- Take a sunrise balloon flight over Chiang Mai
- Eat your way through Bangkok's Chinatown on a food tour
- Ride a bamboo raft through the Khao Sok National Park
- Snorkel in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea on an island-hopping tour
|Day 1||Arrive in Chiang Mai, Explore||Chiang Mai|
|Day 2||Sunrise Balloon Flight, Trip to Doi Inthanon National Park||Chiang Mai|
|Day 3||Temples of Lamphun, Evening Food Tour||Chiang Mai|
|Day 4||Transfer to Bangkok, Chinatown Food Tour||Bangkok|
|Day 5||Floating Market, Bangkok Temples & Palaces||Bangkok|
|Day 6||Bangkok by Bicycle & Boat, Afternoon Tea at Dusit Thani||Bangkok|
|Day 7||Transfer to Khao Sok National Park||Khao Sok National Park|
|Day 8||Bamboo Rafting on the Sok River||Khao Sok National Park|
|Day 9||Transfer to Phuket, Welcome to Phuket!||Phuket|
|Day 10||Speedboat Island-Hopping & Snorkeling Tour||Phuket|
Day 1: Arrive in Chiang Mai, Explore
Welcome to Thailand! After arriving at the Chiang Mai airport, your driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. This old city in Northern Thailand is known as a hub of Thai religion and culture. Surrounded by mountains, Chiang Mai's Old City area retains vestiges of the walls and moats from its rich history. It also has hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, diverse hill tribes, tea plantations, and elephant sanctuaries.
Depending on your arrival time and how energized you feel after your flight, head out to explore independently. You might visit the large and central Worarot Market to pick up snacks or souvenirs. If you love temples, visit Wat Chedi Luang, home to Chiang Mai's largest Buddhist chedi (stupa) and an example of local Lanna architecture. You could also visit Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. Take in the sunset from Wat Phra Singh, sometimes said to be Thailand's most beautiful temple.
To experience Chiang Mai's atmosphere after dark, head to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, famous for its handicrafts and portrait paintings. You can also find jewelry, toys, and clothing. The market runs every evening from 5 pm and covers a whole neighborhood east of the Old City.
Day 2: Sunrise Balloon Flight, Trip to Doi Inthanon National Park
Get your first full day in Chiang Mai off to a memorable start with a 45-minute hot-air balloon ride above the city. Take in a spectacular sunrise over the countryside and mountains. Start early in the morning to take advantage of the calm air currents at this time of day. Float peacefully through the sky at altitudes of up to 2,000 feet (600 m), depending on the day's conditions. After the flight, enjoy a glass of sparkling wine and receive a certificate.
Later, visit the spectacular Doi Inthanon National Park, south of Chiang Mai. At its heart is the granite mass of Mount Doi Inthanon, 8,415 feet (2,565 m) above sea level and the highest summit in Thailand. Doi Inthanon is the southeastern tail of the Himalaya. You'll be driven close to the summit, but you'll need to make the final steep ascent on foot. The summit is surprisingly flat, although it's misty, cool, and breezy. Take a short walk to see a small chedi containing the remains of Chao Inthawichayanon, the last independent ruler of Chiang Mai. Explore the Ang-Kha Nature Trail and look for beautiful ferns, moss, and rhododendrons.
Day 3: Temples of Lamphun, Evening Food Tour
This morning, head south to Lamphun, once known as Hariphunchai, the heart of a large ethnic Mon empire founded in 660 CE. As you enter the city, the remnants of the 16th-century fortified city walls and the surrounding moat are still evident. Stop at the principal temple of the province, Wat Prathat Hariphunchai, built in 897. The temple is notable for its massive 167-foot (51 m) golden pagoda, which enshrines a relic of the Lord Buddha. In the same compound, you can also find other attractions like the Buddha footprint, a teak wood library housing ancient Pali texts, an old Lanna-style chedi, and a massive gong used to call devotees to prayer.
Next, visit Wat Jammathevee, named after Queen Jammathevee, the first ruler of Hariphunchai. Then proceed to Pa Sang village, a community of cotton weavers. See how cotton is woven on traditional wooden looms, and even buy some beautiful handmade souvenirs here.
Back in Chiang Mai, take the afternoon to rest before heading out on an evening food tour by tuk-tuk. Your driver will take you to Worarot Market, Chiang Mai's main market with a history of more than 100 years. Sample fresh seasonal tropical fruits and freshly made Northern Thai sausages, sai oua, and wash it down with Thai iced tea. Continue your tour to the night market at Chang Puak Gate (North Gate), which is always busy and offers a great range of authentic Thai cuisine. Try the savory stewed pork leg, or the sweet bua loi (floating lotus), a warm fresh coconut milk broth with tiny pandan-flavored rice flour balls.
If you're up for it, consider ending the night at a bar before returning to your hotel.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Transfer to Bangkok, Chinatown Food Tour
Say goodbye to Chiang Mai today as you head south to the Thai capital, Bangkok, on the northern side of the Gulf of Thailand. The flight takes about 1.5 hours. Although they're both big cities, Chiang Mai and Bangkok couldn't be much more different, as you'll discover in the next few days. Your driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel.
After your culinary experience in Chiang Mai the previous day, your tastebuds are primed for a tasty food tour of one of Bangkok's liveliest neighborhoods, Chinatown. See street vendors selling various food and drinks, including fried insects like scorpions and bamboo worms. Don't worry if you don't want to try these! There are many more appetizing dishes to sample, such as rice noodle soups, pad thai, fried rice, som tam (papaya salad), grilled chicken, boiled pork, and raw prawn with lime. You can learn a lot about local life and culture through the cuisine.
