The Best Time to Visit Thailand: A Season-by-Season Breakdown
With tropical beaches, lush islands, and dramatic mountain ranges rounding out vibrant cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Southeast Asia is at its best in this self-dubbed Land of Smiles. Instead of having a spring, summer, fall, and winter, however, Thailand experiences three marked seasons: hot, cool, and wet. Any time of year is a good time to sample its spicy eats and fresh seafood, tour the gorgeous temples, and book blissful massages—but if you're hoping to avoid the heat or crowds, it's worth knowing which season suits your visit best.
Hot Season (March through June)
If you find yourself touring around Bangkok during Thailand’s hot season, prepare for a serious sweat fest. April and May are the most sweltering months, when temperatures can easily push into the the upper 90s and even past 100, and humidity is over 75 percent. At times, you might feel like one of those steamed dumplings being hawked from the city’s abundant street food stalls. Still, no visit to Thailand is complete without a turn around the capital. So check off a few temples, score some shopping bargains, and bask in the city’s sophisticated hotels, then get out of dodge and retreat to the more refreshing ambiance of island life.
While spots like Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Samui tend to steal the limelight, it’s worth considering less-crowded islands to escape the heat like Koh Chang, in the Gulf of Thailand. Hire a scooter for a few dollars a day and spend your time visiting the island’s sweeping bays and many beaches. (We love White Sand Beach for its wide sands and calm waters protected by the island’s national park status.) For something even more off the beaten path, Koh Mak, just south of Ko Chang, has more coconut plantations and mangroves than tourists and a mostly flat terrain perfect for exploring by bicycle. For an idyllic stay, consider the Seavana Beach Resort Koh Mak, a romantic beachfront property with private outdoor spa bath tubs fronting a long and utterly deserted beach.
Rainy Season (roughly mid-June through mid-October)
The weather is at its most unpredictable in Thailand during the rainy season, when the southwest monsoon dominates the forecast and rainfall can be heavy across much of the country. Peak monsoon months occur at different times during this period in the country’s varying regions. By mid-October, north and northeast Thailand start to see less rain, while the southern reaches of the country can experience strong rainfall into December. However, while it can rain for several days on end at times, if you’re lucky, you can just as easily score week-long stretches of sunny weather. Fewer travelers are willing to make that gamble—which means you might just have notoriously crowded spots like Krabi and Phuket to yourself.
All of this is to say: unless you’re allergic to rain, don’t let it deter you from visiting Thailand—especially when there are hotel bargains to be found.
A wonderful place to vacation during the rainy season is Northern Thailand, where the hills, rice terraces, and mountains turn brilliant shades of green. Flights to the mountainous city of Chiang Mai are also at their least expensive, and hotel deals are some of the best you’ll find all year.
Cool Season (November through February)
Far and away, Thailand’s cool season is the most comfortable time to visit temperature-wise, with the most pleasant weather happening between November and mid-February. This is when the northeast monsoon blows in cool and dry air, which offers a much-needed reprieve from the heat. In the south, temperatures tend to be in the low to mid 80s during the day, while at higher altitudes in the mountains of Northern Thailand, the mercury can even drop below freezing at night.
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Naturally, the lessened heat and lower rainfall during the cool season means islands are crowded and rates for flights, hotel, and excursions are expensive. Bangkok makes the prices worthwhile, though, with the celebration of the King’s birthday on December 5—one of the city’s biggest festivals of the year. Temperatures in Bangkok around this time are also at their most bearable—perfect for spending time outside at its many temples and markets.
From Pattaya in the north to Phuket and Trang down south, beaches and islands across the country are also booming because the weather is so darn perfect. Koh Samui has particular appeal during the fete called Loy Krathong (the Thai lantern festival, or festival of lights). During the night of the full moon every November, locals by the thousands use candles and incense to light offerings made from banana leaves and send them afloat—in the sea, in hotel pools—under the night sky.
For a magical alternative, this is also a good season to consider heading to Chiang Mai, where sea mists lend a real mystique to the surrounding mountains and hill towns, and winter flowers weave in color at every turn. Otherwise, head north to Chiang Rai, where clear blue skies and relatively cool temperatures encourage ticking outdoor adventures off your list, from cruising down the Mekong River to joining a guided trek to visit hill tribes in the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet.
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