Escape the urban sprawl and discover the best weekend trips from Bangkok. Experience a blissful beach or awesome natural scenery just hours from the city.
Yes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. When the humidity hits hard, it’s time to start planning weekend trips from Bangkok. For all the obvious urban delights found on Bangkok’s buzzing streets, sometimes you simply must hit the road for a refreshing change of scenery.
Of course, Bangkok’s vexing round-the-clock gridlock is legendary, and for the time it takes to cross the city, you could almost be sunning yourself on soft, silky white sand by the ocean or trekking though lush rolling hills. There are numerous cool destination options to beat the Bangkok heat, just a couple of hours’ journey away.
Widen your horizons with a relaxing weekend away. Craving some much needed beach time or perhaps an adventurous few days trekking Thailand’s awesome national parks? Read on for our top 8 Bangkok weekend trips to feed your wanderlust. Check out the special deals on the HotelQuickly app for destinations within easy distance of Bangkok.
Koh Samet is the closest palm-fringed, white-sand island to Bangkok, so you’ll likely be sharing the beach with boatloads of city slickers on short trips from Bangkok. However it is just about big enough to escape the crowds for some blissful beach bumming. Head to sedate Ao Wai for a super chilled-out vibe away from the bright lights.
There are more than a dozen silky white sun-dappled beaches, all of which are exceptionally clean and litter-free. Grab a table on Haad Sai Kaew for a seafood dinner and to watch the fire dancers, followed by a raucous night of bar hopping. Ao Wong Duean beach is a more family-friendly option.
Away from the breezy coastline, a few hiking trails criss-cross the dense jungle interior which is home to hornbills, primates and exotic butterflies. Despite its relatively diminutive size, it ticks all the boxes for a weekender – there are bars aplenty for a backpacker style booze-up or swanky cliff-top boutique resorts worthy of a splurge. Getting there is a cakewalk for Thai standards. It’s a three-hour bus ride from Bangkok’s Ekkamai terminal and then a short hop across the water by ferry.
The cool, rushing rivers and lush forests of Kanchanaburi make it one of best short trips from Bangkok for a nature escape. It’s also one of Southeast Asia’s most evocative destinations for military history buffs. It’s one of the most multi-faceted traveller spots in Thailand, juxtaposing extremely moving war memorials and cemeteries with a lively riverfront backpacker scene. For a provincial town that can be negotiated easily on foot (or on the water) it definitely packs a punch.
Stay in a floating room on the river, and wake up each morning to melodious birdcall and fall asleep each night to the sound of the water. It sure beats Bangkok’s constant din of motorbikes and tuk-tuks.
During the day, take a refreshing dip at Erawan Waterfalls, walk the hallowed rails at the war memorial museum, or try your hand at elephant care at a local sanctuary. In town, the night markets are brimming with tempting Thai dishes and you can even learn the art of Thai cooking at the schools along the river. For some serious trekking action without the crowds, make tracks for Sai Yok National Park. This serene natural wilderness is chock-full of Instagrammable waterfalls, limestone peaks and bat caves.
Sheer limestone cliffs, steamy mangrove forests and unspoiled sun drenched beaches await on one of the most rewarding short trips from Bangkok when you head for Pranburi. Just beyond cosmopolitan Hua Hin, you get a very different flavour of beach life in Pranburi. There is a tangible whiff of authentic Thainess in the air, with not many western tourists around and very little in the way of bright lights and bar hopping.
It’s all quite spread out along a fine sweeping stretch of beach so it can feel very unspoiled, particularly if you linger longer into midweek when most people head back to the Big Mango. Cap off a lazy day at Sing’s Beach Bar and Restaurant for sundowners and watch the sun slowly sink beyond the horizon behind the limestone cliffs. Don’t forget to sample the town’s specialty – dried squid.
