A monk walking down a temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand

3 Months in Thailand: Where to Go and What to Do

Planning to spend three months in Thailand and trying to nail down your itinerary? We’ve got you covered!

The Land of Smiles is one of those destinations that has it all: cosmopolitan cities, idyllic beaches, ancient temples, staggeringly beautiful national parks — but all those options make it tough to decide where to go and what to do while you’re travelling through the country.

To get a good feel for everything Thailand has to offer, aim to spend one month in each of the following regions: Bangkok and Central Thailand, Northern Thailand, and the Thai islands. Of course, if you have your heart set on sampling the full range of Thailand’s islands and beaches, you might want to skip a few destinations in the country’s mountainous north and allocate more time for island hopping down south — the choice is yours!


Travel to: Thailand


Buddha statues at a temple in Bangkok
Wat Pho, Bangkok | © Christine Wehrmeier/Unsplash

Bangkok & Central Thailand

Bangkok

At first glance, Thailand’s capital may seem busy, chaotic, and a bit overwhelming, but it’s easily one of the most exhilarating destinations in the country. Brimming with elaborate temples, buzzing markets, and some of the most delicious street food on the planet, it’s the perfect introduction to the country. You could easily spend weeks in Bangkok and still not have enough time to explore everything this city has to offer.

Top things to do in Bangkok:

  • Explore famous temples like the Grand Palace, Wat Prakaew, and Wat Arun
  • Practice your haggling skills along Khao San Road
  • Go shopping at the Chatuchak Weekend Market
  • Stroll through Lumpini Park
  • Visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
  • Watch the sunset from Bangkok’s epic rooftop bars
Traffic and people walking on a street in Bangkok
The frenetic streets of Bangkok | © Dan Freeman/Unsplash

Ayutthaya

Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya was formerly the capital of the Siamese Kingdom and one of the wealthiest cities in the world — until it was attacked and destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767. Today, several ruins, temples, and monasteries remain, offering a glimpse into the city’s turbulent and glorious past. The temple ruins here are some of the most magnificent in Thailand, so you should definitely set aside at least a few days to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Top things to do in Ayutthaya:

  • Explore Wat Phra Si Sanphet (the Grand Palace)
  • Visit Wat Phra Mahathat
  • Climb to the top of Wat Chaiwattaranaram
  • Marvel at the reclining Buddha at Wat Buddhaisawan
A monk walking down a temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya’s ancient temples | © Aaron Thomas/Unsplash

Lopburi

Lopburi is best known for its imposing Khmer-era temples, but the city’s biggest draw is the many monkeys that roam freely around several streets in the city’s Old Town. Phra Prang Sam Yod is the best place to get up close and personal with these mischievous macaques (just be sure to hold onto your belongings tightly if you plan to visit).

Top things to do in Lopburi:

  • Meet the monkeys at Phra Prang Sam Yod
  • Explore Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahatat
  • Visit the market at Wat Sao Thong Thong
  • Follow the Lopburi Heritage Walk
A monkey eating a piece of fruit in Thailand
Get up close and personal with monkeys in Lopburi | © Alexey Turenkov/Unsplash

Sukhothai

Thanks to its relatively remote location smack dab between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Sukhothai sees far fewer crowds than its more popular counterpart, the historic city of Ayutthaya. That being said, Sukhothai’s ancient ruins are well worth a visit; the temples are impressive and well-preserved, and you can explore them without hoards of tourists.

Top things to do in Sukhothai:

  • Explore the historically significant ruins within Sukhothai Historical Park (a few key highlights include: Wat Maha That, Wat Sa Si, and Wat Si Sawai)
  • Watch the sunrise at Wat Saphan Hin
  • See the famous seated Buddha at Wat Si Chum

Northern Thailand

Chiang Mai

Offering a brilliant mix of outdoor activities, cultural experiences, phenomenal food, and hundreds of ornate temples, it’s easy to see why Chiang Mai has become a hub for visitors. The city is quieter and more laid-back than Bangkok, but there’s still loads to see and do here: take a cooking class, book a trekking excursion, gorge on a steaming bowl of khao soi at the night bazaar, or get up close and personal with elephants at Elephant Nature Park.

Top things to do in Chiang Mai:

  • Sign up for a Thai cooking class
  • Visit Doi Suthep
  • Shop at the weekend markets
  • Eat your way around the night bazaar
  • Take a day trip to Mae Sa and Huay Tung Tao
  • Spend an afternoon at Elephant Nature Park
Two elephants standing near water at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Elephant Nature Park is an ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai | © Kym Ellis/Unsplash

Chiang Rai

Most travellers breeze through Chiang Rai after stopping to see the White Temple, but this sleepy mountain town is worth getting to know. The city is home to several incredible landmarks — including the surreal White Temple — and it’s also a fantastic base for visiting hill tribes and mountain trekking excursions.

