7 Amazing Things to do in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Kanchanaburi temple feature
Kanchanaburi temple feature

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Are you a traveler interested in history and the natural beauty of the places you visit? If so, Kanchanaburi, Thailand, should be high on your bucket list of places to see. The city's connection to WWII and its plethora of waterfalls and caves make it the perfect place to explore after leaving Bangkok. Check out seven amazing things to do in Kanchanaburi and start planning your trip!

Immerse yourself in WWII history

train on the Death Railway
train on the Death Railway

Kanchanaburi is notably most famous for the bridge over the Kwai River and the significance this spot has in WWII history.

The Oscar-award-winning movie Bridge over River Kwai was filmed here in 1957 and depicted what happened to Allied prisoners of war during WWII.

Another must while in the area is the nearby Death Railway Museum. It tells the story of those who lost their lives during the construction of the Death Railway, which provided a connection between Thailand and Burma (modern-day Myanmar). The Japanese used Allied POWs to construct the railroad, thousands of whom died from exhaustion and disease or were beaten to death by Japanese soldiers.

Exhibits in the museum are from the prisoners and include letters detailing the horrific conditions and what happened in Kanchanaburi in 1942-1943.

Explore Hellfire Pass

Hellfire Pass in Thailand
Hellfire Pass in Thailand

Hellfire Pass was an area cleared by prisoners of war to create the Death Railway.

Today you can walk the hiking trail to experience the conditions the workers suffered through.

If you decide to hike here, be prepared for some seriously uncomfortable conditions, even today. Temperatures can soar to 40℃ (104℉) during the day, and the terrain is very rugged, so the trail isn't for the faint of heart.

As you walk, think about what it was like for the captured Allied soldiers. It is nearly impossible to imagine that POWs suffered under these conditions for 18+ hours a day. While a sobering experience, it is definitely one of the top things to do in Kanchanaburi.

Visit the famous Kanchanaburi waterfalls

waterfalls in Kanchanaburi
waterfalls in Kanchanaburi

After all that intense exploration, it's time to chill out in the beautiful waterfalls Kanchanaburi is known for.

Erawan Falls is one of the most famous, and you can easily spend an entire day at Erawan National Park. (Check out point #4).

About 100 km (~62 miles) outside Kanchanaburi is Sai Yok National Park. There are three impressive falls to see here: Sai Yok Noi, Sai Yok Yai, and Sai Yok Lek.

Sai Yok Noi is a short walk from the Death Railway's final stop, Nam Tok. This waterfall isn't the most exciting, but it is pretty awesome to see the water cascading down over the limestone rocks.

Sai Yok Yai and Sai Yok Lek are located inside the national park. They are a bit bigger and more majestic than their neighbor. Once inside the national park, you can also explore some cool caves.

Enjoy a day at Erawan National Park

Erawan waterfall national park in Kanchanaburi Thailand
Erawan waterfall national park in Kanchanaburi Thailand

Erawan National Park is a gorgeous 550 square km reserve tucked away in the jungle.

Start by exploring Erawan Falls, a multi-tiered waterfall named after a three-headed elephant.

In tier one, you can treat yourself to a free fish pedicure from the resident minnows before climbing along the other tiers to take in the views.

The higher you climb, the better your views will be. Just be sure that you're ready to jump in the water to cool off because it gets hot!

In addition to the falls, you can spend the day wandering the Khao Hin Lan Pee nature trail or exploring the several caves throughout the park.

Spend an evening experiencing Kanchanaburi's nightlife

Thai food a street market
Thai food a street market

While Kanchanaburi has nothing on Bangkok, the abundance of backpackers passing through the city has helped ramp up Kanchanaburi nightlife in recent years.

No Thailand itinerary would be complete without a visit to a night market. And once the sun goes down, the Kanchanaburi Night Market is bumping.

It sells everything from food to souvenirs and is located right next to the train station. So follow your nose and try some of the great food cooked at the market. It's super affordable, and you'll get a taste of authentic local food.

Afterward, head out for a night on the town. There are a handful of cool bars and pubs to grab a drink and relax with friends for the evening.

Take a dip in the Hindad Hot Springs

people soaking in Hin Dat Hot Springs, Kanchanaburi Thailand
people soaking in Hin Dat Hot Springs, Kanchanaburi Thailand

After a stressful day of hiking or a somber day of learning about Kanchanaburi's checkered past, head to the Hindad Hot Springs to relax.

There are three different pools you can swim in, and they are the perfect temperature for soaking and taking in your surroundings.

Located right near the river Kwai, the springs are surrounded by trees that provide a lot of shade—a perfect relief for when you're too hot in the springs.

The best part is that Hindad also has a massage parlor on-site. So if you're not relaxed enough, you can always indulge in a famous Thai massage before leaving.

Hindad Hot Springs is definitely the most relaxing thing to do in Kanchanaburi!

Visit all of the temples

Temple in the shape of a dragon in Kanchanaburi
Temple in the shape of a dragon in Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi has plenty of temples, or Wats, to visit, and all of them are beautiful in their own way.

Wat Ban Tham is one of the most colorful temples in the area and was designed as a dragon. You enter a long staircase decorated with dragons and wind your way through until you exit the dragon's mouth at the first cave temple.

There are several stops along the way until you reach the top, decorated with a golden stupa.

The steps leading up to the top are hard work, but the views are spectacular and definitely worth it!

Wat Tham Sua is another temple not to be missed. The Tiger Cave Temple, as it is also known, is on a hill and provides impressive views of Kanchanaburi.

Note that this is still an active temple, so you may have the opportunity to see monks buzzing around throughout the day.

Right next door is Wat Tham Khao Noi, a Chinese temple. The structure and details of this temple are vastly different but just as beautiful.

Pro Tip: Even though Wat Tham Khao Noi and Wat Tham Sua are right next to each other, they are not connected. You will have to walk up and down the hill twice to see them both. Plan to get your steps in that day or visit them separately if it is too much.

How to get to Kanchanaburi

2 monks in orange robes walking on railway
2 monks in orange robes walking on railway

Getting from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is a breeze. You can easily travel the 130 km (~81 miles) by bus, minivan, or train.

If you are looking for ease and convenience, there is a direct bus or a shuttle between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi that takes about three hours.

The hardest part is deciding whether to take the scenic route and stop throughout Central Thailand or get there quickly to enjoy all the intriguing things to do in Kanchanaburi.

No matter how you choose to get there, you will enjoy the beautiful surroundings and learn about the area's historical connection to WWII.


Does Kanchanaburi have an airport?

Nope, but Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok is the closest airport.

Can you swim in Erawan Falls?

Yes–many of the pools allow you to go for a dip. It is generally always hot and humid in this area of Thailand, so bring your towel and plan to jump in!

Where exactly is Kanchanaburi?

Kanchanaburi is located 110 km (~70 miles) west of Bangkok, near the Myanmar border in western Thailand. It is situated right on the Kwai river.

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