You’ll glimpse more of those towering limestone cliffs with an adventure in Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park, which begins just outside the town. First stop has to be the mystical Phraya Nakhon – a gilded Thai pavilion built inside a limestone cave. There is also a muddy Mangrove Forest Nature Trail to traverse; undulating tracks which are great for biking, photogenic shrimp farms by the beach and wetland areas teeming with wildlife.
When you just have to escape the urban sprawl and can’t stomach lying on yet another overcrowded Thai beach, a weekend in the wilderness is just the tonic. Clean, green and tranquil Khao Yai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting just about every gift Mother Nature has in her arsenal. It’s a sprawling national park with a dizzying area of ecosystems, ripe for eco-adventure of every kind.
There are rolling vineyards, undulating tracks for quad biking, awesome waterfalls, caves, dense forests of sandalwood trees and pastoral meadows of sunflowers that wouldn’t look out of place in the English countryside. Some of the noteworthy (and quaintly bizarre) sites include an authentic Tuscan village and Hobbit house.
Most people are here to glimpse the wildlife and there is a veritable menagerie of exotic species roaming freely. These include wild elephants, gibbons, rare black bears, tigers and wild boars. There are several observation towers to climb for sweeping views of the grasslands. The park sprawls across four different provinces so it takes some prep work to make the most of a few days. The scenery is incredibly evocative and the cool mountain climate makes Khao Yai especially romantic.
You are in good company for a quick escape to Hua Hin – it’s been a beach haven for the Thai Royal Family for generations fleeing Bangkok’s oppressive heat. While no longer the sleepy fishing village of old, Hua Hin has morphed into a stylish beach getaway with a balanced mix of tranquillity and cosmopolitan delights like swanky hotels and shopping. It’s a famed hub for seafood along with buzzing markets and an eclectic contemporary art scene. The beaches are wide and appealing and the consistent offshore winds lure kite surfers from around the country.
In keeping with its rather cultured vibe, the surrounding hills feature Thailand’s finest vineyards and top notch golf resorts. It also boasts some of Thailand’s classier spa and wellness resorts. Although weekends can get fairly busy as city folk head here in droves to recharge, Hua Hin’s easy-going nature is hard to resist.
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At just 80 km from downtown Bangkok, Ayutthaya can be done on a day trip but this is a sleepy former royal city that you simply cannot rush through. Best of all, you can hop aboard a slow boat from Bangkok and meander all the way along Chao Phraya river to Ayutthaya with a long weekend to spare.
Once on terra firma, poke around the remains of the ancient temples and palaces, and get acquainted with city in more detail by renting a bicycle. The crumbling temples really evoke the bygone grandeur of a city unmatched in opulence during the Middle Ages.
There is little in the way of typical Thai hedonism but you’ll eat, breathe and sleep history in this old Siam capital. An incredible variety of what is now considered as Thai cuisine emanates from this very city. Don’t miss Ayutthaya’s famously juicy river prawns — order them at one of the restaurants along the water. Ayutthaya is rightly famed for its striking temples and ruins, but even without the stunning architecture, the leisurely vibe is just the perfect antidote to Bangkok’s manic pace of life.
Conclusion – Explore a refreshing change of scenery invitingly close to the big city
For all Bangkok’s obvious big city qualities, sometimes you just can’t beat a few days away from the urban chaos. Weekend trips from Bangkok let you discover a whole new outlook on modern Thai life, perhaps exploring an under the radar provincial town, an unspoiled beach or two, or a new romantic hideaway haven nestling in the hills.
Nothing quite beats fleeing the urban sprawl with the open road ahead, looking forward to long, lazy weekend getaways from Bangkok of beach bliss, temple hopping or trekking through awesome scenery. Thailand has it all and it’s all right on Bangkok’s doorstep too.
Ray Montgomery is a seasoned travel copywriter and journalist based for more than a dozen years in Southeast Asia. Ray’s big passions are eating, tweeting and constantly seeking the next perfect ocean sunset.