Thailand has so many diverse attractions and activities to enjoy whilst travelling around Southeast Asia. Indeed, you could spend months in Thailand and barely scratch the surface! Many people focus their holidays around place like Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, and Chiang Mai, often visiting some of the popular and well-known southern islands such as Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Tao, and Koh Pa Ngan. It is possible, wherever you stay, to find places that are a little off-the-beaten track, and free from huge crowds of tourists – you just need to be a bit adventurous!
That said, there are many more places around Thailand, far from the tourist hotspots, that are well-worth taking the time and making the effort to visit. Here are some great off-the-beaten-track places around Thailand to whet your appetite for adventure and rouse your inner-explorer:
1. Catapult seeds into the verdant mountainous forests at Pha Keb Tawan
Pha Keb Tawan is a magical cliff in Thap Lan National Park. Sitting on the border between the provinces of Nakhon Ratchasima and Prachin Buri, the enormous Thap Lan National Park is the country’s second largest national park. Covering more than 2,000 square kilometres, there is certainly plenty to experience within the park. The national park entrance fee is 200 THB (approximately 5.50 USD) for non-Thai visitors.
A popular place with Thai visitors, especially at sunrise and sunset, Pha Keb Tawan offers incredible views of the lush mountainous landscapes. You can even help the forests to grow by catapulting large seeds off the edge of the cliff, with the hope that a new tree will grow tall and proud from your efforts. A vendor sells packets of seeds, and you can borrow a hand-held catapult. Alternatively, there are several large catapults permanently positioned at the cliff’s edge. If you struggle to use the catapult you can, of course, just hurl your seeds down into the forests.
Pha Keb Tawan is located close to Nakhon Ratchasima’s district of Wang Nam Khiao (also spelt as Wang Nam Khieo). Whilst having your own private transportation will make getting around the area much easier, it is possible to reach Pha Keb Tawan by public transport. The bus between Nakhon Ratchasima City and Prachinburi’s district of Kabin Buri passes by the park’s entrance. It is then just a short walk to Pha Keb Tawan. You could also arrange for a taxi to take you to the national park, and there are plenty of places to stay in the nearby area.
If you explore more of the extensive national park you will find excellent walking trails and an abundance of wildlife – you may even spot tracks and excrement from wild elephants. The rock is also home to some pretty waterfalls and more fabulous viewpoints. Alternatively, around Wang Nam Khiao you can visit colourful flower gardens, mushroom farms, vineyards, and enjoy the fresh air and countryside atmosphere of the Switzerland of Isan.
2. Explore the charming small island of Koh Si Chang
Located off the coast of Central Thailand’s province of Chonburi, Koh Si Chang (also sometimes spelt as Ko Si Chang or Ko / Koh Sichang) is a lovely little island for a short break.
Easy to reach but often overlooked by international tourists, you can catch a public bus to the mainland town of Si Racha, and then take a short ride in a tuk tuk to the pier for ferries to the island. A tuk tuk is a three-wheeled vehicle with an open back and sides, similar to an auto-rickshaw. The ferry crossing takes around 45 minutes. Once on the island, it is easy to explore by foot. You could also rent a bicycle or a scooter, or use tuk tuks to get around.
There are several small beaches on Koh Si Chang, with Haad / Hat Tham Phang being the most popular. And even this popular beach is quiet and peaceful! The waters around Koh Si Chang are usually clean and calm, offering great swimming. There are no lifeguards on the beaches though, so do take extra-special care. At the time of visit, there were hundreds and hundreds of small translucent jellyfish in the sea. Whilst these were harmless, and many Thai visitors happily splashed in the water, it was rather off-putting.
The island retains a laid-back fishing village atmosphere, and you can join the locals for a spot of night fishing at the pier. A former royal summer retreat, there are two old palaces on the island – Hat Tha Wang Palace and Phra Chudadhut Palace. Interesting cave monasteries, deep dark caves, temples, lookout points, and unusual rock formations add to the island’s quaint appeal.
If you are looking for beach retreat within just a couple of hours from Bangkok, or fancy visiting somewhere new and different, Koh Si Chang could be ideal.
3. Admire spectacular Khmer ruins at Prasat Phanom Rung
Prasat Phanom Rung is located in Buriram Province, close to the border with Cambodia. Built when the area was part of the mighty Khmer Kingdom (now modern-day Cambodia), Prasat Phanom Rung is one of Thailand’s biggest and most spectacular Khmer sites.
