There’s a reason that Thailand is so popular with backpackers. In fact, there are many! As well as white sand beaches, clear blue oceans and stunning hostels, the country offers off-the-beaten-track budget travel experiences and an epic party scene. Thailand is a rite of passage for most travellers, and usually the first port of call for any Southeast Asian adventure.
There’s just one problem – it’s too easy to accidentally spend your whole trip chilling in a hammock on the beach! We’re here to help you out of that hammock by letting you in on 11 ridiculously cool things to do in Thailand.
No matter what time of year you visit, and no matter how many times you have been, Thailand is always a good idea!
1. Enjoy An Ethical Elephant Experience In Chiang Mai
Won’t you take me to Trunkytown? ? (?: @tomer_ratzbi)
Ask anyone what to do in Thailand and you’ll always get the same answer: Elephants! But it’s really important to do your research beforehand to avoid places that exploit and mistreat the animals. For an unforgettable ethical elephant experience, head to the Elephant Rescue Park in Chiang Mai, where mistreated Dumbos are rescued and retired. It’s forbidden to ride the elephants here of course, but you can feed them, bathe them and even take a nice walk with your new big-eared pals. The tour begins with a trip to the elephant poo park, where you’ll learn how their dung is recycled into paper, trust us – it’s the shit! For more tips on travelling ethically, read our guide to how to be a responsible tourist whilst travelling through Asia.
2. Chill Out On Koh Nang Yuan Island
LOOK AT THAT VIEW! ? (?: @niamh_hartley)
Koh Nang Yuan is no ordinary island, oh no my friends! Koh Nang Yuan is the answer to all of your tropical, jungle-covered, sand-strip island dreams! Two gorgeous mountainous mini islands are connected by the stunning Nangyuan Island beach, accessible by a private boat from Koh Tao. The Island Viewpoint is a must and offers you the most breathtaking views over the fairytale islands and irresistible turquoise waters. We are officially obsessed!
3. Pump up the party with Slip n Fly in Koh Phangan
Would you be this composed? ? (?: @lukee_at_this)
Did we just lose all credibility by saying ‘pump up the party?’ No? Ok, good. Anyways, Koh Phangan Island is known for its riotous nightlife *cough* and full moon parties *cough*. Slip n Fly brings a taste of this famous nightlife into the daytime and is one of the best things to do in Thailand for thrill-seekers. Picture a huge water park with a body-boarding slide, splash pool, beer pong tables and the main attraction: the deep pool slide. This 30 foot water slide will launch you into the air like some sort of feather-less eagle, before you plummet downwards with a splash… just try your best not to belly flop!
4. Watch The Sunrise Over Chiang Mai From A Hot Air Balloon
Dreamy way to start your day ? (?: @samantha.sze)
Watching the sunrise is great. Watching the sunrise as you glide blissfully through the skies of Chiang Mai in a hot air balloon is downright glorious. Chiang Mai is wonderful from any perspective, but floating above the mountainous city as the sun begins to tickle the breathtaking temples below is, well, quite poetic really! Choose a group or private balloon and let the engine fire keep you toasty warm while you bask in the calming early morning glow. The tour starts at 6am and lasts about an hour – trust us, it’s worth getting up for.
5. Discover Koh Phangan’s Secret Mountain
Psst.. keep this to yourself! ? (?: @jessicalouissa)
Life’s more fun when you stray from the path, and the Secret Mountain in Koh Phangan proves this perfectly. To discover this hidden gem you’ll need to navigate the steep and winding roads along the mountainside – we recommend leaving your scooter at home! Once you reach the top you’ll be met with an insane pool and funky restaurant bar. Oh… and an incredible view over Koh Phangan’s lush forests stretching for miles before you. The best bit is that this little treasure is totally free to visit, meaning you only have to fork out for food and drinks. You’re welcome!
6. Snorkel Your Way Around Koh Tao
Feeding some new fishy friends ? (?: @danylalala)
Snorkelling is the cheapest way to enjoy the famous underwater delights of Koh Tao. Tours are relatively cheap, but if you’re on a really tight budget it’s possible to buy or borrow a cheap snorkel and go it alone – just be sure to check weather and sea conditions beforehand, and let somebody know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Be sure to visit the exceptionally beautiful Lighthouse and Mango Bays, where you’ll be treated to schools of rainbow fish and crystal-clear waters. Always chat to locals and hostel staff before setting off for advice on must-sees as well as must avoids in your area… *cue Jaws theme song*.
7. Go On A Thailand Temple Crawl
Golden glory ? (?: @janine4thaler)
With over 40 thousand temples in Thailand, it can be hard to pick the best. But we’ll try, since you asked so nicely! One of our favourite all-rounders is Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai. This shiny golden stunner is located on top of a mountain, and is surrounded by practising monks in brightly coloured robes and the intense smell of burning incense – Doi Suthep really is a treat for the senses. One of Thailand’s most iconic temples that is a must-see despite the crowds is Wat Phra Yai in Koh Sumui. The temple features an impressove Buddha statue sat at the top of a long flight of steps. At 12 meters high, this giant golden beauty is a sight to behold and definitely one of the best things to do in Thailand – just try to get there early to avoid the crowds.
8. Make A Splash At Songkran Festival
*Rainbow not included.* ? (?: @erikconover)
Songkran Festival is a part of Thailand’s New Year’s celebrations, and is considered the biggest water fight in the world. Thai New Year is in mid-April so if you’re lucky enough to be visiting at this time you’d be mad not to make a splash in this high energy and exciting tradition. Locals, tourists, travellers and everyone in between take to the streets armed with water guns, bottles, hoses, and buckets ready to soak as many people as possible!
9. Jump into Chiang Mai’s Waterpark and Grand Canyon
Jump in! (?: @yoshihahawong)
The Canyon at Chiang Mai is man made, and MAN they made it well! Get your adrenaline fix diving from the dramatic red-brown cliffs or speeding along the zip line, before releasing your inner child on the inflatable obstacle course and slides. The water park has its own restaurant serving up freaky freakshakes to give you the ultimate sugar rush, but remember kiddies: try to wait an hour before getting back in the water!
10. Stroll through Chatuchak Weekend Market In Bangkok
Bags and bouquets at Chatuchak Market! (?: @0_nyria_0)
It’s a fact (probably) that Bangkok has some of the best markets in the world. But the coolest and most iconic is Chatuchak Weekend Market, so if you only have time for one, make sure it’s this one. Boasting over 15,000 mini stalls, you can buy just about anything at Chatuchak. Traditional Thai food, live animals, vintage clothing, and handmade art are just part of the large array of treasures on sale here. This is a fab opportunity to refresh your wardrobe on a budget with the coolest wavy garms. Check out our guide to the best markets in Bangkok for more inspo.
11. Scuba Dive In Koh Tao
Scuba Queen! (?: @arikeegs)
If you want to step up your underwater game in Koh Tao beyond the snorkelling, then this is the perfect place to bag your padi license. With brightly coloured-coral, tropical fish and unbelievably-clear waters, this is one of the coolest places to learn to scuba dive in Thailand. You’ll even have a professional underwater photographer on hand to take the perfect picture for your Instagram/mum. Taking a scuba diving course is also a great way for solo travellers to meet other travellers, as it’s a fun and social experience that will help you make friends fast.
Warning: The Hostels In Thailand Are Fit AF
Heyyyy Bangkok – Just one of the many incredible hostels in Thailand
So you’re WELL up for Thailand, but your bank balance isn’t? Well fear not, because Thailand is hostel HEAVEN!
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Leave a comment below and tell us about your favourite things to do in Thailand. Do you prefer eating, drinking, relaxing or exploring?