- Hike around ethnic villages in the Pai countryside
- See the highlights of Chiang Mai and visit elephant sanctuaries
- Laze on the beaches of Krabi and climb karst mountains
- Go snorkeling and island hopping around Ko Yo Noi
- Enjoy a sunset dinner cruise on a catamaran in Phuket
|Day 1||Arrive in Chiang Mai, Transfer to Pai||Pai|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Highland Villages||Pai|
|Day 3||Transfer to Chiang Mai, Optional Activities||Chiang Mai|
|Day 4||Day Hike & Raft Trip in Mae Win||Chiang Mai|
|Day 5||Elephant Nature Park Visit||Chiang Mai|
|Day 6||Fly to Krabi, Optional Activities||Krabi|
|Day 7||Free Time in Krabi||Krabi|
|Day 8||Krabi Rock Climbing With Guide||Krabi|
|Day 9||Transfer to Ko Yao Noi, Optional Activities||Ko Yao Noi|
|Day 10||Phang Nga Bay Kayak Trip||Ko Yao Noi|
|Day 11||Island Hopping & Snorkeling Tour||Ko Yao Noi|
|Day 12||Transfer to Phuket, Optional Activities||Phuket|
|Day 13||Sunset Dinner Cruise||Phuket|
|Day 14||Depart Phuket|
Day 1: Arrive in Chiang Mai, Transfer to Pai
Welcome to Thailand! You'll arrive in Chiang Mai, the largest and most famous city in northern Thailand. From 1296 to 1558, it was the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom. Much of this history is well-preserved in the form of ancient walls, moats, and the Buddhist temples dotting the Old City (historic center). You'll get to experience this rich cultural heritage soon enough—for now, you're off to Pai.
At the airport, you'll meet your personal driver for the 3.5-hour ride northwest of Chiang Mai to Pai. This town, nestled in a lush valley amid the mountains and forests of Mae Hong Son province, is a throwback to another time. Known for its traditional farmhouses perched on green rice terraces, as well as its nearby hot springs and waterfalls, Pai is the model of the idyllic Thai country retreat. The atmosphere is so relaxed that Pai has become hugely popular with hippies, artists, and backpackers.
After checking into your accommodation, you'll have the rest of the day to discover the town on your own. One highlight not to miss is Pai's famous night market. Open every night, you can browse various items here, including locally made handicrafts, clothing, jewelry, accessories, and souvenirs. Of course, it's also a street-food lover's paradise, with plenty of stalls serving up everything from spring rolls and pad thai to som tum (papaya salad) and kao soi (a fragrant curry noodle soup).
Day 2: Day Trip to Highland Villages
In the morning, you'll set out from Pai on a full-day excursion to visit nearby highland villages. It's a great opportunity to venture off the tourist trail and see remote and authentic locales like Ban Rak Thai. This sleepy highland village is nestled in the lush backcountry of Mae Hong Son province, near the border with Myanmar, in a valley surrounded by hills and tea plantations. There's quite a bit of history here, as the village was founded by former Kuo Min Tang soldiers—Chinese nationalists who fled the country after the civil war in 1950.
After exploring the village with your guide, meeting the locals, and snapping some pics, you'll continue on to Namtok Pha Suea National Park. Within this protected area are the dazzling natural wonders this region is famous for. Besides the evergreen forests home to exotic animals like wild boars and bears, another famous landmark here is Pha Suea Waterfall. These impressive falls are 32 feet (10 m) high and 49 feet (15 m) wide, plunging in various cascades over rocks into a lagoon.
Spend time enjoying the falls, then head to Su Tong Pae Bridge. Spanning 2,625 feet (800 m) over verdant rice paddies, it's regarded as the longest bamboo bridge in the country. The bridge's purpose is twofold: it's an access route to a nearby Buddhist monastery (hence its nickname, the "Bridge of Faith"), and it allows villagers to navigate the area during winter flooding. After strolling along the bridge, you'll transfer back to Pai.
Day 3: Transfer to Chiang Mai, Optional Activities
It's time to leave the countryside and return to city life. After breakfast, you'll transfer back to Chiang Mai. Try to enjoy the stunning northern scenery as you wind your way around mountain roads and along green rice terraces. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, you'll check into your hotel. Then the day is yours to head out and discover the joys and wonders of this city on your own.
You can start at Wat Phra Singh, a 14th-century Buddhist temple. Lying at the heart of the Old City is another 14th-century highlight: Wat Chedi Luang, the largest chedi (Buddhist stupa) in Chiang Mai. Also here is Wat Chiang Man, a temple that dates to the late 13th century, making it the oldest in the city.
