Thailand is without a doubt one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. Millions of backpackers, families, couples, and travelers of all kinds flock to enjoy the stunning beauty, friendly culture, and low prices of this Southeast Asian country every year.
The popularity is no surprise, as there is an incredible variety of things to see and do that could keep anybody busy for years. Unfortunately, this popularity can also mean that many visitors are disappointed by the overcrowding and over-development of some parts of Thailand, particularly during high season.
The good news is, there are still a lot of places that have stayed off the mainstream tourist radar and remain largely unscathed by the tourist industry.
So here is a rundown of some of the top spots that are off the beaten track, so you can enjoy your next trip to Thailand without the crowds.
When you think of Khmer temples, the first place that comes to mind is probably Angkor Wat and the surrounding complexes in Cambodia. What most people don’t know is that there is a much less well known, but still stunning complex of ruins in Thailand.
The Buriram province in the northeast of the country is scattered with many ancient Khmer ruins, the most impressive of which can be found at Phanom Rung Historical Park
The site is located within a relatively short distance of Bangkok, so it’s convenient to visit and provides a convenient alternative to Angkor Wat if you’re tight on time.
Khao Yai National Park
It’s a wonder that Khao Yai National Park is not more popular as a tourist destination.
It is located in the north of Thailand just a 3 or 4-hour bus ride east from Bangkok, so is easy to visit on a short detour from the capital. To add to this, it is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the entire country, comprising of over 2,000 km2 of lush jungle and waterways.
On an excursion to the park, visitors can expect to see a massively diverse range of animal and plant life, from endangered plants to monkeys, sun bears, giant reptiles and much more.
Best of all, you will be able to escape the crowds of the cities and experience a serene selection of Thailand’s natural wonders in a calm and peaceful way.
Another underappreciated province, Trat is located in the east of the country, bordering Cambodia. Despite its relative unpopularity with tourists, Trat has a huge amount to offer any visitors who decide to try it out.
One of the main draws is the archipelago of dozens of largely untouched islands here, part of Mu Ko Chang. On top of this, there is the city of Trat (capital of the province), which holds several enticing attractions such as temples and museums to keep you busy.
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer in Thailand, Trat is the perfect place to try it. Many good volunteering opportunities are available here, whether it’s social or conservation work you’re interested in.
Ko Phra Thong
This island is an anomaly in Thailand, and even in Southeast Asia. Covered in sand dunes and dry grasses, it resembles the African mainland, striking a stark contrast to the dense greenery of the surrounding areas.
The long stretches of beach are almost totally undeveloped, so you can quickly find somewhere to stroll or relax in the tropical sun in complete relaxation, free from sunglass sellers and bars pumping out pop music.
The island can be found in the south of the country, just off the west coast, making it easily accessible from the mainland.
This under-visited province of Thailand lies in the central north of the country. It is too often overlooked by visitors but holds huge potential for future growth, so you should absolutely try to visit on your next trip before the masses descend.
The area has forest, waterways, and mountains galore, so if a great stop for anybody searching for authentic natural beauty and wildlife.
Further to this, the province has some excellent cultural attractions, such as the obligatory temples to visit, protected national parks where you can admire local flora and fauna, and even an adventure park where you can try out a range of thrilling sports.
Don’t be put off the crowds, you can still get off the tourist trail in Thailand
Some of the old classic destinations in Thailand are undoubtedly not what they used to be. Places like Koh Samui, Kho Phangan and Phuket are now a million miles away from the tranquil tropical paradises they were 10 or 20 years ago and have become highly developed as well as overly expensive.
But please don’t be put off by any misconceptions you may have about Thailand as a whole. There are still countless wonderful areas to visit, and this list only scratches the surface.
Nicoleta is the resident content blogger for uVolunteer. Nicoleta is an avid linguist, speaks fluent English, Chinese, French, Spanish and native Romanian. She spent a decade working in China in the education sector and working with major international development institutions and currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is passionate about volunteering, sustainable travel and has a soft spot for ethnic food.