This three-week itinerary takes you off the beaten path to experience Thailand and Cambodia's hidden corners alongside the greatest hits. Start with a visit to Bangkok's raucous markets, then journey north to cycle across the Chiang Mai countryside and trek to waterfalls in Pai. Spend a night in nature in Khao Sok National Park, and take a break on the white-sand beaches of Phuket. End in Cambodia with an in-depth introduction to ancient Angkor and a somber look at recent history in Phnom Penh.


  • Cycle across the "green lung" of Bangkok in Bang Krachao
  • Discover rice fields and hot springs in the tranquil town of Pai
  • Play with elephants in an ethical way at the Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary
  • Cruise among the remarkable floating villages of Tonlé Sap 
  • Pay your respects at Phnom Penh's Choeung Ek Memorial

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bangkok (Thailand), Cruise to Wat Saket & Khao San Road Bangkok
Day 2 Bicycle Tour Across Bang Krachao, Food Tour in Chinatown  Bangkok
Day 3 Visit Mae Klong Railway Market & Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok
Day 4 Transfer to Chiang Mai via Phitsanulok & Sukhothai Chiang Mai
Day 5 Cycle Through Chiang Mai's Countryside  Chiang Mai
Day 6 Ascend Doi Suthep, Visit Huay Tung Tao Reservoir, Tuk-Tuk Food Tour Chiang Mai
Day 7 Transfer to Pai, Visit Hot Springs, Pai Canyon & the Walking Street Pai
Day 8 Explore Baan Rak Thai, Tham Pla-Pha Suea National Park & Su Tong Pae Pai
Day 9 Visit Santichon Chinese Village, Trek to Pam Bok Waterfall Pai
Day 10 Fly to Surat Thani, Transfer to Khao Sok National Park  Khao Sok 
Day 11 Interact with Elephants at the Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary Khao Sok 
Day 12 Transfer to Khao Lak, a Coastal Town on the Andaman Sea Khao Lak
Day 13 Explore the Old Town of Takua Pa, Kayak Down the "Little Amazon"  Khao Lak
Day 14 Speedboat Tour of the Similan Islands Khao Lak
Day 15 Transfer to Phuket, Half-Day Tour of the Island Phuket
Day 16 Phuket Adventures: Whitewater Rafting, ATV Excursion & Ziplining Phuket
Day 17 Fly to Siem Reap (Cambodia), Gateway to the Angkor Ruins Siem Reap
Day 18 Explore Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom & Ta Prohm Siem Reap
Day 19 Visit the Floating Villages of Tonlé Sap, Transfer to Phnom Penh Phnom Penh
Day 20 Tour the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum & Choeung Ek Memorial Phnom Penh
Day 21 Depart Phnom Penh  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok (Thailand), Cruise to Wat Saket & Khao San Road

A river cruise is a great way to get your bearings in Bangkok

Welcome to the bustling capital of Thailand, Bangkok! Meet your driver in the arrivals hall of Suvarnabhumi Airport and transfer to your hotel. Stay in to relax or venture out to explore on your own before the night's activities. You can visit one of the many spas for a traditional Thai massage or just stroll around the city, admiring the colorful temples and trying delectable street food. Keep an eye on the clock, as a driver will pick you up at the hotel later on to take you to one of the city's canals for a cruise to Wat Saket (Golden Mount Temple). 

When you arrive, disembark and climb the 320 steps to the temple's summit, where you'll be greeted by panoramic views of the city. Watch the sunset with the calming sound of temple bells and monks performing their evening rituals in the background before heading down the steps to visit Khao San Road, a famous street full of local shops, street vendors, bars, and restaurants. Grab a cold beer and stop at Jay Fai, the first street food stall in Bangkok to be awarded a Michelin star. Try the famous crab omelet before returning to your hotel for the night.

