THE BEST DAY TOURS YOU SHOULD DO IN THAILAND
So you're going to Thailand? Good choice. Get ready for nights of bucket-sloshing parties on tropical sands, for neon-painted shindigs under the full moon, lazy days on the beaches of the Andaman, palm trees swaying to and fro nearby. Get ready to meet perennially-smiling locals and a whole load of fellow backpackers, for incense-scented temples topped with stupas so golden you won't believe it. Get ready for cold Changs in Chiang Mai and canyon-hiking in Pai. (We won't mention the (C)hangovers!)
Just in case you weren’t already excited enough about that jaunt to this mystical land of jungle-clad hills and perfect beaches, roaming elephants and tasty pad Thais, we at LBW have put together a list of the top Thailand day tours that every traveler should think about doing. Don't worry, you can thank us later. You know, when the bucket list has been checked off!
Erawan National Park trip, Kanchanaburi
If you can pull yourself away from the lazy riverside bars of Kanchanaburi for a moment, then be sure to hop aboard one of the rumbling buses that break out into the Tenasserim Hills to discover the beautiful Erawan Falls. Famed around the globe as some of the most paradisiacal waterfalls on the planet, the site really is worth the two-hour trip it takes to arrive. Visitors on Thailand day tours to the attraction will hike through stretches of jungle paths to reach the first set of falls, where the turquoise-coloured plunge pools rarely fail to draw a gasp. Head to the higher tiers (and there are seven in all!), and you'll find natural rock slides, hidden swimming spots in the jungles, and even schools of nibbling fish for that natural exfoliation!
Snorkelling tours of Koh Nang Yuan Koh Tao
Officially a private island, little Koh Nang Yuan rises from the shimmering blue waters of the Thai Gulf just a stone's throw (literally) from the coast of Koh Tao. It's actually connected to its big brother island by a glowing white arc of sand, but most Thailand day tours head here by boat. That way, it's easy to dive into the multi-colored coral gardens and blooms of sea sponges that ring the rocks all around the land. You'll get time to hike to the high-perched lookout points above the island, and even get to check off some of the Gulf's most acclaimed diving spots, like the Japanese Gardens and the Koh Nangyuan Pinnacle.
Trip to Maya Beach in Koh Phi Phi
There's perhaps no better way to cure the bucket-induced hangover on Koh Phi Phi Don (something that's nigh on unavoidable on this hedonistic isle) than with a trip to the sun-kissed paradise of Maya Beach. Any fans of Leo DiCaprio will recognize the inlet instantly – it was used as the backdrop for the film The Beach. Now a veritable symbol of the gorgeous Andaman region as a whole, it offers an escape from the built-up and developed resorts. You'll be able to kick-back and sunbathe on ivory-white sands, swim in the aquamarine sea, and pull yoga poses on the shore (just ask LBW's YogaLife veterans!). Yep, this one's one of the top Thailand day tours of the western isles for sure!
An ethical elephant experience, all over Thailand
Beware of run-of-the-mill elephant "sanctuaries" where Thailand's most revered beast (and a national symbol to boot) aren't really treated with the respect and care they deserve. Much better is to opt for a tried-and-tested ethical elephant experience. This is what LBW do when they pass through the charming little river town of Kanchanaburi in the west of Thailand. You'll get the chance to meet elephants, learn all about their habits and the conservation programs currently in place to protect them, help with cleaning and feeding and more!
Tours of the Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok
Hailed as the single most sacred Buddhist religious building in the country, the Wat Phra Kaew of Bangkok is simply unmissable. Yes, you'll typically find those Thailand day tours to the monument – which is a part of the great Royal Palace complex - packed out with Nikon-touting tourists, but it's worth braving the click of the shutter for, seriously! During the trip you'll see countless treasures dating back to the days of the old Siam. There are gilded, mosaic-inlaid statues of guardian spirits, models of Angkor Wat, and elaborately filigreed apses above. And deep inside the shrine is where the revered Emerald Buddha resides. This priceless artifact can only be touched and approached by the Thai king, so that's not part of the itinerary.
Tours of the Wat Po Temple of Bangkok
The so-called Temple of the Reclining Buddha is LBW's own pick of all the religious must-sees of the Thai capital. A sprawling sanctuary, it's got some of the most awesome Buddhist relics going. Thailand day tours here will encompass the soaring series of golden stupas at the temple's heart, and the truly colossal reclining Buddha itself – the undisputed highlight of Wat Po. Yep, the great sleeping Buddha here clocks up a record-breaking 46 meters in length and comes with mystical religious symbols imprinted into his feet. It's a fine place to get a feel for Thailand's faith, and all set neatly in the very heart of Bangkok too!
Pai Canyon hike in Pai (obviously)
Have the camera on hand for this most popular of Thailand day tours in the north. Located around just four miles from the heart of the sleepy little hippy bamboo town of Pai, a great canyon can be found carving its way through the dusty hills of Mae Hong Son Province. Take a day to visit here and scale to the top of the ridge for breathtaking views over the Land of Smile's distant peaks. Careful though, there are sheer drops on both sides of the winding path up top. The sunsets look truly beautiful too, but most days will end with a jaunt to the nearby hot springs of Tha Pai, where you can relax, unwind and sooth those tensed muscles.
Sea Kayaking in Railay
Another uber-popular addition to LBW's six-week blowout of all things Thailand (see Treasures of Thailand), this sea kayaking excursion into the mangrove forests around rugged Railay promises an up-close-and-personal experience of the gorgeous Andaman coast. With your fellow travellers for company, you'll head out to explore the countless inlets and coves that hide between the soaring needle-like karst cliffs here. You'll glimpse protruding rock formations and jungle cascading from the table-top mountains along the coast. And you might even see the odd climber defying gravity along the way!
Karen hill tribe encounters in Chiang Mai
Don’t miss the chance to meet the people of the Karen hill tribes when traveling through northern Thailand. Living deep in the sun-baked mountains, where waterfalls and elephants crash through the hinterland, these people reflect a way of life from centuries gone by. Typical day tours from the city of Chiang Mai take visitors out a trailhead in the woods. From there, it's a couple of hours' walk until the rustic stilted homes of the Karen folk come into view. You'll get to shop in traditional crafts markets and see the untouched way of life, all before returning to the northern city for an evening of massages and night bazaars and ice-cold Chang beers. Nice.
Of course, there are oodles, oodles more Thailand day tours that are bucket-list-busters to say the least. If you can think of any to add to this list, we'd love to hear about them in the comments! Or, if you think it's time you hit the road and travelled the Land of Smiles, you can check out LBW's wealth of tours.