Thailand's Geography

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Thailand's Geography

Thai GeographyThailand's Geography

Thailand, ประเทศไทย (Prathet Thai) in Thai language, is the official name of the Kingdom of Thailand, ราช อาณาจักร ไทย (Ratcha Anachak Thai), which is the country in Southeast Asia formerly known as the Kingdom of Siam, สยาม in Thai. The name of country derives from the adjective thai, ไทย, meaning "free" in Thai language. Located in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand is really the heart of this region. Looking at a map of Thailand will reveal a country whose borders have the approximate shape of an elephant with its head and ears formed by the northern and eastern provinces and the trunk formed by the southern regions that extend to the Malay Peninsula.


Covering an area of about 514,000 km square, 200,000 square miles, Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world, almost equal in size to Spain. The country is situated between 7° and 21° of latitude and is bordered by Myanmar to the West, Laos to the Northeast, Cambodia to the East and Malaysia to the South. Thailand has a tropical climate and temperatures typically range from 19° to 38° C, 66°-100° F. Monsoon rains fall mainly from May to September, a cooler and dry weather occurs from November to March.


Bangkok, the English name of the capital, is a contraction of Bang Makok the village from which it arose, for the Thai people its name is กรุงเทพมหานคร "Krung Thep Maka Nakhon" or just กรุงเทพ, "Krung Thep". Its full ceremonial name is กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์, transliterated in "Krung Thep Maha Nakhron Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit", which translated literally means “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn”. The name of capital is listed in Guinness World Records as the world's longest place name.


Topographically the Thailand is characterized by a plateau that covers a third of the nation, extending from the north-east to the fertile valley of the river Chao Phraya, the Me Nam Chao Phraya in Thai, in the center. The mountains, covered with lush green forests with narrow fertile valleys, are concentrated in the north. The southern region of the peninsula is covered with lush rainforests coasts, and islands, full of paradisiacal beaches.


At the census of 2008 Thailand had 62,037,366 inhabitants, currently the population is unofficially 68 million inhabitants. Most of population lives in central regions, with a density of 119 inhabitants per km2. Thais are 75% of the population, 14% of residents are of Chinese origin and 2% of Malaysian origin. Among the smaller groups are the Hill Tribes, less than 1 million that were originally Chinese migratory peoples. The official religion is Theravada Buddhism, professed by about 95% of the population, the other professed religion is Muslim, mostly concentrated in the southern part of the country. The ethnic Thai is part of the group of the Tai-Kadai, a population that originally occupied the territories between Assam, in India, and island of Hainan, and from Sichuan to southern of modern Thailand. Belong to this group also the Ahom, who live in the region of Assam in India, the Shan in northern Burma, the Lao in Laos and Thailand, the Tay in Laos and Vietnam, the Nung in Vietnam, the Dai and the Zhuang that live in China. All these people have in common the origin of language, some traditions and Theravada Buddhism. The people of Thai are divided into four sub-groups: the central Thai, the Thai of north-east, also known as Isan, northern Thai and southern Thai. Among the different groups there are some language differences but, since the group of central Thai has always dominated the country in terms of political, economic and cultural, today the majority of Thai people speak, next to their dialects, the Thai official language, i.e. the language of who live in Bangkok.

 Provinces and Regions

Thailand is divided into 76 provinces, the Bangkok metropolitan area is an area with special status and is the 77th province. The provinces are divided into four major regions: the Central Region, the Northern Region, the North-Eastern Region and Southern Region. The Northern Thailand has 17 provinces, with Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the Lanna empire, as the most important city, and the area is characterized by slow big mountains. Central Thailand consists of 25 provinces plus the capital Bangkok, and is characterized by a plain center, with the fertile alluvial valley of the Chao Phraya River, and from one area to the east consists of bays and islands with several seaside resorts. Thailand of North East with 20 provinces, known as Isan, is the most agricultural of the nation, with extensive plains and hills. Thailand of South with 14 provinces is a series of hundreds of kilometers of beaches and countless islands that are a favorite of the Thai seaside tourism. The four major regions of Thailand are geographically distinct from each other, each of them has different features organic and inorganic, flora and fauna. Thailand is extended for 1,650 kilometers from north to south and 800 from east to west in its widest part and only 15 km in its narrowest part.

