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25 Things to Do in Isaan Northeastern Thailand’s Hidden Gem

25 Things to Do in Isaan: Northeastern Thailand’s Hidden Gem 

Isaan, a region in northeastern Thailand that hides a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be uncovered. 

Known as the ‘Hidden Gem’ of northeastern Thailand, Isaan offers a diverse blend of cultural richness, natural beauty, and unforgettable adventures. 

In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through must-see attractions and activities that will immerse you in the heart of Isaan’s unique charm. Read on!

Visit Phanom Rung Historical Park

Address: Moo 7, 114 Ta Pek, Chaloem Phra Kiat District, Buri Ram 31110, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 7 AM to 6 PM

Entrance fee: 100 THB


If you’re up for some historical adventure, head over to Phanom Rung Historical Park. Imagine exploring an ancient Khmer temple complex perched high on an extinct volcano. It’s like stepping into a time machine! 

This place is famous for its intricate carvings, which are like an art lover’s dream come true. Plus, the panoramic views from up there are simply breathtaking. 

You’ll get a glimpse of Isaan’s rich history and cultural heritage that will leave you in awe.

Local tip:

Here’s the scoop – to catch the most Instagram-worthy photos at Phanom Rung Historical Park, come early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The soft, golden sunlight will make those ancient stones glow, and you’ll avoid the midday heat. 

Plus, fewer crowds mean more peace and quiet to soak in the history and vibes of this incredible place.

Explore Wat Phra That Phanom

Address: 183 13 Chayangkun Rd, That Phanom, That Phanom District, Nakhon Phanom 48110, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 6 AM to 8 PM

Entrance fee: Free


As the foremost Buddhist sanctuary within the province, Wat Phra That Phanom holds an esteemed position. 

When you step inside, you’ll be greeted by stunning architecture and intricate artwork that tells a story of its own. Its towering 53-metre pagoda, an architectural marvel, is believed to have its origins dating back to a time before the 12th century. 

Throughout the centuries, this pagoda has undergone a transformation, evolving from its original Khmer design to its current distinctive Laotian architectural style.

It also serves as the sacred repository for the relics of Lord Buddha, making it a place of profound veneration and spiritual significance.

Local tip:

Visit Wat Phra That Phanom during a weekday morning. That’s when you’ll find monks performing their daily rituals, and you can join them in offering alms.

It’s a great way to experience the temple’s spiritual side and have a chat with friendly monks who might even share some local insights.

Have a blast at Udon Waterworld Water Park

Address: CPR7+5P2, Chiang Yuen, Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani 41000, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 10 AM to 7 PM

Entrance fee: 160 THB


If you’re seeking a thrilling escape from the Thai heat, look no further than Udon Waterworld Water Park in Udon Thani. This thrilling aquatic playground promises fun, excitement, and refreshing relief from the tropical heat. 

Once you step inside, you’ll be spoiled for choice. From heart-pounding water slides to lazy river floats and wave pools, you’re in for an unforgettable time.

Local tip:

For the daredevils, the water slides here are a must-try. You’ll find slides that twist, turn, and send you flying. Pick your favourite and make a splash!

Taste authentic Isaan cuisine

Hungry for an unforgettable culinary experience? Isaan has got you covered!

Forget what you know about Thai food; this is a whole new level of deliciousness. From the fiery som tam (green papaya salad) to the mouthwatering kai yang (Isaan-style grilled chicken), your taste buds are in for a treat. 

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving these dishes long after you’ve left Isaan. 

Local tip:

Ask the locals for their favourite street food stalls. You’ll discover hidden gems serving up the most authentic and mouthwatering dishes.

Also, striking up a conversation with the vendors might get you secret recipes or some insider foodie tips.

Tour Khon Kaen National Museum

Address: CRWQ+CCX, Lang Sun Ratchakan Rd, Tambon Nai Mueang, Mueang Khon Kaen District, Khon Kaen 40000, Thailand

Operating hours: 

  • Monday and Tuesday – Closed
  • Wednesday to Sunday – 9 AM to 4 PM

Entrance fee: 100 THB


For history buffs looking for a dose of local culture, Khon Kaen National Museum is where the past comes to life. Step inside and you’ll be greeted by fascinating exhibits that tell the story of this vibrant city and its people. 

