If you’ve ever been to Bangkok, you’ve seen the word “Phetchaburi.” It’s the name of one of the city’s main east-west thoroughfares, running parallel to Sukhumvit Road and just north of it.
What’s less common is having visited the street’s namesake: Phetchaburi province, which also happens to be home to Phetchaburi city. Both of these places are about as far off Thailand’s beaten path as you can go.
This post is meant to answer a fairly simple question—is Phetchaburi worth visiting?—but I’ll try to do so with as much nuance and detail as possible. If you do decide to go to Phetchaburi, I want you to set off informed, inspired and empowered!
Why I Finally Visited Phetchaburi
I always suspected that Phetchaburi was worth visiting, but didn’t get my chance to test this theory out until pretty recently. My husband and I were back in Thailand for the first time since we got married, and needed to pay a visit to his great aunt on the way to Khao Sok from Bangkok. Although we could’ve done a quick drive-by, we decided to use this as an opportunity to dig deeper into the province.
What I hope you’ll see over the course of the next few paragraphs is an opportunity to dig deeper into one of Thailand’s least-trodden reaches, even if you don’t have a personal connection to the province. While I can’t lie that exploring Phetchaburi would be difficult without Thai language skills (and arguably without your own set of wheels), it is possible for independent foreign travelers to enjoy a trip here.
My Favorite Things to Do in Phetchaburi
Enjoy the view from Phra Nakhon Khiri
The bad news? Many areas of the hilltop citadel of Phra Nakhon Khiri are in less than tip-top shape. The good news? From the moment you board the funicular at the bottom, to however long you spend exploring around up-top, this is one of the most deserted ancient attractions you’ll find anywhere in Thailand.
Dine on unique local cuisine
There’s a certain novelty to the foods that make Phetchaburi worth visiting. I can’t say that I love khaaw chae, a unique dish that pairs rosewater-soaked, ice cold rice with stingray meat and other things like it. On the other hand, other dishes (such as the fish-floss covered watermelon I’m eating in the main image) are more my taste.
Take a break in Phetchaburi City
Like many small Thai cities, Mueang Phetachaburi isn’t a tourist trap, and likely won’t win any beauty contests. But whether you enjoy seasonal spectacles such as the purple inthanin-bok trees that line its main street at the end of the rainy season, or the various cafes and temple courtyards you find there, it’s a pleasant town for a break.
Go underground at Tham Khao Luang
The main reason I find Phetchaburi worth visiting is literally in the dirt. I’m talking, of course, about Tham Khao Luang, a massive cave filled with golden Buddha images, which look absolutely enchanting when lit by sun that seeps in from time to time. Coming here is the primary reason I wanted to visit Phetchaburi!
Use Phetchaburi as a jumping-off point
South-central Thailand begins in Phetchaburi, but it doesn’t end there. For some travelers, a drive to Cha-am Beach will be the extent of their exploration. Others will head north to Ratchaburi on the their way back to Bangkok, while still others will consider heading south to Prachuap Khiri Khan, the home of Hua Hin.
How to Get to Phetchaburi—and Where to Stay
The easiest way to get from Bangkok to Phetchaburi is to drive. It takes around 3-4 hours, depending upon traffic and where in Bangkok you’re coming from. Having your own car also saves you the hassle of getting around Phetchaburi, which can be…well, a hassle. If you do want to come via public transit, frequent minibuses depart Bangkok’s Southern bus terminal; you can also ride trains about four times per day from Bang Sue Station.
While I think Phetchaburi is worth visiting even for a day if you don’t want to stay overnight, spending a couple of days here definitely sweetens the deals. As you can imagine, you won’t find any of Bangkok’s five-star hotels (or even the luxurious rural resorts of the north) here. At the same time, from boutique hotels like Bosston Hotel, to simpler properties like White Monkey Guesthouse, it’s easy to feel at home in Phetchaburi.
Other FAQ About Visiting Phetchaburi
What is Phetchaburi known for?
Phetchaburi is primarily known, at least among foreign travelers, for its association with one of Bangkok’s busiest roads. Among Thais, it’s known for its unique cuisine, for Cha-am Beach, and for the mysterious Tham Khao Luang cave.
How do I get from Bangkok to Phetchaburi?
The easiest way to get from Bangkok to Phetchaburi is to drive, whether in your own car, or in a taxi you hire for the journey. However, you can also travel via hourly minibuses, and from trains that depart Bangkok’s Bang Sue Station several times per day.
What is Phetchaburi local cuisine?
Phetchaburi has all kinds of unique local cuisine. The most unique is probably khaaw chae, which is cooked rice soaked in ice rose water and served with a variety of dried and fermented seafoods (including stingray), but you can also find more normal food in Phetchaburi, including gaeng gwa hua tan, i.e. palm toddy curry.
The Bottom Line
Is Phetchaburi worth visiting? I’m a bit biased, given my personal connection to the province, but I’d say that it’s a good option for adventurous travelers. Assuming you have the patience to get there and at least a few days to see what it has to offer, it’s a great place to get off Thailand’s beaten path. Additionally, once you’ve finished in Phetchaburi, you can easily expand your trip to nearby provinces like Ratchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan, the latter of which is home to the famous beach resort of Hua Hin. Need personalized help putting your Thailand trip together? Consider hiring me to plan it!