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While many visitors to Thailand focus on the beaches, jungles, and cities, there are plenty of picturesque villages and towns to discover too. Many offer a great window into local Thai life as well as interesting attractions and activities. Add some of these charming destinations to your bucket list.
Sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Thailand, Wang Nam Khiao is a stunning mountain town in Nakhon Ratchasima. Lush greenery and verdant vineyards sit near waterfalls, flower fields, and quirky farms, and there are glorious views around almost every corner. The area is also known for having some of the freshest air in all of Thailand.
Located in the north of Kanchanaburi province and close to the border with Myanmar, Sangkhlaburi is a top place to experience a blend of cultures and communities living harmoniously alongside each other. From beautiful temples and a long teak bridge to a glistening reservoir where the tops of submerged buildings sometimes poke up from the waters, there’s plenty to admire here.
A laid-back hippie hangout in Northern Thailand, Pai is a charming and popular riverside town at the foot of the mountains. Originally a tranquil Shan market village, the gorgeous area now attracts many travellers looking for a beautiful spot to chill and explore. There are waterfalls, canyons, and hot springs close to hand, not to mention the huge weekly market (held every Wednesday) where people from different ethnic groups come to sell colourful and unusual handicrafts.
A town with a long royal heritage, Phetchaburi has many striking buildings along with some fascinating caves. Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park (also known as Khao Wang) and Khao Luang cave temple are highlights, while nature lovers will find plenty of interest nearby in Thailand’s largest national park, the Kaeng Krachan National Park. A short way outside of the town, the coastal province also boasts several quiet beaches as well as Cha-am, a beach resort that is popular with holiday-making Thais.
Chiang Khan is a scenic area in Northern Thailand’s province of Loei. Sitting alongside the mighty Mekong River, just across from Laos, the small town is peaceful with few international tourists. Traditional wooden houses line the river’s edge and vendors sell an array of local handicrafts and foods. Wake up early to watch a picture-perfect sunrise over the Mekong before taking to the streets to offer alms to monks. Visit historic temples and stroll alongside the river before watching a beautiful sunset.
Another northern gem, Lampang town is a top place to learn more about the ancient Lanna kingdom and immerse yourself in the northern way of life. Horses and carts still carry people around the quaint streets and there are plenty of old temples and other historic buildings in various architectural styles to visit. The Wang River basin is next to the town, and beautiful mountains and national parks can be found just on the outskirts. The pagoda-studded mountains of Wat Chalermprakiat, about an hour outside town, are well worth a visit.
Khanom is situated along the Thai Gulf in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province. The seaside area attracts few foreign tourists but is a popular holiday spot for Thais. There are several pretty beaches and bays, most of which offer terrific views of the ocean and nearby islands, and you can explore the quiet fishing village and dine on freshly caught seafood. Nearby caves and waterfalls add to the visual appeal.
Ban Mae Or is also known as Ban Rak Thai Village (Love Thai Village). It can be found in Mae Hong Son Province and it is the last settlement before the Thai-Myanmar border. Nestled in the mountains, there’s a lake next to the village and local homes are built from clay and rice straw with decorative Chinese-style features. Tea plantations give a boost to the local economy and the village has a unique vibe.
A small town in the province of the same name, Prachuap Khiri Khan boasts twin curved bays with soft white sands and a mountain that you can climb for splendid views over the surroundings. Foliage-covered karsts rise from the waters and two types of monkeys call the town home: cheeky macaques and the much calmer dusky leaf monkeys. There are several temples to explore too.
Koh Kret is a delightful river village close to Bangkok. Traditionally home to a pottery-making Mon community, it’s a great day trip from the capital to see a completely different way of life and enjoy a much quieter vibe. Quiet paths lead through patches of green and past small homes, and there are several interesting religious spots to admire as well as old kilns, pottery communities, and a thriving market.