From cruising around James Bond Island to relaxing on Khao Lak's beaches, this 12-day tour is a great choice for those wanting to sample some of Thailand's greatest hits. Start by exploring Bangkok's canals and temples before learning about the tragic history of the Thai-Burma Railway in Kanchanaburi. Then it's on to Chiang Mai, where you'll trek and visit an elephant camp. The end of your tour is centered around the island of Khao Lak, discovering the beauty of its beaches and surrounding sites.


  • Take a scenic long-tail boat ride down the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok
  • Watch adorable elephants feeding and bathing in the Mae Wang district 
  • Cruise to the world-famous James Bond Island
  • Admire the natural beauty of Erawan National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bangkok Bangkok
Day 2 Bangkok Temples & Canals Tour Bangkok
Day 3 Transfer to Kanchanaburi, Explore Erawan National Park & Death Railway Kanchanaburi
Day 4 Visit Ayutthaya, Train to Chiang Mai Chiang Mai
Day 5 Free Day in Chiang Mai Chiang Mai
Day 6 Doi Inthanon National Park & Ban Mae Klang Luang Nature Trail Chiang Mai
Day 7 Explore the Beauty of the Mae Wang District Chiang Mai
Day 8 Transfer to Khao Lak Khao Lak
Day 9 Highlights of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Khao Lak
Day 10 Full-Day Similan Island Tour Khao Lak
Day 11 Beach Day at Khao Lak Khao Lak
Day 12 Transfer to Phuket & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok

Bangkok Chinatown
A good place to start exploring is Bangkok's famous Chinatown

Welcome to Bangkok! Your guide and driver will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel in the heart of the city, where you can relax and unwind. Bangkok is known for its interesting food, vibrant markets, and friendly locals. If you have the energy after your flight today, you're free to explore Bangkok at your own pace.

A good place to start is its famous Chinatown, whose narrow lanes are an excellent spot to try the local street food. For souvenir shopping, head to Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok's most popular shopping malls. And, if you're visiting during the weekend, don't miss Chatuchak Market. With more than 15,000 stalls, it's one of the world's largest outdoor markets selling everything from clothes and flowers to antiques. Sports lovers can catch an evening kickboxing match, Thailand's national sport. Alternatively, visit Warehouse 30 to see modern art exhibitions or end your day with a traditional Thai massage.

Day 2: Bangkok Temples & Canals Tour

Wat Paknam
Wat Paknam, a royal temple dating to the 17th century

You'll start your full-day tour of Bangkok by boarding a long-tail boat for a scenic ride down the Chao Phraya River. After cruising the main waterway and enjoying spectacular views of Bangkok's skyline, turn off into the maze of klongs (narrow canals running through residential neighborhoods). Watch local life as you pass wooden houses on stilts and wave to friendly locals. Keep an eye out for waterbirds such as herons, pelicans, and egrets. The first stop on your boat tour is the waterfront temple of Wat Khun Chan. You can't miss the giant, colorful statues of Buddha, deities, and animals.

Then visit Wat Paknam, a royal temple dating to the 17th century, where you'll tour the museum. This temple complex is also famous for its 226-foot (69 m) statue of a seated golden Buddha. Return to the pier to disembark and have lunch nearby. In the afternoon, visit two famous landmarks: the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The former has been the royal residence since the days of the Siam Kingdom and is still used for official ceremonies. The latter is perhaps the most iconic Buddhist temple in the country, with a 26-inch (66 cm) jade statue of a meditating Buddha inside. 

Day 3: Transfer to Kanchanaburi, Explore Erawan National Park & Death Railway

Explore Erawan National Park & Death Railway
Enjoy the beauty of Erawan National Park

Today you'll head to Kanchanaburi by car and check into your next hotel. After freshening up, you'll learn about the tragic history of Kanchanaburi while admiring its natural beauty. Start with a visit to Erawan National Park, the perfect place to enjoy the region's spectacular nature, particularly at its famous seven-tiered waterfall. These falls are considered to be the most beautiful in the whole country.

After lunch, visit the Hellfire Pass Memorial. This combined museum and gallery commemorates the thousands of prisoners of war who died while constructing the Thai-Burma Railway during World War II, known afterward as the Death Railway. Take a ride along its historic tracks and enjoy the scenic route. A highlight is passing through Tham Krasae Station, which offers beautiful views of the Kwai Noi River. After arriving at Tha Kilen Train Station, transfer back to your hotel for a free evening. Relax at your hotel or head to Kanchanaburi's famous night markets to try various delicious western Thai dishes.

