Top 5 places to spend Christmas in Thailand

Dreaming of a trip away this Christmas? The cool season starts in December in Thailand making it a great time to visit this tropical country. From the mountains of Chiang Mai to buzzing Bangkok and white sands and crystal waters of Ko Samui, here is our pick of top places to spend Christmas in Thailand.
Ang Thong National Marine Park, Ko Samui, Thailand. Photo: lkuni/Shutterstock
Ang Thong National Marine Park, Ko Samui, Thailand. Photo: lkuni/Shutterstock

1. Bangkok

One of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant capitals, Bangkok is a must-see on your trip to Thailand. More than any other destination, Bangkok demonstrates Thailand's ability to blend the old with the new. A modern Asian metropolis with an array of hip dining and nightlife options, its more traditional charms such as elaborate Buddhist temples, serpentine canals and lively street life are still quite evident.

Sights not to be missed include the exotic splendour of Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace – the former is Thailand’s most sacred temple and home of the centuries-old Emerald Buddha believed to be a protective symbol of the nation. Dating from the 18th century, Wat Pho is Bangkok’s largest temple and most famous for its 46 metre-long, golden reclining Buddha statue. A river cruise of the city’s Thonburi’s canals takes you past rickety wooden houses, vendors selling produce from boats and fishermen dangling rods out of windows, as well as the floating markets at Wat Sai (daily) and Taling Chan (weekends).

Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn, Bangkok. Photo: Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock


2. Ko Samui

An hour’s flight away from Bangkok, Ko Samui sits off the east coast of the mainland in the Gulf of Thailand. The nearby islands of Ko Phangan and Ko Tao still gear themselves to backpackers, but Ko Samui increasingly tailors itself to upmarket travellers. 

Many of the island’s most scenic bays have been taken over by luxury resorts that blend in with the palm-lined beach fronts, but Ko Samui’s raw beauty and laid-back vibe remain largely intact. Dining choices are varied and moving more upscale, with more design-conscious eateries independent of hotels opening regularly. The island has established itself as Thailand’s hottest spa destination, offering a wide variety of extravagant hotel-based and independent spas where you can pamper yourself to your heart’s content. In addition to soft sandy beaches, such as the extensive stretch of Hat Chaweng and more relaxed Hat Lamai, there are jungle treks along verdant trails in Samui’s interior to beautiful spots such as the Na Mueang waterfalls. 

Day trips from Ko Samui to the dozens of islands that make up Ang Thong National Marine Park offer the opportunity to take kayaking expeditions, visit an emerald-green lagoon enclosed by sheer limestone cliffs, and snorkel in waters teeming with tropical fish.

Kuan Yin statue at Wat Plai Laem, Ko Samui, Thailand. PAIRUT/Shutterstock


3. Chiang Mai

Northern Thailand is known for its lush greenery, forested mountains, hill tribe communities and thrilling outdoor activities. Chiang Mai, the capital of the region, is regarded as the country’s cultural heart. With its lovely Lanna-style temples, museums, night-time market and gracious people, it is a city of diverse charms. The surrounding area provides plentiful day trip opportunities from exploring river valleys and national parks to visiting the majestic cliff-top temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the historic towns of Lamphun and Lampang. Experience Chiang Mai and the surrounding area as part of Insight Guides' Chiang Mai Sustainable Trails trip

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, Chiang Mai. Photo: Punya/Shutterstock


4. Krabi

On the west coast of southern Thailand, Krabi makes a relaxing destination in which to enjoy a Christmas break. Best known for the majestic, sheer limestone karsts that jut out of the waters off its coast, Krabi also offers dozens of offshore islands to explore, with unspoilt beaches, turquoise waters and fantastic reef snorkelling in the Andaman Sea. Head inland and to the lush Khao Phanom Bencha National Park to see its dramatic 1,397-metre (4,583ft) karst, the spectacular Huay To waterfalls and wildlife including Asiatic black bears. Or hop on a boat to the nearby islands of Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta, just a couple of hours away, for soft white sand beaches washed by clear waters. Both are included on Insight Guides' Krabi Discovery trip.

Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand. Photo: Angyalosi Beata/Shutterstock


5. Pattaya

On Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard within easy reach of Bangkok, the resort city of Pattaya is a popular destination for both Thai families and foreign travellers alike. Known for its beaches, Pattaya offers a raft of good-value accommodation and restaurants, as well as a wide range of outdoor and indoor activities, not to mention a pulsating nightlife scene with 24-hour cabaret clubs and bars. 

Pattaya is a great location for watersports, with windsurfing and sailing equipment available for rent, along with jet skis and waterskiing equipment. Offshore, Ko Larn is one of Pattaya’s most popular day-trips for its wide, soft sand beaches, seafood restaurants and watersports aplenty. Several scuba schools run dive trips to outlying islands where sunken vessels make up some of Thailand’s best wreck diving sites. Experience the best of the resort on Insight Guides' Pattaya Sun trip.

Sanctuary of Truth temple, Pattaya, Thailand. Photo: YURY TARANIK/Shutterstock


Ready to take a trip to Thailand?

Insight Guides can help you plan incredible trips to Thailand. Simply get in touch to let us know your ideas for the trip and when you would like to travel. Our local experts will then create a personalised itinerary especially, which you can amend until it's exactly how you want it before booking. You can browse our pre-planned itineraries for inspiration, and keep in mind that they can all be tailored to suit your specific needs.


Updated 3 October, 2019