Get ready for 15 action-packed days of culture and outdoor adventures in Thailand. Start the journey in exotic Bangkok where guides will show you around the city and the UNESCO-listed ruins of Ayutthaya. Then head north to Chiang Mai to see temples, step foot in Laos, and spend a day with elephants. The last leg of the trip is in the south, where you'll unwind in Khao Lak, the Similan Islands, and other peaceful corners of this tropical paradise.


  • Boat through a less-touristed floating market in Bangkok and take a cooking class
  • Spend an entire day with gentle elephants at a respectable sanctuary in the north
  • Meet an ethnic hill tribe in the Golden Triangle on the border of Laos
  • Choose tropical adventures in the south like snorkeling, rafting, and ziplining

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 Day Trip to Ayutthaya Bangkok
Day 5 Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore Chiang Mai
Day 6 Day Trip to the Golden Triangle Chiang Mai
Day 7 Visit an Elephant Sanctuary Chiang Mai
Day 8 Fly to Surat Thani, Transfer to Khao Sok National Park, Canoe Trip Khao Sok National Park
Day 9 Day Trip to Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park
Day 10 Khao Sok Bamboo Rafting Adventure Khao Sok National Park
Day 11 Transfer to Khao Lak, Nature Hike Khao Lak
Day 12 Snorkeling Tour in the Similan Islands Khao Lak
Day 13 Day Trip to Takua Pa Khao Lak
Day 14 White Water Rafting & Zipline Adventure Khao Lak
Day 15 Transfer to Phuket, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok, Explore

Bangkok offers stunning Buddhist temples like Wat Arun on the Chao Phraya River
Welcome to Thailand! Your adventure begins in the bustling capital of Bangkok, home to over 10 million people. Despite its rapid growth, many of the city's iconic wats (temples) and shrines remain intact, which you'll have the chance to see after a private driver transfers you to your hotel. From here, you'll have the rest of the day to explore at your own pace.
Perhaps you want to start at the Golden Mount Temple, which can be reached by climbing 320 steps to the top where you'll enjoy 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.
Make sure to sample Bangkok's renowned street food with staples including pad thai, moo ping (grilled pork skewers), jok (rice porridge), and many more. There are several night markets sprinkled throughout the city with vendors selling food and souvenirs, or you'll find plenty of tasty options in the sprawling Chinatown neighborhood, the largest Chinatown in the world (outside of China, of course).

Day 2: Full-Day Tour of Bangkok

The Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market is less crowded than others in the city

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel today before a full-day tour of Bangkok! First, you and your guide will visit one of Bangkok's most famous centers of commerce: its floating markets. These markets can be found on the canals and waterways around Bangkok, including Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market, which is conveniently located near downtown. Unlike many of the markets that are typically congested with boats and tourists, Khlong Lat Mayom isn't as crowded, which means you can experience a bit more tranquility on your boat. 

From here, you'll transfer 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 get to Wat Pho on the other side. This temple site is one of the oldest in Thailand (circa 13th century) and is known for its Reclining Buddha statue that stretches 150 feet (46 m).
Next, you'll take 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. If it's the weekend, you can then 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 enjoy authentic Thai cuisine. If you want to do some shopping, you can browse souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, handicrafts, artisanal items, and much more. 

Day 3: Bicycle Tour, Thai Cooking Class

A guide will show you the "green lung" of Bangkok on two wheels with cultural stops along the way
You've seen Bangkok on foot and by boat, now it's time to experience this 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 a bicycle, and make your way to a ferry that will take you to Bang Krachao, a 41-square-mile (16-sq-km) man-made island on the Chao Phraya River that 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 cultural stops to visit a small temple, a local school, and a Thai boxing gym. For lunch, 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, head over to a historic house where you'll participate in a cooking class and learn to prepare authentic Thai Cuisine. The 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 using your own curry paste. After enjoying the meal you've prepared, your instructor will send you off with your very own Thai cookbook to take home.

Day 4: Day Trip to Ayutthaya

There are over 300 historical sites within this UNESCO-listed park

After breakfast in Bangkok, you'll leave for a day tour of Ayutthaya, an ancient city that was once the capital of the Siamese Kingdom (a precursor to Thailand). Located about 50 miles (80 km) north of Bangkok, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was founded in 1350 and quickly became a prosperous international trading port. By the 17th century, it was one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in East Asia. Its ruins now form the Ayutthaya Historical Park, an archaeological site that contains palaces, Buddhist temples, monasteries, and statues.

