Sakon Nakhon is known as the birthplace of Indigo dyed fashion in Thailand. It’s Wax Castle Festival and Christmas Star Parade have made news worldwide. The province’s organic cattle farm cooperative Pon Yang Kham produces the best beef in Thailand, with a flavor that some experts say is tastier than Japan’s famous Wagyu beef. Sakon Nakhon is known as a “Dharma Basin,” with hundreds of forest and mountain temples, in which famous Thai monks have lived and meditated. It also is home to Ban Tha Rae, the largest Catholic community in Thailand.
If you are interested in cultural tourism and traveling off the beaten path in Thailand, Sakon Nakhon is absolutely worth visiting! Far away from the tourists crowds, Sakon Nakhon is a wonderful place to explore Issan culture and the traditions of tribal communities, such as the Phu Thai, Thai Yo, and Tai Kaleng, as well as discover why the region is described as the culinary capital of Thailand.
Sakon Nakhon is located in the Northeast of Thailand, with the provinces of Nong Khai to the Northwest, Bueng Kan to the North, Nakhon Phanom to the East, Mukdahan to the Southeast, Kalasin to the South, and Udon Thani to the West. Sakon Nahon city is located about 100 kilometers (1.5 hours) from the 3rd Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Nakhon Phanom, which stretches across the Mekong River to Laos.
Sakon Nakhon is located about 650 kilometers (404 miles) northeast of Bangkok. It takes about 10 hours to travel from Sakon Nakhon to Bangkok by bus, and a little over an hour by plane. From Chiang Mai it takes 4 hours to reach Sakon Nakhon by plane (due to a stopover in Bangkok), and about 14 hours by bus, covering a distance of about 780 kilometers or 480 miles.
You can get to Sakon Nakhon by plane, rental car, or VIP bus. If you are traveling to Sakon Nakhon from Bangkok, there are also public vans available. To search online for vans going from Bangkok to Sakon Nakhon use this Thai text: รถตู้กรุงเทพไปสกลนคร. There are no trains which travel to Sakon Nakhon. But you could take a train to Udon Thani and then hop on a bus for 2.5 hour ride to Sakon Nakhon.
Sakon city and province are a very safe place to visit. You should have little concern traveling at any time of the day or night. However, as with all places in Thailand, women should not walk on the streets late at night by themselves. And to be extra safe, all sexes should avoid male-dominated karaoke bars after midnight. However, if you are a night-owl, it is safe to party at discos (which are filled with young Thais) into the wee morning hours, as long as you are with friends and don’t overindulge in alcohol.
Yes, Sakon Nakhon has rolling mountains that stretch across a large portion of the province. These mountains are part of the Phu Phan Mountain Range and three national parks: Phu Phan National Park, Phu Pha Yon National Park, and Phu Pha Lek National Park. There are also other elevated hills scattered throughout the province.
Pha Dong Ko (ผาดงก่อ), pronounced pah dohng gaw, is the highest peak in Sakon Nakhon, and the highest peak of the Phu Phan Mountain Range. It reaches a height of 622 meters above sea level and is part of the Phu Pha Lek National Park in the Song Dao district, which is about 1 hour and 45 minutes west of Sakon Nakhon city.
The city name Sakon Nakhon is derived from Sanskrit (the ancient and classical language of India), and means “City of Cities”.
Sakon Nakhon city was given its name during the reign of King Rama III (1824-1851). And the province became officially recognized in 1892. However, the history of the Sakon Nakhon region stretches back over 3,000 years with prehistoric cave paintings found at Pha Phak Wan in the Phu Pha Lek National Park. There are also multiple ancient Khmer era temple ruins scattered throughout the province, the most famous of which is Phra That Phu Phek.
Phraya Suriyadet became the first governor of Sakon Nakhon in 1892. He was appointed to the position by King Chulalongkorn.
The most famous person from Sakon Nakhon is likely Ajarn Fun Acharo, a highly revered monk with a museum built in his honor at Wat Pa Udom Somphon. Another famous Sakon Nakhon figure is Tiang Sirikhan (aka General Phu Phan), who was instrumental in organizing the The Free Thai (or Seri Thai) movement during World War II. This resistance movement fought against the Japanese occupation of Thailand.
Yes, Sakon Nakhon has three universities. Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University is a large public college, with 240 acres of beautiful campus grounds, located about 10 minutes from the city. Kasetart University (Chalermphrakiat Campus) is a large private university, also with a gorgeous campus, located about 15 minutes north of the airport. Lastly, Rajamangala University of Technology is located in the Phang Kon district, about 50 minutes northwest of downtown Sakon Nakhon.
