Thailand is called the Land of Smiles: for visitors, the effect is just this, an infectious well-being that comes from several factors. A generous nature that have preserved the attraction of a legendary Eden, where unspoilt rain forests and reefs still rich in life can both be found. A record number of national parks: among other things, Thailand is known for being one of the most spectacular places in the world for diving. The most beautiful islands in Thailand can boast a legendary attraction, the setting for unforgettable experiences: from tours in the jungle to trips in long tail boats, the characteristic Thai fishing boats, in primordial settings. Thailand's beaches are the very symbol of relaxation, with their backdrop of palm trees and white, soft sand: an irresistible temptation for those who dream of escaping the city. The golden temples of Bangkok, the wonderful Thai food and the warm welcome do the rest.
Ready to leave? Here are the 20 best things to see in Thailand, to discover its history and natural beauties.
Built on the banks of the River Chao Praya, Bangkok is one of the most visited destinations on the planet. The “city of angels” has two faces: the crowded modern metropolis with skyscrapers and shopping malls, and the old part full of Buddhist temples and characteristic wooden houses looking out onto canals. Each year, millions of visitors visit the Grand Royal Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple, the Wat Phra Kaew site that is home to the statue that symbolises the monarchy. One of the best known monuments is also Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn that is lit with a thousand lights at night.
A trip along the rural canals, known as klongs, so full of life, is not to be missed: the floating markets, such as the one at Damnoen Saduak, are extremely characteristics and you can experience the tradition on board the typical long-tail boats. Bangkok is full of stalls and markets where you can buy anything: the most popular place for shopping is the huge Chatuchak market, also known as the Weekend market. Famous for its crazy night life, the city has thousands of restaurants where you can try the special spicy Thai dishes and any kind of delicacy, whether oriental or not. Bangkok is a city that is full of contrasts. It is chaotic yet spiritual: you should get lost in its labyrinth, in close contact with the Thai monks wearing their saffron coloured garments.
The ancient capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya, saw 33 kings in power during a 400 year period, up to the sacking by the Burmese: the latter caused the destruction of houses and temples, which were then rebuilt in Bangkok which took over the role of capital. Ayutthaya is a place rich in history: during its golden period, it was home to hundreds of temples and three royal palaces, surrounded by huge walls. A UNESCO world heritage site, it is an immense historical park with hundreds of sites to visit.
To do so, you can procure a map and a bicycle, the ideal transport for easily travelling the distance that separates the most important attractions, all immersed in a verdant park with tall trees. One of the best preserved temples is Wat Ratchaburana, where you can admire one of the most beautiful prang – the towers decorated with historical figures that contain the statues of the gods - in the park, due to its frescoes. The Wat Mahathat, the centre of worship of Ayutthaya is so beautiful: here you admire the famous Buddha head trapped in the roots of a tree. Do not miss the Wat Chai Watthanaram, one of the most amazing temples in all Thailand and symbol of the ancient splendour of Ayutthaya. If you have time, the journey can continue to the Wat Phanam Choeng, with its huge statue of Buddha, one of the oldest and most venerated in Thailand.
Pattaya has the most famous beach in the whole of Thailand. The long sun-kissed coastline is surrounded by wonderful islands and several attractions, including theme parks and the Nong Nooch Tropical Garden. The large beach is a paradise for water sports, an excellent alternative to sunbathing for those who prefer active holidays: the best spots are Pattaya Bay - 3 kilometres long - and Jomtien.
The night life is just as dynamic: this lively seaside resort, once a fishing village, is now the capital of fun, with a multitude of restaurants, bars and discotheques. Pattaya is also home to one of the most famous greens in Thailand, a true magnet for golf lovers. Those wanting a quieter beach where you can swim and relax can choose Wong Phra Chan, located a little further north: a real pearl.
Koh Phi Phi
Khao Sok National Park
Red Lotus Sea
Wat Pha Sorn Kaew
The gateway to the Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai lies at the far north of Thailand, on the border with Myanmar and Laos. The landscape is filled with mountains and valleys cut through by the River Kil that runs right through the city. Chiang Rai acts as the base for trips to explore northern Thailand for trips into the jungle on the back of an elephant. The city was the capital of the kingdom of Lanna before Chiang Mai: it was here that the famous Emerald Buddha was found, which is now kept in Bangkok.
To be precise, the statue was discovered in the Wat Phra Kaew, where there is a copy made from jade: the main hall in finely decorate inlaid wood is beautiful, as are the surrounding gardens, that are cared for by the local community of monks. One of the best-known attractions in Chiang Rai is the Wat Rong Khung, or White Temple, which is unmistakeable thanks to its white plaster construction that contrasts with the gaudy colours of traditional temples. The walls are inlaid with glass that create a charming play of reflections, making it one of the most recognisable architectures of all. If adventure calls, you can leave on a fantastic cruise along the River Mekong and explore the far border of Thailand amidst thermal springs, tea plantations and mysterious tribes.
Bua Tong Waterfalls
Set sail for Thailand with Costa Cruises
In Thailand, there are endless things to admire: starting with the temples, treasure troves of history that capture you with the elaborate details and the picture perfect landscape that surrounds them. Passing through the beautiful beaches and underwater spectacles to discover with diving equipment; without forgetting the street food, with a boundless choice of spicy delicacies. There are several reasons for setting sail, even more so for those choosing the emotion and comfort of a Costa Cruise, with so many trips on offer.