From the northern peaks with their wildlife, waterfalls and rivers, to the picture-postcard perfect beaches and islands of the south, Thailand holidays offer something for everyone – from thrill seeking adventurers to culture enthusiasts and sun loving beach-bunnies. The ‘land of smiles’ is the perfect place to sample a little bit of everything Asia has to offer, from thronging cities and isolated island hideaways, to delicious food and excellent hospitality.
Things to do
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Kho Phi Phi Ley island - one of Thailand’s most treasured jewels, and especially famous for the ‘secret’ beach at Maya Bay. Used as the location for Danny Boyle’s film ‘The Beach’, this secluded bay features a stretch of virgin white sand, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and clear waters with some of the best coral in the region. These days it’s something of a pilgrimage spot for film fans from all over the world, but it still worth a visit for the astonishingly beautiful beach. For the best views and fewest crowds, head there very early in the morning. Note that the island itself is an uninhabited national park, but the snorkelling, diving and photo opportunities are unforgettable.
Bright Lights, Big City
With its frenetic pace and its kaleidoscope of contrasts, you’ll find everything here from high culture to shopping and vibrant nightlife, as well as first-class hotels abound. A great way to see Bangkok old and new is with a long tail boat trip along the Chao Phraya River, stopping at some of the elaborate temples en route. Make sure you don’t miss Wat Pho, the largest and oldest in the city, with its striking gold reclining Buddha. Bangkok is a foodie paradise, with over fifty thousand restaurants and eating-places to choose from. Undoubtedly the best way to sample the city’s culinary delights is with a visit to one of its lively street markets. Head to Banglamphu, in Old Bangkok to sample dishes skilfully prepared, and to taste the most authentic Pad Thai to Papaya salad you’ve ever eaten.
Reconnect with Nature
Chiang Rai offers outstanding trekking and hiking opportunities so it’s a great base from which to travel out to some of the more natural attractions of Thailand’s northern provinces. From scenic mountain drives, to the chance to trek with elephants, there are plenty of opportunities to leave the hustle and bustle behind. There are a great selection of hiking trails, from gentle walks to more adventurous mountain treks for seasoned hikers, each giving you the opportunity to pass dazzling waterfalls, enthralling vegetation and dense, lush forest. Don’t miss a visit to some of the captivating hill tribe villages, where you’ll get a glimpse of the rural life lived in the same way it has been for centuries. For example, the Mae Salong Hill Tribes put on colourful dance and music displays for tourists and also sell some exquisitely made handicrafts, the profits of which go back into helping the local community.
Where to stay
First stop for most travellers is the capital Bangkok, a city teeming with colour, culture, nightlife and thrills. Choose a luxury base amongst the skyscrapers and shopping malls in the downtown area, or away from the vibrant pace of life on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
Further north is Chiang Mai, where you’ll encounter a more laid back vibe. The city’s 300 temples and centuries-old pagodas blend seamlessly with skyscrapers, shopping malls and every other amenity you’d expect from a modern metropolis. It’s also worth stopping at Chiang Rai, a quieter, less hectic city than Chiang Mai, and with outstandingly beautiful landscapes. You can hike and trek through the jungle, visit traditional villages and learn more about the indigenous culture of the region.
For a sophisticated beach resort, head to Hua Hin, a seaside town established in the 1920’s by the Thai royal family, for use as a summer retreat. With a more grown-up, less ‘backpacker’ style vibe than many of the other beach resorts across Thailand, Hua Hin’s proximity to Bangkok also makes it a convenient place to relax for a few days. As well as a great selection of hotels, there are some outstanding seafood restaurants and a vibrant night market which shouldn’t be missed.Further up the coast is Cha Am, another attractive seaside town with its own great beach, seafood restaurants aplenty and a slightly quieter vibe than Hua Hin, making it a great base for a romantic getaway. Cha Am is popular with Bangkok’s weekend away crowd, so things hot up at the end of the week, but at other times it’s a peaceful, relaxing place to spend your luxury holiday.
For those less content with simply sipping cocktails on a secluded beach, Pattaya in the east has an upbeat atmosphere and is a great base for those who are after a livelier holiday in Thailand. You can bungee, skydive, windsurf and sail by day, and dance away the night at one of the town’s selection of buzzing bars and nightclubs.
Koh Samui is an utter island paradise, offering a tantalising mix of relaxation, adventure and indulgence. With lush tropical forests, palm fringed beaches, crystal clear water and old world charm, the island also enjoys a very well established tourist infrastructure. You’ll also find first-class hotel facilities, internationally acclaimed restaurants, and sophisticated night life. Put simply, Koh Samui offers something for everyone.
The island of Phuket was once an important trading port and the influence of the various cultures that passed through this island can be seen in the architecture and the cuisine of the region. The largest of all of Thailand’s outlying islands, it also boasts perfect beaches with excellent diving and snorkelling, fabulous shopping in colourful night markets and beautiful luxury resorts. The surrounding area also boasts traditional fishing villages and lush rainforest.
For those seeking a true hideaway, look no further than Krabi - one of the most stunningly beautiful and unspoilt islands in the Andaman archipelago. Authentic, peaceful and relaxed, Krabi has a charming feel, with local restaurants serving home-cooked Thai cuisine and fresh fish and seafood. Wildlife enthusiasts will also enjoy exploring the island’s lush rainforest, with its cascading waterfalls and pools.
Flight time from the UK (London): Approximately 12 hours.
Arrival Airport: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. Transfers take approximately one hour.
Entry details for British passport holders: A visa is not required for stays of up to 30 days when arriving by air. Passports need at least 6 months validity from your date of entry. Before you depart, check the latest travel advice at www.fco.gov.uk.
Time difference: GMT +7 hours
Currency: Thai Baht.
Here to help:
A local Thomas Cook Signature representative will meet you at your arrival airport, check your booking details and escort you to your pre-booked transfer vehicle. You'll receive a welcome pack containing information about the local area and all contact details. A welcome meeting will be arranged at your hotel where you can find out more about the area you are visiting.
Best time to go:
The ‘land of smiles’ has a tropical climate with rainy and dry seasons, and many consider the best time to visit between November and February, when the temperatures are not too hot, and there is less rainfall than at other times. Another good period to take your 5 star holiday in Thailand is in July and August, when the rainy season is in full swing, but the temperatures are generally lower and rainfall may be confined to a quick downpour in the afternoon.