Thailand is a huge country that is divided into 77 provinces. With so many places to explore, it’s a shame to see so many people choosing to visit the same tourist hotspots like Phuket, Koh Samui, and Bangkok over and over again. These places and the islands are stunning but there are so many other incredible places to discover. One of these places is Kanchanaburi.
Kanchanaburi is relatively overlooked when holiday-goers plan their trips. In terms of an ex-pat community here, it’s relatively quiet but that’s what I love about it. If you are looking for a party location, then maybe Kanchanaburi isn’t the spot for you but if you are wanting to explore nature, learn about history and culture, and relax in a beautiful location surrounded by mountains, fields, and jungles then Kanchanaburi should be on your schedule.
A little look at the History of Kanchanaburi
You may never have visited Kanchanaburi but I bet that you have heard of it. Kanchanaburi has a very famous history. You may have seen the 1957 film “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, The film dramatized the WWII story of the Thailand-Burma Railway. The River Kwai Bridge was part of the meter-gauge railway constructed by the Japanese during World War Two.
Also known as the “Death Railway”, it was constructed by the Japanese using the forced labour of hundreds of thousands of civilians from southeast Asia and prisoners of war from the Allies’ forces. These soldiers were principally from the UK and its colony in India, the Netherlands and its Dutch East Indies colony, Australia, and the United States. You can visit and pay respects to the beautifully kept Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in the centre of town.
The bridge that you see today isn’t actually the original bridge. After World War II, the damaged bridge was renovated by the Thai government in 1946. Kanchanaburi holds The Bridge of the River Kwai Memorial Week from late November to early December every year and is celebrated with a giant festival, games, food, and a reenactment of the war on a stage that floats on the water.
Location & Transportation
Kanchanaburi province covers an area of approximately 19,473 square kilometres and is the 3rd largest province in Thailand. Kanchanaburi is located about 3 hours (129 kilometres) west of Bangkok. There are many options on how you can travel to the area. The most popular modes of transportation are either by bus, minivan, taxi, or train.
From Bangkok, you can easily hop on a bus or minivan from the Mochit new van terminal. Both cost around 100 Baht and take about 2-3 hours depending on traffic. The bus is my preferred choice over the mini-vans as you have more room to spread out. You can also get the train from Thonburi train station, the train is by far my favourite way to travel to Kanchanaburi. If you would like to read more about this journey, please check out this blog I wrote about my train ride from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. You can also travel by taxi, it is a lot more expensive (Around 1900 Baht) but more comfortable and will take you directly to where you want to go.
Nature & Places To Visit
The terrain in Kanchanaburi is mostly mountains and high plains, with the Thanon Thongchai Range acting as a natural border between Thailand and Myanmar. The Thanon Thongchai range is the source of Kanchanaburi’s two most important rivers, the River Kwai Noi and the River Kwai Yai. These two rivers meet and form the famous Mae Klong River. The endearing beauty and spectacular landscapes, paired with the rich history are just some of the things that attract tourists to Kanchanaburi.
If you adore being out in nature and are wanting to visit some different nature and wildlife spots while in Kanchanaburi, here are my top recommendations:
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Kanchanaburi is Erawan Waterfall. Erawan National Park is located in West Thailand in the Tenasserim Hills range of the Kanchanaburi Province, about a 1-hour drive from the town centre. Erawan is well-known for its seven separate tiers of stunning blue waters. Besides the waterfall, Erawan National Park also has a handful of limestone caves that people can explore.
If you would like to read more about Erawan, please check out this post I wrote about it. While you are visiting Erawan, don’t forget to stop at the Srinagarind Dam. There isn’t anything to do there but the view is worth it!
Top tip: Wild monkeys live in this area, not only in the national park. Keep your eyes peeled in the tree along the main road to Erawan, you might see some cheeky macaque monkeys swinging around.
Huai Mae Khamin Waterfall
Huai Mae Khamin Waterfall is a hidden gem located in the Khuean Srinagarindra National Park in the Kanchanaburi province about a 2-hour drive from the town centre. When most tourists visit Kanchanaburi, they all flock to Erawan Waterfalls. If you are looking for something even more beautiful without the packs of tourists then head to Huai Mae Khamin.
Similar to Erawan Waterfalls, Huai Mae Khamin has 7 levels of waterfall, each more strikingly beautiful than the last. If you walk to the right down the waterfalls you will find several jaw-dropping waterfalls and pools of water. There are some steep wooden steps to walk down but after that, the path is more of a wooded slope and walkway. Take a walk to the bottom of the waterfall and behold the beauty before you. If you would like to read more about Huai Mae Khamin and my experience camping here, check out this post.
