In the 19th century, Horace Greeley was credited with telling young people to go West. If he were alive today, he might say, think outside the box, traveler. There is no better place to take their advice than Thailand. Depart from Bangkok and Phuket to scenic spots, teeming with wildlife or offering deserted beaches on less developed islands. Whether you are exploring traditional fishing villages or ancient temples, there are many underrated destinations in Thailand just waiting for curious travelers. Accommodation might not always be luxurious, but it’s part of the adventure when you think outside the box.
1. Ko Kut
Located 100 km (60 miles) off the east coast of Thailand, near Cambodia, is the island of Ko Kut (also known as Koh Kood). It’s a mountainous island that doesn’t have much to do, but you can sit in a hammock and take in the scenery – it’s considered one of the most scenic islands in Thailand. This island has beautiful sandy beaches and is dotted with waterfalls, the largest of which is Kling Chao. If you get a sudden burst of energy, you can go snorkelling or kayaking, or take a jungle walk. The island also has several fishing villages like Ao Salat and Ao Yai which are worth exploring.
2. Ko Muk
Getting to Ko Muk (also known as Koh Mook), one of the largest islands in Trang Province, requires a bit of planning – only one ferry per day travels between the island and the mainland. . Once there, you’ll find the famous Farang Beach, which is the starting point for Tham Morakot, a cave accessible only at low tide. The cave, with its emerald green water, is the island’s most famous attraction. You will also find traditional fishing villages on the island. Ko Muk (the name translates to Pearl Island) offers a low-key lifestyle. As residents are predominantly Muslim, visitors are asked to dress appropriately, away from the beach.
3. Sukhothai Historical Park
Sukhothai Historical Park is not only an underrated destination, it is also considered a sacred destination in Thailand. It has been the capital of Sukhothai Kingdom since 1238. The historical park is surrounded by an ancient wall and a moat. Located in northern Thailand, the park has 21 temples and the largest has 200 pagodas. Although it is now in ruins, you can still see how the Khmers and Sri Lankans influenced the architectural styles of this medieval kingdom. The busiest area is the central area which is full of temples, canals, ponds and vegetation, but the other areas are also worth a visit.
4. Khao Yai National Park
If you want to see wildlife in its natural habitat, head to Khao Yai National Park, just a three-hour drive from Bangkok. Thailand’s first national park is home to elephants, barking deer, gaurs, macaques and bears. It is also home to around 300 species of birds, including Thailand’s largest hornbill population. The best time to see reptiles is March or April, when the reticulated python, Chinese snake and water dragon and crested lizard come out to play. Other attractions include a bat cave (three million people live there), waterfalls (Haew Narok is the highest), campsites, and hiking trails.
Located just over 150 km (90 miles) from Bangkok, Lopburi has long been a tourist destination, probably starting with Italian explorer Marco Polo, who mentioned it in his book Travel. The city is best known for its crab-eating macaques which roam the city freely and have earned it the nickname of Mono Town. They are particularly prevalent around Khmer temples and shrines, which in themselves are worth seeing. A word of warning: these monkeys love to steal wallets and can attack you if they think you have food. Lopburi celebrates the Monkey Festival every year in November.
6. Ko Kradan
If you need some time to rest while visiting Thailand, Ko Kradan Island in the Andaman Sea might be the ticket. Ko Kradan is a short and narrow island that is part of Had Chou Mai National Park. Sunset Beach is a great place to snorkel the coral reefs that lie near the shore of Sunset Beach. The island’s other main beach, Paradise, doesn’t offer snorkeling, but it does have some great sandy beaches for relaxing or going to the beach. It is a great place to see other islands and the mainland.
7. Ko Maak
Thailand has many beautiful islands of which Ko Maak is one of them. Described as a tropical paradise, this pretty island is located in the Gulf of Thailand, near the Cambodian border. No less beautiful are the beaches and crystal clear waters that surround the island. The center of the island is covered with forests with rubber plantations and coconut plantations. The large reefs make Ko Maak a great place to snorkel and drive if relaxing on the beaches is too boring. You can also take boxing and Thai cooking lessons. Note: Bring lots of cash as there are no ATMs on the island.
8. Ko Yao Noi
Ko Yao Noi is a relatively unspoiled island in Phang Nga Bay, although it is a 30-minute boat ride from the glitz and glamor of Phuket. There are a few resorts on the island, but budget accommodation is also available. Ko Yao Noi or “small long island” is mountainous. The eastern side of the mountains has beaches where you can swim and snorkel. The west side is a good place to see the mangroves and rice fields. You can also take scuba diving lessons in Ko Yao Noi or sail across the bay to other islands. The island is calm, which makes it one of those destinations in Thailand to relax in a hammock.
When you have a sweet tooth, indulge yourself with Phetchaburi. The Thai city is famous for its desserts, especially khanong mor gaeng, a custard. Capital of the province of the same name, Phetchaburi is one of the oldest cities in Thailand. A hill is a highlight of the city, mainly because the Royal Palace (Khao Wang) and a wat or temple are located at the top. Cavers can enjoy a visit to the Khao Luong Caves on the outskirts of town. One cave features Buddhist statues placed between the stalactites while the other features an ancient tree in the center.
10. Phimai Historical Park
Phimai Historical Park is a good place to see Khmer temples which are some of the best preserved in Thailand. It has temples comparable to what you’ll see in Angkor Wat, but you won’t be fighting the crowds to see them. Here, too, there is a twist on the temples: they were built by Hindus but in the style of Buddhist temples, although they still retain Khmer architectural features. Most of the buildings in Phimai Historical Park were built in the 11th and 12th centuries. Phimai Historical Park at the end of the old Khmer road to Angkor.