You’ve got your heart set on exploring every corner of irresistible Thailand, but you want to get off the beaten track and see some of the country’s most beautiful places that aren’t on the regular backpacking route? We asked some of the best travel bloggers in the business to give us their top picks of the must-visit hidden secret spots in Thailand. So, read on to find out which hikes, beaches, islands and picturesque places made the hidden gems in Thailand list!
However, if you’re wanting to read up on the more famous attractions in Thailand, and a visit to Wat Phra in Bangkok or the White Temple in Chiang Rai are more up your alley, then head on over to see what makes our list of the ultimate landmarks in Thailand. Regardless of your travel style, you’re covered with the secret spots and the must-visit popular places for your trip to the Land of Smiles.
Read next: Check out these hidden gems in Bali
Our Top 10 hidden gems in Thailand
- Chiang Dao
- Koh Wai
- Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall
- Dragon Crest Mountain
- Koh Yao Noi
- Kaeng Krachan National Park
- Khao Lak
- Nong Khai Buddha Park
- Koh Mook
- Koh Chang (Andaman Coast)
Explore by Marek from Indie Traveller
Whenever places are just ever so slightly out of the way for the average tourist, they often manage to preserve their character. Such is the case with Chiang Dao, a small valley town in northern Thailand. It’s only about a 90-minute drive north of the regional capital of Chiang Mai, but since it’s not really on the way to anywhere else, it has blissfully kept the masses away.
The appeal of Chiang Dao isn’t that it’s the ‘best’ or the ‘most’ of anything. It’s just a calm town at the foothills of the third tallest mountain in Thailand, dotted with waterfalls, hot springs, caves, temples, and some affordable bungalows. There are no backpacker parties here nor any buses dropping off guided tours. Some may consider that dull (if so, perhaps head for the town of Pai), but for others it’s just a perfect chance to experience a more authentic side of Thailand.
Chiang Dao is a great little place if you prefer somewhere quiet, but still like there to be a basic level of tourist infrastructure (including plenty of food and accommodation options). You can spend at least a couple of days exploring the gentle rural landscapes by bicycle or scooter, climbing the peaks of Doi Chiang Dao, or visiting the local artist workshops.
Explored by Claudia from My Adventures Across The World
Koh Wai is one of most beautiful and yet lesser visited islands in Thailand, and upon landing there you will feel like you’ve just been let into Thailand’s best kept secret. Located off the southern coast of Koh Chang (which on the other hand is actually quite crowded) and not as far away as Koh Mak, Koh Wai is reached via a 25 minute boat ride (if you opt for the fast boat) from Bang Bao.
What you will love about Koh Wai is its rustic charm. You won’t find roads, cars and scooters but just a trail going around one side of the island, connecting the two main beaches. There are a few huts for rent, which are quite basic. WiFi is only available in one of the restaurants on the island, which serve quite good food for a modest price.
The two beaches of Koh Wai are pristine – fine, white sand, palm trees, and the most pristine waters with colourful fish, making it perfect for snorkeling. Depending on the day you visit, there may be quite a few day trippers – but most usually opt for more popular destinations in the archipelago.
To make the most of the blissful isolation of Koh Wai, opt to spend at least a couple of nights there. Rent a kayak to explore a bit more or simply relax at the beach, enjoying the light marine breeze.
Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall
Explored by Sophie & Adam from We Dream Of Travel
Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall is nestled amongst lush vegetation within Khuean Srinagarindra National Park, approximately 2 hours from Kanchanaburi. While its more popular neighbour, Erawan Falls, is a hugely popular tourist attraction, Huay Mae Khamin Falls is still a secret spot in Thailand.
Despite being one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand, if you visit this hidden gem, you’ll likely find that you only have to share it with a few locals. This is, in part, due to there being no public transport to Huay Mae Khamin Falls. However, with a little effort you can get to this spectacular 7-tiered waterfall on a day trip from Kanchanaburi. The easiest way to reach the falls is by renting a scooter. The roads are well maintained and it’s an easy ride.