Day 4: Visit Ayutthaya, Train to Chiang Mai

Visit Ayutthaya, Train to Chiang Mai
Head east today to the historic city of Ayutthaya

In the morning, you'll hop in the car to head east to the historic city of Ayutthaya. The former royal capital of the Siam Kingdom, Ayutthaya, was founded in 1350 but was sacked by the Burmese in the 18th century. However, many structures, such as reliquary towers and monasteries, still remain to this day. You'll get to see these plus various temples on a walking tour of the Historical Park, which covers all the ruins of this ancient city.

After witnessing the former glory of the Siamese Empire, you'll leave the car behind and head to the train station. Here, you'll board an overnight train north to Chiang Mai. Upon arrival, your driver will take you to a local restaurant for breakfast before transferring you to your hotel.

Day 5: Free Day in Chiang Mai

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple
Just outside of town is the 19th-century temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Chiang Mai was the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom from 1296-1558. And today, many remnants of this history remain, such as its ancient walls, moats, and Buddhist temples. In recent times, Chiang Mai has become popular with visitors not only for its historical sites but also for its night markets, incredible street-food scene, and nearby elephant sanctuaries. You'll have the entire day free to explore all this and more. First, venture behind Chiang Mai's ancient walls for a walking tour of its Old City and famous landmarks such as Wat Phra Singh, a 14th-century Buddhist temple.

For shopping, don't miss San Kamphaeng Road, where you can buy artisanal crafts such as pottery and silverwork. Just outside of town is the temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Thailand, which was built early in the 19th Buddhist century. And when the sun goes down, Chang Klan Road is the place to be, as it comes alive with merchant stalls and street-food vendors.

If time permits, visit San Kamphaeng Hot Springs, a 1.5-hour drive from the city center. This open-air spa puts on quite the show in the form of a geyser of hot water that shoots 65 feet (20 m) into the air. It's a great place to soak in mineral baths while enjoying the beautiful scenery. For more adventure, travel a couple of hours from Chiang Mai to Bua Tong National Park for a jungle hike and to climb the famous "Sticky Waterfall." The white stones comprising this cascade are hard and spongelike rather than slippery, making them easy to climb.
Plan your trip to Thailand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Doi Inthanon National Park & Ban Mae Klang Luang Nature Trail

Pha Dok Siew Waterfalls
You can cool off next to the Pha Dok Siew Waterfall

First thing, you'll take a scenic drive through paddy rice fields to Doi Inthanon National Park. You'll visit the pagodas of the king and the queen and admire the beautiful scenery of the mountains in the park. Then head to a Karen hill tribe village to see the local daily life of the Karen people who live in Burma and northern Thailand and stop at the colorful market. On your way back, you'll stop to look at the Wachirathan Waterfall

In the afternoon, you'll visit the Ban Mae Klang Luang Nature Trail on a route that will take you away from the main tourist path. The trail follows a forested path downhill before it meets the river. It then follows the river, passing Pa Dok Siew Waterfall, where you can cool off. The path eventually opens out into agricultural land, which surrounds the Mae Klang Luang Karen village, where you will see coffee bushes and rice paddies. You'll stop at a local coffee house where they roast, hand grind, and prepare freshly-brewed coffee from the surrounding hills before heading back to your hotel.

Day 7: Explore the Beauty of the Mae Wang District

Explore the Beauty of Mae Wang area (N)
Enjoy watching adorable elephants feeding and bathing

Today, you'll be picked up from your hotel in a truck to head to the Mae Wang district for a trekking tour to spot the diverse wildlife of Chiang Mai. After you meet your guide, you'll trek on a local trail for around 3.1 miles (5 km) through the rainforest. You'll pass beautiful jungle waterfalls, where you can enjoy playing in the water to cool down and relax. Then visit the rice terraces to see the Karen people's agricultural lifestyle and take in the beautiful views. Your lunch here will be made from natural ingredients, including fresh organic vegetables, and will be served with khao soi (local curry noodle soup).

