The Ultimate Thailand Bucket List: 10 Top Places To Visit

January 19, 2024
by
8 mins read

I can’t explain to you how hard it is for me to write this Thailand bucket list, looking at photos and bringing back memories from all my travels there and not booking a ticket on the spot. Thailand will always have a warm spot in my heart.

This was my opening point to my solo backpacking trip and also the last stop, this is where I got sick and learned to love asian food so much, this is where I learned how to meet new people, how to enjoy traveling solo, and that either way I can have fun. And I also have family here, that taught me to appreciate the culture so much.

Unfortunately Thailand is relatively far for us, and so even though we’ve always talked about Thailand as a dream destination we never got to really go there with all of our other plans in mind.

The 10 Thailand Bucket List Attractions You Shouldn’t Miss

So for now, here’s our Thailand bucket list, when we get to do it together. I’ve visited all of these places before and can’t wait to visit again.

If you’re traveling from anywhere outside of Thailand your first destination would probably be Bangkok, so let’s start from there.

The Grand Palace And Wat Pho In Bangkok

Built in 1782, this literally grand palace was the residence of the royal family up until 1925. It is one of the most touristic attractions in Thailand and for a good reason.

The palace is divided between a few buildings in the complex, in which part of it is a museum for the public to enjoy, and the rest is still an active palace. Formal ceremonies and hosting of guests of the royal family or the state itself are still happening here from time to time.

One of the most interesting buildings in this complex is the Temple Of The Emerald Buddha – Wat Phra Kaew. It is regarded as the most sacred temple in all of Thailand and it’s where all the royal ceremonies are being held. 

It’s the home of the Emerald Buddha which is considered as the palladium of the country, and is the one who keeps the nation safe.

On the day to day the temple is open for tourists to visit.

Another cool temple, right next to the Grand Palace, is Wat Pho. In English – Temple Of The Reclining Buddha, and the reason for it is the 46 meters long golden reclining Buddha laying in it. This Buddha is part of a huge collection of Buddha images in this temple, the biggest in the country, in one temple.

The temple is considered very important because it holds part of the ashes of King Rama I, the king who built the temple and the grand palace as well.

thailand bucket list attraction

Wat Arun In Bangkok

On the other side of the river from The Grand Palace stands another beautiful temple, Wat Arun. To get to it you’ll have to get a boat across the river, and it’s definitely worth it.

Wat Arun is known for its remarkable design and architecture, its tall spire, called prang, can be seen from afar. The English translation of the formal name of the temple is The Temple Of Dawn.

The king that ruled before King Rama I was King Taksin. He had to run away from Ayutthaya, the capital of Siam before Bangkok was, because the Burmese took over. When he did he reached the spot where Wat Arun is now at dawn and so he decided to build this temple and his palace there. 20 years later King Rama I moved the residence again to where the grand palace is today. The Emerald Buddha was also originally held in Wat Arun.

Museum Of Contemporary Art – MOCA Bangkok

When I was about to finish my trip and go back home from four months of backpacking I spent the last few days in Bangkok. At this point I felt like I’ve seen it all, visited all the temples, walked so much, and ate everything possible.

I looked for a different experience and stumbled upon the MOCA. Since I was backpacking I barely got to visit museums, especially not art museums and so the MOCA came right on time.

The visit in the museum was exactly what I needed and more, I enjoyed walking around exploring beautiful different pieces of art and if I could visit Bangkok again this will be one of the places I’ll revisit for sure.

Ayutthaya Historical Park

A bit north from Bangkok is the old city Ayutthaya. This used to be the capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom for four decades. Today the ruins are being preserved and it was declared a UNESCO site. 

This historical site contains buildings and monuments dating all the way back to the 14th century, but it is thought that people settled there way before. The Khmers, people from what is Cambodia today, have created a city there and called it Ayodhya.

Ayutthaya sits between three rivers making it a very strategic location. The position not too far from the sea which allows trading and not too close so that pirate ships can’t loot the land, allowed the city to prosper and grow for decades. 

In the 16th century the Burmese people took over the city but it wasn’t until the 18th century that the Burmese conquered it and the rulers of the Siamese Kingdom fled to Bangkok and made it the new capital.

Ayutthaya is not too far from Bangkok so if you’re staying in the city you can plan a day trip to visit the old city or stay in the area of the historical park.

Sukhothai Historical Park

Next destination on our Thailand bucket list is Sukhothai. It is farther north and is home to the historical park of Sukhothai. For 140 years this city was the capital of the northern cities until it united with Ayutthaya. 

