Central Thailand is the economic heart of the country. Starting from Bangkok, you can easily explore the country via bus or train, and many of the most popular tourist destinations are within two or three hours' ride.
The cities of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai are two of the best historical sites in the entire country. Their historical parks are a unique opportunity to witness and imagine the great power of the ancient kingdoms.
Finally, Kanchanaburi is rich with a more recent history, having been an important center during World War II. You can visit the famous Bridge on the River Kwai, and pay your respects to the many prisoners who lost their lives during the construction of the Thai-Burmese Railway.
The capital is huge and lively, and is one of the most visited cities in the world. Most tourists choose to start their Thailand trip here.
The most famous scenic spot is Wat Arun, dubbed 'The Temple of Dawn'. It is on the bank of the Chao Praya River. Its architecture is unique, different from all the other temples in the country.
If you want a close look at a different part of the city, head to the floating market. Many guided tours will get you there by boat, an experience we strongly recommend. There are hundreds of boats in the market, filled with food and souvenirs.
Location: Bangkok is in on the Gulf of Thailand. Its central position is ideal for starting to explore the country.
Travel Information: The city is easily accessible by air from all the other major cities in Southeast Asia. If you are also visiting Cambodia, there are direct buses from Battambang.
Khao Yai National Park
If you love wildlife, visit this park and you won't regret it. This first national park of Thailand includes rainforests and grasslands, and is home to many elephants, bears, gaurs, otters, and more than 300 species of bird (dry months are best for bird-watching).
Location: The park is about 4 hours by bus from Bangkok.
Travel Information: Tickets cost 400 baht for adults and 200 baht for children under 14. There is a small extra fee for bikes. From Monday to Friday, it closes at 6 pm; on Saturday, it closes at 1 pm.
Ayutthaya was the capital of the eponymous kingdom that ruled over Thailand from the 14th to the 18th century. During its glorious past, Ayutthaya was the most prosperous city in Southeast Asia, and travelers used to compare it to Paris.
Today, outside the modern city, you can visit the ruins of the old city in the Ayutthaya Historical Park. The park has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991, with many wats (Buddhist temples); for example, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, reflecting the mandala, the Buddhist's world view.
Wat Ratchaburana presents one of the best-preserved prangs of the site, with fine figured stucco depicting snake-deities (nagas) supporting Garuda, a humanoid bird from Hindu mythology.
Location: Ayutthaya is 76 km north of Bangkok. Getting there by train takes 1 hour 40 minutes, and it costs around 300 baht. Buses from Bangkok are frequent, and the most expensive costs 56 baht. If you want to take a boat, you need to book in advance, since there is no scheduled service.
Travel Information: The park opens at 7:30 am, and tickets cost around 50 baht. You can visit it on a bicycle or on one of the many local tuk tuks.
Another testimony to the glorious past of the country is Sukhothai, with its own Historical Park (also a UNESCO site). The Sukhothai kingdom lasted until the 15th century, when it was conquered by the kingdom of Ayutthaya.
The central zone of the park can easily be explored by bicycle. The biggest structures are there, mostly clumped together. The main temple is Wat Mahathat, the center of the entire kingdom and the largest ruin. Behind this temple, you will find Wat Tra Phang, a picturesque smaller structure surrounded by palm trees.
Location: North of Bangkok, Sukhothai is easy to reach by air (1 hour 15 minutes for about 2,500 baht), by train (1 hour), or by bus (3 hours for 130 baht).
Travel Information: The historical park is divided into zones, and the ticket for each zone costs 100 baht. Opening hours: 6 am to 8 pm.
Kanchanaburi encompasses two of the special features of Thailand: historical sites and natural spots. The city hosts many sites dating back to World War II, such as the JEATH War Museum, the replica of a prison camp.
The city's most popular attraction is the bridge on the river Kwai, part of the Thai-Burmese railway built during WWII. You can ride across the bridge and gain a view of the river Kwai.
On the Thai-Burmese railway (dubbed 'Death Railway') there is another site worth a visit: the Hellfire Pass, where 700 prisoners died during construction.
Location: Kanchanaburi is west of Bangkok and Ayutthaya. From Bangkok, you can reach the site by bus (3 hours, first class bus for 120 baht) or train (2 hours 30 minutes, around 100 baht). If you are in Ayutthaya, you can take a direct bus for 80 baht, and it will take around 1.5 hours.
Travel Information: All the attractions are close to the town. The Bridge is just 3 km away, and it is possible to take a train that crosses it.
Erawan National Park
A different feature of the area is its stunning national parks. The most famous is National Park, with its seven-tiered waterfalls surrounded by luxurious vegetation and mountains.
While you climb the waterfalls and bathe in their pools, you might spot some animals, such as elephants or gibbons.
Location: Erawan Park is near Kanchanaburi. It is easily accessible by public bus. You can rent a bike and explore the area, and rent a tent to spend a night in the park.
Travel Information: The park is open from 8 am to 4.30 pm, and tickets cost 300 baht.
Last but not least is Elephant World. This reserve hosts many elephants rescued from years of labor. You will have a chance to interact with the animals in an ethical way, feeding them and bathing them.
The animals roam freely inside the reserve, and it is your chance to take care of them, even just for one unforgettable day.
Location: The park is 35 km from Kanchanaburi and 180 km from Bangkok.
Travel Information: To visit the park you need to book on its website and it is recommended to book well in advance. You can be picked up in the city at 9 am, and the day-program ends at 4 pm. If you're going by yourself, you should be at the park around 10 am. The adult fee is 2,500 baht (children aged 4 to 11 pay 1,500 baht).