Yes, Sakon Nakhon has a Robinson’s Lifestyle Center, which has a Robinson’s Department Store, Tops Supermarket, Cinema, fast food restaurants, Japanese restaurants, computer stores, shoe stores, clothing stores, and more. It’s located on the main road about 3 kilometers west of the Sakon Nakhon City Gate. There is also a Lotus’s Department Store nearby the city Gate, and Big C Department Store in the city center.
If you are looking for traditional or cultural items, one of best places to shop in Sakon Nakhon is Rueang Sawat Road, which parallels Wat Phra That Choeng Chum, one of the province’s most famous temples. This small road has many retail shops selling indigo dyed clothing, handwoven garments, locally harvested honey, mao wine, and Sakon Nakhon souvenirs such as t-shirts, and more.
Sakon Nakhon is visited primarily by Thai tourists from neighboring provinces, who come for the beautiful mountain temples, such as Wat Tham Kham. It receives very few tourists from Western countries or China. This makes Sakon Nakhon one of the best places in Thailand to visit, if you want to immerse yourself in Thai culture without being distracted by foreign tourists. Sakon Nakhon truly lives up to its name as “Thailand’s Hidden Gem,” because only the intrepid tourist who is fascinated by Thai culture comes here.
Visiting Sakon Nakhon’s mystical mountain and tourist temples is a popular activity, because Thai temples are not just places of worship but spiritual art galleries with Buddhist and Hindu statues, paintings, and architecture. As we explain in our post, Every Sakon Nakhon Temple is Different, there is something new to discover and learn at every temple you visit in the province. Touring Sakon Nakhon’s many coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants is another fun activity. You can also hike the province’s national parks, and refresh yourself in waterfalls during the rainy season.
When it comes to Buddhist temples, Wat Tham Pha Daen is Sakon Nakhon’s most famous tourist attraction. It is the temple where you will see the most tourists (especially on weekends). Thousands of Thai tourists come to Sakon Nakhon every year in October to marvel at the intricate floats of the Wax Castle Parade. Thousands more visit in December to view the gorgeous floats of the Christmas Star Parade. This yuletide celebration is held in the Catholic village of Ban Tha Rae, a tourist attraction in its own right due to its interesting fusion of European and Thai architecture.
It is difficult to say where is the best place to stay in Sakon Nakhon, because it all depends on your itinerary. Most visitors to Sakon Nakhon don’t spend much time in their accommodations except to sleep, because they are too busy exploring! All you really need from a Sakon Nakhon hotel or guest house is a quiet room and a decent bed. However, if you are looking for a traditional Thai style guesthouse in the downtown area, we can reccomend Baan Sa Ngiam-Manee. If you are traveling outside of Sakon Nakhon city, small guesthouses are plentiful. Just look for the Thai signage that says: โรงแรม or รีสอร์ท.
You are unlikely to encounter anyone in Sakon Nakhon who has English skills beyond a very basic level, although this is changing some as English education in the province improves. This means that you should become very good at using Google Translate or the free SayHi App, which we believe is the best English to Thai translation app for facilitating conversations in Thailand. You should also master a few dozen common Thai words and phrases for asking questions and understanding replies, as well as know how to speak Thailish when in a pinch.
Sakon Nakhon is the coldest place in Thailand, with a lovely cool season from December to February. Sakon Nakhon is also one of the hottest places in Thailand with occasionally brutally high temperatures in April and May. The rainy season stretches from June through October, with the majority of the rains occuring late ate night and early morning. Rain during the day usually only happens in bursts and rarely will ruin a day of sightseeing. For more information, view our post on Sakon Nakhon weather.
The two best times to visit Sakon Nakhon are during the mid-late rainy season (August to October) and around Christmas. Northeast Thailand is at its most beautiful during the rainy season, with flowers in full bloom, waterfalls overflowing, and rice fields a gorgeous green. During the Christmas season, you’ll enjoy the cool weather and be enchanted by the Christmas lights that adorn nearly every home and building in the Catholic village of Ban Tha Rae.
Sakon Nakhon is an excellent place to teach English in Thailand. Most of the students (be they secondary school or university) have never had a foreign English teacher, especially a Western teacher from the U.S, Britain, Australia, or Canada. Isaan students are very welcoming and a pleasure to teach, with few disciplinary problems. One interesting school that accepts a few volunteer English teachers every year is the Vithidham School at SNRU. While this is a volunteer, rather than a salaried, position, the program head of the Secondary School, Chorlada Suppaso, makes sure all volunteers have a fantastic Thailand experience.
There are many very good massage shops in Sakon Nakhon. One of the most popular among Thai locals and foreign expats is Nakan Thai Massage & Spa. You can only locate them by their Thai name: ณกานต์ นวดแผนไทย & สปา. Some of the staff do speak English there, which is unusual for an upcountry Thai spa. Note that traditional Thai massages are so cheap in Sakon Nakhon, ranging from 300-500 baht ($8.50 – $14.50) for 90 minutes, that you will always find you are getting your money’s worth. If browsing store fronts, just look for the words นวด (massage) and/or สปา (spa) to find someone who is offering Thai massage.