The central region of Thailand is characterized by the valley of the Chao Phraya River, the Rice Bowl of Asia, a large alluvial plain with expansive rice fields. This is also the most industrialized area of the country. The capital Bangkok is the center of life in the region, while Nakhon Sawan, located 240 km north of the capital, it is the second most important city. In the center of this plain there are also the old capitals Sukhothai and Ayutthaya full of ancient ruins and temples. The Me Nam Chao Phraya, or simply Menam, is the main river of Thalandia, the Mekong is undoubtedly larger, but never comes on Thai territory and serves as a natural border with Laos and Myanmar. The Chao Phraya River is formed in the central region of the country, precisely in Nakhon Sawan province, from the confluence of the two rivers: the Ping long 658 km, and Nan long 740 km, which have their sources in the Northern Thailand. From Nakhon Sawan the Chao Phraya runs for 372 km to the south, passing through Bangkok before flowing into the Gulf of Thailand. The drainage basin of the Chao Phraya River is 157,924 square kilometers, about 35% of the country. The river runs through the city of Nakhon Sawan, Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, Bangkok, Samut Prakan and is still today, as it was at the time of the Kingdom of Siam, an axis of transport and trade important for the nation, with immense caravans of barges that cross carrying rice and other commodities. The central area of Thailand is also rich in beautiful natural parks, including the Erawan National Park, in the province of Kanchanaburi, where you can see some fantastic scenery and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the nation. Kaeng Krachan National Park covers more than half of Petchaburi Province, at south of Bangkok, and is the largest national park in Thailand, located in the border with Burma. Kaeng Krachan National Park is about 3,000 square kilometers, with beautiful rainforests, grasslands, savannas, and mountains as high as 1,200 meters. In the North East of Bangkok, in Prachinburi province it is part of the park of Khao Yai, which covers over 2,000 square kilometers for most Sankamphaeng in the mountains, in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima, which is considered not only one of the best parks national dellaThailandia but one of the most beautiful in the world. The western area of the central region borders Myanmar and is characterized by the mountain ranges of the Tenasserim Hill that from Kanchanaburi province fall to Chumphon. In this area there are some of the major reservoirs and hydropower plants larger than Thailand, Vajiralongkorn Dam and the Srinakarin Dam in Kanchanaburi province. The mountains Kravanh, or Cardamom Mountains are a mountain range located in the south east on the border with Cambodia. These hills were one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge and for this reason have long been inaccessible. The area to the east is rich coasts and islands bordering the Gulf of Thailand. Pattaya, Koh Samet, Koh Chang, Koh Kood and Koh Mak are the most popular resorts and appreciated. In Trat province is the Mu Koh Chang National Park, a marine park with an area of 650 square kilometers with more than 52 islands.