Upon arrival in Ayutthaya, you'll stroll amid the impressive ruins. The park consists of over 300 historical sites within an island area formed by three surrounding rivers. Highlights that you'll see include the Ancient Palace and Bueng Phra Ram Park, a shady green area with temples nearby. Later in the afternoon, you'll visit the Portuguese Archeological Museum, which features exhibits and artifacts detailing the Portuguese influence in Ayutthaya's trading history as well as its weaponry. At the end of the tour, you'll return to Bangkok.

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Day 5: Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore

Take a tuk-tuk to see the 19th-century Doi Suthep Temple near Chiang Mai

Today you'll transfer to Bangkok airport for a 1.5-hour flight north to Chiang Mai. This city is unique in Thailand because from 1296 to 1558 it was the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom. Much of this history still exists in the form of the ancient walls, moats, and Buddhist temples found throughout the Old City (historic center). Outside of Chiang Mai, in its stunning mountainous region, you'll find diverse hill tribes, tea plantations, and elephant sanctuaries.

Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel in the city. Then you can head out and explore at your own pace. Visit the Old City and its landmarks like Wat Phra Singh, a 14th-century Buddhist temple. Or take a tuk-tuk to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a 19th-century temple and one Thailand's most famous pilgrimage sites. At night, walk to Chang Klan Road with loads of merchant stalls and street-food vendors featuring northern Thai cuisine.

Day 6: Day Trip to the Golden Triangle

Pay a visit to the White Temple art installation after you soak in a hot spring

After breakfast at your hotel in Chiang Mai, you'll depart on a full-day driving tour around the famous Golden Triangle region. This area comprises a portion of the northern Chiang Rai province, and it's located at the tri-borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. Within this area are several wonders both natural and man-made, and you'll see many highlights on today's tour.

First, you'll drive northeast out of Chiang Mai through the hills and valleys of the Doi Saket district. Stop for a short break at Mae Kachan Hot Spring, one of the few thermal springs in northern Thailand. After a refreshing soak, continue to Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple. This architectural marvel is 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 facade and reflecting pool are impressive, while inside are images of samsara—the Buddhist cycle of death and rebirth. 

Your driver will then take you deeper into the mountains to visit a traditional village populated by the Karen hill tribe. The Karen people, whose female members are famous for their elongated necks, are now the largest ethnic group in the country. During a stop in this village, you'll learn about their culture and traditional customs. Then head over to the banks of the Mekong River for lunch at a local restaurant. Finish the tour with a boat trip along the Mekong where you'll cross over to an island in Laos for a visit. Afterward, you'll return to Chiang Mai.

Day 7: Visit an Elephant Sanctuary 

Spend a day with these friendly giants and the people who take care of them

Today is a special treat since you'll spend a full day at one of the region's elephant sanctuaries. These organizations offer sanctuary for elephants that are rescued from the tourist trade. The goal is to rehabilitate these 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 (elephant caretaker clothing), and spend the morning feeding and making friends with the elephants.

Throughout the day, your English-speaking guide will impart knowledge about the history and behavior of these gentle giants. After having lunch with the community of elephant caretakers, your group will lead the animals down to a river where you can wash them and play for a while. Return to the camp where you'll have an afternoon snack before saying goodbye to your new friends.

Day 8: Fly to Surat Thani, Transfer to Khao Sok National Park, Canoe Trip

Keep an eye out for langur monkeys in the trees during your canoe trip

It's time to say goodbye to Thailand's mountainous north and jet off to the tropical south! In the morning, your driver will take you to Chiang Mai airport where you'll catch a two-hour flight to Surat Thani. This city sits on the Gulf of Thailand at the mouth of the Tapi River and is the gateway to the beautiful southern isles.

Upon arrival at the airport, a car will be waiting to transfer you to Khao Sok National Park. This 285-square-mile (739 sq km) nature reserve encompasses tropical jungles, towering karst islands, and romantic waterfalls. Your driver will take you to your accommodation in the park, and you can take some time to get settled.
Don't get too comfortable though, because later you'll head out to discover Khao Sok on a one-hour canoe ride along a river. Embark down the waterway as your guide points out the exotic wildlife on the banks and in the surrounding jungle, including monkeys like spectacled langurs and waterbirds like kingfishers. During the scenic ride between towering limestone cliffs, you can take breaks for refreshments and enjoy a dip in the water. Afterward, return to your accommodation in the park.

Day 9: Day Trip to Cheow Lan Lake

Spend a day swimming, hiking, and kayaking around dramatic limestone rock formations
In the morning, you'll head out to the major highlight of Khao Sok National Park: Cheow Lan Lake. Also known as Ratchaprabha Dam, this artificial lake covers 71 square miles (185 sq km) in the heart of the Khao Sok. It's the most popular tourist attraction in the park because it offers scenic boating and exciting water activities.
You'll experience the highlights today from the comfort of one of the park's famous floating bungalows. Here, you can relax, go for a swim, or rent a kayak and paddle around the incredible limestone mountains and rock formations. Additionally, there are hiking trails around the lakeshore that lead to hidden waterfalls and caves. Around sunset, you will be transferred back to your hotel in the park.

