Immerse yourself in Thai culture with this comprehensive 15-day tour. You'll discover everything from Bangkok street food to war history on the River Khwae and remote hill tribe villages. Tour the UNESCO-listed ruins of ancient Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, then continue north for jungles dotted with hot springs, hill-top temples, and caves. The adventure ends in the stupa-studded city of Chiang Mai.


  • Discover Bangkok's street food and Grand Palace
  • Uncover war history on the River Khwae in Kanchanaburi
  • Visit the UNESCO-listed ancient cities of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai
  • Tour northern Thailand's hot springs, temples, and caves
  • Visit authentic hill tribe villages

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bangkok Bangkok
Day 2 Grand Palace Visit & Bangkok Evening Food & Tuk-tuk Tour Bangkok
Day 3 Transfer to Kanchanaburi & Bridge Over The River Kwai Tour Kanchanaburi
Day 4 Kanchanaburi Nature Tour Kanchanaburi
Day 5 Transfer to Ayutthaya & Ancient Ruins Tour Ayutthaya
Day 6 Transfer To Sukhothai Via Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park Sukhothai
Day 7 Transfer To Lampang Via Sukhothai Historical Park Lampang
Day 8 Transfer to Chiang Rai & Golden Triangle Tour Chiang Rai
Day 9 Botanical Garden & Sop Ruak Tour Chiang Rai
Day 10 Transfer To Pai & Hot Springs Visit Pai
Day 11 Transfer to Mae Hong Son & Visit Lod Cave Mae Hong Son
Day 12 Visit Hill Tribe Villages & Transfer to Mae Sariang Mae Sariang
Day 13 Transfer to Chiang Mai & Visit Doi Inthanon National Park Chiang Mai
Day 14 Explore Doi Suthep Temple & Visit Local Artisans Chiang Mai
Day 15 Depart Chiang Mai  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok

Discover Bangkok's charms, from markets to muay Thai

Welcome to Thailand! Touch down in Bangkok, where your driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel in the city's heart. Thailand's capital is beloved for its chaotic energy, delicious street food, buzzing nightlife, and sacred Buddhist sights. You'll discover its charms today, perhaps starting with Chinatown's fragrant street food. If you like shopping, spend time at Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok's biggest and most luxurious malls.

If you're visiting over the weekend, don't miss Chatuchak Market—with more than 15,000 stalls, it's one of the world's largest outdoor markets and sells everything from clothes and flowers to food and antiques. For sports lovers, seek a Muay Thai (Thai boxing) match, Thailand's signature sport. See a puppet show for some traditional culture or visit Warehouse 30 for modern art exhibitions.

Day 2: Grand Palace Visit, Bangkok Evening Food & Tuk-tuk Tour

Visit the Grand Palace, which is still used for royal ceremonies

This morning you'll visit the Grand Palace, a complex of intricate temples and palaces built in 1782, which served as the royal family's home for 150 years. Today, the palace is used for royal ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, and state banquets. Highlights include the Reception Hall, Coronation Hall, and Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the Emerald Buddha statue.

Travel by bus with your guide to Chinatown (Yao-Wa-Rat) for an evening food tour. Explore the area's beloved street food, such as kai satay (barbecue chicken with sweet and sour peanut sauce), pad thai (stir-fried rice noodles), and ba mee mhoo daeng (crispy noodles with pork). Top off your feast with some Thai desserts and Chinese herbal drinks. The tour ends with an exhilarating tuk-tuk tour of Bangkok on the way back to your hotel.

Day 3: Transfer to Kanchanaburi, Bridge on the River Kwai Tour

Head to Kanchanaburi and see the bridge over the River Khwae

Today starts with a three-hour trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. Settle in and then head out to explore the town, which lies on the confluence of the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai Rivers, surrounded by mountains and forests. You'll learn about the town's turbulent history at the War Museum, which tells the story of the World War II Thai-Burma railway line. This 258-mile (415 km) railway line was built between 1942 and 1943 by the Japanese using Asian laborers and European prisoners of war; over 102,000 men died in the process.

Pay your respects at the Allied Cemetery, where 7,000 prisoners of war were laid to rest. Continue to the bridge on the River Khwae, made famous by David Lean's 1957 film of the same name, which tells the story of the so-called Death Railway. You'll board a train along the notorious train line, taking in lush Thai countryside views. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before heading back to your hotel.

