Central Thailand is arguably the most diverse region in Thailand, and diverse in nearly every regard. In addition to the bustling capital city of Bangkok, primary gateway to Thailand, there are religious and historical sites, rural villages, and national parks with jungle, wildlife, and waterfalls.

Explore: BangkokAyutthayaKanchanaburiLopburiPetchaburiPak ChongRatchaburi

  • Bangkok: The capital of Thailand, and one of Southeast Asia’s great metropolises.
  • Ayutthaya: The kingdom of Siam’s ancient capital featuring an excellent UNESCO park of temple ruins.
  • Kanchanaburi: Famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai and spectacular nature without many tourists.
  • Lopburi: More monkeys than you can shake a stick at amidst pleasant Khmer-flavored antiquity.
  • Petchaburi: Hilltop royal palaces and one of the most underrated seaside towns in the kingdom, just a short drive from Bangkok.
  • Pak Chong: Pleasant little town along the way to the Isaan region and Khao Yai National Park.
  • Ratchaburi: The first major town as you head down into the southern coastal region.

While most visitors enter and exit Thailand from Bangkok on their way to and from destinations farther north and south, Central Thailand has a wealth of attractions and activities for almost every style of traveler.

Central Thailand consists of 26 diverse and interesting provinces. The region holds many of Thailand’s great tourist destinations, set amidst some of the country’s most beautiful natural landscape and farmlands. Impressive mountain ranges separate the region from Northern Thailand and the Burmese border.

Situated in the middle of the central region is Bangkok, capital city of Thailand and one of the most enticing cities in Asia. With a warm and friendly charm, the city is a center for shopping and nightlife, and one of the world’s top destinations for a culinary holiday. Bangkok has an array of cultural and historic attractions ranging from royal palaces to spectacular Buddhist temples, from museums to outdoor markets. The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, and Chatuchak Weekend market are among the most popular places to visit.

North of Bangkok, the sub-central region of Thailand contains some interesting cities, including Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, and Lopburi. Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Thailand founded in 1350 by King Ramathibodi. 30 kings ruled from the city for more than 400 years until it was sacked by the Burmese and left in ruins. These ruins are quite popular with visitors who can travel to Ayutthaya from Bangkok by bus, riverboat or train.

Kanchanaburi is positioned on the Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai Rivers in a mountainous area surrounded by steep mountains and lush rain forests. The town is famous for the bridge on the River Kwai, part of the ‘death railway’ built by POWs during WWII. Hellfire Pass and a variety of war memorials and museums in the area are worth a visit, as are Angkor-era Cambodian ruins, and Erawan National Park.

Lopburi, situated approximately 90 miles north of Bangkok, is one of the oldest cities in Thailand and has a rich history dating back more than a thousand years. Nowadays the center of town is filled with monkeys, many of whom inhabit an Angkor-era temple. These crab-eating macaques have become a tourist attraction all to themselves and have a festival in their honor each year.

Some seaside towns positioned at the top of the Gulf of Thailand are also within the central region. Pattaya, Rayong and Trat [these arent listed in the chapter]are popular tourist destinations with picturesque beaches, ideal weather, and either quiet relaxation or rowdy fun. Pattaya has become one of Thailand’s most traveled to cities with over six million visitors per year. Rayong and Trat offer a more relaxed atmosphere with some stunning scenery and natural landscape.


Highlights

  • Ayutthaya Historical Park: (Ayutthaya) Ruins of the ancient capital city, showcasing magnificent temples and palaces.
  • Damnoen Saduak Floating Market: (Ratchaburi) A fantastic market where vendors sell goods from boats along the canals.
  • Bang Pa-In Royal Palace: (Ayutthaya) A stunning summer palace with a mix of Thai, Chinese, and European architectural styles.
  • Erawan Museum: (Samut Prakan) Known for its massive three-headed elephant statue and intricate interior decor.
  • Wat Phra Si Sanphet: (Ayutthaya) The holiest temple on the site of the old Royal Palace in the ancient capital.
  • Bridge over the River Kwai: (Kanchanaburi) Historic bridge made famous by the movie, located in a region with WWII history.
  • Wat Mahathat: (Ayutthaya) Famous for the Buddha head entwined in tree roots, symbolizing the city’s historical significance.
  • Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon: (Ayutthaya) Known for its large reclining Buddha and the towering central chedi.
  • Erawan National Park: (Kanchanaburi) Renowned for the stunning seven-tiered Erawan Waterfall and lush forest trails.
  • Lopburi Monkey Temple: (Lopburi) An ancient Khmer temple complex now inhabited by a large population of monkeys.
  • Sri Rattana Mahathat Temple: (Lopburi) A historic temple known for its impressive prang (tower) and Buddha images.
  • Samut Songkhram: (Amphawa) Famous for its floating market and traditional wooden houses along the canals.

