Although Kanchanaburi is often visited on a day trip from Bangkok, it’s well worth spending at least a few days here if you can. Kanchanaburi’s wartime locations are the best known attractions, but this is a province with much to offer. In no particular order, here are our suggestions for 12 of the best things to see and do in Kanchanaburi.
Sample the culture of Sangkhlaburi
Getting to Sangkhlaburi takes more time and effort compared to most of the other attractions in Kanchanaburi, but those who do make it here are amply rewarded. Nestled against the Myanmar border in the far north-west of Kanchanaburi province, the district of Sangkhlaburi is home to gorgeous countryside and a fascinating mix of cultures.
Spend time in Sangkhlaburi town and get up early in the morning to witness the morning alms giving ceremony on Saphan Mon, the longest wooden bridge in Thailand. The bridge provides a physical and cultural link to the Thai and Karen people in the main town of Sangkhlaburi at one end of the bridge and the Mon community in the village at the other. While you’re in Sangkhlaburi, enjoy a boat tour of Vajiralongkorn Lake and see the sunken temple of Wat Samprasob. For another interesting way to experience the culture of this region, take a trip out to the Thai-Myanmar border at Three Pagodas Pass.
Float away your stress at Sai Yok National Park
Forget about the stress of modern life and relax in the secluded setting of Sai Yok National Park. Spend a few days exploring the walking trails, waterfall and caves. Take to the water on a bamboo raft or kayak along the Khwae Noi River to soak up the scenery. And unwind and enjoy the tranquillity of floating accommodation at River Kwai Jungle Rafts or the Floathouse River Kwai.
Remnants of the Death Railway can still be seen at locations in the park. Staying at Hintok River Camp is another good option for anybody wanting to learn more about the history of the railway and nearby Hellfire Pass.
Step back in time at a heritage village
Recreating the atmosphere of a bygone era, Mallika City provides visitors with a glimpse of what life was like in Siam a century ago. The staff members here dress in period costumes from the era of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in the early 1900s and replicate the roles of villagers, farmers, artisans and vendors. Set in the picturesque Kanchanaburi countryside, the living heritage village opened in 2016 and makes for an enjoyable and educational visit.
Explore the ancient temples at Prasat Mueang Singh
The ancient Khmer empire once covered much of what is now Thailand. The outpost at Prasat Mueang Singh was on the western edges of the empire with the main temple here built between the 12th and 14th century. It was constructed around the same time and in the same style as the Bayon temple in the vast Angkor complex in Cambodia.
Similar style Khmer ruins can be found at locations around Thailand including Buriram and Nakhon Ratchasima in Isaan. While the laterite walls and ruins at Prasat Mueang Singh aren’t as big or as well preserved as those sites, a visit to the scenic setting next to the Khwae Noi River is an interesting detour if you are in the area.
Admire the views at Wat Tham Seua
Make the short trip from the centre of Kanchanaburi to admire the stunning views at Wat Tham Seua. Even if temples aren’t usually your thing, make an exception for this one and you won’t regret it. While you’re in the area, drop in for a coffee at Meena Cafe for more fabulous views of the rice fields and Wat Tham Seua. And from Meena Cafe make the 10-minute drive west to admire the Giant Raintree.
Cool off at Erawan Waterfall
Regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand, the seven-tiered Erawan Waterfall is located around 40 miles to the north-west of Kanchanaburi town. Part of Erawan National Park, the waterfall is one of Kanchanaburi’s most popular tourist attractions with a series of turquoise pools tempting you to take a dip.
Get back to nature
Travel around Kanchanaburi and you can witness fabulous views at almost every turn. Make the most of the countryside and stay for a few nights in one of Kanchanaburi’s national parks. Hike the trail at Khao Chang Puak in Thong Pha Phum National Park or stay overnight by the lake at Khao Laem National Park. Enjoy the walking trails and reservoir at Khuean Srinagarindra (Srinakarin Dam) National Park and admire the cascading multi-tiered Huai Mae Khamin Waterfall.
Visit an ethical elephant centre
Elephants World provides a safe haven for rescued and injured elephants. Their ethos is, “We should work for the elephants; not make the elephants work for us.”
Located on the banks of the Khwae Yai River, Elephants World provides a safe home to over 30 elephants. There is no riding and no hooks used here and for anybody seeking an ethical elephant experience in Thailand, a visit to Elephants World is a good option.
Like most elephant facilities in Thailand, Elephants World has faced severe challenges in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Read more about the future for Thailand’s elephants here
Pay your respects at Kanchanaburi’s war cemeteries
There are two main war cemeteries in Kanchanaburi and both are immaculately maintained. Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (Don Rak) is located in the middle of town close to Kanchanaburi train station. Adjacent to this cemetery, the Death Railway Museum (Thailand-Burma Railway Centre) provides an informative overview of the construction of the wartime railway and the brutal conditions the Allied prisoners of war and Asian labourers were forced to work under. Chungkai War Cemetery is located to the south of Don Rak on the opposite side of the river.
Take a train ride on the Death Railway
Sections of track on the historic Death Railway are still used for daily passenger services. Take the train to Tham Krasae station or the end of the line at Nam Tok and admire the spectacular scenery en route. Traversing the elevated section of track at Wang Po Viaduct is an experience not to be missed if you are visiting Kanchanaburi.
Cross the Bridge on the River Kwai
If you catch the train in Kanchanaburi, you have the chance to travel over the famous Bridge on the River Kwai. And even if you don’t take the train, you can still walk across the iconic bridge.
If you visit Kanchanaburi in November, look out for the annual River Kwai Bridge Festival and Red Cross Fair. The event is usually held in late November through until early December with a light and sound show illuminating the bridge.
Travel to Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum
Whether you are interested in World War II history or not, the excellent Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum should be high up on your list of places to visit in Kanchanaburi. The museum and walking trails are a reminder of the tragic history of the region and a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.