The reward for this extra bit of effort are stunning cascading waterfalls, tumbling impressively over a naturally formed limestone staircase. The waterfall is comprised officially of 7 tiers, however in reality there are substantially more and you could easily spend an entire day ambling from one cascade to another.
During the week it’s even possible that you’ll only have the sounds of birds and insects chirping to disturb you! If you have more time, then you can camp by the falls. The campsites are used mainly by locals at the weekends.
For everything you need to know (and more photos to convince you to go!), check out this guide to the Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall.
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park
Explored by Lee from The Travel Scribes
One of the most stunning national parks in Thailand, Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park surprisingly doesn’t get the recognition that it truly deserves.
An easy day trip from Koh Samui or Koh Pha Ngan, this set of gorgeous limestone karsts and islands almost has the feel and beauty of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam! And yet with it being set so close to these infamous party islands, it not often on the itinerary of those travellers who visit the Chumphon Archipelago.
Around an hour away from both islands by speedboat, the highlight of any trip to Mu Ko Ang Thong has to be the incredible vistas from the top of the viewpoint. Sometimes this is rated as the best viewpoint in Thailand, it is also thought to be some of the inspiration for Alex Garland’s novel The Beach, although this is hotly debated, as he lived in Coron and El Nido when the book was written! But some of the movie was shot here (as well as famously in Koh Phi Phi).
We’ve actually got a full review of what to expect on a Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park Tour here.
Dragon Crest Mountain
Explored by Alex from Career Gappers
Southern Thailand is most often associated with idyllic islands and white sandy beaches with perfect turquoise water. But on the mainland in Krabi province, adventurous travellers can explore a less-trodden terrain of hilly rainforest and rich biodiversity. One such offbeat gem is Dragon Crest Mountain, a gorgeous half-day hike paid off with spectacular views across the landscape and out to the Andaman Sea.
Ao Nang Beach is a convenient base for reaching the trailhead, around 15 kilometres to the north-west. You can book a guided hike, but to experience Dragon Crest Mountain in its most serene beauty it’s better to go independently and early in the morning – 7am is the perfect start. You can hire a moped or arrange a private car with pickup (allow around four hours for the return hike). Bring plenty of water, it gets hot!
The trail is quiet, even at the peak times of day, but at this hour it is a particularly tranquil ascent, with no interruptions other than the natural sounds of the rainforest. A straightforward up-and-down return hike, the way up is a steady gradient with some steeper spots, but easily manageable with average fitness levels. Rising through the jungle on the marked path, you will catch glimpses of the glorious view emerging through the trees.
At the trail’s climax, a short final walk through some forest leads out onto a rocky overhang (tread carefully). Take a seat, enjoy the spectacle – and have your camera ready.
Koh Yao Noi
Explored by Kerrie & Woody from Just Go Travelling
Koh Yao Noi is a place to escape the hustle and bustle of Thailand’s main cities, and only a short boat ride away from Phuket.
It truly is a hidden gem in Thailand as it is off the beaten path and not known by many tourists. Due to this, you don’t get the usual hassle from vendors harassing you to buy something or trying to stop you on the street. You are just greeted with warmth and smiles.
Koh Yao Noi is a relatively small island which can be explored in a full day whizzing around on a scooter. However, it is best to go with the laid-back vibe of the island and take your time over a few days. There are many golden sand beaches to discover and enjoy.
Not only are there amazing beaches but many other things to do, including visiting the local market for some authentic Thai cuisine and street food. You can even take Thai boxing lessons or go on a mini yoga retreat.
Koh Yao Noi is also next door to the equally tranquil Island of Koh Yao Yai, which is only a short long-tail boat ride away.