Day 2: Bicycle Tour Across Bang Krachao, Food Tour in Chinatown 

Savor the city's best street food on a tasty tour of Chinatown

Enjoy a nourishing breakfast at the hotel to ensure you're ready for a five-hour bicycle tour across Bang Krachao, the "green lung of Bangkok." Pedal along the winding paths, surrounded by mangroves, orchards, and lush vegetation. The maze of elevated concrete pathways and wooden bridges will take you through quaint villages, where you'll stop at temples, schools, parks, and boxing gyms. You'll also visit a local restaurant to try typical Thai dishes, like pad thai, stir-fried noodles, or kao pad, Thai-style fried rice. Once you're refueled, take a ferry back to the city and head to Chinatown for a food tour. 

Hopefully, all the cycling worked up a big appetite, as you get to try different snacks, desserts, and drinks from the vendors lining the streets. Follow your guide through the alleys and listen as they teach you about the city's vibrant food culture. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try fried scorpions or bamboo worms; if not, you have your pick of Thai and Chinese cuisines. Wash everything down with a Thai iced tea or freshly squeezed fruit juice, but leave room for dessert, like mango sticky rice or bua loy, rice balls in sweet coconut milk. Once you're stuffed, return to the hotel to rest. 

Day 3: Visit Mae Klong Railway Market & Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Hop in a boat to get up close and personal with the vendors at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Leave the city behind this morning as you drive 1.5 hours to Mae Klong Railway Market, where vendors set up stalls on an active railway track. When a train is about to pass, watch as the vendors quickly retract their goods, showcasing their coordination and ingenuity. When the market returns to normal, you can explore the many stalls, sample local delicacies, and shop for handmade souvenirs. 

Head to another distinctive market next, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, to see vendors selling their goods from boats. Hop in a boat yourself to cruise down the narrow canals and rub shoulders with the vendors selling clothing, souvenirs, and food. Disembark and stroll the banks of the canals to get to a local restaurant for lunch. Once your belly is full and your pockets are empty, return to Bangkok for the evening. 

Day 4: Transfer to Chiang Mai via Phitsanulok & Sukhothai

Admire the ruins and tranquil ponds in Sukhothai Historical Park

Say goodbye to Thailand's capital this morning with an epic journey north to the mountainous region of Chiang Mai. Start with a five-hour train ride through the countryside to Phitsanulok, a historic city known as the "gateway to the north." Disembark and visit the Sergeant Major Thawee Folk Museum to browse the collection of antique relics, folk art, and traditional costumes that span generations.

After learning about Thailand's folklore and ancient customs, continue with an hour's transfer to the ancient city of Sukhothai, once the capital of the Kingdom of Sukhothai. Walk through the Sukhothai Historical Park to discover well-preserved temple ruins, serene Buddha statues, and tranquil ponds covered with lotus flowers. Stroll next door to the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum to learn about the kingdom's history and artistic achievements. After the educational visit, finish the five-hour transfer to Chiang Mai. Check into your hotel and relax after the long trip.

Day 5: Cycle Through Chiang Mai's Countryside 

Cycle up to Wat Doi Kham, an intricate temple nestled in the hills

This morning, you get to explore the countryside by bike, starting at Tha Phae Gate, part of the ancient city walls, where you'll leave Chiang Mai behind. Cycle through lush landscapes and charming villages to get to Kad Leung Market, the perfect place to sample local fruits like mangosteen or rambutan. Continue to a Thai farmhouse, immersing yourself in the rural way of life as you observe age-old farming techniques.

Pedal to the Elefin Farm & Cafe next to see Thailand's national animal, the Asian elephant. Have a drink and wait for your chance to feed these gentle giants before heading to the Royal Park Ratchapruek for a local lunch set in the tropical flower garden. End your bike tour at Wat Doi Kham, a serene temple nestled in the hills. Enter the temple grounds to discover the lush gardens, intricate sculptures, and panorama view of the city below. Cycle back to Chiang Mai and transfer to your hotel to rest your weary feet. 