Day 4: Kanchanaburi Nature Tour

Take a boat trip to see Saiyok Waterfall

Discover Kanchanaburi's natural wonders today, starting with a boat trip along the river to Saiyok Waterfall, featured in Thai songs and poetry for its beauty. Continue to Hellfire Pass, an infamous section of the Thai-Burma railway line with a memorial to commemorate the men who perished cutting through this 240-foot long (73 m) and 82-foot high (25 m) section of rock with simple hand tools and dynamite.

Your last stop today is the Lawa Caves, filled with otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites. Have lunch and then return to your hotel in Kanchanaburi for a free afternoon. Wander along the river, take in more history at one of the town's museums, or sample a decadent Thai massage.

Day 5: Transfer to Ayutthaya, Ancient Ruins Tour

Tour Ayutthaya, a 14th-century UNESCO site

The day begins with a drive north 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, one of the royal family's former mansions, built by King Rama IV on a river island. You'll also visit Wat Chaiwatthanaram, a Buddhist Khmer-style structure known as the "Temple of the Long Kingdom and Glorious Age."

Next, continue to Ayutthaya. This 14th-century archaeological site was once the capital of the Siam Kingdom, and today, you can stroll among the ruins of its palaces, temples, and monasteries. Explore highlights such as Wat Yai Chaimongkol, Wat Mahathat, and Wat Chai Wattanaram before lunch and a relaxing evening at your hotel.

Day 6: Transfer To Sukhothai Via Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park

Watch the macaques play in Lopburi
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Start the day with a trip to Lopburi, the city of monkeys, for the thousands of long-tailed macaques that roam its streets. Many gather around the 13th-century Khmer temple Prang Sam Yot and are viewed as representatives of the Hindu god Hanuman. Visit the city's temples to meet these cheeky macaques, which locals believe are symbols of good luck.

Continue your drive north to Kamphaeng Phet Historic Park, located 43 miles (70 km) south of UNESCO-listed Sukhothai. This former military outpost was established to protect Sukhothai and had its own royal palace and collection of brick temples with ornate stupas. Explore the ruins of this ancient outpost before continuing to your hotel in Sukhothai for the evening.

Day 7: Transfer To Lampang Via Sukhothai Historical Park

Travel To Lampang Via Sukhothai Historical Park
Wander the ancient temples and palaces of Sukhothai

This morning you'll tour Sukhothai Historical Park, once the capital of the powerful Kingdom of Sukhothai in the 13th and 14th centuries. Spread over 17,300 acres (7,000 ha), the site is spotted with ponds and ruins. Wander Sukhothai's royal palace and 21 historical sites, including the largest temple complex, Wat Mahathat, which served as the royal chapel and has a distinctive lotus-shaped stupa at its center.

Later, continue to Sri Stachanalai, the lesser-visited sister town of Sukhothai. Also protected by UNESCO, the city was founded in 1250 and acted as a second center of power for the kingdom, home to the crown prince. Marvel at its ruinous palaces and temples and then drive two hours north to Lampang.

Day 8: Transfer to Chiang Rai, Golden Triangle Tour

Travel to Chiang Rai & the Golden Triangle
Visit the famous Golden Triangle

Start the day by visiting one of Lampang's most famous attractions, Wat Pratat Lampang Luang. This Lanna-style Buddhist temple was built in the 15th century and is famed for its image of the sacred Emerald Buddha, now housed at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

Continue the journey to the Golden Triangle, where the Laos, Myanmar, and Thai borders meet. The area was once a hub for opium production until King Rama IX introduced schemes encouraging farmers to grow coffee and tea instead. Finish the day at Mae Sai Village, where you can gaze across the Sai River into Myanmar before heading to Chiang Rai.

Day 9: Botanical Garden & Sop Ruak Tour

Explore Doi Tung Palace's Royal Flora Garden

This morning you'll drive to Doi Tung Palace, a royal summer residence that features a mixture of Lanna and Swiss architectural styles. Explore the Royal Flora Garden, established by the Princess Mother and sprawls over 172,000 square feet (16,000 sq m). Afterward, stop at Maesai, a trading town between Thailand and Myanmar, where you can browse the market.

Continue to the Golden Triangle town of Sop Ruak, where the Ruak River joins the Mekong on the borders of Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos. Head to a viewpoint for sweeping views of the Golden Triangle; your guide will point out where the borders meet and explain the history of the area's battles and opium trade.

