Thailand, with many of the country’s best all-inclusive beach resorts, easy access to the Phi Phi Islands’ technicolour reefs and a jungle interior that’s capped by one of Asia's largest Buddha statues. Don’t sleep on the food: an abundance of markets and a fast-emerging fine dining scene make Phuket one of the most exciting spots to grab a meal. 

Patong 

Phuket’s most famous beach resort town, Patong delivers excitement on all fronts: central promenade Bangla Road offers an endless evening parade of nightclubs, open-air beer bars, shopping centres, smoke-filled street food markets, go-kart speedways, cabaret halls, tuktuk drivers and action-packed muay Thai venues. It’s well worth seeking out the quieter spots – a stay in Patong offers easy access to some of the island’s best coastlines, including Paradise Beach and Freedom Beach. 

Which are the best resorts in Thailand? 

Katathani Beach Resort Phuket offers the quintessential island paradise escape. - Luxury Escapes

For families craving the ultimate oceanfront escape, it’s hard to go past the all-inclusive Katathani Phuket Beach Resort, ideally positioned amid the jungle-covered hills of Kata Noi Beach. Easy access to many of Phuket’s finest attractions – including Kata Night Market and the Old Town – plus six restaurants, six pools and a super-hip beach club make this one a slam dunk. 

On Thailand’s picture-perfect southern coast, Grand Mercure Khao Lak Bangsak masterfully blends ancient tradition and modern comfort. Palm-fringed and surrounded by lush gardens, this resort exudes chilled-out relaxation.  

Just minutes from Patong’s legendary nightlife, Diamond Cliff Resort & Spa is a secluded cliffside hideaway that’s perfect for couples looking for the best of both worlds. Plenty of laidback coastal-chic style – plus six fantastic restaurants and bars – cement its position as one of the town’s best romantic retreats.  

After more inspiration? Discover The Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Thailand

When is the best time to go to Thailand? 

There’s really no bad time to visit Thailand, but November to February is the peak period for travel. December to February is the kingdom’s driest season, and colourful festivals are commonplace throughout the country; it’s also the busiest by far.  

Travel during the wet season from May to October is punctuated by rain showers, but it’s also when Thailand’s natural beauty is at its height. Discovering the country’s rushing waterfalls, fat rivers and dew-dropped jungle during this time is an absolute delight. 

March to May bring Thailand’s hottest temperatures, with evenings rarely dipping beneath 28° Celsius. If you're after a lazy beach holiday, though, don’t rule it out – there’s no better weather for pina coladas under the shade, but be sure to pack the sunscreen. 

Looking for more Thailand travel inspiration? Brush up on the Best Breakfast Buffets in Thailand.

Nate Robinson
About Nate Robinson
Mad for travel and an incorrigible foodie, Nate is as at home in a Mexican taqueria as he is at Tsukiji. When he's not abroad, you can always find Nate with a book in one hand and a tiki cocktail in the other.

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