Discover Thailand's hidden gems, from mountain tops to topaz lakes, on this 13-day tour. Step off the beaten track in Bangkok, exploring the city's snaking alleys and canals by bike and boat. Next, head north to Chiang Mai to visit elephants in the jungle and take a day trip to Doi Inthanon, the country's highest peak. Your adventure ends in the south, where you'll paddle across Khao Sok's shimmering lake and hike through ancient rainforest, then relax on the soft sands of Khao Lak.


  • Explore Bangkok's palaces, temples, and markets by bike and boat
  • Interact with elephants at an eco-project in the jungle
  • Visit Thailand's highest peak at Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Hike Khao Sok's ancient rainforests and sail its topaz lake
  • Relax on the soft sands of Khao Lak beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bangkok, Explore Bangkok
Day 2 Bangkok by Bike & Boat Bangkok
Day 3 Bangkok City Tour Bangkok
Day 4 Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore the Temples Chiang Mai
Day 5 Day Trip to Doi Inthanon National Park Chiang Mai
Day 6 Eco-Elephant Care Experience Chiang Mai
Day 7 Transfer to Khao Sok National Park & River Rafting Khao Sok National Park
Day 8 Cheow Lan Lake Boat Trip Khao Sok National Park
Day 9 Khao Sok Biking Adventure Khao Sok National Park
Day 10 Transfer to Khao Lak, Explore Takua Pa Old Town Khao Lak
Day 11 Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park Hiking Khao Lak
Day 12 White Water Rafting and Zipline Khao Lak
Day 13 Transfer to Phuket, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok, Explore

Touchdown in Bangkok and check out Khao San Road

Welcome to Thailand! Touch down in Bangkok, where your driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel in the city's heart. Thailand's capital is beloved for its chaotic energy, delicious street food, nightlife, and sacred Buddhist sights. You'll discover its charms independently today, perhaps starting with Chinatown's fragrant street food. If you like shopping, spend time at Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok's largest and most luxurious malls.

If you're visiting over the weekend, don't miss Chatuchak Market—with more than 15,000 stalls, it's one of the world's biggest outdoor markets and sells everything from clothes and flowers to food and antiques. For sports lovers, seek a muay Thai (Thai boxing) match, Thailand's signature sport. Alternatively, check out a puppet show for some traditional culture or visit Warehouse 30 for modern art exhibitions. Famous Michelin street food restaurant, Jay Fai, is a top dinner spot reknowned for its crab omelet. In the evening, continue to Bangkok's tourist heart, Khao San Road, where you'll find vibrant nightlife and street food.

Day 2: Bangkok by Bike & Boat

Discover Bangkok from its "klongs" and river

Uncover a different side of Bangkok today on a bicycle and boat tour. Start by cycling through the city's vibrant Chinatown, winding along narrow alleys and side streets. Next, you'll board a long-tail boat and sail along the city's peaceful klongs (canals) that have earned the city its nickname, the"Venice of the East." As you cruise, pass riverside temples and wooden-stilt houses, and catch a glimpse of locals washing clothes in the river.

Dock and hop back on a bicycle to cycle through Bangkok's lesser-visited green belts and tranquil plantations on the city's outskirts. Journey back to Chinatown afterward for a tasty Thai-style meal, then a well-earned relaxing evening in the city.

Day 3: Bangkok City Tour

Visit the Grand Palace, which is still used for royal ceremonies

This morning you'll take a guided tour of Bangkok, starting with a trip to Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn since it's named after the Indian dawn god, Aruna. Then ferry across the Chao Phraya River to Wat Pho, where you'll find a giant reclining Buddha statue.

Next is the Grand Palace, a complex of intricate temples and palaces built in 1782, which served as the royal family's home for 150 years. Today, the palace is used for royal ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, and state banquets. Highlights include the Reception Hall, Coronation Hall, and Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the Emerald Buddha statue.