Perhaps one of the most popular luxury resorts in Thailand is on Koh Yao Noi too, Six Senses Yao Noi. This is where you can take the extra step in relaxation sipping an alcoholic beverage by the pool or enjoying their spa area offering authentic Thai massages.
Kaeng Krachan National Park
Explored by Steve from The Trip Goes On
Kaeng Krachan National Park is a large wilderness area on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. It is a paradise for nature lovers as it is home to a vast array of wildlife. On a trip to Kaeng Krachan you can expect to see the beautiful hornbill birds with their large orange and yellow beaks, thousands of electrifying butterflies, monkeys, black squirrels, porcupines and more.
The park is also home to larger mammals including elephants, leopards and even tigers (although sightings of the latter are incredibly rare). You should be aware that the park is a true wilderness area and as such be aware of your surroundings at all times.
The Ban Krang campsite inside the park has basic facilities with tents for hire and a small restaurant serving Thai cuisine. There is a small building displaying photographs taken by the warden and a rooftop which is a great place to observe the monkeys jumping from tree to tree and the hornbills flying overhead.
Due to its off the beaten path location, Kaeng Krachan is not the easiest place to get to on your own, but with a little perseverance it is more than worth the effort. The park’s location helps keep the place free of crowds and ensures a tranquil stay in the jungle. From Bangkok you can take the airport bus to Hua Hin airport (exit 8, 4 hours) and then take a taxi or minibus the remainder of the journey.
Entrance to the park costs 300 THB for non-Thai nationals. From the visitor centre you must pay 1400 THB for a return trip to the campsite at Ban Krang. It’s also possible to camp next to the lake at the visitor centre but this is outside of the jungle and you won’t get the same experience.
Explored by Lee from The Travel Scribes
Located around 420 km north of Bangkok, Sukhothai is a former ancient capital of Thailand (from 1238 to 1428), and is strangely one of Thailand’s best kept secrets.
The ruins of the ancient capital, of which there are close to 200 temples, ruins and buildings, has the feel of a small Angkor Wat complex (although covering nearly 30,000 acres it really isn’t that small). And yet, for some reason, it really isn’t on that main tourist trail.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the ancient city should definitely be somewhere you explore when in Thailand.
Explored by Kristel & Gabriel at Chef Travel Guide
Believe it or not, there are still some hidden gem beach towns in Thailand that have not been run over by crowds of fanny-pack wearing tourists. Khao Lak is located about two hours north of Phuket making it an easy escape from its crowded beach chair covered shores. This area was hit extremely hard by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami but since has rebuilt to its former glory. Some of the tourism has returned but the area still remains a nice balance of fun and quiet.
Khao Lak has just enough nightlife to keep you entertained along with a nice selection of restaurants featuring everything from Thai street food to locally caught seafood. In fact, some of the best Isaan BBQ we have ever had was from a street vendor that sets up shop in front of Chang Bar near Bang Niang Beach. In between meals, you can easily access some of the most picturesque beaches in Thailand by simply renting a scooter to access the nearly empty beaches north of town.
If you are the adventurous type, Khao Lak is a perfect place to base yourself for a tour of Khao Sok National Park along with diving trips to Similan Islands. Whether you are looking for beaches to work on your tan, or simply a quiet getaway, Khao Lak is the perfect place in Thailand to escape the crowds.
Buddha Park in Nong Khai
Explored by Baia from Red Fedora Diary
Sala Keoku, also known as the Buddha Park, is probably the most hidden place in Thailand and less visited compared to its sister park in Vientiane, Laos.
Situated in Nong Khai town close to the Lao border, the Sala Keoku is home to bizarre and massive sculptures inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism. Due to the lack of tourists, you’ll usually have the park to yourself, so take your time to explore and admire each sculpture on your own time.
A Lao citizen, Luang Pu created both Buddha Parks. The one in Vientiane is the first one, while the Thai park is the second after he escaped to Thailand due to a political matter.