Top things to do in Chiang Rai:

  • See the extraordinary White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
  • Explore the Blue Temple (Rong Suea Ten) and Black House (Baan Dam)
  • Browse the night bazaar
  • Visit nearby rural villages on a homestay
A Buddha detail on the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand
The White Temple, Chiang Rai | © Justin Vidamo/Flickr

Pai

Nestled deep in the mountains and surrounded by waterfalls and lush green rice fields, Pai is a true mountain oasis. It’s quickly become a favourite among the backpacker crowd, and travellers flock here for its laid-back vibes and picture-perfect setting. Just be forewarned: most people plan to visit for a few days and end up staying for weeks.

Top things to do in Pai:

  • Explore Pai Canyon
  • Soak in the Pai hot springs
  • Visit Mo Paeng Waterfall
  • Climb to the top of the White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen)
  • Stock up on souvenirs at the night market

Mae Sariang

Round off your time in Northern Thailand in Mae Sariang, an off the beaten path mountain town that’s slowly gaining popularity for its charming riverside setting and sustainable trekking opportunities.

Top things to do in Mae Sariang:

  • Hire a bike and explore the surrounding countryside
  • Join an organised trek to a local hill tribe
  • Hop on a motorbike and set off to explore nearby Salawin National Park

Thai islands

Hitting all of Thailand’s best islands and beaches in one go is no easy feat, but you can cover a lot of ground if you’re willing to do some serious island hopping. There are two main clusters of islands in southern Thailand — those in the Andaman Sea (west of the mainland) and those in the Gulf of Thailand (east of the mainland). With one month to explore this part of the country, you could stick to either the east coast or the west coast, or split your time between both to get a feel for each group.

Travelling between the islands is simple: ferries, speed boats, and longtail boats are widely available, and most hotels and agencies are happy to help organise your onward travel.

Tip: Rainfall is heaviest on the Gulf Coast between September and December, and monsoon season typically hits the Andaman Coast from May to October, so keep this in mind when you’re deciding which islands you’d like to visit.

Long-tail boats on a beach in Thailand
Travel around the Thai islands on a traditional longtail boat | © Frankie Spontelli/Unsplash

Gulf Coast

Start your island-hopping adventure on Koh Samui, where you can live it up in a luxury resort or hunker down in a budget-friendly bungalow on one of the island’s many beaches.

Next, take a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park — an archipelago characterised by tropical jungle and craggy limestone cliffs — before moving onto Koh Phangan, the location of Thailand’s infamous Full Moon Party. Join thousands of other revellers for the party of a lifetime on Haad Rin, or time your visit to avoid the crowds and relax on the serene beaches of Haad Yao or Sri Thanu — far away from the buckets, banging music, and boozy party-goers.

Essentially next door to Koh Phangan is Koh Tao, a tiny, chilled-out island renowned for its unparalleled diving. Koh Tao is also one of the cheapest places in the world to get your PADI diving license, so if you’re keen to get certified while in Thailand, this is the place to do it.

Khao Sok National Park is home to an abundance of wildlife — including wild elephants and giant monitor lizards — caves, waterfalls, and striking karst rock formations. The most popular way to explore the park is on a multi-day trek, which typically includes an overnight stay in a floating bungalow on the gorgeous Cheow Larn Lake.

Lookout point over Koh Samui, Thailand
Gorgeous views over Koh Samui | © Samule Sun/Unsplash

Andaman Coast

While technically not an island in its own right, the province of Krabi boasts some of the most stunning scenery imaginable. This peninsula looks exactly like what you imagine Southern Thailand to look like: think dreamy white-sand beaches, jade-green seas, and jaw-dropping limestone karsts. The spectacular Railay Beach is a must-visit destination in this region, as is nearby Koh Phi Phi.

Tip: Maya Bay, the popular bay made famous by the film The Beach, is currently off-limits to tourists until June 2021.  

If you want to escape the crowds and venture (somewhat) off the beaten path, make a beeline for the tranquil shores of Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe, two islands that are significantly less touristy than many of their well-known neighbours. Along with pristine, unspoiled beaches, both destinations are renowned for their spectacular dive and snorkel sites.

Limestone cliffs in Railay, Thailand
Railay is a mecca for rock climbing enthusiasts and beach lovers | © Andrzej Suwara/Unsplash

Where to stay in Thailand

Thailand has accommodation options for every budget and taste, from luxury hotels to cosy guesthouses and backpacker hostels — and everything in between. Hotels and hostels tend to be the most common type of accommodation in cities and towns, while resorts, guesthouses, and beach bungalows are widely available throughout the Thai islands. Prices vary depending on the popularity of the location and the time of year you’re visiting, and you can expect to pay higher prices at in-demand hotspots like Bangkok and Koh Phi Phi.

What destinations are at the top of your Thailand travel wish list?

Ashley is a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she’s not writing, travelling, or obsessively checking flight prices on Skyscanner, you can find her attempting to fine-tune her photography skills or watching a shark documentary.

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