Chaloem Rattanakosin National Park
Located about an hour and a half drive away from the main town in the Saway district of Kanchanaburi, this park is a relatively easy drive to take. The highest peak of this park’s mountain range is Kam Pang with a height of 1,260 meters. You’ll first discover Tham Lot Noi Cave. Once deep inside the cave, we were surprised to find bats, lots and lots of bats. The cave is full of hanging stalactites and stalagmites.
There are two falls in this park, Namtok Than Thong and Namtok Than Ngoen. These falls aren’t the type that you can swim in, so if you are wanting to swim I would check out Erawan Waterfall or Huai Mae Khamin. If you are looking for a great hike with breathtaking views over the treetops and waterfalls, then this place is perfect for you. If you would like to read more about this national park, click here!
If you love temples, buildings, and architecture, then Kanchanaburi is the perfect destination for you. There are temples all across Thailand, in every Province but Kanchanaburi has an abundance of stunning temples. If you do decide to visit a temple in Thailand please always keep in mind that these are active places of worship for the locals and not a tourist attraction. Tourists are normally very welcome and encourage to visit the temples but please be respectful. If you are a bit nervous about visiting a temple, how to act, or what to wear, check out this post I wrote.
Wat Thipsukhontharam Temple
This eye-catching standing buddha statue and temple is located about half an hour’s drive out of the main town of Kanchanaburi, close to Bo Phloi. This is one of the biggest standing buddha statue temples in the whole of Thailand, standing at a whopping 32 meters tall. It was constructed in 2012 for the 84th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the 80th birthday of Queen Sirkit.
Wat Thipsukhontharam is beautifully kept and the grounds are looked after incredibly well. It is in the centre of a giant park filled with trees and pretty flowers. There is also a small water fountain, some smaller statues, and some temple buildings for you to enter. The entry fee was free when I visited in 2021 and there is a huge car park and a small shop on site.
Wat Tham Suea (Tiger Cave Temple)
This is possibly the most well-known and popular temple to visit in Kanchanaburi named Wat Tham Suea but you may know it is a Tiger Temple (Not to be confused with the tiger temple that housed tigers and was shut down a few years ago, different places!). This stunning temple is located just over the river from the main town area in Kanchanaburi.
Once you arrive at the temple, you have the choice of either walking up a silly amount of steep steps, 157 steps to be precise, or you can pay a small fee (20/30 baht) and take the train. Many people don’t actually like the train as it is very steep but it beats walking up all the stairs in my eyes! Once you’re at the top of the temple steps you’ll see a huge 18-meter tall high and 10-meter wide sitting Buddha statue. It is covered in golden mosaics and can be seen from far away, it truly is an amazing site.
There are a few different temples that you can explore here, including Wat Tham Khao Noi which is a 7-story high chedi (Chedi is an alternative term for a Buddhist stupa. It is generally considered to be a sepulchral monument—a place of burial or a receptacle for a religious object). If you are looking for the best view of the area then I highly recommend you hike up these stairs, but sadly there isn’t a train for these steps.
Wat Tham Pu Wa
This used to be a very popular temple, but tourists seemed to have forgotten about this now-hidden gem. This temple is unique in itself due to its detailed architecture and the red stone used to build this stunning building. The temple is located in the middle of nowhere and up to a very large winding hill. Once you arrive at the site you will be welcomed by a giant statue of buddha made from red stone. This statue stands above all of the buildings in the area and is strikingly beautiful. To the right of this statue, you have the main temple.
Built with red sandstone, this temple is unique and stands out from the rest. The detail carved into the stone is impressive. Once you enter the temple, you will walk some more steps into a large cave. The top level is covered in shrines and notes from visitors. If you walk to your right you will come to some stairs leading down into the cave. In the lower level of the cave, you will see a large golden buddha statue with a flowing waterfall behind it. Maybe monks come here to pray and meditate. You can explore the lower level of the cave and see the different shrines hidden around the cave. This is one of my favourite temples just purely for its unique design and the lack of tourists.
Tham Kaew Kanchanaphisek
This is a quiet well-hidden temple even though it’s in plain sight! Tham Kaew Kanchanaphisek is a temple located on the side of a large hill over the water from the main town of Kanchanaburi. It is very close to Wat Tham Suea which is why I believe it is overlooked, most people don’t even realise it’s there! I would recommend seeing these two temples at the same time since they are very close to each other.
