Thailand is Asia's primary travel destination for good reason: it enchants its visitors with spectacular Buddhist temples, sizzling street food, wildlife-rich jungles, and islands wrapped in powder-soft beaches. This 13-day trip showcases Thailand's highlights in comfort and style, with private transfers for all pre-arranged tours. After exploring the cultural and natural delights of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Bangkok, you'll fly down to Phuket to complete the trip with a slice of island life.


  • Meet the elephants at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary near Chiang Mai 
  • See waterfalls, mountains, and a hill-tribe village in rural Thailand
  • Explore Bangkok, including its giant Buddhas and the Grand Palace
  • Visit the authentic Thai markets like Railway Market and Floating Market
  • Fly to the island of Phuket for a classic Thai beach experience

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Chiang Mai Chiang Mai
Day 2 Elephant Jungle Sanctuary & Cooking Class Chiang Mai
Day 3 Doi Inthanon National Park & Mae Klang Luang Nature Trail Chiang Mai
Day 4 Transfer to Chiang Rai, Visit the White Temple & Golden Triangle Chiang Rai
Day 5 Fly to Bangkok, Free Day in Bangkok Bangkok
Day 6 Temples, Grand Palace & Klong Tour Bangkok
Day 7 Explore Ayutthaya by Tuk-Tuk  Bangkok
Day 8 Visit Thailand's Most Authentic Markets: Railway Market & Floating Market Bangkok
Day 9 Fly to Phuket, Free Day in Phuket Phuket
Day 10 Phuket City Sightseeing by Van Phuket
Day 11 Speed Boat Tour of Phi Phi Islands  Phuket
Day 12 Beach Day in Phuket Phuket
Day 13 Depart Phuket  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Chiang Mai

Private transfer from Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) to Chiang Mai
Wat Lok Molee, one of the last wooden temples in Chiang Mai Old City

Welcome to Thailand! Your adventure begins in Chiang Mai, where a private driver will take you from the airport to your accommodation in the heart of the city. Laid-back Chiang Mai is the perfect place to explore at your leisure. As the former capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom (1296-1558), history lingers in its moated Old City and abundant wats (Buddhist temples). However, its student population has also helped birth a creative and cosmopolitan side, as seen in its modern art galleries and trendy cafés.

Spend some time at the Old City's famous landmarks, such as Wat Phra Singh, an opulent 14th-century temple complex. For shopping, don't miss the San Kamphaeng Road. Also known as "Handicraft Highway," it stretches for 11 miles (18 km) and is the place to buy artisanal crafts like pottery and silverwork. Just outside the old quarter is 19th-century Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a gleaming golden temple that's especially spectacular at sunset. And after dark, Chang Klan Road is the place to be, as it comes alive with street-food vendors and stalls.

If time permits, you can visit San Kamphaeng Hot Springs, a 90-minute drive from the city. This open-air spa features hot-water geysers shooting 65 feet (20 m) into the air. The springs are a great place to soak in mineral baths while enjoying the landscaped gardens. For a more active excursion, 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 that comprise this cascade have a sponge-like surface, giving them a strong grip underfoot.

Day 2: Elephant Jungle Sanctuary & Cooking Class

Visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary outside of Chiang Mai
Visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary near Chiang Mai

Set off early today for a close encounter with elephants on a small group tour. A drive of around 90 minutes through hills, forests, and farmland will bring you to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary—an ethical ecotourism project that properly cares for former "working" elephants. As it's a joint initiative with Chaing Mai locals and the Karen people (Indigenous hill tribes of the Thailand-Burma border), you'll change into traditional Karen clothing before getting acquainted with these jungle giants.

You can interact with and feed the elephants as English-speaking guides explain their background and behavior. There'll be photo opportunities galore —the sanctuary offers a photo service for no extra charge. Later, change into your swimming clothes and walk to the river to join a "mud spa" with elephants. Wrap up your day with a traditional Thai lunch before saying goodbye to the elephants and heading back to your hotel.