This museum is a hidden gem because of its ancient artefacts to modern-day treasures. Plus, the guides here are like walking history books – they’ll make sure you leave with a head full of knowledge. 

Local tip:

The best time to explore the Khon Kaen National Museum is on a weekday morning. The crowds are thinner, and you can enjoy the exhibits at your own pace.

Additionally, the museum staff are often more available to share fascinating stories and historical tidbits.

Relax at Nong Han Lake

Address: Sakon Nakhon, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Nong Han Lake is a tranquil oasis that’s perfect for an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Picture yourself lounging by the serene waters, taking in the picturesque views all around. 

Whether you’re into bird-watching, fishing, or simply enjoying a peaceful picnic, Nong Han Lake has got it all. It’s a place where time slows down, and you can reconnect with nature. 

Local tip:

Head to Nong Han Lake during the late afternoon. The setting sun paints the lake in warm hues, and the breeze becomes gentle.

It’s the perfect time to unwind, have a picnic, or just sit by the water’s edge. And here’s the bonus: you might catch some stunning reflections in the calm waters for that Instagram-worthy shot.

Explore Dan Kwian for Pottery Shopping

Address: Dan Kwian, Chok Chai District, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand

Dan Kwian is your pottery paradise. It’s not just about shopping; it’s about immersing yourself in a world of creativity. 

As you explore the local pottery shops, you’ll witness skilled artisans at work, moulding and shaping clay into stunning pieces of art. You can pick up unique, handcrafted pottery to adorn your home or share as thoughtful gifts.

It’s a shopping experience like no other, where every piece tells a story of Isaan’s craftsmanship and artistic heritage.

Local tip:

If you’re on the hunt for unique pottery pieces, try this – visit the local workshops early in the morning when the artisans are at their creative best.

You’ll not only see the pottery-making process in action but also have a chance to chat with the artists. Who knows, you might even get a sneak peek at some one-of-a-kind pieces still in the making.

Trek in Khao Yai National Park

Address: Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 6 AM to 6 PM

Entrance fee: 

  • Adults – 400 THB
  • Children 3-14 years old – 200 THB


Khao Yai National Park is a trekker’s dream come true with its breathtaking vistas, and getting in touch with the great outdoors. 

As you ascend the trails, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views, hidden waterfalls, and wild fauna that will leave you breathless in more ways than one. The sense of achievement when you reach the summit is unbeatable.!

Local tip:
Make sure to start early in the morning to avoid the midday heat. The trails can be quite challenging, so having the cool morning hours on your side will make the hike much more enjoyable.

And don’t forget to pack some snacks and plenty of water to keep your energy up during the trek.

Local tip:

Make sure to start early in the morning to avoid the midday heat. The trails can be quite challenging, so having the cool morning hours on your side will make the hike much more enjoyable.

And don’t forget to pack some snacks and plenty of water to keep your energy up during the trek.

Explore Phimai Historical Park

Address: 341/3 in 115/2 Wannaprang Alley, Nai Mueang, Phimai District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30110, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 7 AM to 6 PM

Entrance fee: 

  • Foreigners – 100 THB
  • Thai Locals – 20 THB


Step back in time and unravel the mysteries of Phimai Historical Park. This place is like a living history book with its ancient temples and ruins dating back to the Khmer Empire. 

As you wander through the well-preserved structures, you’ll feel like you’re in a historical adventure movie. The intricate carvings and the grandeur of Phimai’s architecture are truly awe-inspiring!

Local tip:

To beat the crowds and enjoy a more serene experience, plan your visit to Phimai Historical Park during the weekdays. You’ll have the chance to explore the ancient ruins and intricate carvings at your own pace without too many fellow tourists.

Plus, the gentle morning light creates a magical atmosphere that’s perfect for photography.

Attend a traditional mor lam concert

Attending a mor lam concert is an absolute must when you’re in Isaan. Picture this: colourful costumes, infectious music, and energetic dance moves that will get you on your feet. 

Mor lam is more than just a concert—it’s a cultural experience that’ll immerse you in the heart and soul of Isaan. So, put on your dancing shoes, join the locals, and let the vibrant beats sweep you off your feet!

Local tip:

Arrive a bit early, strike up conversations with locals, and learn a few dance moves. You’ll find that the performers and the audience alike are more than willing to share their passion for this vibrant art form.