Day 10: Transfer To Pai, Hot Springs Visit

Soak up countryside views in Pai

Enjoy a dose of nature this morning with a tranquil boat trip along the Kok River, a tributary of the mighty Mekong, to the rural town of Pai. En route, you'll stop at some ethnic villages to encounter northern Thai culture, including Thaton, which has a decorative hilltop temple with valley views.

In the afternoon, peruse Mae Malai's market on the way to the Pong Duern Hot Springs. The springs are a popular place for locals, known for their healing mineral waters. Enjoy a rejuvenating soak before completing the drive north to Pai, a peaceful town on the banks of the Pai River loved for its vibrant walking street market and surrounding hot springs, canyons, and waterfalls.

Day 11: Transfer to Mae Hong Son, Visit Lod Cave

Board a bamboo raft and float through Lod Cave

Today your journey continues through Thailand's most mountainous province, which is covered with jungles, waterfalls, and highland villages. Your first destination is Lod Cave, a mile-long (2 km) limestone cave system with three huge caverns filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and fluttering bats. In the third cavern, you'll board a bamboo raft to glide along the water, emerging into the jungle, where you'll drive on to Mae Hong Son.

Spend the rest of the day relaxing and exploring Mae Hong Son, a small town on the Myanmar border. Named the "City of Three Mists," the town sits beneath towering mountains and has a strong Burmese culture. Take a walk around Jom Kham Lake in the center of town, bordered by two 19th-century temples: Wat Jong Kham and Wat Jong Klang. Admire their glass mosaics, and golden chedis reflected on the lake's surface.

On the other side of the water, tour the Burmese, shan-style Wat Hua Wiang, a wooden temple with a striking bronze Buddha statue. From here, you can visit a market that heaves with hill-tribe handicrafts ranging from silver to handmade textiles and ceramics. Be sure to sample a bowl of creamy khao soi, a Burmese-inspired coconut curry with crispy noodles.

Day 12: Visit Hill Tribe Villages & Transfer to Mae Sariang

Visit Hill Tribe Villages
Shop for souvenirs at a Padong Karen village

Mae Hong Song province is dotted with tiny villages home to Thailand's highland communities, often referred to as hill tribes. These belong to groups such as the Hmong, Karen, and Shan, whose ancestors originate from Myanmar and China. Each community has its own unique dress, language, and history.

Delve into this culture with a trip to a Padong Karen village, an agricultural community where the people make a living growing rice, tea, and tobacco. The Padong people are well known for their jewelry; women wear brass rings around their necks from an early age, which creates an elongated neck. Visit some elephants, Thailand's national animal, before driving to the rural town of Mae Sariang to spend the night.

Day 13: Transfer to Chiang Mai, Visit Doi Inthanon National Park

Cool down atop Thailand's highest peak, Doi Inthanon

Today you'll head to the famous northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. 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. Chiang Mai is a cultural mecca, home to historical architecture and over 300 temples where orange-robed monks live and worship.

You'll visit Ob Luang Gorge, Thailand's Grand Canyon, for its orange-red chasm. Continue to the Thep Phanom Thermal Springs, which are hot enough to boil an egg. Your next stop is Doi Inthanon National Park, named for Thailand's highest mountain Inthanon, which towers over 8,400 feet (2,565 m) above sea level. Bask in the cool air as you hike to crashing waterfalls and spot exotic birds and flowers. Drive on to Chiang Mai afterward, arriving in the early evening.

Day 14: Explore Doi Suthep Temple & Visit Local Artisans

Explore Doi Suthep Temple & Visit Local Artisans
Climb the naga staircase to reach Doi Suthep Temple

This morning you'll visit one of Chiang Mai's most iconic temples, Doi Suthep. The temple complex offers panoramic views over Chiang Mai from the top of Suthep Mountain. Climb the naga staircase to the golden pagoda, which enshrines the Buddha's shoulder bone. To show respect, circle the pagoda three times in an anti-clockwise direction.

Take a break for lunch before continuing your tour. You'll visit prominent craft centers in Borsang and Sankampeng, where local artisans produce handmade goods. Shop for fine silks, hand-painted umbrellas, and silver jewelry. Return to your hotel in Chiang Mai for a final evening, where you can dine by the river, wander the streets of the old town, or browse the night market.

Day 15: Depart Chiang Mai

Private transfer from Chiang Mai to Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX)
Squeeze in some last-minute temple hopping in Chiang Mai before your flight home
Today your Thailand adventure ends, and you'll be transferred to the airport in Chiang Mai for your onward flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Thailand Cultural Journey - 15 Days
Map of Thailand Cultural Journey - 15 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Feb 22, 2023