This exciting 15-day journey combines some of Thailand's most unique activities, tours, and landscapes. First, immerse yourself in Thai culture with guided tours in Bangkok and the ancient city of Sukhothai. Then head north to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai to see temples, meet elephants, and ride a hot-air balloon at sunset. Finish the adventure in the southern islands where you'll have free time (between excursions) to relax on glorious white-sand beaches.


  • Learn how to prepare traditional Thai dishes during a cooking class in Bangkok
  • Tour the ruins of peaceful Sukhothai, the first capital of Siam, by bicycle
  • Visit an elephant sanctuary where you'll participate in feeding and bathing
  • Hike, swim, and snorkel on several beautiful islands in southern Thailand
  • Get a taste of the jungle landscape on Ko Samui with ziplining and an ATV tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bangkok, Explore Bangkok
Day 2 Full-Day Tour of Bangkok Bangkok
Day 3 Bicycle Tour, Thai Cooking Class Bangkok
Day 4 Transfer to Sukhothai, Explore Sukhothai
Day 5 Bicycle Tour of Sukhothai Sukhothai
Day 6 Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore Chiang Mai
Day 7 Visit an Elephant Sanctuary, Temple & Hill Tribe Tour Chiang Mai
Day 8 Transfer to Chiang Rai, Hot Air Balloon Ride Chiang Rai
Day 9 Explore Chiang Rai, Bicycle Tour Chiang Rai
Day 10 Fly to Ko Samui, Explore Ko Samui
Day 11 ATV Adventure Ko Samui
Day 12 Day Trip to Ko Tao & Ko Nang Yuan Ko Samui
Day 13 Day Trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park Ko Samui
Day 14 Zipline Adventure Ko Samui
Day 15 Depart Ko Samui  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok, Explore

After the sun goes down, Bangkok's night markets come alive
Welcome to Thailand! You'll be arriving in Bangkok, a modern metropolis that's home to over 10 million people. Despite its successful growth, this exotic city retains much of its imperial and religious history, and you'll witness this firsthand on tours of Bangkok's neighborhoods, palaces, and wats (temples).
Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up for the ride to your hotel in the city. After checking in, head out on a self-guided tour to visit highlights like the Golden Mount Temple, located on the only hill in the city. Climb 320 steps that lead to the top for some of the best views of Bangkok. You can also take a boat ride down the Chao Phraya River, the city's arterial waterway that flows past Rattanakosin Island, Bangkok's historic center.
Also, be sure to indulge in Bangkok's famous street food, especially at the night markets. There are even street food stalls, like Jay Fai, that have earned Michelin stars. One of the best places to delight in Bangkok's street eats is in the Chinatown neighborhood, which is the largest Chinatown in the world (outside of China, of course). 

Day 2: Full-Day Tour of Bangkok

Your guide will lead you to Bangkok's iconic sites, including the Grand Palace 

Fuel up at breakfast this morning before a full-day tour of Bangkok! First, you'll hop in a car for the ride over to Wat Arun. Located on the Chao Phraya River, this 18th-century Buddhist temple was built during the Ayutthaya period and is named after Aruna, the Hindu god of dawn. After touring Wat Arun, you'll hop on a ferry to the opposite side of the river and Wat Pho. This temple site is one of the oldest in Thailand (it possibly dates as far back as the 13th century) and is known for its Reclining Buddha. This statue measures a whopping 49 feet (15 m) high and 150 feet (46 m) long.

Then it's a short 10-minute walk over to the Grand Palace. This royal complex was constructed in 1782 and has been the official home of Thai royalty ever since. After admiring the architecture and visiting the throne hall, you'll transfer by tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) to Chatuchak Market, the largest and most famous weekend market in Bangkok. There are around 15,000 vendor stalls, including food kiosks, which makes this a great place to stop for lunch. If you want to do some shopping, you can browse souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, handicrafts, artisanal items, and much more. 
Next, head to the 24-hour Flower Market—a colorful marketplace filled with vendors selling local and imported jasmine, roses, orchids, lilies, snapdragons, irises, and many more. Then, when it gets closer to sunset, you'll continue over to Chinatown. Here, you'll stroll down the street and sample more delicious street food as you browse the fabric and jewelry shops. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 3: Bicycle Tour, Thai Cooking Class