And when the music starts, don’t be shy – join in the dancing and let the rhythm carry you away.

Go to Sirindhorn Dinosaur Museum

Address: 200 Moo 11, Non Buri, Sahatsakhan District, Kalasin 46140, Thailand

Operating hours: 

  • Monday – Closed
  • Tuesday to Sunday – 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Entrance fee: 

  • Foreigners – 100 THB
  • Thai Local – 50 THB


Calling all dinosaur enthusiasts, young and old! The Sirindhorn Dinosaur Museum is your ticket to a prehistoric adventure. 

Step into a world where giants roamed the earth, and fossils tell stories millions of years old. It’s like a journey back in time, where you’ll come face to face with life-size dinosaur replicas and marvel at the wonders of palaeontology.

Local tip:

For a fun twist, try visiting the Sirindhorn Dinosaur Museum during a weekday afternoon. The museum tends to be quieter, giving you a more intimate encounter with the fascinating fossils and exhibits.

Plus, you’ll have extra time to chat with the knowledgeable staff, who often have hidden gems of dino trivia to share.

Have a Tour at Khok Pia Village 

Where to Book a Tour: Isan Explorer

Fee: Starts at 3,550 THB/ person

When you’re craving an authentic taste of rural life in Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region, look no further than Khok Pia Village. 

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of urban living, this quaint village offers a captivating glimpse into traditional Thai culture, warm hospitality, and the beauty of the Isaan countryside.

Your visit here will revolve around mingling with locals and observing typical village activities. Culminate the trip with hands-on experience in preparing and relishing a classic Isaan meal!

And if you’re looking for an even deeper dive into local life, consider the homestay option.

Local tip:

To make your Mekong River cruise extra special, opt for a sunset cruise. As the sun dips below the horizon, the Mekong transforms into a mesmerising canvas of colours.

It’s the perfect setting for a romantic evening or a tranquil escape. Just be sure to book in advance as these cruises tend to be quite popular, especially during the high season.

Explore Thai Isan Market

Address: Mak Khaeng Sub-district, Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani 41000, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 24 hours

Going to the Thai Isan Market is not your typical market experience; it’s a bustling, colourful, and aromatic journey into the heart of Isaan culture. 

As you wander through the stalls, you’ll be surrounded by the vibrant sights and sounds of the region. From fresh produce to handmade crafts and local delicacies, this market is a treasure trove of Isaan’s finest. 

Don’t forget to put on your bargaining hat, try some street food, and get ready to explore the Thai Isan Market like a seasoned local.

Local tip:

For an excellent time at Thai Isan Market, go early in the morning. That’s when the market comes alive with vendors preparing fresh dishes, and you can savour breakfast like a local.

Visit Wat Thung Sri Mueang

Visit Wat Thung Sri Mueang
(Image source: iStock)

Address: 95 Luang Alley, Nai Mueang Subdistrict, Mueang Ubon Ratchathani District, Ubon Ratchathani 34000, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 9 AM to 6 PM

Wat Thung Sri Mueang is a place of tranquillity and beauty. As you step inside, you’ll be greeted by the soothing ambiance and stunning architecture. 

It’s a temple steeped in history that dates back to the era of King Rama III and was originally built to enshrine a replica of Buddha’s sacred footprint. 

One of the most exquisite architectural wonders within the temple grounds is the wooden Tripitaka Library (Ho Trai). This remarkable structure is elevated on stilts, positioned gracefully in the centre of a tranquil pool. 

Interestingly, its unique design serves a dual purpose: it safeguards the sacred scriptures from potential damage caused by insects such as ants and termites, while also adding a touch of architectural elegance to the temple’s surroundings.

Local tip:

Don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens that envelop the temple. These meticulously maintained green spaces offer a serene backdrop for both reflection and rejuvenation.

Experience silk weaving

Where to Experience: Chonnabot, Buriram Province

Ever wondered how those exquisite Thai silk fabrics are made? Well, get ready to be enchanted by the art of silk weaving. 

Isaan is famous for its silk production, and experiencing it firsthand is a journey into the region’s rich traditions. You’ll witness skilled artisans at work, meticulously crafting intricate patterns and vibrant colours into luxurious textiles. 

It’s a hands-on experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the craftsmanship behind those beautiful silk garments. 