Day 6: Ascend Doi Suthep, Visit Huay Tung Tao Reservoir, Tuk-Tuk Food Tour

Climb 306 steps to get to the golden Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Start this action-packed day with a visit to the most famous temple in the region, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Your driver will take you 3,520 feet (1,072 m) up Doi Suthep mountain; then, you'll ascend 306 steps to the temple gateway, guarded by two mythological half-human, half-serpent beings called nagas. When you arrive at the top, you'll be greeted by a sparkling gold pagoda. Walk through the temple grounds, admiring the parasols, bells, gongs, and pillars all covered in gold. Enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside before heading down the mountain to Huay Tung Tao Reservoir

You can rent a paddle boat, fish in the lake, or lounge in bamboo huts in this picturesque reservoir surrounded by lush green mountains. Then, return to the hotel to rest before venturing back out on a three-hour food tour by tuk-tuk. Start at Kad Luang, the main market in the city, to taste seasonal fruits, freshly made sausages, and Thai iced tea. Continue to Chang Puak Gate Night Market, where you can try popular northern Thai dishes, like pad see ew (flat noodles stir-fried with soy sauce). Once you're full, take a ride around the old city before returning to your hotel for the night.

Day 7: Transfer to Pai, Visit Hot Springs, Pai Canyon & the Walking Street

Unwind after the long drive with a soak in the Tha Pai Hot Springs

Bid farewell to Chiang Mai this morning as you head 3.5 hours deeper into the mountains of northern Thailand to Pai, a small, bohemian town near the Myanmar border. After settling into your new hotel, venture out to the Tha Pai Hot Springs to unwind in the lush green forest. Soak in the mineral-rich pools and cascading streams, each with different heat levels. When you're refreshed, visit Pai Canyon to see the sun setting over the surrounding valleys and mountains. Walk up the steps to the first viewpoint and watch the vibrant red soil of the canyon come alive in the fading light. 

Once darkness starts to fall, continue to Pai Walking Street and Night Market to browse the stalls selling handmade crafts, clothing, and street food. Sample the delectable array of Thai and international dishes, from flavorful curries and grilled meat skewers to sweet treats like coconut pudding. When you're done eating, grab a drink and enjoy the live music and street performances before returning to your hotel for the night.

Day 8: Explore Baan Rak Thai, Tham Pla-Pha Suea National Park & Su Tong Pae

Swim in the cool pool under Pha Sua Waterfall

After breakfast, join your guide and venture three hours closer to the Myanmar border to Baan Rak Thai, a small highland village surrounded by tea plantations. Explore the narrow, cobblestone streets, sample the oolong tea grown here, and visit a traditional Chinese temple, as the village is primarily inhabited by the descendants of the Chinese Kuomintang soldiers who founded Baan Rak Thai. Say goodbye to the locals and continue deeper into nature at Tham Pla-Pha Suea National Park, home to lush forests, limestone caves, a picturesque lake, and cascading waterfalls.

Walk down one of the scenic hiking trails through the dense forest to Pha Sua Waterfall, plunging from a limestone cliff. Swim in the cool pool at the base of the falls to refresh before continuing on the trail. When you're done exploring the park, head to Su Tong Pae Bridge, a bamboo bridge spanning several rice paddies and a serene valley. Stroll across the bridge and admire the ingenious local craftsmanship while you overlook the beautiful landscape. Return to your hotel in Pai to rest after this busy day.

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Day 9: Visit Santichon Chinese Village, Trek to Pam Bok Waterfall

Visit the charming Santichon Chinese Village to meet the Yuannanese Chinese people

Meet your driver and guide for the day outside the hotel around 9 am to visit the nearby Santichon Chinese Village, a charming settlement primarily inhabited by the Yunnanese Chinese people who fled to Thailand during the Panthay Rebellion in the 19th century. Discover the village's traditional Chinese architecture, try freshly brewed Yunnan tea, and sample traditional dishes, like savory dumplings or sweet rice cakes. 