Another option is to visit Worarot, Chiang Mai's largest municipal market. It's a popular stop for locals who shop for fresh produce, preserved foods, local delicacies, clothes, flowers, and other knickknacks. Also, like in Pai, there are famous night markets in Chiang Mai—quite a few, in fact. One great option is the Night Bazaar on Chang Klan Road. It's a popular stop for bargain hunters and offers various items, including jewelry, clothes, electronics, and more. Plus, there are plenty of street food options, and it's a great place to try traditional dishes like tom yum (spicy soup) and mango sticky rice.
Day 4: Day Hike & Raft Trip in Mae Win
Wake up early, lace up your hiking boots, and head out on a full-day trekking excursion. It begins when you meet your guide and group outside your hotel. Then you'll depart Chiang Mai by van, heading west out of the city to Mae Win. This district is located in the mountains and is known for its lush forests, waterfalls, scenic hills, and proximity to national parks.
Once here, you and your group will hit the trail, hiking for about two hours up to one such waterfall. It's the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a swim before continuing the trek to a local hill tribe village. Northern Thailand is dotted with many such villages home to ethnic tribespeople. These groups emigrated to countries such as Thailand from places like southern China and Myanmar (Burma) and have retained their cultural traditions. Many, like the Hmong and Karen people, are known for their distinctive clothing and exceptional skill at embroidery/needlework.
After exploring the village, you'll break for lunch at the local restaurant. Later, you'll hike to a rafting camp and end the day with a trip on a bamboo raft down the Mae Win River. During this leisurely one-hour ride, kick back and give your legs a rest as you enjoy the green forest scenery passing by on the banks. Back on land, you'll hop in a truck or van for the return trip to Chiang Mai.
Day 5: Elephant Nature Park Visit
Besides its rich Lanna history and fantastic cuisine, Chiang Mai is known for its many nearby elephant sanctuaries. Typically, these areas are in the forests outside the city and serve as rehabilitation/rescue centers for abused and abandoned elephants. They've been a boon to tourism in recent years because they offer a humane and eco-friendly day trip for those who want to see these wondrous animals in their natural environment.
Leave your hotel in the morning for the ride outside of Chiang Mai to one such rescue center, Elephant Nature Park. This half-day tour begins with a change into a mahout (caretaker clothing), after which you'll meet the elephants and spend the morning feeding them. You'll also lead them down to the river and bathe them—a highlight for both the elephants and visitors. After working up an appetite, you'll sit down for a vegan buffet lunch featuring both Asian and international dishes. Then it will be time to say goodbye to your elephant friends and return to Chiang Mai.
Day 6: Fly to Krabi, Optional Activities
Your personal driver will pick you up this morning and transfer you to the airport in Chiang Mai. Here, you'll catch a two-hour flight south to Krabi, a resort town on the Andaman Coast. Like many places in the region, this area is famous for its gorgeous coast, breathtaking beaches, coral reefs, and romantic offshore islands. At the airport, another driver will pick you up for the transfer to nearby Krabi Town. After checking into your hotel, you can discover Krabi's delights on your own.
If you like, spend the day relaxing on one of Krabi's many beaches. Or, rent a kayak and paddle down the coast, enjoying scenery that includes towering limestone rock formations. You can also stroll around Krabi Town and the waterfront of the Krabi River. For great views, hike up to the 19th-century temple of Wat Kaew, which overlooks the city. If traveling with kids, you can take them to the lagoons and hiking trails at Thung Teao Forest Park. When night falls, be sure to visit Krabi Town's bustling night market.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Free Time in Krabi
The day is yours to enjoy Krabi however you see fit. If you like, spend the day lazing on powdery white-sand beaches with a good book and tropical drink. Or, embark on an informal highlights tour of the region. Perhaps head south of Krabi Town and visit the stunning emerald pool at the Khao Phra Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary. You can walk along the rainforest trails at this nature reserve, then cool off with a refreshing dip in the water.
Nearby are the Krabi Hot Springs, where you can enjoy a nice long soak. Also here is Klong Thom, a small waterfall fed by the same waters as the hot springs, which hover around 104°F (40°C). You can sit down to lunch at a local restaurant before heading to Wat Tahm Suea (Tiger Cave Temple). Hike the 1,200 steps to the top for panoramic views of Krabi and its surrounding limestone rock formations.
