Golden temples glinting in the warm sunshine. Smiling locals selling sizzling street food. A majestic elephant wandering through lush jungle. A cashmere-soft beach overlooked by majestic limestone karsts. These aren't just dreamy scenes that evoke a strong sense of wanderlust, but they're all distinctly Thai. It's hard to believe you will discover this incredible diversity in one country, but Thailand's landscapes and experiences come in many guises.
This mosaic is knitted together by a passionate belief in health and wellness – Thailand is the Land of Smiles, after all – while a selection of luxury resorts and boutique hotels dotted throughout the country are your ticket to being in the heart of it all.
Thailand has six captivating strings to its bow – Heritage & Culture, Wildlife & Nature, Islands & Beaches, Health & Wellness, Cuisine & Cookery and Hotels & Hospitality. Each of them is an important chapter in Thailand's story, so it would feel wrong to read just a single one. Pick a few and you'll discover the real essence of Thailand.
The Six Themes of Thailand
In short, Thailand is bursting with culture. Temples and golden Buddha statues are ever-presents across its landscapes, with gilded spires rising out of emerald landscapes and Bangkok's ancient stupas and modern skyscrapers a fascinating blend of the past and future. The crumbling temples and rows of Buddhas in the city of Ayutthaya is a glimpse of Thailand's opulent past, while the moated city of Chiang Mai a tapestry of temples, pagoda gardens and slow-paced local life. History isn't hard to find beyond the cities either, with ancient villages lying untouched by time tucked within lush jungle and and caves hiding sacred shrines.
Suggested Itinerary - 13 Day Culture, Beach & City - from £2,950 per person
If you look carefully, the shape of Thailand looks like the animal most readily associated with it: an elephant. Its north-eastern mountains, jungles and rice paddies are the elephant's head and ears, while the slender beach-fringed Malay Peninsula is its trunk. Thailand's rich medley of landscapes is one if its biggest draws, with dense rainforest, cities laden with history and infectious local life and beautiful tropical beaches.
You might be surprised to discover that Thailand is home to a tenth of the world's animal and bird species – to put that into perspective, that's more species of bird than either Europe or North America. Its waters are equally blessed with marine life, with its islands in the Gulf of Thailand fringed kaleidoscopic reefs perfect for diving.
Suggested Itinerary - 10 Day Jungle and Beach Safari - from £2,595 per person
With two long, sandy coastlines and over 1,400 islands, tropical seclusion isn't in short supply in Thailand. Even among its islands there is surprisingly diversity, from pancake-flat sands more akin to the Maldives to golden curves lorded over by stunning limestone karsts. The one constant is chilled island ambience, your pulse slowed by swaying palms and wavelets lapping the pristine shore. If you do get itchy feet, there is an abundance of secluded coves, rainforest trails and coral reefs to discover, although nothing on Thailand's islands will ever be too taxing.
Suggested Itinerary - 12 Day Luxury Thailand Island Hopping - from £2,899 per person
Just over 2,500 years ago, the Buddha's personal physician, Shivago Komarpaj, suggested a new treatment to him to help him with his ailments: the Thai massage. It was groundbreaking at the time but several millennia later and Thailand have become world leaders in spa treatments. There's no better place than the home of the Thai massage to experience one for yourself and no matter which resort you stay in, they'll have an incredible spa brimming with body treatments that have been honed over centuries. Your mind, body and soul is cleansed using natural ingredients such as jasmine, rice and Ayurvedic oils for a detoxifying dose of spiritual Thailand.
Suggested Itinerary - 14 Day Southern Beach & Jungle Adventure - from £4,799 per person
Thailand's cuisine needs little introduction but while the country is renowned for its tantalising food, it's much more than that here: it's a way of life. Bangkok is a sizzling introduction, its busy markets a rich mix of smells, sounds and colours, while a number of fine-dining restaurants elevate Thai cooking to new, modern heights. A cooking class is the best window into the country's cuisine, learning from those who know it best – the locals. Join a chef and peruse a market, picking up fresh ingredients before learning how to whip up a signature dish. Delicious!
In truth, it's the locals and landscapes which are the real essence of Thailand. They offer so many of those memorable moments which turn a great holiday into an unforgettable one. It could be a conical-hatted farmer waving to you from a rolling rice field. It might a traditional long-tail boat captain gently paddling you around towering limestone karsts. Or, you might be shown how to clean an elephant in a raw, ethical encounter. The beauty of these moments is you don't quite know when they'll happen, so they'll be a delightful surprise when they do. What will yours be?
Suggested Itinerary - 14 Day Authentic Beach & Northern Thailand Adventure - from £3,250 per person
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