Day 5: Floating Market, Bangkok Temples & Palaces
Get up early this morning to visit one of Bangkok's famous floating markets. There are many such markets, but you'll visit Khlong Lat Mayom Market, one of the most beautiful and conveniently located near downtown Bangkok. This market isn't as busy with boats as others and offers a more authentic experience. You can shop for snacks and souvenirs while enjoying the sights and sounds on the water.
Next, you'll visit the iconic Wat Arun, built during the Ayutthaya period (14th-18th centuries) and named after Aruna, the Hindu god of the dawn, hence its common name, Temple of Dawn. Unlike many Bangkok attractions, Wat Arun is located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. You can climb the temple's steps for sweeping views over the river and city. Take a local ferry back to the river's east bank and visit Wat Pho Temple, home to a splendid golden reclining Buddha statue. Walk the short distance to the dazzling Grand Palace complex, where you'll learn more about the Thai royal family and the golden and mosaic structures within the grounds.
If you're traveling over a weekend, take a tuk-tuk to the huge Chatuchak Market, the most famous weekend market in Bangkok and located on the city's northern edge. You can buy almost anything here, from essential oils and Thai-inspired beauty products to tribal embroidery, vintage jeans, and antiques.
Day 6: Bangkok by Bicycle & Boat, Afternoon Tea at Dusit Thani
Get active today on a five-hour tour by bicycle and boat. The different faces of Bangkok will be revealed to you as you traverse diverse neighborhoods. Start in frenetic Chinatown, with its colorful markets and shops. Navigate down narrow alleyways and small side streets. Then, jump on a classic long-tail boat to travel farther into rural Bangkok.
You'll learn why this city is often called the "Venice of the East" as you witness daily life along the small canals branching from the Chao Phraya: classical wooden-framed homes on stilts, mothers doing their daily washing, kids splashing away the tropical heat. Get back on your bike seat, continuing through the luscious green belt on the edge of the city. Expect to ride around 9 miles (15 km) today.
Take it easy this afternoon with a relaxed afternoon tea at a signature Bangkok café, Dusit Thani. This shop has long been synonymous with quality teas and coffees, delicious baked goods, and light-but-flavorsome bites. Indulge in an array of mouthwatering treats and premium tea blends, all in beautiful surroundings.
Day 7: Transfer to Khao Sok National Park
Take the pace down a few notches today as you fly from Bangkok to Surat Thani, a city that's a gateway to some of the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, lush national parks, and beautiful beaches. Upon arrival in Surat Thani, you'll be transferred overland to Khao Sok National Park, a journey of about 90 minutes. Khao Sok National Park is covered by some of the oldest evergreen rainforests in the world and is remarkable for the huge limestone mountains that shoot straight up in the air, deep valleys, lakes, caves, and wild animals. After checking into your hotel, spend the rest of the day at your leisure, exploring or relaxing.
Day 8: Bamboo Rafting on the Sok River
Explore the national park today on a bamboo raft ride down the Sok River. These vessels are one of Thailand's oldest forms of transport and allow you to travel through limestone canyons that would otherwise be difficult to access. This is a slow-paced rafting adventure, so you can soak in the scenery and look out for wildlife roaming along the riverbank.
Each raft can support two passengers, and while they are handmade, they are surprisingly stable and maneuverable. Your local captain will safely steer you along this ancient trading route, once used for trading with the Chinese. You can even have a go at punting the raft yourself when it's safe to do so. Halfway through the journey, disembark at a small cave, where you'll enjoy a coffee made on a campfire.
Day 9: Transfer to Phuket, Free Time
Leave Khao Sok National Park for Phuket today, a popular island (and city of the same name) about three hours' drive away on Thailand's southern Andaman Sea coast. After check-in at the hotel, explore Phuket on your own. Phuket is more than just a busy tourist destination, as you can find a lot of culture, history, and adventure here. Thalang Road in Phuket's Old Town is lined with colorful 19th-century shophouses and Sino-Portuguese buildings. Built in 1903 by a wealthy tin merchant, the Baan Chinpracha Mansion has Italian floor tiles, shuttered windows, and antique furniture. Stroll along the street to take in these sights.
Day 10: Speedboat Island-Hopping & Snorkeling Tour
Enjoy today's ultimate Thai island-hopping adventure, visiting some of the country's most stunning and iconic beaches. Your driver will transfer you to the pier, where you'll hop on board a speedboat. Your first stop is Phi Phi Le Island. Disembark at Maya Bay, one of the world's most famous beaches, featured in Leonardo DiCaprio's movie "The Beach." Take a short walk through the forested island to reach the back side of Phi Phi Le, where you'll find Pileh Lagoon. Here you can board your boat and jump into the clear turquoise water.
Have lunch at a beachside restaurant, then don some snorkeling gear to explore the abundant marine life around the offshore coral reef and at Viking Cave. After some time in the water, venture to Khai Island for more snorkeling and to relax on the beach. You'll head back to Phuket before sunset.
Day 11: Depart
It's time to say goodbye to this beautiful country. Depending on your departure time, you might have time to enjoy one last leisurely stroll on the beach or have a relaxed breakfast with sea views. Your driver will pick you up and transfer you to Phuket International Airport in good time for your flight. Bon voyage!