Photo: Bask in the light at Khao Luang.


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Phetchaburi thrusts the charms of old Siam into modern Thailand with exquisite temples, palaces and century-old teak houses that lean over the narrow lanes and waterways. Throw in great food, beaches and jungle-draped mountains in the surrounding province and you have a destination which is popular with Thais, but underrated among foreign travellers.

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Similar to Chanthaburi in Eastern Thailand, Phetchaburi is absolutely worth a visit if you find history, architecture, food and nature inspiring—and you’re okay with stepping off the banana pancake trail. Though English is not widely spoken, a handful of guesthouses and hostels make things easier for foreigners, and locals have been notably friendly to us. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to join them for a meal in this classic Thai city, which has not yet been altered by mainstream tourism.

Old-style Thailand. Photo taken in or around Phetchaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

Old-style Thailand. Photo: David Luekens

Also spelt Phetburi, the “Diamond City” was first settled by the Dvaravati and Khmer empires more than 1,000 years ago. Driven east over the Tenassarim Mountains by Burman forces centuries later, Mon people brought a culinary tradition that can still be tasted in dishes like khao chae. During the Ayutthaya period, Phetchaburi prospered as a central point on the trade route between Siam, Burma and southern kingdoms like Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Phetchburi’s prominence fastened in the mid-19th century when Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace was built in dramatic fashion for King Rama IV atop a large hill overlooking the city. Rama V added the extravagant Phra Ram Ratchaniwet Palace with a German architectural style some five decades later, and his heir, Rama VI, continued the trend with Mrigadayavan Palace out on the seacoast. Each with distinctive designs hinting at the personalities of three kings who carried Siam into the modern era, the palaces initially served as royal holiday spots but are now open to the public.

Wooden houses and towering temples. Photo taken in or around Phetchaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

Wooden houses and towering temples. Photo: David Luekens

Bustling markets grip the east bank of the Phetchaburi River, which flows straight through town and is forded by several bridges marked by statues of Hindu mythology’s three-headed elephant, Erawan. On the western bank, info boards spotlight the heritage of teakwood houses in an old town anchored by the towering white prangs of Wat Mahathat Worawihan. Irresistible for art history buffs, it’s one of several temples in Phetchaburi donning ancient stucco reliefs in pristine condition.

In the province’s wild western reaches, nearly 3,000 square kilometres of mountains teem with wild elephants, leopards and rare birds in Thailand’s largest national park: Kaeng Krachan. To the east, a few mainland beaches—Cha-am, Chao Samran and Puk Tian—are popular with Thais as a getaway for the weekend but don’t come close to matching the beaches found further south.

Scenes of life. Photo taken in or around Phetchaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

Scenes of life. Photo: David Luekens

Picturesque rice paddies, salt farms and fishing villages blanket much of the province’s northeastern coastal area around Baan Laem and Bang Tabun, where you can arrange boat trips to watch Bryde’s whales from May to December. Further inland, palm plantations around the village of Baan Lat churn out the Palmyra sugar used in khanom mo-kaeng and other traditional Thai sweets that Phetchaburi is known for.

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Orientation Home to roughly 40,000 people, Phetchaburi town (Amphoe Mueang Phetchaburi) is capital of the same-named province and located 160 kilometres southwest of Bangkok. The province’s northern area is closely associated with neighbouring Samut Songkhram and Ratchaburi provinces. In the south, Cha-am is just up the road from the popular beach resort city of Hua Hin. Kaeng Krachan National Park stretches up to the Burma border in the west.

Food everywhere. Photo taken in or around Phetchaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

Food everywhere. Photo: David Luekens

Flowing from south to north, the Phetchaburi River slices through the centre of town. Fresh markets span several blocks along the eastern bank and here you’ll find bank branches on north-to-south running roads like Matyawong and Surinth Rue Chai. On the western bank, the most popular budget guesthouses stand near the corner of Chisa-In Road and Khlong Krachaeng Road, a narrow and picturesque lane running beside the river in an old town.

Visible from all over town, Khao Wang is a large limestone hill dotted with the chedis, palaces and museums of Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park, which is Phetchaburi’s must-see attraction. Ratchadamnoen Road runs from north to south on the east side of Khao Wang and features 35 statues depicting scenes from the Ramayana. Just west of Khao Wang, Phetkasem Road (Route 4) is a major highway running from Bangkok down to Southern Thailand.

At Wat Yai Suwannaram. Photo taken in or around Phetchaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

At Wat Yai Suwannaram. Photo: David Luekens

The central police station is on Ratchawithi Road, just west of Damnoen Kasem Road, the night market and a post office. The city has a few options for medical care, including Prachom Klao Hospital (T: (032) 709 999) to the north of town off Rot Fai Road near the train station; and Phetcharat Hospital (T: (032) 417 070) to the west at the corner of Bandai It Road and Phetkasem.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Phetchaburi.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Phetchaburi.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Phetchaburi.
 Read up on how to get to Phetchaburi, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Phetchaburi? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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