The Kingdom of Thailand is one of the most popular and magical tourist destinations in the world.
With a rich tapestry of culture, crystal clear waters, hundreds of beautiful tropical islands and a boundless selection of palm fringed powder-soft sand beaches, it is little wonder that holiday makers continue to flock here in their search for paradise.
Thailand has become far more multi-facetted since the early years of its tourism industry. Initially its visitors were predominantly Western hippy travellers in search of adventure and accommodation was rarely more sophisticated than a basic wooden hut with limited, if any, facilities.
Nowadays Thailand can easily cater to the most demanding of guests, with sumptuous luxury properties, first-class restaurants and entertainment to suit everyone. However, the back-packer experience is still alive, well and readily available to those looking for a back-to-basic, inexpensive but immersive experience.
Thailand resorts come in many different guises to suit all budgets, tastes and sensibilities so to help give you a sense of where to go and a flavour of the areas we have detailed some of the best and most popular Thailand resort hot-spots, sprinkling in a little insider knowledge as we go.
Most of the luxury beach resorts can be found on the islands of Phuket and KohSamui.
Phuket: crystal blue water, amazing resorts.
Where: Andaman Sea
Best for: Luxury living, Phuket has every moderncomfort without losing the Asian flavour
The largest Island in Thailand, Phuket is internationally recognised as one of Asia's premier tropical island destinations.
It has natural beauty, vibrant towns, spectacular scenery and sweeping coastlines - there are few places in the world that offer such a choice of pristine sandy bays and clear blue waters, making Phuket the perfect location for relaxing on the beach, sailing across the waves or underwater exploration.
Phuket was Thailand's original fun-in-the-sun destination with family resorts, water parks, elephant treks, marinas offering day trips etcand has in Patong a large 'sin city' with dancing girls and nightclubs galore but the Island is transforming rapidly. Boasting well-established and reputable luxury resorts in areas such as Naithon's 'Golden Mile' and Kamala's 'Millionaires Row'. Phuket's finer resorts are now frequented by the jet-set who submit themselves to invigorating Thai massages at glamorous Spa resorts, dinning at international standard restaurants serving delicious, aromatic, local cuisine before sipping ice-cold cocktails at fashion-forward nightspots or aboard their chartered yachts.
One of the best-kept secrets in Phuket is Banana beach. Drive or perhaps catch a long-tailboat-it's about 5km from Trisara, a high-end resort at the southern end of Naithon's 'Golden Mile'. This beach is quite isolated but if you can find the 'shack' it only sells fish but it's really, really good fish!
Naithon - One of Phuket's famous western beaches this quiet, tranquil beach is one of the most beautiful bays on Phuket. Sheltered and often calm making it kid-friendly too. Stay at: Self catering apartments at the Pearl of Naithon offer exceptional value.
Kata - Good quality restaurants are a short walk from the beach. Stay at: The Shore at Katathani(luxury)
Karon - A great beach with lots of restaurants and nightlife Stay at: Hilton Phuket Arcadia and Moevenpick(moderate), Golden Sand Inn (budget)
Why not try some of Thailands luxury resorts The prestigious, Laguna resort complex, containing 7 five-star hotels and Amanpuri and Chedhi hotels in Bang Tao.
Long beaches, top restaurants, world-class resorts.
Where: Gulf of Thailand
Best for: Family luxury,honeymooners
KohSamui is a stunning island in the Gulf of Thailand and is considered one of the world's best holiday destinations.
Thailand's third largest island (after Phuket and Koh Chang) is a former party-scene centre for the back-packer crowd but, like Phuket, Samui has similarly morphed into a sophisticated tropical retreat catering for the entire spectrum of tourism.
Manicured and well-kept with superb amenities, clean and tidy roads this paradise island provides stunning sea vistas and rocky shores. Its interior contains picturesque waterfalls and rainforest exploration to re-invigorate those that are bored of the beach, or alternatively, trips to nearby out-lying islands offer amazing experiences for all ages, whether you like to explore beneath the waves, play on the surface or relax on the beach or boat.
The island may have busy, yet great, beaches such as Chaweng (with a variety of restaurants and nightlife)but with a little effort, it's still possible to find that idyllic beach paradise to enjoy some quiet time away from civilisation.
Only ten minutes away from Chaweng is Choeng Mon,one of the most kid-friendly beaches on the Island.
For a local tipple, head to KohSamui Rum, formerly known as Magic Alambic Rum Distillery, and try some of the island's own rum mixed into heady cocktails (get a designated driver!)
