Travelers who prefer to avoid crowds will love this 11-day tour to some of Thailand's more authentic hidden spots. While you'll spend time at must-see attractions in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, you'll also delve into some of Southern Thailand's less-visited locales. Meet tribal people in their forest communities, sleep at a homestay within a mountainous national park, and visit gorgeous islands with white sand, warm turquoise waters, and a refreshing lack of high-rise hotels.


  • Tour Bangkok's many "klongs" by traditional long-tail boat
  • Spend a morning getting up close with elephants at a sanctuary
  • Spend two nights at a homestay in the Khao Luang National Park
  • Relax on isolated white-sand beaches on remote Southern Thai shores

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bangkok, Long-Tail Boat Canal Tour Bangkok
Day 2 Tour Bangkok's Temples, Markets & Palaces, Food Tasting in Chinatown Bangkok
Day 3 Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore Chiang Mai
Day 4 Elephant Encounter at Sanctuary, Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, Hmong Village Tour Chiang Mai
Day 5 Transfer to Khao Luang National Park Khao Luang 
Day 6 Explore Khao Luang National Park & Local Village Khao Luang 
Day 7 Transfer to Ko Hai via Trang, Visit Tribal Village Ko Hai
Day 8 Transfer to Ko Libong via Kayaking at Chao Mai Ko Libong
Day 9 Village & Beaches Day Ko Libong
Day 10 Day Trip to Ko Kradan Ko Libong
Day 11 Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok, Long-Tail Boat Canal Tour

The Grand Palace is one of Bangkok's many attractions

Welcome to Bangkok! Upon arrival at the airport, your driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel in the city. After you've dropped your bags and settled in, get to know the Thai capital on a relaxing introductory two-hour tour by long-tail boat. The wide Chao Phraya River runs through Bangkok and has many off-shoot canals. Explore the ancient waterways on your boat and see how locals live. It's a great way to ease into this frenetic city while you sit back and watch the daily life on the riverbanks pass by.

Day 2: Tour Bangkok's Temples, Markets & Palaces, Food Tasting in Chinatown

Temple of Dawn
Start your day at Wat Arun, Bangkok's Temple of Dawn

After a good night's sleep, get to know Bangkok better with a tour focusing on some of the city's fine temples and palaces. Start at the iconic Wat Arun, named after Aruna, the Hindu god of the dawn. Board a local ferry back to the river's east bank and visit Wat Pho Temple, home to a golden reclining Buddha statue. Walk the short distance to the glittering Grand Palace complex, where you'll learn more about the Thai royal family and the spectacular golden and mosaic structures within the grounds. Don't miss the Emerald Buddha (made from jade), the most revered Buddha statue in the country.

If you're traveling over a weekend, visit the huge Chatuchak Market, Bangkok's most famous weekend market and located on the city's northern edge. You can buy almost anything here, from essential oils and Thai-inspired beauty products to tribal embroidery, vintage jeans, and antiques. If you're not traveling at the weekend, you can enjoy other markets, such as Pak Khlong Talat, the biggest flower market.

Later, take a tasty food tour of one of Bangkok's liveliest neighborhoods, Chinatown. See street vendors selling food and drinks, including fried insects like scorpions and bamboo worms. Don't worry if these aren't for you. There are many more conventionally tasty dishes, such as rice noodle soups, pad thai, fried rice, som tam (papaya salad), grilled chicken, boiled pork, and raw prawn with lime (super spicy). You can learn a lot about local life and culture through the cuisine.

Day 3: Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore

Chiang Mai is the cultural and religious hub of Northern Thailand

Take a short flight north today to Chiang Mai, about 1.5 hours from Bangkok. After arriving at the Chiang Mai airport, your driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. This old city in Northern Thailand is known as a hub of Thai religion and culture. Surrounded by mountains, Chiang Mai's Old City area retains vestiges of the walls and moats from its rich history. It also has hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, diverse hill tribes, tea plantations, and elephant sanctuaries.

Head out to explore independently, depending on your arrival time and energy levels. You might want to visit the large central market, Worarot Market, to pick up snacks or souvenirs. If you love temples, visit Wat Chedi Luang, home to Chiang Mai's most prominent Buddhist chedi (stupa) and an example of local Lanna architecture. You could also check out Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. Take in the sunset from Wat Phra Singh, sometimes said to be Thailand's most beautiful temple.

To experience Chiang Mai's atmosphere after dark, head to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, famous for its handicrafts and portrait paintings. You can also find jewelry, toys, and clothing. The market runs every evening from 5 pm and covers a whole neighborhood east of the Old City.

Day 4: Elephant Encounter, Visit Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, Hmong Village Tour

Meet and interact with elephants in a Chiang Mai sanctuary

Today you'll meet gentle elephants in a natural setting. Visit an elephant care project that aims to improve the well-being of elephants and increase awareness of elephant conservation. A local family started the project in Meung Kud village, believing elephants were not for entertainment. That's why they offer guests an opportunity for close interaction with the creatures in a mutually beneficial way.

The center is about 90 minutes' drive north of Chiang Mai. After your arrival, change into the provided traditional clothing. Your English-speaking local guide will explain the habits and histories of the elephants and the way to communicate with them. Then, gather the elephants' food: sugar cane, grass, and banana plants, all grown on the farm. Feed them by hand and get to know them personally. After a traditional lunch, walk with the elephants and lead them to their bath.