Day 10: Khao Sok Bamboo Rafting Adventure

Glide along this ancient trade route on a traditional bamboo boat

Today you'll step back in time as you enjoy a two-hour ride down the Khao Sok River on a traditional bamboo raft. One of Thailand's oldest forms of transport, these simple but sturdy vessels once plied this ancient trade route between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. It's a gentle ride down the slowly moving river that offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful scenery and exotic wildlife.

Along the way, stop and stretch your legs on a jungle trail that takes you to a rubber tree plantation. Then visit a nearby cave where you'll learn some ancient survival tricks like how to boil water in a bamboo stem over an open fire. You'll also brew tea or coffee in the same traditional way as those who once worked on this ancient trade route. Each raft supports two people and is accompanied by an expert local guide who pushes (punts) the raft along the river using a long pole. After the ride, you'll return to your hotel for some free time.

Day 11: Transfer to Khao Lak, Nature Hike

Spend the afternoon at an uncrowded national park on the Andaman Sea
In the morning, you'll continue the journey and head west toward one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Khao Lak. Translating to "white sand beach," Khao Lak has a well-earned name due to the soft white sands here along the Andaman Sea. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and will have some free time to relax, do some sunbathing, and go for a swim.
Later, you'll transfer to Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park for a nature hike. This small and peaceful national park is located on the coast and covers 48 square miles (125 sq km). It's a great place for a relaxing hike, as many coastal trails offer great views over uncrowded beaches to the sea beyond. You'll have the option for two different hikes within the park: one is along a wooden boardwalk to a beach campsite, and the other leads to a secluded beach—perfect for those looking for a quiet place to swim. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 12: Snorkeling Tour of the Similan Islands

Snorkel in the clear waters off the coast of the Similan Islands

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll board a speedboat and head over to the Similan Islands, an archipelago of nine isles off the coast of Khao Lak—four of which are open to the public. The entire archipelago is a national park that protects its unspoiled coastlines and offshore coral reefs. You'll take advantage of these great marine conditions on a full-day tour of the islands.

During the morning portion of the trip, a speedboat will take you to a couple of great snorkeling spots where you'll have a total of two hours in the water with an experienced guide. Around noon, you'll stop at an island and enjoy lunch on the beach. Following this, you can embark on a short hike up to a lookout point offering great views over the bay. Enjoy more snorkeling in the afternoon during which you can spot tropical fish, sea turtles, rays, moray eels, seahorses, and possibly even reef sharks. Afterward, you'll return to Khao Lak.

Day 13: Day Trip to Takua Pa

photo credit: buket list
Stop for coffee in the historic mining town of Takua Pa, followed by a kayak ride
The Khao Lak area has more to offer than just beaches—there are historic towns, too. Takua Pa is one shining example, and this morning you'll learn how it was the most prominent city in Southern Thailand during the first half of the 20th century. Back then it was a melting pot of foreigners like Indians, Arabs, and Chinese who came for the trade and mining industries. As the resources dwindled, the industry left and what remained is a well-preserved heritage town filled with Sino-Portuguese architecture and Indo-Chinese coffee culture. 

You'll experience the highlights of Takua Pa on a walk down its main street. Marvel at its historic buildings and stop in at a local café for an authentic coffee. You'll also have the option to head to the jungles just outside of town for a kayak ride down a river surrounded by mangrove forests filled with monkeys and sea birds. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 14: Whitewater Rafting & Zipline Adventure

Soar above the jungle landscapes on your last afternoon of the trip

Now that you've experienced some of the most scenic activities in Thailand, it's time to get the adrenaline pumping with some adventure activities. Leave your hotel in the morning and transfer to a rafting camp at the river. Here, you'll meet an expert guide who will offer some basic training. Then you and your group will hop in the raft and head out on a 3-mile (5 km) trip for some whitewater fun.

After braving the rapids, you'll leave the raft and head over to a zipline. Strap in and then sail over the treetops on lines that stretch 492 feet (150 m). Take a break for lunch back at the camp and then hike over to a beautiful waterfall. In the afternoon, you'll transfer back to your hotel.

Day 15: Transfer to Phuket, Depart

Until next time, Thailand!

The day has come to say goodbye to Thailand! At the appointed time, your driver will pick you up for the two-hour transfer south to Phuket airport for your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Fascinating Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Khao Lak- 15 Days
Map of Fascinating Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Khao Lak- 15 Days
Written by Tina Oo, updated Apr 5, 2023