Nature-loving families can look forward to the trip of a lifetime in Thailand. Spectacular beaches, under-the-radar islands, vast natural parks inhabited by elephants and monkeys, crashing waterfalls and some of the most dramatic scenery on the planet combine to make a trip here rich with opportunity for family adventures–whether the kids are old enough for white-knuckle thrills and spills or small enough for gentle splashing in crystal clear waters.
Families heading to Thailand to check out the natural attractions should factor in plenty of rest days to ensure there’s ample opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty rather than making a mad dash from one attraction to the other. Our 30 day itinerary for nature-loving families in Thailand allows plenty of time to check out everything from big ticket attractions to off-the-beaten track treats, but be warned – once is unlikely to be enough, and you may well find yourselves planning your next family trip to Thailand as soon as the first one has ended.
Day 1-7 Bangkok and Hua Hin
You’ll be touching down in one of the world’s most hectic cities, so plan to spend at least a day recovering from the trip and take in some of the city’s rivers and green spaces, before introducing the brood to the slithering inhabitants of the city’s Snake Farm (entrance around $6 for adults, $2 for kids). Set in the scenic gardens of the Red Cross hospital at Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, the working snake farm features daily handling shows, and will generate squeals of fear and delight in equal measure.
After a couple of days in Bangkok, head to nearby Hua Hin, a scenic 3-hour bus ride away. Hua Hin is a perfect destination for outdoorsy families, with unspoilt beaches, jungle-covered mountains dotted with elaborate temples, and animal attractions that include the aptly-named Elephant Village, as well as ‘Monkey Mountain’ at Khao Takiab.
For an evening with a difference, make the trek (around an hour from the city center by car or via BST train followed by taxi) out to the intriguingly bizarre Alpaca View (Lad Prao Wanghin Rd, Lat Phrao, Bangkok 10230, entrance around $5).
At this kitsch hangout, dining, karaoke and miniature world landmarks (hello, Eiffel Tower, fancy seeing you here!) come together in one peculiar space. Visitors to the farm-restaurant-theme park-karaoke joint can feed the alpaca and other animals, tuck into Thai cuisine and round the evening off with a spot of singing along to the classics.
? Boxout: Monkeying Around: A short tuktuk ride takes visitors to the temple at Khao Takiab mountain, where huge gangs of cheeky monkeys gather. Visitors can pay the equivalent of a few cents for a bag of monkey treats, but be cautious – they’re not shy. If the monkeys get a little too close for comfort, caretakers armed with long sticks are on hand to give them a gentle prod and remind them who’s boss.
Day 8-13 Krabi
No nature-loving family should come to Thailand without visiting the legendary island beaches of the south. Take the bus (or a private hire car, if you’re in a hurry) back to Bangkok, with an optional overnight stay before catching a flight to Krabi, on the ridiculously picturesque Andaman Coast. Operators such as Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways and Nok Air ply this 90-minute route, and with prices from around $60, this is an affordable alternative to a long haul bus ride (there’s no direct train from Bangkok).
There are any number of cute family-friendly resorts here, ranging from no-frills to plenty-of-frills, and kids can rampage around the beaches, embark on guided nature treks through the jungle, snorkel in the clear water or hop on island tours that take in beauty spots such as Tub Island, Chicken Island and–most famous of all–Phra Nang beach.
Be sure to take a day trip to Than Bok Khorani National Park, where nature-loving families visiting Krabi with kids can plunge into bright green waterfalls, and kayak along mangrove rivers to caves where 3,000-year-old cave paintings have stood the test of time.
? Box Out: Koh Hong: Of all the islands surrounding Krabi, those of Koh Hong may be the most incredible. Under the auspices of the National Marine Park, the four islands are home to gibbons, giant lizards and soaring eagles, as well as a stunning emerald green lagoon. It’s a 25-minute speedboat ride to the islands from Koh Hong, and the Instagram opportunities are unlimited.
Day 15-22 Phuket and Phang Nga Bay
A couple of hours’ bus ride or drive from Krabi is Phang Nga Bay, connected by a bridge to Phuket, the largest of Thailand’s islands. This absurdly scenic bay is chock full of opportunities to kayak around caves, grottoes and limestone islands. For extra parent points, take film loving kids to the sea stack island of Ko Ping Kan, known as ‘James Bond Island’ thanks to its starring role in the 007 movie The Man With the Golden Gun. The bay is connected to the famous island of Phuket by a footbridge and car bridge, but speed boats are the most popular way to travel between the mainland and Phuket. On the island itself, nature-loving families can enjoy magical beaches, take treks through the jungle, kayak and raft along rushing rivers, and even take nocturnal trips into sea caves where bioluminescent plankton sets the water aglow in the pitch dark.
Day 23-29 Chiang Mai and Surrounds
Thailand is a country of contrasts, and after the coastal beauty of the south, it’s time to head to the mystical north, famed for its mist-swathed temples and jungle-covered hills. Several airlines ply the two-hour route between Phuket and Chiang Mai, making air travel the most family-friendly option for the the 700-plus mile trip. Families visiting Chiang Mai will find the city itself makes a good base for adventures – there are hotels and guest houses here in every price bracket, and the vibe is enormously more relaxed than that of Bangkok.
? Box Out: The Elephant Nature Park at Chiang Mai is a guaranteed kiddie-pleaser (and also guaranteed cruelty-free–it’s a rescue and rehabilitation center) and can be visited as a day trip or overnight stay (from $70 per person, including meals) where families in Chiang Mai can splash around in the water with the gentle giants, and help out with elephant meal times.
Nature-loving families in Chiang Mai should also set aside time to visit Doi Inthanon National Park. Perched on Thailand’s highest mountain, this stunning nature reserve some 35 miles from the city is a paradise for bird watchers, with some 330 species flitting around. There are well-marked trails through the park, and visitors can camp out in tents or log cabins – bring plenty of layers though, at 2,565m above sea level, things get chilly here after dark.
Off the Beaten Track: The Thai Grand Canyon
One of Chiang Mai’s most under-the-radar attractions is its Grand Canyon (Yes, Chaing Mai has a Grand Canyon, who knew?). Even locals are sketchy on details about this place, which can be reached by scooter from the city (map co-ordinates 18.697053, 98.893398.. It’s actually an abandoned quarry, where astonishingly deep turquoise waters have accumulated to create a stunning natural attraction, and where strong swimmers (pay heed to the safety warnings) can take a dive or a dip.
Bustling Chiang Mai and its scenic surrounds will keep nature loving families in Thailand occupied for at least a week, and the international airport here has connections to other South East Asian destinations. For those flying from Bangkok, the obvious way to reach the airport is to take the plane, (70 minutes, flights from around $60), but those with the patience to make the 12-15-hour rail journey will be richly rewarded with stunning views as it rolls through Thailand’s hills, past rice paddies and villages. There are several trains a day (including night trains) with first class tickets costing around $45 per person.
Are you interested in Thai food as well? check out our special family friendly route for food loving families.