Local tip:

If you’re keen on experiencing silk weaving up close, consider visiting a local silk village during the morning hours. This is when the weavers are typically at their busiest, and you can observe the intricate process and even give it a try yourself.

Discover Ban Khok Sa-Nga

Address: King Cobra Village, Nam Phong, Nam Phong District, Khon Kaen, Thailand

The bizarre yet charming village of Ban Khok Sa-Nga is a hidden gem in Isaan where you’ll find the essence of rural Thailand. This place is also known as the “King Cobra Village,” and things can get pretty wild here for someone with a fear of snakes! 

You’ll find humans and snakes sharing this village in a bizarre but oddly harmonious way. It’s like a real-life jungle adventure!

Aside from witnessing wild encounters, you can also explore the quaint streets, visit local markets, and get a taste of authentic Isaan cuisine. 

Local tip:

To get the most out of your exploration in Ban Khok Sa-Nga, strike up conversations with the friendly locals. They often have fascinating stories and hidden gems to share about the village. 

Attend the Rocket Festival (Bun Bang Fai)

Date Celebrated: 2nd weekend of May 

The Rocket Festival (Bun Bang Fai) is an annual event unlike anything you’ve ever seen. 

Teams spend weeks or months in secret preparation before the festival. During this time, they craft rockets known as “bang fai” from materials like bamboo, paper, plastic, wood, and sometimes glass and metal. 

These rockets vary in size and colour, with some as large as nine metres, and containing gunpowder. Regardless of size, the goal remains the same: to ensure a successful harvest and weather conditions.

Once prepared, the rockets are displayed on large floats during a grand parade, accompanied by folk dances and people wearing traditional costumes. 

Some participants even cover themselves in white powder and don frog masks in tribute to the Toad King Phaya Khang Khok.

Local tip:

To fully enjoy the Yasothon Rocket Festival, don’t forget your earplugs! The rocket launches can be thunderously loud, so protecting your ears will enhance your festival experience.

Also, bring some sunscreen and stay hydrated – it can get pretty hot during the festivities.

Visit Wat Pa Non Sawan

Address: XVF2+RX5, Thoet Thai, Thung Khao Luang District, Roi Et 45170, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 8 AM to 5 PM

Nestled in the serene Isaan landscape, Wat Pa Non Sawan is a hidden sanctuary waiting to be explored. It’s adorned with a vibrant array of sculptures that span a spectrum of themes and emotions. 

Here, you can see colossal dragons and friendly turtles to depictions of Hindu deities, eerie depictions of the underworld, and even a solitary polar bear.

In essence, the temple’s diverse collection of sculptures serves as a thought-provoking and joy-inducing testament to its purpose and charm.

Take your time to stroll through the peaceful gardens, admire the intricate architecture, and perhaps even engage in a moment of meditation. 

Local tip:

For a truly serene visit to Wat Pa Non Sawan, consider arriving in the late morning. This timing allows you to explore the temple’s beauty in the soft daylight without the crowds often seen in the early morning. 

Explore Kaeng Tana National Park

Address: 7FXG+QRW, Kham Khuean Kaeo, Sirindhorn District, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM

Entrance fee: 100 THB


Kaeng Tana National Park is a playground for adventure. Picture lush forests, rivers, and abundant wildlife – that’s what you’ll find here. 

As you explore the park’s trails, you’ll encounter tranquil lakes and vibrant flora. It’s a nature lover’s paradise where you can hike, swim, and simply bask in the beauty of untouched landscapes. 

Local tip:

If you plan to explore Kaeng Tana National Park, consider hiring a local guide. These guides have an intimate knowledge of the park’s trails, wildlife, and hidden treasures.

They can enhance your experience by pointing out unique flora and fauna, sharing local legends, and ensuring your safety during your adventure.

Discover Bueng Kan Province

Address: Bueng Kan Province, Thailand

Bueng Kan Province is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. From stunning natural landscapes to vibrant local culture, this province has it all. You can visit the picturesque Nong Han Lake, where you can unwind by the tranquil waters. 

You can also explore charming villages and immerse yourself in the local way of life. Bueng Kan Province is an off-the-beaten-path destination that promises authentic experiences and a chance to uncover the hidden treasures of Isaan.

Local tip:

When exploring Bueng Kan Province, don’t forget your curiosity and adventurous spirit. To truly uncover its hidden gems, venture off the beaten path.

