Repeat visitors to Thailand may be well-versed in Chiang Mai’s coffee culture, or the best places to chill out in Bangkok (that don’t involve shopping.) But did you know that the country is full of wondrous landscapes? From national parks to newly discovered natural phenomena, it’s time to peel yourself away from the screen and wander around. Have a look:
1. Maple Leaves, Phu Kradueng, Loei
The scene of falling maple leaves at Tham Yai Waterfall in Phu Kradueng National Park looks more like something out of a Japanese movie. Your only chance to catch it is at the start of winter in November. Phu Kradueng is one hour’s drive from Loei.
The 30-meter high soil pillars of Pha Chor are believed to be the result of the Ping River shifting course many years ago. These strange-patterned cliffs may look like an alien landscape, but they’re only a 1.5-hour drive from Chiang Mai.
This was just an average rock mine until a teenager snapped a few photos and posted them to social media in October. Since going viral, the place has become a hit with tourists unwilling to stump up the cash for a real snow trip to Japan. Located near Khiri Junction in Chonburi, a 1.5-hour drive from Bangkok. Note: The mountain is located on private property.
This pine tree garden sprouted to life in the 1960s as part of an experimental project by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation to find the right trees for reforestation efforts up North. It’s been compared to Korea’s famous Nami Island (AKA the setting for far too many Korean drama series). Around two hours’ drive from Chiang Mai.
5. Wat Chalermprakiat Prachomklao Rachanusorn, Lampang
Built in 2004 to mark the 200th anniversary of King Rama 4, these mountaintop golden pagodas look like something out of Chinese folklore. The 1-hour trek to the top is more than worth it. It’s situated a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai in Chaehom district of Lampang.
These desert-like sand dunes sitting next to the Mekong River only appear during the dry season from Jan-May. The sunset, in particular, is a glorious time to visit. Close to Samphanbok (see below), it’s a two-hour drive from Ubon Ratchathani.
When the first rays of light break through the morning mist, it’s easy to forget you’re in Thailand. This Royal Projects reservoir lined with pine trees is sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Thailand. It’s a 1-hour drive from Mae Hong Son.
This Myanmar-Thailand border village was settled by former Nationalist fighters from Yunnan Province after the Communist takeover of China. This little slice of Shangri La is best enjoyed with a cup of locally grown tea as the mist rises over the lake.
Its height of 1,929 meters makes Doi Mon Chong one of the top 10 peaks in Thailand. Unlike other mountains, though, this one resembles rolling grasslands. Omkoi district is four hours’ drive from Chiang Mai.