After a quick rest, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School. You'll start at a local market and learn how to select ingredients and seasonings, then attend a cooking workshop to learn about the menu. The menu features delicious appetizers, curry, stir-fry, soup, salad, and dessert. The chef will share their special techniques to help you to make these authentic Thai dishes at home. You'll also get to eat what you cooked!

Day 3: Doi Inthanon National Park & Mae Klang Luang Nature Trail

Pha Dok Siew Waterfalls
Pha Dok Siew Waterfall

Today you'll experience the incredible nature around Chiang Mai on a private tour. On a two-hour journey, you'll pass by paddy fields and ascend into the mountains of Doi Inthanon National Park, part of the Himalayan range. You'll stand on the country's highest point, at 7,041 feet (2,146 m), where two magnificent pagodas mark a viewpoint over the mountain tops. Bring warm clothing! The climate is cooler here year-round.

Then, head to a Karen hill tribe village to observe the local way of life and browse their colorful craft market. On the return trip, you'll stop at the 262-foot (80 m) high Wachirathan Waterfall to marvel as its vapor lingers above the jungle canopy. You'll then follow the Ban Mae Klang Luang nature trail, which will take you away from the main tourist track on a forested route that runs downhill to meet a river. Tracing the river on foot, you'll eventually reach Pa Dok Siew Waterfall, where you can cool off with a refreshing swim.

The trail eventually opens into farmland around the Karen village of Mae Klang Luang. Here, coffee is the most important cash crop—you'll have a chance to visit the coffee house where they roast, hand-grind, and prepare coffee. Try a cup on-site and if you like it, buy a bag of ground coffee to take home. Then you'll be driven back to the hotel, where the evening is at your leisure.

Day 4: Transfer to Chiang Rai, Visit the White Temple & Golden Triangle

The White Temple's reaching arms sculpture

A morning drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai will take you 124 miles (200 km) along a scenic route through verdant mountains and valleys. Make a short stop at Mae Kachan Hot Spring, where you can bathe your feet in the geothermal water and watch geysers shoot up to 66 feet (20 m) high. Then, hit the road again.

The next stop is Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple. This gleaming white structure was self-funded by local artist Chalermchai Kositpipa, who began its construction in 1997 (a work-in-progress, his ambition is to rival the Taj Mahal). While it looks like a serene religious site, inside is a contemporary nod to good versus evil. Wolverine and Terminator masks are displayed among Buddhas, and a bridge built over a pit of reaching arms symbolizes souls reaching up from hell. 

After lunch in a local restaurant, you'll visit Mae Sai, the trading post between Thailand and Myanmar. Then continue to the Golden Triangle area, where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos meet. Stop at the misty mountain village of Sop Ruak, where the Ruak River joins the mighty Mekong, for the rare opportunity to look out over all three countries. From here, you'll be taken to your hotel in Chiang Rai.
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Day 5: Fly to Bangkok, Free Day in Bangkok

Free Day in Bangkok
High-rises rub shoulders with traditional sites in Bangkok

Enjoy your remaining time in Chiang Rai before your private driver escorts you to the airport for your flight to Bangkok. Welcome to one of Asia's most exciting cities! Thailand's capital is beloved for its chaotic energy, delicious street food, buzzing nightlife, and sacred Buddhist sights. You'll spend today discovering its charms for yourself, 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 out a kickboxing fight, Thailand's signature sport. See a puppet show for some traditional culture or visit Warehouse 30 for modern art exhibitions.

Thai people know how to balance body and mind. Bangkok is a spa lover's haven, so there's an optional activity tonight of a massage at Oasis Spa. This two-hour stress-buster treatment combines traditional Thai massage techniques with aromatherapy. It begins with a Thai herbal hot compress, followed by a hot oil massage to reopen the body's energy pathways, enhance circulation, and increase energy levels.

