As one of the most popular Southeast Asian destinations, it should be no surprise that the Land of Smiles is home to some of the most beautiful places on earth. White sand beaches and beautiful temples might come to mind immediately, but Thailand also has misty mountains, majestic waterfalls and otherworldly lakes. Here are some of the most beautiful places in Thailand that will have you venturing away from the usual spots!
1. Mae Hong Son
Mae Hong Son is a remote, mountainous province in northern Thailand bordering Myanmar. It is sparsely populated yet ethnically diverse, home to hill tribes such as the Shan and Hmong. It is also home to the famous backpacker town Pai, where visitors come to experience the laidback rural life. Shrouded in mist all year round, the cascading mountains look like they come right out of a storybook. There is little here in terms of modern comforts, but a lot in terms of natural beauty. Check out one of the many caves, waterfalls and hot springs!
2. Sam Phan Bok
Known as the Grand Canyon of Thailand, Sam Phan Bok is the largest rock reef in the Mekong River. Its name translates to ‘3,000 shallow lakes’, and the rock holes are caused by the rushing water of the Mekong River. The best time to visit is during the dry season from January to April, when the water level recedes and the rock formations are visible. The area is also home to many legends. One of them tells of a city ruler who discovered gold beneath the rapids. His dog was guarding the hole, but the ruler, consumed by greed, decided to take the gold and leave through another hole. The poor dog was left waiting alone until it passed away.
3. Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi Lo Su is the highest and largest waterfall in Thailand, towering 250 meters high and spanning 450 meters across. It is in the Mae Klong River, tucked away in the remote Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary of Tak Province. a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is possible to camp there, and the main campground complex even contains a ticket office, a park office, and even a tent providing Thailand Post!
4. Wat Chaloem
These dreamy white pagodas that sit high in the cliffside near Lampang are only accessible by car from Chiang Mai. But its remoteness means that Wat Chaloem is still not too far up on the tourist radar! After arriving, you will have to pay for a round trip in a songthaew to get to the top of the mountain. Then, climb 500 meters of steps to get a stunning view of the surroundings and white pagodas – all of which were carried up by hand!
5. Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is a glorious saltwater lake that glows turquoise in the middle of Ko Mae Ko. It’s kinda difficult to get to and you’d need a car or a motorbike that can handle mud and dirt. But for those who do make it, you’ll be visiting somewhere that’s not only one of the most beautiful places in Thailand, but also still a hidden gem. Much like Wat Chaloem, you should go before the word gets out! The lake is sacred to the locals, and as tempting as the water might look, the lagoon is strictly off limits to the unclean human body. So no swimming, but you can get a dramatic viewpoint from the top of a staircase nearby.
6. Phu Chi Fa
Phu Chi Fa is blessed with breathtaking views, colourful flowers, and cool weather most of the year. This sacred mountain is about a two-hour drive from Chiang Rai and sits along the Laotian border. You will arrive at a quaint hill tribe village, with amenities like restaurants and homestays. From here, a 750-meter trek will take you to the mountain’s summit. The hike is not particularly challenging, but you can also arrange for local transport to take you to the summit as well. The mountain is popular among local Thais, and Thai children sing traditional songs in hill tribe costumes as the sun rises.
7. Red Lotus Sea
The red lotus sea is not really a sea, it is a lake. And the lotus are more pink than they are red. Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why it makes the list of one of the most beautiful places in Thailand. It is also another spot that is pretty off the beaten track for international visitors. The lotus starts to bloom at the end of the rainy season, peaking in January and February. The flowers also tend to close up with the midday, so get there as early as possible for the best views. Anytime from sunrise to 10 am is perfect, and you can also rent a boat to take you out to the middle of the lake.