The Jungle club bar and restaurant - only accessible by 4x4
Visit the Sunday night market in Lamai
Stay at: one of the best Thailand luxury resorts - Samujana, Villas
Where: Gulf of Thailand
Best for:Full moon partying
Synonymous with the full moon parties when thousands descend on HaadRin to party the night away, sipping from 'bucket' cocktails and reveling until sunrise. Substantial gold deposits have recently been discovered in KohPhangan,which may bring about considerable change on the island in the near future, so for those who have always dreamed of a holiday here, whether to experience the Full Moon parties or to discover its more spiritual side amongst its numerous Buddhist temples, we would suggest you book up sooner rather than later.
HaadRin beach for the full moon party really is a must
Thong Nai Pan is a beautiful, semicircular bay backed by steep, green hills.
Sunset Hillsbeach resort offers spectacular views far from the madding crowd...without missing the party
Where: Gulf of Thailand
Best for: Scuba diving
This small island in the Samui archipelago is the best in the area for snorkeling and diving. The area has rich, diverse and prolific marine wildlife and is the site of vital breeding grounds for Hawksbill and Green turtles. Unsurprisingly it is one of the top scuba diving destinations in Asia. In fact, Koh Tao is the second most popular place in the world behind Cairns, Australia, in issuing PADI certifications.
Casas del Sol are five contemporary self-catering villas on a hillside
Nangyuan Island Dive Resort
Where: Andaman Sea, west coast mainland
Best for: Back packing, package tour
A province on southern Thailand's Andaman coast, the area offers spectacular vistas of limestone cliffs that seem to erupt vertically out of the sea.
Until recently, many of the secluded beaches were only accessible by boats. Now, with its own airport and new hotels Krabi is more accessible, resulting in an evolving tourist scene, but in relation to other areas Krabi is still relatively underdeveloped and has large areas of lush un-spoilt jungle and idyllic satellite islands just offshore, such as the famous James Bond Island, home to Scaramanger in the film Man with the Golden Gun.
Accessible only by boat the gorgeous beaches at Railay have become popular with rock-climbers.
There are a number of high end exclusive resorts now in the area, such as the amazing Rayavadee, located on the edge of Krabi's National Marine Park at the heart of the stunning Phranang Peninsula. However Krabi town and the surrounding area is mostly characterised by its local restaurants and more 'back to basics' accommodation for those looking for a more simplistic and immersive Thai experience.
Where: Andaman Sea
Best for: 'The beach', solo or small groups
There are six islands in Mu Koh Phi Phi-Nopparathara National Park: Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Ley, Bamboo Island, Yung Island, BidaNok, and BidaNai. Only Phi Phi Don is inhabited; all others are undeveloped and protected by their National Park status and are frequently visited as day trips from Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phi Don. Maya Bay on Phi Phi Ley was featured in the movie The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, chosen as it exemplifies the stunning beauty of the perfect island beach, although now many boats visit each day so visit before 10am or after 4pm to experience the true magic and beauty of this spectacular location.
Zeavola Resort - well away from the busy town -These 'villas'are absolutely lovely, made of teakwood in traditional Thai style nestled amongst the trees with sea views.
Maya Bay - the beach paradise made famous by Leonardo di Caprioin the Hollywood blockbuster
Chiang Mai - Cultural centre, temples, hill-tribes and jungle
Where: Northern Thailand
Best for: Culture Vultures, pachyderm lovers and explorers
Thailand's second city, this revered walled city, was once the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom. The "Rose of the North" as it is now known, is a safe, laid-back city with a profusion of natural beauty, history and ancient Buddhist, as well as modern, culture.
There's a vibrancy generated from people visiting Burmese-style temples and ornately carved teakhouses; vendors in traditional hill-tribe regalia selling souvenirs beside fast-food outlets; and a raft of cool boutiques and new design galleries to tempt the cognoscenti.
It offers impressive scenery, and is a perfectlocation for trekking, rafting, elephant riding and discovering the hill tribes. Don't worry though those that love to be pampered can still enjoy spa breaks and Thai cooking schools.
Chiang Mai's northern location and moderate elevation at the base of the mountains of DoiSuthep and DoiPui is a constant and scenic reminder of the city's magical beginnings; it also results in the city having a more temperate climate than that of much of Central, Eastern and Southern Thailand.
'Never forget' getting up close and personal at the Elephant Nature Park where the largest land animal is rescued and cared for partly by you, the guest!