Visit the smaller villages, interact with the locals, and savour authentic Isaan dishes in local eateries. These experiences will lead you to the true heart of Bueng Kan and its unique culture.

Attend the Phi Ta Khon Festival in Dan Sai

Date celebrated: late June to early July

Prepare yourself for a festival like no other! Phi Ta Khon Festival in Dan Sai is an explosion of colour, music, and masks. It’s a parade of locals wearing intricately painted masks and vibrant costumes. 

Phi Ta Khon Festival is a celebration that brings to life the spirit of Isaan folklore in a lively and unforgettable way. You can join the festivities, dance to the traditional music, and experience the vibrant energy of Phi Ta Khon. 

This festival is a testament to Isaan’s rich cultural heritage and a must-attend event for those seeking an authentic and lively celebration.

Local tip:

To blend in with the festival crowd and get the most out of your Phi Ta Khon experience, consider renting or purchasing a traditional Phi Ta Khon mask and costume.

Many locals will appreciate your enthusiasm, and it’s a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the festivities while capturing some fantastic photos and memories.

Experience the Annual Surin Elephant Roundup

Date Celebrated: 3rd weekend of November

Every year in Surin, the extraordinary Elephant Roundup festival brings together thousands of visitors from around the globe. As its name suggests, you’ll witness a spectacular array of elephant-themed activities at the event!

One of the highlights is the grand “Elephant Breakfast.” Imagine sitting amid a sea of elephants, watching as they enjoy a hearty feast prepared by local villagers.

To make the most of your experience at the Annual Surin Elephant Roundup, arrive early to secure a good spot for the parades and shows. The crowds can get quite large as the day goes on, so an early start ensures a front-row view of the majestic elephants in action.

Local tip:

Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water – it can get pretty hot during the festivities, and you’ll want to stay comfortable while you enjoy the incredible spectacle.

Engage in meditation at the Wat Pa Baan Tat Temple

Address: 7QWH+W77, Ban Tat, Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani 41000, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 6 AM to 8 PM

The Wat Pa Baan Tat Temple is the perfect place to unwind and reconnect with yourself. In its serene setting, you’ll find a peaceful escape from the noise of the world. 

There are also experienced monks in the temple, so you’ll have reliable guides if you want to try your hand at meditating!

Local tip:

For a truly immersive meditation experience at Wat Pa Baan Tat Temple, consider joining one of the temple’s meditation retreats. 

These typically last a few days and provide a deeper understanding of meditation practices and the chance to connect with fellow participants. 

Explore the Wat Pa Phu Kon Temple

Address: Moo 6, 99 Ban Kong, Na Yung District, Udon Thani 41380, Thailand

Operating hours: Daily 8:30 AM to 5 PM

Entrance fee: Free

Isaan is home to some of Thailand’s most magnificent temples, and Wat Pa Phu Kon is no exception. This temple is a hidden gem known for its stunning architecture and serene surroundings. 

Wat Pa Phu Kon is perched atop a hill, offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The temple’s elevated position provides a sense of serenity and seclusion, making it an ideal retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

One of its most iconic features is the massive white reclining Buddha statue. This serene and majestic figure is a symbol of peace and enlightenment, and it provides an excellent spot for reflection and meditation.

Local tip:

Wat Pa Phu Kon is renowned for its stunning sunset views. As the day comes to a close at this breathtaking vantage point, you can witness the changing colours of the sky over the picturesque landscape.

Enjoy the sunrise view at Phu Tok Mountain

Address: Chiyaphon, Si Wilai District, Bueng Kan 38000, Thailand

Looking for a magical start to your day? Phu Tok Mountain offers a sunrise experience like no other! 

Just note, however, that private vehicles are restricted in going up the mountain. The good thing is that there’s an available shared transport via songthaew, which costs 40 THB. You can leave your car in a parking lot for only 20 THB.

There might be a queue so arrive as early as you can to avoid waiting for a long time and missing out on the gorgeous view! 

Local tip:

While you’ll find a variety of snacks available at the mountain’s base, it’s important to note that there are no snack vendors at the mountain’s summit.

If you anticipate getting hungry during your ascent, it’s a good idea to purchase some snacks at the bottom to enjoy during your journey to the top.

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