Beloved by backpackers, beach bums and families alike, Thailand remains one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia. And with good reason. From idyllic islands and cosmopolitan cities to national parks filled with natural wonders, the country has it all in one aesthetically-pleasing package. To help you plan a trip that’s jam-packed with picturesque vistas and unforgettable views, here’s our round-up of unmissable landscapes in Thailand.
- Castaway on Koh Kut
- See Bangkok by Boat
- Retreat to the Khao Sok Rainforest
- Adventures in Ancient Ayutthaya
- Heady Heights of Doi Inthanon
Think of landscapes in Thailand and breathtakingly beautiful beaches are probably the first panoramas that come to mind. The idyllic scenery of Thailand’s islands tempts everyone from hedonists and honeymooners to family holidaymakers – the tricky part is picking which island to visit. If you’re seeking a still-under-the-radar utopia, set your sights on Koh Kut (also known as Koh Kood), where the views have all the beguiling beauty you could want, unblemished by the over-development that has affected more popular islands. Palm-fringed, powder-soft sands sweep into tropical turquoise waters that are perfectly warm and clear for swimming and snorkelling, while swathes of the island are virgin rainforest, untouched by tourism. If you picture paradise, it probably looks a lot like this. And while it’s true that you could seek out similar vistas on dozens of other islands, Koh Kut remains a relatively untouched slice of heaven. A place where true escapism feels less elusive than it does elsewhere in Thailand.
Hot, hectic and hazy, Bangkok can feel like a fever dream. For many travellers, Bangkok is little more than a jet-lagged layover. But a few days in Thailand’s chaotic and cosmopolitan capital shouldn’t be missed. When it comes to exploring the city, the humid streets of Bangkok are frequently traffic-jammed and somewhat perilous for pedestrians. But if you head to the Chao Phraya River, you can take in the landscape of towering skyscrapers and gold-tipped temples from a different perspective. When the roads are at a standstill, hopping on a river taxi is the quickest way to reach the top attractions. Tourist boats can take you straight to the landmarks, but you can also join the locals on a public boat for a more authentic ride. Commandeered by commuters during rush hour, they are more crowded and stop more frequently, yet cruising past must-see sights like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun makes this a particularly picturesque commute. Like many of the best landscapes, the city skyline seen from the river is especially enchanting in the golden glow of sunset; a pretty preface to the after-dark attractions of Bangkok.
The rainforest of Khao Sok National Park is more than 160 million years old, making it one of the oldest in the world. And many claim it’s more biodiverse than the Amazon. So, if you’re ready to swap sandals for hiking shoes and sunbathing for wildlife spotting, this is the place for you. Nestled inland between the Andaman and Gulf of Thailand coasts, Khao Sok is often bypassed by travellers heading for the beaches and islands of the south. Yet this secret garden of lush jungle, jewel-like lakes and soaring karst mountains encompasses some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in Thailand. Whether spotting gibbons swinging through the greenery, hiking the trails beneath towering bamboo or kayaking across a tranquil lake, the natural beauty here is hard to beat. To extend your experience, stay overnight at a floating raft house on Cheow Lan Lake. The simplicity of the rustic accommodation is offset by the sheer luxury of the location, where you can swim in the sparkling water and wake to the whoops of monkeys in the dawn mist.
Once one of the world’s wealthiest cities, Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam from 1350 to 1767, when it was raided by the Burmese. Today, modern Ayutthaya is strewn with ancient ruins that offer a glimpse of a glorious past. During the city’s historic heyday, more than 400 temples were built here. And despite (or perhaps because of) the ramshackle state of the half-restored ruins, this remains one of the most intriguing landscapes in Thailand, with scenery straight from the pages of a guidebook. The travel poster picture of Ayutthaya can be found at Wat Mahathat, where a stone Buddha head sits entwined in the roots of a banyan tree. Meanwhile, the ruined yet regal Wat Phra Si Sanphet (once the Royal Palace) is known for its three stupas (mound-shaped Buddhist shrines); the spiritual stars of a crumbling complex. To see the sights at your own pace, we recommend exploring this enchanting and antiquated landscape by bicycle, pedalling between temples to get a taste of the Thailand of the past.
Known as ‘the roof of Thailand’, Doi Inthanon is the country’s highest peak and the crown jewel of Doi Inthanon National Park. Dazzling waterfalls, scenic hiking trails and uninterrupted mountain vistas all come as standard in the national park, but it’s the view from the Two Chedis that makes this landscape one of our favourites in Thailand. Built to honour the former king and queen, these two ornate shrines sit side by side close to the mountain summit. The manicured gardens around the chedis are west-facing; an ideal spot to watch the sunset over the hazy hills. And because the national park is located close to Chiang Mai (the charming northern city where there’s a temple at every turn), it’s easy to tick off the spectacular sights of Doi Inthanon during a day trip.