The most interesting and impressive monument is the Wheel of Life showcasing the life and death of a human, which then continues forever unless he/she reaches the Nirvana and manages to escape that vicious circle.
To get to the park, first, you need to get to the town of Nong Khai. Sadly, no public transportation goes to the park from the town. Your only option would be to hire a tuk-tuk or a bike. If you do take the tuk-tuk, the driver is usually kind enough to wait for you and take you back to the centrr of the town or wherever you hailed it.
Koh Chang (Andaman Coast)
Explored by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Life moves at a pretty slow pace on Koh Chang, and if you’re looking for a place where you can unplug and escape from civilization, this is the perfect spot. In fact, you just might find yourself unplugged whether you like it or not, as electricity can be rather sporadic here.
Please don’t make the mistake of confusing this island with the other Koh Chang in Trat province! That one is much larger, and also much more popular with tourists, as it can be reached easily from Bangkok in just a few hours. Improper disposal of plastic and other waste is a real problem on the larger Koh Chang, and I don’t particularly recommend it. That is, unless you are going there to volunteer at Koh Chang Animal Project, a wonderful charity that provides help to Thailand’s many stray dogs and cats.
The smaller Koh Chang in Ranong Province lies close to the border with Burma, just off the Andaman Coast. The only way to get here is by long-tail boat from Ranong, which takes about two and a half hours. Make a reservation beforehand at one of the few low-key bungalow guesthouses, and the boatman will drop you off at your accommodation of choice. As for activities to do here, you could go on a hike through the jungle, but you may find you are content just to relax on the beach with the friendly locals and watch the gorgeous sunsets.
Explored by Linn from Brainy Backpackers
Koh Mook is such an underrated place in Thailand.
Most people go on day trips from the nearby islands to see Emerald Cave, a mesmerizing hidden beach through a cave you can only swim through or kayak when the tide is low. If you stay on the island you can get there early morning by kayak to avoid the crowds. But Koh Mook is so much more than the Emerald Cave. It has a real local island vibe to it with not many souvenirs and things you find on most popular Thai islands. Here you’ll find a few resorts, yes, but most of the island lives its own rural life.
Go for a hike to hidden beaches or rent a bike or a scooter and take a tour of the island. It’s lush and green and has a lot of wild jungle to explore. Koh Mook is perfect for staying a few days to explore it all or a couple of weeks if you want to spend time on long white empty beaches, work on your tan, and swim in turquoise crystalline water. The snorkeling is also great around the island. There are plenty of places to stay from budget to high-end and you can eat really well!
Koh Adang Viewpoint Hike
Explored by James from the Travel Scribes
As part of our Malaysia and Thailand island hopping adventure, we were lucky enough to spend time in Koh Lipe, and although of course not a hidden gem in itself, it’s only a short longtail boat ride to Koh Adang, where you’ll find what we think is a definite little treasure.
Prepare for a good 45-minute strenuous hike to one of the most beautiful viewpoints we encountered on our travels in Thailand, the Koh Adang viewpoint of Koh Lipe. And although 45 minutes might seem pretty simple, in the heat of the day, this is anything but… definitely take some water, sunscreen and a hat to prepare for this.
What made it extra special, was that there was absolutely no one else on the hike (in fact, hardly anyone on Koh Adang itself), and so we could spend a few hours appreciating the views all by ourselves. It’s always rewarding to find somewhere, seemingly so off the beaten path, when it’s so close to such a major tourist attraction.
Explored by Harshi & Aman from Trot.World
Thailand is full of stunning Kohs (islands) dotted with pristine beaches, emerald green waters and magical views all around. But most of these popular islands have one major thing in common: hordes of tourists obstructing the view. Thailand gets countless visitors every year, and rightfully so, but if you want to escape the crowds and continue enjoying the Thai charm and all that natural beauty in peace and solitude, then Koh Lanta has to be a stop on your itinerary.
