It’s easy to think of a holiday in Thailand as nothing more than a journey on one of the world’s most well-traveled paths.
One night in Bangkok; a weekend in Chiang Mai; island hopping round Koh Samui, Phangan and Tao; maybe a few days in Koh Lanta if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
Or, you know, two weeks in Pattaya if you like your women paid for and your drink spiked.
While all these places have their own undeniable appeal, they’re certainly not all that Thailand has to offer. If you’re happy to venture a little further than the Kingdom’s train stations and airports will take you, there’s a plethora of natural wonders, serene beaches and irrepressible wildlife just waiting to wow you.
Thailand possesses beauty in spades – you just need to know where to find it.
Here’s our top nine beautiful Thai destinations a short hop, skip and jump away from the tourist trail.
Just 25 km off the shores of Krabi town in the Andaman Sea, Koh Jum is a beach paradise perfect for travellers wanting to avoid the tourist meccas of nearby Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi.
Fine sand beaches with crystalline waters line the small island while you can seek solace in nature among the mangrove forest and rolling hills. The residents of Koh Jum are typically Muslim and conservative, yet incredibly hospitable and friendly.
As with many islands in the Andaman, Koh Jum is great for those hoping to indulge in scuba, snorkelling, fishing and trekking. For the latter, get yourself to the northern part of the island (referred to locally as Ko Pu) where a 422-metre summit awaits you.
Hat Khanom—Mu Koh Thale Tai National Park
This huge, newly decorated national park spans a number of provinces, covering Hat Khanom’s beaches in the south of Thailand together with the Thale Tai archipelago of eight smaller islands.
The area is home to lush forest, limestone mountains and mangrove forests together with a wide variety of wildlife, such as pigs, tigers, gibbons, Malayan Sun Bears, tortoises, doves and snakes.
Snorkelling and diving are some of the primary activities to indulge in here, as well as bird watching, canoeing, caving, and waterfall travelling at Nhan Phai Waterfall.
On the western side of southern Thailand, straddled alongside the tip of Myanmar, is the province of Ranong; an area seemingly undisturbed by the heady mass of tourism of the rest of Thailand and boasting a unique cultural tapestry of Thai, Chinese and Burmese heritage.
As well as the small capital city of the same name, Ranong is home to a number of small islands as well as some naturally occurring attractions like mountains, mangrove forest, hot springs, waterfalls and canyons.
It’s well known for being the rainiest of Thailand’s provinces with a monsoon season lasting around eight months of the year. Don’t let this put you off though – it’s the reason why the landscape is so lush!
Khao Sok National Park
Found in Surat Thani province in the south of Thailand, Khao Sok is a truly abundant national park; covering the largest area of virgin forest in southern Thailand while also being home to the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world.
This is nature at its most majestic: limestone mountains, gargantuan lakes, atmospheric caves, jungle trekking and encounters with wild animals, including tapirs, leopards, elephants, tigers and bears.
Tours and safaris are on offer in Khao Sok as well as canoeing, tubing, bamboo rafting, sailing and bird watching.
Than Sadet, Koh Phangan
Think Koh Phangan is just about full-moon parties and drunken backpackers? Think again.
Than Sadet is the national park-listed territory covering the island that is covered with forest, waterfalls and a hugely diverse array of wildlife, including monkeys, slow loris, mongoose, turtle, python, cobra, eagle and octopus.
The landscape is distinctly mountainous, reaching 727 metres at its highest point and actually covers additional small islands north of Phangan too. The park is named for the 2.5 km river that runs through it – Than Sadet – that has been visited by a number of Thailand’s previous monarchs and also displays a number of beautiful waterfalls.
Sam Phan Bok, Ubon Ratchathani
About 120 km outside of Ubon Ratchathani city lies this magnificent natural canyon, Sam Phan Bok. It can only be seen during the dry season when the water levels are at their lowest as it lies adjacent to the Mekong River, near the borders of Cambodia and Laos.
Eroded by thousands of years of the Mekong’s flow, Sam Phan Bok literally translates from the Isaan dialect to ‘Three Thousand Holes’; a reference to the curiously pitted shape of the canyon.
While you may not want to necessarily spend a week here, there is accommodation and restaurants nearby, as well as opportunities for sailing, fishing and caving.
Bordering Laos in the northeastern Isaan area of Thailand, the province of Loei is most notable for its statuesque mountains, lush forests and national parks.
This is definitely a great location for walkers and those who appreciate a good view for photography. Notable points of interest include Phu Bo Bit Forest Park – a 600-step staircase that offers unparalleled 360° views of the town and mountains – and the Phu Kradueng and Phu Pa Poh mountains. The latter has been likened to Japan’s Mount Fuji thanks to its flat top.
Koh Rok are a beautiful pair of islands found within the Koh Lanta National Park in the Andaman Sea, south of Krabi and to the west of Trang.
This is the ultimate beach-lovers’ paradise: cerulean blue waters, fine white sand beaches and a host of great snorkelling opportunities. These islands haven’t yet been colonised by the tourist masses and are generally more popular with day trippers from the mainland and larger, more popular islands close by.
Snorkelers will be blown away by the coral, sea turtles, angelfish and pufferfish while land explorers can find themselves by getting lost in the lush forest and limestone cliffs in the islands’ centres.
Koh Phra Thong
Totally unique in Southeast Asia, Koh Phra Thong is treasured for its African-esque savannah style landscape, complete with rolling sand dunes and incredible wildlife-spotting opportunities – keep an eye out for sea turtles, leopards and even the endangered lesser adjutant stork.
Koh Phra Thong is ideal for the traveller who wants to experience the pinnacle of natural beauty while really getting away from it all – and we mean totally getting away from it all. Most of the accommodation sports electricity and water for only around five hours a day while development is more or less non-existent.
Who’s up for sharing a beach hut?