Friendly and fun-loving, exotic and tropical, cultured and historic, Thailand beams with a lustrous hue from its gaudy temples and golden beaches to the ever-comforting Thai smile.
Sand between Your Toes
Thailand's beaches are mythical: tall palms angle over pearlescent sand, coral gardens flourish in the shallow seas and beach parties are liberally lubricated with alcohol and fun. With a long coastline (well, actually, two coastlines) and jungle-topped islands anchored in azure waters, Thailand is a tropical getaway for the hedonist and the hermit, the prince and the pauper. And in between the kissing cousins of sea and sky are dramatic limestone mountains standing sentinel. This paradise offers a varied menu of playing in the gentle surf of Bang Saphan Yai, diving with whale sharks in Ko Tao, scaling the sea cliffs of Krabi, learning to kiteboard in Hua Hin, recuperating at a health resort in Ko Samui and feasting on the beach wherever sand meets sea.
The celestial world is a close confidant in this Buddhist nation, where religious devotion is a colourful and ubiquitous spectacle. Gleaming temples and golden Buddhas frame both the rural and modern landscape with exuberance. Ancient banyan trees are ceremoniously wrapped in sacred cloth to honour the resident spirits, fortune-bringing shrines decorate humble noodle houses as well as monumental malls, while garland-festooned dashboards ward off traffic accidents. The Thai's ongoing dialogue with the divine anchors the day-to-day chaos to a solid base of tranquillity. Visitors can join in on the conversation through meditation retreats in Chiang Mai, noisy religious festivals in northeastern Thailand, peaceful underground cave shrines in Kanchanaburi and Phetchaburi or scenic hilltop temples in northern Thailand.
A Bountiful Table
No matter what draws you to the country first, a Thai meal will keep you hooked. Adored around the world, Thai cuisine expresses fundamental aspects of Thai culture: it is generous and warm, outgoing and nuanced, refreshing and relaxed. And it is much more delicious in its native setting. Each Thai dish relies on fresh and local ingredients – from pungent lemongrass and searing chillies to plump seafood and crispy fried chicken. With a tropical abundance, a varied national menu is built around the four fundamental flavours: spicy, sweet, salty and sour. And then there are the regional differences, which propel travellers on an eating tour of Bangkok noodle shacks, seafood pavilions in Phuket, Burmese market stalls in Mae Hong Son, and luscious tropical fruit everywhere. Cooking classes reveal the simplicity behind the seemingly complicated dishes and mastering the markets becomes an important skill.
Best places to stay in Thailand
Thailand travel guide
Friendly and fun-loving, exotic and tropical, cultured and historic, Thailand radiates a golden hue from its glittering temples and tropical beaches to the ever-comforting Thai smile.
The best restaurants in Thailand
Thailand on a Shoestring
Perfect for those looking to experience northern Thailand’s cultural treasures and the natural beauty of its southern islands. This 16-day trip will help you get off the beaten path with a trek to the region’s hilltribes but remains flexible enough to suit all tastes.
Same same, but different. It's Thailish T-shirt philosophy that sums up Bangkok, a city where the tastes of many places are mixed into an often-spicy dish. Full-On Food Until you’ve eaten on a Bangkok street, your noodles mingling with your sweat, and your senses dulled by chilli, exhaust and noise, you haven’t actually eaten Thai food.
A guide to the eateries of Thailand
The first ráan khâo kaeng (rice & curry shop) to have been historically documented was a lean-to affair situated just outside the palace walls in 17th century Ayuthaya...
Songkran: tips for enjoying Thailand's water festival
Songkran, Thailand. Image by Wyndham / CC BY 2.0 This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's A Year of Festivals...
Going beyond pad thai
There’s an entire universe of amazing dishes once you get beyond 'pad thai' and green curry, and for many visitors, food is one of the main reasons for choosing Thailand as a destination...
The perfect honeymoon in Thailand
Easy-going island perfect for first-time divers, beach bums and romantics.
The best clubs and nightlife in Thailand
Sailing Thailand - Koh Phi Phi to Phuket
The perfect add-on to any Thailand adventure, this four-day sailing trip allows you to escape the crowds, tucking into hidden bays and pristine beaches on Thailand's western coast. Snorkel in crystal-clear waters and dine on freshly prepared local delicacies.
How to choose between Thailand’s classic gulf islands
With hundreds of dreamy tropical islands scattered along Thailand’s extensive coastline, choosing your ideal island escape can be overwhelming...
In the family of southern Gulf islands, Ko Pha-Ngan sits in the crystal sea between Ko Samui, its business-savvy older brother, and little Ko Tao, the spunky younger brother full of dive-centric energy.
Thailand’s islands: where to escape the crowds
Whether it is riding in the back of an open tuk-tuk or racing across the waves in a longtail boat, a journey through Thailand’s islands always feels like a real adventure. Thailand’s beauty is no secret, but there are still a few wonders that remain relatively under wraps...
Thailand Family - Land of Smiles
Want a family getaway that’s a little different? The combination of culture, friendly people, exciting activities, yummy food and stunning scenery make Thailand an ideal family destination. Visit the legendary Bridge on the River Kwai near Kanchanaburi, explore ancient ruins at Ayuthaya, shop in colourful markets in Bangkok and visit an Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.
Thailand: which beach is right for you?
It isn’t fair, really – there are over 200 countries around the globe and Thailand has managed to snag a disproportionate amount of the world’s top beaches...
Thailand's Andaman coast: where sleeping giants lie
The Andaman Coast is the land of superlatives: the tallest karst formations, the longest beaches, the softest sands, the bluest water... Along the coast, scuba buffs go deep down into the greatest dive sights around...
Long and thin, and covered in bleached-blonde tresses, Ko Lanta is Krabi’s sexy beach babe. The largest of the 50-plus islands in the local archipelago, this relaxing paradise effortlessly caters to all budget types with its west-coast parade of peach sand – each beach better than the next.
Fancy some outdoor activity in a tropical paradise? Now's your chance as we launch into the remote highlands of Northern Thailand from Bangkok, one of Asia's most cosmopolitan cities. Travel into steamy rainforests on foot to visit colourful hilltribes, cruise down the River Kwai on kayaks and explore the lesser-known side of Chiang Mai from a bicycle.
Ko Phi-Phi Don
Oh, how beauty can be a burden. Like Marilyn Monroe, Phi-Phi Don’s stunning looks have become its own demise. Everyone wants a piece of her. Though not exactly Hollywood, this is Thailand’s Shangri La: a hedonistic paradise where tourists cavort in azure seas and snap pictures of long-tails puttering between craggy cliffs.
Thailand: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Thailand guide provides a selection of literature to get you in the mood for your trip. Cosy up to the kingdom with tales penned by hapless travellers turned insightful scribes or by culture-straddling Thais...
Thailand’s unexplored north
Combining mountainous landscapes, cultural treasures and untouristed corners, Thailand’s north is arguably the part of the country most apt for exploration. Yet despite this, most visitors to the region head directly to Chiang Mai, followed by a trek in Chiang Rai or a tour of the ruins at Sukhothai...
The best spas in Thailand
The island of Phuket has long been misunderstood. Firstly, the ‘h’ is silent. Ahem. And secondly, Phuket doesn’t feel like an island at all. It’s so huge (the biggest in Thailand) that you rarely get the sense that you’re surrounded by water, which is probably the reason why the ‘Ko’ (meaning ‘island’) was dropped from its name.