When looking at must-visit places for your Gap Year in Thailand, most lists contain the same few destinations; Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket. These places are definitely cool, and well worth checking out during your year in the Land of Smiles. But how about mixing it up and exploring even more of this beautiful country in your free time?
With suggestions for Northern, Southern, Central and Northeastern Thailand, these are some of the best places we’d recommend hitting up. Whether it’s for a fun-filled weekend adventure or action-packed day trip…
Located in the west of Thailand, Kanchanaburi is just a couple of hours from Bangkok by bus or train. You could even take the easy way and book an inclusive package day trip from the capital. Fans of the outdoors have many waterfalls to choose from, including the famous seven-level Erawan Falls. Hike up the cascades and take a dip in shimmering pools. Alternatively, head away from the tourist crowds to visit other beauties, like Sai Yok Yai and Huay Mae Khamin.
Spot wildlife on exhilarating jungle treks, soak away your cares in Hindad Hot Springs, and peer inside the Prathat Caves. If history’s your thing, take a train ride across the famous Bridge Over the River Kwai, one of Thailand’s dark history hotspots. Here you can stroll through the well-maintained War Cemetery.
Learn more about the city’s wartime past at the Death Railway Museum and see the eclectic collections at the bizarre Jeath Museum. Feast your eyes on the modern temple of Wat Tham Sua and soak up the amazing views over the landscapes. Come evening, wander through the night market and sink a few drinks in one of the bustling bars along Maenam Kwai Road.
Just a couple of hours (if that) north of Bangkok by bus or train, easy-going Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s most ancient cities. Once a mighty Siamese capital, today it’s home to wonderful whispers from the past.
Rent a bicycle and set out to discover the many enchanting ruins around the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Get your Insta fix at places like Wat Mahathat, Wat Yai Chai Mongkol and Wat Lokaya Sutharam. You can even rent traditional Thai costumes at some sites. As you pose in front of atmospheric ruins you can make out like you’re in a period drama.
Explore the old foreign settlements – St. Joseph’s Church is a knockout. Take a boat trip along the river, and satisfy your sweet tooth with the local candy-floss-like roti saimai.
As darkness falls, don’t miss the night market, when costumed vendors offer up an array of tasty treats. Performers create an olde-worlde carnival-like vibe. Hop in a tuk tuk for a nighttime temple tour too and see the ruins magically illuminated.
Have a chilled-out drink along Soi Naresuan 1 or check out Cowboy Bar and surrounding watering holes for pumping tunes and a lively vibe.
Located in Southern Thailand, Surat Thani is well connected by road, rail, and air. There’s also a regular ferry service also links the mainland with the islands.
Koh Phangan may be most famous for its hedonistic nightlife and infamous beach parties. However, you’ll also find plenty of gorgeous beaches, pristine nature, and an alternative New-Age vibe.
If exploring the ocean deep is more up your street, check out Koh Tao and its underwater wonderland. A hotspot for diving and snorkelling, you can also chill on sandy beaches. Or admire glorious vistas from various viewpoints, and experience the island night scene.
Koh Samui offers a mixed bag, from beautiful beaches, jungles, and waterfalls, to cultural hotspots like the Big Buddha, Wat Khunaram (home to a mummified monk!), and Wat Plai Laem. Nightlife ranges from laid-back beach bars and fire shows to pumping discos and exciting cabaret shows.
On the mainland, Khao Sok National Park is a rare jewel, offering jungle treks and nature spotting, boat trips through the towering karsts on the glistening lake, cave explorations, and more.
If you’re based in Northeastern Thailand (AKA Isan), Thailand’s biggest province of Nakhon Ratchasima is a must-visit. A regional transportation hub, it’s well connected by bus and train. Plus, it’s just a few hours outside of Bangkok.
Khao Yai National Park is one of Thailand’s most-visited national parks—and for good reason! If you don’t have your own transport, many operators offer tours. Here you can hike along jungle trails, looking out for diverse creatures like monkeys, deer, and even elephants! The park is also home to a number of beautiful waterfalls, including one that featured in the movie The Beach.
The nearby town of Pak Chong offers more fun and adventures, with cool places like Khao Yai Farm Village, the steak-lover’s Chokchai Farm, Khao Yai art Museum, and GranMonte Vineyard. The cowboy-themed Thong Somboon Club is home to a plethora of exciting activities, including paintballing, ATV riding, ziplining, go-karting, and horse riding.
Further afield, the atmospheric Khmer-era ruins of Phimai beckon fans of history and architecture. Whereas the colourful Wat Ban Rai is perfect if you love quirky attractions. You should also visit the scenic Wang Nam Khiao boasts vineyards, organic farms, viewpoints, fresh air, and an attraction dedicated entirely to mushrooms!
Make the most of your gap year and discover the many charms of Thailand. If you’re thinking about working and travelling, get in touch with Letz Live to discuss your Gap Year options