Cycle through tropical foliage in the "green lung" of Bangkok

You've seen Bangkok on foot and by boat, now experience the city on two wheels. In the morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel for the ride over to the starting point on a city bike path. Here you'll meet your guide, hop on the bicycle, and head off to a ferry that will take you to Bang Krachao. This 41-square-mile (66 sq km) man-made island on the Chao Phraya River is known as Bangkok's "green lung." Bicycle paths will take you along the canals, coconut palms, and mangrove forests of this urban oasis.
During your ride around Bang Krachao, you'll make plenty of stops. These include visits to a small temple, school, and Thai boxing gym. For lunch, you'll stop at a local restaurant to enjoy a traditional Thai dish such as pad thai or kao pad (Thai fried rice). After the meal, you'll ride to the pier and take the ferry back to Bangkok and your hotel. Here you can enjoy a respite from the afternoon heat. 

In the evening, you'll head over to a historic house where you'll participate in a cooking class and learn to prepare authentic Thai cuisine. Your lesson begins with a tour of the home's garden, where you'll pick fresh herbs and produce to use when preparing the meal. Then head to the kitchen where your chef instructor will teach you to prepare four traditional dishes—you'll even get to make your own curry paste. At the end of the class, you'll sit down to enjoy the meal you've prepared. Afterward, your instructor will send you off with your very own Thai cookbook to take home.

Day 4: Transfer to Sukhothai, Explore

The UNESCO-listed Sukhothai Historical Park feels a world away from Bangkok

Say goodbye to the big city! In the morning, your driver will transfer you to the train station where you'll board a train for the five-to-six-hour ride up to Phitsanulok, the capital of the province of the same name and "gateway to the north." The ride is a scenic one, as you'll leave the urban jungle of Bangkok behind and pass the fertile rice paddies of the Nakhon Sawan province. Upon arrival in Phitsanulok, your driver will pick you up for the hourlong ride outside the city to Sukhothai, one of the most famous archeological sites in Thailand.  

The 28-square-mile (45 sq km) area that comprises Sukhothai features rebuilt ruins from what was the first capital of the Kingdom of Siam from the 13th to 15th centuries. It was at the end of this period that Sukhothai was conquered by the Ayutthaya Kingdom. During Sukhothai's peak, however, it was a political and cultural powerhouse. Here, Buddhism flourished and impressive monasteries were constructed out of brick with intricate carvings.  
On the way to Sukhothai, you can stretch your legs and wander around a local craft museum. Then, upon arrival at the market town adjacent to the Sukhothai archeological site, you'll check in to your guesthouse and will have the rest of the day free. Feel free to visit the local markets and chat with locals in this relaxed, rural environment.  

Day 5: Bicycle Tour of Sukhothai

See the highlights of Sukhothai on two wheels during a guided bicycle tour
After an early breakfast, you'll leave for a full-day tour to explore the ancient city of Sukhothai. However, rather than see these impressive ruins on foot, you'll cover more ground on a bicycle. The tour starts when you meet your expert guide at a small village on the outskirts of town. Then hop on your bike and head off down a dirt road along rice paddies with views of the impressive Kao Laung Mountain looming in the distance. After stopping at a local wood furniture factory, you'll ride along irrigation canals toward the archeological site.
Plan your trip to Thailand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Upon arrival at the Eastern Gate, you'll enter Sukhothai and explore its many temple ruins. Highlights you'll visit include Wat Chang Lom, Wat Si Chum, and Wat Mahathat. Throughout the tour, your guide will impart knowledge about Sukhothai's history and architecture as well as provide an overview of Buddhism in Thailand. After a delicious local lunch, continue the cycling tour around the southern section of the site before returning to your hotel in the late afternoon.

Day 6: Transfer to Chiang Mai, Explore

Stroll around Chiang Mai's Old City and visit Wat Phra Singh

Today you'll be picked up for a 4.5-hour drive north through mountains and forests toward Chiang Mai. This city is unique in Thailand because from 1296 to 1558 it was the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom, evidenced by the ancient walls, moats, and Buddhist temples found throughout the Old City (historic center). Meanwhile, Chiang Mai's mountainous surroundings offer hill tribes, tea plantations, and elephant sanctuaries.