Day 6: Temples, Grand Palace & Klong Tour

Temples, Grand Palace & Klong Tour
Wat Pho, home of the Reclining Buddha

Meet your guide in the lobby after breakfast, and together you'll head out to explore Bangkok's most remarkable sites. Start at Wat Traimit to see one of the precious treasures of Thailand—the 700-year-old Golden Buddha statue. Then head to the rambling temple complex of Wat Pho to admire the beauty of its architecture and see the giant, Reclining Buddha.

Spend time at the sensational Grand Palace, the King of Siam's official residence, when it was established in 1782. Among the complex's 100-or-so palaces, halls and temples is the nationally revered Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Inside is a 15th-century figurine of a meditating Buddha, made from one solid piece of green jade and embellished with diamonds and gold.

In the afternoon, you'll get an overview of the city via long-tail boat. Cruising along the canals is a great way to see traditional Thai houses and typical rural life on the outskirts of Bangkok. Wrap up your sightseeing with a visit to Wat Arun ("Temple of Dawn"), one of the city's most beautiful temples. Dusk is the ideal time to go, as the monument's golden illuminations are switched on, forming a spectacular scene over the Chao Phraya River.

Day 7: Explore Ayutthaya by Tuk-Tuk 

The Reclining Buddha of Wat Lokaya Sutha 

Depart from Bangkok early for a private day trip to two key sites north of the city. Start at the Summer Palace at Bang Pa-In: the Versailles-like palace and grounds were built by King Rama IV at a time of growing European architectural influence in Thailand. Then, board a long-tail boat to take in the natural scenery and traditional villages on the way to the city of Ayutthaya. This was the capital of the Siam Kingdom between 1350 to 1767, one the largest and most prosperous empires of its time.

More than 400 temples and shrines from this era remain in Ayutthaya Historical Park. There's no better way to see them than by tuk-tuk, so hop aboard! Your tuk-tuk driver will take you to Wat Phanan Choeng, which enshrines a 57-foot (17 m) tall seated Buddha statue. Then continue to one of the oldest temples in this area, Wat Mahathat, the most impressive site in the park, with ruins of columns reflected in a lake.
You'll also see the pointed Sri Lankan-style tombs of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, the giant Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokaya Sutha, and Wat Chaiwatthanaram, which was conceived as a replica of the Angkor Temple. You might even see elephants wandering the streets along the way. After, you'll return to Bangkok by car.

Day 8: Visit Thailand's Most Authentic Markets: Railway Market & Floating Market

Visit the Most Authentic Markets of Thailand - Railway Market and Floating Market
The Railway Market in Samut Songkhram Province

Get ready to delve into Thailand's most authentic markets, the Railway Market and Floating Market, on a full-day excursion. The high-rise urban landscape of Bangkok quickly dissolves into a green rural idyll as your driver makes their way to the province of Samut Songkhram, an hour outside the capital.

At the local railway station, you'll discover a bustling country market 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. From here, the journey continues to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Although quite touristy today, the market remains the best example to showcase what a floating market originally was like decades ago.

A relaxing paddle boat ride through the labyrinth of canals offers the chance to see the old part of the floating market and local life along the canal. Disembark to stroll around the colorful marketplace, weaving among the vendors selling tropical fruits and other delights from their boats. After lunch at a local restaurant, the tour continues with a long-tail boat ride to a Buddhist temple and the King Rama II Memorial Park, with its traditional Thai buildings and garden of exotic plants. 

Day 9: Fly to Phuket, Free Day in Phuket

Treetop adventures at Flying Hanuman Phuket

Goodbye city, hello beach life! You'll have a final morning in Bangkok before your private driver escorts you to the airport to fly to Phuket. After a private transfer to your hotel, you're free to explore. The largest island in Thailand, Phuket offers a range of dramatic landscapes, from iconic beaches and turquoise lagoons to tall limestone cliffs and tropical forests covering miles of hills.