At this temple, you’ll find a giant white buddha statue overlooking the whole of Kanchanaburi town and the river, the view is amazing. There is also a cave called Diamant Cave and a new cafe has just been built here called Cafe on the Mountain. Here they sell delicious cakes, and drinks and offer stunning views of the river and temples in the distance. Be warned, the hill up to the temple is very steep so be careful driving up!
Maybe temples and architecture aren’t really your thing and you’re looking for something different to do, something a bit more fun and unique. Here are some of my top recommendations for things to do and places to go in Kanchanaburi.
Tham Krasae Bridge
Tham Krasae Bridge is the longest railway bridge in Thailand and one of the most famous as it is part of the infamous Death Railway. This impressive bridge was built over only 17 days in 1943. There is a very sad history behind this railway. During World War II, Japanese occupiers used prisoners of war as labourers to build a rail line from Myanmar to Thailand to help keep their troops supplied. Horrific working conditions resulted in more than 12,000 Allied prisoners of war losing their lives working on it.
Today, the bridge is still active and you can ride the train from Bangkok or Kanchanaburi and get off at the Tham Krasae stop or you can drive to this station if you don’t fancy the train. Here you can walk along the train tracks, and see the stunning view of the river surrounded by the hills. There is also a cave that you can explore and plenty of shops to buy souvenirs at. If you drive to the station, you might see some wild monkeys that live alongside one of the main roads.
Hin Dad Hot Spring
These hot springs are still on my to-do list but I had to include them on this list as it is something special and unique. Hin Dad hot springs were first discovered by Japanese soldiers during World War II. There are 3 pool areas with different heat levels. The surface water temperature is 40-100 degrees Celsius while the hot spring water temperature is 45-55 degrees Celsius. I imagine this would be lovely in the cool season (The cool season in Kanchanaburi is roughly October until January), but I don’t think this would be enjoyable during the summer months!
It is believed that soaking in the Hin Dad hot springs is beneficial and healthy for the body. This is due to its properties and relief of different symptoms such as bone pain, and muscular aches. It also helps to enlarge pores and remove dirt under the skin, this helps clean and nourish, as well as brighten your skin. I haven’t gotten around to visiting here yet, my Husband that has also lived in Kanchanaburi his whole life hasn’t visited these springs yet so we will have to check it out one day.
Visit Our Land
I have not had the pleasure of visiting Our Land in person yet but I have been following them for a while on Social Media and I think the work that they are doing is great and everyone should go and support them. If you want to do something fun, educational and to do with nature and wildlife then visiting Our Land should definitely be on your list.
Taken from their website “OurLand began as an escape, a retreat into nature. It turned into a vision for a future where people can live in harmony with nature. We work to blend a technologically advanced lifestyle with respect for the wild spaces that cradle biodiversity. OurLand works to protect and reestablish wildlife corridors while developing sustainable techniques and systems for living in harmony with nature”.
They offer numerous packages and programs for you to choose from including “All about Elephants”, “A day in the jungle” and “Visiting Serpentine Education Center”. It’s a fun and educational day out for everyone and something a bit different to experience. Visit the Our Land website to read more about the awesome work they are currently doing.
Boat Trip at Sai Yok
Sai Yok Noi National park is well known for its waterfalls, caves, historical sites and raft houses along its main river Khwae Noi. Sai Yok National Park is about half an hour out of the main town, it is a very popular destination so if you go during a weekend or public holiday, expect it to be busy.
The main attraction that people travel here to see is the Sai Yok Lek Waterfall, it is beautiful but very small so if you are looking for an impressive waterfall, stick to Erawan. If you are looking for a nice walk, a swim or some food with a nice river view then this is the place for you. One of the best activities you can do here is taking a long boat ride along the River Khwae Noi. I can’t remember exactly how much this cost but it was such a cool experience that I recommend it. The boat will take you along the river, past the waterfall and then stops at a restaurant if you are hungry, once you’ve eaten they will take you back to the start. The view from the boat was spectacular
One thing Kanchanaburi has a variety is, is cafes and restaurants. There are so many small, locally run restaurants to try but if you like me and like to find a special place to dine, maybe with an impressive view or aesthetically pleasing interior, then you should definitely check out some of the cafes and restaurants listed below.
The Curve Cafe
The Curve Cafe Kanchanaburi is situated on the curve of the River Khwae Noi, hence the name. It is directly above the bend of the river and offers magnificent mountain and river views. The train track also runs directly next to the cafe and is an amazing sight to see. The train beeping help while rolling through the mountains and its passengers waving with excitement as they pass the cafe, it is such a special moment for everyone.
