The north-east of Thailand, also known as Isaan, is a fascinating region for culture lovers. If you are looking to get away from the main tourist trail and discover more of unseen Thailand, the north-east is one of the most rewarding destinations in the country to explore.
- Visit ancient Khmer ruins
- Feast on som tam and other spicy north-east delicacies
- See elephants in the wild
- Relax in sleepy towns by the Mekong River
- Celebrate spectacular Isaan festivals
What to see & do in north-east Thailand
Go elephant watching in Khao Yai
Thailand’s oldest National Park, Khao Yai, is located a few hours to the north-east of Bangkok. The massive park is a haven for wildlife and one of the few locations in Thailand where you can still see elephants in the wild. Visit as part of a day trip from Bangkok or stay a few nights in one of the luxury resorts close to the park’s main entrance.
Celebrate unique local festivals
The north-east Isaan region has its own unique culture and identity that make it a joy to visit. This area is off the main tourist trail and a warm Isaan welcome awaits travellers who do come here. To get a sense of what Isaan is all about, try to take in one of the local festivals that are celebrated in effervescent fashion. Take your pick from the Loei Ghost Festival, the Yasothon Rocket Festival or the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival to name just three.
Explore ancient Khmer ruins
Between the 9th to 15th centuries, the mighty Khmer Empire extended from Cambodia into what is now north-east Thailand. The impressive remains of ancient Khmer temples can be found at various locations around the north-east with outstanding examples located at Phanom Rung in Buriram and Phimai near Nakhon Ratchasima.
Relax by the Mekong River
The magnificent Mekong River hugs Thailand’s north-east provinces forming a natural border with neighbouring Laos. Along its course there are some delightful riverside towns to enjoy the views with Nong Khai and Nakhon Phanom worthy of special mention.
Visit amazing natural attractions
Thailand is blessed with so many natural attractions and the north-east region has more than its fair share. From the breathtaking beauty of the Red Lotus Lake in Udon Thani to the quirky rock formations of Pa Hin Ngam National Park in Chaiyaphum province, this area is full of geological marvels.