Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is a popular tourist destination for good reason. From vibrant floating markets and ancient ruins to pristine beaches and stunning natural landscapes, there are countless places to explore and things to do in Thailand.

Thailand is a friendly and fun-loving country where you can experience bustling cities, serene countryside and isolated villages. Hike through the national parks, taste the delicious cuisine, marvel at the exotic wildlife and enjoy the serene coastline. From relaxing day trips to challenging adventures, a trip to Thailand is guaranteed to introduce you to a whole new world.

01Start the Adventure in Bangkok

Young tourist woman enjoying walking on the streets of Bangkok in the evening, through the famous streets of Bangkok's Chinatown. lechatnoir / Getty Images

Bangkok is the lively capital that hits you with the exciting sights, sounds and smells of Thailand as soon as you arrive. The city is beautiful and vibrant. Pick a destination to walk to and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city on your way. Peruse colorful markets, sample the street food and go into shops selling everything from textiles to paper reproductions of food and luxury items that are meant to be given as gifts to the dead. The Grand Palace is one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist destinations. The palace has been the official home of Thailand’s kings for over 200 years, and the gold-covered building is an architectural marvel. While you’re in the city, don’t miss seeing the Reclining Buddha at the impressive Wat Pho and make an extra stop at Wat Arun.

02Party and Play on Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi is a famous group of islands in the Andaman Sea. Stay on the largest island, Phi Phi Don. You can find everything from rustic huts to luxury resorts and plenty of white sand beaches, lush jungles, and limestone cliffs in between. It's a big party destination, though more active visitors can also swim, snorkel, rock climb, or try Thai kickboxing. Head to the smaller and uninhabited Phi Phi Ley to explore idyllic bays and beaches, including Maya Bay, where The Beach was filmed.

03Shop at Floating Markets

woman tourist taking photo at Damonen Saduak floating market,thailand lzf / Getty Images

The floating market is an iconic weekly event where locals and visitors alike gather to barter for produce, spices, and an assortment of goods. Grab your camera and snap some shots of the colorful affair while you sample the huge variety of tasty fruit being sold. The Damnoen Saduak market in Ratchaburi is one of the most famous floating markets and is a little over 60 miles south of Bangkok. The Taling Chan in Bangkok is open every weekend and is a truly authentic floating market with more locals than tourists.

04Meander the Sunday Walking Street, Chiang Mai

Browse for handicrafts and artisan goods, sample local snacks, and watch street performers at work at the Sunday Walking Street in Chiang Mai. Also known as the Sunday Market, the vibrant street comes alive from 4 pm to midnight every Sunday in the center of the old walled city. Starting at the Tha Phae Gate, you'll find stalls stretching along Ratchadamnoen Road for more than half a mile. It's a great place to pick up souvenirs while enjoying the vibrant atmosphere and entertainment.

05Taste Thai cuisine

Local hawkers sell Phad Thai noodle near Khao San Road, Khao San road is a famous place for sight-seeing and eating in Bangkok Hafiz Johari / Shutterstock.com

A trip to Thailand can easily turn into a food-centered vacation. From the huge amounts of fresh fruit to the varying regional dishes, there is plenty to try on your trip. To start, try the Som Tam, a spicy salad made from green papayas and a popular dish in northern Thailand. Pad Thai and Pad See Ew are two popular noodle dishes that you can buy fresh from local street vendors. Gai tod is another popular Thai dish that’s essentially spiced fried chicken served with sticky rice. Other must-try dishes include Tom Yum Kung, a sour shrimp soup, green curry and Khao Soi, a coconut-based noodle soup. For dessert try the mango sticky rice or, if you’re feeling adventurous, grab a piece of the pungent durian fruit.

06Explore all the Islands

Koh Samui, Thailand fototrav / Getty Images

A trip to Thailand’s breathtaking islands is a must when you visit the country. For a relaxing and romantic experience, head to Koh Samui. The island is full of luxury resorts and spas, so you can pamper yourself and rest before heading back to the mainland. Those looking for a party should head to Koh Phangan. The southern island is known for its nightlife and non-stop raves. Dance the night away at a full moon party and sleep it off on the beach the next day. Phuket is another popular island known for its bustling town center and its perfect sandy beaches. No matter what island you find yourself on, you can always enjoy scuba diving, swimming in the clear water or kayaking along the coast.