Continue on a scenic drive to Pam Bok Waterfall, passing rice fields, lush jungles, and traditional farms along the way. Embark on a short trek through the jungle to reach the waterfall, where you'll be greeted by a series of cascades and natural pools surrounded by moss-covered rocks. Swim in the crystal-clear waters or relax on the banks before hiking back to the car and returning to Pai. 

Day 10: Fly to Surat Thani, Transfer to Khao Sok National Park 

Relax in your waterfront cabin in Khao Sok National Park
Return to Chiang Mai this morning to catch a 1.5-hour flight to Surat Thani, the gateway to the Gulf of Thailand and Khao Sok National Park. Meet your driver outside Surat Thani International Airport to transfer 1.5 hours to your rustic cabin within the park, and then the day is yours. There are plenty of ways you can spend the rest of your afternoon, such as hiking to hidden waterfalls, kayaking across Cheow Lan Lake, or bird watching to spot some of the 300 species that live here. After a day of exploring the park on your own, return to the hotel for a delicious dinner. 

Day 11: Interact with Elephants at the Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary

Walk with gentle giants at Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary

Today, you have the opportunity to get close to rescued elephants in an ethical way at Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary. The sanctuary is committed to the well-being and conservation of these majestic animals, many of whom were saved from the logging and tourism industries. Meet the elephants, learn about their stories, and feed them some fresh bananas before helping make their meals. You'll also learn how to make khao tom mud for yourself, a sweet sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves.

When you're done in the kitchen, walk with the elephants through the rainforest to the watering hole nearby. Watch as the elephants run into the water and start playing with the mud underneath. You won't be able to jump in with them, but you can take plenty of pictures from the shores. Follow the elephants back to the visitor center to feed them the food you made earlier. When it's time, say goodbye to these gentle giants and return to your cabin in the park. 

Day 12: Transfer to Khao Lak, a Coastal Town on the Andaman Sea

Transfer to coastal Khao Lak today and take your pick of its many beaches 

Trade one natural paradise for another as you transfer one hour southwest to Khao Lak this morning, a coastal town renowned for its golden beaches. After settling into your new hotel, venture out to explore the area on your own. Visit one of the pristine stretches of sand in the area, such as Nang Thong Beach or Kuk Khak Beach, where you can unwind, swim, sunbathe, or take a leisurely walk along the shoreline.

If you're looking for a more adventurous day, you can go to Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park to hike along one of the well-maintained trails. Enter the dense rainforest and walk among towering trees to get to the hidden waterfalls, where you can refresh with a swim in the cool waters. Keep an eye out for the wildlife that call this forest home, like tapirs, monkeys, and monitor lizards. In the evening, stop at one of the beachfront restaurants or night markets for dinner and a drink. 

Day 13: Explore the Old Town of Takua Pa, Kayak Down the "Little Amazon"

Admire the colorful Sino-Portuguese homes and storefronts in Takua Pa

Join your driver this morning for a visit to the charming and historic town of Takua Pa, where you can learn about its rich cultural heritage and discover the Sino-Portuguese architecture. This old trading port, which thrived during the tin mining era, is now home to several temples, vividly painted buildings, and ornate shophouses. Walk along the cobbled streets, stopping at landmarks like Wat Rat Uppatham, an ancient Buddhist temple that combines elements of Thai, Chinese, and European influences.

After exploring the old town, head north to the "Little Amazon," named due to its resemblance to the Amazon rainforest. Hop in a kayak and paddle along the winding waterways flanked by lush mangrove forests. Observe diverse bird species, spot aquatic creatures, and just enjoy the serene environment before returning to your hotel in Khao Lak.