Later, visit Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the most sacred temple in Chiang Mai, at 3,500 feet (1,000 m) above sea level. Although you'll be driven most of the way up, the only way to reach the very top is to ascend the 306 steps to the temple on foot, guarded by two nagas (serpents). Constructed in 1383, this symbol of Chiang Mai contains a holy relic of the Lord Buddha, enshrined in the golden pagoda. Enjoy the bird's-eye view of the entire city and the surrounding areas from the temple grounds. 

Continue in a local truck along a bumpy but scenic mountain road to a White Hmong hill tribe village. These tribal people live in simple, isolated, and self-sustaining villages, preserving their culture, ancient customs, and beautiful embroidered clothing. Originally from China, the White Hmong are now spread through the mountains of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, and are quite distinct from "mainstream" Thai culture. Learn more about their way of life on this visit to their village.

Day 5: Transfer to Khao Luang National Park

Fly south to the mountainous Khao Luang National Park

Say goodbye to Northern Thailand with a flight south today to Surat Thani, a city that acts as a gateway to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. You'll be transferred overland from Surat Thani to the tranquil Khao Luang National Park, bordering northern Malaysia. This mountainous national park is famous for its wildlife, waterfalls, caves, and hiking trails. Mount Khao Luang is the highest point in Southern Thailand (5,839 ft/1,780 m). The soaring mountains are covered in evergreen forest and provide a home to hundreds of species unique to this area.

Plan your trip to Thailand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Explore Khao Luang National Park & Local Village

Check out the Phrom Lok waterfalls in the Khao Luang National Park

Explore some of Khao Luang's natural and cultural riches today. Travel to the Phrom Lok park area, where you'll stay in a local homestay tonight. Opt to ride a bicycle around the village and farmland or in a local song-tae truck taxi. Get creative during a batik workshop, where you can create a piece of cloth with the help of local artisans. Designs are drawn onto fabric with hot wax and then dyed, creating different colors on the fabric's surface. While batik is more commonly associated with Malaysia and Indonesia, it is also local to this area of Southern Thailand. 

Get active with a trek up to the fourth terrace of the stunning Phrom Lok Waterfall, regarded as one of Southern Thailand's most beautiful waterfalls. Then refuel with a lunch of Southern Thai food, including seasonal tropical fruits and herbal drinks. You'll also visit farms and plantations this afternoon to learn more about local agriculture. In the evening, help your host prepare dinner at the homestay. You'll learn about local ingredients and cooking techniques while experiencing how ordinary rural Thai people live.

Day 7: Transfer to Ko Hai via Trang, Visit Tribal Village

Transfer to Trang, Thailand's southern province

Say farewell to your homestay hosts this morning and travel farther south to Trang. The transfer will take around two hours. After you've dropped off your bags at your hotel, visit a tribal community in the forests bordering Malaysia. The Maniq people are ethnically different from most Thais and follow a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Learn about their way of life while enjoying the lush tropical jungle surrounding their village. Before returning to your hotel, you may get the chance to take a refreshing swim in a beautifully clear river.

Day 8: Transfer to Ko Libong via Kayaking at Chao Mai

Travel to Ko Libong by boat and relax on the warm sands for an afternoon at the beach

Head back to the coast today for a transfer to Ko Libong, a beautiful island in the Andaman Sea just off the mainland. En route, stop at the coastal village of Chao Mai, inhabited mainly by Muslims and part of the Hat Chao Mai National Park. Here you can go kayaking through the mangrove forests and sea caves. Admire the dramatic karst cliffs and outcrops along the way. After your kayaking adventure, continue to Ko Libong by boat, and spend the rest of the day relaxing at your accommodation and on the beach.

Day 9: Village & Beaches Day

A visit to Fishing village and swim at Tung Yaka Beach
Rent a motorbike and ride to Tung Yaka Beach

Ko Libong offers authentic village vibes that are difficult to find on many other more crowded Thai islands. Staying here allows you to experience the local culture. Visit the village of Ban Ba Tu Pu Te on the southeast side of the island, where you can see stilt houses built out over the mud flats.

Spend the rest of the day relaxing on some of the island's best beaches. Haad Lang Khao Beach is a convenient place to go for a swim. During low tide, the beach gets a bit rocky with a shallow coral reef. You can also visit both Tung Yaka Beach and Tohkay Bay, toward the northwest point of the island. You'll need to rent a motorbike and ride there.

Day 10: Day Trip to Ko Kradan

A day trip to Koh Kradan
Spend the day on Ko Kradan
To enjoy some easy island hopping, Ko Kradan is an easy day trip from Ko Libong. A 45-minute trip in a long-tail boat will take you to the beautiful beaches, dense jungle, and incredible coral reefs of Ko Kradan. The snorkeling is especially good here, thanks to the coral reefs offshore and the abundance of tropical fish. Far from mass tourism, Ko Kradan is nevertheless popular with travelers who want to experience a more hidden, authentic side of Southern Thailand.

Day 11: Depart

Farewell, beautiful Thailand!

It's time to say goodbye to this beautiful country. Depending on your departure time, you might have time to enjoy one last leisurely stroll on the beach or have a relaxed breakfast with sea views. You'll then transfer back to Trang by boat and overland, and then onward to Bangkok for your flight home. Bon voyage!

More Great Thailand Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Thailand? Check out these other Thailand itineraries, explore different ways to spend 11 days in Thailand, or discover the best time to visit Thailand.


Map of Authentic Thailand & Hidden Nature: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khao Luang, Ko Hai & Ko Libong - 11 Days
Map of Authentic Thailand & Hidden Nature: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khao Luang, Ko Hai & Ko Libong - 11 Days
Written by Tina Oo, updated Apr 10, 2023