- Tour Bangkok's temples, markets, and Grand Palace
- Discover the UNESCO-listed ruins of Ayutthaya
- Visit Chiang Mai's Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
- Take part in a sacred almsgiving ceremony in Chiang Mai
- Relax on Phuket's white-sand beaches
|Arrive in Bangkok
|Explore Bangkok's Cultural Heritage
|Visit Authentic Thai Railway & Floating Markets
|Day Trip to Ayutthaya, the Ancient Siam Capital
|Fly to Chiang Mai, Mae Ping River Boat Trip
|Day Trip to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
|Traditional Religious Life in Chiang Mai Experience
|Day Trip to the Thai Countryside, Village Tour, Lunch & Massage
|Fly to Phuket, Explore
|Phuket Off the Beaten Path Tour
|Beach Day in Phuket
|Swimming & Snorkeling on the Phi Phi Islands
Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok
Welcome to Thailand! Touchdown in Bangkok, Thailand's capital, where your driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel. Spend today exploring independently. Perhaps visit Chinatown—a city within a city—which is the best place to begin a street-food tour. For souvenir shopping, head to Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok's most popular shopping malls. 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 to pets and flowers to antiques.
For a different perspective of the capital, board a long-tail boat for a ride along the city's klongs (canals), lined with Thai houses and temples. In the evening, get to know Thailand's national sport at a kickboxing match, catch a puppet show performance, or visit Warehouse 30 for modern art exhibitions. End the evening with a trip to Bangkok's tourist heart, Khao San Road, where you'll find vibrant nightlife, street food, and a healing Thai massage.
Take an optional evening tour to meander past the floodlit Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Sip cocktails at the Sala Rattanakosin Rooftop Bar, followed by a delicious Thai meal on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, with the beautiful Wat Arun as your backdrop. After dinner, you'll visit Wat Pho, a temple complex filled with murals, sculptures, and courtyards. Although its famous reclining Buddha statue is closed at night, you can stroll around the glittering chedi (a Buddhist monument).
Day 2: Explore Bangkok's Cultural Heritage
Today starts with a trip to Wat Pho to watch the early-morning monks' chanting ritual. After this sacred experience, visit Wat Pho's impressive reclining Buddha, which is 150 feet (46 m) long and 50 feet (15 m) tall. Your next stop is the Grand Palace, a complex of intricate palaces and temples built in 1782, which served as the royal family's residence for 150 years. Don't miss Wat Phra Kaew, home to the Emerald Buddha statue.
The tour continues with a long-tail boat ride to Poomjai Garden, a 100-year-old plantation, for lunch. Sail along Bangkok's scenic network of klongs. Tour Wat Khun Chan, a temple rarely visited by tourists, and cross a footbridge to wander the old city alleys and visit Wat Paknam. Sail into the afternoon, watching Thai houses and impressive mansions pass by on the riverbank. Your last stop is a tranquil orchid and fruit farm.
Day 3: Visit Authentic Thai Railway & Floating Markets
Today you'll discover some of Bangkok's sprawling markets. Drive through the high-rise urban landscape to Samut Songkharm on the rural outskirts of the capital. Here you'll visit the Maeklong Railway Market, which sits along the tracks; when a train pulls in or out of the station, the vendors quickly clear their stalls, only to set them up again moments later when the train has passed.
Drive to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi, 62 miles (100 km) southwest of the capital. Paddle through the maze of canals past vendors selling exotic fruit and handicrafts from their boats. Disembark to wander the marketplace on land and have lunch. Afterward, take a long-tail boat to a Buddhist temple and the King Rama II Memorial Park, which has an ornate collection of Thai-style pavilions.
Day 4: Day Trip to Ayutthaya, the Ancient Siam Capital
The day begins with a 90-minute drive from Bangkok to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Ayutthaya, passing through verdant countryside and paddy fields. On the way, stop at Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, once the grand mansions of Thailand's royal family. Next, take a cable car across the river to visit Wat Niwet Thammaprawat, one of the area's most distinctive Buddhist temples with Gothic-style architecture and stained-glass windows.
Board a long-tail boat along the river to Ayutthaya. This 14th-century archaeological site was once the capital of the Siam Kingdom, and today, you can wander among the ruins of its palaces, temples, and monasteries. Break for lunch before exploring highlights such as Wat Yai Chaimongkol and Wat Mahathat, then stroll through a market to Wat Phra Srisanphet. Before returning to Bangkok, you'll explore the town's Muslim Quarter and sample an unusual local delicacy, candy floss roti.
Day 5: Fly to Chiang Mai, Mae Ping River Boat Trip
This morning you'll fly to Chiang Mai, where your driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel. Set in the cooler, mountainous north of Thailand, Chiang Mai was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom and still retains its moat-encircled Old City. The city is a key cultural hub, home to historical architecture and over 300 temples where orange-robed monks live and worship.
Take a scenic boat trip along the Mae Ping River. You'll travel 30 minutes north of Chiang Mai to a long-tail boat dock with a pretty herbal garden. Board the boat for a cruise, passing traditional wooden houses and modern buildings along the riverbank. You'll dock, disembark, and walk to Waroros Fresh Food Market to glimpse local life in northern Thailand. After the tour, transfer back to your hotel.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Day Trip to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Rise early for today's tour, driving south of Chiang Mai through rolling hills, forests, and farmland. Next, take a 15-minute walk through the village to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, where you'll change into traditional Karen clothing. You'll get an introduction to the history of elephants in Thailand and learn about these gentle giants' behavior, anatomy, and care.