07Tour the Temples of the Historic City of Ayutthaya

Buddha statue at Wat Phra Mahathat in Ayutthaya Blaine Harrington III / Getty Images

The second capital of Siam after Sukhothai, Ayutthaya was once a thriving city and one of the largest in the world in the 1700s. It was attacked and razed by the Burmese in 1767. Today, only around 50 of more than 400 temples remain at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated at the confluence of three rivers, the city's proximity to Bangkok makes for an easy day trip. It's best to explore this ancient wonder by bike or on foot.

08Spend Time with the Elephants

An elephant in Thailand tunart / Getty Images

The elephant is an important animal in Thailand, and there are countless places where you can see them and even work with them. Unfortunately, animal cruelty is a very real problem in Thailand, and many elephants are still abused in the country. Do your research and make sure you're supporting an ethical company that helps and respects the elephants. The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a home for rescued elephants where workers rehabilitate the animals. Visit the park, support the work they’re doing and spend some quality time with these amazing animals.

09Celebrate Songkran

The Water Battle in Songkran Festival, celebration of Traditional Thailand New Year.

Songkran is Thailand’s Buddhist New Year, and it’s one of the biggest celebrations in the country. The water festival happens every April from the 13th to the 15th. The whole country engages in a water fight, drenching each other using anything from buckets and bowls to water balloons and Nerf super soakers. The exciting celebration is also full of parades, dances, and live music. Be prepared to be soaked for the duration of the festival and expect travel delays. People flood the streets all over the country, from the larger cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai to the smaller villages.

10Hike Through Khao Yai National Park

tropical rainforest,Khao Yai National Park Thailand keerati1 / Getty Images

Khao Yai National Park is a true treasure of Southeast Asia. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s one of the largest monsoon forests in Asia. Visitors looking for an adventure will want to spend a few days hiking through Khao Yai. Explore the forest on a solo hike or take a wildlife safari to catch a glimpse of the local flora and wildlife. The park covers 772 square miles of protected forests, mountains, and grasslands where you can find hidden waterfalls and bat caves.

11Take a Day Trip to Sukhothai Historical Park

Sukhothai Historical Park is home to the ruins of the 13th and 14th century Kingdom of Sukhothai, which translates to the Dawn of Happiness. The monuments and large ponds are located both inside and outside of the old town wall. The ruins are spread out and divided into five separate zones, and the best way to explore is on your own or with a friend. Rent a bicycle and explore the 21 historical sites of the park on two wheels.

12Escape to Railay Beach

In Railay Beach two traditional wooden longtail boats are tied up along the Adaman Sea in the Krabi province of Thailand, a Southeast Asia travel destination. The horizon is seen over water on a sunny day. Boogich / Getty Images

Located near Krabi in southern Thailand, Railay Beach is a true tropical paradise. Accessible only by boat, Railay Beach offers four spectacular shores, the calm waters of the Andaman Sea, towering limestone cliffs, lush jungles, caves, and a hidden lagoon. It's also one of Thailand's top rock climbing destinations, whether you're an expert or a total newbie. A popular day-trip destination, you'll want to spend a few days here, whether you're looking for relaxation, romance, or adventure.

13Ride in a Tuk-Tuk

Tuk Tuk is on the bridge at thailand chanyanut ganpanjanee / Getty Images

The tuk-tuk is the only real way to travel in Thailand. Dodge traffic and zoom through the streets of Bangkok in the small, cheap and colorful auto rickshaw. Tuk-tuks are found all over the country, and they will take you anywhere you need to go. Get lost exploring and then hop in a tuk-tuk to head back to your hotel or to visit another attraction. Tuk-tuks are the cheapest way to travel, but it’s best to agree on a price before hopping in.  

14Explore Khao Sok National Park

Spanning 285 square miles, Khao Sok National Park is known for a beautiful lake, plentiful wildlife and an ancient rainforest said to be one of the world's oldest. Cheow Lan Lake is one of the park's main attractions and easy to explore by speedboat, kayak, or canoe. Spend the night in a luxury tent or raft house over the lake, then go hiking through the jungle, searching for waterfalls and wildlife.

15Indulge in a Massage

Hands massaging. You can not see the woman gets massage when she is under a dress Sohl / Getty Images

Thai massage is famous all across the globe, and you shouldn’t leave Thailand without indulging in a spa day. For the full experience, get a massage next to the water on one of Thailand’s breathtaking beaches. Thai massages are meant to be a way of healing the body rather than a luxury experience; the massages incorporate a combination of yoga poses and acupressure. Be prepared for a little pain with your massage as your massage therapist will most likely pull, crack and slap various parts of your body.