Day 14: Speedboat Tour of the Similan Islands

Cruise to the pristine beaches and turquoise waters of the Similan Islands
Get your bathing suit on, as today, you're exploring the Similan Islands by speedboat. Your captain will take you to the best swimming and snorkeling spots so you can jump in the crystal-clear waters of the Andaman Sea and see the vibrant coral and diverse marine life the region is known for. While you're snorkeling, keep an eye out for the manta rays, reef sharks, and sea turtles that call these waters home. After a morning of snorkeling and swimming, cruise to one of the white-sand beaches to relax on the shores and enjoy a delicious lunch before returning to land.

Day 15: Transfer to Phuket, Half-Day Tour of the Island

Visit Wat Chalong on your tour across Phuket

Transfer 1.5 hours down the coast this morning to Phuket, the largest island in Thailand. After settling into your hotel, venture back out for a guided tour of the area. Start at some of the island's best beaches, like Patong, Kata, and Karon, where you can admire the golden sands and turquoise waters. If there's time, pop into the sea for a refreshing swim before continuing to Karon Viewpoint for panoramic vistas of the surrounding hills, pristine beaches, and the Andaman Sea. 

Head to the famous Wat Chalong next, the largest and most revered temple on the island. Enter the temple complex to admire the striking pagodas, intricate architecture, and beautiful gardens. On the way to your next stop, the island's old town, visit a honey and cashew nut factory to purchase some snacks or souvenirs. In the Old Town, walk along the narrow roads lined with quaint cafés, colorful Sino-Portuguese houses, and boutique shops. Browse the local markets or vibrant street food stalls to find local dishes to try before returning to your hotel to rest.

Day 16: Phuket Adventures: Whitewater Rafting, ATV Excursion & Ziplining

Climb into the treetops to set off on a zipline flight through Phuket's jungle

Enjoy an adventurous day in Phuket as you go from whitewater rafting to riding an ATV to ziplining above the treetops. Meet your driver outside the hotel after breakfast and transfer to the rafting camp for a safety briefing and basic training (beginners are welcome). Once you've got your gear, carry the raft to the water, hop in, and drift down the gushing waters surrounded by lush rainforest. At the end of the 3.1-mile (5 km) course, return your gear and continue to your next adventure, a thrilling ATV ride through the island's natural landscapes.

Hop on your own ATV and follow your guide off-road through mountains and lush greenery. Enjoy glistening sea views as you drive to your first optional stop, the Big Buddha perched atop Nakkerd Hill. Climb up the hill to see the 147-foot (45 m) statue and panoramic views, then continue to Wat Suwan Kuha (Cave Temple) to see its 50-foot (15 m) reclining Buddha. Then, it's off to a zipline site in the jungle, where you'll take to the skies along the 500-foot (150 m) long zipline. Take your ATV back to camp, and enjoy a delicious lunch before returning to your hotel.

Day 17: Fly to Siem Reap (Cambodia), Gateway to the Angkor Ruins

Grab dinner and a drink at one of the many restaurants on Pub Street
Say your farewells to Thailand, as today you fly to Siem Reap, the gateway to the Angkor ruins in Cambodia. When you land at Siem Reap International Airport after the 1.5-hour flight, meet your driver outside and transfer to your hotel. Stay in to relax, or venture out to discover the city on your own. You might want to visit the Angkor National Museum to learn about the Khmer civilization and the Angkor temples before you explore them tomorrow. At night, head to Pub Street, an avenue full of restaurants, street vendors, bars, and clubs, for dinner and a drink. 

Day 18: Explore Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom & Ta Prohm

Tour the sprawling temple complex of Angkor today with your guide

Today, you get to explore one of the world's most well-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Angkor Wat, a temple complex built in the 12th century. When you approach this monumental temple, you'll be greeted by its five towering spires that are so iconic they're emblazoned on the Cambodian flag. Enter the temple grounds to admire the bas-reliefs adorning the walls, depicting epic tales from Hindu mythology. Stroll around the well-preserved corridors, libraries, and grounds, stopping at the serene reflection ponds for one last view of the temple before heading to Angkor Thom.

