There’s no doubt that Thailand, with its long coastline and 1,430 islands, is Asia’s No1 tourist destination, offering a diverse range of things to do. Buddhists and backpackers, hedonists and the well-healed can all find their nirvana in the Royal kingdom (which is actually run by the military). Despite the explosion of tourism over the last few decades, it is still very possible to find some tranquillity, be it at a meditation retreat in the Northern Highlands or on the massage table of a luxe island resort. A short spell in bonkers Bangkok is a must, but the call of the gently lapping ocean and the lure of getting the white sand between your toes will be strong.
You’ll find a dizzying range of hotels across the country suited to every budget, and from eco-intelligent nests and Michelin-starred restaurants to a lemongrass and turmeric compress or a 2000-book library, our pick of Thailand’s best hotels include all manner of tempting Thai treats.
The 10 best hotels in Thailand
Superlatives abound at this serene riverside stunner, where 28 rooms are positively suite-like and awash with antiques and Art-Deco-ness, blended with Thai influences. The Opium spa and 23m-long pool are impressive, as is the service, which is impeccable (and on the formal side). Dine on Thai haute cuisine at the riverside restaurant, or sip sundowners in the Deco bar. The hotel is quite far from the action of downtown but perfectly located for sightseeing in the historical Dusit district. Or let the staff whisk you along the river on the hotel’s very own golden teak rice barge, The Golden Naga.
Steeped in history (having opened its doors in 1876) and straddling the Chao Phraya river, this five-star classy number is an institution which oozes opulence and elegance. The staff make the difference here (even remembering your name) and really do go the extra mile to ensure your every whim is catered for. Dress up for dinner at the Michelin-starred Le Normandie restaurant (no Pad Thai here, just contemporary French) or sail away Enya-style across the river to the teak spa and enjoy the signature treatment, which includes a happy ending of a lemongrass and turmeric compress…delicious!
If one night in Bangkok is already too much and you need to escape the crazy, head 24km south to the city’s ‘green lung’ and riverside enclave, Bang Krachao. Only accessible by boat, bike or foot, this smart and modern green property consists of 11 ‘eco-intelligent’ three-storey nests. You’ll find bamboo, glass and concrete, outdoor showers and your own roof terrace. Food is simple and of a high standard; local, organic and a combo of Thai and International dishes. Surrounded by vegetation and mother nature, it’s hard to believe you’re only 20 minutes from the nearest BTS Skytrain station to Bangkok.
You’ll feel like the Queen of Chinatown the minute you check in to this stylish boutique hotel that’s been lovingly restored in a 1930s style. Rooms and public spaces are all brimming with period furniture, antiques and lamps…kitsch? Yes, over the top? No. Upgrade to a streetside room with an actual window that brings in natural light as others are windowless and rely on lighting and fabrics to brighten things up. Facilities are simple, but you’ll find live jazz most nights and inventive modern Chinese cuisine at the Red Rose restaurant.
Understatedly elegant, this architectural gem is a highlight of Thailand’s northern capital. Escape the hustle and bustle of the old town and lose yourself in the serenity of inter-linked courtyards and gardens or in the library, home to an impressive collection of more than 2,000 books. Twenty-three rooms and suites are luxurious and effortlessly blend Asian, European and African antiques and art with modern features. Dine al fresco in the beautiful courtyard with a menu that focuses on northern-Thai, Burmese and Shan dishes.
Expect a super-smiley welcome at this small 15-room boutique hotel, a few minutes from the old town on the banks of the Ping river. Rooms are classy and simple and it’s worth shelling out extra for a river view, west-facing to watch the sunset. The rooftop pool and bar are a real find and offer great views of the city and the green surroundings. There’s another small pool and massages can be arranged. Prices are reasonable.
Definitely worth the (included) 2-hour transfer from Krabi airport (mini-van and speed boat), the original aim of this 100+ room estate was to blend in with lush hill-top vegetation of an untouched southern corner; it worked. Tasteful chic but understated pool villas sit above more regular suites which in turn lead down to a stunning stretch of unspoilt sand. Expect to rub shoulders with families and European couples or even a local elephant off for a bath (if you’re lucky). Three restaurants and a delightful spa offer excellent and the usual luxury experiences.
Find enlightenment just a 40-minute drive away from the airport at this beachside resort that’s been sensitively constructed around a hillside and cave where monks and locals have been coming (and still do) to meditate for centuries. This is the place to switch off, reboot and reset your body and soul, and we’re not talking the odd yoga or meditation class; an individually tailored spa and wellbeing programme are planned as you check in. Rooms are basic but feature local art and woods, and two open-air restaurants focus on healthy living (don’t worry, there’s a wine list).
If you find yourself in the western town of Kanchanaburi, perhaps on a Bridge on the River Kwai pilgrimage, head for this groovy riverside resort comprised of 22 cabins all converted from shipping containers. All rooms, some of which are floating, have excellent river views – think industrial chic transported to a beautiful stretch of river. The Bridge Bar & Bistro is casual and describes its cuisine as rustic. Borrow an iPad or find a book and kick-back by the infinity pool if you haven’t already disconnected.
A pebble’s throw from Cambodia, the eastern isle of Koh Kut can’t really be described as undiscovered, but it is still relatively unspoilt, and this village of uber-deluxe villas on it is the place to stay if you want to discover it. Villas blend in perfectly with the surrounding jungle and sustainability is key, with local materials used throughout and even food being made on-site (including chocolates). And getting here is a treat; no schlepping on ferries, instead you’re whisked from Bangkok by private plane to an airstrip on a nearby island, then from there by speedboat. Trust us, it’s worth it.