The Northern Thailand is characterized by mountain ranges, the most imposing and high across the nation, with some of the most fantastic scenery in the country. Most of the region is a set of high mountains covered by forests with high peaks, beautiful caves and waterfalls, valleys crossed by impetuous rivers and lush hills with terraced rice fields. This area is home to some of the most beautiful natural parks of Thailand, and small villages inhabited by Hill Tribes like the Karen and Hmong. The North is also the area of the famous Golden Triangle, is located only 8 km from Chiang Saen in Chiang Rai province, and is the area where the river Ruak flows into the Mekong and together form the border between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Until a few years ago this area was the center of opium production, which was a source of livelihood for farmers being the province of Chiang Rai, one of the most rural areas of Thailand. Along the western border with Myanmar are the highest mountains in Thailand. The mountain range of Inthanon is the extreme part of the Himalayas, here is the Doi Inthanon, 2565 meters, which is the highest peak in Thailand. It is located in the district of Mae Chaem, in Chiang Mai province. In the province of Chaing Mai are also Doi Pha Hom Pok, 2,285 meters, Doi Chiang Dao, 2,175 meters, and the Doi Ang Khang high 1928 meters above sea level. Other high peaks are in Chiang Rai province, such as Doi Mae Tho, 2,031 meters, Doi Chang, 1720 meters and Doi Hua Mae Kham, 1,850 meters above sea level, which is a mountain near the border with Myanmar, home to several villages Hill Tribe. In the province of Mae Hong Son are other high peaks, such as Doi Mae Ya 2005 meters, the Doi Phong Sa Yan, 2,004 meters, Doi Lan 1,918 meters above sea level. The mountain range of Luang Prabang is located in the east of Northern Thailand, it forms the natural border with Laos. The area is included in the provinces of Nan, Uttaradit, and in small parts of the provinces of Loei and Phitsanulok. From this mountain range rise several rivers, the river Nan, the Pua and river Wa. The highest peaks are the Phu Soi Dao, 2,120 meters high, the Phu Khe, 2,079 meters, Doi Phu Kha, 1,980 meters and the Doi Phu Wae 1,837 meters high above sea level. The Northern Thailand is the source of the major rivers of Thailand. The Ping River, Mae Nam Ping, is 658 km long and originates from Doi Thuai, a mountain in the district of Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai province, an area known as the Little Tuscany. After crossing the city of Chiang Mai and Nakhon Sawan reaches along the Nan River form the Chao Phraya. The Nan River is the longest river of Thailand, 740 km, was born in the same province of Nan, by the chain of mountains of Luang Prabang, close to the border with Laos. Kok River, Me Nam Kok, is a tributary of the Mekong River. Kok River has its source in Myanmar, is long around 326 km, including 130 km are on Thai soil. In its alluvial valley lies Chiang Rai. Northern Thailand is also home to many natural parks, which attract every year thousands of hikers and lovers of trekking with their fantastic scenarios. Doi Inthanon National Park is one of the most beautiful mountain parks and unspoiled Thailand. The park is only 58 kilometers southwest of Chiang Mai, on the way to Mae Sariang, was founded in 1972 and has an area of 482 square kilometers. Inside the park there are villages of Karen Hill Tribe and Maew / Hmong for a total of about 4,500 people. The park was created to protect four of the main tributaries of the Mae Ping and the highest mountain of Thailand. The Park of Doi Suthep-Pui is located a few kilometers northwest of Chiang Mai and covers 265 square kilometers, and includes, in addition to Doi Suthep, the other two peaks Doi Buak Ha and Doi Pui, the latter with a height of 1,685 meters is the highest in the park. Among the main attractions of the park are waterfalls, caves, scenic views and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which is probably the most famous and important temple in Chiang Mai. Doi Luang National Park is located 65 kilometers south of Chiang Rai. The park covers an area of 1,170 km2, in the provinces of Chiang Rai, Lampang and Phayao, with rich vegetation composed of evergreen forests, several spectacular waterfalls an interesting array of wildlife and amazing views from its peaks. Park Khun Chae is located 56 kilometers south of Chiang Rai, and covers 270 km2. From its peaks you can admire panoramic views of the forests and the surrounding landscape. All these mountains are rich in wildlife and lush vegetation. In the territory there are cold winters, with temperatures in the range of 13-14° C, the lowest in the whole of Thailand, in the summer temperatures soar to record levels, with temperatures often exceed 36° C, the temperatures highest in the kingdom. The most important cities and characteristics of the region are Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Chiang Mai, known as the Rose of the North, is the largest city of the Northern Thailand, also from the cultural point of view. It is located about 700 kilometers from Bangkok and is situated close to the mountains with the highest peaks of the country. Chiang Rai, also called Siang Hai by Thais, is the largest city and capital of the northernmost province of Thailand in all about 840 kilometers north of Bangkok.