After lunch, head to an elephant camp, where you will enjoy watching adorable elephants feeding and bathing for around an hour. Then you will go on a bamboo rafting adventure. The bamboo rafting route you'll take along the Mae Wang River is the most popular route in Chiang Mai and is exciting and challenging. After that, drive back to Chiang Mai town and transfer to your hotel for the evening.

Day 8: Transfer to Khao Lak

Khao Lak's beaches are ideal for watersports

In the morning, you will be transferred to Chiang Mai Airport to take a short flight to Phuket. You'll be met at the airport in Phuket by your driver, who will transfer you to the island of Khao Lak.

Despite only being around a 1.5-hour drive from Phuket, Khao Lak has managed to remain uncrowded. It is known for its endless sandy beaches and is an ideal place for water sports such as snorkeling and diving. There are three national parks in Khao Lak, making it perfect for exploring while surrounded by nature. You could rent a bike to cycle around the emerald jungles, take a canoe or kayak trip, hike through the forest, or practice yoga at one of the local yoga schools.

Day 9: Highlights of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Explore the Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island
Explore Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island by long-tail boat
Today, you'll board a long-tail boat to explore the beautiful Phang Nga Bay, which has unique caves hidden among limestone cliffs. Then you'll cruise toward the world-famous James Bond Island, where you'll enjoy a view of the most popular limestone cliff in the area. Known locally as Ko Tapu, this popular tourist attraction was made famous by the movie "The Man with the Golden Gun" starring Roger Moore. Next, head to a canoe station and relax while taking in the nature surrounding you with an experienced guide paddling. You will get close to hundreds of old stone formations, caves, and mangroves.
Continue exploring by visiting a fishing village built on stilts in the water. The sea nomads here will warmly welcome you with a delicious Thai lunch. Stroll around the village in the afternoon to learn more about local life and culture. You might also find some nice souvenirs for yourself, your family, and your friends. Afterward, return to the mainland and head to Phang Nga Park by road to end your day by visiting a temple and its nearby caves. Then return to your hotel to relax for the evening.

Day 10: Full-Day Similan Island Tour 

Full day Similan island tour (Join Car & Boat)
Take in panoramic views of the Similan Islands

Leave early to reach Tap Lamu Private Pier for a light breakfast and hot drink while you are briefed on the day ahead. You'll then board a luxury speedboat to zip to the Similan Islands. Your first stop will be at Donald Duck Bay ("Island Number 8") to hike up to the renowned and symbolic Sail Rock to take in amazing panoramic views of the bay. You'll also have a relaxing time swimming and sunbathing on the white sandy beach here. Then, you'll continue to the first snorkeling spot at Ba Ngu Island ("Island Number 9") and the breathtaking Coral Bay to explore its underwater world.

Refuel with a delicious Thai buffet lunch, with fresh fruit and drinks, before heading to your second snorkeling location, Payu Island ("Island Number 7"), where sea turtles and clownfish are often spotted. Then it's on to Mieng Island ("Island Number 4") for more relaxing, sunbathing, and photograph opportunities on the gorgeous beaches of Honeymoon Bay or Princess Bay. You can also snorkel from the beach here. You'll head back to Khao Lak to arrive at the pier in the late afternoon.

Day 11: Beach Day at Khao Lak

Beach Day at Khao Lak
Spend today relaxing on Khao Lak's beaches

Khao Lak is known for its beaches, with warm, calm waters and picturesque scenery. Spend today relaxing on them at your own pace, appreciating the natural beauty. A good stretch of sand to visit is Nang Thong Beach, which has an excellent selection of cafés and bars, great conditions for swimming, and landscapes you'll want to photograph.

Another spot to consider is Bang Niang Beach, where you'll find fine golden sand, numerous coconut trees, and stunning sunsets. If you are looking for a more remote and serene place, try Pak Weep Beach or White Sand Beach. The sand here is so white that it sometimes looks like snow, there are palm trees for shade, and the sea is calm and crystal clear.

Day 12: Transfer to Phuket & Depart

Today is your last day in Thailand

Today is your last day in Thailand. You'll be picked up to transfer to Phuket International Airport by your driver, where you'll catch your flight to your onward destination. See you again soon!

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Map of Highlights of Thailand: Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai & Khao Lak - 12 Days
Map of Highlights of Thailand: Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai & Khao Lak - 12 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Jan 20, 2023