Cross the bridge lined with statues of gods and demons, then enter at the South Gate to discover the ancient walled city that was once the capital of the Khmer Empire. Visit the Bayon Temple within, celebrated for its mysterious stone faces adorning its towers. Move on to the Terrace of the Elephants next, which used to serve as a viewing platform for the king to see his army returning. Before you go, stop at the Terrace of the Leper King, wrongly named as the discoloration of the statue led people to believe it was King Yasovarman I who had leprosy, but it's actually Yama, the Indic god of death.

End your tour of the Angkor ruins at Ta Prohm, a temple that's been taken over by sprawling tree roots. Wander around the temple's crumbling structures and admire the trees growing out of the walls to appreciate the harmony between history, architecture, and nature. After all that walking, hop on a tuk-tuk for a tour around the city, then transfer to a local temple to complete a blessing ceremony with a Buddhist monk. They'll guide you through the ritual, reciting prayers and bestowing blessings for good fortune, health, and happiness. Thank the monk for this unique opportunity, then return to your hotel to rest.

Day 19: Visit the Floating Villages of Tonlé Sap, Transfer to Phnom Penh

Cruise down Tonlé Sap to see the floating villages

Your guide will take you 9 miles (15 km) out of the city this morning to Tonlé Sap, known as the "Great Lake" of Cambodia, to see the communities that have adapted and built entire structures on stilts. Jump in a traditional wooden boat and cruise through the network of floating houses, schools, markets, and even restaurants. Wave to the residents and watch as they fish and farm using traditional methods before returning to Siem Reap to visit Artisans Angkor, a center full of skilled artisans creating sculptures, textiles, wood carvings, and other traditional crafts.

Watch the artists at work or buy one of their pieces to take home as a reminder of your trip, then say goodbye to Siem Reap as you leave for the capital city, Phnom Penh. On the way, stop at Spean Praptos (Naga Bridge), which dates back to the 12th century. Admire the intricate carvings and graceful arches showcasing the Khmer's expertise in stone masonry before learning how to carve stone yourself at a workshop in Santuk. Make one last stop at the Spider Market to sample fried critters or just browse the array of edible insects. After the 5.5-hour drive, check into your hotel and settle in for the night. 

Day 20: Tour the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum & Choeung Ek Memorial

Pay your respects at the Choeung Ek Memorial

The Khmer Rouge, a communist revolutionary group, gained power in Cambodia in 1975 and wreaked devastation on the country, especially in Phnom Penh. Because of this, many Cambodians died here, so today, you'll visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to learn more about the country's dark past. This high school turned prison was the site of many horrors, as countless Cambodians were tortured and held captive here. Today, it's a museum displaying haunting photographs and testimonies from survivors.

Learn their stories and pay your respects before continuing to the Choeung Ek Memorial, located at one of the country's notorious "Killing Fields." Walk through the peaceful and somber grounds to see the mass graves and the stupa containing thousands of human skulls. It stands as a poignant monument to the victims of this tragic era. Though this excursion may prove distressing for some, it's an important piece toward understanding this country's history.

Day 21: Depart Phnom Penh

Browse the narrow alleyways of the Russian Market
Your three-week adventure across Thailand and Cambodia ends today. Pack up your bags and enjoy a final breakfast before you check out of the hotel. If you have some time before your flight, leave your belongings and set out to explore more of Phnom Penh on your own. Visit the Russian Market for some last-minute souvenirs or climb the hill to Wat Phnom to enjoy panoramic views of the city before you leave. Keep an eye on the clock, as a driver will meet you back at the hotel to take you to the airport in time for your 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 three weeks in Thailand and Cambodia, or discover the best time of year to visit Thailand.


Map of Hidden Treasures of Thailand & Cambodia: Bangkok to Phnom Penh - 21 Days
Map of Hidden Treasures of Thailand & Cambodia: Bangkok to Phnom Penh - 21 Days
Written by Tina Oo, updated Jan 29, 2024