Unfortunately, there is no place in Sakon Nakhon to rent a motorbike at the moment, which is a shame as Sakon Nakhon is one of the best places in Thailand to take a motorbike tour. If you are interested in motorcycling around Sakon Nakhon during your visit to Thailand, you will need to rent a motorcycle in the neighboring province of Udon Thani, and then drive to Sakon Nakhon. If you are motorcycling, be sure to check out our saftey tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand.
There are a number of companies that rent cars and vans in Sakon Nakhon, but currently they don’t cater to English speakers and you may have a difficult time communicating with the rental operators. However, if you want to givie it a try, visit this website: https://www.เช่ารถสกลนคร.com/. If you are planning to stay in Sakon Nakhon for a week or more, and want to deal with a rental operator that commonly deals with foreigners, try UD Car Rent in Udon Thani, who will deliver your vehicle to Sakon Nakhon.
Yes, you can find many restaurants in Sakon Nakhon serving Western food. Apple’s Restaurant is one of the best foreign retaurants in Sakon Nakhon. They serve almost exclusively Western dishes, including Italian, Mexican, and American dishes and sandwhiches. Many Thai restaurants serve a few Western dishes, such as sphagetti and steaks, but perhaps the best Thai restaurant with a delicious assortment of Western dishes is Ban Fa Prong.
Yes, Sakon Nakhon has a number of Japanese restaurants, including several at the Robinson’s Lifestyle Mall. All are quite good! If you are looking for a small, quaint Japanese restaurant, we can recommend Keshiki Relax, which is located in the downtown area.
Sakon Nakhon does not have any sit-down Indian restaurants. There is a homemade Indian food provider named Namasety, but they produce Indian food only for delivery in downtown Sakon Nakhon or pickup near Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University. You also can order frozen homemade Indian food delivered to your door from Ruby Murry’s Curry (which is very affordable and tasty).
Many of the province’s forest and mountain temples provide a great opportunity for hiking in Sakon Nakhon. For example, Tham Thoeng Nak Nimit Priest’s Camp has a beautiful hiking path that few people ever visit and thus delightfully solitary. There are also many lakes and reservoirs around which to hike, as well as three Thailand national parks.
While we may seem a little biased, the best place to get Sakon Nakhon tourism information (in English) is our website MySakonNakhon.com. We are the only English website dedicated to exploring and promoting Sakon Nakhon province. We spend many hours every week updating the site with new information and places to visit.
Yes, the Sakon Nakhon movie theater (Major Cineplex) at the Robinson’s Lifestyle Mall shows the English speaking version of some major Hollywood films. And sometimes Thai movies will be shown with English subtitles. These movies in English are not shown every day, so you should check the current schedule at Sakon Nakhon Movies.
To go swimming in Sakon Nakon, you could always follow the locals’ lead and swim in the canals or waterfalls (during the rainy season). Other options include the swimming pool at Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University or the swimming pool at the Technic Phuphan Technological College, which is just down the road from the Sakon Nakhon clock tower. There is also the Aloha Water Park, which has large water slides.
Sakon Nakhon is an excellent place to retire in Thailand, if you are on a limited income, want a high quality of life, and enjoy peaceful living. The English mantra of the province is “Sakon Nakhon Slow Life”. So, if you enjoy a slow and meandering existence versus the hectic city life of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, or Pattaya, Sakon Nakhon may be a great place for you. The minimum pension for a nice quality of life is only around US $1,000 or 30,000 baht.
There are a few hundred foreigners scattered throughout the province. But you wouldn’t really know it. Because unlike other places in Thailand the expat foreigners don’t congregate in certain villages or drinking establishments. They mostly keep to themselves and have Thai friends or family who they socialize with. However, there are a couple bars where foreigners will occasionally meet. These include Chilly Bar and Tina’s Expat Bar.
In downtown Sakon Nakhon, houses can be rented anywhere from 5,000 – 15,000 baht a month ($150 – $425), depending how large a place you want, and if you want anything special like a swimming pool. In the countryside, rental houses can be found for 4,000 – 7,000 ($115 – $200) baht a month. However, these rural rentals are often not easy to find, because they aren’t advertised except through word of mouth and a sign outside the home.
Prices to build a house in Sakon Nakhon have increased a lot in recent years. It used to be quite easy to build a large concrete and wood home for under 1 million baht ($28,000). However, only a small 1 bedroom single story home (Thai style) can be built for under 1 million baht these days, and only if you are especially frugal. For an moderate sized home built to a good standard, you could expect to pay 1.75 – 2.5 million baht (best case scenario). Of course, the price could be much higher than that, depending on what you want, where the house is located, and the availability of builders.