The cafe itself is stunning and aesthetically pleasing with swings, fun seating areas and chairs making full use of the dramatic background. This is the perfect place to visit if you like taking pictures. They also offer an assortment of drinks and cakes which are delicious and reasonably priced. This is a cafe that should be on your to-see list. You should also check out the cafe right next door called BARME and Tea Cafe, this cafe offers the same jaw-dropping views, delicious cakes and drinks but they offer more photo opportunities compared to the Curve Cafe.
This is a relatively new cafe to open in Kanchanaburi and I wanted to add it because of its location. The others are a bit more difficult to get to via public transportation but this cafe is in the main town area, and it is very close to the River Kwai Bridge. You most likely could walk directly to this cafe from the bridge.
The Rainforest Cafe has been designed to look like a rainforest, including lots of impressive greenery, plants and even a smoke machine to give it that tropical feel. This cafe/restaurant is the perfect place to go and relax, and have a coffee or a meal. They offer a variety of food and drinks inclined pizza, traditional Thai food and desserts that are all a treat for the eyes as well as the mouth. This unique cafe is one not to be missed while in Kanchanaburi.
Keeree Mantra & The Village Farm to Cafe
This is a really special cafe and restaurant, located about 10 minutes out of the main town of Kanchanaburi on one of the main roads to Sai Yok. Keeree Mantra is a huge, fancy restaurant offering stunning views of a park-like area, a huge lake and rolling hills in the background. The food is a bit more expensive but worth it for the taste, experience and views. I had a giant fish here like the ones I eat at the beach and honestly, it was perfect.
The Village to Farm cafe is right next door and shares the same park and lake view. This cafe has a variety of desserts and drinks available as well as plants and cacti for sale. If you walk behind the cafe, they have umbrellas available to protect you from the sun, cute geese running around and a photography area. In the photo area, you’ll find a giant lavender field, and a huge wooden house with multiple photoshoot areas, including a walkway with glass windows above the field. There is also a big wooden swing, a little cafe and a cactus house. If you like aesthetically pleasing cafes with photoshoot opportunities then this is the cafe for you.
I had to give a little shout-out to the best pizza in Kanchanaburi! Bells Pizza. Bells Pizza is a small restaurant located on the main walking street in Kanchanaburi, Tha Ma Kham. If you are staying in a hotel in town then this restaurant will most likely in walking distance for you. There isn’t a nice view unless you like to look at other restaurants and massage shops but the food is incredible, they hands down make the best pizza in town and it is reasonably priced as well.
They also offer some different foods and drinks and are open from 4 pm until 10 pm most days. The owners are very friendly and the restaurant has a lovely atmosphere so if you are in Kanchanaburi and in the mood for pizza, definitely check out Bells Pizza.
Punpun Farm and Cafe
This cafe has such a special feel about it, and I only found it by chance while on the way to Erawan Waterfalls. Punpun Fame and Cafe are about half an hour’s drive out of the main town of Kanchanaburi, along the main road to Erawan. You have to drive down a bit of a dirt track road to find it but it is worth it! There is the main cafe building with an open dining area at the top which offers 360-degree views of the river and, mountains. This area feels like you are in a fancy hotel on the islands. It’s beautiful!
Then there are a few other smaller buildings that you can sit in, lie down in and enjoy. They also grow their crops and have a few chickens. As you walk through the pretty grounds full of flowers towards the river, you’ll come across a kid’s play area. It has some swings, slides, a big trampoline and a huge climbing frame so if you have kids this would be a fun place to take them to. There are also a few cool photoshoot areas like stairs that go up into the sky over the river and hanging chairs. You can also borrow life jackets and swim in the river, but always be careful in the river!
They also have an assortment of food drinks ad desserts available, it is slightly more expensive than other places but you are paying for the view and experience as well. I adore this cafe and the staff are lovely. If you are going to Eraean, I would defiantly recommend that you stop here along the way.
You may have noticed that I haven’t recommended any animal places, sanctuaries or zoos to visit while in Kanchanaburi. That is because the majority of them are not ethical for the animals in Kanchanaburi. Please be careful before visiting any form of animal tourism while in Thailand. If you would like to read more about how to tell if a place is ethical or not, click here.
Kanchanaburi is a lovely Province that is full of nature, wildlife, history and culture. It is only a short journey away from Bangkok and is the perfect weekend getaway. Whether you enjoy visiting temples, photography, nature, hiking… Kanchanaburi has it all. There are also some fun bars and nightclubs in town, areas you can find wild monkeys, and elephants as well as some dog sanctuaries that you could check out. These recommendations only cover a small number of awesome things to do and see in Kanchanaburi, come and see for yourself!
Did you find this guide helpful? Have you been to Kanchanaburi before? Let me know in the comments below.