Travel by tuk-tuk to Chatuchak Market and the nearby flower market, which is Bangkok's largest and open 24 hours a day. You'll continue to Chinatown to sample the area's street food. Take an optional food tour to try local classics like kai satay (barbecue chicken with sweet and sour peanut sauce), pad thai (stir-fried rice noodles), and ba mee mhoo daeng (crispy noodles with pork). Top off your feast with some Thai desserts and Chinese herbal drinks.

Day 4: Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore the Temples

Wander Chiang Mai's moat-encircled Old City

Say goodbye to Bangkok this morning and fly north to Chiang Mai. Set in the cooler, mountainous north of Thailand, Chiang Mai was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom and still retains its moat-encircled Old City. Chiang Mai is a cultural mecca, home to historical architecture and over 300 temples where orange-robed monks live and worship.

Settle in and then head out to wander the streets of the Old City. Highlights include Chiang Mai's largest central market, Warorot, where locals sell fresh fruit, flowers, and vegetables. For an introduction to the city's ornate temples, visit Chiang Mai's oldest, Wat Chiang Man, and Wat Chedi Luang, built in Lanna style with a towering golden stupa. Wat Phra Singh is the place to enjoy a fiery sunset, then make your way to the Night Bazaar to shop for everything from clothing to paintings and handicrafts.

Day 5: Day Trip to Doi Inthanon National Park

Cool down atop Thailand's highest peak, Doi Inthanon
Plan your trip to Thailand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Escape the city for a day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park, named for Thailand's highest mountain, Inthanon, towering over 8,400 feet (2,565 m) above sea level. Your driver will take you to the top of the mountain, where you'll make the final steep climb on foot to the summit for panoramic views over the countryside. Stop at a stupa where the remains of Chao Inthawichayanon, the last independent ruler of Chiang Mai, are enshrined.

You'll also get a chance to walk the scenic Ang-Kha Nature Trail, lined with ferns and, in January and February, bright rhododendrons. Continue to the park's purple-hued twin pagodas, built by the Thai Air Force in honor of the Thai King and Queen for their 60th birthdays. Afterward, drive to a Hmong tribal market and have lunch at a nearby restaurant.

This afternoon, explore the flower farms run by the Royal Project, established to provide income for locals like the Khun Klaang, the area's biggest Hmong community, who previously made a living growing opium. Wander through greenhouses and gardens of beautiful flowers before stopping at the Karen village of Baan Sop Had and Wachiratarn Waterfall on your way back to Chiang Mai.

Day 6: Eco-Elephant Care Experience

You'll spend a few hours learning about, feeding, and caring for happy elephants

Rise early for today's tour of an eco-elephant project that aims to raise awareness about elephant conservation and provide a sanctuary for these gentle giants. A family started the project in Meung Kud village who've dedicated their lives to caring for elephants and rescuing them from the entertainment industry.

The project lies 90 minutes north of Chiang Mai, and once you arrive, you'll change into traditional mahout (elephant carer) clothing. A guide will explain the history of elephants in Thailand and teach you about their behavior; then, you'll help prepare their food, including sugar cane and bananas. You'll get to feed the elephants and walk with them to the river to bathe. Have lunch at the project and head back to Chiang Mai in the late afternoon.

Day 7: Transfer to Khao Sok National Park & River Rafting

Soak up spectacular scenery in Khao Sok National Park

Today starts with a flight south to Surat Thani, where a driver will pick you up for the two-hour journey to Khao Sok National Park. This protected area is home to the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world, crashing waterfalls, and soaring limestone karsts. The vast Cheow Lan Lake, created by a damming project, takes center stage in the park with floating raft houses where you can sleep among nature. Settle into your cozy cabin and then embark upon a river rafting adventure.

Board a traditional bamboo raft along the winding Sok River, once an ancient trading route that connects the Andaman Sea to the Gulf of Thailand. As you float, take in views of the striking limestone cliffs and forests home to over 311 species of exotic birds. Watch out for wildlife like gibbons, guars, and flying squirrels; you might even spot Asian elephants, as Khao Sok is one of the last places in Thailand where these animals roam wild.