Day 8: Krabi Rock Climbing with GuideThe karst mountains and limestone formations that fringe the coast around Krabi make this one of Thailand's premier destinations for rock climbing. In the morning, you'll try it yourself on a half-day excursion at a popular climbing center. It's a great activity for beginners, as it's led by an expert guide who will start things off with an overview of the fundamentals. This includes how to tie knots, rope security, basic climbing techniques, and safety protocols. Then it's time to strap in and navigate your way up a rock face in Thailand—an adrenaline rush you won't likely soon forget.
Day 9: Transfer to Ko Yao Noi, Optional Activities
Get ready to zip across the Andaman Sea to Ko Yao Noi. In the morning, transfer to Krabi's pier and board a speedboat for the hourlong ride to Phang Nga Bay. You'll arrive at your destination, Ko Yao Noi, an island paradise so beautiful that even postcards can't do it justice. This small island (a mere 19 sq mi/ 50 sq km) has yet to be inundated with mass tourism and thus is the perfect place to relax and recharge.
Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and can spend the rest of the day however you like. You can sunbathe on its unspoiled beaches, explore its mangrove forests in a kayak, swim in crystal-clear waters, and hang out in laid-back fishing villages. Highlight beaches here include Loh Paret and Loh Jark. The surrounding waters at these sites are rich in coral and abound with great diving/snorkeling sites.
Day 10: Phang Nga Bay Kayak Trip
Time to discover the wonders of Phang Nga Bay! In the morning, you'll meet your group and guide at the beach, then hop in a kayak for a full-day tour around the coast. During this leisurely trip, you'll paddle past dazzling coastal rock formations and pass through otherworldly sea caves. You'll also stop to relax at hidden lagoons and secluded beaches, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch and spot monkeys and other local wildlife.
One other highlight is a stop at Khao Phing Kan. This romantic island is most known for Ko Ta Pu, a towering limestone islet about 130 feet (40 m) offshore. Its famous nickname is "James Bond Island" because it was a shooting location in the film "The Man with the Golden Gun." At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.
Day 11: Island Hopping & Snorkeling Tour
Experience the islands like a local with a ride on one of Thailand's famous long-tail boats. In the morning, you'll head to the pier, board the boat, and hop around the most beautiful islets near Ko Yao Noi. Besides stopping at white-sand beaches and enjoying views of soaring limestone towers, you'll snorkel around the coral gardens at some of the best dive spots in Phang Nga Bay.
Around noon, you'll stop at the aptly named Paradise Beach for a picnic lunch on the sand. The final stop of the day is at the equally scenic island of Ko Phak Bia, where you can relax on powdery white sands before returning to Ko Yao Noi.
Day 12: Transfer to Phuket, Optional Activities
This morning, you'll transfer to the pier and board a boat for the two-hour ride to Phuket, the country's largest island. Located on the west side of the Andaman Coast, Phuket is known for its powdery beaches, neon nightlife, and world-class resorts. It's also home to diverse landscapes ranging from dense rainforest to palm-fringed beaches and craggy limestone cliffs. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel for check-in. Then, you can spend the rest of the day exploring.
If you like, head to a famous stretch of sand, like Patong, Kata, or Freedom Beach, for sunbathing and watersports like snorkeling and kayaking. However, the natural highlights of Phuket extend beyond the coast. The island has diverse landscapes, including forested hills, mountains, limestone cliffs, lagoons, and tropical forests. Many offer great hiking, like the trail up to the Black Rock Viewpoint, which looks out over beautiful Cape Krathing.
Or, see a different side of Phuket and visit its historic Old Town area. Lining historic Thalang Road are colorful 19th-century shophouses and Sino-Portuguese buildings. There are also plenty of charming cafés and restaurants in the area where you can sit and relax with a good book.
Day 13: Sunset Dinner Cruise
What better way to wind down your Thailand adventure than with a relaxing dinner cruise? After enjoying a free day in Phuket, you'll transfer to Promthep Cape around 3 pm. This dramatic stretch of coast is known for its premium sunset views, which is exactly what you're here to experience.
You'll board a catamaran at the pier for a three-hour trip to a nearby island. During this leisurely ride, you'll glide across the Andaman Sea as the sun dips behind the horizon and ignites the water in brilliant golden hues. Once the sun has set, you'll head to the dining area for an authentic Thai meal before cruising back to the pier.
Day 14: Depart Phuket
Your grand two-week adventure throughout Thailand culminates here in Phuket. In the morning, your driver will take you to the airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!