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19 Incredible Landmarks in Thailand You Don’t Want to Miss

Charlotte Boswell

From bustling cities and golden temples to tropical islands and colourful tribal villages, Thailand is one of Asia's most welcoming and fascinating countries that draws millions of visitors every year. It is home to many fascinating historical, cultural and natural landmarks. Here is a list of our favourite landmarks in Thailand.

1. The Grand Palace, Bangkok

A trip to Bangkok would not be complete without a visit to the spectacular Grand Palace, a collection of impressive temples and structures in Rattanakosin, the historic centre of the city. Built by the early kings of the Chakri dynasty, this vast complex is home to shimmering gold palaces, intricate Buddha statues and over 50 temples including Wat Phra Kaeo, Thailand’s oldest temple which houses the thousand-year-old Emerald Buddha. The Thai Royal Family no longer live here so visitors have the freedom to explore the buildings and get up close to throne halls, royal stables and government buildings.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

2. The Emerald Lagoon, Ang Thong Marine Park

The 40-something jagged jungle islands of Ang Thong Marine Park stretch across the aquamarine sea in the Gulf of Thailand, each one featuring sheer limestone cliffs, powder-sand beaches and hidden turquoise lagoons. Perhaps one of the most famous spots of this marine park is the Emerald Lagoon. Made famous by Alex Garland’s cult-classic novel The Beach, it features a glistening green lake enclosed by jungle-clad karsts rising out of the water. Although the lagoon is incredibly inviting, visitors are not able to swim in it keeping the water beautifully pristine and makes for stunning photo opportunities.

The Emerald Lagoon in An Thong National Park, Thailand

Photo credit: Traveloution360

3. Sukhothai Historical Park, Sukhothai

Founded in 1238, Sukhothai is one of Thailand’s most spectacular archaeological sites that previously formed the capital of the Thai Empire for around 140 years. Today the remains of Old Sukhothai are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site which in turn forms part of a larger historical park. A vast site originally protected by ramparts, ditches and moats, it is believed that in its heyday the city was home to almost 300,000 people. Having fallen into disrepair over the years, Old Sukhothai has been thoughtfully restored where highlights include the Wat Mahathat complex which was completed in 1345 AD, Wat Sra Sri and King Ramkhamhaeng’s statue and the impressive Wat Sri Chum.

Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand

4. Wat Arun, Bangkok

Located on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Wat Arun is one of Bangkok’s most unique Buddhist temples. It is known as the Temple of the Dawn as when the very first rays of light strike the temple it creates an iridescent sheen that glows over the river. The temple is home to colourful pagodas and spires that tower over the water; it is recommended to climb up one of the ornate structures for spectacular views over the city.

Wat Arun, Sunrise Temple in Bangkok, Thailand

Photo credit: Vic Jr. Magallanes

5. Khao Yai National Park, Hin Tung

Thailand’s first national park, Khao Yai is considered to be the country’s finest. A UNESCO World Heritage site made up of mainly rainforest and bamboo forest, the reserve is home to elephant, Asiatic black bear, slow loris, gibbon and rare Indochinese tiger. During a visit to Khao Yai National Park there many activities to choose from including walking trails to see Great hornbill and white-handed gibbon, a night safari to spot nocturnal animals, hikes to see the beautiful orchids that line the paths to various waterfalls and the chance to see the endangered Siamese crocodile.

Khao Yai National Park waterfall, Thailand

6. Ayutthaya Historical Park, Ayutthaya

Founded in the mid-14th century, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai and remained so until 1767. During this time, Ayutthaya flourished to become not only one of the world's largest cities but also as a centre of global diplomacy and commerce with trading links to much of Asia, Arabia and Europe. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya is dotted with reliquary towers and vast monasteries which provide an indication of the city's former splendour with highlights including Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Chai Wattanaram and Wat Phra Mahathat.

Ayutthaya Historical Park, Thailand

7. Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

Known worldwide as the White Temple, Wat Rong Khun is one of the most spectacular and fascinating landmarks in Thailand. Located in Chiang Rai, the temple is known for its striking and gleaming white designs and fairy tale-like appearance and is home to countless gates and sculptures. Although the temple may look ancient, it was actually only built in 1997 after being designed by local Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. As you cross the bridge on entry, be inspired by the beautiful lake reflections of the opulent temple whilst also passing hundreds of outstretched hands that reach out from the ground.

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Photo credit: David Petit

8. Cheow Larn Lake, Khao Sok National Park

With its karst scenery and thickly forested interior, beautiful Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand has extraordinary biodiversity supporting elephant, tiger and gibbon as well as hundreds of bird species. It is also home to Cheow Larn Lake, an artificial lake constructed in 1987, which is a beautiful emerald colour framed by green rainforest and limestone karsts. It is possible to stay on Cheow Larn Lake in floating lodges or luxury tents; a once in a lifetime experience. Wake early to watch the sunrise, listen to the monkeys calling and birds singing and take a kayak through the calm waters to spot wildlife.