Along the way, you'll stop for a hike through the jungle and a rubber tree plantation to a hidden cave. Here, you'll learn to boil water in a bamboo stem over an open fire and brew tea or coffee, just as those travelers on the trade route once did. Throughout the rafting trip, you'll be guided by an experienced Khao Sok fisherman who'll punt you along the river using a long pole.

Day 8: Cheow Lan Lake Boat Trip

Visit the floating bungalows of Cheow Lan Lake

Continue exploring the watery wonders of Khao Sok today with a boat trip on Cheow Lan Lake. Also known as Ratchaprabha Dam, the lake spans an incredible 63 square miles (165 sq km) and is the heart of the jungle. Spend time visiting one of the lake's floating bungalow rafts, where you can swim or rent a kayak to explore independently. Back on land, walk along the lakeshore, following trails to waterfalls. Catch the sunset over the lake during your boat trip back to the hotel.

Day 9: Khao Sok Biking Adventure

Khao Sok adventure in Two Wheels!
Explore Khao Sok's schools, farms, and temples by bike

Swap your boat for a bicycle today to discover more of Khao Sok. Accompanied by a guide, your first stop is the local school, where the students will greet you. Next, visit a family-run organic farm to learn about rural life in Thailand. Continue cycling, surrounded by lush forest shadowed by hills, to a mushroom farm.

After a break, pedal back toward your hotel, stopping at Wat Tham Phanthurat, known as the Monkey Temple. This atmospheric cave temple lies beside a jungle-clad cliff and is home to playful monkeys you'll witness jumping through the trees. Afterward, return to your hotel in time for lunch and spend the rest of the day as you please.

Day 10: Transfer to Khao Lak, Explore Takua Pa Old Town

photo credit: buket list
Shop for souvenirs or snacks in Takua Pa

It's time to experience Thailand's iconic white-sand beaches today. Make the one-hour journey to paradisiacal Khao Lak Beach, where you'll check into your hotel and hit the soft sands. Take the rest of the day to relax on the sun-baked beach and swim in the azure waters.

Later, if you're feeling active, visit the nearby Takua Pa old town. This former mining town is filled with colorful Sino-Portuguese architecture and has a main walking street where you can shop and snack on street food. Alternatively, rent a kayak to explore the coast's rich mangrove forests, home to tropical birds and monkeys.

Day 11: Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park Hiking

Enjoy the soft sands of Khao Lak Beach

Enjoy more beach time in Khao Lak today. You can also opt to hike in nearby Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park, which has coastal walking paths that'll take you to secluded sandy coves where you can relax and swim without the crowds. Soak up the sound of the waves, wade into the sparkling water, and bask in the sun. Return to your hotel for a Thai dinner and a restful evening ahead of tomorrow's adventures.

Day 12: White Water Rafting & Zipline

Splash through rapids on a whitewater rafting adventure

Get your adrenaline pumping today with a whitewater rafting and zipline tour. Your guide will pick you up for the transfer to the rafting camp, where you'll get a safety briefing and some basic training for your whitewater rafting. Set off along the thrilling 3-mile (5 km) course, whizzing through rapids and paddling together as a team.

Back on land, head to the zipline site, where you'll get strapped into a harness to tackle the forested zipline course. Soar through the treetops along 500-foot-long (150 m) lines, taking in aerial views of the forest. Afterward, you'll take a lunch break at the camp before returning to your resort, stopping at a waterfall en route.

Day 13: Transfer to Phuket, Depart

Perhaps grab some souvenirs before you leave Phuket today

Today your Thailand adventure ends, and you'll be transferred to the airport in Phuket for your onward flight. Safe travels!

More Great Thailand Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Thailand? Check out these other Thailand itineraries, explore different ways to spend 13 days in Thailand, and discover the best time to visit Thailand.


Map of Discover Thailand’s Hidden Gems: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khao Sok & Khao Lak – 13 Days
Map of Discover Thailand’s Hidden Gems: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khao Sok & Khao Lak – 13 Days
Written by Tina Oo, updated Apr 10, 2023