This beautiful city now down to ruins can still be appreciated today. Unfortunately, it is far from Bangkok or Chiang Mai and so you will have to stay in the area to visit it.

When I traveled there I stayed in one of the hotels in the area and took a bicycle to ride around. While most of the monuments in the park are located in the center of it, some of them are a bit farther away so the bicycle came in handy.

Chiang Mai Old Town

If I had to stay in Chiang Mai for the whole trip I wouldn’t complain. This beautiful and unique city has so much to offer, in and around, and so this had to go on the Thailand bucket list.

The main attraction is the old city. Its charming streets are dotted with beautiful temples everywhere and cafes, it should not be missed. 

I stayed there the most out of all the cities in Thailand and kept on coming back. I got to enjoy the flower festival and Songkran there and spend a lot of my time just wandering around, every time discovering another new and interesting place.

Sunday Night Market Chiang Mai

One of the most famous markets in Thailand is the Sunday Night Market of Chiang Mai. As can be understood from the name the market opens up every Sunday evening for everyone to come.

It is a long, narrow road, full of stands on both its sides, selling everything including food, bags, candles, oils, clothes and so much more.

It’s the best place to get a yummy dinner and some souvenirs. I highly recommend visiting there, if possible even more then once to cover all of it and of course have fun.

Visit An Elephant Sanctuary In Chiang Mai

Elephants have been part of Thai culture for decades. They were used in wars and for transportation. For years they’ve been used for tourism as well but were treated badly for it.

If you want to visit the elephants in Thailand make sure you’re choosing a reliable sanctuary and never climb or ride them.

There are many sanctuaries around Chiang Mai in which you can visit and help take care of the elephants by feeding them, bathing them, and meeting them up close.

Doi Suthep Park

On a hill to the west of Chiang Mai sits a temple watching the city from above. The temple was built in 1935 and it has 309 steps leading up to it. If you don’t want to climb these many steps you can also use the tram on site. 

The legend talks about a monk who found a bone, the bone was considered to be the shoulder bone of The Buddha himself. The bone also had magical powers and when the monk brought the bone to the king of Ayutthaya it showed no magic. The king of La Na heard of the bone and demanded it be brought to him, and so the monk did. There the bone broke in two. One of the parts was placed in a temple in Chiang Mai and the other was tied to a white elephant. The elephant walked away and climbed the Doi Suthep mountain, which had a different name at the time. When he reached the top he blew his horn three times and dropped dead. That was considered as an omen and the king of La Na built the temple there.

You can find a white elephant statue inside that represents the white elephant in the legend. On top of it you can also find pagodas, statues, bells, shrines, and a museum, as well as a model of the Emerald Buddha.

Big Buddha In Pai

Next on out Thailand bucket list is Pai. It is a well loved town in Northern Thailand, many travelers love to stay here a few days and enjoy everything it has to offer.

At the top of 353 stairs on a hill not too far from Pai you’ll find a tall white Buddha. The Buddha can be seen from anywhere around, and after you’ll climb all those stairs you’ll be able to really appreciate its size.

Turning around you can also appreciate the amazing views that can be seen from top of the stairs. If you’re visiting Pai it’s a definite must visit.

Wat Rong Khun – White Temple In Chiang Rai

This temple is a unique one, unlike any temple you’ve seen before. The White Temple was built in 1997 by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. According to the artist’s plan the temple will be part of a whole complex of buildings that will be complete around 2070.

The temple is relatively small, and only has one direction to be walking. It’s usually very touristy so expect a line of people to see anything around and inside.

The design is full of symbolism and elements from art, pop and culture which make it so unique and different then other temples in Thailand. An example for it is the murals inside the temple that have Batman and Michael Jackson in them. 

Conclusion

Thailand is amazing, full of history and culture. There’s so much to do and see all around it. On top of it all, the food is incredible and people are so nice and friendly.  

The best time to visit here is between November to April and because it is so big and there’s so much to see, if you’re planning to visit here, plan at least 10 days.

Another part of Thailand that I didn’t even cover here are the islands. There you can relax,  enjoy different water activities, and island sights.

For a more adventurous attraction you can check out Alec’s jungle trek experience in the jungles of Chiang Mai. While it’s not on our Thailand bucket list because it’s not for everyone, we think it’s an amazing activity for people who lean toward the more extreme travel.

Are you planning your next trip to Thailand? Tell us about the plan and where you are most excited to visit, and what are the Thai destinations that are currently on your Thailand Bucket List.

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