Bangkok wasn’t always the capital city of Thailand. Back in the days of the Kingdom of Siam, Ayutthaya was the hub for all things religious and educational. When the Burmese invaded Siam, they eventually succeeded in sacking Ayutthaya and pushing the Siamese to form a new capital further down the Chao Phraya River. We now know this bustling city as the mighty Bangkok. Most travelers make Bangkok their base from which to explore and tour the surrounding countryside, cities and attractions.
The former capital of Ayutthaya makes for an excellent day trip from Bangkok, although this is just one of many excellent day excursions that can be taken from the Thai capital city. Other highlights include the bridge over the River Kwai, tropical islands such as Koh Larn, and a whole host of vast theme parks, Buddhist temples, beaches and floating markets that lie on the fringes of the sprawling city and beyond. Here are 10 of the best day trips from Bangkok based on factors like value for money, health and safety, and the itinerary.
From $35/per person
You may have seen the thrilling photos already: a train rushing past claustrophobic lines of market stalls, barely missing the baskets of fruit and crowds of people who are stood right next to the tracks. This is the famous Maeklong Railway Market, one of two unique markets that this tour from Bangkok will visit over six hours. Board a train in the Thai capital to reach Maeklong, then wander among the sprawling stalls. After that, you’ll see the floating market of Damnoen Saduak and take a trip on a longtail speedboat before the return to Bangkok.
From $46/ per person
If you don’t have enough time on your Thailand trip to dedicate an overnight visit to Ayutthaya, then a day trip with the highlights included is the next best thing. Including transportation to and from Bangkok, you’ll have four hours on this tour to explore some of Ayutthaya’s best ruins, including Bang Pa-In royal palace and the temples Wat Mahathat and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet with its stunning huge chedis. There will also be a little time to visit Ayothaya Floating Market before a return to Bangkok in the early evening. Guided tours are provided at each place.
From $55/ per person
Heading west from Bangkok, before hitting the wall of green forest and national parks along the Myanmar border, you come to Kanchanaburi. It is around here that you will find many excellent sites linked to World War II, including the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai built by the Japanese army using prisoners of war, many of whom died in its construction. There’s also a trip to the Allied War Cemetery and the JEATH War Museum. Transportation, guides and admission tickets are included in the price.
From $86/ per person
Thailand’s floating markets are a major tourism draw with good reason: the profusion of colors, scents and sounds all taking place on intricate networks of waterways, between boats piled high with produce has a theatrical effect. This private tour is the perfect way to explore and experience these markets without feeling encumbered by a larger group. Your guide will pick you up from your hotel, from which point you’ll visit floating markets of Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa. Stay until after dark at the latter to see the fireflies. Please note that this tour is only available from Friday to Sunday each week.
From $99/ per person
Erawan National Park is a beautiful natural space particularly celebrated for its waterfalls. Taking at least 12 hours, you will head west from Bangkok to the national park entrance, from which you can explore a trail and the limestone caves, looking out for the region’s wildlife including macaques and elephants. Because Kanchanaburi is located on the road to Bangkok, you will also visit all of the River Kwai WWII sites on this tour, including a walk on the bridge. The perfect blend of Thai history and nature.
From $114/ per person
Pattaya may have gotten a bad rap in the past, but this beach city is a doorway to some excellent beach life within a day trip of Bangkok. Take the speedboat out to the pristine beaches and emerald rainforest of Koh Larn, otherwise known as Coral Island. Here you can snorkel, sunbathe or swim before sitting down to lunch. You’ll head back to the mainland some hours later and head to a hilltop with a panorama over Pattaya City. All transport and lunch are included in the tour price.
From $127/ per person
Chachoengsao often gets overlooked for some of the flashier daytrip destinations satelliting the Thai capital city, which is part of the allure to this unusual itinerary. This nine-hour tour neatly balances a fantastic array of experiences, including a cruise along the Bang Pakong River, a visit to a lively market, grand temples including Wat Saman Rattanaram with its huge Buddhist statues, and a trip to a palm sap village to try palm juice. Even the drive through this pretty, rural region, past rice paddies and waterways, gives a glimpse of a more tranquil side to Thailand.
From $140/ per person
Although it’s the Thai National Park closest to Bangkok, Khao Yai couldn’t be more of a polar opposite to the teeming metropolis. The beautiful natural expanse is home to all manner of flora and fauna, but no part is quite as Instagram-friendly as the Khao Yai Valley. On this nine-hour day trip from Bangkok, you’ll visit a vast hedge maze with art installations and the Khao Yai Art Museum. Even more surprising are the sojourns to Chokchai Farm, a bizarre Wild West-themed dairy farm and even a Thai vineyard and winery.
From $148/ per person
An alternative Ayutthaya trip involves a midday start, making it ideal for night owls. Visit some of the most unique and special temple ruins of Ayutthaya including Wat Mahathat, where a Buddha statue’s head has become ensnared in the roots of a fig tree. Nearby Wat Ratchaburana is one of the most impressively preserved of all Ayutthaya temples, with its huge central prang. Head outside the city center to Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the best place to watch the sunset. After dark you’ll have chance to see the local night market before returning to Bangkok.
From $362/ per person
A two-day tour west of Bangkok allows you more time to explore and appreciate the sights of this region. You’ll also spend a lower percentage of your tour in transit, while also being able to make more stops along the way. Any tour from Bangkok to Erawan National Park particularly benefits from the added time. This tour takes in Damnoen Saduak floating market on the way before stopping in Kanachanburi for the JEATH War Museum and River Kwai Bridge. Spend the night in a floating bamboo lodge on the Kwai, reached by longtail boat. The next day is dedicated to a deeper exploration of Erawan and its waterfalls.