Thailand has earned its place as a top tourist destination, but where should you go if you want to skip the crowds but still soak up the beauty? The country is full of beautiful towns outside of the typical tourist track. Step away from the beaten path and check out this list of 7 underrated spots and hidden gems in Thailand that will blow you away.
Lamphun was once the northernmost outpost of the ancient Mon Dvaravati Kingdom. There is an old fortress that guards ancient temples from when the city was an important defensive post for Queen Chama Thevi, one of Thailand’s most beloved rulers. The city does not promote or celebrate this ancient history too much, but it is quite a charming place as it sits on the Mae Kuang River. The most beautiful attraction might be the scenic 26-km (16-mile) country drive from nearby Chang Mai that gives tourists a visual taste of the beautiful river valley landscape.
Located along the riverbanks of the Mekong, Nong Khai is a charming town that gives visitors an authentic glimpse into life in the province of Isaan; a region with a strong cultural identity and home to friendly locals. There are beautiful river views to enjoy, ancient and fascinating rock formations to see at the Phu Phra Bat Historical Park, and stunning temples to visit. If possible, visit during one of the annual festivals, when the town becomes as lively and colorful as it can be.
Not your typical tiny mountain-valley farming village, Pai is a favorite for budget travelers who want to put their feet up and relax. The scenery is gorgeous, the many bungalows are cheap, and the restaurants are good. You will want to stay longer than you planned.
Deep in the heart of northeastern Thailand, Chiang Khan gives you the opportunity to swim in the Mekong River. To get to the swimming hole at Gaeng Kut Kuu, follow the road next to the river down into the valley a mile or two. If the river bed is dry, pop-up restaurants will await you. Chiang Khan is popular with vacationing Thais because of the beautiful views of mountains in neighboring Laos and the town’s famous walking street. The street, closed to traffic, is lined with vendors, restaurants, bars, shops, yoga studios and boutiques. Be sure to get a guesthouse high on a hill to enjoy the view of Laos yourself.
A town with a long royal heritage, Phetchaburi has many striking buildings along with some fascinating caves. Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park (also known as Khao Wang) and Khao Luang cave temple are highlights, while nature lovers will find plenty of interest nearby in Thailand’s largest national park, the Kaeng Krachan National Park. A short way outside of the town, the coastal province also boasts several quiet beaches as well as Cha-am, a beach resort that is popular with holiday-making Thais.
Backpackers looking to escape the fever pace of life in Bangkok come here for the riverside peace. Movie lovers flock to Kanchanaburi to catch a glimpse of the actual bridge over the River Kwai. Kanchanaburi’s chill riverside vibe belies a dark past when the occupying Japanese used American and other Allied POW’s to construct a railway to Burma. Museums and monuments dedicated to this history dot the small town, often called the center of Thailand’s Wild West.
Prachuap Khiri Khan
A small town in the province of the same name, Prachuap Khiri Khan boasts twin curved bays with soft white sands and a mountain that you can climb for splendid views over the surroundings. Foliage-covered karsts rise from the waters and two types of monkeys call the town home, cheeky macaques and the much calmer dusky leaf monkeys. There are several temples to explore too.