There'll be time to relax at the beach, go swimming, or snorkeling. You could visit the aquarium in Cape Panwa to see the diversity of the sea life on this island. Or, get an adrenaline rush at the Flying Hanuman—a treetop course of 28 wooden platforms built in an eco-friendly way, connected by 15 ziplines and two sky bridges. In the evening, hit the night markets or visit the bustling Bangla Road for a drink.

For dinner, your driver will take you to the Baan Rim Pa restaurant in Kalim. This multi-award-winning restaurant is a favorite of all who visit Phuket. With its incredible cliffside location, every table has a panoramic view of the Andaman Sea across to the beach at Patong, where you can watch the dramatic sunset. The Thai-style decor features teak and local silk, creating a sumptuous setting for live music performances and standout Royal Thai cuisine.

Day 10: Phuket City Sightseeing by Van

Wat Chalong

Discover the diversity of Phuket on a half-day sightseeing tour by van. Go beyond the beautiful beaches and visit historic landmarks and incredible sites in the city and inland. Accompanied by an expert guide, you'll begin the tour with a scenic drive along golden bays. Stop at a viewpoint overlooking a magnificent panorama on the peninsular adjacent to Promthep Cape (a popular sunset gathering spot).

Another highlight is a visit to the 19th-century Wat Chalong, the largest and most important of the 29 temples in Phuket. Within the temple is the statue of Luang Por Cham, a former abbot who helped quell an uprising and was also known for his healing powers. Wrap up your sightseeing with a visit to a cashew nut factory, where you'll sample at least 10 types of cashews. After, you'll return to your hotel and have the rest of the day free. 

Day 11: Speed Boat Tour of Phi Phi Islands 

Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Leh

Spend the whole day exploring the archipelago of Phi Phi on a swimming and snorkeling speed boat tour. Make an early start for your transfer to a pier, then head out to Maya Bay on the island of Ko Phi Phi Leh, an hour's ride away. With its marine blue waters and limestone rocks jutting out from the ocean, this island was chosen as the setting for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "The Beach." As Maya Bay is just 49 feet (15 m) wide and 820 feet (250 m) long, its fragile ecosystem means boats no longer dock—but seeing it from the sea is a great way to appreciate this iconic spot.

Elsewhere around the island, you can swim in designated spots such as Pileh Lagoon and Viking Cave. On the way north to the larger island of Phi Phi Don, you'll pass Monkey Beach, so named for the community of crab-eating macaques that scamper down to greet visitors. You'll have time to snorkel in the clear water before jetting off to Bamboo Island for more swimming or sunbathing on the beach. From here, you'll return to Phuket by boat and transfer back to your hotel.

Day 12: Beach Day in Phuket

Phuket's laid-back Kata Beach

Phuket is world-famous for its outstanding beaches, from unspoiled cliff-backed coves to party beaches with plenty of activities. Spend your day relaxing at one of the island's stretches of sand—you have a host of options. Kata Beach is a reliable choice, with soft white sand, shady palm trees, watersports, and a laid-back vibe. You can easily spend the day here while taking advantage of the many food and drink vendors.

Another option is Nai Harn Beach. Located at the southern end of Phuket, this quiet seaside resort has grown in popularity over the years. However, thanks to the relatively small size of the bay, Nai Harn hasn't been overdeveloped like its competition. Some great hotels, shops, and restaurants are nearby, and an elegant Buddhist temple is just behind the beach.

If you're a tranquility-seeker, head to Freedom Beach, where you'll find possibly the best white sand in Phuket. Although it's more challenging to get to (you can either hike a steep path or take a long-tail boat to arrive), it's worth the effort if you're looking to escape the motorized watersports and beach vendors. With only the sounds of lapping waves, an afternoon here is a truly peaceful experience. 

Day 13: Depart Phuket

Beach Day in Phuket
Farewell, Phuket
Enjoy a morning at the beach as the sun rises on your final day in Thailand. Check out of your hotel and spend your remaining time visiting the local markets to buy souvenirs to take home. A private driver will transfer you to Phuket Airport for your onward journey. Safe travels!

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Map of Thailand in Style - 13 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Jan 16, 2023