Explore Thailand's natural treasures in 12 days as you travel the country from north to south, stopping to cruise Bangkok's Chao Phraya River on an antique rice barge, meet elephants at a jungle sanctuary, and laze on Phuket's white-sand beaches. Next, escape to wildlife-rich Khao Sok National Park, where you'll stay on a floating lake bungalow and visit mystical caves before ending your adventure with a kayaking trip to Phang Nga Bay.


  • Sail Bangkok's Chao Phraya River on an antique rice barge
  • Spend a day interacting with elephants at an elephant sanctuary 
  • Relax on Phuket's white-sand beaches 
  • Overnight on a floating bungalow in Khao Sok National Park
  • Paddle the stunning Phang Nga Bay in a personal kayak

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bangkok Bangkok
Day 2 Bangkok City Tour with Dinner River Cruise Bangkok
Day 3 Fly to Chiang Mai, Boat Trip Along Mae Ping River Chiang Mai
Day 4 Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Excursion Chiang Mai
Day 5 Thai Cooking Class At Love Cooking School Chiang Mai
Day 6 Fly to Phuket Phuket
Day 7 Transfer to Khao Sok National Park, Elephants & Canoeing Khao Sok National Park
Day 8 Khao Sok Jungles & Cheow Lan Lake Discovery Khao Sok National Park
Day 9 Visit the Coral Cave, Transfer to Phuket Phuket
Day 10 Kayak Phang Nga Bay Phuket
Day 11 Beach Day in Phuket Phuket
Day 12 Depart Phuket  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok

Touchdown in Bangkok and check out Khao San Road

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. Continue to Bangkok's tourist heart, Khao San Road, where you'll find vibrant nightlife and street food.

Relax before bed with an optional massage at the renowned Oasis Spa. Enjoy a decadent two-hour treatment that combines traditional Thai massage techniques with aromatherapy. Start with a Thai herbal hot compress followed by a hot oil massage to reopen the body's energy pathways, enhance circulation, and increase your energy levels.

Day 2: Bangkok City Tour with Dinner River Cruise

Take in Bangkok's night-time scenery as you cruise along the Chao Phraya River

Meet your guide at the hotel this morning for a tour of Bangkok. Start at the Grand Palace, a complex of intricate palaces and temples built in 1782, which served as the royal family's home for 150 years. Highlights include the reception palace, coronation hall, and Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the sacred Emerald Buddha statue. Continue to one of Bangkok's oldest temples, Wat Pho, known for its 150-foot (46 m) reclining Buddha and Thai massage school. 

Then head back to your hotel for some free time and to prepare for your late-afternoon river cruise. You'll board the Manohra, an antique wooden rice barge at the pier. Sail along the Chao Phraya River, taking in views of Bangkok's twinkling night skyline while you enjoy fine Thai dining. 

Day 3: Fly to Chiang Mai, Boat Trip Along Mae Ping River

Check out Chiang Mai's Old City

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 and walk to Waroros Fresh Food Market to glimpse local life in northern Thailand. After the tour, transfer back to your hotel.

Day 4: Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Excursion

Get up close with these gentle giants at the 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 down 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. 

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Day 5: Thai Cooking Class At Love Cooking School

Learn How To Cook Authentic Thai Dishes At Love Cooking School
Learn how to cook authentic Thai dishes at Love Cooking School

Today, learn about Thailand's famous cuisine with a Love Cooking School class. You'll meet the school's expert chefs when you arrive and head to the local market. Browse the stalls of colorful produce and select the ingredients needed for the signature Thai dishes you'll be cooking. 

Stop at the school's on-site organic garden for more ingredients before you begin your cooking class. The chef will teach you step-by-step how to make classic Thai dishes such as pad thai (a stir-fried rice noodle dish), papaya salad, and khao soi (coconut-based soup with crispy noodles). Finish by dining on your creations for lunch. 

Day 6: Fly to Phuket

Wander Phuket's night market and barter for souvenirs

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

Day 7: Transfer to Khao Sok National Park, Elephants & Canoeing

Discover a different world at Khao Sok National Park

Rise early for your transfer to Khao Sok National Park, a protected area of dense jungle home to waterfalls and limestone karsts. The vast Cheow Lan Lake, created by a damming project, takes center stage in the park with floating raft houses where you can sleep among nature. Start your adventure at an elephant camp in Khao Sok, where you'll get to feed, bathe, and spend time with the animals. 

Have a leisurely lunch at a riverside restaurant before embarking on a jungle canoe trip along the winding Sok River. Paddle along, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and thick forests home to over 311 species of exotic birds. Watch out for wildlife like gibbons, guars, and flying squirrels; you might even spot Asian elephants, as Khao Sok is one of the last places in Thailand where these animals roam wild. Afterward, check into Khao Sok Boutique Camp.

Day 8: Khao Sok Jungles & Cheow Lan Lake Discovery

Floating Cottage
Spend the night in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake

After breakfast and some free time at camp, set off on a hike through Khao Sok's ancient rainforest, which dates back 160 million years. During the three-hour trek, your guide will point out stunning flowers, birds, squirrels, and reptiles. You'll end up at Khao Sok River Lodge Restaurant for lunch and then board a long-tail boat to traverse the turquoise waters of Cheow Lan Lake. 

Arrive at Cheow Lan Floating Bungalows, your home for the night. There's plenty of time to relax, take a cooling swim, or do some canoeing before dinner. Spend a restful evening taking in the lake views and then fall asleep to the sounds of the Khao Sok National Park, lapping waters, and night-time creatures.

Day 9:  Visit the Coral Cave, Return to Phuket

Pass towering limestone karsts as you take a long-tail boat across the lake

This morning you'll set off early on a long-tail boat trip, soaking up views of the mist-topped limestone karsts. Hop back on the boat for a short trip across the lake, followed by a 20-minute trek to a pier in the jungle. From here, you'll take a bamboo raft to the Coral Cave, filled with stalactites and stalagmites that resemble coral reefs. The trip ends with lunch at the floating bungalows and a stop at Ratchaprapha Dam on your way back to the pier. Journey back to Phuket by long-tail boat and transfer to your hotel. 

Day 10: Kayak Phang Nga Bay

Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay
Try some kayaking in Phang Nga Bay
Discover the wonders of Ao Phang Nga National Park today. This 154 square-mile (400 sq km) protected stretch of Andaman Sea is dotted with towering karst islets and is home to some of Thailand's most extensive mangrove forests. Take an afternoon island-hopping tour, where you'll kayak through tiny caves, swim, and take in tranquil views of the bay. Enjoy a seafood buffet dinner on board while watching the sunset over the water, then return to your hotel.

Day 11: Beach Day in Phuket

Beach Day in Phuket
Relax on one of Phuket's many idyllic beaches

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 nearby for food and drink.

If you're looking for something quieter, head to Freedom Beach, where you can 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 there), you'll escape the motorized watersports and beach vendors for a truly peaceful experience.

Day 12: Depart Phuket

Squeeze in some souvenir shopping before leaving Phuket today

Today your Thailand adventure comes to an end. Depending on your flight time, spend a final few hours on the beach or souvenir shopping before your transfer to the airport. Safe travels!

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Map of Thailand Nature Escape - 12 Days
Map of Thailand Nature Escape - 12 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Jan 20, 2023