Cheow Larn Lake in Khao Sok National Park

9. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

One of Chiang Mai’s finest and most opulent temples, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, is home to a glittering golden pagoda surrounded by beautiful pavilions, buildings and statues including a relic of the Lord Buddha. Sitting atop a hill means that visitors must climb more than 300 steps to reach the temple, however the views over the city and surrounding mountains are unrivalled and worth the climb. Once at the top, the outer terrace boasts small shrines, trees, flowers and statues, while the inner terrace is where you’ll find the main tiered pagoda as well as Buddha statues in various poses.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand

10. Phimai Historical Park, Phimai

Similar in style as the iconic Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Prasat Hin Phimai in the Phimai Historical Park is one of the finest examples of Khmer architecture in Asia. Built in the 11th century, this complex is home to some of Thailand’s oldest and most significant temples surrounded by moats and ancient walls. Visitors can explore the impressive Buddhist temples as well as scenic lotus ponds, crumbling bridges and ancient galleries where you can see a number of beautifully preserved statues.

Phimai Historical Park, Thailand

Photo credit: Tak H.

11. Khao Phing Kan, Phang Nga Bay

One of Thailand’s most iconic natural landmarks, Khao Phing Kan is more commonly known as James Bond Island due to appearing in the 1974 Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun. Located in the scenic Phang Nga Bay, the spire-like limestone karst rises up from shimmering waters with other greenery-clad rocks in the background. Take a day trip from Krabi or Phuket to explore the beautiful area and enjoy kayaking around the jutting island for unbeatable views.

Khao Phing Kan James Bond Island, Thailand

12. M.R. Kukrit Heritage House, Bangkok

M.R. Kukrit Pramot was a prominent figure in Thailand; he created Thailand’s first political party and became Prime Minister during the turbulent 1970’s. He also ran a newspaper, starred in films and wrote many short stories, poetry and novels and succeeded as an artist. M. R. Kukrit sadly passed away in 1995 leaving instructions that his home be opened to the public. Today visit the heritage house in Bangkok which showcases his work and traditional Thai architecture and is home to a beautiful lotus pond and a lush Khmer style garden.

kukrits house bangkok

Photo credit: Ninara

13. Amphawa Floating Market, Amphawa

The floating market held in the pretty and traditional town of Amphawa is one of Thailand’s most authentic floating markets where visitors can experience how trade was traditionally conducted in the Land of Smiles. Held on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, these afternoon and evening markets line the canals close to Wat Amphawan Chetiyaram and are popular with local villages who buy and sell their produce in long wooden boats. Typical goods sold include fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, clothes and souvenirs and visitors have the chance to barter for their favourite items.

Amphawa Floating Market, Thailand

14. Koh Nang Yuan, Koh Tao

Located a 15-minute boat ride from the idyllic diving island of Koh Tao, Koh Nang Yuan is made up of three tiny tropical islands that are all connected by a sand bar, an iconic Thai image. Each island is made from rocky outcrops and covered in emerald jungle and the beaches feature powder-white sand and warm turquoise waters. The best way to see Koh Nang Yuan is to hike to the famous viewpoint where you will be rewarded by stunning views of the three paradise islands.

Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

15. Wat Pho, Bangkok

One of Thailand’s most famous and visited temples, Wat Pho in the capital is home to the giant reclining Buddha. Said to be over 150 feet long, this gold-plated giant sculpture is a sight to behold. The complex also houses over 1000 images of Buddha which are thought to have been bought in from the ancient Siamese capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. Strangely enough, Wat Pho is an excellent place to get a traditional Thai massage and is home to the renowned school of massage; it is the perfect way to relax after a long day of sightseeing.

Wat Pho Reclining Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand

16. Bridge Over the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi in central Thailand is home to the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai. A symbol of the damage suffered by Thailand during wartime, this iconic iron bridge was part of the Death Railway which was built by prisoners of war in World War II, many who lost their lives during the construction of the bridge. Leading all the way to Burma, it was part of Japan’s ambitious schemes to connect the neighbouring countries by railroad. The bridge is featured in many films and books and is a poignant reminder of the tragedy of war. Trains still cross the bridge daily, but there is also the option to cross on foot.

Bridge Over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

17. Wat Plai Laem, Koh Samui

Situated on the popular tropical island of Koh Samui’s north coast, Wat Plai Laem is a temple complex that incorporates some elaborate Buddhist-themed art and architecture. Although it is a relatively new temple, the building techniques used are centuries old and based on ancient beliefs. The most striking feature at Wat Plai Laem is the 18-arm white statue of Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and Compassion which can be found at the temples entrance. Surrounded by a lake teeming with exotic fish, Wat Plai Laem is a tranquil and beautiful place to visit.

Wat Plai Laem in Koh Samui, Thailand

18. Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh

One of the most famous beaches in Thailand, Maya Bay is part of the uninhabited Koh Phi Phi Leh, the smaller of Krabi’s Phi Phi islands. Made famous in Danny Boyle’s film The Beach, this spectacular bay is home to crystal clear waters gently lapping the powder white sands, framed by limestone karsts rise from the sea. Maya Bay, however, has had to temporarily close due to mass tourism and is set to re-open in 2021, depending on how the natural environment regenerates.

Maya Bay Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Photo credit: Eulinky

19. State Tower, Bangkok

One of Bangkok’s tallest buildings, the State Tower skyscraper is located on the popular Silom Road in the city’s business district. The tower houses the luxurious Lebua Hotel which is home to Bangkok’s most iconic sky bar; The Dome. The bar’s golden dome and circular seating area sit on a large open terrace on the hotel’s rooftop and is now one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. Sip on cocktails at sunset and watch the sky dance in orange and purple hues before darkness falls across Bangkok and the city is lit by thousands of lights and lanterns.

State Tower bar in Bangkok, Thailand

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