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel in the city. Then you can head out and explore on your own. Visit the Old City and landmarks like Wat Phra Singh, a 14th-century Buddhist temple. If you'd like to do some souvenir shopping, there's Handicraft Highway, which runs 11 miles (18 km) and is the place to buy crafts and ceramics. At night, don't miss Chang Klan Road, which is filled with merchant stalls and street-food vendors.

Day 7: Visit an Elephant Sanctuary, Temple & Hill Tribe Tour

Happy elephants bathing in the river
Meet your new elephant friends on the drive out of Chiang Mai

Start the day in a special way by visiting one of the region's elephant sanctuaries. The goal of these organizations is to rehabilitate the animals while making them available to visitors in an eco-friendly way rather than for entertainment. Once you arrive at the sanctuary, you'll change into a mahout (caretaker clothing), and spend the morning feeding and bathing the elephants. 

After lunch, you'll continue touring the mountains around Chiang Mai, starting with a visit to the famous Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the most sacred temple in the city. Ascend 306 steps lined with sculptures of nagas (seven-headed serpents) to reach the temple and its gilded pagodas. From the temple complex, you'll also be treated to panoramic views overlooking Chiang Mai below.
Once you've toured the temple, continue on a scenic mountain road to visit a White Hmong hill tribe. This is the second-largest ethnic hill-tribe group in the country, having emigrated from China beginning in the 19th century. They live traditionally in self-sustaining villages and are known for their handmade hemp clothing and intricate embroidery. You'll learn all about their culture and customs during the visit. Afterward, return to your hotel in Chiang Mai.

Day 8: Transfer to Chiang Rai, Hot Air Balloon Ride

Soar over northern Thailand's mountains in a hot air balloon
After breakfast, you'll meet your driver for the three-hour ride north to the city of Chiang Rai, which is the capital of the province of the same name. Located near the tri-borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar (an area known as the Golden Triangle), Chiang Rai is famous for landmarks like Wat Rong Khun (better known as the White Temple) and the beautiful countryside and mountain ranges that surround it. On arrival, you'll check into your guesthouse and will have some time to rest.

In the early afternoon, you'll transfer to Singha Park. Located just outside the city, this scenic area features several landmarks you'll see on a self-drive golf cart tour. You'll visit its gardens, farms, orchards, and tea plantations, as well as a swan-filled lake and a giant golden singha (lion) statue.

From here, you'll make your way to a launch site near the park where you'll hop in the basket of a hot-air balloon. Then you're off on a 45-minute trip over the stunning Chiang Rai countryside. The timing is just right, as you'll get to marvel at Thailand's northern landscapes right as the sun is setting. After the flight, enjoy a glass of complimentary champagne before returning to your hotel in Chiang Rai.

Day 9: Explore Chiang Rai, Bicycle Tour

Start your day at the White Palace, a modern art installation from 1997

Today is your chance to explore Chiang Rai! The obvious place to start is its most famous landmark, the White Temple. This architectural marvel is really an art installation in the style of a Buddhist temple, as it was designed by a Thai visual artist in 1997. The exterior's gleaming white facade and reflecting pool are impressive, while inside are images of samsara—the Buddhist cycle of death and rebirth. 

Afterward, you'll have the option to return to Singha Park, which is famous for its scenic walking trails, lakes, meadows, and flowers. Areas of this park are still working farms with barley fields and tea plantations, and there are orchards and fields where visitors can pick fruit and vegetables. To see all of the parks, use the hop-on, hop-off trams.

In the early evening, you'll get on a bicycle and cycle around the quiet country roads. This is a relaxing way to enjoy the countryside while also witnessing the rural life of the locals. After the cycling trip, you'll head to a Chiang Rai night market where you can browse the stalls and enjoy some delicious northern Thai street food. Before returning to your hotel, stop by the city's elaborate golden clock tower to see its nightly colorful light show accompanied by music.

Day 10: Fly to Ko Samui, Explore

Spend several days in the Gulf of Thailand soaking in the sun and sea

Leave the northern mountains behind today as you transfer to the airport and board a connecting flight south to Ko Samui, the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand (and one of the most beautiful). Upon arrival on the island's main town of Chaweng, a driver will transfer you to your hotel. After settling in, you can head out and do some sightseeing. Perhaps the most famous landmark is Big Buddha Temple. This 39-foot (12 m) gilded Buddha statue sits on a hilltop on Ko Samui's northeast coast. Needless to say, the panoramic views around the temple are fantastic.