Top Cities

  • Bangkok: Thailand’s bustling capital, renowned for its vibrant street life, ornate temples, and dynamic nightlife.
  • Ayutthaya: Known for its UNESCO World Heritage site filled with ancient temples and historical ruins.
  • Lopburi: Famous for its Khmer-era ruins and the lively monkey population at the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple.
  • Kanchanaburi: Renowned for the Bridge over the River Kwai and its poignant World War II history.
  • Nakhon Pathom: Home to the impressive Phra Pathom Chedi, the tallest stupa in Thailand.
  • Samut Songkhram: Known for the Amphawa Floating Market and traditional Thai wooden houses.
  • Nakhon Sawan: Located at the confluence of the Ping and Nan rivers, known for its dragon temple Wat Khao Kob.
  • Ratchaburi: Famous for the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and its rich cultural heritage.
  • Suphan Buri: Offers historical attractions like the Dragon Descendants Museum and the ancient city ruins of U Thong.

Destinations

  • Ang Thong Province: Ang Thong Province, located in the heart of Thailand, is known for its impressive temples. Key attractions include the Wat Muang Temple with its massive Buddha statue and the intricate craftsmanship of the reclining Buddha at Wat Khun Inthapramun. Visitors can also explore traditional handicraft villages and enjoy the tranquil rural landscapes.

    Ang ThongBan Bang Phae

  • Ayutthaya Province: Ayutthaya Province, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ayutthaya Historical Park, boasts a wealth of ancient ruins and temples. Highlights include Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mahathat with its iconic Buddha head entwined in tree roots, and the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. This province offers a deep dive into Thailand’s glorious past with its numerous archaeological sites and historical landmarks.

    AyutthayaBang Pa-InRoyal Folk arts and Craft Center at Bang SaiWat Nivet Thammaprawat

  • Chachoengsao Province: Chachoengsao Province, situated east of Bangkok, is famous for the stunning Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihan Temple and the scenic Bang Pakong River. The province also features the striking Wat Paknam Jolo, a golden temple, and the tranquil atmosphere of the Khlong Suan Market. It’s an excellent destination for cultural exploration and leisurely river cruises.

    Chachoengsao

  • Chainat Province: Chainat Province, located along the Chao Phraya River, is known for its beautiful bird sanctuary and serene agricultural landscapes. Key attractions include the Chainat Bird Park, which houses a wide variety of bird species, and the Wat Phra Borommathat Worawihan with its revered pagoda. The province is also famous for its traditional local festivals and crafts.

    Chainat

  • Kanchanaburi Province: Kanchanaburi Province, west of Bangkok, is renowned for its natural beauty and historical significance. Highlights include the Erawan National Park with its stunning waterfalls, the Bridge over the River Kwai, and the Hellfire Pass Memorial. This province offers a mix of outdoor adventures, historical tours, and opportunities to explore its scenic rivers and forests.

    Ban ThakradanBophloiChaloem Rattanakosin National ParkErawan National ParkKanchanaburiKhao Laem National ParkSai YokSai Yok National ParkSangkhlaburiSi Nakharin National ParkSi SawatThong Pha PhumThree Pagoda PassThung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Reserve

  • Lopburi Province: Lopburi Province, located in central Thailand, is famous for its ancient Khmer ruins and the playful monkeys that inhabit the city. Top sights include the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple, the King Narai’s Palace, and the Lopburi Monkey Festival. This province provides a unique blend of historical exploration and lively local culture.

    Lopburi

  • Nakhon Nayok Province: Nakhon Nayok Province, nestled at the foothills of the Khao Yai National Park, is a haven for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. Major attractions include the Sarika Waterfall, Nang Rong Waterfall, and the Khun Dan Prakan Chon Dam. The province is ideal for activities such as trekking, white-water rafting, and exploring its lush landscapes.

    Nakhon Nayok

  • Nakhon Pathom Province: Nakhon Pathom Province, located just west of Bangkok, is known for the towering Phra Pathom Chedi, the tallest stupa in Thailand. Other notable attractions include the Sanam Chandra Palace and the Rose Garden, which showcases traditional Thai culture and performances. This province offers a blend of historical sites and cultural experiences.

    Nakhon Pathom

  • Nakhon Sawan Province: Nakhon Sawan Province, situated at the confluence of the Ping and Nan rivers, is known for its scenic beauty and cultural landmarks. Key attractions include the Wat Khao Kob with its dragon temple and the Bueng Boraphet, Thailand’s largest freshwater swamp. The province also hosts festivals such as the annual Chinese New Year celebrations.

    Nakhon Sawan

  • Nonthaburi Province: Nonthaburi Province, bordering Bangkok, is famous for its beautiful temples and floating markets. Highlights include the stunning Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat and the bustling Nonthaburi Market. The province offers a mix of cultural experiences and modern amenities, making it a great destination for day trips from the capital.