You'll then meet the elephants and have an opportunity to feed and interact with them. Around noon, take a break for Thai food and fresh fruit before heading to the river to bathe the elephants. Join them in a therapeutic mud spa and take one last river swim before changing for the journey back to Chiang Mai.
Day 7: Traditional Religious Life in Chiang Mai Experience
This morning, you'll leave your hotel at dawn and drive to the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain in time to buy offerings and join the locals for the daily almsgiving ceremony. This peaceful Buddhist procession sees dozens of monks walk barefoot through the street at dawn, collecting offerings. Next, head up the mountain to Wat Doi Suthep and climb the 309 steps of the golden naga staircase to its sparkling pagodas.
You'll also visit one of Chiang Mai's least-visited temples, Wat Palad, which sits farther down Suthep mountain along the monks' trail and is known as the "temple below the temple." Continue your tour at the 14th-century Wat Umong, a heavily-forested complex with moss-covered stupas and mysterious tunnels. Take part in a private blessing ceremony and then enjoy a bowl of khao soi, a beloved northern Thai dish of coconut cream soup and crispy noodles.
In the afternoon, visit the Three Kings Monument, followed by a trip to the architecturally-beautiful Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Center. Built on the site of a former royal hall, it was once the central office of the Phayap administrative unit of Siam and later the Provincial Hall of Chiang Mai.
Day 8: Day Trip to the Thai Countryside, Village Tour, Lunch & Massage
Today you'll head out of Chiang Mai to experience a slice of rural Thai culture. Drive to Mae Kampong, a village in the Mae On District, stopping at a market to select ingredients for lunch. When you arrive at Mae Kampong, you'll be greeted by villagers and taken on a walk through the community forest, passing vast tea and coffee fields.
Back in the village, watch your host family prepare lunch and chat with them about daily life in the countryside. After lunch, relax with a Thai massage and then take a walk around the village, where you'll learn how locals ferment tea leaves. In the late afternoon, return through the mountains to Chiang Mai.
Day 9: Fly to Phuket, Explore
Say goodbye to Chiang Mai this morning. Your private driver will escort you to the airport for your flight south to Phuket, where paradisical beaches await. Spend a free day exploring Thailand's largest island. Set on the Andaman Coast, Phuket is known for its powdery beaches, neon nightlife, and luxury resorts. The island is also home to diverse landscapes ranging from tropical rainforest to palm-fringed beaches and craggy limestone cliffs.
Hit the beach to sunbathe, sit back with a cold drink, and then wade into the warm water for a swim or some snorkeling. You can discover more about Phuket's underwater life at the aquarium in Cape Panwa. If you're feeling adventurous, visit Hanuman World Phuket to soar through the jungle on adrenaline-pumping ziplines. In the evening, feast on seafood, browse the night market and have a drink on lively Bangla Road. Finish with an optional three-hour Siam Aroma Massage that combines Thai and aromatherapy techniques.
Day 10: Phuket Off the Beaten Path Tour
See a different side of Phuket today. In the morning, you'll visit a rubber plantation to learn about one of the island's primary industries; your guide will explain how the rubber is harvested from trees and processed. Next, head inland to Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary, a lush jungle teeming with wildlife. Meet with a volunteer from the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project to learn about the center's vital work and meet some of the resident gibbons being nursed back to health.
Before continuing the tour, take a break to refuel with a cup of strong Phuket coffee and snacks. Your next stop is the Kathu Mining Museum, where you'll learn about Phuket's former mining industry. Continue to a cashew nut factory to witness another of the island's key sectors, learning how the nuts are extracted and processed—you'll come to know why these are some of the most expensive nuts on earth. The tour finishes with a trip to Wat Prathong, one of the oldest temples in Phuket. Watch the locals pray and gain insight into Thailand's rich Buddhist culture. You'll have a free afternoon to hit the beach.
Day 11: Beach Day in Phuket
Soak up the sun with a beach day in Phuket. The island is famed for its outstanding beaches that offer everything from watersports to relaxation. Kata Beach is an excellent option with soft white sand, shady palm trees, food vendors, and a laid-back atmosphere. Another option is Nai Harn Beach, located at the southern end of Phuket, which has grown in popularity over the years but remains undeveloped thanks to its small bay and sheltering lake. Some great hotels, shops, and restaurants are located nearby for food and drink.
If you're looking for something quieter, head to Freedom Beach, where you'll likely find the best white sands in Phuket. Although it's more challenging to get to (you can either hike a steep path or take a long-tail boat), you'll escape the motorized watersports and beach vendors for a truly peaceful experience.
Day 12: Swim & Snorkel the Phi Phi Islands
Explore the famous Phi Phi Islands today, an archipelago 25 miles (40 km) east of Phuket, known for its film-worthy beaches and top snorkeling spots. The trip starts with an early-morning speed boat ride to Phi Phi Ley, where you'll see Maya Bay, the setting for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, "The Beach." You'll also moor at Pileh Lagoon and Viking Cave for swimming and snorkeling.
Sail on to Phi Phi Don, stopping at Monkey Beach along the way, known for its cheeky macaques. You'll have time to snorkel in the clear waters, spotting colorful marine life, before lunch. Spend the afternoon on idyllic Bamboo Island, where you can lay back on white sands or enjoy more swimming and snorkeling. The trip ends with a transfer back to Phuket.