The region to the north east of Thailand, known as Isan, is the most populated area of the country, with many lively capital city of provinces, among which the most important is Nakhon Racthasima, better known as Korat, which is the second largest city in Thailand number of inhabitants. The other centers are vital Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Nong Khai near the border with Laos and Ubon Ratchathani on the border with Cambodia. The region is dotted with ruins reminiscent of domination by the Khmer Empire, but not much exploited for tourism. The Isan is a predominantly agricultural area, especially rice and sugar cane. The part of the region bordering Laos and Cambodia is home to some of the few remaining natural Teak forests in the world. Teak is a precious wood and there is a great demand both from the furniture factories that by the shipyards, so the natural forests in the world are gradually disappearing. Thailand has for years prohibited the cutting of natural forests, but given the continued demand for this valuable wood it was started cultivation. In this area the Mekong, in Thai Mae Nam Khong, marks the border between Laos and Thailand scrolling Vietnam south. The Mekong River is the longest and most important river of all of Indochina, one of the most important in Asia. The Mekong River is 4,880 km long and has a basin with an amplitude of 810,000 km². The river has its source the plateau of Tibet, cross the Yunnan Province of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and finally flows into the sea in Vietnam. The Mekong River is a huge and is a commercial waterway, although large monsoon rains, and the presence of rapids and waterfalls, restricting its use in several stretches. The region is geographically characterized by the Khorat Plateau that covers an area of 156,600 square kilometers, with an average altitude of 200 meters. The western edge of that decline towards the North East are the highest and, with the mountain range of Dângrêk Mountains form the natural border with Cambodia. The Dangrek are a group of mountains of moderate elevation, the average height is about 500 meters, the highest peaks are the Phalan Sun, 670 meters, the Phanom At Nak, 638 meters, and a mountain that has no name, in the Chong Bok, which with its 753 meters above sea level It is the highest peak of the mountain range. The Dângrêk Mountains are covered with tropical evergreen forest with a decent wildlife. In the region of Dângrêk Mountains, which was part of the ancient Khmer Empire as for most of Isan, is the Khmer temple of Prasat Preah Vihear. The temple is famous not only for its beauty, for a dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, which both claim the property. The mountains Phetchabun are two parallel mountain ranges, divided by the valley of the Pa Sak River. The two mountain ranges extend in the direction from north to south, and have about the same length. The chain is the western extension of the mountains of Luang Prabang, the east is the border between the great basin of the river Chao Phraya and the plateau of Korat. The highest peak is Phu Man Khao, which is located at the south of the mountain system in Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park and reaches 1,820 meters above sea level. The mountains of the Dong Phaya Yen Mountains it is extension of Phetchabun mountains. The chain has a length of about 170 kilometers, and extends from north to south, and joins the mountains Sankamphaeng. The area has an average altitude of between 100 and 900 meters above sea level, the Khao Yai Phang, 900 meters, is the highest peak. The Khao Yai National Park, which is the oldest natural park Thai is located in these mountains.