    Nonthaburi

  • Pathum Thani Province: Pathum Thani Province, located north of Bangkok, is known for its temples and educational institutions. Major sights include Wat Chedi Thong, the National Science Museum, and the Dream World amusement park. The province offers a blend of cultural and recreational activities suitable for all ages.

    Pathum Thani

  • Ratchaburi Province: Ratchaburi Province, situated west of Bangkok, is famous for its floating markets and natural attractions. Key highlights include the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, the Khao Ngu Stone Park, and the Phra Phutthachai Cave. The province provides a mix of cultural experiences, outdoor adventures, and unique market visits.

    Ratchaburi

  • Samut Prakan Province: Samut Prakan Province, located just south of Bangkok, is known for its historical and cultural sites. Highlights include the Ancient City, an open-air museum showcasing replicas of Thailand’s most famous monuments, and the Erawan Museum with its giant three-headed elephant statue. The province also features the Bang Pu seaside resort and bird-watching area.

    Bang PhliSamut Prakan

  • Samut Sakhon Province: Samut Sakhon Province, situated along the Gulf of Thailand, is known for its seafood markets and coastal attractions. Key sights include the Mahachai Market, famous for fresh seafood, and the Don Hoi Lot, a popular spot for shellfish harvesting. The province offers a glimpse into Thailand’s fishing industry and coastal lifestyle.

    Samut Sakhon

  • Samut Songkhram Province: Samut Songkhram Province, located southwest of Bangkok, is renowned for its floating markets and traditional Thai lifestyle. Highlights include the Amphawa Floating Market, the King Rama II Memorial Park, and the Maeklong Railway Market. The province offers a charming blend of cultural heritage and unique market experiences.

    Samut Songkhram

  • Saraburi Province: Saraburi Province, situated northeast of Bangkok, is famous for its religious sites and natural beauty. Major attractions include the Wat Phra Phutthabat, home to a revered Buddha footprint, and the Chet Sao Noi Waterfall. The province is also known for its sunflower fields, which bloom spectacularly in the winter months.

    Saraburi

  • Singburi Province: Singburi Province, located along the Chao Phraya River, is known for its historical and cultural sites. Key attractions include the Wat Phra Non Chaksi with its reclining Buddha, and the Khai Bang Rachan Memorial Park. The province offers a mix of historical exploration and peaceful rural landscapes.

    Singburi

  • Suphanburi Province: Suphanburi Province, situated northwest of Bangkok, is known for its rich history and cultural heritage. Highlights include the Dragon Descendants Museum, the Banharn-Jamsai Tower, and the ancient city ruins of U Thong. The province offers a blend of historical sites, cultural attractions, and scenic views.

    Suphanburi

  • Uthai Thani Province: Uthai Thani Province, located in the northern central region of Thailand, is famous for its natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere. Key attractions include the Hup Pa Tat Valley, the Wat Sangkat Rattana Khiri with its hilltop Buddha statue, and the serene Sakae Krang River. The province is ideal for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful retreat.

    Lan SakUthai Thani

National Parks

  • Khao Yai National Park: (Nakhon Ratchasima) Thailand’s first national park, known for its diverse wildlife, waterfalls, and lush forests.
  • Erawan National Park: (Kanchanaburi) Renowned for the stunning seven-tiered Erawan Waterfall and scenic hiking trails.
  • Sai Yok National Park: (Kanchanaburi) Famous for its picturesque waterfalls, caves, and historical sites along the River Kwai.
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park: (Phetchaburi) The largest national park in Thailand, known for its rich biodiversity and pristine rainforests.
  • Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary: (Kanchanaburi) A UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its vast wilderness and diverse wildlife.
  • Mae Wong National Park: (Nakhon Sawan) Known for its rugged mountain terrain, abundant birdlife, and beautiful waterfalls.
  • Chaloem Rattanakosin National Park: (Kanchanaburi) Features stunning limestone caves, waterfalls, and rich biodiversity.
  • Phu Toei National Park: (Suphan Buri) Offers scenic mountain landscapes, waterfalls, and opportunities for trekking and birdwatching.
  • Sam Roi Yot National Park: (Prachuap Khiri Khan) Known for its dramatic limestone hills, coastal scenery, and the famous Phraya Nakhon Cave.

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  • Worth it?: Absolutely, those who like cities will be in their element, while the area is also blessed with dense jungles and sparkling waterfalls. [cut?]
  • What to do: Shopping, partying, jungle trekking, visiting floating markets, taking a train ride to a historic city.
  • Best time to go: November to February offers the mildest weather and is when most tourists choose to visit.
  • How long?: At least five days and nights are needed to even scratch the surface of this diverse and attraction-filled province
  • Trivia: The official name of Bangkok is featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest city name.

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