Where: Gulf of Thailand, eastern Seaboard
Best for: off the beaten track island withgreat sandy beaches
The nick-name is derived from its elephant-shaped headland. There are Elephants on the island but they are not indigenous. Koh Chang is a large island with steep, lush jungle-covered peaks, with KhaoSalakPhet being the highest peak at 743 metres. The island is known for several waterfalls, flourishing coral reefs and accessible wilderness with a thriving party scene, picturesque it retains its remote and rugged spirit despite its current status as a package-tour resort. White Sand Beach
Bang Bao-beach resort
Recommended Hotels: Amari Emerald Cove (luxury) Panviman Resort (luxury) Centara Tropicana Resort (moderate), KC Grande Resort & Spa (moderate), Garden Resort (moderate)
Where: Gulf of Thailand, eastern Seaboard
Best for: Beautiful beaches, getaway
The country's most beautiful beaches, KohSamet is a small island, around 200 km Southeast of Bangkok. Technically part of Khao Laem Ya - KohSamet National Park, KohSamet is a popular weekend escape from Bangkok. There are lots of beach resorts, bars, and restaurants yetKohSamet has no fresh water source; water must be brought in from the mainland or gathered from the rain.
If you're in Thailand during September and October and need some beach time KohSamet is a great choice as it doesn't get the heavy rain like the rest of the country.
Beach massage, inflatable banana rides, jet skiing, mellow party scene, snorkelling.
During the wet season KohSamet has some of the country's driest weather!
Nimmanoradee Resort. Cute weatherboard huts,perched on rocky outcrops amongst the trees, all with sea views and a secluded sandy beach.
Bangkok: vibrant, chic hotels and breath-taking sky bars, floating markets
Where: Southern Mainland
Best for: everything and anything!
Vibrant, chic hotels and breath-taking sky bars, floating markets - Sultry and engaging, Thailand's capital is a warm cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. The 'Venice of the East' is threaded with canals, thronging with traffic and brimming with temples, palaces, markets and malls. This is a capital city full of excitement, diversity and juxtaposition but the by-word here is sanook - a Thai word that translates to 'easy-going fun'
According to celebrity DJ Goldie, who's made his home in Phuket, The best nightclub in Thailand is Glow in Bangkok. He says 'Anyone passing through, from Skrillex to Fabio to myself, will play there. It's quite small and dark, with low ceilings, a great sound system and great people. It's a cool place to be.'
One of Thailand's most sumptuous hotels,The Siam is a perfect base whilst exploring the city.
Where: Gulf of Thailand, western mainland
Best for: cosmopolitan cocktail of City and sea
Known as the Royal resort town ever since the Royal Family started heading here in the 1920's. Just a couple of hours drive south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand's north-west coast it provides a sharp contrast to the capitals manic activity with a laid back vibe, manicured golf courses, world-class spas, swanky hotels and a handful of mouth-watering seafood restaurants providing a peaceful paradise of seaside chic.
Hua Hin beach At dawn (low tide only), Buddhist monks walk along the sand to their temple and locals come to give alms
Chiva-Som-the world's number one destination spa, one of the best luxury resorts in Thailand
Currently, it is home to the highest concentration of golf courses in all of Thailand
Where: Eastern seaboard, mainland near Cambodia border
Best for: getting away from it all
Is a renowned for attracting international traders dealing in sapphires, rubies, emeralds and jade. Another gem with a little less sparkle is the fruit Durian another notable commodity of the so-called 'City of the Moon'. The surrounding hills are rich with leafy forests and scenic waterfalls whilst quiet fishing villages & peaceful beaches are within easy reach.
AoKhungKraben, Chanthaburi - this is a deep, lagoon-like scoop of a bay that's occasionally visited by dugongs and is edged by a dense mangrove forest.
Where: Eastern seaboard, mainland
Best for: package tours and activity
Pattaya may not be tranquil but it positively makes up for it with a wide variety of activities, places to stay and a lively nightlife.
This hugely popular Thailand resort is on the Gulf approximately 150km southeast of Bangkok.
Although Pattaya's well-known for its effervescent nightlife, in recent years an effort to improve the quality of the beaches has resulted in the resort becoming a more family-friendly destination. Nowadays, people arrive from all corners of the world to windsurf, water ski, swim, sun-bathe, snorkel, sail, or day-trip to nearby islands. They also partake in more adrenaline based pursuits such as bungee jumping, cycling, sky-diving, go-Karting and Paintballing. Golfers are also well catered for with a wide selection of golf courses in the area. Due to the eclectic mix of visitors there is also a wide selection of western, Chinese and Arabic food readily available.
There's vast array of accommodation to suit those on a tight budget or even those with a little more to spend.
The next bay south, longer, cleaner Jomtien Beach, has sparser boutique resorts, delectable seafood and fewer development mistakes
Where: Gulf of Thailand Western mainland
Best for: Locals escape
KuiBuri is situated on the Gulf of Thailand just 3 hours' drive south of Bangkok, and half an hour south of the beach resort of Hua Hin, the area has a number of traditional local fishing villages and is seldom discovered by non-Thais. With tranquil beaches, long stretches of sand and excellent sea food this is peace and quiet without isolation.
Stay at the chic beach resort of X2 and venture out to the KuiBuri National Park,
Visit the "monkey temple", Wat Thammikaram, which is situated just north of the town.