Built as a Hindu place of worship at some time between the 9th and 12th century AD, it was built by the same kingdom that created Cambodia’s majestic Angkor Wat. There are many similarities between the large complex of Prasat Phanom Rung and its more famous Cambodian cousin.
After climbing rugged stone steps up the hill, you will find yourself in front of a marvellous corn-shaped pagoda and a detailed wall with many intricate carvings. As you wander around the site you will see many interesting carvings and statues, not to mention the impressive architectural features. The complex has been carefully restored to its former glory, allowing visitors to take a peek into the area’s past. The elevated position on top of a long-extinct volcano offers brilliant views of the surrounding rural areas.
Despite its magnificence, relatively few international tourists visit Prasat Phanom Rung. That’s not to say it’s quiet though – it is a popular place for Thai tourists and school visits. The remote location can deter foreign tourists, especially if time is limited. There is very little infrastructure around the site, although you will find a basic selection of accommodation options and eateries in the nearby small town of Nang Rong.
If you don’t have your own transport, the easiest way to visit would be as part of a guided tour or by chartering a taxi for the day from somewhere like Buriram City, Nakhon Ratchasima City, or Phimai (a town in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.) As a rough guide, a return taxi from Phimai, including waiting time, will cost around 2,000 THB (approximately 55 USD) for two people; the price may increase if there are more travellers.
Admission to Prasat Phanom Rung is 100 THB (approximately 2.75 USD) for non-Thai visitors.
4. Experience a ghostly side of Thailand at Loei’s Phi Ta Khon Museum
Loei is a province in the lower north of Thailand. Whilst the province is both home to many fantastic attractions and severely under-visited, one of the most unusual attractions in this off-the-beaten-track destination is definitely the small but intriguing Phi Ta Khon Museum.
The Phi Ta Khon Museum is in the grounds of Wat Phon Chai within the district of Dan Sai. You can reach Dan Sai by public bus and the museum is just a short walk, of around five minutes, from the bus station. There is no entrance fee, although donations are welcome.
The Phi Ta Khon Museum showcases some of the awesome masks, costumes, and models that are used in the area’s annual Phi Ta Khon Festival (Ghost Festival). You can even try on some of the heavy masks! Information is provided in both Thai and English about the festival, its history, and its local cultural significance. The dates of the festival change each year, as they are set by local astrologers.
5. See the Bang Rachan Heroes Monument in Sing Buri – the happiest Thai province
Sing Buri / Singburi / Singburie is a province in Central Thailand. It is just a couple of hours outside by Bangkok and can be reached by public bus or minivan. Once at the provincial bus station, you can get around by tuk tuk, local bus, or songthaew (converted pickup trucks with two covered benches in the back).
Voted by Thais as the happiest province in the whole country for two years on the run (2014 and 2015), Sing Buri is also sometimes referred to as Thailand’s Spiritual Heartland.
The Bang Rachan Heroes were a small group of brave men who, in the 1760s, steadfastly held off invading Burmese troops for an incredible eight times before finally being defeated. This was in spite of there being many more Burmese soldiers than villagers. The Burmese eventually conquered the area as a result of the Bang Rachan Heroes running out of weapons. A gleaming black monument was erected in Sing Buri’s district of Khai Bang Rachan to remember the heroic actions of the villagers.
The monument is within a large green park, Khai Bang Rachan Park, in Khai Bang Rachan District. There is no charge to stroll around the park, see the honoured statue, and visit interesting exhibitions throughout the park. Exhibitions include historical and cultural objects.
Other fantastic off-the-beaten-track destinations around Thailand
With many visitors largely confining themselves to several major tourist areas, much of Thailand is somewhat off-the-beaten-track to holiday-makers.
Visit the so-called Stonehenge of Thailand, Mor Hin Khao, in Chaiyaphum, See the Lalu (an unusual eroded canyon) in Sa Kaeo, visit Thailand’s largest Christian community in Sakhon Nakhon, and wander through ancient cities in Phetchabun and Kamphaeng Phet. Kalasin has many dinosaur fossils as well as a dinosaur excavation site, Ranong boasts lovely hot springs, an unusual bald hill, and stunning small islands close to Burma / Myanmar, Nakhon Nayok has some beautiful waterfalls, and you can explore the fascinating river island of Koh Kret / Kred, home to a large pottery-making Mon community, in Nonthaburi.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Get out and explore more of Thailand when on vacation – you won’t regret it!
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.