Visiting the beautiful country of Thailand has increased in popularity over the years, and while it is beginning to make the move toward mass tourism, it is still a backpackers' paradise. It is the perfect place for budget travelers, and the locals are friendly, the food is cheap, the parties are great, and you can explore everything from jungle to beaches in just one trip. The list of reasons to visit Thailand is almost endless, so we say it’s time to plan a trip. Read on for 6 can’t miss cities on your trip through Thailand.
Best Cities In Thailand For Backpackers
1. Bangkok - Population: 8.5 Million
In the heart of Thailand lies Bangkok, the country’s bustling capital city. The city is fast paced, something that may take some time getting used to. It is a one stop shop for experiencing a lot of what Thailand has to offer. Backpackers can explore temples, palaces, outdoor markets, shops, incredible (and wild) nightlife, and some of the best food in the world. Not to mention it’s a huge international hub, making it the perfect place to begin and end your trip. Make sure to visit the big temples like and The Grand Palace, check out the Jim Thompson house, and don’t be afraid to hit the cool but incredibly touristy Chatuchak Market. Bangkok is a great destination year round, but the best weather is during the window from November to February.
2. Chiang Mai - Population: 400,000
Chiang Mai lies in the north of Thailand, and is a very old city ringed with even older temples and surrounded by a jungle. If you’re looking to explore the jungles and hills in the North, Chiang Mai is a great launch point for treks into the surrounding area. There is also a nearby elephant sanctuary, where backpackers can meet, feed, and ride elephants (ones that don’t suffer abuse). While you’re here, make the 10 mile trip out to Wat Doi Suthep, a national park and home to the Wat Phra temple that dates back to the 14th century. January is peak season in Chiang Mai, but anytime between January and March should offer moderate temperatures and good weather.
3. Ayutthaya - Population: 55,000
Somewhere between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, lies Ayutthaya, one of Thailand’s ancient capitals. It stood as the center of Siamese power and was destroyed in the 18th century; it has since become a modern thai city full of archeological wonders. It’s the perfect destination for backpackers to see the ancient history of the country and experience rural life at its best. To experience the city’s history, visit the Ayutthaya Historical Park or visit Wat Chaiwattanaram and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet. The list of historical sites in Ayutthaya goes on and on, so don’t worry if you can’t see them all.
4. Railay - Population: 456,000
Railay is part of the Krabi Province and while it isn’t technically an island, it is only accessible by boat, and it is definitely worth the trip. The area is characterized by its towering limestone cliffs, shimmering blue waters, and some of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches. This is a must see spot for any beach bum backpackers, or anyone looking for some outdoor adventure. Travelers can explore white sand beaches, trek through the jungle, snorkel in the warm waters, or spend the day rock climbing. The best beach for swimming is Hat Railay West, and if you’re interested in seeing one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, check out Hat Tham Phra Nang. For great rock climbing, try the Muay Thai Wall, with routes for any experience level. Peak season here is in January, when the weather is at its best, but if you want to avoid the crowds, visit in February or March when the weather is still warm.
5. Koh Phangan - Population: 13,700
Koh Phangan, an island off the Southern end of Thailand, is the site of the infamous full moon parties. If you’re into that kind of thing (i.e. crazy partying) then plan your visit during one of the celebrations and party on. For those looking to avoid the madness, Koh Phangan remains largely deserted when the partiers have left, and it is still one of the most beautiful islands in the country. Dirt roads connect the beaches, and it’s a great spot to explore on a rented motor bike. Visit Haad Rin to see the site of the full moon parties and beautiful white sand beaches. For diving enthusiasts, visit Sailrock, or take a break from the beach and watch a Muay Thai boxing match. The best time to visit is in June, July, and August when the tourists have left, the temps have cooled off, and the rainy season is still far away.
6. Pai - Population: 2,284
This small village sits on the Pai River about four hours north of Chiang Mai, and has earned a reputation as Thailand’s “hippie” hangout. The town sits in a picturesque mountain valley, boasts a vibrant art and music scene, and is just as popular among Thais as it is among foreigners. It’s a great place for backpackers to experience small town life in the North, and offers interesting walks along the street, fun afternoon markets, and beautiful views of nearby waterfalls. Hike up to the Mae Yen Waterfalls, visit Wat Phra That Mae Yen (Temple on the Hill), and hit up the Wednesday market in town. The best time to visit Pai is during the transition from the cold to the hot season between February and March.
This article was written by Alexis Hartmann.