An island district in the Krabi province, this lesser known but equally beautiful place is truly a hidden gem. A few popular and economical ways to get to Koh Lanta are via ferries and speedboats. Very laid back yet filled with activities, this is a perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the way you want to.
While on Koh Lanta, you can swim in uncrowded emerald waters, lay on long stretches of empty beaches, go snorkeling and diving at the shark point, hop on a four island tour and see the Emerald lake, partake in sea kayaking and cave climbing adventures or simply indulge in Thai massages and enjoy fire shows at breezy beachfront bars.
To enhance the experience of this stopover in your itinerary, it is highly recommended to stay at the Crown of Koh Lanta that has one of the best beach bars in Koh Lanta and villas right over the Andaman Sea, overlooking the neighbouring Thai islands.
Explored by Marya from The BeauTraveler
Hat Yai is a city in the southern part of Thailand, close to the Malaysian border. Due to its strategic location, Hat Yai has become more popular for Malaysian travellers as it is situated only 4 hours by car from Penang.
The largest city in Songkhla Province, Hat Yai is also notable for its higher Malay-Muslim and Chinese Thai populations compared to the other regions of the country. It isn’t strange to find the locals speaking in either Malay or Hokkien dialect in the city. The city’s diverse community is also the reason why the experience in Hat Yai could be unique compared to some more popular destinations in Thailand.
If you love shopping, you’ll probably enjoy the ASEAN Night Bazaar as much as you love Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. For nature lovers, you can also explore some areas around Songkhla from Hat Yailike Ton Nga Chang Wildlife Sanctuary and the Thale Noi Waterbird Park.
If you are more of a spiritual traveler, you can also stop by Wat Hat Yai Nai, a temple with one of the world’s biggest reclining Buddha statues. Songkhla Central Mosque is also relatively easy to get to from the city centre.
Last but not least, don’t miss Hat Yai Municipal Park when you’re in town. You can go picnic around the park or get into a cable car to the top of the hills where a giant Buddha statue is located.
Chantaboon Waterfront Community
Explored by Meenakshi from PolkaJunction
Situated along the banks of the river Mae Nam Chantaburi, the old trade route between Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Cambodia, Chantaboon Waterfront Community was established over three centuries ago during the reign of King Narai.
Over the years, Chinese and Vietnamese traders had settled in Chataboon, creating one of the foremost trading and transportation hubs in the region, based on a real mixture of cultures.
In modern times, the Chantaboon waterfront had lost its sheen due to declining interest in community living and loss of trade by waterways. However, in the last decade or so, the waterfront has seen a revival, thanks to its original occupants coming together to give the community a facelift.
With vintage homes, vibrant cafes, gorgeous street art, and very hospitable people, the Chantaboon waterfront community – just a kilometre long, can lure any visitor to Thailand, who loves old-world charm, but it’s still very much off the beaten track.
Its close proximity to Cambodia makes it an ideal pitstop for travellers. One can go on heritage trails, visit the oldest gem market in the world and just spend soaking and absorbing in the laid-back vibes of the place. And don’t forget to visit the statue of Mother Mary, which stands within the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, while there. The statue is supposedly adorned with hundreds of rubies and 300,000 sapphires that have their origins as far away as Sri Lanka!
Thailand Travel Tips
Looking for a few more tips and inspiration for your trip to Thailand? Check out our 3 week in Thailand guide which has everything you need to know about the country, and in our opinion the best places to go and what to do, especially if this is your first time in Thailand. Or, if you’ve only got limited time, then have a look at our Bangkok and Chiang Mai city guides, along with our Chiang Rai temples guide. In fact there are even hidden gems in these Thai cities to still find, like the Silver Temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Sri Suphan!
So, what do you think of our list of hidden gems in Thailand? Have we missed any off that you think should make it onto this bucket list? Let us know in the comments below and if they’re great we’ll quickly add them to the Thailand hidden gems list!
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