For more great views, head over to Lad Ko, a viewpoint overlooking Chaweng Beach. Running 4 miles (7 km) along the east coast, this is Ko Samui's longest beach. On the south side of the island is another landmark: Grandfather & Grandmother Rocks. These natural rock formations on the coast are most known for their resemblance to certain parts of the human anatomy. You can also spend the day strolling around Chaweng as you shop for souvenirs and sample local delicacies like Ko Samui's famous dessert, kalamare (caramel toffee made from sticky rice and coconut milk). 

Day 11: ATV Adventure

photo credit: adventure tour
Explore the jungle environs of Ko Samui on this fun group tour
Take a short break from Ko Samui's stunning beaches for an exciting off-road adventure around the inland hills and jungles. Your mode of transport will be an ATV (also known as a quad bike), and it will be a group tour. First, transfer from your hotel to the ATV park, where you'll receive a warm welcome and safety instructions from the staff. Then hop on your ATV and follow the guides into the jungle, where for an hour you'll zip along remote mountain trails in the shade of coconut palms.
One highlight is riding up to a viewpoint at the top of a hill, where you'll be treated to wide vistas of the verdant rainforest out to the azure sea. Upon returning to the ATV park, head back to your hotel where you can spend the rest of the day relaxing on the beach.

Day 12: Day Trip to Ko Tao & Ko Nang Yuan

Walk along sandbars that connect the three small islands of Ko Nang Yuan
Besides its beaches, Ko Samui and its surrounding islands are famous for their great diving and snorkeling opportunities. In the morning, you'll head out on a full-day tour to visit some of the very best such sites in the region. First, transfer to the pier, where you'll board a speedboat for the trip north to Ko Tao, a small, coral-fringed islet and one of the best dive sites in the country. The boat will stop at a prime area along the reef, where you'll strap on your mask and dive in. Look for exotic marine life including tropical fish, barracuda, eels, puffers, rays, sea turtles, and the occasional shark.

You'll also visit another incredible dive site on Ko Nang Yuan, three small islands off Ko Tao's northwest coast. Besides snorkeling, you'll also have plenty of time throughout the day to relax on the white-sand beaches (and connecting sand bars) and hike up to hilltop viewpoints. At the end of the afternoon, you'll speedboat back to Ko Samui.

Day 13: Day Trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park

Koh Samui
 Hike up to a viewpoint of this marine park with 42 islands

Get ready for another speedboat adventure—this time to Ang Thong National Marine Park. Located west of Ko Samui, the park is comprised of a 42-island archipelago covering a total of 39 square miles (102 sq km). In addition to its photogenic limestone islands (most of which are uninhabited), the park serves to protect the region's vital wetland ecosystem. 

In the morning, you'll board a speedboat at the pier and zip across the turquoise waters to the park. One of the islands you'll visit is Ko Wau Ta Lap, which boasts a powdery white-sand beach. Inland, you can embark on a hike up to a viewpoint at 860 feet (262 m) above sea level for jaw-dropping views of the surrounding archipelago. Another highlight is Lotus Cave, where you can explore its stalagmites and stalactites. Of course, there will be ample time for swimming and snorkeling before your return to Ko Samui.

Day 14: Zipline Adventure

Zip Line Adventure in Koh Samui
Fly over the lush treetops in Ko Samui for a memorable experience
In the morning, your driver will pick you up at the hotel and transfer you to a group meeting point for today's Ko Samui adventure: a thrilling zipline ride. After offering a warm welcome, the staff will provide you with safety equipment and demonstrate proper zipline fundamentals. You'll then head up to the first platform, strap in, and soar over the jungle canopy. Over an hour, you'll fly from one platform to another—and each ride is a thrilling adventure in its own right! Return to your hotel in the afternoon and enjoy some free time on the beach.

Day 15: Depart Ko Samui

Fit in one more beach walk and swim before departure

The day has come to say goodbye to Thailand! At the appointed time, your driver will transfer you to the airport in Ko Samui for your departure flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Authentic Thailand: Bangkok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai & Ko Samui - 15 Days
Map of Authentic Thailand: Bangkok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai & Ko Samui - 15 Days
Written by Tina Oo, updated Sep 20, 2023