Southern Thailand is characterized geographically from the Isthmus of Kra, which is the long strip of land that connects the Malay Peninsula with the mainland Asia. The isthmus, which takes its name from the town of Kra Buri in Ranong province, separates the Andaman Sea, in the Indian Ocean, to the Gulf of Thailand. From an administrative point of view, the main provinces are Phuket, Surat Thani and Songkhla-Hat Yai. Southern Thailand is rich in rainforests with many national parks and nature reserves. The territory is not characterized by large mountains. The mountain range is the main system of the Tenasserim Hills, along 1,700 km. The Tenasserim Hills, running throughout the Isthmus of Kra, depart from Singapore, the extreme south of the Malaysian peninsula, until Myanmar. The range of hills rising share at South and North, forming the natural boundaries with Malaysia and Myanmar. In Khao Luang National Park, in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, it is the peak Khao Luang, the highest in South Thailand. The park is located in the heart of this province and covers 571 square kilometers, including many beautiful waterfalls that are located on the sides of Khao Luang, a summit that attracts many trekkers. At the southernmost of Thailand is the peak Ulu Titi Basah, which with its 1,533 meters is the second highest mountain in the region. The mountain is part of the chain Sankalakhiri, in Yala province, which is the northern section of the mountains Titiwangsa in Malaysia. In the Khao Phanom Bencha National Park, located in the province of Krabi, it is the other most important summit of the South, the Khao Phanom Bencha, with a height of 1,397 meters. With an area of 50 square kilometers, the park is characterized by a mountainous terrain and vegetation and lush rainforest, which is considered one of the most beautiful forests of Thailand. The most beautiful park in South Thailand is the Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani province, which has a total area of 739 square kilometers, including 165 square km of Cheow Lan Lake, a lake formed after the construction of the dam Ratchaprapha. The park includes the largest virgin forest in southern Thailand, this is a remnant of a rainforest that is older and more diverse than the Amazon rainforest. The South region is also the home of the most beautiful marine parks in Thailand. Similian Islands in the Andaman Sea, have been classified national Marine Park in 1982, and are the ultimate destination for any diver in the world. The Similan attract tourists and divers for the beauty of the underwater environment, full of rock formations and coral reefs rich of marine life. The Similans are situated 70 km from the coast, in the province of Phang Nga. The Surin Islands National Park is an archipelago of five islands in the Andaman Sea, 55 km from the Thai mainland, is also located in this province of Phang Nga. The National Marine Park of Koh Phi Phi-Thara is located in the province of Krabi and is universally known of its main island, the paradisiacal and unique Phi Phi Island. The view you get when crossing the narrow opening which leads to the Maya Bay, leave the tourists in awe. Surrounded on three sides by cliffs overlooking the sea 100 meters high, the bay is a natural amphitheater that is unmatched on the face of the earth, the main beach is about 200 meters long with a soft white sand and is considered one of the 10 beaches beautiful in the world. Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park is a beautiful in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of the province of Surat Thani. Near the park, but not part, placed in the Gulf of Thailand are the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are the most beautiful islands and seaside resorts on the east coast of the Isthmus of Kra. The Marine Park Koh Turatao consists of 51 islands in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of the province of Satun, the most southerly on the west coast of South Thailand. Park Tarutao consists of two groups of islands: Tarutao and Adang-Rawi, which are scattered between 20 and 70 km away from the coast. The coasts along the opposite sides of the Isthmus of Kra are curly of beaches and paradise islands, area of the most famous seaside resorts of Thailand. Phuket, Krabi and the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe is the destination of millions of visitors, fueling tourism, which is one of the primary sources Thai economies. Phuket, called the Pearl of the Andaman, with a surface area of 810 km2, is the largest island in all of Thailand, alone constitutes a province, with 80,000 inhabitants. Phuket is a tropical paradise of the Andaman coast has a beautiful rugged coastline that characterizes it, with tropical coastal scenery, pristine beaches of fine white sand, rocky cliffs, granite cliffs and dense tropical vegetation that is reflected onto the transparent blue waters of the sea. The view of the interior of this beautiful island is made up of a vast rain forest, rubber plantations, cocoa, pineapple and coconut palms.Koh Samui, also wrote Ko Samui, is located in the South of Thailand, about 700 km from the capital Bangkok and is part of an archipelago of 80 islands other, characterized by lush vegetation and crystal clear waters. Koh Samui is one of the major tourist attractions of Thailand. Koh Samui is the third largest island in the country, with an area of 228 square kilometers and 65,000 inhabitants.Krabi is a province on the west coast of southern Thailand. The town of Krabi, with approximately 53,000 inhabitants is the capital of the province. Much of the province is made up of national parks, land and sea. Krabi is a small gem in the Andaman Sea, its cliffs of limestone give rise to a unique and spectacular landscape. This resort boasts spectacular rock formations that attract climbers from all over the world. Although this area has become famous for lovers of adventure holidays in Thailand, and constitutes a real destination for climbing, most of the tourists will come to enjoy its beautiful beaches, the sun, the sea and explore the many surrounding islands.